Friday, September 21, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Poets Are Like Sally Field In 1984…

In the old days I was quite a movie buff. The year before my son was born I saw forty-seven movies. Everyone knew—”don’t call Tobi on Academy Awards Day beginning at 3:00pm. She’s watching the arrivals”.

I’m sure everyone who was watching in 1984 remembers Sally Field’s acceptance speech for Places in the Heart. ”You Like Me…” (If you don’t, you can click here and watch it on YouTube).

My point? Unless you have more confidence than all the non-movie-stars in the sky, which I don’t, you probably live in fear, like I do, that readers won’t like your work.

Question: When was the last time you put a review on Amazon? (for the record, I’m not talking about Goodreads or because I don’t  know anything about how they work. If you do, and you can put a review on one of those, when was the last time you did that?)

Now I always think you should support your local independent bookstores, but they don’t sell measuring spoons. They don’t sell bicycle pumps or Vitamin D.

No matter what you buy on Amazon, you are considered a “customer”. And as a customer, you can put reviews on books you love, even if you bought them elsewhere. 

It’s a win-win.

You support your bookstore of choice. You tell an author some good things about their book on Amazon.

Other people who may not have access to local bookstores read your comments. They buy the book from Amazon based on the reviews. Or even better, they read your review on Amazon and go down to their local bookstore and order a copy. 

The writer walks a bit taller. The publisher gets royalties. And you did a good thing.

We all need validation. I would say that writers need it more than anyone. Not everyone has family and friends who do that, and sometimes it means more coming from someone you don’t know. It only takes a minute.  It’s funny. I talk about the book “Crescent” by Diana Abu-Jaber all the time. I love that book. Every page you open is magic. Have I ever gone on Amazon and written even that? No! For absolutely no reason. I just never thought of it.

You don’t have to write an “official review”. You don’t even have to write like a writer. You can just say you loved a book and were glad you read it.

Jack Bedell, the Poet Laureate of Louisiana and a really nice person, has a new book out, “No Brother, This Storm”. Just yesterday he posted on Facebook “Big thanks to everyone who's picked up a copy of No Brother, This Storm already. If y'all could find a minute to leave a review on Amazon & Goodreads, I'd truly be indebted”.

He’s a Poet Laureate!! In his case, I imagine he’s asking for validation, visibility, and sales. He has publishers he wants to keep happy. Eventually he’s going to go back to being just a regular citizen. And he’s a writer, just like us.

Call me the shoemaker who needs new shoes. There are so many books, and so many journals that touch my heart. I should say something nice on Amazon at least once a week. I would urge you to do that too. Note: I just did a review/comment about “Crescent”. It took no time at all.

And you know what else? Go on to Amazon and look at your own books. That’s not like googling yourself (which we probably all do, but never admit). When you see that someone has written a nice review about a book of yours, and you didn’t even know about it, it’s as good as an acceptance. Because it is an acceptance!

Look around the bookstore the next time you’re there. Think about all those ideas on all those pages, how some of those ideas are yours too. And somewhere, someone is reading your ideas, your poetry or fiction, and feeling a joy and kinship they didn’t know possible. Hopefully they will have the chance to tell you, either in person, or in a review. You will both be better for it.

[Side note from r soos: Tobi is super great at lauding the work of others, and she will be mad at me for telling you this, and that's okay. Tobi has a brand new book of wonderful poetry available that explores depths of personality: Slices of Alice. You should both buy her book AND write a review on Amazon.]

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Literary Love 
photo by Lubos Houska

He held my hand
in the bookstore,
and all the words
in all the books
Even dark books
by dark authors
put aside their
gothic, graphic
anger to smile,
and the inserts
in periodicals made
a tent to shelter us.

When he kissed
the inside of my
wrist, the music
section played
Ravel’s Bolero.
My salty words
gave way to
sweet, and thoughts
of honeysuckle
and brilliance beamed.
I was mesmerized
by the shadows
and shapes of
light from the
domed ceiling
as they spelled
out what
beauty means.

Time stopped
photo by Leigh Jieun
in the bookstore
as is fitting, as
all those thoughts
were written
and stopped ages ago,
stopped long enough
for us to read
and again.
That is you,
holding my hand
as we read
from the poetry section.

I cannot
pass a bookstore
without entering.
I would
never want
to not
the two of
us on
facing pages,
echoing the
pen and ink
of the past,
and writing
a future.

-Tobi Alfier 

Previously published in Bellowing Ark

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


  1. I've just started the wonderful adventure of getting to know Alice and her vision/version of existence. Also, her peeps, the ones that share her pages, are rather riveting as well. I am loving this journey, visit, whatever you want to call it. Just jump in, get comfy and ride along.

  2. Bless you Lyn, thank you so much!!! I can't tell you how much it means to me that you're enjoying her. Thank you for buying her too!!! Rich really went the extra mile for her. I'm grateful to you both!!

  3. I love the Landladies (I see me, I see my mother) and I adore Alice.

  4. Dear Judy, thank you so much! I hope you and your mom were "good" landladies, and didn't have things too tough. Thank you on Alice. Not to keep repeating myself, but that means so much to me. Thank you!!

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