January 2021 Newsletter

Portrait of a People-Pleaser and the Son Who Paid the Price is the memoir of a deferential mom, her mysteriously ill child, and the life-threatening trauma that engulfed them.  I never learned to stand up for myself and didn’t know how to stand up for my son.

Memoir update
In the first week of January, I resumed querying literary agents.  One agent replied the same day and asked me to send her 50 pages and a synopsis, and I was practically delirious with hope. Alas, the next day, she emailed to say that, although the work was “nicely done,” it was not the right fit for her. As much as I had told myself there were no guarantees, it was still a letdown. This memoir-publishing journey is not for the faint of heart. But my proposal is done, my manuscript well-edited, and I will see the job through, one hopeful moment after another. 

Agents want to know that an author is connecting with her audience. To that end, and because I love facilitating conversations about people-pleasing, I’ve launched a few projects I’m excited to share with you: 

 Pleased to Meet You focus groups–one-hour, one-session opportunities to talk with others about their experience of being “too nice.”Wipe Your Feet Before You Walk All Over Me webinars where participants “walk away” with a personal action plan for breaking free of people-pleasing. Mother-daughter interviews to explore family and societal messaging around agreeableness.
These programs are all offered free on Zoom. For more information on any or all of them, email me at contact@karendebonis.com or click here. 

While you’re at it, check out my new page! Ten Signs you may be a People-Pleaser.
More big, tiny news!
 Remember my 100-word Tiny Love Story published in the New York Times in 2019? It is included in a print anthology, Tiny Love Stories, released in December. I was so thrilled, I bought a “few” extra copies for family and friends.
And, in December I had an essay published in Herstry: When the Weak Show Strength 

A totally useless and possibly embarrassing fact about me:
A few months before he died last October, my dad scanned and sent out old photos that had been stuffed in a trunk–pictures that escaped my mom’s digitalizing spree over ten years ago. I hadn’t seen this shot above with my mom and two of my eventual five siblings. Assuming Dad was the photographer, he had probably asked me, “Karen, how old are you?” I was a big girl of two, circa 1960. I don’t have any great stories from this age and I wish my parents were here so I could ask them. Two years after this photo, I’ll be reading at age four, so I’d venture to say I was bright. And, lacking any behavioral horror stories, I believe I was well-behaved. Made of sugar and spice and everything nice, I was a little girl happy in that role for many years. Far too many years. 

Books that inform my writing.
In my October 2020 Newsy Letter, I wrote this:

In The Opposite of Certainty, Janine Urbaniak Reid writes about the discovery and aftermath of her son’s pilocytic astrocytoma–the same brain tumor my son has. Her story reminds me to be grateful for all Matthew has achieved, rather than what he’s lost.”

 I’m heartbroken to report that on January 16, 2022, at the age of 23, Mason Reid lost his battle with brain cancer. 

I can’t help asking why me? Why am I the lucky mom, to have Matthew, grown and self-sufficient and loving? Why did God spare my son and not the son or daughter of another equally or more deserving mother? 

Why is life so unfair?

I don’t have the answer, of course. But being dealt a better hand means I must play those cards well, with gratitude, generosity, compassion, and kindness. As my grandmother used to say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ― Plato.


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

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