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

CultureLearn

If Ireland is on your list of places to go, take some time to read this combination of Irish authors, history, memoirs, and fictional tales before your travels. Reading about a country you will soon explore will make your adventures rich with knowledge and more fulfilling. Whether you’re reading a book by an Irish author or learning about how the Irish used to live in the 1900’s, there’s nothing like learning as much as you can before a trip to get the most out of it and see those stories come to life.

ireland 1ULYSSES BY JAMES JOYCE

Ulysses is considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature. In this classic novel by Irish writer, James Joyce, the encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin on June 16, 1904, are chronicled. Though lengthy, this book is a must-read.

 

ireland 2HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION BY THOMAS CAHILL

If you’re a history buff, this untold story of Ireland’s role in maintaining Western Culture and how Ireland helped Europe transition and evolve from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era will be right up your alley.

 

ireland 3A SECRET MAP OF IRELAND BY ROSITA BOLAND

Rosita Boland takes readers on a tour through Ireland’s 32 counties and shares her extraordinary (and very unusual) travels.

 

ireland 4TO SCHOOL THROUGH THE FIELDS BY ALICE TAYLOR

A charming memoir by Alice Taylor who shares her Irish childhood and the memories that accompany it.

 

ireland 5LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN BY COLUM McCANN

Though this novel takes place in New York City in the 1970’s, Irish author Colum McCann’s writing is worth getting to know before making your way to his homeland.

 

ireland 6THE BACK OF BEYOND: A SEARCH FOR THE SOUL OF IRELAND BY JAMES CHARLES ROY

A noted authority on Irish travel and history, James Charles Roy guides readers (and in the book, a group of Americans), through the backwaters of ancient Ireland.

 

 

ireland 7GULLIVER’S TRAVELS BY JONATHAN SWIFT

A classic of English literature, this novel by Irish writer Jonathan Swift is a satire on human nature and a parody of the traveler’s tales sub-genre. For a literary adventure, pick this book up before your real-life adventures.

 

ireland 8DUBLINERS BY JAMES JOYCE

In Joyce’s collection of short stories, he describes with great detail his observations of the life of Dublin’s poorer classes. As Joyce brings Dublin to life, there’s no way you won’t be immersed in lives of Dubliners in the 1900’s.

 

ireland 9A SHORT HISTORY OF IRELAND BY RICHARD KILLEEN

For a quick read about Irish history. A good starting point and overview before your travels.

 

 

ireland 10THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY BY OSCAR WILDE

Irish writer Oscar Wilde wrote this philosophical novel in 1890, and it’s worth reading before traveling to this author’s homeland.

 

ireland 12THE MODERNISATION OF IRISH SOCIETY: 1848 – 1918 BY JOSEPH LEE

For history and political fans, read about how Ireland became one of the most modern and advanced political cultures in the world at that time. Get a more in-depth look at Ireland’s history and how it modernized.

 

What books on Ireland have you found interesting? Happy reading and safe travels!

Book ReviewEducationLearn

When I first picked up Station Eleven, the newest novel from Emily St. John Mandel, it was definitely on a whim. I’ve read some post-apacolyptic and dystopian fiction before (see: McCarthy’s The Road, Collins’ The Hunger Games and Orwell’s 1984), but if I’m being totally honest, I don’t love it. This time though, it was getting late, the bookstore was about to close, and the woman behind the counter pointed it out as I was about to pay. I’d heard some rumblings about the book, so I decided to give this genre another chance. Plus, the cover and the title were definitely intriguing.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 1.41.23 PM

Station Eleven begins on a night that several things, including civilization, end. The novel opens on a stage production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, with the famous Hollywood star Arthur Leander as the titular character. In the wings, an eight-year-old aspiring actress, Kristen Raymonde, witnesses the great actor suffer a heart attack and die onstage. As chaos ensues within the theatre, the outside world faces a threat of a different sort. Within a matter of weeks, nearly all of the global population has been wiped out by a lethal flu. Flights are grounded, borders dissolve and cars are left where they die as the survivors attempt to escape the pandemic.

Fast-forward 20 years and Kristen is still an actress, touring the country in horse-drawn pickup trucks and performing Shakespeare for the various communities her troupe, the Traveling Symphony, come across. On the road the troupe has long discussions about the things they can barely remember; wi-fi, the faces of family members, airplanes and movies. While Kristen travels, she remains fixated on Arthur Leander, looking for old gossip magazines and newspapers to add to her collection. In her pack, she also carries two issues of a comic book named Dr. Eleven, given to her by Leander on one of the nights of their performance.

