My #HumbleBrag on Reviews

One of the best things about going on vacation with my kids is the new things I learn. While in Alaska with my daughter, Andi, and my son, Adam and his wife, Emily, I learned many new things:

  • How to play Hearts
  • How to get the most frequent flyer miles for my dollar
  • How to use a digital SLR camera


I’m sure there were other things I learned that I’ve already forgotten. But, tonight, over dinner with Andi on this last night of our vacation, I learned something “bloggable” — a new word: HumbleBrag.

I’d never heard the word before. Urban Dictionary defines it as:

Subtly letting others know about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or “woe is me” gloss.

My first response was, “There must be a Twitter hashtag for that.” This prompted Andi to check it out, and sure enough, there is. Here are a few examples of #humblebrag:

Chris Waldenburg ‏@Waldenbizzle Lame. Only got in 15 of my planned 17.5 miles run before the park closed and I got kicked out. #HumbleBrag

Outasight ‏@Outasight7 Some artists take themselves too serious. I’m the kinda guy who has his plaques on the floor of his garage behind the lawn mower #humblebrag

So…that led me to come up with a humblebrag of my own, which coincidentally leads right into a topic I’ve been thinking about blogging for the last few days after reading a bad, awful, heartbreaking, critical review on Amazon:
The Red Kimono jpeg

“Twenty-three 5-star Amazon reviews and I can’t get that one 2-star review out of my head?”

Oooh. Sorry. That’s a humblebrag all right: a toot-of-my-own-horn followed by the seriously self-effacing, humbling 2-STAR REVIEW!! But, it’s a humblebrag with a purpose. It’s curious–though not surprising–that no matter how many good reviews an author receives, we can’t easily let go of the bad reviews.


So, while on my magical Alaskan cruise, I sat on the deck of the ship gritting my teeth and biting my nails , pondering as I watched whales and glaciers. In the end, here’s what I thought about that review:

  • I’m grateful that (1) the reviewer read The Red Kimono and (2) took the time to critique it. I don’t like to ask people to write reviews, so I appreciate when someone takes the time to do so.
  • Though there were things this reviewer both did not like AND disagreed with, he/she wrote an excellent review–critical and detailed.
  • Several of the points made were valid, such as, “it seemed as though the author was taking on more than what could be handled in a novel of its length.” As many of you know, the story I originally intended to tell in one book had to be split into two books. I’m willing to consider that perhaps the story I chose to tell in the first book was too much for one book.
  • Though there were things with which I did not agree, I think it’s best that authors not debate their reviewers, no matter how tempting. We’re all entitled to our opinions.
  • Sometimes, there is much to be gained from a critique. For example, this reviewer felt my characters were not well-developed. Whether I agree or not, I will certainly remember that comment as I develop my future characters.

True, my instinct is always to come to the defense of The Red Kimono, even with my trusted critique group members. But, there’s no purpose in that. We each come to our opinions based on our past experiences and our perceptions of those experiences. In fact, that’s one of the themes of The Red Kimono–to learn about each other’s differences and accept them.

Okay, enough of my demonstrating the meaning of new word. Now, for your viewing pleasure, here are a few photos of our awesome trip to Alaska.










This entry was posted in #amwriting, Reviews, writers, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to My #HumbleBrag on Reviews

  1. I’m so pleased to learn about humblebrag. I’ll not forget that one. Such fun, too, thinking them up. Thanks also for the lovely pictures. They were so fantastic I got cold looking at them. You’re so fortunate that your children enjoy the pleasure of your company enough to take you along, or did you take them along? No matter, glad you had such a terrific experience. See you soon.


  2. What a wonderful trip and I am so glad you shared pictures! As for your reaction to the critical (awful, bad) review, I am going to try to be so graceful when I encounter mine. You took the best approach, in my opinion, but I understand how you found it hard to let that one go even when you’ve got all the good ones to overshadow it. I’m the same way with critical comments on any aspect of my life. They just seem to carry so much more weight and I wish I were able to redistribute the value I’ve assigned to them more fairly. Surely that’s an internal issue, and just as surely surmountable.


