Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we were growing up, we loved reading (okay, we still do!). One book in particular that was formative in our youth was Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You by Carol Weston. When you’re growing up and feel confused and sometimes lost, a book like this is impactful, especially with topics such as health, friendship, love, and family. You can imagine our excitement and disbelief when we walked into an Upper West Side bookstore to find Carol doing a reading of her latest book, Ava and Taco Cat. Carol writes novels and has been the “Dear Carol” advice columnist at Girls’ Life Magazine since 1994. It goes without saying that it’s a privilege to Spotlight her on Carpe Juvenis.

Carol’s journey is an exciting one – having spent a good amount of time abroad studying languages and culture, Carol decided to major in French/Spanish Comparative Literature from Yale University. Not only that, but she also earned her graduate degree in Spanish from Middlebury. Carol grew up with journalist parents, so she was constantly surrounded by words. She got her start with a Seventeen Magazine contest, and her career continues to be wildly successful. With more than a dozen published books, Carol shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Keep an eye out for Ava XOX and The Speed of Life, being released in February 1 and September 2, 2016, respectively.

We learned so much from this incredible children’s book writer, and we’re excited to share her words of wisdom with you. Read on to learn about how she fell in love with storytelling, how she stays up to date with the trends of being a younger teenager, and what her writing process looks like.

Name: Carol Weston
Education: B.A. in French/Spanish Comparative Literature from Yale; M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury
Follow: carolweston.com@carol_weston WriterCarolWeston  / YouTube

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Carol Weston: Seizing your youth is about making sure you’re not wasting your time. Wasting your youth would involve buying a bunch of celebrity magazines and watching Reality TV while eating Doritos and wondering why you’re not happy. Seizing your youth is staying aware that you’re young and strong and that you want to have fun, sure, but it’s also good to think big picture and begin to figure out where you want to go and start putting yourself on that path. Seizing your youth may also mean: travel! You can go away for a summer, semester, or year much more cheaply and easily now than when you are older.

CJ: You majored in French/Spanish Comparative Literature from Yale. How did you decide what to major in?

CW: I did a very cool thing in 12th grade. I went on SYA — School Year Abroad. I was a public school kid in suburban New York, and I liked French and suddenly I was living with a French family in Rennes. By the time I started college, I was a total francophile.

Yale had a renowned French department, and I enjoyed reading Rabelais, Racine, Rostand, Moliere, Zola, Flaubert, Stendhal.… But I also thought it would be fun to learn Spanish. I took an introductory course and then went to Spain the summer after freshman year with a backpack and not enough money. Fortunately, I found lodging as a mother’s helper. I spoke only Spanish that summer because I didn’t know any Americans and wasn’t on a program. I also fell in love with a Spaniard. To answer your question, it’s not that I decided to major in comp lit. It just became clear that taking six courses in two departments made sense for me.

CW C

CJ: You attended Middlebury to earn your Masters in Spanish. What led to your decision to go graduate school?

CW: The aforementioned Spanish boyfriend and my love for Spain and Spanish! I applied to Middlebury because of its well-deserved reputation as a language school. Then in grad school, I fell in love with Rob Ackerman of Columbus, Ohio, who was in Madrid on a junior year abroad from Middlebury. He and I spent nine months abroad before we even met each other’s American friends and families. It was a very romantic way to start our life together. Our first Thanksgiving was in Portugal!

CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from?

CW: Confession: I wasn’t a big reader when I was a little kid. I did love reaching Archie Comics and Aesop’s Fables. But I was scared of great big books, and at bedtime, I always wrote in my own diaries. For me, it’s not just a love of storytelling, there’s also a love of the written word. I remember learning the word “I” when I was younger, one big stick, two little sticks, yet so much power. Wow.

CW D

CJ: How did you know you wanted to be an author?

CW: I grew up with journalist parents who truly cared about words. We were all word nerds – in a good way. My dad worked on documentaries and my mom was the garden editor of House & Garden Magazine. But she yearned to write something that would stay on the shelves for longer than one month. Her dream was to write a novel. Well, I inherited the dream, but also the nightmare of not seeming to be able to do it. I had a great running start on my career with Girltalk, which came out in 12 languages, and I wrote half a dozen more non-fiction books. But I was frustrated because I’d set out to Write a Novel, not be a big sister / helpful aunt.

Finally I had to give myself some advice: give fiction a try! I took a course at the Y and got some therapy. And I wrote a few novels. Yay! But they kept getting rejected. Boo! After all, as I’ve told hundreds of fifth graders, it’s not as though the world was waiting for me to reach my personal goal. Fortunately, I kept revising and revising and also kept sharing the novel with librarians and smart friends – I love helpful feedback – and I did not to give up. Maybe it was lucky I got all those early rejections because my first novel ended up being published by Knopf.