As they journey through the wilderness, the troupe comes upon a mysterious fanatic known as “the prophet,” who has taken over a town they had visited some months prior. They meant to pick up two members of the troupe who had wintered in the town to have their baby, but when they arrive, the couple and their newborn are missing. In the meantime, rumors of a Museum of Civilization reach the troupe, and they decide to make their way to this mythical settlement where artifacts (laptops, credit cards, phones and other electronics) on supposedly on view. With the Prophet on their heels, the Symphony’s journey is intersected by flashbacks of Leander’s life, the strange comics Kristen carries, and the history of “the Prophet.”

Mandel has written a beautiful, lyrical novel. While some have criticized her representation of the “disaster” that ended civilization, I found it refreshing not to focus so much on the epidemic, but the events that both preceded and followed it. Throughout the book, we are given more of Leander’s life story, his connection to the author of the Dr. Eleven comics, and a twist at the end to tie each of the threads together in a satisfying and thought-provoking conclusion. The author inserts subtle, occasionally disturbing clues that make the reader question the meaning of art, music, life and civilization in ways that other dystopian or post-apocalyptic novels do not. Perhaps the most lingering take-away is the motto of the Symphony, “survival is insufficient,” a line taken from an old Star Trek episode, that many members of the Symphony repeat throughout the story.

This motto, “survival is insufficient,” drives the core of the book, and I found myself thinking a lot about it even after I put the novel down. Can art save us? That seems to be the idea, and it is definitely a more hopeful conclusion than the one many other novels of this genre come to. Mandel has created a dystopian novel that is not horribly violent, does not scare us or condemn humanity and even manages, at times, to be uplifting. This is definitely a piece that will stay with you, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. My two pieces of advice, then, are to pick up a copy for yourself, and always listen to the people at your local bookstore, because they seem to have a knack for suggesting just the story you need to read.

Image: Pexels and Amazon

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s always great meeting ambitious youth because it makes us motivated to do more. One of these go-getters is Chris Morgan, a student at the University of Washington and the director and founder of HuskyCreative. Chris is a writer, a musician, and a constant learner. He not only runs HuskyCreative, but he’s involved with the Pearson Student Advisory Board, works as a programmatic media specialist at Drake Cooper, and he somehow manages to find time to complete his homework. Oh, and did we mention that he is also writing a novel? We were fortunate to pick up some time management tips from Chris (note to selves: stock up on legal pads!), discover how he balances college with his jobs and activities, and hear more about what his post-graduation plans are. Chris seizes his youth, and he does it with a can-do, positive attitude. Now, get ready to take some notes…

Name: Christopher Morgan
Age: 21
Education: B.A. in Business Administration: Marketing from the University of Washington
Follow: HuskyCreative | Twitter

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

Chris Morgan: Seizing your youth is about action. It’s about doing something. I know a lot of people who have great ideas, but the difference between the people who are hailed as seizing their youth and people who don’t is just the fact that they went and did something. Millennials are the generation to not get a job, so we made our own. I think that’s really cool – not the part about us not getting jobs – but we have the most entrepreneurs of any generation and we get out there and do things with our own ideas. Seizing your youth is doing something now.

CJ: You are majoring in Business Administration: Marketing at the University of Washington. What does this major involve and how did you determine what to study?

CM: I was originally a Music composition and Creative Writing double major. I wrote music a lot and it was going to be my career for the longest time, but as soon as I tried to make money off of it, I started getting really stressed out. It was hard for me to do creative work and have that be the way to put food on the table. I looked for other occupations that had that creative influence but wasn’t personal or my work really, and that’s how I found marketing. I can be creative but I still have time to do my personal creative work on the side. I made the major switch in the middle of my freshman year. It was a natural shift for me and it felt right. I was writing better as soon as I took that stress off.

CJ: What has been your favorite college class?

CM: I have two, for very different reasons. One is a branding class that I took this past year with a professor who really understood branding and how to talk to undergraduates. It was originally a graduate course, but he wanted to teach it to undergrads. He showed a lot of faith in young people. He said that there’s no difference between graduate students and undergraduates students, we just know less. Graduate students are earning their MBAs and have worked in the field, so they think that they know a lot. The cool thing about the class is that he knew we didn’t have that preemptive knowledge. We didn’t start class thinking we knew everything. We had an open mind and it was a really fun class.

