24th Annual Writer’s Digest Awards Review

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bookcoverFrom Judge #53, Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, Category: Life Stories.

“Whenever a woman writes about her experience in being in an abusive relationship, she helps other women. This is exactly what Dynel has done with Leaving Dorian, which seems to be the author’s story written in third person, as if it were a novel. I appreciated the choice the author made in this perspective, for it conveys the necessity of a woman distancing herself from an abusive past. Dynel has done a brilliant job. The reader is immediately hooked by Kassy’s circumstances. Dynel does not depict Kassy as spineless victim, but she definitely is a girl who has had to deal with less than easy circumstances while still quite young. There seems to be limitless ways a woman can end up with an abusive man, and Dorian is both unique and classic in the ways he chooses to dominate. His manipulation of religion, his threats, and his belief he is always right are recognizable. I liked the way the author went back and forth from her escape with the little girls to the backdrop story of how she was snared to begin with. Dynel achieved this balance beautifully, succeeding where many other writers have failed. This book cannot fail to find a following, once a female audience is informed of its existence! The only mistake I found was in the spelling of a variation of the verb “to lie” (i.e. to recline) on page 139. “Laid down” should be “lay down.” I think better cover art could be made for a book as good as this. What I see is a bit plain.”

*27/30 points

So, a few of my own thoughts on the above review: On the whole, it’s fantastic. The judge has nothing but positive things to say about the structure, organization, pacing, plot and story appeal, character appeal and development as well as “voice” and writing style, and in fact gave me “5” in all of those categories, “1” being “Needs Improvement” and “5” being “Outstanding”. One grammatical error was found, which brought my spelling, punctuation and grammar score down to a “4”.

I used to stress about missing details like this, but over the last three years my husband has taken to pointing out misspellings and grammatical errors accidentally left in books by professional copy editors, so – I simply don’t take it to heart anymore when I miss what should be an obvious error, no matter how large or small. (Even in this case – throughout the review the Judge erroneously refers to my main character “Kassy”.) In the nearly three years since Leaving Dorian was published, no one has ever mentioned that error, so I’m thrilled that it was brought to my attention. The beauty of being a self-published author is that an error like this can easily be corrected. What irritates me, though, is what always irritates me when I enter my work into any generic sort of contest – the lack of understanding or consideration about why certain details of my book are done the way that they are.

The judge gave me a “3” on cover design, stating that it seemed “a bit plain”.

OK…. *deep sigh*…

When I sat down to write Leaving Dorian, I didn’t just bang out a manuscript, blithely choose cover art and throw it out onto the market for purchase. I researched. I looked up everything from the proper way to write a memoir to standard font styles and sizes and paper choices. I also looked at the cover designs of other memoirs about sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. Do you know what I found? Every other memoir’s cover design was dark and brooding. Blacks, dark purples, reds and grays were the colors of choice for these stories. The artwork often times depicted violence or had dreary, foreboding images. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the cover design for a story which is subtitled, “A Memoir of Hope” was going to need to be very different than anything else that was on the market.

There’s also a lot written in writer-y digests about “knowing your target audience”. This directive gave me pause on more than one occasion, primarily because to say that I had a “target audience” was a bit of an understatement. Leaving Dorian was not just written with victims and survivors of domestic violence in mind; I wrote it for them. Leaving Dorian is my gift to them. Leaving Dorian says, “I see you.” It says, “I believe you.” It cries out, “I found my way to freedom and you can, too! Reach out. Seek help. Believe.”

The cover of Leaving Dorian is done in soft neutrals and pastels because if “hope” had a color, it wouldn’t be that of a bruise. The artwork is neat and clean, almost minimalist, because chaos isn’t. The type face is 12 point font (like that of a young adult novel) and not 8 or 9, as is standard in books written for adults, because I remembered very well trying to fill out forms and read documents when I first left my ex-husband. The tiny fonts were frustrating to manage when my brain was awash in the thousand thoughts that I had to think every minute just to manage myself in the “outside” world after being penned in an abusive relationship for nearly a decade.  The pages are off white and soft to the touch because when trying to focus, pages that look and feel like they’re out of a textbook can be intimidating. Leaving Dorian was structured to be inviting because it can’t do its job if it’s not read.

Thank you to Judge #53 for what is, on the whole, a very thoughtful, thorough, fantastic  review! And I’ll take the “3” on cover design, because I’m keeping it 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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