Archive for April 2009

Swine Flu Got You Scared? Don’t Give In To the Fear!

swine fluAs if all the recession doomsday news we’ve been blanketed with for the past six months hasn’t been enough to keep us awake at night, now we’ve got another thing to be worried about: swine flu. News of it is everywhere we turn, and most of us are obsessively staying up-to-date on every little detail. Has the alert level been raised? Are we in full-scale pandemic mode? Can it spread from person to person by casual contact? Will I get it?

The recent emergence of swine flu (seriously…had anyone even heard of this a week ago?) has given the media exactly what they want…a hot story with the best possible component for getting viewers to tune in: FEAR. In fact, the media knows more than anyone that fear sells. So what do they do? Give us exactly what they think we want. Round-the-clock news coverage and meaningless updates that don’t actually provide any new information.

It can be extremely hard to stay immune from all the hype. And BTW, I’m not saying that practicing good personal hygiene like washing your hands or covering your mouth when sneezing isn’t important. But what good does obsessing over global pandemics that are, frankly, beyond our control, and most likely won’t affect most of anyway do in the first place? With fear as our guide, we’ll make choices for all the wrong reasons. With fear as our guide, we’ll get depressed or anxious about things that may never even affect us. With fear as our guide, we’ll be contributing to the negative vibe out there instead of focusing on things like hope and possibility.

So I say, say no to the fear! Choose instead to think positively and be a light in the world!

Here’s what I suggest:

First off, become aware of how many fear-based media messages you’re absorbing. When a story about swine flu comes on the radio or the TV, know that you can easily remove the fear by switching it off! And then take my Smart Girls Know Conquer Your Fear Challenge. For the next seven days, don’t let fear make your choices for you by following these four steps:

  1. The next time you’re in a situation where you’re making a tough decision, ask yourself why you’re choosing to do or not do something.
  2. Notice whether or not you’re making the choice out of worry, concern, or some other fear-based emotion.
  3. If you are making the choice out of fear, think about what different decision you would make based on hope and possibility.
  4. Make the new choice and notice how much better it feels!

For more on saying no to fear, check out this Smart Girls Know affirmation!

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Do You Judge Books By Their Covers?

Susan BoyleOkay, I’m actually referring to judging people here, not books. But you know the saying I’m referring to: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

A recent article in The New York Times called “Yes, Looks Do Matter,” features interviews with social scientists who claim that “there are reasons we quickly size people up based on how they look. Snap judgments about people are crucial to the way we function, even when those judgments are very wrong.”

The article goes on to quote David Amodi, an assistant professor of psychology at NYU: “Stereotypes are seen as a necessary mechanism for making sense of information. If we look at a chair, we can categorize it quickly, even though there are many different kind of chairs out there.”

Most of us naturally do this same categorization with people.

So why the sudden interest in the ways in which we judge others based on their physical appearance? Two words: Susan Boyle.

As you’ve probably seen, Susan Boyle has recently risen to international fame following her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent (you can ). The fact that Susan is in her late forties and looks like, as some have described her, a “frumpy spinster,” seems to have made it all the more shocking when her musical performance was as lovely as can be. In fact, when you watch the video, you can see how the audience went from completely discounting her before she opened her mouth (rolling eyes and all) to cheering her on to victory once they realized she actually had talent.

Like the New York Times article says, judging people is part of the way we’re wired. But if you’ve ever been judged or labeled, and I have…plenty, you know it doesn’t feel so great. In fact, if we’re judged, or labeled, or stereotyped enough, we might start believing those preconceptions ourselves.

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is noticing when I judge people or make assumptions about others based on what they look like, what kind of car they drive, where they live, and so on. Once I make that notice, I try to discard those preconceptions and stereotypes, and instead, make an effort to find out more. I’m usually proven wrong…

Do you ever get pre-judged by people who don’t really know anything about you? Do you find yourself guilty of judging others?

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New Teen Poetry Series on HBO

Brave New VoicesHBO just started airing a cool, new documentary series about the hottest teen poets in the country, Brave New Voices. The seven-part series features teenage poets and their mentors from San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Santa Fe, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, and Ann Arbor as they prepare for Youth Speaks’ 2008 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Finals.

From the show description:

These young poets represent a growing national movement featuring thousands of teenagers writing and performing spoken word as a way to have voice in their communities and in the nation as a whole. They present a blend of spoken word, hip-hop, poetry, music, power, voice, imagination, and more. Brave New Voices sheds light onto this largely unseen world, putting an honest spotlight on some of the most dynamic young adults in the country.
Even if you don’t have HBO, you can catch the series premiere online at the Brave New Voices website. It is fantastic…check it out!

