I never asked what all these commenters thought. I never really asked what anyone thought except for the writers in Joanna’s and Charles’s classes, where I had workshopped the story.
And yes, I wanted to know what an editor thought.
I’d sent the story to the Salon editor late Wednesday, thanks to the query challenge from Robert Lillegard. (See the comments at: http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/the-westport-workshops/)
SH replied on Thursday over my lunch hour. I got her email while sitting in the hairdresser’s chair. She said my story “had potential.”
Nice! A new hair cut and a potential piece at the best literary and intellectual site online.
SH asked if I’d intended to publish under a pseudonym. No. She’d begun a line edit. She had legitimate questions about chronology and adding a “message moment.” That is, a moment to give the experience a meaning, an Aha! She was right.
I worked on the story; she worked on it. In a few hours, we were done. But commenters don’t take hours, months, years to write their comments. They dash them off.
I was surprised by the comments. At seven am, on Friday, I read the first seven. Then I stopped reading. I have very little experience with negative comments. The people who’ve commented on my blogs may spin out their own thoughts, but they don’t rip me.
I asked a couple of people what the comments said. My aunt (Ellen Wade Beals) emailed me; she said some of the comments were funny, some complimentary, and some snarky. One friend told me a lot of the commenters are commenting on each other’s comments. I didn’t need to go there. (And my sister emailed me with one direct message: don’t comment back!)
My only experience with negative comments was long ago on my article in the New York Times City section in the form of a letter to the editor. It was from an ASPCA representative quibbling with the way I’d represented their agency in my funny essay about the squirrel trapped in my airshaft. Fair enough.
At that time I took pride in the ASPCA’s letter to the editor. Aha! A letter to the editor meant my NYTimes story hit a nerve or was controversial. And now, I’m trying to take pride in the comments (that I’m not reading) on my Salon.com story. It’s a badge of courage to be criticized, commented on, and then survive (to blog about it.)
My cousin Susan Elster Jones sent me an amazing email last night. She said, One of my best professors once told me that the work isn’t really finished until you share it. And the more uncomfortable that feels-probably means the work is really strong. Thank you for sharing!
So, go ahead, comment away. Sure, I’m feeling defensive, sensitive, uncomfortable, but also proud, strong, happy. Uncomfortable.