Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Genius? Moi? By AWARD WINNING AUTHOR AND INTELLECTUAL BRIAN J. KATCHER, Esq, BSed, MA, etc, etc.


I treasure reader feedback.



I remember the day my father took me aside and said 'Son, someday you're going to make me very proud.'

It was last week. Since I'm 43, I can't help but feel a little insulted. But it got me thinking of all the wonderful compliments I've received over the years.

I'm sure I'll remember one soon.

Oh, here go. When I once wrote a book called ALMOST PERFECT, which was about a transgender woman named Sage. Not being transgender myself, I had no idea what I was doing. And a lot of readers let me know.

But one day a reader wrote me and said that the book had been a big inspiration to her, and when she transitioned, she chose 'Sage' as her middle name.

I can't remember ever being so touched. And I guess that's what being a writer is all about. People do read your books. People enjoy them. And sometimes, they even make a positive difference.

Now I'm going to go look up all my old high school acquaintances and see who's been arrested recently. Besides me.

Mom always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up, 'within reason.' When I asked her what she meant by 'within reason,' she said, 'You ask a lot of questions for a garbage man.'-- Jack Handey
 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

On Compliments: From “Killer Gloster” to Author to Friend by Dean Gloster


            This is a journey in two compliments. It includes an NFL player calling me a “Killer” to my father. But if you stay with it, I promise it ends well.


I start my mornings with a complimentary cup of coffee.
It says, “with my help, you’ll be amazing.”
            Our topic this month is the best compliment we’ve ever received, and I have two: A perfectly-delivered second-hand compliment, and the compliment that topped that—a group of hands extended in friendship.
The second-hand compliment.
            Sometimes it’s the circumstances that make a compliment special. Like the time an NFL player told my dad I was a tough guy.
            As an athlete, I’m a good bookworm. Genetically, I’m the combined product of slow-twitch muscle fibers for sluggish and Irish-ancestry-programming for small. I was especially slow and short at the beginning of high school, before my sophomore growth spurt, when I zoomed to almost-average-sized.
            So, of course, I joined the Reno High School freshman football team.
            At 5’2’’ and 110 pounds, I was ten inches shorter and almost one whole me lighter than some of the kids on the team, who’d already experienced their growth spurts. I was also the slowest guy on the roster. I did, however, have a high enthusiasm-to-skill ratio. And I’d played three seasons of Pop Warner football before that, along with most of a lifetime of backyard tackle football.
            It didn’t take me long to impress the coaches. That was back in days before awareness of the effects of multiple concussions. So we weren’t discouraged from using our helmets as weapons. I knew that I could stop even the biggest guys in a tackling drill by staying low and spearing their driving knees with my head. So the coach would put comparatively huge Martin Squires or Steve Ramos on one side of a tackling dummy and ask who wanted a piece of him.
            “Let me at him, coach!” I’d yell, in my high-pitched voice.
            BAM!
            Perspiration rinse. Repeat.
            The coaches never confused me with a useful athlete, but I was a heck of a motivational tool (and football coaches are all about the motivational tools.) Though I was smaller and slower than everyone else, I could knock them all down, given the right circumstances. So the coaches used me as an example, to encourage the other kids to hit harder. They nicknamed me “Killer” Gloster. I got announced at a high school assembly that way, and girls who hadn’t spoken to me in two years of middle school started saying, “hi, Dean” in the hall. (I’d look behind me to see if they were talking to someone else named Dean.)
            Back then, most freshmen were not hitters, but across the field, over at the JV and Varsity practices, they all were hitters—and also big, fast, and strong.


