Idgie is a somewhat sloppy editor and proud parent of Dew on the Kudzu, an online E-zine that celebrates the Southern Written Word through book reviews and short stories. Book reviewer, occasional author on her own site, Southern humorist at heart.
Idgie was a nickname slapped on me years ago by a publicist and I have to admit it's stuck well enough that if you yell it in a crowd, I'll turn around without blinking.
The Dew started in 2005 and I’m very proud of it. It started because I had a blog where I would whine that Southerners got the short stick with all the jokes aimed at them and I was tired of it. Why couldn’t we appreciate the South more? I was finally told by a reader to stop whining and do something about it myself. So, after a little thought and a contest for the name, I did just that!
The Dew began as an all encompassing magazine: reviews, stories, recipes, events, places to visit, etc. It continued in that vein for several years before finally evolving into a straight writing/book site. Today I like to remind everyone that this site is not possible without the contribution of all of those wonderful short stories and the publicists/authors who share their books with me. This is not MY magazine, but a shared effort.
#2: As a reviewer, what is your selection process?
As I mention below, 95% of my books come from publishers and they are great at sorting their databases and only sending books out that are appropriate to your viewing audience. The Dew is mainly Southern, so usually all Southern based books, or books by Southern authors find their way to me. They select me, not the other way around. I will say that if I read about a book and it just really grabs my attention I will request a copy of it from the publisher, and sometimes from the author themselves. Of course, I ALWAYS listen to the indie bookseller’s recommendations!
#3: Who is the most famous author you've ever reviewed?
There’s quite a few really well known Southern authors whose books I’ve reviewed - some of them I have whole sections of a shelf filled with their books. I could start naming names but would hate to leave anyone out! I just suggest you keep reading the Dew – you’ll see them pop up once or twice a year!
Karin Slaughter might be my most famous as she’s very internationally well known. Karen Russell was up for a Pulitzer with Swamplandia and then they decided no one would win… I would consider her famous (of course not in the way she may enjoy..)
Hmn… I’ll tell you what I enjoy more. Finding and reviewing a brand new author, loving the book, waving it in everyone’s face and then watching it rise in recognition and accolades as others find and enjoy it. I love being one of the “first” discoverers.
#4: Suppose an author submits a novel for your review and you think it's terrible. What do you do?
I try never to slam a novel. For one thing, what appeals to one person may not to another. I never give a negative review if I simply don’t like the story – that’s personal taste, not a review. If I truly think it’s not good, I will give the basic facts about the story line, then mention that this might be a book for you if your interests lie in this area, etc. I might give a negative thought, but try to bolster it with a bit of positive too. I really try to be kind, writing is so hard.
#5: Step outside your role as a reviewer for a moment: what do you read for fun?
I am a HUGE Sci-Fi geek. I love to read it and receive very little for review. That is my go-to fun read. Not Fantasy, I’m not really into that, but I love a good space novel. I also have an addiction lately to a juicy apocalyptic read. No Zombies! (Nothing against them, but I think I’ve hit my limit.)
#6: What is the most common mistake you see in novels submitted to you for review?
95% of the books I receive are either from the publisher directly or a publicist for the author. I can’t see that there’s ever a problem with them that throw me off the review. I will admit that now and again I’ll receive a book so off a different path than my usual type that I will wish they might have contacted me first to make sure I’m comfortable giving that particular book a review. (Most of the time publishers do send you an email first, making sure you’d be interested in the book.)
The other 5% are from self published authors and I’ll admit that there are a few things that will throw me off of reviewing a book. One is when I receive a vague email with a link to a webpage, “Check out my book and let me know if you might want to review it.” That sent, with no actual detail on the book itself or a note from the author, leads to a deletion of the email and no forward action.
Another is telling me how fantastic their own book is and what parts I should be sure to mention and that I will find to be particularly wonderful. Please do not try to “coach” a review. I find that I tend to hold a dislike for the book before I even open a page.
Finally, the Dew is a business. I’m not a general reader who enjoys reading a book and then sharing my thoughts on another site. Please do not ask me to put my review on Amazon or Goodreads or other sites. If I did that, there would be no use to have the Dew.
You notice that I say nothing about the books themselves with mistakes. I firmly believe each novel is an individual and that each might be written completely differently than the other. I don’t feel that are firm “styles and edicts” which must be followed to be a successful novel. I will note that “rambling” should be watched. Short and concise is always better.
#7: According to your website, you only review printed books. Why do you exclude e-books, and do you foresee a change in this policy anytime soon?
I will be honest, I don’t get as much of a “feeling” for electronic words as I do for the printed book. I like to pick a book up, riffle the pages, check the back cover, etc. I also like to backtrack to earlier sections of the book for reference at times, and none of these things are really viable in electronic form. I feel that if I’m going to take YOUR book and say things about it, I need to give it as fair a shot as possible, and as many advantages as possible and having it on a computer already takes some of that away for me.
Now I have nothing against ebooks and do read some stories electronically, but for recreation only. I also realize they are the wave of the future (or the present!) and that there is a cost savings involved in electronic books. But for a review, I continue to appreciate paper.
Carl, you have pointed out to a few people that I reviewed your book in electronic form. I have to admit that I printed it out and then read it. :)
#8: Do you own an e-book reader?
I do not. I do have a Kindle App on my phone, where I will sometimes download a short story or two for straight recreational reading.
#9: My first short story was published on DewOnTheKudzu a few years ago. It was a milestone for me and a tremendous boost to my confidence as a writer. How much feedback do you receive from the writers you help?
Often a quiet thanks is all I get, but that, combined with more stories down the road is enough feedback for me. Sometimes I do receive lovely notes (Such as yours!) telling me that I’ve helped a writer have the confidence to take the next step or helped them find their writing nitch, or to even just let me know that realizing others outside of their immediate family find their writing interesting enough to sit down and read is the boost they need to continue on with their dream. I love those letters! And every once in a while I show up in an acknowledgment when their first book hits the stores, which makes me feel very proud that I might have had a little part in that cycle.
I remember when I wrote stories how very important that feedback and encouragement was to me and I try to pass it on!
#10: Let's do something different. There has to be a question you were hoping I would or wouldn't ask. Ask yourself that question, then answer it.
Question - Do you consider yourself a blogger and the Dew a blog?
I do not, and am sometimes annoyed to be called such. The reason? I don’t write or post anything about myself or my thoughts on the Dew. The Dew is straight contribution of short stories by others, and book reviews by myself. But the reviews are not “posts”, the same as a review in the local paper would not be a post. The Dew will never have a picture of my kids or my dog or my favorite recipe on it.
I’m not trying to sound like a snob or that I’m above blogging, I just don’t feel that truly reflects what the Dew is. I do have a personal blog, and on that I have blog posts, but I keep it separate from the Dew. I’m proud of the lovely stories that I receive for the Dew and I want them to be appreciated in the proper venue.
Thank you, Idgie, for taking time out of your busy schedule to participate in this interview series.
If you haven't check out Dew On The Kudzu you should. You don't have to be from the South to enjoy Southern writing. As writers, it's important that we support those who support us. Idgie supports us in a big way.