Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pay It Forward

By Kirsten Scott

If you're like me, you've never heard of Catherine Ryan Hyde (until now). She's the author of the book Pay It Forward, which was later turned into a movie starring Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, and Kevin Spacey. The concept of Pay It Forward is simple--someone does you a favor, and instead of trying to pay them back you pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. I was going to start this blog with a picture from that movie, but--DUH--this is a blog about AUTHORS and BOOKS, so I decided to go for the original. :-)

I was the receipient of a random act of extreme kindness recently, and I'm still reeling. An author I had never met judged one of my manuscripts in a contest, and contacted me afterward to tell me she loved the partial and wanted to introduce me to her agent or her editor, anything she could do to help get it sold.

(I still get the shivers when I look at her email.)

It was an incredibly kind gesture, and did wonders for my tender writer's ego.

About a month ago, I was on a plane by myself and in the seats next to me were a mother and her fifteen month and four year old kids. I spent the plane ride entertaining the four year old, because the fifteen month old was screaming (LOUDLY) and he quieted down only if she walked up and down the aisle with him. I held the little one for a while, too, to give her a break. I'd like to think that was a pay it forward moment for me. Of course, I'm still looking for another opportunity to pass on the kindness that was given to me.

I love the Pay It Forward idea, and I think we all Pay It Forward, whether we do so consciously or not. So toot your own horn--when did you Pay It Forward? Or when did someone treat you to an act of random kindness? We'd love to hear your stories.


Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, this is an excellent topic! Right before the RWA National conference, I got an anonymous "You Can Do It" greeting card in the mail. I think I know who sent it, but haven't asked her about it. Why? Because she is someone who prefers to remain anonymous and really, me knowing doesn't change the glow I got when I read it!

That card made my day. Often, just knowing someone is thinking of you can change you're "I'm all alone" mindset and your attitude.

My paying it forward is most often done in restrooms. Public restrooms, the ones at work, etc. I can't stand it when people leave water all over the counters (so you get soaked when you accidentally brush against it) or unflushed toilets or whatever.

Since I am well-educated about how hard it is to actually *catch* anything from a bathroom (unless you don't practice handwashing), I take the time to flush the unflushed, mop up other people's water and handsoap and generally make the bathroom-visiting experience more pleasant for the next people. I get nothing from this but the satisfaction of leaving a place cleaner than I found it. That is a Girl Scout adage I live out every day!

Anonymous said...

Caren, I can honestly say that I never considered paying it forward in a public restroom! Girl, you are one of a kind. :-) Next time I walk up to a counter and it's clean and dry, I'll think of you!

Christine Wells said...

That was a great story, Kirsten and a truly noble gesture. Where were you on my 25 hour flight to England with a one year old?*g*

I had an example of pay it forward only yesterday. I well remember the kind of panicked scramble I had for cover quotes for my first book. I was on holidays at the beach with very little opportunity for internet access when the message came through that I had to get author quotes 'yesterday'. Among others I asked the wonderful Mary Balogh, who was so charming and gracious--you'd never know what a legend she is from her demeanour--and Anne Gracie, who had 2 books scheduled for the same deadline about a month away, but she still agreed to read Scandal's Daughter for me, because Stephanie Laurens had once done the same for her. There were many others (thanks Foanna!) who put themselves out to read my book and give me wonderful quotes.

Well, yesterday, an author with her debut novel coming out asked me to give her a cover quote. I was so honoured, but I also have a deadline in 2 weeks and straight after that, Scandal's Daughter is released, and then there are all the things I've been putting off attending to while I've been in deadline h*ll. But I had to say yes because that great 'pay it forward' karma can't stop with me. And besides, I'm really looking forward to reading this book!

Caren, you're an angel! There's nothing worse than leaning into the mirror in a public bathroom to put your lippy on and getting a wet waist! And unflushed toilets--erk! You're worth your weight in gold!

Helen said...

This is a great post Kirsten it has really made me think, I try to be helpful all the time it is just the way I am at work they call me Aunty Helen we have a lot of young staff working there and they will often ask for advise on things about work which I am happy to help with, when I am out shopping I will help mothers with young children and older people with picking things up etc and I have wonderful friends who are always doing things for me sometimes just being there to listen to me helps to bring problems into prospective
Have Fun

Cassondra said...

Great topic Kirsten. And one that's so positive for the writing world I think.

While I try my best to do small things like picking up something for someone who has dropped it, or complimenting someone who looks like they may be feeling down-- "Wow, those are gorgeous earrings" or to notice SOMETHING that will give them a lift--my deliberate attempts to PIF (pay it forward) have always been in the networking end of things in particular. In every industry from corporate to music to books, I work hard to introduce everybody I know to everybody else I know--especially those introductions which cross "levels"--such as new unpubbed authors with multi-pubbed, etc.