CJ: You have been the “Dear Carol” advice columnist at Girls’ Life Magazine since 1994. How do you stay up to date with the trends of being a younger teenager?

CW: My daughters were little kids when I got this job, so I used to worry about how I would relate to big scary teenagers. Now my kids are in their twenties, and I have to keep up with  younger kids. But it’s not hard for two reasons.

Number one: the heart of a girl hasn’t changed that much. In a hundred years girls will still be writing advice columnists about the person that they like or their fights with their sister or how to talk to their mom. Some concerns are timeless.

Number two: girls write me lots of letters, so I have a gradual ongoing education. When I need to learn more, I do a little research. I also employ college-age interns for a few days here and there, and they keep me up to date.

CJ: Twelve of your 14 books are novels for kids and specifically written with girls in mind. Why books for kids and young women?

CW: It’s very satisfying to help girls – you lend a hand, and next thing you know, they’re on the other shore – from confusion to confidence! It feels really good to make a difference. And issues like child obesity, which I am tackling in my next novel, believe it or not, can be raised and talked about. When you talk to kids about good habits, sometimes they really haven’t heard any of it before. I like that I can provide sensible information that can be life- changing. I also like turning children into readers. My favorite fan letters are when I hear from kids who tell me they didn’t like to read until they read my book.

CJ: When writing books for kids, what things do you take into consideration? How do you approach the word usage and language?

CW: I don’t think too much about word usage when I write. I really just sit down and focus on telling the story. People ask me “How many drafts do you write? Four? Five?” but the truth is, it’s more like twenty. First you write. Later you edit.

Ava and Pip
Ava and Taco Cat

 

CJ: You have two new novels coming out in 2016.

CW: I do! It’s really exciting. One is AVA XOX and it’s the third novel about a fifth-grade protagonist who has a diary and wants to be a children’s book writer. The first are Ava and Pip and Ava and Taco Cat. I was pretty pumped when The New York Times called Ava and Pip “a love letter to language.” In this new book, Ava has a crush, and tries to help a new friend who is getting teased about her weight.

The other novel coming out in 2016 is currently titled The Speed of Life and is an upper-middle grade book, meaning it’s ideal for 9th and 10th graders. I am in love with this book! It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl who thinks her life is over when really it’s just getting started. Note: One character is an advice columnist.

ava xox

CJ: What is your process? Do you have a writing routine or a strict writing schedule?

CW: No. And I have many days where I don’t actually write. Some authors set quotas for themselves where they have to write a certain amount of words or pages per day, but I don’t because I’m a hard worker and pretty disciplined anyway. When I’m in the middle of a book, I tend to get obsessed. So I’ll work in my office and then, when I can’t see straight, I’ll print everything out on blue or pink pages and edit in a library or at my daughter’s desk. In college, I would always try to find a small quiet space in the stacks. In some ways, I still seek out places where I can get into a bubble and not be tempted by a computer or anything else that might break the spell.

CW B

CJ: Every day must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

CW: The Washington Post suggested I write about what I’ve learned from being an advice columnist, and no doubt I’ll work on it this Monday. Some Mondays, I’m writing, others I’m revising, others I’m doing my column, others I’m taking a day off to visit a museum with an out-of-town friend visiting New York City. For better or worse, there’s no real schedule. I will admit that I’m big on To Do lists, so everything from “empty dishwasher” to “do laundry” to “submit column” goes on there, and when I cross it out I feel good. And if I’m having a hard time getting started, I’ll set the kitchen timer. As in: Just work for 60 minutes. Once you start, it’s easier to stick with it. It also helps if you plan a break ahead, whether it’s meeting a friend for a walk or for a meal.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a novelist do now to set him or herself up for success?

CW: Keep a diary. It’s a great way for you to get comfortable with page and pen and also to train yourself to be a better observer and to turn experiences into paragraphs. Also see if there are any writing contests out there. I got my start with a Seventeen contest. Read, go to the library and bookstores, and attend conferences for writers. Bird by Bird and the more recent Why We Write can be inspiring too.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

CW: My 20-year-old self? I’d say something like, if you knew then what you know today – that you have a wonderful husband whom you’ve been married to for 35 years, that you have kids whom you adore and who love you, that you live in New York City, and that you speak languages and write books — well, I might say, relax already! But then again, don’t relax so much that you don’t work hard to get all that. That’s always the message, isn’t it? Work hard but enjoy your life.

