Getting recognized and applauded for your work is usually a great encourager to do even better, but sometimes it can have the opposite effect.

Like right now, I’m wrestling with a comment that my host in Bologne, Silvia Raddicioni made to me. We were having pasta for lunch at that little restaurant called Eataly, with the counter in the background and the shoppers milling about on the other side of the aisles.

It was actually a combination bookstore/restaurant/foodstore, and Sylvia had joked that even in the bookstore they had to combine it with food.

We were talking about Wanting Mor and Sylvia turned to me, totally serious and said, “I’m not a religious person. I consider myself very secular, but your book moved me in a way I haven’t felt before.”

I’m paraphrasing. That was the sentiment she expressed, and I nearly coughed up one of the cheese tortellinis I had been chewing on.

It was one of those intimidating compliments. The ones that make you wonder if you’re ever going to live up to again.

They might seem really great, and they are, don’t get me wrong, but the end result can be paralysis.

And here I had only just recovered from the last one I’d received.

Many years ago, oh it must have been the year 2000 or something, I was down at Word on the Street, a local book festival, with a booth. I was hawking my books and had even developed a spiel. My first novel Dahling if You Luv Me Would You Please Please Smile had just come out.

I remember this because I still had copies of the poster that the publisher had developed for it.

This black girl, she must have been fifteen, saw the copies lying on the table and picked it up saying, “Oh, I loved this book!”

I grinned at her and said, “Thanks!”

She said, “You mean you wrote it?”

I said, “Yup.”

The girl said again, more quietly. “I really loved this book.”

I just smiled again, but the mother, she interrupted and said, “No. You don’t get it. This is the first book that no one had to make her finish.”

I was flabbergasted.

For  years after that, every time I started writing a novel, I wondered if it would disappoint that girl, that fan of mine. The thought even occurred to me as I was working on Wanting Mor. But I pushed it aside because, darn it, I, wanted to know what would happen to this girl.

If I hadn’t been so curious, I wonder if I would have overcome the intimidation of her remark.

How can you write anything under such pressure?

And now with Sylvia’s compliment ringing in my ears, and me working on the sequel, which isn’t turning out so much to be a sequel but rather another story with some of the same characters in it, I’m feeling the same trepidation.

What if I disappoint Sylvia and everyone else who loved the book?

Especially because it’s a quasi sequel!

But I can’t think like that.

I have to write it on my own terms. Write it so that I like it. And hope, just hope, that they are not disappointed.