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When the Bird Gets the Berry: Celebrating Amy Crider

“Know how to use the criticism you get. Neither agree too quickly nor reject it. Just use it in the best way possible.”

By Chelsey Shannon, editor

When Amy Crider sent me an email with the subject line of “My ‘TED’ Talk,” I took the quotes around TED as a way of marking the brand name. Fully ready to dig into an eighteen-minute (maximum) video of Crider lecturing, I realized there was no link in the message, but a paragraph copied from her Facebook page. 

“I just posted this and thought I’d share with you,” she wrote. The condensed TED talk read:

“Now that I’m a ‘published author,’ people are starting to ask me for advice. Here’s my biggest piece of advice: take criticism well, and know how to make use of it. An agent rejected Disorder in 2018 because she didn’t like that it had an ‘unreliable narrator.’ This irritated me so much that I immediately decided to change the whole novel to first person, and open it with the line, ‘I am not an unreliable narrator.’ This change in the voice, and this opening line, is perhaps the main reason it sold. Know how to use the criticism you get. Neither agree too quickly nor reject it. Just use it in the best way possible. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.”

Breaking through as an unpublished novelist is hard enough. Attempting to do so with a novel about how subjectivity is, and isn’t, complicated by mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, is even harder. As Crider told journalist Leslie Cardé for Nola.com, she and Disorder weathered over one hundred rejections in the fifteen years before it was selected as the UNO Publishing Lab 2020 winner. Which, by the way, was the same year she won the Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival’s annual One Act Play contest.

So, I’m impressed by Amy’s dogged—and triumphant—subversion of that agent’s criticism. But I’m not surprised.

Other recent publicity includes Crider’s op-ed, “How ‘A Christmas Carol’ reminds us there is always time to start over.” Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, it’s since been picked up by dozens of other papers. “It is an extraordinary lesson: to be alive and start over,” she writes. “And we are born again every day that we wake up and can start over.”

As Amy’s editor for Disorder, the starting over that we’ve shared took form in the revision of Disorder—a process (debatably) less metaphysical than Scrooge’s cleansed moral slate. But revision is a rebirthing nonetheless, and Crider’s humor, intelligence, and clarity of purpose made it a markedly pleasant one. Publisher’s Weekly and Foreword Reviews have both praised the final result of her years of writing and rewriting. “Tender and tortured in equal measure,” says the latter, “Amy Crider’s Disorder is a mystery that gradually reveals itself to be a perceptive character study.”

In the spirit of Scrooge 2.0’s generosity, we share Amy Crider’s op-ed here. Disorder is available for purchase here, just in time for the holidays.

Photo by Matt MacGillivray.

By chelseykimberly

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