Chinese Mothers, My @ss–Updated

Update: Thanks to reader Victoria and Leda, I did some digging around and realized that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, far from a how-to manual featuring the sort of methods so prominently depicted in the WSJ article, is actually a memoir.

This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs.

This was *supposed* to be a story about how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones.

But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.

My apologies to Ms. Chua.  I feel relieved, actually, to know that I was wrong.  I was getting rather worried for those two daughters.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, here is the link to the WSJ article on why Chinese mothers are superior.

I grew up in China, in a densely populated apartment complex that housed many families associated with the medical school where my grandfather served as a professor of parasitology.  Dozens and dozens of Chinese mothers lived in that complex, the strictest of them all was none other than my own grandmother.

I went to regular schools.  But at the same time, she educated me at home.  When I was five, she had me copy lessons from first grade Chinese textbooks.  I did not enjoy that particular activity and once spent a futile half hour trying get her to let me write the easier version of the word “zero”–when I had to write three of them in a row–instead of the regular, complicated one.  I came home on the last day of my first semester of elementary school, and there awaited me a set of traditional brush and ink, for me to practice brush calligraphy over the winter break.  In third grade, months before our first abacus lesson at school, one appeared at home, and I was working the apparatus like a little accountant by the time we finally got around to it at school.

I had strict bedtimes: For as long as Grandma lived, I had to be in bed at 8:30 pm on school nights.  I was the kid in the entire apartment complex who got to play the least.  Even in the midst of summer holidays, when the sun was still high up in the sky, by 5:45pm she’d be on our balcony, shouting for me to come home.  In fifth grade, she decided she would teach me English–she’d been an English major in college.  That same year, my elementary school decided it could use me as a track-and-field athlete, which entailed an hour of practice before school and an hour after school.  Guess who had to get up at five something in the morning for a half hour of English lessons before heading out to run and jump?

(As it turned out, I am a much better learner in a competitive environment than at home, where I was dying of boredom and couldn’t wait to get the day’s lesson over with.)

That said, I have no arguments with how my grandmother raised me.  But the thing is, she was a famously strict parental figure.  Most of my classmates were not subjected to extra learning at home, neither were most of the kids in my apartment complex.  They got to watch the TV programs which I only got to listen to, as I lay awake in my bed–I was widely pitied for my baby-ish bedtime.  And when school was out, they played outside till the cows came home.

And you know what?  My famously strict grandmother would have considered the lady who wrote the WSJ article nuts.  Yes, children can and should be pushed.  But the entire time I was growing up, I knew not a single Chinese mother who was anywhere near so fanatical.

When I quit playing the piano after two years, Grandma did not throw a fit–and when I did play, I was required to practice 40 minutes a day, not three hours.  As it became clear I had no particular talent for calligraphy, I was not pressed to continue.  And when I came home with a second place finish after a bunch of school exams had been tallied–and I came home with a bunch of second-place finishes in 7th grade–she didn’t herniate herself asking me why I wasn’t in first place.

And most importantly, even though I played less than my friends, I still got to play–many, many play dates at both my friends’ homes and my own, the best parts of a childhood that was both secure and happy.

My beloved and much lamented grandmother, were she still with us today, would have been insulted to be thrust into the same category as the writer of the WSJ article.  Grandma’s methods had been sane and reasonable.  She was strong-willed, but she did not ride roughshod over me.  And her main goal had never been to create some super achiever, but to keep a smart and slightly–okay, more than slightly–troublesome girl profitably occupied.

And she, not the writer of the WSJ article, is the Chinese mother whose example I will always strive for and emulate.

(Two blog posts in one day.  As the Chinese would say, the sun has risen from the west.)

Mystery Cover

I love covers, and to my surprise, Spanish book club version of PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS showed up at my door a few days ago, with a different cover.

The provenance of the image, according to the info at the back of the book, was Shutterstock, a stock image website.  By going to Shutterstock and typing in “proposal”–since that’s what the man looks like he’s doing, though it’s also possible he’s a Regency Jesse James begging forgiveness, judging by the expression on her face–I found the image.  But the only information that came with the image is that it is an illustration circa 1830.  (And it was mislabeled as Victorian.  But to be perfectly fair it’s hard to know what to call those years post-Regency and before Victoria’s ascent to the throne.)

So, art history majors and art lovers, please ride to my rescue once more.  (Last time it was Seton who correctly identified the regular Spanish cover as a Tissot painting.)


