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...


  1. Both of these stories are amazing! I have always meant to read I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, and now I will have to.

    My husband loves "In Your Eyes," and I have to confess I have never gotten it. With your endorsement, I will have to give it another listen.

    1. Full disclosure: "In Your Eyes" is my wedding song.
      "In your eyes the resolution/to all the fruitless searches...Oh, I wanna be that complete/I wanna touch the light, the heat/I see in your eyes"

  2. When I'm at a concert, I always appreciate it when the people sitting around me are also very into the music. It's a downer to have the people near me acting bored or not paying attention. So I'm sure you enhanced the experience! (Me, I'm partial to Sledgehammer and Jeux sans Frontieres.)

    1. My husband's favorite is "Digging in the Dirt." I have a hard time picking a favorite.

      I knew I had raised my kids right when my daughter hand-wrote the lyrics to "Growing Up" and put them on her wall in high school. :)

  3. This made me smile from ear to ear. SERIOUSLY. :) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Both of those are great compliments!

  5. This is awesome. I've been trying to compliment strangers on their outfits, shoes, etc., just to be the reason someone smiles that day. But what too often happens is they give you that look, the one that says, "What the hell are you smoking?" And I retreat into the woodwork.

    1. We have become too wary. It's a tough climate out there, but all the more reason to be kind. Keep it up!

  6. This is AWESOME. The kind of compliment that stays with you forever.


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