Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Compliments from Strangers (Alissa Grosso)

I don't much go in for the whole women are from Venus, men are from Mars sort of thing. For starters, I'm not convinced that gender is as clearly delineated as some would have us believe, and I bristle at labels of any sort, even when they are as basic as men and women, because I like to think that everyone is a free-thinking individual. But I can't help but feel there is a cultural difference when it comes to giving compliments.

First of all, this is not some long term scientific study, just my own casual observations. I think it's also worth noting that my perspective is that of a Generation X woman. So my experiences might be different that those who are younger or older than me. I'm also focusing on compliments from and to strangers, because this is a very different situation than giving compliments to someone who is close to you.

1. Women Are Good At Giving Other Women Compliments
If you are a woman or have observed the interactions of women in the wild at any time, then you probably already know that despite our shortcomings, the one thing we are particularly good at is giving each other compliments. We like each other's purses, leggings, fingernails, leggings, hair color,  shoes, make-up, etc. If you are a woman, no doubt you've had the experience of going to the store, going to the dentist's office or posting a comment on Twitter and have then had an encounter with another woman where she complimented you on your accessory choice or nail polish or some such thing. An example encounter might go something like:
Woman 1: I love your purse.
Woman 2: Thank you!
I love this Betsey Johnson bag, and so, I have heard, do other women.

Woman 1: Is it Betsey Johnson?
Woman  2: It is!
Woman 1: I love Betsey!
Woman 2: Me too!
And that's a long encounter. Sometimes it's as simple as I love your (fill in the blank) followed by a polite thank you.

2. Women Seem to be Good at Complimenting Men as Well
Okay, as I mentioned, I'm not a man, and so I have to base this on observations of how women compliment the men I know, and this usually means my boyfriend. It's also worth noting that his style and taste in clothing and such tends to be a bit more understated than me. It's also worth noting that he rarely accessorizes. So, there are a lot less opportunities to compliment him on his fashion choices. That said, he has nice choice in sneakers, and more than once I've heard women compliment him on his footwear choice, and it pretty much goes the same as the purse exchange above, except without the Betsey Johnson bit, since he doesn't wear Betsey Johnson shoes, which reminds me I need to find some new black flats, be right back. (Okay, I'm back now and there are now two pairs of shoes neither of which are black and a resin toilet seat with silver flakes in it in my Amazon shopping cart because that's how the internet works.)

My grandparents once had an even cooler resin toilet seat.
3. Women Give Compliments Even When They Don't Want to Have Sex With You
Again, I'm basing this on my own observations, but I get a lot of compliments from seemingly hetero women, and since they are usually short exchanges that don't even hint at sex in any way, I think it's safe to say that women have a habit of giving compliments just because they generally do like your shirt/shoes/purse/toilet seat.

4. Men Need to Work on Their Compliment Game
So, because I know how the internet works (see my black flat shoes shopping experience above for proof of this) I feel like I need to preface this part with the caveat that not all men do this, and this is only based on one person's casual observations, etc. So, what I've experienced is that when guys I do not know give me compliments, it's not quite as simple as that hypothetical Betsey Johnson purse exchange above. From my experience guys don't usually give a compliment without also making it clear that they are sexually attracted to you. It might start off innocently enough with a compliment about your dress or your shirt or something, but then they make it weird with leering or innuendo or even something to the effect of how much they appreciate you wearing such things as if when you were picking out your outfit in the morning the thing you were thinking about was whether or not it would satisfy some random stranger. In my experience, a compliment from a strange woman usually brightens my mood, but a compliment from a strange man leaves me feeling uncomfortable.

