Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kerry Cohen talks about her hilarious series, Bad Reviews: Writers Read Their Shit Reviews

Sigh. We've all had them. The kind of review where you want to curl up under the bed and never come out.  But what if you could defuse the shame and the hurt?

Kerry Cohen started this hilarious series called Bad Reviews: Writers Read Their Shit reviews, and it's causing a sensation. I was thrilled to be invited to read and I took on one of my worst reviews ever, for my third book, Jealousies, which I had been pressured to write by my then publisher, who wanted me to be more commercial and less literary. I beg people NOT to buy it, but still, did it deserve the vitriol flung its way?

I had a great time making an idiot of myself over this review, and Kerry wants to invite any other writers who want to do this to make their own little film and send to


 Kerry Cohen is a psychotherapist, writing faculty at The Red Earth Low-Residency MFA, and the author of Loose Girl, Dirty Little Secrets, Seeing Ezra; and the young adult novels Easy, The Good Girl, and It’s Not You, It’s Me. Coming soon are Spent, an anthology of 30 astounding essays about women and shopping, and The Truth of Memoir.  Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Kerry, and thanks so much for inviting me to read a bad review!

This is so inspired and such genius!

Thank you! I’ve been wanting to do it for months. I think it’s pretty awesome too :)

Where did you come up with the idea of this amazingly wonderful series?

I was visiting Stacy Pershall’s memoir class in NYC as a guest speaker. Stacy and I found each other through our memoirs a while back. She’s such a great person and wonderful writer - her memoir is Loud in The House of Myself about her struggle with borderline personality disorder. As female memoirists we connected about some of the horrible things people had written about us in reviews. I’m serious. You want the world to simultaneously love you and hate you really quickly? Be a woman and write a confessional memoir. While we were commiserating and laughing, we came up with the idea, kind of like the mean celebrity tweets read by the celebrities.

Did you find that authors were reticent about doing it or did they--like me--want to do it. There is something so vulnerable and winning about hearing these authors, plus it made me want to go and buy up multiple copies of all of their books.

I know! I am finding indeed that writers want to do it. It really is cathartic it turns out. Possibly the biggest obstacle, other than that needing to spread the net wider, is that so many authors are insecure and don’t want to get on video, at least not without a shower. You know how we authors sit around unbathed all day at our computers. Or is that just me?

Somehow, listening to these authors reading the reviews diffuses the pain of the review. It's actually really, really therapeutic and lots of fun.  Where do you want to take this? A reading series of bad reviews?

Ooo that’s a great idea! I hadn’t really thought beyond trying to get about 100 authors and their bad reviews and perhaps make a website. Right now I just want it to be a thing that people have heard about. I love that while initially I simply thought it would be funny, I’m quickly seeing how meaningful this can be. It’s so helpful as authors to take power back over something that can be so hurtful. It’s a way for authors to feel less alone too. But, perhaps the biggest thing that’s happening that I hadn’t foreseen is that aspiring authors feel so hopeful from it. I mean, look at you, Caroline! Author of a gajillion books, most all of them bestselling, and here you are, human, HUMAN!, crying in your apartment because you got a bad review. Just the fact that you got a bad review seems unbelievable, but then your reaction makes aspiring authors feel like you and they are the same. We’re all the same!

How can authors contact you if they want to do one of these?

Please please yes, the more the better: send as a .mov to

What's obsessing you now and why?

I’m working on two memoirs at once. Why must I always be working on more than one book at a time? It’s a horrible idea and very highly not recommended. This started happening to me at 40. Suddenly I was like, I HAVE TO WRITE ALL THE BOOKS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Hmm. Maybe what I’m working on now? That’s so boring. And I answered it above. How about, what are you in love with today? Answer: my children, my husband, writing, my bed, the smell of early autumn.

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