The other class was one I took in Singapore. It was hard and awful. I learned so much from failing. I was in a foreign country and didn’t know anybody, and I did horribly in the class. But I know so much about that topic now – it was about Game Theory in terms of marketing and using strategic negotiation tactics. It was way above my head. But now we talk about it in classes, and I know more about it.

CJ: You studied abroad at the National University of Singapore. Why did you choose Singapore and how was that experience?

CM: I was between two options – I could go to Singapore or Sydney. I thought that Sydney was too close to the culture I had grown up in, and the culture I had never experienced before was Eastern culture. It was really the only opportunity where I could dive in and experience it. I chose Singapore, and I think it was completely the right decision. You learn so much about your own country and culture by visiting another. I understand education a lot better, actually. I got to see how Eastern culture education differs from Western culture education. That was one of the coolest things that came out of my experience, learning how two people can learn so differently.

Chris Morgan

CJ: You can speak Spanish fluently. What language-learning tips do you have for those who are interested in learning how to speak another language? Are there any other languages you want to learn?

CM: Yes, definitely! I want to learn Italian. When it comes to speaking a language, the only way to succeed is to speak the language. It’s about not being afraid to speak in front of other people. When you’re more confident in yourself and practicing a language, you will speak the language better. I think classes are better than a book and a tape because in classes you can talk to other people. If you do use a book or tape, talk to a friend or to yourself alone a lot.

CJ: You mentioned you work with Pearson. What is your involvement with them?

CM: I work for the Pearson Student Advisory Board, which is a board of students from around North America who have been selected to advise on education. Pearson recognizes that education will be changing with the new generation and technology. They are bringing in students to advise their development and business. I’ve really enjoyed it.

CJ: You were a programmatic media specialist at Drake Cooper, a marketing services company. What is a programmatic media specialist?

CM: Programmatic media is new form of media buying that is more personalized and digitally enhanced so we can learn about impressions. When you click on an ad, I can tell where you’re from, how much money you make, whether you have kids or a family, what kind of products you buy, etc. It allows companies to save money because they can pick who they send ads to. It’s more efficient for the companies, and in my opinion, better for the consumers because you’re not being spammed ads for things you don’t care about.

CJ: You have had multiple marketing internships. What experiences have been your favorite, and what were the biggest takeaways from those experiences?

CM: One of the more defining internships was the one I had at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. It was one of my first internships, and the best thing that they ever did was let me have autonomy. They let me own something. They let me dictate the success or failure of a project. It teaches you a lot about taking ownership and being creative with your ideas. A lot of first internships entail getting coffee and managing a calendar. Having autonomy was important for me because it helped me understand how to be successful.

I worked on organizing events. I worked on live event marketing, and I got to take on projects by myself and have a real impact.

CJ: You are the Director and Founder of HuskyCreative, a not-for-profit advertising agency at the University of Washington AMA chapter. What responsibilities do you have as the Founder and Director?

CM: When I started HuskyCreative, I had worked in marketing but not advertising. I didn’t know anything when I started. I was the finance guy, the HR guy, and the Creative Director. It was such a growing experience. I was a totally different person then. It was such a ride. Our first client was Shell Oil, which was awesome and scary. We had no idea what we were doing, but we used that to our advantage because we created a campaign that nobody else had done.

We exclusively hire college students because their opinions aren’t tainted by past experiences. They have a fresh look, and that’s how we succeeded at first. Hiring the first people was new, managing finances, writing contracts, this was all new to me.

For what I do now, it’s pretty similar but it feels like less because I know what I’m doing. Instead of writing the first contract, I’m taking the contract I’ve already written. A lot of my work is managerial, and I don’t do a lot of ad work. But I love it, and it’s been really incredible. This next year we’re trying to build a collegiate network of creative agencies. We’ll be a support group for people who want to do what I do or who want a creative agency at their university. It’ll be a really exciting year for us.

Chris Morgan 2

CJ: You have one more year until you graduate. Is HuskyCreative something you want to do after you graduate?

CM: The goal of HuskyCreative is to be an experience for the students. The reason we started the agency is because of the first job paradox: “This is an entry level position, but we’d like you to have two years of experience.” When people graduate from school, they might not have that job experience and they might not have been taught the correct things about the ad world, so we wanted to create a place where students could get this experience.

I want somebody else to take my job because this experience shouldn’t just be my own. I hope that it continues on for many years. We built it to be sustainable over the years. We want to help people gain experience so that they can get a job.

CJ: Music is one of your passions. How does music play a role in your life?

CM: I started playing the piano when I was four, and when I was eleven I started playing the improv jazz saxophone. I write a lot of piano music, and I have written a symphony. I’m working on my second one now. A lot of my writing isn’t jazz, but it’s my favorite thing to play.