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Double-Daring Book for Girls Contest Winners

Double-Daring Book for GirlsJust a quick post to announce the winners of the Double-Daring Book for Girls giveaway! Here are the two winners (chosen at random), along with their thoughts on what daring means to them. Congratulations! XOXO Debbie

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I decided to be “daring” and wrote an acrostic poem:

Doing things that scare you
Acting totally original
Risking something in order to get something else
Igniting passions for things you never knew you liked
Not following what other people are doing
Going out and doing things outside of your comfort zone


To me Daring means to do something crazy, something outside your comfort zone.Daring people are scared, they have fears and many of them have them by the dozens. It’s to not be without fears but the pass those fears for hope of happiness or just plain thrill and excitement. To understand hurt and to felt it but want something else. Dare to be smart, is to try your hardest in school even if it’s not an A in every subject. Dare to have fun, be crazy, put on a play, dance around to your favorite band, build a tree house, play a made up game with friends. Dare to be different is to be yourself not just to be different, or odd. Daring to be Daring Girl!

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Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work DayIt’s one of my most favorite days of the year…Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, created by the Ms. Foundation for Women. Started more than 16 years ago, the day was originally focused on girls and exposing them to the many possibilities they had for their career futures.

In 2003, the day was expanded to include boys, with an aim of showing young people the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, and providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment is key to their achieving success.

Whether you are teen, parent, mentor, or educator, visit the official website’s activity center. Here you’ll find a lot of great resources on careers, as well as a cool activity book you can download.

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In Their ShoesIf participating in this special day has sparked in you an interest in pursuing a particular career path or just exploring what else is available to you, check out my book , in which I profile 50 women doing very cool careers. You can read a sample chapter, as well as download some of my original audio interviews at my website here!

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Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day 2009Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 when 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy, sustainable environment. On that day, groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Today, millions upon millions will celebrate Earth Day around the world to draw attention to global climate problems. This year’s event also marks the beginning of The Green Generation Campaign which hopes to enlist people everywhere to work towards the following:

  • A carbon-free future based on renewable energy that will end our common dependency on fossil fuels, including coal.
  • An individual’s commitment to responsible, sustainable consumption.
  • Creation of a new green economy that lifts people out of poverty by creating millions of quality green jobs and transforms the global education system into a green one.

As I look back at the personal goals I set for reducing my own carbon footprint on Earth Day 2008, I’m happy to report my family and I have done pretty well sticking to them, and then some. I’m all about reusable canvas bags, I walk, bike, or use public transportation whenever possible, shop almost exclusively at thrift and consignment shops, and am super water conscious when it comes to teeth brushing, dishes, and showers. My home city of Seattle has also improved their recycling and compost guidelines, so we’re now able to recycle most every form for plastic, paper, and food waste.

But there’s still more I can do. So today, I’m recommitting to being more conscientious about the electricity use in my house by investing in environmentally friendly power strips (to make sure my computers and other gizmos aren’t sucking energy while they’re off), plant my own vegetable garden, and volunteer once a month with my family for an organization involved in environmental clean up.

What are you going to do this year to reduce your personal carbon footprint?

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Internships at Teen Voices

Teen VoicesIf you live in the Boston area and are looking for a cool internship opportunity, teen magazine Teen Voices is currently accepting applications for development and editorial internships. Internships require a 15-20 hour a week commitment, and are unpaid. However, you can earn course credit, and undoubtedly you’ll get a bunch of great experience (not to mention have the chance to work at one of the coolest magazines on the planet!).

Here’s what the website says about each opportunity:

Editorial: Interested in magazine editing and publishing? Want experience at an internationally circulated teen-written and teen-edited magazine? As an Editorial Assistant, you will assist the Editor-in-Chief in all aspects of print and online magazine production including conducting background research, fact-check articles, copyediting, scheduling interviews, reviewing submissions, maintaining files, writing short pieces, and other editorial work as needed. 10 hours/week minimum.

Development Assistant: Does raising money for a good cause sound good to you? Then why not help Teen Voices fundraise? You’ll help our development staff manage donors, organize special events, submit grant proposals, research fundraising opportunities, and track donors and funders using our database. Computer skills required. 6-8 hours/week minimum.