I truly believe in the six degrees of separation and that these things can take a person wherever he/she wants to go. People have been kind to me in the past as well--going out of their way to make introductions when they didn't have to. So if I can set up a dialogue between two people who might one day help one another, I hope it will come back around.

And Caren, you are both goddess and angel for cleaning those restrooms. THANK YOU!

Anonymous said...

Christine, you are such a sweetheart to read that book. My PIF (thanks Cassondra for that!) angel told me to contact her for a quote "when" my book comes out. Actually, I'm working on her to come be a guest blogger for us--maybe she'll let me "out" her when she's in the Bandit Lair.

And I love to know that Mary Balogh and Anne Gracie are so kind. They're two of my favorite authors.

I can't imagine surviving a 25 hour flight with a one year old. I'd have to be sedated and tied down to stay on a plane that long.

Will you bring the kids to San Francisco?

Anonymous said...


I need an Aunty Helen at my office! Can you come by? :-)

I agree that sometimes listening is the nicest thing you can do for someone.

Anonymous said...


It's those little things that make a big difference in our lives. Just having that compliment or a hug can turn around your day completely.

I need someone like you to help me network. I've never been great at that. Can you give me lessons in San Francisco? Or maybe you can do a workshop on networking! What do you think?

Aunty Cindy said...

Aha, Caren! So you're the one!
I try to mop up wet counters when I see them, but public restrooms are NOT my preferred place to linger...

When I became a manager, I always made it a point to let my employees know when they did a good job, because I heard it so infrequently when I was doing the 'grunt work in the trenches.' All my employees seemed to appreciate it and more than one told me they'd NEVER had a manager compliment their work before. Sad.

But as my Bandita buddies prove everyday, romance writers are THE BEST when it comes to PIF and being supportive. Quite a welcome change from so many other business situations.


Anonymous said...

AC, I just had my six-month review for a new job, and my boss gave me ZIPPO ZILCH NADA feedback. We looked over the list of goals I set when I started the job, and he said, "this looks okay," and that was it. It was a huge bummer, especially because I've been working hard and (I think) accomplishing alot, and I would have really liked to have heard some positive words from him.

So, what you did as a manager was incredibly important, and probably meant more than you can know to your employees. Way to go, sister!

Trish Milburn said...

I love the whole Pay if Forward concept. I truly believe in putting goodness out into the universe, and it'll come back when you need it most. I try to help newer writers all I can, sometimes reading their first few pages and commenting, giving various kinds of tips, etc. In the non-writing world, I do things like get items off top shelves at the grocery or Wal-Mart for shorter people or those who are injured or in wheelchairs. And I try to let people with fewer items in their carts go in front of me in the checkout line. And when I'm in traffic and see someone trying to pull out from a business and I can safely do so, I let them out in front of me. And just being friendly and nice to people who end up spending a lot of their day dealing with grumpy people (i.e. anyone who works in customer service) is all it takes to help someone have a better day -- like the guy at the Social Security office where I took my mom the other day. You know those poor employees catch crap all the time.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Caren, we must be kindred souls! Corn dogs and wiping up public bathroom counters. Although for me it's a tad bit self-serving. I always walk away with a wet spot when the counter is soaked.

As for paying it forward, promoting friends' books on blogs, in book stores, on romance bulletin boards and chat sites, outside the National Literacy signing event for RWA. I figure it will be good practice for WHEN I sell.

Great friends have walked me through the writing and submitting process. I hope to repay them by keeping the adage "Be kind to those on your way up, because you'll meet them again on the way down," that my friend Jane Graves, HOT WHEELS AND HIGH HEELS , often quotes to new writers. And another piece of advice she's given that I try to adhere to: "never say anything on the internet about anyone in the publishing business you don't want to get out, because it most certainly will."

Christine Wells said...

Inara, if you promise to do the flight with me, I'll definitely bring my boys to San Fran! But realistically, no, I think they'd be happier at home with gran. Maybe in a couple of years...

Anonymous said...

Trish, we've never met in person, but I have no doubt you're one of those people who is constantly going out of her way to help people. You are one of the truly nice people in the world and deserve all the good things that life brings you.

Suz, if you sell as many of your own books as you sold of your fellow banditas, you'll be #1 on the NYTimes Bestseller list! And good warning about the internet. I'm always stunned at the things people will say in cyberspace, and then become shocked to find turn around and bite them in the *&^^.

Joan said...


Where were you today at work with the bedpans????


It's great to see the reaction in people when you compliment them. I've said to young employees at the McDonald's that they did a good job, or had a bright smile that made my day. The delight and surprise just makes you feel good inside.

As to PIF in writing. I've been VERY fortunate to have not only good advice but sage wisdome and guidance. It takes a LOT for a busy pubbed author to do this and that makes me appreciate it even more.

Anna Campbell said...

I love pay it forward! And I try and practise it when I can (love the washroom idea, Caren!). I really like the idea of adding to the weight of kindness in the world. Can't hurt! And you never know, may actually help!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone! :-)