When I was six­teen, I had no idea how to talk to boys, espe­cial­ly ones I liked. I once found myself alone with my crush in the library’s teen room for half an hour and I bare­ly man­aged to say hel­lo. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, noth­ing devel­oped between us.

This is all to say that — while I’m now capa­ble of an Olympic-lev­el of small talk — as a teen I deeply relat­ed to the main char­ac­ter of my nov­el Eight Nights of Flirt­ing. Six­teen-year-old Shi­ra would rather be strand­ed in a snow­storm than talk to her crush. As it hap­pens, she becomes strand­ed at Gold­en Doors on the first night of Hanukkah with Tyler, her very hand­some, very pop­u­lar neigh­bor who she can’t stand. But Shi­ra soon real­izes there’s a sil­ver lin­ing to not car­ing about Tyler’s opin­ion; she feels com­fort­able enough to ask for flirt­ing lessons from him, so she’ll be ready to talk to her crush when he arrives lat­er dur­ing win­ter break. Shira’s sto­ry is my take on the hol­i­day rom­com, some­thing I nev­er saw as a teen and that I des­per­ate­ly wanted.

Here are eight tips I’d give – not just for flirt­ing, but for all impor­tant relationships.

1. Be confident

This was the sin­gle most preva­lent piece of dat­ing advice in mag­a­zines when I was a teenag­er, to which I say – ha! Had they ever met a teenag­er? As a teen, I was only con­fi­dent in my style choic­es, and I prob­a­bly shouldn’t have been.

But it is, in fact, good advice. Con­fi­dence comes from being com­fort­able and assured you can han­dle a sit­u­a­tion, which gives you the space to let your per­son­al­i­ty shine. To build up Shira’s con­fi­dence hang­ing out with boys, Tyler takes her on a whirl­wind tour of win­try activ­i­ties on the island of Nan­tuck­et where they’re spend­ing the hol­i­days: from sled­ding, to snow­ball fights, to drink­ing hot cocoa and build­ing gin­ger­bread houses.

2. Be yourself

Shi­ra is ner­vous with most peo­ple out­side her fam­i­ly — she’s always wor­ried she’s going to put her foot in her mouth. But with Tyler, it’s easy to be her­self – sar­cas­tic quips and all – since she hard­ly cares what he thinks. (Why would she? He broke her heart years ago). As for Tyler, he doesn’t both­er main­tain­ing his pol­ished care­free façade, because he knows Shi­ra won’t like him any­way. I want­ed to show how hon­esty and open­ness can go a long way towards bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er. These two teens find out they’re more alike than they thought when they let down their walls.

3. Make eye contact

Why is it that as soon as some­one men­tions eye con­tact, it is imme­di­ate­ly impos­si­ble to main­tain it?

4. Have fun

Do things you gen­uine­ly enjoy. Like, say, putting up Hanukkah dec­o­ra­tions or attend­ing Christ­mas Eve par­ties or bak­ing bab­ka. Or, per­haps, help­ing your triplet cousins stage a Hanukkah play that inter­weaves the sto­ries of the Mac­cabean Rebel­lion with that of Judith (It’s hilar­i­ous, I swear).

I had so much fun writ­ing this book, and I want read­ing it to also be fun, espe­cial­ly for Jew­ish teens. Grow­ing up, I devoured hol­i­day romances, but nev­er felt tru­ly con­nect­ed since none were about my hol­i­days. I sought out books with Jew­ish char­ac­ters but at the time, rep­re­sen­ta­tion was focused on Holocuast nar­ra­tives. When I was writ­ing Eight Nights of Flirt­ing, I want­ed to cre­ate a cozy, fes­tive feel­ing in the book, with all the Hanukkah music,food, fam­i­ly, and friends that were so nor­mal to me, but that I rarely saw reflect­ed in literature.

5. Ask questions

Ask­ing ques­tions is a very Jew­ish thing to do, which might also be my per­son­al excuse for being nosy. And while you def­i­nite­ly want to ask the per­son you’re dat­ing a lot of ques­tions to show you’re inter­est­ed, it’s also fun to ask ques­tions togeth­er. Aka, what’s in this mys­te­ri­ous box hid­den under the attic floor­boards that we found when look­ing for Hanukkah dec­o­ra­tions? What hap­pened to this ship from the 1800s? Did my great-great-great-grand­moth­er have a secret love affair with a sailor who died in a ter­ri­ble ship­wreck? Inquir­ing minds want to know!

6. Give compliments

Who doesn’t love com­pli­ments? Espe­cial­ly on things that mat­ter to you deeply, or that you’re proud of doing well.

7. Don’t have a meltdown

Things that should melt at the hol­i­days: Can­dles. Actu­al­ly, that’s it, that’s the whole list, the only oth­er meltable thing is snow and I like win­ter won­der­land with deep drifts and bright starlight (I’m from New Eng­land). Melt­downs of any kind are gen­er­al­ly not advised, espe­cial­ly if you’re yelling at the boy who taught you to flirt because you’re both feel­ing a tad jeal­ous. That’s not flirt­ing. That’s bad.

But it’s kind of fun to read about, no?

8. Laugh together

I read an arti­cle – okay, a head­line – that said one of the best tech­niques for dat­ing is humor. Hon­est­ly, I think it’s one of the best tech­niques for liv­ing a hap­py life. Laugh­ter heals and it uplifts, and it can be a much-need­ed light in the darkness.

That’s why I write roman­tic come­dies. I believe laugh­ter and opti­mism are wild­ly impor­tant, and I hope Eight Nights of Flirt­ing brings both into read­ers’ lives. I want read­ers to feel joy, and I want them to feel seen. If young read­ers, in par­tic­u­lar, feel a lit­tle more con­fi­dent and com­fort­able in their friend­ships and rela­tion­ships after read­ing my book, I’ll con­sid­er that the cher­ry on top.

Han­nah Reynolds grew up out­side of Boston, where she spent most of her child­hood and teenage years rec­om­mend­ing books to friends, work­ing at a book­store, and mak­ing choco­late desserts. She received her BA in Cre­ative Writ­ing and Archae­ol­o­gy from Itha­ca Col­lege, which meant she nev­er need­ed to stop telling roman­tic sto­ries or play­ing in the dirt. After liv­ing in San Fran­cis­co, New York, and Paris, she came back to Mass­a­chu­setts and now lives in Cambridge.