Mr Light came home the other evening to the sight and sound of his wife triumphantly punching the air above her shoulders, while repeatedly muttering a very unladylike crescendo of yes… yes… yes… Pretty much taken aback by such an uncharacteristic display, he couldn’t help reflecting that it was nonetheless a performance after the fashion of a certain mutt of Dick Dastardly fame, and almost indistinguishable from that famous canine’s Wicked Laughter N° 3. So, what could she possibly be celebrating in such a fashion?
Or maybe the question should be, rather, what there is not to celebrate. After all, it is never one’s wish to appear ungracious, and a modicum of humility can always be said as de bon ton.
As things are, Mr Light supposes his wife can indeed count herself lucky. While definitely a newbie to this book reviewing lark, she arguably already has a lot to be thankful for. Books have sustained her through a very difficult period of her life, one whose end does not seem in sight. And they both are well aware that there is no way either of them could afford her almost insatiable lust for new reading materials if she were to buy all the titles she reads. Finding somewhere where she can get titles to read for free — or just for the relatively small investment of writing a review — was an unexpected boon, and one for which she has to thank her fist ever ‘indie’ author, New Zealander Katherine Hayton.
Not being published writers themselves (other than the bits and pieces that have appeared in a succession of blogs she authored or contributed to throughout the years), neither Mr Light nor his wife can attest to the deservedness of a certain reputation for, let’s call it ‘being difficult’, the traditional publishing industry seems to have managed to garner for itself. The fact is, anecdotal evidence seems to abound in literary circles. But what do the two of them know?
What Mr Light’s wife appears to be finding out is that there seem to be an awful lot of hoops one needs to jump through at any point in time. And frogs to kiss. And she can only attest to what she has been privy to: no more, and no less. But it is exactly in such moments when one either exerts one’s sweet little triumphs, or one’s insignificant little vengeance or, for lack of anything else within one’s power and reach, one’s full and exacting derision, that Mr Light’s wife can be found punching the air and at the very bestest of her Muttley impersonations. All the other times, she has to kiss frogs if she wants to find her fix of words.
Take, for instance, that time when she received an email from a well known publisher, declining her request to review such and such a book, and suggesting that in order to increase her chances of future approvals she might want to edit her bio and profile, in order to best reflect that publishing house’s values. Thinking back to that evening, Mr Light seems to remember his wife had been a rather unbecoming shade of purple; and that it had been his impression that, for all her placidity, and had she indeed been Muttley, she would have been frothing at the jaws.
— “You do of course realise that that suggestion there is tantamount to saying not so much that their reviewers need to fit a certain profile, but that, well, looky here missus, we don’t really care who reads and reviews our titles, just as long as they are seen to conform to our accepted stereotype…” — And yes, conforming to a stereotype, however much in demand that stereotype might be, has never been Mr Light’s wife’s thing, and he loved her very dearly for that. Rubbing salt on an already grievous wound, the publishers had included a link to what it had termed ‘its requirements’ for an approved reviewer’s profile.
And then there had been that other time when another publisher had sent her a rather
snotty patronising email, declining of course her request to read and review a certain of their titles. Mr Light’s wife did not mind that at all; she understood the number’s game very well. What she could not understand was why a galley, publicly offered as available for request on a reviewer’s platform, could simultaneously be deemed as ‘not available for wide distribution’ (ah, this dastardly elitism thing! And how irritating, her semantics preciousness!).
But, worst of all, sin of sins, what she could never ever be able to accept were such wording as, sic, “If you have serious review plans for this book (…)” (italics included). And since it is salt they seemed to be talking about, here’s another pinch of it: “(…) [W]e hope that you pick up a copy at your local bookstore in September”.
Nope. Nope, nope, and nope. Not in a month of Sundays. She was sure it’d come to some library near her soon enough, come September or no September of whatever year, if she was ever that desperate for a book, any book to offer her two-cents worth on.
It’s just that there’s give and take, and then there’s take and take. And of so much bending backwards, she knew only too well that the ant had not just broken her back, but had finally lost all her dignity. Let somebody else kiss those there frogs, she had told herself, and she had moved on.