Carol Weston Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis, Book images provided by Carol Weston

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Saying that we are fans of Darling Magazine would be a major understatement. We are huge fans – we love how real it is, the topics covered, and the positivity expressed on each and every page. Did you know that Darling Magazine never uses Photoshop to alter women’s faces or bodies. Pretty cool. Not only is the magazine a joy to read, but the Darling website provides a dose of daily happiness and articles that are deeply relatable.

When you’re on the Darling website, Nicole Ziza Bauer is the one curating everything you see, such as writers, articles, ads, and collaborations. So you can thank her when you read an article that makes you reflect on what’s important in everyday life. Though Nicole now spends her time storytelling, her time used to be spent in labs and conducting medical research. Nicole originally pursued a career in the medical field, she stepped back and thought hard about what she wanted to do, not what she should do. This reflection brought her to a new, more creative path.

Nicole is a world traveler, an avid list-maker, and someone who is true to herself, and her journey will inspire you to follow your heart and to not worry if you don’t have everything already figured out (who really does anyway?).

Name: Nicole Ziza Bauer
Education: B.A. in Zoology and Molecular Biology from Miami University
Follow: NicoleZizaBauer.com / Darling Magazine

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Nicole Ziza Bauer: Enjoying it, savoring it, not being in a rush to grow out of it.

CJ: You majored in Zoology and Molecular Biology at Miami University. How did you decide what to study?

NZB: I planned on going to medical school after graduation, so I wanted to major in something that would best prepare me for what lay ahead.

CJ: After college you were a Staff Research Associate at UCLA Medical Center researching how the heart works. What was this experience like working in a lab and conducting research?

NZB: Working in the lab was a great transition from college life to the “real” world, since I was still in an academic environment very similar to where I had spent the last four years. It was challenging but also inspiring; I got to be on the very edge of research that could potentially save lives. Though there was a lot of monotony and repetition in the lab, each day also held the potential of unlocking something that nobody had ever seen or understood before. That was really motivating.

CJ: After preparing for medical school and doing post-grad research, you switched career paths and went into a career of storytelling, writing, and creating. Before Darling Magazine, you were a Purchasing Agent and Event Coordinator. What inspired this change of heart and how did you deal with the stress of making this transition?

NZB: I wish I could say it was one simple thing that sparked the change, but nothing in life is ever that black or white. While I was excited about medical school and worked really hard to get accepted into one, I also kept a strong inner dialogue after college and that prompted me to truly evaluate where I saw my life headed and if there were other things I might want to do instead of becoming a physician.

I had always been a creative child and writing and art brought me a lot of joy. When I stepped back from what I thought I “should” do in order to appear successful in the eyes of others and slowly started asking myself what I wanted to do, the answer came into focus. From there I started looking for opportunities that would better enable me to learn and grow creatively.

Nicole and Horse

CJ: How were you able to block out the external voices and follow your internal compass?

NZB: Trusting that I didn’t have to have it all figured out, or have a clear idea of my career path once I graduated helped to free me from the stress surrounding the decision. I had to (and still do) remind myself that taking things one step at a time is OK. Our character and appreciation of life is built in those tiny steps. Thankfully, I had a few close friends that I could lean on when I was deciding whether or not to go medical school who guided me out of the fog a bit. Having those trusted sources to remind you of your worth, your convictions and your big dreams is so, so important.

CJ: What advice would you give a young adult who might be at a “passion crossroads” in his or her life? 

NZB: I would say: Hi, can I give you a hug? Because you are completely normal!

College is great for so many things, but a lot of times it can also lead us into a false belief that it’s the only time in life to figure things out or decide our future. That’s simply not true. If you are conflicted over what you’re pursuing right now, ask yourself some tough questions: Why did you choose the road you’re on in the first place? Whose applause are you seeking? Do you want out because you’re afraid of hard (sometimes tedious) work? Or are you simply realizing that there might be other avenues out there that you’d enjoy and want to explore?

Our early to mid-20s grant us many opportunities for making decisions and learning how to make independent choices. It’s really important that we look at crossroads or changes of heart not as failures, but as chances to better understand how we’ve been made, who we are, and what our unique role in the world should be.

CJ: You are now the Online Managing Editor at Darling Magazine, a guide to “the art of being a woman.” What does your role as Online Managing Editor entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

NZB: As online editor I’m responsible for all the website, blog, and advertising content that Darling develops. This involves creating and maintaining an editorial calendar (so that our site always has new material), finding and communicating with writers, and generating article ideas, and sometimes even writing myself. My daily tasks include lots of emails, reading and editing articles, chatting with different Darling staffers, and maybe a meeting or a phone call with a brand about potential collaborations.

Nicole ZB

CJ: You curate content, writers, ads, and collaborations on the Darling website. How do you go about narrowing down content so it fits the Darling mission, and how do you establish collaborations?