When young, football players come in various speeds and sizes,
but eventually it’s only: fast and large
            So I gave up high school football after one season and joined speech and debate instead, which didn’t require as much footspeed or result in as many concussions.
            But that made me an even better motivational tool, because after that the coaches weren’t limited to the actual facts. They’d tell players that a kid named “Killer” Gloster who was smaller and slower than everyone had played his way one week into first-string Tackle (which never, actually, happened: kickoff team was as far as I got.)
            It turned out, though, that one of my teammates in freshman football, Eric Sanders, went on to play twelve years in the NFL, as a lineman for the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. Once during that time, back in Reno, he ran into my dad, who had the same first and last name I do.
            “Dean Gloster?” Eric Sanders asked. “Do you have a son who played freshman football at Reno High?”
            “Why, yes.”
            “I remember him!” Eric, the NFL player, said to my dad. “His nickname was ‘Killer Gloster’. Man, that kid was tough.”
            My dad, who’d joined the Navy during WWII and went through college on a combination of the GI bill and a freaking boxing scholarship, was an actual tough guy, so it was awesome when an NFL player remembered me to my dad that way. (Thank you, Eric. Seriously awesome.)

The best compliment—belonging.
            The best compliment I ever got, though, was friendship and belonging. After three decades as a lawyer and partner in a law firm, a few years ago I changed careers to write novels for young adults. (Good-bye predictable income. Hello, writing in scenes.)
            The first time I went to a conference of writers for young people and saw that sea of introverts, all excited by story, who’d left their caves of imagination to pretend to be extroverts for a weekend, I thought, These are my people. This is my tribe.
            Among other things, I went back to school myself, and in my fifties enrolled in the MFA program in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.


Vermont College of Fine Arts, the coolest place on earth.
It’s a real-world Hogwarts. And, yes, they even have a ghost.
            I had some trepidation. I’d been out of school longer than some of my classmates had been alive, I was older than most of the faculty, and I was a male in a program that—like the world of writing for young people—was 90% female.
            And, historically, I’m not great at fitting in. When I’d gone to law school three decades earlier, I hadn’t gone to belong, I’d gone to excel. Even in my career as a lawyer, I tried to stand out, not conform.
            And, to be completely honest, I’m wound a little tight.
            I tend to be enthusiastic and intense about the stuff I care about, which includes—especially—writing craft.


   Some days, I think I should have a warning label   
      So heading off to the MFA program, for me, had the hallmarks of a titanic adventure—you know, in the sense of ship steaming directly toward iceberg.


“Graduate school dead ahead!”
             Sometimes, though, surprise endings are great ones. I did fit in. I was just one more quirky writer in a group of wonderful writers. There were other people my age—and even older—also going back to school (and with the same trepidation I had.)
            One of the things no one tells you as a kid is how hard it is to make good friends as an adult. But going through a really challenging two-year writing program together—which is the equivalent of knocking out a 12-foot mountain troll every single semester—is a great way.


            The program was amazing. The people were wonderful. I got some friends for life who are writing amazing books.
            And I got to belong, a wonderful compliment that still makes my heart feel full.


Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out now from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Dean’s hobbies are downhill ski racing, which he took up in his forties, and Aikido, which he took up in his late fifties. So, yeah, he might still be wound a little tight.
Dean is on Twitter: @deangloster



Thursday, July 26, 2018

Celebrating the Compliments, At Last (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)


I've never been one to rest on my laurels. Or even, to be honest, to bask in some well-deserved praise. I'm always ready to move on to the next thing, the next challenge, the next mountain standing in my way. Stopping to celebrate seems...self-indulgent, maybe?


When I graduated from high school, I felt like all the congratulations, all the "You did it!" greeting cards, were superfluous. Did anyone think I wasn't going to do it? I remember asking. What would everyone have said if I hadn't done it? It was expected.

I never think I've done enough, so at times, I have to step back and remind myself that I did (at least once), what I set out to do, which was to write a halfway decent novel in The Last Sister, even if I committed a bunch of cardinal sins which earned me eye rolls and sniffs from certain quarters.

