This post really is for me. I know that's a blogging cliche, but in this case it's true.
So, I have learned a lot in this last year as I've worked to get the book published. One of the things I've learned, or rather, re-learned, is how I respond to criticism.
I find that I don't really mind if people don't like my work. Of course, it's nice when people do, but it doesn't bother me if someone doesn't. In fact, I'm surprised by how objective, almost clinical I feel about that.
On the other hand, there are some things that really do bother me. Once someone gave me 5 stars on Goodreads and I knew they hadn't read the book (don't worry it wasn't any of you). That actually frustrated me more than any amount of criticism! Getting a compliment that is insincere is worse for me than an honest critique.
Another thing that bothers me is when people comment without any attempt at understanding what I was trying to do and focus on what they would have done or what they wish I would have done. Goethe said there were only three questions to ask when judging an artistic work: What was the author trying to say? How well did he say it? Was it worth saying? I've always found those are useful questions in guiding my response to books I read.
But the thing that really bothers me, I'm being authentic today, is when people are factually inaccurate about the book. Don't like something? Fine. But if you are going to write a review, please make sure that your facts are straight.
Just for the record, I want to address something I've read a few times. Why I am doing this? I know that people who read this blog are generally a friendly audience--and I love you for it. But I want to set the record straight. This is NOT an attempt to fish for compliments and get you to say, "Oh, it was such a good book!"
I promise that's not it at all. No, this is just me wanting to respond to a criticism that bothers me: The Road Show is unrealistic because the character's problem just magically end.
That is not true--it's factually inaccurate. A careful reading of the book shows that there is no magic ending. Everyone's problems are not tied up in neat little packages.
I feel strongly about that because I was very careful about that when I wrote it.
Stephanie, for example, begins taking medicine for her depression. She also begins some lifestyle changes like exercise and trying to be more present for her family. These changes allow the Lord to help her and open her understanding during the performance. Her depression isn't magically gone.
Scott has grappled with his addiction for years before the book starts. He has finally hit rock bottom and has gone to see his bishop. When he wins one bout of temptation, he realizes he still has battles ahead of him and that he's not "done." During the road show, he comes to feel the Lord's love for him and feels that he's finally forgiven. That doesn't mean his problem is over.
Curtis has some breakthroughs in the way he sees people. But he has years of habits to overcome. Clearly, he will continue to struggle. But now he has a vision, at least, of what a Christ-like leader can be. I find that to be very realistic--flashes of insight that help us realize that we are not where we need to be, followed by the desire to be better is a very common experience.
Ed has made a friend and his dad, with whom he has issues said something nice to him. His struggles to fit in and feel comfortable are not over.
Eula does get a bona fide miracle. She is healed, but only after years of suffering and the demonstration of substantial faith--not an insignificant exertion, I might add. Her house is still falling apart, she is still seriously behind on her bills, and while we hope Curtis will step up and take better care of her, she may still have to deal with loneliness.
The point of The Road Show is that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. He heals and helps us through the trials and vicissitudes of mortal life. But he doesn't take away our problems. There are sweet and sacred moments when He gives us perspective, hope, and even miracles--but the miracles help us endure through the rest of our trials. They don't end them.
The Road Show happens to end at one of these high points. Perhaps as an artistic choice, one could argue that it implies the problems are solved and is therefore ineffective. That would be a valid critical point. I happen to disagree, but I could respect that point of view.
To me, however, the point is this: the characters have received grace and love so they can move on to face their problems with the knowledge that God loves them and knows them and will help them carry the burdens they bear.
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