And a word on RITA® nominations, which were announced yesterday. While I’m deeply honored that NOT QUITE A HUSBAND received a nod, I am completely bewildered that Meredith has again been overlooked. Of course I’m partial, but I’m hardly alone in my opinion that Meredith is one of the greatest talents the genre has ever known. And her two 2009 books were two of the finest historical romances to be published that year or any year.  So feel free to commiserate with me.

It’s all about me

I love women. But as a healthy, overwhelmingly heterosexual woman, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that men, in all their varieties and flavors, bring to the table an excitement that is totally different from what I get in my interaction with women.

From watching tuxedo-clad, classically trained opera singers to watching rough-and-tumble soccer players half my age squaring off on the field during halftime of my own kid’s soccer game, I derive tremendous pleasure from men as they are, gorgeous, strong, fascinating creatures both familiar and mysterious.

That’s in real life. In a romance, however, I have trouble admiring the hero just like that. Because the romance hero is not some stranger there to provide a slightly middle-aged, slightly dirty-minded woman detached, uncomplicated enjoyment, he is there to exist in a relationship. And in romance, as in real life, I judge a man very much by the kind of woman he chooses.

And then, the kind of woman he chooses becomes very much all about me.

I am a damned fine woman—if you’ll excuse my immodesty here—but I’ve never been what would have been called a “good girl.” I was born a cynic. I never was innocent. As a child, I had very dark thoughts about life and people and wouldn’t know uncomplicated love if it kidnapped me and took me to a unicorn picnic.

I don’t love unselfishly—if I love you, you’d better love me back, a lot. I won’t bother charming some crotchety old bat with my sass and spirit—I’d sooner mix Ex-Lax into her morning cocoa. On top of it, I’m power-hungry and possibly narcisistic.

In other words, I am so not your typical romance heroine. And yet I’m a damned fine woman.

And every time a hitherto fascinating hero falls in love with a milquetoast heroine, I roll my eyes and discount both his IQ and his EQ by about 20 points. And if he loves her for her innocence, I bang my head on the wall. I’ve never known a man who is attracted to a woman for her innocence. They like us because we are beautiful, because we’ve boobs and hips, because when we walk they drool! What is wrong with you, hero dude?

One of my favorite examples of this kind of inexplicable heroine-worship happens in an old-timey futuristic where the hero, who can do everything and I mean everything, carries the heroine on his back and runs for about twelve hours straight through a weird forest that would come alive at night and eat them or some such. At the end of this super-marathon, he set her down and admires her for having held on. For having held on, when death was her other choice! I promptly lost all my interest in him.

Whenever a powerful, accomplished man falls in love with a baked-potato heroine, I want to ask him, what do you see in her? Why don’t you hang with someone of comparable experience and capability? Would you feel threatened if you are not the first or only man to give her an orgasm?

And this is one of the major reasons why as much as I delight in love stories, and relish a happy ending, I don’t read as many romances as I’d like. Because there aren’t enough fascinating heroines, and seven out of ten fascinating heroes end up devoting themselves to the sort of walk-on-water heroines that bear no relation to what I understand to be the fascination of femininity.

As I said, it’s all about me.

Looking for a few good women

I am very hard on romance heroines.

I don’t know why.

I sometimes wonder if we romance writers as a whole put twice the amount of effort into our heroes as into our heroines. Certainly over the years there have been lots of remarkable heroes created and I’ve read my share of hot, interesting men.

And yet if you ask me if I have a favorite hero, I would stare blankly at you. I don’t. I don’t approach romance that way, I don’t read it for the men. If you were to ask about my favorite heroine, however, I would instantly rattle off Louise Vandermeer from Judith Ivory’s Beast and Princess Melanthe of Monteverde from Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart.

Do I read it for the women, then? No, I read romances as I read any other works of fiction, I read for the story, for the journey, for the pleasure of immersion into another world. The importance of the heroine is that they are what often make or break a romance for me.

Perhaps it is because we women as a whole tend to judge other women more harshly than we judge men–I don’t know, I tend to judge men more harshly in real life–there is a lot of concern about making our heroines sympathetic. Nothing wrong with a sympathetic heroine–why would we want to root for the happiness of an unrepentant Wicked Witch of the West? But so often, it feels that the crafting of a heroine stops at inoffensiveness and proceeds no further. Or if it does go further, it is frequently an exercise in drumming up more sympathy, giving her more burdens and more sorrows, taking away her family, her friends, her house, and what little savings she has left. Is it any wonder that there are so many heroines who only have their innocence and their spunk going for them?