Said cardinal sins:
  • ·         Small press publishing—Sure, they say there isn't a hierarchy, but we all know there is.
  • ·         Not fitting every single reviewer's desires and expectations about what I could have done with the story into one book. Honestly, I am over this. One book can't do everything, nor should it. That's why we have lots of books. You want a different story, you write it.
  • ·         Writing a YA historical in the first place—Don't I know anything? (Apparently, I do not.)
  • ·         Knowing people who read books. (You would not believe the number of people who told me they felt obligated to read it and expected it to suck for the sole reason that I am a real human whom they know, but they were pleasantly surprised. But you know, that's a compliment, too: I overcame their negative preconceived expectations. Does this happen to anyone else? Does the reading public think books are written by robots?)

The compliments I care most about are always about my writing. But, like most people, I recall and believe negative feedback far more readily than compliments. One little "but" in a review affects me far more than two hundred words of praise.

As I wrote last month, it's been a few years since I published The Last Sister, and my writing confidence has taken a few hits in that time. So I decided recently that I should let myself celebrate the compliments.

I bought a shadowbox for my IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction I earned for The Last Sister. I'm going to hang it on my office wall. I opened up my file of starred reviews, and positive reviews from major review sources, and kind words from friends (even those who were pleasantly surprised that my novel wasn't terrible).

I'm not resting on my laurels, but I am letting myself enjoy them. I'm accepting the compliments and the energy they give me.

As I embark on another major novel project, I'm keeping the positive feedback front and center, knowing I did this once, and it wasn't a fluke. I know what I'm doing. I can do it again.


*Also, it's been a while since I gave The Last Sister some love, but I'm trying to be kinder to myself and my work. So if you read and enjoyed it, would you please leave a review at Amazon, even though this book is now really old in publishing years? I would link, but from what I understand, it works better if you search Amazon.*

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Compliment my books or my kids—not me! (Brenda Hiatt)


Reading through this month’s posts, I see I’m not the only one here who often feels awkward or uncomfortable receiving personal compliments. If someone tells me they like my outfit or my shoes, my first instinct is to deflect. “Oh, my daughter picked it/them out. She got all the fashion sense in the family.” If they tell me I have great hair, I laugh, say thanks and add something like, “Probably time to color again, huh?” I’ve never been good at accepting compliments about myself. For one thing, I’m never prepared for them, so I never have a good answer ready (see above). And most compliments seem to be about things I can’t really take credit for. I don’t make my own clothes (or shoes!) and can’t control how my hair grows, or its texture. Possibly I’d feel differently if I were a seamstress (I am so not!) or a hair stylist (ditto). 

Because, I confess, I adore it when people compliment my books, something I can take credit for. It’s even better if they do it in email instead of to my face, because that gives me time to craft an appropriate response. (No one has ever complimented my shoes or hair in an email, so I can’t say how I’d reply there.) Why I feel so differently about book compliments I’m not sure, but I suspect it’s similar to the way I also love it when someone compliments one of my daughters. Those compliments also make me glow and of course I always wholeheartedly agree with them. It would just be weird to respond to “You have great hair!” with, “Yes, don’t I?” But I have no problem replying to “Your daughter is so talented!” with, “Yes, isn’t she?” 

Things I like receiving compliments about:


My books
My lovely, talented daughters
Cutest grandbaby ever

Of course, I'd never respond to an email saying, “Your books are wonderful!” with, “Yes, aren’t they?” Instead I let the person doing the complimenting know they made my day, making my reply partly about them. “I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it!” or, “What a sweet note! Thank you so much.” 

Not only are my responses heartfelt expressions of gratitude, I always hope they’ll encourage those readers to reach out to other authors as well when they enjoy a book. Ours is a lonely profession, so it’s nice to be reminded there really are people out there reading what we write. That’s why I often say something like, “What a lovely start to my day!” or even, “Emails from readers like you are what keep me writing!” 

That last bit is true, by the way. I probably would have stuck to my original plan of ending my Starstruck series after the fourth installment if I hadn’t received so many emails from readers begging me to please, please, please write more books in that world. 

