Here's my growing collection of pictures sent to me by fans of Beautiful. These were all shared publicly on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. I love them all. Please keep sending these pictures my way.
My daughters are beautiful. I’ve thought this from the moment their wrinkly little bodies were placed in my arms. I still think that now that they’re teens and will until I die. And I used to tell them all the time in different ways. I love your hair, your eyes, your smile. You look great in blue, green, stripes. My thought was that if I tell them they’re beautiful enough times, they wouldn’t need to hear from society and future tattoo-barring, motorcycle-riding, aspiring-drummer boyfriends. But now I think that approach was incomplete.
Yes. My girls are beautiful. Yes, they deserve compliments. All girls do. But let’s compliment what makes then truly beautiful.
1. Her Intelligence
Tell her she has a big fat brain capable of learning anything. When she uses that big fat brain, make a big deal over it. Let’s start calling our daughters Geniuses as often as we call then Princesses.
2. Her Hard Work
Try-fail. Try-fail. Try-fail. Try-succeed. Isn’t this the secret of life—at least one of them? “You did it! You kept practicing, and you learned to tie your shoes!” Isn’t that more important than telling her that her shoes are “way cute!”?
3. Her Sense of Humor
Laughter is the best medicine and can be a quite a compliment. Laugh too hard and too long at her jokes.
4. Her Toughness
Learning to take the blows that life hands out is not easy. When your daughter gets back up, you should be more pumped than Mickey in a Rocky movie.
5. Her Kindness
“You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force.” -Publilius Syrus, Roman writer.
Why do we underestimate the power of kindness? If your daughter is putting someone else’s concerns before her own, throw the confetti and break out the compliments.
6. Her Leadership
We’ve all heard this recent warning: Don’t call her bossy. When your daughter steps up and takes charge, reward that initiative. Don’t tell her she’s bossy, tell her she is A Boss!
7. Her Originality
Over seven billion people on earth and there’s no one exactly like her. No one else has the same passions, goals, struggles, and abilities. She is irreplaceable. Celebrate her uniqueness.
So go forth and compliment your little girls. Often. Loud. And honestly.
In case you missed it, here are all the stops of the Fuzzbuster Blog Tour. Fuzz and I had a great time.
For the month of February, I was a "Critique Ninja" at 12x12. Each day I would stalk the "full manuscript forum" and select one to critique. It's still not clear if the selected manuscript (and writer) was lucky or cursed. In total, I gave my opinion to 24 or 25 pieces. (I did take a few days off.) Here are my takeaways from this experience.
What I Avoided
I don't feel qualified to critique rhyme. So I avoid those manuscripts for the most part. I also stayed away from anything over 700 words. IMHO, these are just too long. This year I didn't review any non-fiction, but that was more just by chance.
What I Found
Quite a bit of talent! Every manuscript I critiqued had potential. Some days, I got lucky and the first post I clicked caught my attention. Other days, I'd read 3 or 4 before selecting a manuscript. So even if I was harsh in my critique, there was something that drew me to that manuscript's potential.
Think of me as your mother-in-law. I complain about everything. I'm never happy. Even with my own work. When I read my published books aloud at schools and bookstores, I still edit. (I drop a few words every time I read Excellent Ed.) We can all be a kind kidlit community, but when it comes to critiques, I prefer the brutally honest folks.
My Most Common Criticism/Suggestion
I found myself asking this over and over. Is this a short story or a picture book? I think most new PB writers have a tendency to write short stories. They leave no work for the illustrator. We should aim for a 50-50 split in the breakdown of the story telling. The words alone should not tell the story. The pictures alone should not tell the story. It's a happy marriage. Do you need to write Matthew was a crocodile? Won't the reader know this just by looking at the cover? (That's a very simple example, but maybe it illustrates my point.)
My Second Most Common Criticism/Suggestion
Tie the ending to the beginning. Something in those first lines should be reflected in those last lines. I love it when it's very direct. Maybe even the same exact words. Or a change of 1 or 2 words. Once you have a satisfying ending, I encourage you to go back and see if you can tweak the beginning to reflect or hint at the last pages. Or look at the opening and see how you can put those feelings, words, or intentions in the last few lines.
After completing my critique-ninja tour of duty in 2016, I'd mentioned that I wanted to draft a list of trends, or a list of what I saw over and over again. I never did this. (I'm easily distracted and constantly under deadline--that's my excuse.) I remember a lot of bath books and dog books last year. I started avoiding bath and dog books by the end. Maybe agents and editors feel a similar fatigue. I'm not sure. Here's a list of what I saw frequently in 2017. (12x12 members can do this unofficial research on their own. This is solely my experience. And I'm doing it from memory. No notes. Not going back through my files.)