5. Men Don't Really Compliment Other Guys
So, once again this is based on casual observations of the men in my life, which usually means my boyfriend, and the experience might be different for someone who is not so heteronormative, but it does not seem to work the same way it does for women. To the best of my knowledge no guy has ever come up to him and said, "I love your shoes," and like I said his sneakers are quite nice, so you would think something like this might happen, but it doesn't. But maybe I'm being unfair, and I'm coming at this from a woman-centric perspective. Because I have heard men compliment each other on cars and motorcycles and things of that nature. Maybe they feel safer offering compliments on things that are less intimately acquainted with them like an automobile. The only time I can recall a woman I didn't know complimenting me on a car, was unfortunately after one was totalled. This was seconds after a man driving a Dodge Durango rear-ended my Plymouth Neon in traffic in Florida, and a woman walking past on the sidewalk shouted to ask if everyone was okay, and then said, "Well, you had nice cars!" To be fair, I don't think a man has ever complimented me on a car either, but once when after that Neon was totalled and I was driving a Jeep Cherokee, I went to an auto parts store to buy an air filter. This was an old Cherokee (I'm not sure how the new ones are) but replacing the air filter required no more tools or skills then you would need to open a bottle of soda. Still a random man in the store (not an employee) felt the need to follow me out to the parking lot and offered to replace the filter for me. I declined. Then asked me if I was a mother. I wasn't. He wanted to know why I would be driving a "mom car" if I wasn't. And I spent a long time after than wondering if a Cherokee was truly a "mom car." 
Mom car? 

6. I'm Wary of Compliments From Strange Men
Now, for some bad news. Because of my experiences, because of what I've observed about men complimenting each other or not complimenting each other, as the case may be, I find I'm a little wary when it comes to compliments from men. I'm not naturally suspicious of them, but I've learned to find myself questioning their motive if I do happen to receive a compliment from a strange man. The thing is, this happens so rarely that it isn't that much of an issue. But it does mean if you are a man reading this, and have decided to follow the lead about women and improve your compliment-giving skills, be prepared for some mixed results. You're bucking decades, if not centuries of cultural norms, it's going to take some time to feel comfortable enough to reply with a simple thank you and maybe singing the praises of Betsey Johnson before promptly leaving your life, and if you're a guy thinking but wait I just gave her a compliment, she's not supposed to run off like that, then I need to point out that you are doing this compliment thing all wrong.

Alissa Grosso is the author of the books Unnamed Roads, Shallow Pond, Ferocity Summer and Popular. None of them are about cultural norms, cute handbags or fancy toilet seats, but she's still received a few compliments on them. You can find out more about her and her books at

Friday, July 13, 2018

'Tis Easier To Give Than Receive...Compliments (by Jodi Moore)

"You'll recognize my mom. She's the small, bouncy woman who'll gush about your performance and crush you in a hug."

That's how our son described me to his fellow cast-mates I would have the privilege to meet later that night following a show.

I suppose it was fair warning. Because I am, and I did.

 To me, this was a wonderful description. A totally “Tiggerific” compliment.

You see, I’m not great at accepting compliments, but I’m passionate about giving them. Years ago, I worked as an administrative assistant to the executive director of an arts festival. While she oversaw hundreds of volunteers and many committees, she'd always make sure that if someone sharpened a pencil for her, he/she knew it was the best darn point she’d ever seen.

Consequently, while working there I witnessed some of the best darn smiles I’ve ever seen.

Yes, I know some people think withholding praise will only make others strive harder to achieve their goals or attain that recognition…and I’m not saying that never works. But the journey – for all involved – is so much more pleasant when the road is paved with compliments and smiles.

As a writer, I face rejection on (almost) a daily basis. It goes with the territory. Most of the time, I can handle it.

But not always.

About a week ago, I was feeling a bit more “Eeyore” than Tigger, for a variety of reasons, some personal, some writing-related. So, my sweet husband stepped in. He peeled me away from my novel-in-progress, booked me a massage, took me out for a cute little lunch, and capped off the day with tickets to Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (The Mr. Rogers documentary – if you haven’t already seen it, you must!)

The movie is a tear-jerker (but in a good way), and as we drove home, I found myself snuffling into my tissues and blubbering, “See? The world needs more Mr. Rogers – did you see how he made those children smile?”

And Larry said, “Don’t you see? That’s what you do with your books. And that’s why you have to keep writing.”

He reminded me of this letter I had received from a fourth grader after a school visit.


And while it's still easier for me to give than receive compliments, I realized that was exactly what I needed to hear at that precise moment. It was the hug I needed. And I accepted his compliment...with thanks, and a HUGE return hug.