If you typical alpha hero is the grilled steak, then your typical spirited, virginal/not-very-experienced heroine is the baked potato. Baked potato is good. It’s a great way to get your carbohydrate and there are lots of ways you can spice up the baked potato: cheese, bacon, sour cream, chives, chili–the choices are practically endless.

But if you are like me and you just don’t like to eat the same thing over and over ad nauseam, whatever that thing is, then there are days, lots and lots of days, when you’ll be screaming, “Not another @@#$ baked potato! And I don’t care if that’s caviar on top of it, it’s still a @#$% baked potato!”

How about polenta, you moan. A loaf of good, crusty French bread, maybe? Some naan and roti? Risotto, oh risotto would be so good. Or briyani. Pasta in its infinite variety. Rice noodles. Buckwheat noodles. Oh, I know, blinis. Blinis, please?

I want some variety. We’ve had so many noble, self-sacrificing heroines that my heart actually flutter a little when I come across a heroine out for her own best advantage. “You go, girl!” I shout.

I want some depth. The characterization of a heroine tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep. She smiles and rainbows arc across the sky. Those mean to her are assured of a nasty end. Her magic hooha cures STD and roving eye with one dip. Such a heroine is wonderful. But when I’m faced with hundreds of such heroines every year, the wonder factor wears thin and the next fresh, lovely paragon to come along will have my shriveled, mottled hands around her throat before she can utter her first feisty, spitfire-ish line.

I want her to have an understanding of reality. Her love should have some limitations–no continual enabling of gambling papa or drunken brother, no endless forbearance of stupid mothers and sisters–they don’t get better with her coddling, they get worse. And she should spare a thought for herself since there is no one else to look after her: if she must sleep with the rake to save the house/the orphans/the farm/the nasty other guy her guardian wants her to marry, then she is to bring a condom with her–and yes, they’ve existed since antiquity–and save her brave, nutty self from the pox.

But above all–and this is the most lacking aspect in romance heroines–I want her to have an understanding of power: not just the power of love and forgiveness, and not the simple physical power to literally kick ass or stake vampires, but power in all its dirty, rotten, wondrous incarnations.

Power of the mind. Nothing psychic or supernatural–just the power of a centered, clear-seeing mind that knows itself.

Power of cleverness. Being the physically weaker of the species, women have had to depend on their wits and adaptability to survive. I could stand to see a lot more cleverness in romance heroines.

Power of sexuality. Innocence is great. But innocence doesn’t last. For all the pages devoted to love scenes–there aren’t enough heroines who really harness the power of their sexuality, not even in erotic romances.

Power of the purse. I’d like to see the rich heroines wield their wealth like a weapon, because it is. And it’s one of the best around.

Power of conviction. Quiet conviction that doesn’t need to be shouted from the mountaintops and the inner strength that comes of it.

And seldom mentioned, maybe because it’s not romantic, but fundamental to any relationship that hopes to last, she should strive for a balance of power between herself and the hero. Because if there is not a decent balance of power, then twenty years later we end up with a relationship that’s ripe for women’s fiction.

Now that is an awfully long list of what I want. I don’t expect to see everything I want in a romance heroine–heck, I can’t even manage half of it in my own heroines. But I think of it less as a list of must-haves than as the menu in a restaurant, wherein a few choice selection of those qualities would be quite enough to make an interesting heroine.

Which is, in the end, all I want. We have so many nice girls and nice women populating romance, but not that many who are interesting in their own right, and precious few I’d consider fascinating. I want more fascinating women in romance, characters as layered and complex and nuanced as a bar of Scharffen Berger dark chocolate or a bottle of Chateau Margaux (and no I haven’t had either, I just like saying those names. :-P)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a few good women.

P.S. This is a reader’s rant.

The Theory of Accelerated Karma II: You can type this @#$%, George

One of my favorite anecdotes from the Star Wars mother lode involves Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and the script for Episode IV: A New Hope. I adore George Lucas, I would love to have his as my uncle—or sugar daddy—but homeboy has been known to churn out a few clunky dialogues here and there.

