Mama Has No Favorites

My latest book, Broken Fevers, has 14 stories. I chose them and the collection’s order. Some stories didn’t make the cut, so other than that I have no favorites (as far as you’ll ever know). Why am I telling you this? 

Because reviews give me the opportunity to see which stories people connect to and/or appreciate the most. I had no idea about this. I hadn’t considered it; this is my first non-linked collection. I have to tell you it’s incredibly interesting. 

Choosing stories for a non-linked collection is somewhat similar to choosing stories for a non-themed anthology. For me, I don’t care how they ‘get along’ per se. I can create continuity (or discontinuity) by controlling the flow of work. I also have a somewhat non-standard view of curating in that often I want variety and quality above all else. Each story should stand on its own and sometimes that means hard transitions and stories butting up against each other that couldn’t differ much more. It’s intentional. I don’t know how common it is amongst editors (I’ve edited/curated compilations of others’ work) but it speaks to what I enjoy as a reader (diversity) and as a writer (to be given the chance for my work to be considered on its own merits, not just in comparison to or in the context of other’s work/literary traditions).

The bonus to all this is when I read reviews I can see what the reviewers value most and/or think was executed well per their standards (note ‘per their standards’. Some writing can just be objectively good or bad but it’s rarer than you might think). To give one example, I tend to write short. That’s my style. Some people hate that. Some of them will never get past the fact that they can’t immerse themselves for days and weeks on end. For others, their idea of successful development requires a certain amount of linear space, slower pacing, and a minimum number of scenes. I understand. I’m not their author because that’s not my aesthetic. And that’s okay. 

Reviews teach me about expectations and can provide useful, constructive criticism.

But I am fascinated by what reviews tell me about the reviewer/publication/reader. It’s like I can read them.  

Tenea D. Johnson


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