Special Events Assistant: Interested in working on a big event and making it happen? Help Teen Voices and our development staff organize our special AMPLIFY! event, from contacting vendors, to helping with promotional materials, to coordinating work around auction, sponsorship and more! Organizational, communication, and computer skills required. 10-15 hours per week.

To apply, you’ll need to fill out an online application, attach your resume, cover letter, and 3-5 page nonfiction writing sample. You’ll be contacted within two weeks if the appropriate staff are interested in setting up an interview.

Good luck!

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Remembering Columbine

As today marks the 10-year anniversary of the tragedy of Columbine, I’d like to encourage Smart Girls everywhere to take a moment out of your day to remember what happened there and send some positive energy to survivors of school violence and all who have been touched by it.

When I think of Columbine, I’m reminded of the fact that there is a real impact to the way we treat others. That the pain and isolation people feel is real, that we’re all in our own way struggling to figure it out and find a way to be accepted and loved for who we are. It reminds me to be compassionate towards people, even those who do things I don’t necessarily love or agree with. It reminds me that life is unpredictable and it’s important to live life to the fullest and let the people in your life know how much you care about them every day.

What feelings does Columbine bring up for you?

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Sadly, violence in schools isn’t a thing of the past. If you want to take an active role in preventing school violence, here is a brief list of things you can do from my book The Real Deal: School:

  • Start with yourself…don’t give into violence by carrying a weapon of any sort, no matter what’s happening at school
  • Report any suspicious activity or violent behavior to an adult
  • Mentor a younger student and be a good influence on them
  • Set up or join a Student Crime Watch

For more information and resources, as well as a toll-free hotline, check out Safe Youth (1-866-SAFEYOUTH). You can also check out Safe2Tell, an organization that provides young people a way to let someone know when any threatening behaviors or activities endanger themselves or someone they know in a way that keeps them safe and anonymous.

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Day of Silence

Today, students across the country are participating in the “Day of Silence,” a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The “Day of Silence” is a student-led day of action where concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment – or the silencing – experienced by GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) students and their friends.

Here are some statistics provided to me by the GLBT youth online social networking site that point out the bleak reality for GLBT students:

  • Over 80% of GLBT teens report severe feelings of isolation, having no one to talk to, and being distanced from friends and family because of their sexual orientation.
  • 37% of GLBT youth, grades 9-12, have attempted suicide (they are 2 to 3 times likely than straight youth) often because they feel they have no where to turn to share their story and believe they are alone in their struggle.
  • Four out of five GLBT teens claim they don’t have a single adult they feel comfortable opening up to about their sexuality.

So what is the Day of Silence all about? Here are 4 truths from the Day of Silence website about why the day exists and what participating in in means:

  1. The Day of Silence’s purpose is to bring attention to anti-GLBT name-calling, bullying and harassment: The goal is to make schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment at school).
  2. Hundreds of thousands of students of all beliefs, backgrounds and sexual orientations participate in the Day of Silence: Anti-GLBT bullying and harassment affects all students.
  3. Day of Silence participants encourage schools to implement proven solutions to address anti-GLBT name-calling, bullying and harassment.
  4. The day is a positive educational experience: The Day of Silence is an opportunity for students to work toward improving school climate for all students.

Since I’m not a student anymore, I can’t participate in the classroom, but I can show my support through Smart Girls Know, which is why I’m posting this blog. But what can you do to show your support for the Day of Silence? Here are some suggestions from the Day of Silence blog:

  • Be silent
  • Talk
  • Wear red
  • Wear rainbow
  • Wear any color
  • Tweet the Silence
  • Silence your tweets
  • Blog the silence
  • Silence your blog
  • Whatever you do, be respectful, especially of others who are observing the Day of Silence, but bring attention to the issues of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harrasment in schools.

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Don’t Forget to Rock the Drop!

Operation Teen Book DropIt’s Support Teen Literature Day, and to celebrate, readergirlz is hosting the second annual Operation Teen Book Drop! As I posted a few weeks back, Operation TBD gets books into the hands of teen patients in pediatric hospitals across the country. This year, more than 8,000 YA novels, audiobooks, and graphic novels donated by 18 publishes will be distributed.

So don’t forget to be a part of Operation TBD today by leaving a YA book in a public place – a bus stop, a coffee shop, a dressing room…anywhere teens go and might stumble upon your gift to them. I’m off to my local coffee shop right now where I’ll be depositing two of my books! Then, visit the readergirlz blog tonight at 6pm PST for a TBD Post-Op Party!

Oh, and if you do rock the drop, leave a comment here and tell me what you did!

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