As the story went, one day, Harrison Ford, fed up with his lines, went up to George Lucas, whom he’d known since American Graffiti, and said, “You can type this @#$%, George, but you can’t say it.”

Sometimes, when I read a book, I have a similar reaction: you can type this @#$%, but you can’t make me believe it. A lot of times, books that elicit such a reaction from me have violated a fundamental tenet of Accelerated Karma, namely, you can accelerate it, but you can’t make it materialize out of nothing.

Take romances, for example. One of the most frequently logged—and grievous—complaints against an unsatisfying book is that the reader doesn’t buy the Happily Ever After, because for the sake of conflict/plot/sexual tension/length the protagonists quarrel like harpies/keep secrets from each other and never communicate/think of each other only in hate/lust dichotomies/so on and so forth for 95% of the book. And then, all of a sudden, on the penultimate page, the hero and the heroine are deeply in love and deeply committed and deeply desirous of sharing a Life Together.

Remember the Chinese saying “Plant squash, harvest squash; plant peas, harvest peas?” A romance writer cannot plant nothing but peas and suddenly show her readers bushels and bushels of squash. The romance gods have gifted us with a Wonder Squash that can go from seed to fruit in all of one week. But we’ve still got to plow the field, plant the seed, and nurture it with water and fertile soil and plenty of sunshine, and show the readers how this one tiny seed grows into a beautiful, bountiful harvest.

I write mostly relationship-heavy books. But these are not the only kinds of books that suffer from the Sudden Squash Syndrome. In more plot-heavy books the Sudden Squash Syndrome is known by its Latin name Deus Ex Machina, whereupon a god previous unknown to the universe of the story appears just as all plot threads seem headed for implosion, rains down squash, and voila, all problems solved.

To which I can only say, dear fellow scribes, plant your squash early and plant them often! Cuz otherwise, karma is a lady dog.

Hiatus alert: I know, I know, I just came back. And it’s such a pleasure and a privilege to have readers, but I would have to give up blogging for a couple of months. I’ve four classes this summer, major revisions, and a mid-July deadline for those revisions. I’ll be back again as soon as the revisions are done.

The Times, They Have Changed, I Think–I Hope

Recently, the Smart Bitches had a posting on the rules and boundaries of the romance hero’s conduct—namely, is he allowed to sleep with other women in the course of his love story, once he has met the heroine, or even once the reader has cracked open the book?

This, of course, is but a corollary to the much older, much more pervasive, blood pressure-raising, and probably never-going-away debate on whether the romance heroine is allowed to have—and enjoy—sex with other men once we are past the dedication page.

I frankly don’t care about the hero’s chastity. If he’s pure as the driven snow, great. If not, I’ll judge his action—and any action he might enjoy with someone other than the heroine—in the context of the story. The rules—or stricture, I should say—about the heroine’s conduct, however, have chafed me more than a little over the years, precisely because such rules existed, unspoken perhaps, but very much adhered to and demanded from authors.

Schemes of Love, the first novel I sold, is, in a way, the first novel that I ever wrote. It got me the attention of my first agent. She saw some potential to the story. But she did not hesitate to tell me that the manuscript, in the shape and form as was presented to her, was unsaleable.

The basic premise of the story has always been girl meets boy, girl loses boy through her own misdeed, and many years later, girl meets boy again. My first agent gave me three pieces of advice on the book. One, she said, you can’t write the story in a linear fashion. Start the story when they meet again and not a minute before. Two, you can’t have the heroine do something morally wrong and then somehow vindicate her. Wrong is wrong. Three, you can’t have the heroine take lovers, even if she did it off stage, during a very long separation, with the hero having made it abundantly clear that he would never come back to her.

The majority of romance readers live below the Mason-Dixon line, said my very liberal New Yorker then-agent (those were her exact words). They would not tolerate the heroine’s unfaithfulness, she added, particularly not from a debut author.

That was in the earliest months of 2001.

When I returned to the story some four-and-half years later to rewrite every last word from scratch, I took her first two pieces of advice to heart—and rejected the third one outright. It would have been out of character for my heroine to mope for ten years and save herself for a man who has rejected her unequivocally. It would have been out of character for me to submit to the whim of some mythical, disapproving reader when I’m not even writing for her, but for me.

For good measure I emphasized in the first chapter that neither of my protagonists has been sleeping with only his or her feather pillows.

