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Denise Vivaldo Headshot

When Your Latest Book (Baby) Gets a Bad Review

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I write books but that's not how I make my money. I make money as a food stylist -- someone who makes food ready for the camera. If you know what a make-up artist is, I do the same thing, but I work with dead, naked chicken breasts. It ain't easy, but they can't talk back and I don't have to do their hair.

I write books because I love to write, share and yes, tell stories.
Been this way all my life, and I am too old to change. To be honest,
I think that the gift of telling a story with a lesson beats teaching dry formulas
any day. But then again, I'm Italian -- what's life without your stories?

Just this week my latest book, The Food Stylist's Handbook, was released.
It took 25 years to write, and a whole lot of experience happens in 25 years. Mostly good, some awfully painful (and let's be honest -- we learn from our pain ... the Lord hopes we learn from pain ... that's why we're given such ample opportunities to experience pain).

I pride myself on the fact that I have taught a lot of people about food styling in my workshops and have supported myself for all of those 25 years. I made a career for myself without a road map, and I've driven my own car. I wouldn't change a thing. Not a moment. Damn, I've had me some fun! And the people riding in the back seat say the same thing. I'm not sure they really needed to wear helmets, but safety first.

My dear friend Julie called me today to tell me how much she loved my new book. She's an executive assistant for celebrities. She has no intention of becoming a food stylist...she's much smarter than that! As we're talking, she goes onto Amazon.com. Amazon is the ALL-powerful site where books are bought, sold and carved up. I hear her suck in her breath as she mutters, "There's a bad review..."

"Really?" I say, thinking, I can't die today, I'm doing the laundry.

"Yes" she replies, and proceeds to read me the review over the phone.

I've worked in Hollywood since Jane Fonda thought WIDE gold belts were a good idea, and if I've learned anything, it's not to let the talent read reviews ... they could fire their agent, hold up the production, or head straight for rehab. But then I think, I can do my laundry in rehab. That makes me happy.

The truth is that it is not a review of the book at all -- it's merely a way to mention the competition's book ... which they do in the third line. Oh yes, I think, it has to be a plant, somebody from my competition's team has written a negative review. I'd like to say this doesn't happen but I have worked for Sandra Lee. The Devil can make you do it.

Anyway, I haven't read the review for myself yet, but I am thankful for what it has brought to mind for me: Books, like babies, are labors of love. If you think someone's baby is ugly, do the mother a favor and compliment the baby's bonnet. That's blood, sweat, and tears you're bagging on.

Denise Vivaldo is the proud mother of The Food Stylist's Handbook, and she makes all her own baby food.