I’m so excited to introduce you to Marisa de los Santos—a mom, a dog lover, and author of I’ll Be Your Blue Sky… out today!
My copy of the book is dog-eared to death with lines I loved. And Library Journal says this about it: “De los Santos…here revisits the next generation of her beloved characters, moving the family saga forward with this engrossing story of unshakable love, personal ethics, and a commitment to life’s larger truths.” I don’t know how to tell you what it’s about without giving away the book’s best secrets and surprises. But I will say this… it’s both a BIG book and an intimate one, and someone’s going to snatch up movie rights for it, I’m certain.
So here’s Marisa, who has written a letter to those of you who feel discouraged and need a lift.
Here are some things people have said about my books:
“I thought this was going to be a romance, but there’s so much other stuff going on that I lost interest.”
“This book was way too wordy, too many big words and long sentences.”
“Annoying and pretentious. If I wanted poetry, I’d read poetry.”
“If you want a light, fun read, this is not the book for you.”
“You need a PhD in English to appreciate this.”
“Too long, too deep, too slow.”
“I like books that just tell the story without all the fancy language.”
And here are some things that other people have said about my books:
“I don’t usually read fluffy books like yours, but my friend gave me your book for my birthday, and I thought, hey, why not.”
“I usually go for more literary books, but I needed something light and fun for the beach.”
“Maybe one day, this writer will put her considerable talents toward a book that is actually worthy of them.”
“Someone needs to tell Marisa de los Santos that nice characters are boring.”
Every single one of these remarks—the ones that were said to my face and the ones that I read in reviews or blog posts, even the ones that I’m pretty sure were meant as compliments—hit its mark, left its bruise.
Not because these remarks outweigh the positive ones. They don’t, not in number and not in my own estimation of them. I never stop being astonished by the kindness of my readers, by their generosity in telling me what my books have meant to them, exactly why and how they love them.
Not because the comments I listed are especially mean-spirited. They aren’t. I’ve had much crueler dismissals of my work hurled at me full-force, and I’ve easily dodged them and walked away.
And not even because I am particularly thin-skinned. When my kids have come to me upset because someone was mean to them, I have never (okay, almost never) tried to explain this meanness away by saying, “She’s just jealous,” or “He’s just insecure.” Instead, I tell them, “It’s a big world, honey. Not everyone is going to like you.” While these words might not be especially comforting, I believe them; I apply them to myself. It’s a big world. Not everyone is going to like your books. Get over it. And mostly I do get over it.
No, these criticisms hurt because, in my lowest moments, I am afraid they might be true, all of them. All of them? But they contradict one another! How can a book be fluffy and deep? Lightweight and requiring an advanced degree to be appreciated? These comments cancel each other out, don’t they? They can’t possibly all be accurate, so why not forget about them? But it’s precisely the contradictory nature of them that stings because it gets right to the heart of my own identity crisis as a writer.
My main goal is to make readers happy. No, my main goal is to make readers think. I don’t care about the New York Times “Book Review.” I read that sucker cover to cover every Sunday. I want to charm and make people laugh. I want to give people raw insights into pain and loss. I don’t care that I will never win a Pulitzer or a National Book Award. Of course, I want to win a Pulitzer and a National Book Award!
Truly, if I were to think too long about these tricky, confusing matters of career and identity and purpose and worth, I might just stop writing altogether.
Look, rejection hurts. You know that. I know that. I am not talking about thoughtful criticism from those who have faith in you and your writing. That can be a gift. It can make you better. But casual—or not so casual—dismissals of the work you spend your time and heart on? They don’t help. At their worst, they can paralyze you or send you reeling, wrecked by self-doubt, away from all that writing you need to do.
You can’t let that happen. You cannot. I forbid it.
Here is what I do when I find myself near that calamitous edge (and there is no uncorny way to say this): I remind myself of why I write.
Do it. Remind yourself. Mine your memory, clear away the clutter of ambition, competition, injured feelings, rejection, do whatever it takes to find the reason you write, the reason you started in the first place. And when you find it, walk straight into it the way you’d walk into that house you remember from your childhood, the one you’ve measured every place you’ve ever lived since against, the touchstone house. Home.
See what you find there.
What I find is a woman sitting in the center of a group of characters and making sentences. Choosing. Listening. Lifting one word, then another, arranging them, rearranging them. Being in love with cooing vowels and L-sounds and consonants purring or sharp as flint. Apart from this music she makes, the woman isn’t listening to anyone but her characters, as they teach her how to tell a story that no one else—not a single other person who has ever walked on the planet or won a Pulitzer—can tell.
It’s a big world, honey. Not everyone is going to like you. Get over it. And then go home.
Go home and write your book.