My favorite compliments tend to be those from my teenaged readers. Their emails, comments (on places like Wattpad) and even reviews (which I mostly avoid reading) are sometimes so enthusiastic! A few favorite examples (unedited):

"Oh My gosh you have no clue how much I'm excited to even talk to you!! Btw, your "Starstruck" series are the best books I have ever heard about, and read!!!"

“Dear Ma’am, I really enjoy reading the Starstruck series, and sometimes I think that it's all real and not just a story.”

“I WAS SO EXCITED and when I started reading the books,i could not stop reading them. I READ THEM ALL IN ONE DAY.Thanks for making them”

“I just wanna say that star struck is like the best book ive ever read”

“I have been on Wattpad for a couple of years now and all I do is read (yes that means no social life) and this is by far one of the BEST books I gave read I can't wait till you update Starstruck.”

Normally I would not have read a book about aliens are martians or anything like that. Which is weird because I'd be quicker to believe in aliens and I would werewolves. Anyway I just wanted to say thank you again for being such an amazing writer I'm already 26 pages into Star-Crossed and I'm already in love with that one too and cannot wait to read the rest of them actually now I have all four I just bought the last one Starfall.”

I love your starstruck series book I discovered them last year I was fifteen I have every single book the  novella and Rigel's Jewel. I can't wait for the novella's series well if you make one you said you were thinking about it and I'm just waiting patiently. Thank you so much for making these books.” 

I suppose one thing compliments about my kids and about my books have in common is that giddy sense of, “I made this! And it’s really good!” It’s always nicest to receive a compliment I think might be, in some measure, deserved—at least for me.



Brenda Hiatt is the author of 23 books so far and she's proud of each and every one. (She also takes very good care of her hair, but would rather be complimented on her books!)

Monday, July 23, 2018

This is My Tribe by Christine Gunderson



I wrote this blog post yesterday in the Denver airport waiting to return home from the 2018 Romance Writers of America national conference. My feet hurt. My head ached. My flight was delayed. And I can’t wait to do it again next year because this is my tribe.

Like most writers, I have a Self-Doubt radio station that starts broadcasting inside my head every time I hit a roadblock. (Anne Lamott has a funnier and more profane word for this phenomenon in her excellent book on writing called Bird by Bird). 

Self-Doubt Radio plays hits like, “What Makes You Think You Can Write A Book Anyway?” and “Stop Wasting Your Time and Go to the Grocery Store Like a Responsible Mom Instead.”

But Self-Doubt radio was shut down this week because I was surrounded by other writers. Their stories and encouraging voices drowned out the sounds of negativity that echo inside my head when I write alone.

There were women who write Young Adult novels with a little romance, like I do, women who write hot and steamy historical and contemporary romance novels, women who write Amish inspirational romances with a religious message and women who write everything in between. The sub-genres were different, but the message was always the same.

Writing is hard. You will be rejected. Don’t give up. You can do this. And we will help you. Because we share your dream.

We cried together at award ceremonies as we heard stories about writers supporting other writers through breast cancer, rejection, economic calamity and the death of loved ones.

I had the pleasure of watching my friend and fellow blogger Janet Raye Stevens win the Golden Heart award. It gave me such joy because I know how hard she’s worked and how talented she is. It reminded me that karma is real, and that sometimes good things really do happen to good people. 

I was reminded that even bestselling authors find bumps and detours in their path. Their beloved editor quits. Their publisher rejects books two and three because the first one didn’t sell. Their agent retires. 

Writing is hard. You will be rejected. Don’t give up. You can do this. And we will help you. Because we share your dream.

Finally, I was reminded that all this angst and trouble is still better than the alternative.

Because the alternative is not writing. Which would be awful in itself. But it would also mean not being with other writers, and that would be even worse.

The best thing about being a writer isn’t the words. The best thing about being a writer is being with other writers.

Writing is hard. You will be rejected. Don’t give up. You can do this. And we will help you. Because we share your dream.

