Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive

Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive

by Joni Cole

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. What kind of a writer are you? Oh, come on — everybody’s a writer, at least a little bit. Are you a secret writer, telling no one until your masterpiece is as polished as an old doorknob? Or are you generous with your words, asking anyone — everyone for their opinion until your friends won’t take your calls anymore? Are you only a writer if you publish a book with hard covers and three to five hundred pages of fiction in between? Are bloggers writers? Am I a writer? As with everything else, the internet has changed writing, from who gets to do it to who reads it and how it gets published, edited, and advertised. And yet, it still comes down to one person and their words.  I hope that doesn’t change. But I wonder — can anyone be a writer? How do you improve? How do you know what criticism is valid, and what to ignore, and where do you go for help? So I started asking writers about how they do it.

I first met Joni Cole as she was promoting her last book, Watercooler Diaries: Women Across America Share Their Day at Work. Joni convinced hundreds of women across the country to simply keep a daily work diary — from ER doctors to boxing promoters to Avon ladies. A fiendishly simple concept and a fascinating read. Joni told me about her next project, Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive. I thought it would be a good place to start talking about writing.  I came away with these thoughts: if you’re critiquing a piece, be specific in what you like and what you don’t. “Um, it was really good” helps no one, and of course neither does “Don’t quit your day job,” good advice though it may be. And if you are being critiqued, don’t hear those kinds of things and slink away into the night. Find out what they’re talking about! Own that feedback! (Joni gave me some extremely kind feedback on my own work in progress that made me wiggle around like my cat when she gets a cookie. Thanks, Joni, I will get right back to work!)

I next spoke with Heather Cabot. Heather came from a terribly glamorous career in TV journalism but quickly realized that having children is not conducive to all nighters in the newsroom. Like so many women, she reinvented herself, started up a blog ( and found a home as Yahoo’s Web Life editor. As far as she’s concerned, she’s a writer: hardcovers be damned. We got to commiserate over the challenge of figuring out how to make your website earn a dollar. (Paper route?)
Making a living — the final blog frontier!

Next week I’ll sit down with N.M. Kelby, who’ll talk about the role of book tours and bookstores, and J.T. Ellison will try to come up with new ways to dispatch her victims.

Hear my interviews with Joni Cole and Heather Cabot on Fiction Nation, on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80 on Wednesday, July 30th at 7:00am, on Thursday, July 31st at midnight, on Friday August 1st at 11:00pm, on Saturday August 2nd at 6pm, on Sunday August 3rd at 10:00am and 8:00pm, and on Monday August 4th at 12:00 midnight. You can also hear Fiction Nation on Sonic Theater, SiriusXM Channel 80 on Thursday July 31st at 3:00 pm in its half-hour format. All times EDT.

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