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Not a Moment to Waste

Worldly Goods by Michael Korda

Last week, I procrastinated in writing about “Bad Reviews” on Amazon. I had recently received my first bad review and was stung by its tenor and content. The review came across as scolding–like “why did you waste my time with this book–so full of shallow characters, too many footnotes, etc. A real writer would have explored each of these characters in depth.” I read it over and over as if the criticism would somehow become more palatable or disappear like invisible ink from the page. Then there was that one word of finality to remind me how far short I had fallen with my book–“Sorry!” Like, sorry, not this book. Ouch. OK, so I’m a sensitive author and it hurt. Hurt as in “I’m Only Human,” a song you might recall from the 80s pop group ‘Human League.’

But it appears my first bad review had come to the attention of Anne R. Allen, blogster extraordinaire and patron saint of newbie authors. Her recent blog, You Got Your First Bad Review: Congratulations!, was like a salve to my wound. I won’t take much time paraphrasing what Anne said. Anne tells it best in her blog. My sources tell me that my first bad review was Anne’s inspiration for her blog. Glad I could help! If there are a few choice takeaways from Anne’s blog, it would be these: “

  • If you are a writer, expect to see your fair share of bad reviews. It comes with the territory.
  • Many classic writers have had their works harshly criticized, in some cases–bashed.
  • Don’t take criticism personally. One reviewer said my book would have been better had I mentioned more information about “food and meals” she would expect to see along our Spanish journey. Everybody has an opinion. People have particular likes and dislikes.
  • You are not writing for everyone–you are writing for yourself.

If I can make my own point about writing and criticism. Be realistic–not everyone is going to “five-star” your work. Be satisfied knowing you like it. That your spouse likes it. That your kids like it. Be grateful. Anything more is icing on the cake.

A close friend of mine said, “Who cares about liking the book. It’s your legacy. That, in itself, should be enough!” He’s got a point there.

The more I write, the more I learn. I have discovered being a good writer is not about waiting for divine inspiration, a manic episode, or a buzz from my third glass of Malbec (I’m not promoting this tasty and full-bodied red wine from Argentina). It’s about hard work and discipline. Which brings me to my final point.

During his career, my late father, a high-ranking NYC police officer worked on and off in Manhattan. He had the great fortune of meeting and befriending one of the most interesting and successful people in the world of publishing–Michael Korda. For those who are unfamiliar with Michael Korda, he is an English born novelist, former Editor-in-Chief of the Simon & Schuster Publishing Company and a best-selling author (Charmed Lives) in his own right. Knowing my love for writing, my father was anxious to tell me all about this great man and gift me one of Michael’s books Worldly Goods which I ended up reading several times.

Although some might look upon Michael Korda and my father as the “Odd Couple,” I could see qualities they both shared–discipline and hard work in their individual crafts.

My father used to say, “Michael Korda writes two to three hours every day–every morning before he goes to work. Do you see, son, how much discipline that requires?”

Dad, I do see it now, I do get it, it’s kind of like ‘practice makes perfect.’ Had I heeded my father’s advice when I was in my 30s, who knows?

But now in my 60s, sitting in my study, I tell myself, “It’s never too late.”

I have put the Malbec on hold for later this evening. For now, there’s not a moment to waste.


  1. Michael Fressola says:

    Dear Mr. Strange:
    Just now, Googling long-ago reviews of “Worldly Goods” (Michael Korda), I landed on your site.
    But first, congratulations on your book. Reviews are tricky. I reviewed non-fiction for years, but only books that I liked. Books I didn’t like (three or four chapters along), I didn’t finish.
    I guess that Korda’s novel arrived in the newsroom 39 years ago…. I didn’t read it then. We probably pulled a review from a wire service… I took it home, shelved it, forgot about it. Lately (I’m retired) I’ve been pulling unread books off the shelves.. Again, my patience lasts about pages. Little by little the the shelves are beginning to loosen and breathe.
    I’m liking “Wordly Goods,” oddly enough even though it’s got more than a whiff of Harold Robbins, a blockbuster author Korda edited/promoted. Unlike Robbins, Korda’s kind of elegant. Robbins was a sweaty horn dog and a clumsy, repetitive, wildly successful hack.
    So, anxious as I am to get rid of books, it looks like I’ll probably hang on to “Worldly Goods.” We’ll see, A hundred pages to go..
    (Thank You)

    • ken says:

      Nice to hear from you Michael…and please call me “Ken.” Thanks for the kind words about my book. I was surprised when I found out a few weeks ago I had received a Silver IPPY award in the Travel Essay category. I’m trying to get a law enforcement memoir out but my former employer, the FBI, has had the manuscript for more than four months. I’m hoping for the best. In the meantime, I’m doing a travel memoir about living and working in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. Thanks for your impression about Robbins–I confess not knowing much about him but I will check him out in Wikipedia. As for Michael Korda, I would agree with you….elegant…and maybe something to do with his pedigree. Appreciate your stopping by and saying hello…hope we can stay in touch. Thanks.

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