- Ninjas. There were more than critique ninjas floating through the forums. They were popular characters.
- Characters named after their species. A duck named Duck. A bear named Bear.
- Friendship. Stories about making friends or making-up with friends.
- Engineers and Scientists. And most of these STEM characters were girls.
- Characters' Names in the Titles. Bill's Day at the Beach. Fred and John. (Not actual examples.)
- Too Much Info in Opening Paragraph. There seems to be a tendency for the author to explain his/her objective or worries in a paragraph above the manuscript. (I tried not to read these or only read them after.)
Keep writing. And keep critiquing each other. Writing--it's easy to fall into the trap of revising the same manuscript again and again. And yes, a manuscript will require 6, 7, or 20 rewrites. But that can't be all you're doing. Take a break between revisions and start something new. I promise your brain is still working on manuscript-A while you are writing manuscript-B. Critiquing--I was reading manuscripts nearly every day this month. And I'm a better writer for it. I see "problems" in other writers' works that are also in my own. I notice the strengths too. Make a commitment to read a manuscript every other day (or every third day) and make at least 1 constructive comment (not just I-like-it comments) and I promise you will learn and your own writing will improve. Good luck!
PS: For the most part, I do not go back and read any follow-up comments to my critiques.
When a five-year-old girl looks in the mirror, what does she see? Hopefully, she spots a friend. Someone she's going to make silly faces at and try to out maneuver. What does this girl see when she's eight? Or thirteen? Or sixteen?
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? I see someone who needs to stand up straight and suck in her belly--a belly that has carried three children, the smallest of whom was eight pounds, thirteen ounces. A belly that also prefers Krispy Kreme to sit ups. A belly that I hate.
And my daughters have picked up on this. Eventually, the mirror will stop being a friend and become a harsh critic. Ninety-seven percent of women will have an I-Hate-My-Body thought today.
We can blame TV, the internet, and glossy fashion magazines for an unrealistic expectation of beauty. We can blame air-brusing and Photoshop. But girls first learn about beauty standards from mom and other important women in their lives. My girls first learned it from me. Looking in the mirror, are you complaining about your gray hairs, crooked nose, or your weight? Are you setting the unrealistic expectations?
While working on my book BEAUTIFUL, I needed to redefine my essential definition of beauty.
I read dozens of posts and quotes on beauty. Watched numerous Dove commercials. And looked at the research on the subject--everything from the golden ratio, which mathematically examines feature placements on a face, to the studies on why men place a higher value on looks in their mate than women do.
And of course, I checked out Merriam-Webster's definition of beauty: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit
I finally settled on this.
Beauty is a confidence driven by what you do and how you feel.
I'm never going to have a flat stomach. My hair will forever require chemicals. The laugh lines are here to stay. But what I can ultimately control is what I say to the girl in the mirror. "You're a good mom! And you rock those jeans."
Be kind to yourself. It matters! Your daughters are listening.
Beautiful (written by me and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff) is a book of few words. But the topic of beauty and how it impacts girls is incredibly complicated. My editor Lisa wrote me a four-page letter while we were revising this book, and I sent her back the polished manuscript and an essay. I believe it's the first time she'd ever received an essay with a picture book manuscript.
I'd love to share with you some of the things Lisa and I learned while creating this book. (Don't worry. It's not the full essay.)
We compliment little girls on their looks and not other strengths. I've noticed that I do this often. Meeting a young girl, I might say, "You're so cute," or "I love your hair." However, with a little boy, I might notice a dinosaur shirt and ask, "Do you like dinosaurs?" I need to stop making appearances the first part of the conversation. Compliments are great, but I now try to look deeper.
The mirror is different for everyone. Women often use the mirror to study flaws: wrinkles, gray hairs, bags under the eyes. Men, more often, see their positive traits. Young children can consider a mirror a toy and enjoy making goofy faces or trying to outwit their reflection. Is there a way to keep young girls from seeing the mirror as a tool for self-criticism?
Some Interesting Research:
- 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful (Dove Self-Esteem Project)
- Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’ (Dove Self-Esteem Project)
- 55%-59% of girls between the ages of 6 and 8 think they need to be thinner. (Common Sense Media Research)
- 53% of 13-year-old American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." (National Institute on Media and the Family)
- 78% of 17-year-old American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." (National Institute on Media and the Family)
My definition of beauty. My editor asked me to create a definition for this book. What did I want to convey? After reading countless articles, blog posts, and research, this is my definition of what it means to be BEAUTIFUL.
True beauty is a confidence found in what you do and how you feel. When a girl is doing something kind or challenging or fun, her inner beauty overwhelms her exterior, no matter what she wears or how her hair looks. When a girl feels empowered or strong or smart, the same thing happens.
More coming soon.