Reviews – and how to deal with them

Part I

I once organised a creative writing weekend and asked the – alas with us no more – famous writer and journalist, Maeve Binchy if she would come and tell aspiring writers how to become a bestselling author.  She very generously agreed and she gave us a wonderful, entertaining workshop.

What Maeve told us about reviews was memorable: she said she threw bad reviews on the floor and stamped all over them.  Maeve was about six feet tall and had a shoe size to match. As she put it: if her writing was so simple that ‘anyone could do it’ (as they had said), well, then, ‘Why didn’t they?’

Some writers don’t read any reviews, good, bad or indifferent.  Or, they get someone else to read them and ask to be given only the ‘good’ ones.  Probably best if you can get to that place Kipling mentioned and treat these two ‘imposters’ – i.e. good and bad - just the same.

If you do decide to read any and all reviews, be mindful of a couple of things:

- When you put your head above the parapet, it is a guarantee that you will get a muddy face.    Mud washes off, so don’t let it discourage you.  As sure as night follows day, it will happen    again.

- Ask yourself: is the review a fair and accurate reflection of my novel?  Is there something I    can learn from it?  If you don’t think either is true, then the review is meaningless.

To be continued


Philippa's Diary

Door Decoration / Table Centrepiece

– doesn’t have to be perfect, just good to look at

 Whenever I can, I try to source plant material in the fields and garden and for this door decoration, the only cost was the ring itself.  These can be bought at a floristry supplier and are usually called ‘wreath rings’.  They’re made from a circle of plastic containing oasis.  Once soaked and plant material inserted, a ring can last quite a while outdoors, weather permitting.  If you’re using it as a table decoration, it’s probably wise to spray it with water every couple of days and pull out faded plants and re-insert fresh ones.

 I found snowberry, the last of the rose hips, hawthorn berries, tree ivy with berries, trailing ivy, bay leaf, teasels – once used to card wool – dried bracken, variegated holly from the garden, the last of the Apache chilies – they weren’t popular!  - from the greenhouse and some cuttings from a fir tree which was re-planted after use as a Christmas tree about ten years ago.

 I had company on my expedition – Princess: a Dexter heifer.  She was in good form, playful yet always respectful.  She adores ivy and for every piece I put into my trug, Princess had two.


Soak the wreath ring until it sinks; remove, allow to drain.  Meanwhile, lay out your plant material, remove thorns and side shoots and cut material into about six inch lengths.  Begin with your green material, inserting it around the outside of the circle and work your way in.  Don’t worry about doing it ‘properly’, just keep inserting plants and berries until it looks good.  A quick spray with gold on the ivy berries gives it all a lift.  The bow is made from hessian and the centrepiece a dried persimmon.ntr

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Louise Couper