Thursday, June 3, 2010


Lila Dare, author of the Southern Beauty Shop series from Berkley Prime Crime, joins us today. The first book in the series, Tressed to Kill, debuted May 4 and got a starred review from Publishers Weekly and 4 ½ stars from Romantic Times. That might seem like reward enough for a first time novelist, but Lila says we need to think about how we reward ourselves.

Reward (n.) 1. Something given in return for good or, sometimes, evil or for service or merit 2. Money offered, as for the capture of a criminal, the return of something lost 3. Compensation, profit, return

Many of us writers think the ultimate reward is becoming a New York Times best-selling author who outsells J.K. Rowling and James Patterson put together. Or, if we’re more literarily oriented, we aspire to a National Book Award and an Oscar in the same year (because, of course, our literary book was made into a movie directed by James Ivory and starring Emma Thompson and Daniel Day Lewis). Even the most optimistic of us, however, have to admit that those rewards are not likely getting bestowed on us five minutes (or even five years) after we start writing. So how do we reward ourselves in the interim?

The longer I’m in this writing/publishing business, the more convinced I am that rewarding ourselves for the accomplishment of milestones along the way is critical. Rewards give us a sense of pride in what we’ve done and motivate us. You can’t wait until you finish a manuscript, or land an agent, or get a three-book contract to reward yourself (although those amazing and fantabulous accomplishments deserve huge rewards). How about rewarding yourself for reaching your writing goal for the month (whether that’s 10,000 words, the re-write of your ending scene, or an in-depth interview with your protagonist)? Or, consider rewarding yourself for the accomplishment of a writing-related task you hate: sending out another ten queries, setting up a Facebook page/blog/Twitter account to promote your book, pitching your WIP to an agent or editor at a conference, conducting a difficult interview. We too often dismiss these sorts of accomplishments, shrug them off, and get onto the next task, when we really deserve a “Way to go!” for tackling them.

All of which begs the question of what makes an appropriate reward. Clearly, you’re not going to hand yourself a lovely certificate or plaque, as many traditional workplaces do. I struggle with this question because my go-to awards for myself tend to a) be ingestible (and fattening), b)cost money, or c) both of the above. (I am especially sensitive to the question because I have two tweenage daughters and I hate to set them up for a life-time of weight issues by celebrating their successes with food: National Junior Honor Society induction—let’s get a sundae!

Volleyball team MVP—let’s have some chocolate cake! Won the talent contest—Cinnabon here we come!) So, I offer a list of some of the non-edible, not-too-expensive rewards I bestow on myself:

Read a non-writing-related magazine (I like More and InStyle) without once feeling guilty;

Give yourself a manicure or pedicure with a fun new color (my current fave is a pale orange called Candy Corn);

Call a friend and chat for half an hour without once mentioning writing or publishing;

Go for an hour-long walk or hike (I realize this might be a penance and not a reward for some, but I like working out);

Go to the gym/health club and do nothing except sit in the hot tub,steam room, or sauna;

Play with your pet;

Spend an hour enjoying a non-writing-related hobby;


Do something your kid wants to do and really throw yourself into it, whether it’s playing Littlest Pet Shop, doing soccer drills, or shopping at Claire’s (gag me);

Buy a new kind of tea/coffee or a new variety of wine/beer and give it a try, maybe something a tad pricier than your usual.
Obviously, rewards are very personal—what tickles my fancy might make you retch and I might rather get a root canal than “reward” myself with an activity or item you find wonderful. The point is to reward yourself in a meaningful way for the small milestones along the way, as well as the huge successes.

I’d love to hear how you reward yourselves (or how you reward your kids’ accomplishments) and will send a signed copy of Tressed to Kill to one commenter. Thanks very much to the Stiletto Gang for having me on the blog today!

Lila Dare


  1. I reward myself for doing the housework. Well, I actually bribe myself. On Saturdays I promise myself that if i get all the weekend chores done by a certain time, I can spend the rest of the day reading. It's surprising how often I manage to make the timeline! Good motivation =).

  2. Like the ideas you come up with for making some changes. I always had fun fixing my hair and dressing up to go no where whenever I got feeling a bit down. It worked most of the time too. susan L.

  3. Hi Zita--I've always liked the reward philosophy of "If I do x by a certain time, then I can do y." If I finish my words for the day(2,000) before noon, then I go out to lunch or relax on my deck with a good book. (Doesn't happen too often.)

    Hi Susan--It's amazing how changing your hair can change your outlook, isn't it?

  4. Hi, Lila! Thanks so much for guesting with us today. I love your post! I don't think when we've been in this business for awhile (er, like 11 years in my case!), we think about rewarding ourselves enough. So I'm going to make a point of doing that after reading your piece. And I like Zita's reward of giving herself time to read without feeling guilty. Pedicures are good, too! In fact, I think I should reward myself soon with a pedicure. My feet would be very grateful. So I'd better get writing, eh? ;-)

  5. I know what you mean about not rewarding ourselves, Susan. Even when something marvelous happens--like signing a 3-book deal--I call a couple of people and then start working again. We need to learn to celebrate a bit, revel in our success (not in a braggy way, but in an I-set-out-to-do-something-and-I-did-it-damn-well way.

  6. Rewarding myself? I am a single mom and the few times I reward myself it is to do something beyond X-men and Batman and find a friend to go to a live music concert or a theatre production. I treasure "adult" time.

  7. Hi Lynn--You must have boys! I love that you reward yourself with experiences with friends rather than with stuff.

  8. Good to have you here, Lila, and what a great blog.

    I reward myself after doing housework or laundry or whatever by writing.

    When shopping and doing errands in town, once I'm done I reward myself with a McDonald's vanilla flavored iced coffee with an extra shot of vanilla. My favorite.


  9. Hey,Lila! Very, very wise. Because you're right, the bar for "a real accomplishment" always gets set higher after something is completed.

    I reward myself by getting to read, uninterrupted. I literally make a specific time--for instance, I say: I'm sitting here, by gosh, until 3 o'clock! And I'm mostly talking to myself--if I don't do that, my monkey brain will come up with something else I'm supposed to do.

    A triple venti non-fat latte is also a BIG plus.

    (And I already have Tressed of I don't need to be in your very generous drawing!)

  10. I'm afraid my rewards usually come with calories. My best so far. Many years ago, when I received my 100th rejection letter, my mom took me out for dinner at a fancy Japanese restaurant. It was fun, and it tasted good. My best non edible reward...uninterrupted reading time.

  11. I change the reward all the time. Last week it was swimming with my two year old great-grandson. So many hours working for so many hours with him. Then he gets a nap and I get to work again!
    Thanks for this post. It is just as important to recognize yourself as it is to be recognized by others.

    Giggles and Guns

  12. I posted a comment last night, but apparently it didn't "take."

    Hank--Thanks for commenting and for already having TRESSED!

    KD--How wonderful of your mom to celebrate that milestone with you. And it is a milestone because it shows your perseverance.

  13. "Maribeth" is the winner of a signed copy of Lila Dare's Tressed to Kill. Maribeth, please email Lila at for details. Congratulations and thanks for being a Stiletto Gang reader!

    The Stiletto Gang

  14. Lila, I just started Tressed to Kill and you have a new fan. Love it. Thanks.