And then, of course, came the hand-wringing, as I waited for reactions to this heroine who is utterly unapologetic about her lovers—and to this couple for whom the lovers, his and hers, aren’t even an issue compared to what really divides them.

The contest judges were unfazed that neither the hero nor the heroine remained celibate during their long separation and I know for sure that some of them live below the Mason Dixie line (hasta la vista, stereotype). My agent has never said a thing. My editor at Bantam is resolutely unbothered.

Maybe the times have changed, thanks to the authors of erotic romances who have managed to smash a lot of rules while making money hand over fist for their publishers. Maybe the readers have become more accepting of heroines who differ rather dramatically from the old, agreed-upon feminine ideal. Maybe I’ve improved enough as a writer that people get absorbed in the story and don’t care about such peripheral distractions.

We’ll see by next year this time what reader reactions would be. In the meanwhile, I have a story to pitch to my editor in which, gasp, there is sleeping with other people again–and this time not quite so peripheral to the story.

A little side note. A reader inquired some time ago in the comments about the use of profanities in romances. It seems that in historical romances the f-bomb is still largely unwelcome (both my former and current agents have asked me to avoid them if I can, though I am trying again in DELICIOUS to sneak a few in by having the hero drunkenly comments on the fate of a particular piece of legislation—he’s a politician). But in single-title contemporary romances I don’t think those are frowned upon at all, especially when used by men. So go ahead, f-bomb away as you write. Take half of them out before submitting and leave the rest to the gods of obscenity.

The Theory of Accelerated Karma, it seems, needs to marinate some more before it will be ready for the grill.

Waiter, There’s a Fly in My Fantasy

Romance, I’m firmly convinced, is all about the fantasy. What the fantasy is, however, very much depends on each individual reader. And what that fantasy isn’t, is equally idiosyncratic.

For me, some stuff I don’t like in real life I like even less in escapist fiction. There was a time in the early nineties, when every romance I picked up had a scene where the hero gently held the heroine and stroked her hair as she tossed her cookies into the nearest chamber pot. Aie! Now there’s something I would not want to do in front of a man, ever, if I could help it. And reading about someone else doing it doesn’t make it any more romantic.

Conversely, some stuff I have no problem with in real life also gets the thumbs down. For example, I’m happily married to a man five-foot-nine in height and I think he is The Hotness. Yet when I read romances, I’m noticeably less interested in heroes who are noticeably under six feet tall. (And if that makes me shallower than a dinner plate, well, so be it.)

All those, however, are small annoyances. You wanna know what’s the equivalent of a fallen tree across the my personal fantasy highway as I’m barreling down at hundred miles an hour?

Last Friday I bought a reissue of a fave author’s first published book. The book had been out of print for many years and I’d never read it. So I eagerly sank my teeth into it, only to bite into a derailing, stopping-me-dead fly.

The following is a snippet from the book, it’s the heroine addressing the hero as they are in the middle of their affair:

“I wish I could be more sure of how you felt. You know you never give me more than bits and pieces of yourself. And you leave me alone a great deal of the time. For card games. For God knows what else. Why do you never tell me you love me?”

Argh. Major, major fantasy tenet violation. Unless there is a gun held to the heroine’s head and someone is threatening to burn the world’s sole remaining copy of Pride and Prejudice, she is never, ever to ask questions that smack of desperation and helplessness, questions that would make a man justifiably run for the hills.

I will forgive just about everything else—Machiavellian deceit? Okay. Pain-in-the-ass arrogance? Go on. Prior promiscuity? None of my business—but to have my backing, a heroine absolutely, absolutely cannot be weak.

She cannot be weak on absolute terms. And she cannot be weak on relative terms. I hate those Gorilla-and-the-Flea pairs—borrowing a term from figure skating–where the man can save the world in the morning, cook a kick-ass dinner in the evening, and make stupendous love all night long, and all the heroine has going for her are Bambi eyes, T&A, and a heart of gold.

Now the heroine can have all kinds of insecurities, and the hero can catch all kinds of glimpses into her vulnerabilities: she is strong not because she doesn’t have fears, but because she deals with them.

But please, please, save me from heroines who go around begging for affection.

Side note: I worked on a publicity Q&A from my publisher this weekend. And the questionnaire asked if my blog is interactive. I laughed at the question and said yes anyway. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those of you who take the trouble to leave comments, and such nice ones too. I promise to interact the moment I have my degree in hand, toward the end of next August.

