Turning Bad News Into Benefit by M. LaVora Perry You have permission to post this article on your Web site or in your e-zine provided that bylines are included. A notice is appreciated to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In early Fall of 2003 I asked head children’s room librarian in a Cleveland suburb “Why did you decide not to carry my book, Taneesha’s Treasures of Heart, in your library system?” She answered, “It has awkward sentence structure, is too preachy and has too much going on between Buddhism and diabetes. Children won't like it. We don't carry those kinds of books."
With each of her words my stomach knotted into a tighter ball. In less than a minute librarian had precisely articulated my worst fear about myself as a writer—I'm no good.
All people who told me they loved my story and that reading it uplifted them and their children were either lying to keep from hurting my feelings or didn't know quality writing from junk. That's what I told myself. Although I had appeared on Tavis Smiley Show on National Public Radio to discuss Taneesha’s Treasures of Heart only weeks after it was published, although largest school and librarian systems in Ohio (Cleveland) both picked up book with high praise, and although Cleveland Municipal School District put book on their reading list, rejection by suburban children's room librarian bummed me out.
Maybe I was especially bummed because one of things I'd been praying for over previous several months was for Taneesha's Treasures of Heart to be in libraries across United States.
So I prayed and sought guidance. My biggest obstacle was how could I have heart to tell folks to read my story if it stank? I self-published my book using services of a co-publisher. I had poured my life into getting book noticed. After speaking to librarian I wondered, “Have I blown my retirement money and invested hours of time and energy for nothing?”
I called Cindy Carlson of Chicago, who is an appointed leader in Buddhist organization to which I belong—Soka Gakkai International (SGI)-USA. “Cindy, librarian said this and she said that,” I moaned. “What if she’s right? What if my book’s no good?”
Cindy reminded me that Taneesha's Treasures of Heart gave people a positive feeling. So question was not was it good, but did it create value? She said it definitely did so based on readers’ reactions to it. She said book didn't have to be perfect to be value creative.
Then I called my friend here in Cleveland, Barb Jenkins, who is an appointed SGI-USA leader as well. “Barb,” I told her, “I feel like a fake. I feel like I have no business even trying to be a writer.” She said, “LaVora, why are you letting one negative voice drown out a chorus of positive ones?”
Barb asked me to face my funky inner demons. She helped me see that librarian was showing me my weakness/doubt/lack of faith in my Buddha nature—my highest self. It was that self-doubt that I needed to defeat.
Through prayer and words of those two wise women, I came to realize that as a writer I certainly hope Taneesha's Treasures of Heart is worst book I ever write. Goodness knows I plan on writing until day I drop; so if I've hit my peak with my first book, I'm in trouble.
That's not my plan. I aim to continuously develop and learn my craft. So Taneesha—as well and widely as she is being received—is just beginning. Not only that, but simple truth is not everybody is going to like what I write. Big deal. I don't like everything I read of other folks' writing either. I need to become so wise and strong that neither praise nor criticism sway me from my original goal.
My intention from start was to sell millions of books, and to thereby inspire all kinds of people. So I renewed my determination and offered this prayer: “I will do what I came into this world to do—no matter what.” Then I stepped on and continued hold nothing back in my efforts to get my book recognized and read.