You’re looking at the painfulÂ results of a donkey-porcupine encounter.Â I don’t know who started the fight, since I didn’t witnessÂ the confrontation, butÂ I suspectÂ my donkey Scottie was the aggressor since porcupines are inclined to scurry away from conflict while donkeys can be, well… territorial.Â An infected leg and $2,000 in veterinarian bills later, Scottie was safely home and back in his paddock.Â The suspect porcupine wasÂ quickly dispatched by our farm caretaker.Â Yet only days later our other donkey, Spock, had porcupine quills in his legs.Â Resulting in yet another trip to the vet andÂ another hefty bill.Â Although we’ve gotten rid of several porcupines since then, new ones keep showing up.Â There’s no end to them.
I was reminded of porcupines when I read about authorÂ Patricia Cornwell fightingÂ back againstÂ the multitude of bad reader reviewsÂ she’s received on Amazon.com.Â Â In a letter on her website, sheÂ talks about a possible conspiracy against her, and asks her loyal readers to defend her byÂ postingÂ reviews to counteract theÂ unfair ones.Â Â Her request has garnered a certain amount of ridicule and laughter.Â Â The general reaction in the blogosphere is that Cornwell is rich and famous so why does sheÂ bother to fight back?Â Â People in her position should be immune to hurt feelings.Â People with money and success should be able to shrug off any and all criticism.Â Â
Instead of shrugging it off,Â she’s attacking her attackers.Â Just likeÂ Spock and Scottie, she’s kicking back at her tormentors — but she’sÂ getting stuck with the quills of ridiculeÂ because of it.
I can understand her impulse to fight back.Â Â Many times, I’ve wanted to fire back an angry letter at a nasty reviewer.Â I’ve wanted to respond to 1-star Amazon.com reviews.Â I’veÂ thought of enlistingÂ my readers in defending me.Â But then I consider the ramifications of those actions.Â You come off looking whiny and desperate.Â Â You reveal just how sensitive — and vulnerableÂ — you really are.
The fact is, we writers are sensitive and vulnerable to criticism.Â I know I am — and it appears that Cornwell is as well.Â
But we have to grit our teeth and keep smiling.Â We have to resist the urge to kick those porcupines.Â
Now, I’ve never met Patricia Cornwell, and I doubt she knows who I am.Â But if I could write a note to her, this is what I mightÂ say:
Dear Ms. Cornwell,
you’ve written some fabulous books.Â You’ve also written some books that have not been well received by your readers.Â Some of their reviews have been unspeakably nasty and crueler than any novelist deserves.Â Don’t give them the satisfaction of a publicÂ response.Â Don’tÂ let on that you’ve even noticed.Â Because no matter what you say, no matter how justified your response may be, you will come off looking bad.Â Â I know it’s hard toÂ take those attacks without fighting back.Â Â Like you, I have a tough time ignoring criticism.Â Â Probably like you, I haveÂ fantasies of revenge.Â Fantasies involving hitmen and midnight knocks onÂ my tormentors’ doors.
But let’s both be strong, okay?Â Â Let’s show the world we’re true professionals and above the fray.Â
AndÂ if by chance you’ve already hiredÂ that hitman, tell him the plans are off.Â Tell him to leave your critics alone.
Send him after mine instead.Â