CJ: You’re a writer. Tell us about the novel you are working on.

CM: I am working on a science fiction novel. I’ve been working on it for too long now. With running the company, I haven’t had the chance to really sit down and write. I’m awful at just sitting down to write. I’ve heard many times that you can write a story as an architect or a gardener. As an architect, you write an outline and construct the character story arcs. Or you’re a gardener and you have an initial idea and just start writing. It’s hard for me to let things just happen, so I spent a lot of time building the story before actually writing it.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

CM: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

CJ: What is your favorite magazine?

CM: Ad Age.

CJ: How do you balance being a college student with all of your jobs and activities?

CM: School comes first. You’re at school to learn. Passion helps with balancing. You’ll find that you’re more stressed out when you have obligations that you’re not passionate about. I wouldn’t try to fit in writing music or my novel if I didn’t love doing those things. Time management is awful, it’s hard, and there’s no one trick that I have. I just keep doing things because I love them.

CJ: How do you plan out your days?

CM: I plan things out on a week-by-week basis. I am notorious for making lists. I love legal pads. I carry mine around with me everywhere. I structure my calendar around my weekly goals. I like the structure and pre-planning for what I have to get done.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

CM: I work a 9-5, so I go to work. I have a separate to-do list for work, where I set up what I need to get done hour to hour. As soon as I get off work, I shoot off emails for HuskyCreative, sometimes I have meetings. I’ll have dinner, take some time to relax, and then I’ll usually do more work for HuskyCreative, and then write. I try to end my day with writing, it’s relaxing and is something I enjoy.

When school is in session, it’s a little more hectic because I’ll be running from classes to meetings. I’m usually working or in class all day. I try to finish as much as I can before dinner. It’s important to have an hour or two to just do whatever you want, whether that is writing or watching movies with friends. Whatever it is, you need that time.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

CM: Have action. In high school I had a lot of time. I had the original idea for my book in high school, and that would’ve been a great time to get started writing it. I had a lot of hesitancy, and I thought the idea was enough. It’s hard to have that motivation all the time, but if you have an idea and are passionate about it, do something about it. Everybody has ideas, but not everybody does something about it.

Skills

In everyday life, it’s easy to get weighed down by what you are expected to do. Setting a challenge for yourself can be a great way to earn success on your own terms. It is exciting to meet and exceed a challenge. You can be rewarded with everything from material rewards, attention, bragging rights, learning new skills, and even doing some of your best work. Sometimes it is all of the above. Certain challenges have been around for years, and some are attractive because they are trendy. Picking the right event can be difficult. The trick is to find one that is constructive rather than destructive.

Some of the challenges that become the most popular are because they carry the most risk. For example, the Cinnamon Challenge seems fast and easy. All you have to do is swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in a minute. Yet, the challenge is very dangerous. It makes people choke, gag, and in extreme cases, could cause irritation or infection that could lead to death. The resulting challenge videos can be hilarious, but it should not be forgotten that it is a challenge with a risk. Is your health worth a stunt that lasts a few minutes? These kind of challenges will get you a little attention, but they come at a serious personal risk. Think of whether or not this is actually benefiting you. Just because it is popular does not mean it is a good thing to do.

Sometimes it can be hard to evaluate the merits of a challenge because it carries positive and negative repercussions. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge involves pouring a bucket of ice water over your head. It raised a lot of money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). However, it became popular among celebrities who lived in California, which is currently experiencing a drought. This lead people to complain about the waste of resources. Also, some people completed the challenge instead of donating money to the cause when donating money was the point of the challenge. The challenge was a noble idea in all the awareness it raised, but ultimately people had mixed feelings about it. This is another call to use your judgment. Doing charity work is good, but how many people did the challenge without even knowing what ALS was? Before participating in a challenge, educate yourself about what you are actually getting involved in.

Some challenges help give you the tools to work toward personal goals. Because I enjoy writing, I take part in writing challenges. There are challenges online such as NaNoWriMo, which is an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. In November, if you manage to write 50,000 words of a novel by the end of the month, you are entitled to prizes like five printed copies of your novel. Your accomplishments get you rewarded. Even without the reward, you will have written 50,000 words, which is impressive on its own. I participated in the challenge for the past few years because I enjoyed it so much. It requires some discipline and determination. That said, it is exciting trying to beat the deadline and it is euphoric when you do. I feel more motivated to write during that time more than any other time of the year because I am a part of something rather than on my own. It helps me work toward my ambitions, so I consider it a positive challenge.