Next Tuesday, Live from New York, Anatomy Lessons

Everything I Know About Writing I Learned from Rejections III: When Rejection Letters Go Bad

Golda Meir once said, “Don’t be so humble, you are not that great.”

I have been very humble in the previous two posts. But as I’m really not that great, today we chuck all that humility, cuz there are times when there’s frankly nothing you can learn from rejection letters, even if they are personalized.

Both of the two rejection letters below are for SCHEMES OF LOVE, which five different houses wanted, and went to Bantam in a pre-empt (thank you Ms. Nelson and Ms. Alexander). My agent forwarded the two of them to me within minutes of each other on a Friday morning. At that point we already had an offer on the table, but trust me, it still wasn’t easy to take two rejections back-to-back.

Names blacked out to protect my own sweet patootie.

Rejection Letter I

July 14, 2006

Hi, Kristin—

I got your message this morning when I returned to the office. I can absolutely see why you’re so keen on this project (and why you currently have an offer in hand!). Its premise is unusually dark, yet charming at the same time (reminds me a bit of ****** that way), and the prose is well-paced and engaging.

That said, ****** is currently streamlining its list, and I think this book, while excellent, would come too close to the sort of thing ****** is currently doing for us. Given the challenges of breaking a new voice out in the market, I fear that here SCHEMES wouldn’t get the attention it deserves.

So reluctantly, I’m going to let this one go (and kick myself anew when it appears on the shelves, I’m sure). But thanks for thinking of me, and for the pleasure of the read. Enjoy your backcountry trip!


This is a sweet, lovely letter. But make no mistake, it is a rejection letter. Editor I didn’t come right out and say it, but the implicit message is nevertheless loud and clear: she didn’t love it. She is an acquiring editor. Had she fallen in love with SCHEMES, she’d have made room on her list and gotten the editorial board behind her to make damn sure that the book got the attention it deserved.

A frustrating letter, at once diplomatic and sincere, yet it ultimately saying little more than “not right for us.” It makes me want to eat a whole pile of something fried and fatty and mumble “Why? Why? Why?” with every stuffed mouthful that hastens my trip to the heart surgeon’s.

That said, I don’t wish the editor to kick herself at all. There are books others love that I don’t. I understand.

The next letter, however, made me lose sleep, the first time that’s ever happened in all my years of writing. And not one night of sleep, either. Every night for four nights running until we finally reached a deal with Bantam, I’d go to sleep okay, and wake up at two in the morning absolutely convinced that all the other houses we hadn’t heard from yet were all going to reject me too.

Rejection Letter II

July 14, 2006

Hi, Kristin

Thank you so much for sharing SCHEMES OF LOVE with me. Regretfully, however, I’m going to decline interest.

The bones of this story is actually very similar to a book ****** published last year – ****** by ******. While Sherry Thomas has a good voice overall, I found it too matter-of-fact and not as emotional as it could be.

Again, I really appreciate your thinking of me. And as you mentioned there is already an offer on the table, I wish both you and Sherry success in this project

Have a good weekend,


Nothing terrible, except, omg, OMG, it singled out my greatest strength as an area of weakness. Emotional complexity is my bread and butter, what am I going to do now?

At some point I have to draw the line. Publishing is subjective. Either I believe SCHEMES OF LOVE is one of the most emotionally complex romances to come along in a long time or I don’t. And I believe it, without question.

So off went Rejection Letter II to the bowels of my email archive, with a few teeth marks and a stamp marked “Not right for me”. That opinion wasn’t right for me, that editor wasn’t right for me, and that house wasn’t right for me.

At the RWA national conference in Atlanta this past July. Susan Elizabeth Phillips received a most well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Rita. At the conclusion of a very affable speech. She declared that she was going to do something mean, but not just for herself, for every writer in that banquet room.

What she did was this. She told of how some years back, while her career was at a nadir, she put herself and the first Chicago Stars book up for auction to completely underwhelming results. From there on the podium, in her fabulous jacket-and-skirt ensemble, with two thousand of us waiting breathlessly below for what further pearls of wisdom she was going to dispense, she shouted at the top of her lungs, “BIG MISTAKE!”

Thank you, Ms. Phillips. Now I can be gracious and not say anything of the sort. He he.

Next Tuesday, Why I Don’t Hate Angelina Jolie. And I promise, it’s got something to do with writing.