Archive for October 2009

Girls Get In The Driver’s Seat

In The Driver's SeatOkay, I just to have say that I love what they’re doing over there at Zest Books! Their books for teens are fun, gorgeous, and original, and their latest title, by Erika Stalder is no exception.

In The Driver’s Seat gives teen girls everything they need to know about buying and insuring a car, fixing minor problems (from fixing fuses to changing an air filter), choosing a mechanic, understanding what’s under the hood, and surviving emergency driving situations. I especially love the CAR RX chart in the book, which basically tells you what might be going on depending on the symptom, and what to do about it.

Let’s face it – knowledge is power. Growing up with a dad who rebuilt Corvairs (rad cars from the 60s) in our garage, I’ve spent lots of time tinkering with engines and doing pre-paint sanding. Heck, I was the only girl of my college friends who knew how to check a spark plug. I loved feeling like I could fix my car by myself. And I still love knowing that no mechanic will be able to pull a fast one on me because for the most part, I know my stuff.

For too many girls and women, mechanical car issues are a big mystery. Well, car owning and maintenance isn’t rocket science. And in this book, Erika Stalder breaks it all down for us in an entertaining, readable way. Well done!

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25th Anniversary of Turning 15

Deborah ReberToday I celebrate the 25th anniversary of my 15th birthday. That’s right… I’m turning 40. (Yikes!)

Since I spend much of my time reliving my teens through my work, it’s kind of strange to be hitting this milestone. So, I feel compelled to do some reflecting and write a letter to that 15-year-old girl of the 80s I was 25 years ago…the one with bad hair, an obsession with the hurdles, no boobs, and a need to play Oingo Boingo so loud it would rock the house. There’s just a few things I’d like her to know about life and how things all work out.

Dear Debye,*

I know that you’re having a really rough year…the toughest you’ve had so far. And so I wanted to send you a letter to let you know that you’re are going to get through it all. No matter how much you feel like you’re waiting for life to begin, it will happen. Trust me. And not only that, you are are going to be just fine. Happy even. BTW…I know that it’s kind of odd to be receiving a letter from your future self, but I wanted to share a few important things with you:

  • You should probably know that you’re not going to get a full scholarship to UCLA or USC to run track. You’re fast, but not that fast. But please know that your love of running will always be a part of you, and you’ll run marathons and 5ks and still get the thrill of competition for as long as you want it.
  • Despite that really awkward and yes, gross, kiss John Stevenson** gave you while on a winter church retreat, kissing will get much better, I promise. And you’ll never have to kiss that guy again!
  • I know you like to go for laughs and have a tendency to be a class clown, but you don’t have to be a goofball to get attention or make up for your insecurities. Don’t sell yourself short…you are more capable than you know…you have the uncanny ability to achieve whatever you set your mind to.
  • You’re never going to be tall and skinny…no diets, obsessive working out, or visualizing is gonna do it. But don’t worry… you’ll eventually make peace with your body (although, truth be told, you’ll never fully love your thighs).
  • Don’t worry about trying to be a certain way to get a guy to like you. Seriously. There are many boys out there who would like you just the way you are. And while we’re on the subject, please don’t turn to boys for help boosting your self-esteem…you’ll only be left feeling used and empty.
  • It may not seem like it right now, but your sister isn’t your enemy. In fact, she will ultimately be your absolute best friend in life. You’ll turn to her for everything and will be thankful every day that you have her. (It’s true!)
  • Your suspicion that the music of the 1980s is genius is spot on. You will still love listening to U2, The Smiths, The Cure, and other 80’s greats for years to come.
  • I know that you’ve dreamed of moving to NYC since seeing FAME for the very first time. Well, you’ll get to make your dream come true. And despite the lack of people dancing in the streets and tap dancing in wet subway stations, it’s everything you hoped it would be, and more.
  • However much you dream of having thick, curly hair, perms are never the answer. And neither is teasing your hair for that matter. Use product sparingly and enjoy your hair for what it is!
  • I know that you believe you’re destined to not be happy. Well, let me be the first to tell that you will indeed be happy. In fact, you’ll eventually realize that once you stop worrying about things that are beyond your control and start focusing on living in the moment, you have the ability to create the life you want for yourself.