After all, I am known to be a small, bouncy woman who crushes people in hugs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Write it on my memorial (Maryanne Fantalis)

The world is pretty crappy these days, right? I mean, I don't want to talk about it, but I seem to be walking around with a churning, acidic hole in the pit of my stomach.

And even though social media is supposed to make us happier, well, we all know that's not the case.

But some people on Facebook and Twitter are trying to fight the good fight, bravely posting videos of sweet puppies and adorable kittens and even, sometimes, baby goats in pajamas. I mean, these people are heroes.

And sometimes, the folks on Twitter try to help each other feel good in other ways, asking their friends to share happy or funny things. About a month ago, someone posted a tweet asking what was the best compliment you ever received.

I would embed the tweet here, but her account is suspended. I guess all of us reach a breaking point...

Point is, let's focus on good things for a change, shall we?

Let's talk about compliments.

The best compliment I ever got about my writing was the time an editor who read my YA fantasy told me that my first-person narrator's voice reminded her of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle.


I mean, I Capture the Castle is a classic.

It was the first book written by the author of 101 Dalmatians, another classic, and I Capture the Castle, while less widely known, is famous as a story that speaks to young people, especially those who love books. The heroine, Cassandra Mortmain, lives in a tumble-down castle with her family, and the novel is written as a journal of her observations of life.

Just a few minutes perusing Goodreads reviews or blogs will show you how much people adore this book as a comfort read that they return to over and over, or how frequently they compare the author's observations to Jane Austen's, or how they describe the novel as charming, intelligent, playful, and delightful. At least one Goodreads reviewer says this book changed her life.

One of the undeniable strengths of this novel is its first-person narrator. As one reviewer for the New Republic puts it, "She is a narrator who should rank with Jane Eyre, Pip, Huck Finn, Scout, and Holden Caulfield." J.K. Rowling herself has said, "This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I have ever met."

Wow. To be compared to that?

That's the kind of validation that carries you through years of rejection and self-doubt.

In case you're wondering, that book has not been published.

In terms of personal compliments, this is the story behind my favorite compliment. Ever.

I love a lot of different musicians, but if I could only listen to one artist for the rest of my life, it would be Peter Gabriel. He embodies a variety of musical styles, collaborates with musicians from around the world, and writes lyrics so powerful and personal, it feels like he's speaking not just to me but for me. Now, he's been performing (first with Genesis and then on his own) since I was a little kid, but I had never seen him live until 2002. I was thrilled beyond measure to get those tickets and I did not care that they weren't the greatest seats.

The night of the concert, I was quivering with excitement. I bought the $50 tee shirt. Once the music began, I was out of my seat the whole time, dancing and singing. Since I own some concert videos, I even knew some of the dance moves the band was doing. I probably -- no, I surely made a bit of a fool of myself, but I really don't care because THIS WAS MY FIRST PETER GABRIEL CONCERT.

When the concert ended ("In Your Eyes" is the final song, of course), I was floating. Did not want to leave. So happy.

These guys in the row behind me were also getting ready to leave and they were kind of laughing and nudging each other and I almost wanted to apologize to them because I knew I was standing and dancing and screaming the whole time... but then one of the guys said to me, "Hey, I just gotta say, you are one kick ass Peter Gabriel fan."

Yup. That's going on my memorial:
Wife. Mother. Author. Teacher. Kick Ass Peter Gabriel Fan.

Here's "In Your Eyes" in concert. Get up and kick some ass...

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Compliment Goggles--By: Kimberly Sabatini

Listening to a compliment can be similar to looking at an eclipse. 
I don't dare stare at it. 
But silly me, believing I have to wear protection.
Compliment goggles? 
And even though kind words can't possibly burn my retinas--they still somehow have the ability to blind me. 
To the truth? Or to the truth as I suspect it.
Or expect it.
Unsure of what to do in the moment, I look to the wayside.
I blink.
But even so, you should know...
 I wanted to hear that compliment again and again.
And again. 
So, don't think your kindness hasn't found it's mark.
It's after the compliment's been given that I'm able to savor it and watch it in my mind's eye, where it's once again illuminated, like the moon having bypassed the sun.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Am I? Musings on Compliments and #humblebrags and Other Such Stuff (Joy Preble)

Like a lot of us this month, I'm finding myself a bit flummoxed talking about the best compliment I ever received. It's easy to say nice things about other people. It's harder to believe nice things that someone else says about me. "Whatever," I usually say, sounding like a petulant twelve  year old. When what I should almost always say is, "Oh. Thank you. That's very kind of you."  (honestly, sometimes people just say things, right? "You're a great cook" they'll say and we all know that is patently untrue unless they've lived under a rock and never tasted food.)