###


Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, three children and Star, the Wonder Dog.  When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasionor unloading the dishwasher. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mark My Words by Patty Blount

If you're reading all of our posts about compliments, I am much like Mary Strand, who said she often finds compliments awkward.

It's easy to criticize but hard to compliment. Like too many women, I don't think I'm attractive. That's sad, isn't it? Let's call this Problem #1. But it's true. So when someone compliments my apperance, I preen for days. I once took family portraits for our annual holiday card and after I finished changing, the photographer handed me his SECOND business card, the one for Natural Portraits.

That was code for nude. He wanted to photograph me nude. He thought I had "an amazing body". *52-year-old me peers over glasses, says "Mmm hmmm" but 29-year-old me was so flattered, I almost said yes. But I digress.*

Back to compliments. I am so hard on myself, there is literally nothing I like about my appearance. So when a friend of mine told me, "I've been jealous of your hair since I met you and you don't like it? Seriously?"

I looked at her and said, "You have never once said you liked my hair. I had no idea."

Problem #2 -- Why is giving compliments so difficult? It shouldn't be, but it is.

I began complaining less about cowlicks and dry times and know what happened? I don't hate my hair as much as I used to because one person said she envied it.

Problem #3 -- Why do we need someone else to validate us like this? I don't know, but it's not just me. It seems to be a widespread issue.

So... the best compliment I ever received had nothing to do with my appearance. It came from my son, shortly after SEND, my debut novel, was released. We went to visit it at our local bookstore, as one does when their lifelong dream of getting published becomes a reality.

We stared at it.
We stroked its spine.
We posed for pictures beside it.
We told everyone who passed by who wrote it and tried not to care when they kept walking.

That's when my son said, "Mom, you know this is pretty amazing, right? You're the only person I know who made a goal and then made it happen."

I'm not sure if this qualifies as a compliment but it's still about the best thing anybody's said about me.

Back to Problems 1, 2, and 3 -- how can we learn to give OURSELVES compliments? Why must validation be external? Imagine this. "Patty, the heart and I were chatting this morning and we both agree, you're having a great hair day today," my brain says. And then I walk a little taller that day.

I need to start practicing this.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Naked Earlobes - The Best Compliment I've Ever Received (Holly Schindler)


When I was a little girl, I decided to get my ears pierced. This was at the exact point in the ‘80s when we first started talking about HIV being passed through used needles. My mom was a child of the ‘50s, a time when no one pierced their ears. Her own ears weren’t pierced. She had no friends who’d pierced their ears. She thought it was a little bizarre and barbaric. And besides that, there was no way, as she put it, that she was going to take me to the mall at that time and let some thirteen-year-old point a needle gun at any part of my anatomy.

Now, I don’t blame her. But back then? It erupted into our first locked-horn fight. I persisted; she held firm. She told me if I had to get them pierced, I’d have to let her take me to a doctor’s office where she knew it was sterile. But there was no way I was going to a doctor’s office (bad previous experience, long story). The argument died.

I hated my ears. HATED. I wore clip earrings. I wore magnets (not joking—didn’t work). As time passed, my friends got their ears double-pierced. I felt double-stupid. I suppose, as the years went on, I could have revisited the situation—but somehow, it felt too late, almost silly to be getting my ears pierced for the first time when I entered teenhood. Besides, I had better arguments to engage in with my mom (most importantly, over contact lenses—I persisted and emerged victorious that time).

I entered high school. And met the first boy I ever went out with. We’ll call him Tim Selsnik (totally made up name, because it might be kinda weird bumping into a blog post about yourself). It sounds completely silly now, but the whole thing was a little like the broken-nose episode of THE BRADY BUNCH—the one where Marcia’s got a date with “the big man on campus.” Tim was a senior and he was cute and had 90210 sideburns (I suspect he’d have hated it if he knew I thought of them as “90210 sideburns”) and was the class clown and everybody vied for his attention and girls had crushes on him, and for some reason completely outside of my understanding, he took me out.