Well, that’s about it. I hope this letter helps you as you go through the rest of your teen years. Just remember, it will get easier. Your feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and confusion won’t last forever. And if I can give you one word to hold onto as you journey through the next 25 years of your life, it would be this: BELIEVE. In yourself, in others, in the possibilities.

With love,

Your future self, on her 40th birthday

* I began spelling my name Debye (pronounced Debbie) in the 80s because a friend suggested it seemed more interesting and original

**Names have been changed to protect the innocent (or bad kissers, as the case may be)

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The Face of Social Change

Jessica MarkowitzWhen I got up this morning, I was thrilled to find an article about Seattle teen Jessica Markowitz on the front page of the Seattle Times. Next month, at 14 years old, Jessica is receiving the 2009 World of Children Founders Award at UNICEF in New York for creating IMPUWE, a charity that sends 22 poor girls in Rwanda to school. Over the past three years, she has raised nearly $40,000, taken several trips to rural villages there, formed a partnership with the Seattle Girls’ School, and worked this past summer teaching Rwandan kids to read in English.

I already knew of Jessica because of my work on the Board of Directors for Seattle Girls’ School, but didn’t know about the award until this morning. Excited, I went to the article online, only to have my heart sink as I started reading some of the comments people had posted on the Seattle Times website about Jessica and her work, including things like:

While I appreciate that this girl is trying to do “good,” it does seem a bit disingenuous. Just take a walk downtown Seattle sometime, one will see many, many, in need…why “travel” to “help?”

While thousand starve and go without right here in her own country, her and her family rather find a remote place in the world? I don’t get it.

This is a rich kid whose parents can afford to jet her around the world at 11 or 12 to save some poor black kids. I’d like to have parents like that:) Mommy, let’s bake cookies for poor black kids. Then I get to jet set around the world as a benefactor before actually working myself.

What I find so confusing about comments like these is why some people are criticizing Jessica Markowitz for something she has done so well—listened to her personal values, her passion, and her heart in order to have a positive impact on an issue that connected with her?

What Jessica’s critics aren’t getting is that her story isn’t about how much money she has or where she comes from or the scale of her impact based on her parents’ financial status. Jessica’s story is that she is a social change agent, and she is doing that in the way that she can at this point in her life.

Social change agents come in all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Likewise, social change agents all have their own personal story…their own personal issues they want to affect. Some might be passionate about the environment. For others, it might be poverty in the U.S or animal rights issues. For Jessica, it is children who lost their parents in the Rwandan genocide. What every social change agent has in common though, is a desire to make a difference. Of course the scale of the impact made by social change agents will vary. One might change life for thousands, while another might change life for one. But is any positive impact too small to make a difference? Absolutely not. Imagine the impact a generation of empowered teens can have on their world as they all move forward with the passion, drive, commitment, and determination to address the issues they connect with?

What are your thoughts?

Click here to read more about Jessica and IMPUWE (formerly called Richard’s Rwanda).

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Rihanna Barbed WireRihanna just released a new single called Russian Roulettte from her forthcoming album Rated R. I haven’t hear the song yet, but I did stumble upon this image for the cover art of the single. And I have to ask, what was Rihanna thinking?

Seriously, do we really need to see more images of women tied up, wrapped up, injured, suppressed, and dominated?
Coming off the heals of being assaulted by her former boyfriend, Chris Brown, I would have thought Rihanna was in the perfect position to portray an image of strength and empowerment for her many female fans. Instead, between the barbed wire (!) wrapped around her naked (!) body and an antiquated corset, this is just one of countless exploitative images in the media that portray women as victims and sex objects.

What do you think of this new album cover? What message do think it sends to the millions of girls who admire Rihanna as an artist?

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My New Book Cover!