"You're brave," a friend told me once, and I knew she meant it because she elaborated. While I appreciated this one, I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. The things she felt were brave-- like doing book travel to cities I've never been to and managing to find my way around-- were brave to her (she does not like to travel alone) but to me seemed just part of book promotion.

Compliments on my writing are tough for me, too. I can always think of a dozens of other authors who are brilliant in ways I have yet to achieve. Like I said, I KNOW I should just say thank you. But it's hard.

My mom was superstitious like that. She was definitely of the 'knock on wood,' 'pooh pooh' school of thought. Brag too much or agree with people's praise too loudly, and the universe will snatch it back was her general philosophy and that of her siblings and my grandmother as well. Don't show off was the message I got loud and clear. Just do what needs to get done. I think of all that every time I post a selfie, even a no-make up unfiltered one. "Really?" my mother's voice says in my head. "Who needs this nonsense?"

And speaking of self-compliments, the whole #humblebrag thing is like the worst, right? Please feel free to let me know if I ever post one something like "Oh I feel like such a loser. I've only published 5 books and I'm so behind on the three contracted projects and I'm not even packed yet for my European book tour and I still have to go to the publisher's special dinner party at BEA." Because seriously. SERIOUSLY.

So what are my favorite compliments?

"You're great at hand selling books to customers," my bookstore manager told me recently. Now that  I accepted graciously with a thank you. It's nice to have my efforts noticed. And it's quantitatively measurable, so I know it's not just blowing smoke.

Specific compliments about my own books are nice, too. If I can tell you read, and you're telling me about how I developed a specific character or whatever, I'll take that and smile.

Maybe specificity is the key. Yeah, I think it is. Not just you're a good cook, but "That chicken pot pie you made the other night was seriously tasty. What did you put in it? Really? And it wasn't organic free range artisanal, locally sourced chicken? Amazing."

(Okay, maybe I won't believe you if you go that far.  I have, after all, been known to throw around a few shallow compliments myself on occasion. Zipping my lips on what they are. I may try to use them on you at some point.)

Feel free to tell me you loved this blog post. But be specific.

Friday, July 6, 2018

What Big Eyes You Have! (Mary Strand)

As I sit down to write this, I’m utterly stumped by this month’s theme: the best compliment I’ve ever received.

I have no idea.

I think of compliments as fleeting at best and sometimes awkward, uncomfortable, or embarrassing.  Did they really mean it?  Am I supposed to compliment them now, too?  And what if I disagree with the compliment?

Worse: is the compliment from a guy who’s actually being sexist and/or misogynistic, and should I take this as a good moment to leave him splattered on the sidewalk?

I do think most compliments are sincere and not given by jerks.  If a guy is wearing a cute jacket, I say so.  If a guy says my hot-pink Converse high-tops are cute, that’s sweet.  When I was practicing law, I felt the same way about compliments, even though most lawyers are pretty skittish about saying (or hearing) anything that could possibly be interpreted as sexual harassment.  I still said, “Nice tie!”  And male lawyers who knew me also knew I wouldn’t be offended if they complimented me on what I was wearing.

But, seriously, some people try too hard.  I hate false or clichéd compliments.  I love surprise ones.

I have blue eyes.  Telling me I have nice blue eyes seems a bit, well, stupid.  But saying my eyes look like ferocious storm clouds when I’m pissed is a great compliment.  (Also, according to my brother, true.)  A friend once asked if I was wearing bright-blue tinted contact lenses, because my eyes couldn’t possibly be that blue.  I laughed uproariously but actually liked that one.

