Friday, May 22, 2015

50 Acts of Kindness By Ellyn Oaksmith ~ Giveaway ~ Guest Post

50 Acts of Kindness
By Ellyn Oaksmith

Giveaway:  $25 Amazon Gift Card, please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. 

Guest Post:

How Writing Fifty Acts of Kindness Changed My Life by Ellyn Oaksmith

“How do you come up with your ideas?” is the most oft repeated question I get from readers, including my own parents. (I’ve written some pretty horrible mothers in my time but thankfully my own has nothing to worry about  -- the mother in 50 Acts of Kindness is a good egg.) Perhaps it’s my screenwriting background but the plot always comes first, every time. What fascinated me about 50 Acts of Kindness was the idea of how to transform a truly selfish woman into someone with empathy, who truly cares about the plight of total strangers. The trick was to make her just horrible enough to need the change but not wicked enough to have readers disengage because, hey, this woman is a dud.
I’d love to say that right off the bat I knew that this character was too narcissistic and needed more of a back story but that didn’t happen in the first draft. To be honest, I fell in love with this character who unapologetically clawed her way to the top. She was everything I am not: rude, opinionated, bossy and narrow minded. (Although my kids might argue otherwise.) Everything my mother taught me not to be. She was an absolute ball to write. Until an editor pointed out that she was too much, too soon and we needed to know how she’d become this way.  Writers always know the end of the story but readers have to be pulled along. If you start out of the gate with Little Miss Awful, well, who wants to spend hundreds of pages with her?
So I layered in more back story about her past, which was incredibly relevant because once she gets to North Carolina, where the bulk of the story takes place, her past comes rushing up to confront her in the form of her mother, who is demanding these fifty acts of kindness. Who had her own reasons, we find out, to write a book called Fifty Acts of Kindness.
Oddly enough, I didn’t personally reflect on my own behavior  until one of my alpha (first) readers contacted me to tell me she loved the book and had started doing her own fifty acts of kindness. She was treating her husband with more kindness. Not only was I happily surprised, it led me to create the social media movement #fiftyactsofkindness where people report their kind deeds. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) I undertook my own campaign of kindness. I discovered that when you go out of your way to be nice, people usually respond in kind.
My latest act of kindness was tipping people on a recent trip to Manhattan. Not just waiters, who I always tip, but tour guides, street performers, cleaning people and doormen.  I brought lots of five dollar bills, determined to reward people for their extra effort. Typically I’m frugal, so I gave a bit more than I would have in the past. I looked people in the eye and said, “thank you” and told them specifically how they’d made a difference. People were slightly shocked and extremely gratified. For a relatively small amount of money, I put a tiny bright spot in their day. Most of all, it was fun.
Although the idea for Fifty Acts of Kindness came about from wanting to see a fictional character transform, the final result of this book was that I changed. Although it’s not apparent to the people I know best, I’m finding the rewards of slowing down, listening and being patient. Not to mention the joy that comes from offering a smile to random strangers and getting a smile in return. Maya Angelou once said that a philanthropist doesn’t have to be someone who gives away large sums of money. The Latin root, philathropia, means “love of mankind.” And what better way to love mankind than to be kind?


Being overly kind isn't in Kylie Harrow's nature. This has never been more evident than when Kylie vents her frustrations to an innocent employee—and the whole scene is posted online, tanking her career and earning her the dubious distinction of "World's Worst Boss." But when she flees home to the South, Kylie finds her
childhood home has changed. The high school quarterback is now the hot and handsome sheriff. Her mother has turned her home into a nudist colony. And worst of all, having heard about her daughter's exploits, her mother won't let her in the door until Kylie completes fifty kind acts in fifty days.

The task seems easy enough at first—and may even help repair her media image—but it quickly turns into a hilarious quest that leads Kylie down a bumpy road filled with new challenges. What started as a gimmick to save her career evolves into a mission to save a spunky old woman and her little dog from homelessness. As Kylie learns about the nature of kindness, she finds the path to happiness and, for the first time ever, maybe even love. 