Language of LoveAhhhh…I’m so excited!!! My editor over at Simon Pulse just emailed me a picture of the cover for very my first YA novel, Language of Love, which comes out next summer!

Here’s a brief description: Sixteen-year-old Janna is used to being a plain Jane until her world is thrown upside down when a super cute boy mistakes her for a foreign exchange student! Putting on a fake accent, she dons her new persona to win his heart, but at what price?

My book will be published under Pulse’s Romantic Comedies banner, and I’m still pinching myself to know that I get to be part of this awesome line of books that have been written by lovely and talented authors like Micol Ostrow, Wendy Toliver, Jennifer Echols, and many more. Oh, and isn’t cover artist Amy Saidens awesome?

So, what do you think? You like?

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Women Break Ground with Nobel Prizes

Nobel Prize

Each year, the Nobel Prize is awarded to people who’ve made outstanding contributions in areas like chemistry, physics, medicine, literature, economics, and peace.You’ve probably heard a lot about the Nobel Prize in the past week, especially after President Barack Obama surprised many people around the world by being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

But President Obama isn’t the only Nobel Laureate making news. In fact, five other winners are getting a lot of attention, in part because they’re women. And that’s the largest number of women to win the prize in a single year. Here’s a look at the women who won:

  • Ada E. Yonath – Chemistry – “For studies of the structure and function of the ribosomes”
  • Elizabeth Blackburn & Carol Greider – Medicine – “For the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase”
  • Herta Muller – Literature – “Who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”
  • Elinor Ostrom – Economics – “For her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”

The other night I heard a story on NPR about Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics, and some of the story focused on the fact that she is the first woman to ever win the prize for economics. The next night, the same news show on NPR mentioned that they received a lot of emails from listeners complaining that the original news story should have spent less time focusing on the fact that she was a woman, and more time focusing on her actual accomplishments in the field.

I can understand where these listeners are coming from. In an ideal world, a woman winning a major international award for economics wouldn’t be seen as unusual at all. But this isn’t an ideal world. This is a world where men dominate in careers in math, science, technology and engineering, in part because there aren’t many role models for young women to look up to.

Says prize winner Carol Greider in an interview for the New York Times about women in the field of science: “There’s still a slight cultural bias for men to help men…It’s not that they are biased against women or want to hurt them. They just don’t think of them. And they often feel more comfortable promoting their male colleagues.”

I say, let’s celebrate Elinor Ostrow’s accomplishment and that of all the women who won prizes this year as loud as we can! For they all made a major contribution in paving the way for girls and young women to pursue their future dreams and know that they really can come true.

What do you think? Should the gender of the winners be considered part of the news story? For more on this topic, go over to Jezebel.

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Teen Read Week is Almost Here

It’s time to get ready for a week-long celebration of all things YA literature as the American Library Association’s Teen Read Week kicks off on Sunday, October 18. This year’s theme is “Read Beyond Reality” which “encourages teens to read something out of this world, just for the fun of it.”

For their part, the divas over at readergirlz have planned a fantastic line up of live online chats with top teen authors throughout the week so you can ask burning questions about the their books, find out about their daily lives, and learn about their writing process.

Here’s the schedule so you can mark your calendars:

  • Monday, Oct. 19: Beyond Imagination with authors Justina Chen Headley (North of Beautiful), Alyson Noël (Evermore) and Zoe Marriott (Daughter of the Flames)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 20: Beyond Hardship with rgz diva Lorie Ann Grover (Hold Me Tight), Elizabeth Scott (Living Dead Girl) and Lynn Weingarten (Wherever Nina Lies)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 21: Beyond Daily Life with rgz diva Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), Lisa McMann (Wake) and Cynthia Leitich Smith (Eternal)
  • Thursday, Oct. 22: Beyond Our World with rgz diva Melissa Walker (Lovestruck Summer), Cassandra Clare (City of Ashes) and Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go)
  • Friday, Oct. 23: Into Our Beyond with rgz diva Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia) and pioneering YA sci-fi author Sylvia Engdahl (Enchantress from the Stars)

All events are from 6 p.m. Pacific Time (9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) at the rgz forum. Hope to see you there!

