Off Balanced continues to garner attention in the blogosphere. This past week I provided Rudy’s Way a guest blog post. The post “You are Not Alone” speaks towards my intentions with Off Balanced. Please take a minute to read the post. Seriously, I advise reading the post because what I discussed on Rudy’s Way will prove relevant moving forward with today’s post.
Emma Crees recently reviewed Off Balanced for her blog A Writer in a Wheelchair. Her review marks the first not so glorious feedback for my book. I wish to take this opportunity and address some criticisms Emma makes. For starters let us look at my book’s synopsis.
Off Balanced dives into the thoughts of a teenager with the neurological disability cerebral palsy. Just like how CP can throw one off balance physically, the condition can create mental unsteadiness. Learn how poor balance, muscle tightness, and other cerebral palsy symptoms influence the emotional teenage mindset. From coping with the disability and relating to classmates to building self-confidence and making friends discover first hand insight about teenage life with CP. For teens troubled by cerebral palsy Off Balanced lets you know you are not alone. Additionally the memoir demonstrates to able-bodied youths how big their smallest actions can be.
“I’m also not sure this is the best summary as it focuses on the CP aspects and to me it (Off Balanced) read more as being about life than about CP” Emma writes in her review. I guess we can chalk this up to different perceptions as I feel the words within the synopsis, such as “cerebral palsy symptoms influence the emotional teenage mindset” and “teenage life with CP” indicates the memoir transcends the physical disability and discusses how cerebral palsy affected me socially.
On a related note I wish to respond to Emma’s comment “Treatments he had are mentioned in passing only which intrigued me as they would have been a big part of any memoir I wrote about the impact of CP on life.” Again, my book’s focus remained on how having cerebral palsy affected me socially so naturally I only mention treatments to the extent of which they held social influence. Overall I believe the following sentence from Emma can help identify our differences “It (Off Balanced) would be a good starting point for anyone wanting to learn about being disabled.” I didn’t aim to teach with Off Balanced but rather, as discussed in my Rudy’s Way guest post, provide a book others with disabilities can relate to.
Moving forward, my book left Emma bringing up a debate us writers encounter “What is a book? What’s a novel? How many words or pages before you can say that’s what you’ve written?” This gets brought up because my memoir can seem short. Emma admits no set standard exists and she likes that. Personally I draw the line at a 20,000-word minimum because while researching different publishers (before deciding on the self-publishing route) one of the publishers noted to me they need 20,000 words to create a decent book. Off Balanced weighs in at over 29,000 words so hopefully that gives everyone a solid measuring stick.
Finally, I found the following sentences from Emma’s review alarming. “In a few places however the writing in general needed a bit of tightening up. I had to read a couple of sentences a few times to make sense of them as they felt wrong to me.” As a writer you always strive to write in a clear, concise fashion. Without specific examples I can’t defend myself on this charge. Maybe cultural differences between the U.S. and UK caused the problems, and then again maybe not. What I can do is invite you to read the free Off Balanced preview available on my website (zacharyfenell.com) and request you judge my writing on your own.