NZB: Great question! Knowing what you stand for is key to developing a powerful brand. Therefore, with Darling I’m constantly evaluating if something will serve to reinforce our mission statement or if it’ll conflict with it. I try to put myself in the position of a reader and ask: What would they take away from this article? Would they be more inspired to own the things our mission statement says about them, or less? The same goes for working with other writers and brands. We have to be on the same page, working together for that same common goal, rather than just using one another for increased status or popularity.

CJ: We loved your inspiring article ‘The Myths of Wanderlust’ – how has traveling influenced you, and is there a particular trip you have taken that stands out in your mind?

NZB: Thank you! Traveling is definitely something that I choose to prioritize, as it helps to keep my problems small and sense of wonder and world awareness large.

Probably my favorite adventure to date was the month I spent backpacking around Italy with my husband. My grandmother was Sicilian, so I’ve loved everything Italy since childhood. I studied the language a bit in college and then spent a few weeks in Rome after graduating, but getting to go off the grid around the entire country (for a whole month) felt like a dream. It was like coming home.

Darling Mag

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

NZB: I am an avid list-maker. Every thought, idea, or task that I need to accomplish gets written down, that way I immediately get it out of my head and onto a tangible piece of paper. From there, I look at my week’s agenda and decide when I can schedule time to complete the most pressing tasks. I never go anywhere without my giant, spiral-bound notebook calendar.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

NZB: It depends. Sometimes I just need to say a quick prayer, vent to my husband or call my best friend. Other times getting outside and taking my dogs on a walk or going for a hike will help. And when all else fails … I’ll watch old Netflix episodes of Murder, She Wrote. JB Fletcher can solve anything.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

NZB: I love animals, so I’m a huge advocate of pet adoption. Not only can we provide an animal with a safe and loving home, but we in turn learn compassion when we care for things smaller and less consequential than us. Darling also has a partnership with IJM, of which I am a huge fan. They have such a comprehensive model for bringing justice and eradicating sex trafficking across the globe. It’s very impressive and inspiring.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

NZB: Lately I’ve been trying to get by with less, get rid of more, and curb the mindless spending that’s all too easy to fall into, especially after trolling blogs or social media. In the last few months I’ve donated about five bags of clothing, which has been really eye-opening to consider, especially when I find myself “needing” something new. Most likely, I don’t.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

NZB: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

NZB: Study abroad. Also, take a deep breath; this is just the beginning.

Nicole ZB Qs

 

Images by Emily Blake and Nicole Ziza Bauer

CultureSkills

Every second, minute, and hour of every day, something is happening in the world. While we might not be there to experience these moments in time firsthand, there are news reporters, journalists, and eye witnesses ready to give us a rundown of what is going on. Some news stations are biased and may or may not report the entire truth, others probably don’t care too much about the truth. Whatever the case may be, it’s up to you to decide who you want to believe and who you don’t want to believe. Not everyone speaking into a camera is going to tell you the truth and not everyone is going to tell you a lie. This is why you have to use your own discretion when consuming media reported news.

No one can tell you which news station or online magazine is the most credible. This is only because credibility is such a broad term, and the same news outlet that is deemed credible to one person may be deemed untrustworthy by another. For example, there are people who like CNN, but there are others who don’t. The same can be said for any other news channel that people watch. Having people who dislike CNN or any other news channel doesn’t devalue that channel in any way. It just means that people have different criterion for credibility. However, even if you do have a good sense of which news sources are credible to you, the important thing to remember is not to be biased. Don’t take what you hear or see at face value just because your favorite reporter or writer said something happened. They might not have all the facts or even the right facts.

Do your own research; try to confirm what is being said. You have a right to know what’s going on in the word around you. So what if you can’t be aware of everything that goes on? That doesn’t mean you can’t be well-informed about the things you are aware of. Question everything you read, see, and hear. Don’t just go along with what is being said because if you do, you are doing a disservice to yourself. Young people have the power to make a difference, but we can’t do that if we are in a state of obliviousness and if we are constantly unaware of what is going on around us.

The less we pay attention, the more disconnected we become from the rest of the world. Quite a few of my peers say that they don’t care about what happens in other countries or even other cities and states because it doesn’t directly affect them. If you are a person who shares those same sentiments, keep in mind that even if something doesn’t directly affect you, it will still indirectly affect you. You might not realize that now but we don’t often see the things that affect us until it hits close to home.

Question everything. See what’s going on yourself instead of only relying on news reporters to provide you with information. You are not just a resident of a city, state, or town. You are not just a citizen of your country, either. You are a citizen of the world, and the more you know, the more connected you will be. People think that borders and large bodies of water separate us from each other, but really it’s the things we don’t know that drives us apart.

Image: Barzan Qtr