  3. What fabulous pictures. Your daughter favors you. I’m sure she is just as sweet too! It is so tempting and difficult to put those less-than-great reviews out of our heads. I mean tempting to defend, but we can’t because that is only one person’s opnion… Write on, my friend. This is not an easy job we do.


    • Jan Morrill says:

      Kathy, it’s funny that as my kids get older, my daughter favors me more. When Adam was a little boy, he favored me. Now, he’s starting to favor his dad. Glad you liked the pictures!


  4. Hi, Jan. Thanks for the new word and for sharing the lovely pictures. I’m glad you had a wonderful time. As for the review, I know from personal experience on my blog how the bad sticks with you, even if it’s just that something didn’t work for that reader. But if you think about it, what books do you know that everyone likes? You can’t think of one. There are authors I love that I wouldn’t bother recommending to certain people because I know those authors’ books aren’t what the people enjoy. Heck, people even dislike the Bible, so how are you going to win? 🙂

    Looking forward to reading the book myself,



  5. malenalott says:

    Gorgeous pictures. I think social media can be put into two camps: brag and humblebrag. On the bad review, I think it’s a badge of honor to get one and you can’t go your whole career without some! It means people who don’t know you read your work and took the time to review it. I recently got a 1 star review on my top selling ebook and it was very apparent I was not only the wrong author for her to be reading but my genre was wrong for her, too. Instead of “fun” which is how most readers describe it, she thought it was “silly and unbelievable.” Your book may just catch the person at the wrong time/place/mood and with ebooks sometimes they just take a chance and it won’t pay off. Moving along!


  6. Beth Carter says:

    Where to begin? First, I love your attitude, your amazing photos and YOU! And thanks for the new word. Gibberish. Haha. That is what autocorrect turned humblebrag into. Lol.

    So, let me repeat that. Gibberish on that two-star review. 🙂 You had a gracious response on here and I’m sure it is hard not to reply. Do not let one review get you down. I know. Easier said than done. We all know you’re an amazing writer so keep up the great work and come home!


    • Jan Morrill says:

      You’re a good friend, Beth. My graciousness came after lots of deep breaths. 🙂 Seriously though, after the initial “Huh? You mean they didn’t like my characters??” I looked for the silver lining, and there were several.


  7. rgayer55 says:

    It’s not everyday I learn a new, so thank you for that. I’m sure I’ll an occasion to practice using it somewhere down the line. As far as the harsh review goes, writing is an art form much like sculpture or painting. We all have our own taste and styles that we prefer. Often the harshest critics are the ones who never did anything themselves. I sometimes wonder, “who died and appointed them Elvis?”


  8. Jan Morrill says:

    That’s a good point about it being another art form, Russell. And we all have our different tastes in art, don’t we? 🙂


  9. Love that new term. That’s a complaint people have about Facebook in particular, that it’s depressing to see so many people having apparently perfect lives, so humblebrag is good! I read that 2-star review and found it well thought out and actually gave a lot of compliments. I am surprised by some of the things she/he said disagreeing about some of the historical/cultural things because I know what you wrote is true. With bad reviews, you take what resonates and disregard the rest. Let your fans do any rebuttal. My worst review (which is not on Amazon) was the best learning experience.


    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, moonbridgebooks. I just had to tell myself we all come from different perspectives. And I agree, that all reviews, good and bad, can be a learning experience, if we just keep our minds open.


  10. Great pics, Jan! Was that sphagnum moss in the photo of the mushroom?


  11. Tammy Snyder says:

    Jan, I hear ya. I probably have the most wide range of readers. All my stars have been lit up for The Chimney Still Stands, but I was grateful for the sales and their opinions. We writers have to learn to grin and bear it. Thankfully, we do learn from them and are more careful the next time around. 🙂
    You say that you don’t like asking for reviews so, I will ask you…
    I run, as you know, the Arkansas Book Reviewer site. If you would like, send me a copy of your book and I will review it and, if you like, do an interview. I ONLY do good reviews. I NEVER write negative ones as my subtitle say, “Showcasing Arkansas Authors.” I only want Arkansans and others to know who here is an author and to help spread the word about their work. Go to and let me know if you’re interested. I’d love to help spread the word! Either or both of your books.


Join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s