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Be a Part of the World’s Largest Slumber Party

World's Largest Slumber PartyWant to be a part of the world’s largest slumber party ever? Join my friend, colleague, and honorary Smart Girl Carrie Silver-Stock on November 14th for a one-of-a-kind event uniting teens virtually all over the world.

Hosted by Carrie, guru behind the blog Girls With Dreams, along with Slumber Party Captains from across the country, the event will feature celeb interviews, DIY Spa ideas, dance party, a movie marathon, teen room makeover contest, and more, all streaming live from Slumber Party HQ in St. Louis. So grab your girlfriends and join in from the comfort of your own home. Participants will also donate NEW pajamas to The Pajama Program, an organization that provides new, warm PJ’s to children worldwide.

And if you want to get a slumber party kit to help you plan the best girls night, as well as be eligible to win prizes, register to be a Slumber Party Captain. All you need to do is fill out the registration form, be willing to host a party at your home and have parent permission to do so on Saturday Nov 14 (time TBA, probably starting about 8PM CST), help facilitate pajama donations to the pajama program, and make sure you have internet access at your home or location of your party. You can find all the details here.

To find out more, visit the . Sweet dreams!

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Ever Considered a Virtual Internship?

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about the newest trend in internships: doing them virtually. Which basically means, you can gain valuable internship experience while never actually leaving your couch. This holds true especially for internships in the fields of communications and marketing and web-based technology, in which much work is done online, especially when it comes to tasks like researching, blogging, and supporting social media campaigns.

The pros? Well, interning virtually means that no longer are potential interns limited by geographical constraints. I mean, not everyone has an aunt in upstate New York who let’s them crash in their spare room for the summer (thanks Aunt Babs!) With virtual internships, you might find yourself interning for a company that’s across the country. Another benefit is that many virtual workers have the flexibility to do their work on their own schedule, which allows even people working full-time to explore other work opportunities by doing an internship off-hours.

Of course, virtual internships do have their downsides, such as not getting to soak in the energy of an office or have valuable face-time with people who could potentially help you get a job once you’re out of college. When I was in college I interned at NBC News in New York because I dreamed of being a hot-shot news producer someday like my fictional idol “Jane” from the movie Broadcast News. Being on the news floor, just a few hundred feet from then-news anchor Tom Brokaw, was incredibly exciting. While the tasks I actually did were forgettable (something about communicating with station affiliates about the news satellite feed), I learned a lot about the culture and vibe of a newsroom, and got to observe people doing much more interesting jobs than I was, therefore expanding my view of what was possible in the field of news. My internship didn’t turn into a job opportunity, mostly because my supervisor retired before I graduated from college and thus my contact was gone. But I know that in many fields, such as magazine and book publishing, there’s almost an expectation that internships will ultimately result in an entry-level job offer down the road.

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Interested in exploring internship opportunities? The site Urban Interns promotes internship opportunities for small businesses in urban areas.

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Jordin Sparks Drinks Milk For a Change

Jordin Sparks Drink Milk for a ChangeAmerican Idol winner Jordin Sparks is the latest celeb to don a milk mustache for one of those infamous “Got Milk” posters. This time, she and the National Milk Mustache Campaign have teamed up with VH-1’s Save the Music to create the Drink Milk for a Change Campaign. The campaign aims to show teens the simple steps they can take to help make a difference in themselves and the world by making make a commitment to drink milk and encouraging others to do the same by making a Milk Mustache ad at

For every milk mustache photo crated on, $1 will be donated to support VH-1’s Save the Music, an organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education programs in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education. This year, Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Chris Webber, Gavin DeGraw, NE-YO, Johnny Rzeznik, Natasha Bedingfield, The Fray, Tamia, 3 Doors Down and Venus Williams make up The Foundation’s Inaugural Class of Ambassadors.

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