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.*


  1. I'm looking forward to another book. I certainly liked the Last Sister

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm looking forward to getting it written!

  2. I just loved this post.

  3. I can totally relate to what you mean about how it's easier to remember the negative reviews than the bad ones. I teach college students, and they fill out course evaluations that include their evaluations of my teaching. The majority of my evaluations are good, but I always focus on the not-so-good ones instead and can't help obsessing over them.

    1. I taught college students for seven years. I feel your pain.


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