The most brutal of all critics is a child.
When I first became a writer, I was in middle school. I wrote in secret and didn’t share my work with anyone. It was a guilty pleasure. I enjoyed creative writing assignments and even turned some essays into narratives, like the eighth grade assignment on the Civil War. I wrote a narrative from the point of view of a slave. Teachers gave me good grades, but they did that in all subjects so it wasn’t particularly validating for my writing.
After finishing college, getting a job, marrying, having children, and changing careers, I decided to try and write a whole novel. Tentatively, I showed my work to a few colleagues with satisfying results. I joined TheNextBigWriter.com which is a site for aspiring authors to read and review each other. I received lots of constructive criticism and encouragement.
Since then I have published two novels and have a third one entered in a contest. Sales are steady, and reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads are good. My novels are Young Adult novels, so I knew my sixth graders would read them. Both novels are passed around the classroom and receive good comments. Last week, however, one of the most validating experiences ocurred.
I was walking my class inside after lunch. Another class walked beside us. In that class, a boy was reading as he walked. He was so engrossed in the book he almost bumped into the girl in front of him. I peered over his shoulder to see what he was reading, and it was my book. I smiled for the rest of the day.
I know that for each child I see reading my book, there are others who are also enjoying it. Writing is a somewhat solitary task, and positive feedback is so wonderful. Please put a smile on the face of authors you enjoy by leaving reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.