I wanted to share some of the letters and emails I’ve received from total strangers both in support of and against the book (or me, or my films, as the case may be). I’ve been so moved by the endorsements and, of course, hurt by those more negative. Truthfully, some notes have brought forth tears. And I don't say this seeking sympathy. It's just true.
But I am learning to have a thick skin. Thicker, anyway. I need to get over being an approval seeker. Don't I? It's hard! It's who I am, how I've always been. 39 years!! It kind of works for me. Alas, the fact that all the supportive notes – which outweigh the negatives by about 10 to 1 - have been enough to pull me from the self-flagellation and melancholy and panic inevitable when being verbally assaulted is proof I'm not really over needing approval afterall.
Perhaps I have to live with being an approval-seeking, pathetic, needy, competitive wife/mom/professional/ex-gymnast/daughter and all around neurotic. And, in addition to these afflictions, apparently I have a disease called trichotillomania. I got a letter about this after describing the finger picking on NPR. My "nervous habit" isn't a straight up nervous habit afterall. It's a disease. Excellent.
1) Jen~ I found your book to be a total page-turner. Couldn't put it down. I am your age (or close enough) and have always been a fan of gymnastics. My younger daughter competes now. I found myself checking myself quite a bit while reading your book. I think it would be very easy to get sucked in.
2) You have so many people having your back...you have NO idea how many people are supporting you. Don't let those dicklicks from youtube get you down.
3) Hi, Jennifer. I just finished reading your book and I wanted to THANK YOU so much for writing it. As a former elite gymnast, I could pretty much relate 100% to every single feeling you described...even though I finally quit gymnastics almost three years ago, I can remember everything like it was yesterday. Your story made me cry, especially because it reminds me of mine in a lot of ways. Again, thanks a million. You were a beautiful gymnast, BTW =)
4) You are such an inspiration and NOT a pathetic liar. It was and IS no secret what assholes your coaches were … screw the people who are giving you crap. Like I said before, You are a great mom. That's all that matters! :)
5) I just finished your book this morning while riding the 24 to Levi’s Plaza from Marin. I sat there crying on the bus – true, I’m 12 weeks pregnant so my hormones are playing a role, but I was really moved by your story. I only competed at the Class III level, but even I endured weigh-ins, many hours a week in practice, and lasting body-image stuff as a result of gymnastics. I also know that I have an incredible work ethic and self confidence because of the sport. I too dream of gymnastics often. I went to competitive diving after injury but it never filled the hole. Then marathon running, which my body is just not made for. I still look for something to take its place and yoga is as close as I’ve come (although, of course, I bring ego and competition to the studio, which is kind of beside the point...).
6) I just finished your book. I was a gymnast in the 80’s, early 90’s. I finished as a low level 10. I experienced a lot of what you did. I’ve been reading your blog and seeing the people attack you for your experience and wonder where these people are. This stuff even happens at the lower levels. My mom took me to weight watchers at 14 when I was 5-7 and 110. I think her real problem was that I’d gotten too tall for gymnastics. Unfortunately you can’t lose height!
Thank you for writing it. I’ve been struggling most of my life with aspects of my personality and never understood where they came from and what to do with them. Upon reading your book I understood. I accept nothing but the best and beat myself up if things aren’t perfect.
7) Just wanted to take the time to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. I'm old gymnast who never quite stood out but just always loved gymnastics. I think most negative reactions are from those who haven't yet read it.
8) Reading your book brought back so many memories. I felt like I lived through so many of the exact situations that you experienced… Again, thanks for being so truthful about the sport and all of the “players” that surround it. (this one was from a former Olympian via email. That helped.)
And now for the other side of the story. And some of these were in response to my short film The Gymnast on youtube. But I’d hazard a guess that many critical of the film, are upset by the book and blurring the line between the two (one was fictional, one is memoir). I'm giving equal play to the critical and the non-critical. For fairness' sake.
1) sounds like it was written by someone who has no idea about gymnastics, and then I look and it's by a formal national champion. Talking about how the girl still "survived" gymnastics. I'm sorry but I think you're overdramatic along with your first blog post on your blog. oh PS: a lot of kids do know what they want when they are young, don't generalize because you were nieve
2) Jennifer Sey lies in her book shes nothing but a big fat lier
3) Oh believe me her book bassically makes her look like a spoiled brat who acts like her parents forced her to do all this stuff in which they didnt she wanted to
4) that was the dumbest thing I've ever seen. I hope her book isn't as stupid as this crap, I just bought it.
5) I think that this was horrible. Why do you need to blam others for your life? Can't take responsibility?
6) This book is gymnastics' version of "A Million Little Pieces."
7) Jennifer Sey is a liar by any definition of the word. Even if every word in her book is true as she remembers it. (And that’s been contested by some of her teammates from the time.) If you disagree with me, buy her book. If not, encourage everyone you know to boycott Chalked Up. You can read it, but don’t purchase even one more copy. If Jennifer Sey wanted to exorcise demons from over 20-years-ago as a memoir, she could have done it on her blog. That she chose to release an inflammatory book in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics smacks of opportunism.
8) … it is ironic that Sey was probably the winner of the worst USA Championships ever. Then she drifted into obscurity.I still remember watching 86 USAs, wondering how US gymnastics got that bad since the 84 Olympics. Everyone was awful. The commentators couldn't even get excited about Sey's performance.I don't think USAG even posts the results in their archives.And now she's back...with a book. It's right before the Olympics and right in the middle of USAG being thrust into the media spotlight for allegedly harboring child abusers. I may read the book...just to give her a chance...but the first thing I thought of when I heard that a new dramatic gymnastics biography was coming out, I thought, "Oh...HER??? How dramatic can that be?"
So that’s a short summary of the good and the bad. No analysis required.