I was so into this guy—I was shy anyway, and I’m sure I either came off as a stumbling moron or completely aloof. He was one of those people you like so much, it actually scares the bejeezus out of you.

And his ears were pierced. Good grief. About four times, if I remember right. This was early in the ‘90s, when it was still a little odd for a guy to have earrings, let alone an earring in the cartilage at the top of his ear.

And he told me—get ready—he told me that liked my “naked earlobes.” Yes, oh, yes. "Tim Selsnik" liked the fact that my ears had never been pierced. It was different. It was cool.

I almost died.

I have to say that this remains, to this day, the best compliment I’ve ever received. Good old "Tim Selsnik," wherever he might be right now, probably doesn't remember any of this, but I'll never forget the simple things he taught me: that the exact features I saw as flaws could very well be something another set of eyes saw as cool or beautiful. That, corny as it sounds, I was the only person out there who could be uniquely me. That maybe, looking or behaving or being like everyone else was a giant waste of time and energy.

I never did pierce my ears. It’ll probably come as no surprise when I say I never will.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Best. Compliment. Ever. [Laurie Boyle Crompton]

Organizing my office usually dissolves rather quickly into sitting on the floor as I read though old letters, articles and journals. During a recent clean-up I came upon a thick folder of compositions from high school. I can say this; there is no way to overstate how large and loopy my handwriting was back in high school. But reading through the pages, I can see the early traces of my writer's voice straining through the bad spelling and overuse of adjectives. I read through comments from teachers, praising my writing and sense of humor and chastising my spelling. The papers have big red 100s written on top of each one. I wasn’t always a great student, in fact I was often slapped with the label ‘underachiever,’ but I got A's in English Comp. Always. That is, until senior year when I landed in Mr. Mortimer's class. I wasn't exactly what you’d call a ‘hand things in on time’ kinda gal, but other teachers let this slide. As they said; "Reading your paper was a breath of fresh air," "Thank you for the laugh, Laurie," and "This is the best one yet." But instead of glowing praise, Mr. Mortimer's papers came back marked: 'Late 1 day,' 'Late 2 days,' 'Late 3 days,' with ten points deducted for each day late. On one he wrote, "70/100 Laurie, you write so well. I just wish I could get you to take it more seriously so I didn't have to put these grades on your papers." I remember thinking, HE's annoyed by the grades? This class was supposed to be my easy A. I can still feel the faint strands of resentment as I read through his (valid) suggestions for improvement and scant praise. And then, I find it. On the back of my final assignment this handwritten note to me: Laurie, I don't say that you must pursue writing as a career because it is a tough field to make a living in. But you must write. You have developed an excellent sense of diction and timing. I wish I could take credit for helping but, alas, I know better. Anyway, even if you have fourteen children and are pregnant with twins, you can still write and sell on the freelance market. Don't let anyone destroy your style. Listen, evaluate, take suggestions, but don't quit and don' t change unless you are convinced it is a change to improve. Find your subject, become intimate with it, and then write about it. You've got potential. Now do you have desire and drive? The pages are yellowed, but the power of that letter reaches forward through the years and still has an impact on me. I wish to respond: Dear Mr. Mortimer, Thank you for challenging me and inspiring me and especially for pushing me to take my writing seriously. Over the years I've developed that discipline I needed and you weren't kidding about how important it is. Deadlines really do matter. Publishing can be brutal but my love for writing hasn't diminished. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue it. I still adore that image of my future-writer-self with all those kids running around. (I just have the two, but it often feels like more.) Your open-ended letter pushes me to the page wanting to prove; Yes, I do have the desire. Yes, I do have the drive. Mr. Mortimer, THANK YOU for drawing it out of me. And with that I'm off to write.

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 alissagrosso.com.

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.



*sniff*

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.

Wow.

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.