There Is No Good Card For This provides the perfect plan for comforting our suffering loved ones

There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love

By Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D and Emily McDowell (HarperOne, $25.99)

Don’t be fooled by what might be 2017’s longest book title. There Is No Good Card For This is one of this year’s most useful, uplifting volumes.

Two empathy visionaries make this book sparkle. Dr. Kelsey Crowe founded “Help Each Other Out,” an organization famed for its “Empathy Boot Camps.” She teams with Emily McDowell, an author-artist who fought Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24. McDowell created “Empathy Cards,” beautiful (often funny!) greeting cards that bring support to those facing death, disease, divorce and other emotional roller-coasters.

Their book begins with one huge lesson for those afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing to someone suffering. “If you’re choosing between saying something and saying nothing, you’re almost always better off saying something.”

In other words, an ill or bereaved person may deem you more insensitive for quietly disappearing and avoiding an uncomfortable issue. Those who show up and sincerely try, are the role models the authors tout. Simply saying “I’m sorry” may work wonders, they note.

This book’s sound advice is wrapped in McDowell’s charming illustrations. Her calligraphy of empathy ideas transforms the book with the feel of a personal letter from the artist.

How about those meddling do-gooders, when their so-called caring does more harm than good? Who wants to be those guys? The authors define the two fingernails-on-chalkboard types as the “foister” or the “fretter.”

The foisters rush into a situation, slinging unrequested advice and unwanted gestures. Fretters are worriers, grabbing all attention away from the afflicted party. Why didn’t the ill person return a phone call? Are they worse? (No. they may just be busy, tired or sad, especially after all the non-stop attention.)

Crowe and McDowell crash through myths and misconceptions, such as “Three Empathy Roadblocks.” Some of us fear saying, or doing, the wrong thing at the wrong time. Others are afraid they have no time. The authors urge us to be honest and authentic with ourselves in difficult situations, instead of expecting perfection.

I’d compare these empathy advocates to Doctor Phil (if he was double-parked with the motor running.) For instance, Crowe and McDowell underscore the importance of empathic listening with the subtitle “Learning to Shut Up.” Bullseye!

Most valuable in this book are cheat-sheet actionable details. The authors created lists of “Go-To Phrases.” For potentially good or bad comments, the two categories are compared in two columns: “Instead of This” and “Try This.”

Scenario encounters allow readers to see social missteps unfold. “Seeing It In Action” provides a post-game recap of what was good (or what could have been done better).

This book is a keeper. Clergy would benefit from observing the straightforward, non-denominational kindness the authors demonstrate. In fact, There Is No Good Card For This is a book anyone can use, share and enjoy. Even in what seems like’s worst times, all of us have the power to make a difference.




A Christmas present for any past (or future) author

Write it down.

Write. It. Down.

Sound advice. It’s that simple.

Too many of us were swayed by the class smartypants. “Will this be on the test?”

As if there’s a paper shortage?

Beginning in junior high, I’d write down everything. In seventh grade art, I scribbled down the heart of a sermon from the teacher.

“I want everyone standing in line in the lunchroom,” she preached. “No pushing. No cutting. I’ll stand in the back of the line with you. If any of you ever see me budge to the front of the line, you’ll be entitled to come stand with me.”

Scene two begins in the school lunchroom, the last week of school. There is pious Miss Thompson, stepping in front of hungry kids, leading the way for two other teachers.

From the back of the line, I followed. “Let me in,” I begged the put-upon student. “You won’t regret it.”

I tapped Miss T on the shoulder. I waved.

She stared at me, dumbfounded.

Her teaching cohort growled. “You get to the back of the line, young man. Right now!”

I shook my head. “Miss Thompson, you told us that if you ever cut, we could cut in line with you. Remember?”

The defeated teacher rolled her eyes, chewed her lip and nodded. “Come on,” she muttered.

Soon, kids were pointing, whispering. Then, laughing. I think I remember clapping.

Why write down a sentence? An idea?

Because, your day will come. Just like it did for me.