Romantic Comedy/90k

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"We are a technology marketing company. People don't want to see our underwear or ultrasounds or try to run a meeting while you jump up to pee."
"I'm due in two weeks."
Her whine was still grating on my nerves, but my recorded words sliced like knives. Was I the equivalent of that rooster my mom had that pecked at the hens? One morning mom found him dead, pecked to death. I thought, "Please do not let this be my barnyard reckoning," even though things were clearly sliding in that direction.
On screen I plowed forward.
"I cannot do your job and mine. It's killing me. I need you on the ground running. Oh no wait, you can't run. Which is why you missed the flight to Miami where you got 'dehydrated.'" I did air quotes around "dehydrated."
Holy cow. I was so angry it blinded me to very fact she was recording.
"I was dehydrated."
We were both so very tired.
"Which is why you ended up lounging in Miami while I ran yet another meeting solo. I
stayed up until three a.m. doing the PowerPoint you'd forgotten."
"I ended up in the hospital."
"And missed the flight back to New York and yet another day of work. If you are dehydrated, drink water. It's not rocket science!"
I remembered this day clearly. Sleep-deprived from a red eye, I'd left Betsy in New York, begging her to prep for a meeting the following day. When I got back, the slides weren't ready. She'd gone home. I'd miss another night's sleep to finish them.
It was the perfect storm, and she'd caught it.
I leaned forward to downsize the screen. "2.7 million views?" She'd titled it "World's Worst Boss?!" There were lots of comments, many expletives, and a passionate, nine exclamation points in a row.
Bob dug a crust from his eye.
"It's not something to be proud of."
My mind raced. How to spin this before he threw something out? I managed a casual shrug. "I'm in marketing. I can't help it."
"This makes us look so bad."
It was crunch time. There was no room for complaints or excuses. "Does it though? Does it? What I see is that we expect a certain professionalism and energy from our employees, a requirement that, pregnant or not, they perform to the best of their abilities." My delivery was very rough, but it was a message she needed to hear." He
wasn't buying. I grabbed for a straw. "Isn't posting this on YouTube a violation of my privacy?"
"I don't know," Bob said wearily. "That's 2.7 million negative hits with MLJK's name
My heart clenched. I needed a cigarette. Now. "Whatever happened to 'any publicity is good publicity'?"
He ignored my lame joke.
"She's threatening to file suit. I checked with legal. We can tie her up in court, but the claim is legit."
I inhaled sharply, forgetting, in my growing panic, to exhale.
"Breathe, Kylie."
"S-s-suing us?"
Great, now I was stuttering.
"You called her fat. She says you created an unhealthy work environment."
My jaw dropped. This was not the time to point out that, as a former chubette, I never, ever use the F-word.
"The operative word here is work. I was running on vapors."
Bob got up and looked out the window at his fabulous view. "Stella, by the way, corroborates everything you've said." My eyebrows shot up in alarm. "Yes, I've talked to her. I've talked to a few people, but the point is that sooner or later we all have
to deal with this. Pregnant women deserve…" He stared off into the silver buildings and cloudless sky. When I'd entered, the view had felt empowering. Now it was an invitation to jump. "Latitude. We are a family-friendly company."
I snickered bitterly. MLJK years were dog years. Most of the senior partners were divorced. "And what about women who aren't ever going to have children? We just put up and shut up?" I knew this sounded whiney, but I couldn't help myself. I felt like a
tightrope walker studying the tiny figures below, waiting for me to fall. Then it struck me. I felt like this most of the time.
He gazed at me, his eyes weary. "Come on. You're what, not even thirty? You don't know that."
Bob was still in his marriage of origin.
"Look at me Bob. My relationships have the longevity of a fruit fly. I have nothing left at the end of the day." I have nothing left right now.
"Maybe it's time to branch out."
Clearly he pitied Betsy. It was time to grab the controls. "I can fix this. I can smooth things out.
Get my assistant her own assistant. At least until she's had it."
"Her baby is not an it," he snapped.
"Did I say 'it'?"
I'd been talking so quickly. It? Good move Kylie.
"Yes," Bob said quietly, losing his starch. Crossing his arms he glanced at a framed photo: a gap-toothed, pig-tailed toddler on a swing, pushed by his beaming, very
pregnant wife. "You're going to have to leave until this dies down."
For a second I felt nothing but a weight pressing on the top of my head, a dull ringing in my ears.
"This isn't Survivor. You can't let random strangers on YouTube vote me off because I lost my temper."
"They're not. Lance is."
The CEO? I was in a tippy canoe, and by golly, there went my paddle.
I made a tiny bubble of an objection as I sank. "She wasn't doing her job."
"Effective immediately," he said. I knew what preceded those two words. Terminated.
This wasn't a break.
This was permanent.

About the Author:

Ellyn Oaksmith is an award-winning writer who began her career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. Her first book, Adventures with Max and Louise, was published in 2012. Fifty Acts of Kindness is her third book. She's currently at work on her first YA novel, Chasing Nirvana. The best part of her work day is spent watching vintage YouTube footage of Nirvana concerts and calling it research.Ellyn is part of the Girlfriends Book Club which has been featured in The New York Times and USA Today. She lives in Seattle with her family, a rescue dog and a rather rotund cat.
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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Crystal (Typos on my first comment so)-- thanks so much for hosting my book today. What a great place to kick things off with style. With gratitude -- Ellyn