Got a really nasty review yesterday from someone who clearly had an agenda and an axe to grind. Of course it's depressing and painful when that happens. There's a sense of helplessness that someone with access to a significant audience has taken your work and bent it to fit their purposes. It's a cowardly act, a sucker punch, by someone who knows I can't hit back.
But in the strangely cosmic -- and possibly karmic? -- way that things happen, the following email greeted me when I got on the computer this morning:
Hello Mr. Strasser,
When I was in 4th grade, I discovered "Help! I'm Trapped in my Sister's Body" and "Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day of School." From there I read "Help! I'm Trapped in my Teacher's Body," "Help! I'm Trapped in the President's Body," and so many others. I read and reread these over and over on my own time. I loved them - I loved the humor and still think of lines here and there and laugh. I also remember the more poignant lines, like Jake's speech as the president - especially when he says adults put off problems until "they're not ours anymore." I've thought of that line a lot, especially being of voting age starting in 2004. We also read "The Wave" in 7th grade and I loved that too.
I wanted to write to you to let you know I'm still a fan of your work and remember it fondly, even though I'm 32 and long out of school. I also wanted to write and let you know that I've written to you before. I wrote to you in 6th grade, for an assignment to write to our favorite author. You actually wrote me back, and you were one of the only authors to write back in my class. You sent me a personal letter, addressing specific things I wrote about and signing it at the bottom. There was also a picture of you and your dog in the header.
That meant the world to me in 6th grade. It made me feel special knowing an author I admired would take the time to write me back. I still smile when I remember it. I remembered that today, and I wanted to write to you and let you know - and to thank you, even if it's 21 years later.
Your humor and wit both entertained and inspired me. I'm still an avid reader, and I've become a writer as well. I write on the side - I'm a digital professional in the nonprofit sector full-time, which is far less exciting - and my love of writing came from all the great books I've read over the years, including yours. Thank you for your wonderful work, and for writing back all those years ago.
Todd again: As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, "So it goes." We reap what we sow. The pain of that bad review will pass. Just as water seeks its own level, the book will eventually find whatever place it deserves. And I hope that reviewer will also.