My favorite compliment from a guy in a bar, who was hitting on me, was “You have nice skin.”  Seriously.  Who says that?  But it was original and sincere, and although I had less than zero interest in him, I loved it.

In high school I heard from several guys that the wrestling team (which practiced on a balcony overlooking the gym) voted me “best legs in gym shorts.”  I have the long, slightly bowed legs of a basketball player, NOT the cute, perfect, stick-straight legs of a cheerleader, or the general cuteness of a gymnast.  I LOVED that vote!
My hair is strawberry blond, which I loathed as a kid but am cool with as an adult.  It’s not dyed.  Not a single gray hair has yet hit.  [Insert pause while I knock on all wood in sight.]  Men don’t typically notice or care about things like that, but I love when a female friend compliments me on whoever dyed my hair this color, and I reply that it’s actually my natural color ... and she says, “Bitch.”  From a good friend, THAT is a compliment.

As a writer, I’ve received compliments, but I fear they’ve often been drowned out in my mind by the criticisms, so I often brush them off.  Yes, I’m told I shouldn’t do that.  I am not perfect.  I do brush them off.

As a mom, compliments from my kids are also often drowned out by the criticisms.  A few years ago, I went through some nightmarish times with my daughter, who told the whole world (including me) how much she hated me.  On a daily basis.  She was going through hell at the time, and I was a convenient and safe target.  (Yeah, yeah, my friends reminded me of this on a daily basis, too, but it still resulted in severe PTSD for 18 months.)  One night during this awful period, as I was saying goodnight to her and she said yet another truly horrible thing to me, I finally snapped and asked her if there wasn’t ONE SINGLE GOOD THING she could say about me.

She glared at me.  Silence.  A horrid, lengthy silence.

Finally, she sighed.  “You’re a good writer.”

Okay, that was my best compliment ever.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"You're Not A Normal Girl"

by Fae Rowen

The summer between my junior and senior year in high school, I attended a six-week NSF program at San Diego State University. Fifty chemistry students and fifty math students from around the country attended this pre-college summer session. We lived in the dorms, the girls on one end of the campus, the boys on the other end.

We had a seven o'clock curfew. The boys didn't. At night, they would come over to our dorm to hang out in the rec room until nine o'clock, when the Resident Assistant booted them from the building. There was a television set in the far corner of the room, but we played ping pong, trading places at the single table. This is where I fell for a guy in the chem program.

He was smart. Funny. And a very good ping pong player. I was better, thanks to years of playing against the skills of my father. Night after night he returned and waited for his chance to play me. The "ping pong protocol" had evolved into a simple procedure: The winner played the next person in line. Since none of the other girls wanted to play (they spent their time chatting up and flirting with the guy of their choice) I played most of the evening, until I begged off to go upstairs and do homework.

By the second week, John would arrive around seven and wait his turn to challenge me. Once I beat him, we'd walk around in the courtyard and talk to each other. A few times I arranged to sign out with him as my escort. I had to check in with the RA when I returned by nine. We went to the weekly amphitheater screenings of movies that were no longer in the theaters, along with the regular college students who were attending the university summer session.

By the fourth week, John and I were "an item." The frat guys were coming over to play ping pong with "the high school girl." I remained undefeated, and a lot of money changed hands...I think.

By the fifth week I was tired of the homework and the difficult level of the classes. I much preferred helping the chemistry girls across the hall with their labs. There were only fourteen girls between the two programs. That gave us our pick of eight-six mostly nerdy guys.

But John played varsity football. He was the captain of his high school's debate team. And he certainly didn't look—or act—like a nerd.

During our last week, we both felt the tension. We lived over five hundred miles apart. We'd probably never see each other again. He took me out for an ice cream cone. As we talked about what we expected from our senior years and what colleges we hoped to attend, he looked at me and said, "You're not a normal girl."


Did he think I was...weird?

I bit out the words, "What. Do. You. Mean?"

At that point he knew he was in trouble. If he'd been trying to break up with me, it was the perfect line. But his face told me he wasn't being mean.