How This Book Was Made: A Picture Book Not Just for Kids

how-this-book-was-made-barnettHow This Book was Made: A True Story is sneaky, subversive fun.

Children may prefer illustrator Adam Rex’s story-within-a-story artwork. While kids might simply see a queen dining on a veranda, adults will read between of the lines as author Mac Barnett describes his New York City editor. “She is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches.”

After all, as Barnett claims he wrote 21 drafts of his children’s book, adults will remember the subtitle promise that this is a true story.

How true? Adults will guffaw over Rex portraying himself as a leisurely illustrator who needed frequent naps before completing his assignment. Rex packs each page with action, showing a multitude of characters (including King Kong and Ben Franklin) who enjoy cameos in the behind-the-scenes hilarity.

Children who stay tuned for the entire book won’t be disappointed. It turned out THEY are the true stars. How? Barnett reminds us that “…a book still isn’t a book, not really, until it has a reader.”

Published authors and illustrators will giggle over their “been there, done that” reaction to How This book Was Made.

Just be ready to explain your inside-joke laughs with the kids you’re sharing this fun title with!

See for yourself with the book’s official trailer!

Is writing a good occupation for people-haters?

Garbo did not say "I want to be alone." Maybe she really said, "I want to be a writer!"(Photo credit: UCLA Library/Wikimedia Commons)

Garbo did not say “I want to be alone.” Maybe she really said, “I want to be a writer!”(Photo credit: UCLA Library/Wikimedia Commons)

Barbra Streisand sang about people who LOVE people. However….

Rachel Gillett penned a fun “think” piece for Business Insider. What are good careers for people who aren’t “people persons?”

Creative writers. Hunters and trappers. Quarry rock splitters. Jobs like these were ranked for how much time a worker has to spend interacting with others. Also, how often do these jobs require you to be pleasant with others?

I thought everyone wanted to write for fame and fortune!


Wordsmithing 101: Exploring the opposite of ‘badass’

Good Ass BeerIt didn’t take long for the flip side of “badass” to spread.

Trouble is, I think there’s still a battle over how to spell the opposite. Is it…

  1. Goodass
  2. Good ass
  3. Good-ass

Well, the beer maker has chosen. Note the logo on their amusing beer. To me, their spelling suggests that the brew’s main ingredient is asses. Hee haw!

Don’t forget the first variation of the buzzword. Being able to read the word aloud is tricky. Is “Goo” a relative of “Ram Dass“?

The only logical choice, I feel, is the third spelling. Any wordage besides the hyphen would muddle the meaning of a sentence like, “What a good-ass man!” Split the words, and someone might include a subconscious comma in the sentence. In other words, we might think the guy’s backside is getting critiqued.

Supposing you’re a badass writer unconcerned about the debate. My only advice? Think hard about including either description in your writing. Your work could be dated faster than you could say “groovy.”

Milk cartons have expiration dates. Don’t rely on words capable of stamping a “best if read by…” warning on your creation.




Onion satire skewers storytelling standards

This might make you cry. THE ONION will make you laugh. (Photo credit: Dirk Ingo, Wikimedia Commons)

This might make you cry. THE ONION will make you laugh. (Photo credit: Dirk Ingo Franke, Wikimedia Commons)

I love The Onion.

This showcase for sparkling satire and perfect parody is high-fiber fun. In other words, good for you and tasty! Best of all, these tales don’t give me bad breath.

This vignette was no different.

Why have I spent years avoiding writing workshops or college classes touted to make me a better author? I want to escape the cookie cutter of correctness. Must all stories be the same? This scenario isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

I’d buy this mythical seven-year-old’s first book. Different is good.

Kudos to Dan Gutman for sharing this on Facebook. Dan is the funniest author I know in children’s lit today.

Write like Red Green

Red GreenNonfiction got you down?

Reality is overrated.

“How-to” reports can get boring.

Why not try writing how NOT to?

This could be recounting your true-life (mis)adventure.

There are readers who could relate.

Don’t believe me? Try searching “Ikea instructions humor.”

If it’s fun to write, the piece will be fun to read.