He explained that it was compliment. That I was different from any girl he'd ever met. I didn't let him win at ping pong, even though he admitted his ego had been bruised in the beginning. He liked that I didn't care if he thought I was smart. I was the prettiest nerd he knew. And he wished we could go to the same college. And eat ice cream on a bench every week.

Somewhat mollified, I considered that I'd never felt like I fit in with other girls. I didn't like to gossip; I didn't like to talk on the phone for hours. I didn't like to flirt or manipulate guys. I knew what I wanted as an adult, and I was determined to have that life.

John sat on the bench we were sharing and looked at me while I processed what he'd said and what I thought about it. When I took a deep breath, he rushed out, "It was a compliment. I meant it as a compliment."

I smiled. "I know. Thank you."

I saw him twice my senior year and we exchanged a few letters during our freshman year at college. I haven't heard from him since. But the compliment helped me during the rough times in college, when I was the only female in upper division math classes. It helped me when I became the first female secondary math department chair.

And it probably saved my future husband from a black eye when I asked him why he wanted to marry me. His answer? "Because you're not a normal woman."

Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard, putting the finishing touches on P.R.I.S.M. Book Two.
P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, lies, and love.
When she’s not hanging out at YA Outside the Lines, you can visit Fae at  or

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

With My Compliments

About [*number redacted*] years ago when I could still stay awake past 8 o’clock, I was with friends at a pub, enjoying a beer and bopping to some fiddle music when this guy blustered up to me and said, “Hi. You have beautiful eyes, beautiful teeth, and beautiful sneakers.” He capped this bizarre list of my attributes with a grin as wide as Montana.

Weird, huh? And weird that I remember with such clarity after so many years. 

I guess this ridiculous compliment sticks with me because it was funny. If smiley guy had dropped a more conventional pick-up line at the foot of my beautiful sneakers, it—and he—would’ve been forgotten long ago.

The kicker to the story is this—though I remember the compliment in full detail, I can’t for the life of me recall my response. I probably stammered and hemmed and hawed and giggled uncomfortably until Smiley wafted off to compliment some other young woman’s footwear.

So, what does this absurd anecdote have to do with this month’s YA Outside the Lines theme, The Best Compliment I Ever Received? Not much, but it does show my life-long inability to take a compliment. Don’t get me wrong, I love compliments. I’m just a failure, flop, and fiasco at responding to them.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem. When we hear something positive about ourselves, we tend to brush it off, stammer, or outright reject such positive sentiments. We think the person complimenting us doesn’t mean it. Or we pull that old Three Stooges routine of looking over our shoulder to see who he/she was really complimenting.

Why? Because we’re human. We are our own worst critics, plagued by self-doubt and insecurity. And no human is afflicted by this plague with more severity than a writer.

This is partly because we are so often knocked down by outside forces—rejection, bad reviews, and a total of 1 person showing up to our book signing (not to buy a book, but to ask directions to the rest room). 

That stings, but the larger part of our insecurity comes from within, that self-doubt that tickles at the back of a writer’s brain whether they’re writing their first book or consistently hitting the bestseller lists. Is my idea unique? Are my characters fresh? Is my writing good enough? Will people like my story?

Compliments may not be the cure to that self-doubt plague, but they sure are good medicine. And when a compliment comes from another writer, well, that’s the best.

One of the best writing-related compliments I ever got came from another writer. She had read two of my manuscripts and said the voice of each story differed so much that if she didn’t know both books were mine, she would’ve thought they were written by two entirely different authors. Not great for my brand I suppose, but one book is a time travel, the other YA sci-fi. My voice for each book was intentionally different. I meant to do that—and she got it. 

And you know what I did? I said thank you.

It’s funny how we have so much trouble recognizing something in ourselves that others pick up on right away. Writers need other writers, as one of my earliest writing teachers was fond of saying. We need to support each other and boost each other up. 

Let loose with the compliments and don’t hold back! 

Janet Raye Stevens writes YA sci-fi and paranormal and contemporary romance. She’s been getting a lot of compliments lately in the form of writing contest finals and wins, including finalling in the Romance Writers of America’s 2018 Golden Heart contest.