Other challenges help you better yourself. Athletic challenges allow you to achieve a peak physical shape. There are challenges that have been around for years, such as marathons. There are many different fun types of marathons to join, one in particular being the Zombie Run, where runners disguised as zombies chase the other runners. You may win prizes like a t-shirt, but at the same time, there are many benefits to running a marathon. You can get in really good shape just by training for the marathon. Your physical endurance is in many ways its own reward.

Challenges are a great way to motivate and celebrate what we as people can accomplish. The rewards vary based on what you try, but the point is to make that effort and challenge yourself. Just be careful not to do anything that will hurt you or the people around you. Even if you fail, you can always try again. You can start at any time. After you finish one challenge, you can attempt another. I know many people who are always in training for their next marathon. I participate in NaNoWriMo every year because it inspires me to produce more than I ever did on my own. When the challenge is over, I have a manuscript to edit and improve upon for the rest of the year. These are perks that keep you moving forward once the challenge is over. Just knowing you attempted to challenge yourself is something you can carry with you forever. You can bring that confidence to your next challenge. When you do make your attempt, try to keep in mind whether the challenge will make you better, or if it will cause more harm than good.

Image: Picography

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When we first heard about Anna Browne’s accomplishments, we were blown away. An 18-year-old who has already self-published a book and earned poetry awards? Amazing! Anna loves to write, spend time with friends, and educate herself and others about animal cruelty and women’s rights. Having recently graduated from high school, Anna will be leaving for college in Australia next April.  We are big fans of this global citizen and writer, and we have a feeling you will be inspired by Anna’s passion, determination, and desire to learn more and to explore the world. Read on to learn more about Anna’s book writing process, what she looks forward to most about college, and where her love of writing comes from…

Name: Anna Browne
Age: 18
Education: High School Graduate
Follow: TwitterWebsite

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

When I think about ‘seizing my youth,’ I contemplate how the world perceives me based on my age. Because I am six feet tall, people always think I am a lot older than just 18. I’ve been able to take advantage of this by surprising people with what I’ve accomplished, and then bewildering them when they learn I’m not even in my 20s yet. While people my age go down to the beach on the weekends and party at night, I create worlds with my writing and learn languages. I am a lifelong learner, so I take advantage of my youth by learning as much as I can about absolutely anything whenever I am able to.

You recently graduated from high school. Where will you be attending college and what do you plan on studying?

My plan for college is to attend La Trobe University in Bendigo, Australia. I will be moving in April 2015 and living there for three years to study Marketing. I hope to also minor in Political Science, but because I will be in Australia, the politics will be Australian politics. I hope in doing so I will be given a multi-national perspective in the way people govern, and therefore learn what we need to change to help better our society.

Where does your love of writing come from?

Where does my love of writing come from? Where does your love for the taste of chocolate come from? Or for potato chips? I can’t honestly tell you where my love for writing comes from because I don’t know. All I do know is that I have loved crafting stories since before I could even physically write. It’s more than a passion; it’s something that I live for.

Anna c

You have published a novel called Island XTell us about your book and what inspired you to write a novel.

Island X is set on an island that nobody in the outside world is aware of, except for a very select few. The inhabitants of the island aren’t aware of its purpose, why the society is structured to be a grouped dictatorship, or how the magic that surrounds the island like a misty veil came to be. But when one of the leaders of the society sells their adopted son to another, the mystery of the island and its sole reason for existing begins to unfold.

The inspiration to write Island X came from a lengthy English class where my teacher assigned everyone to study the works of the famous philosophers, Loa-Tzu (Thoughts from the Tao-Te Ching) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (The Civil Society). Both men describe politics from their time periods in a very intricate way. When I began Island X, I only titled it that because I had no idea what to call it. I wanted to combine the works of those two philosophers somehow, and it ended up with me finishing 64,000 words about an island, extremely odd politics, and a gore-filled supernatural twist. I had no idea what I was writing half the time, but once I finished it, a huge sense of relief and wonder wafted over me. While Island X is certainly not my first novel, it is definitely my best.

What is your book-writing process?

My book writing process is not your average write-an-outline-and-work-off-of-the-outline; nor is it writing every single day. I am at an age that when I start writing a novel, I know I will finish it, rather than just letting it slowly wither away since I don’t have any inspiration for it after the first 10,000 words. When I have the need to write because an idea has come to my mind and it is begging me to be released, I write. When a character has been nagging at me to be placed in a different scene, I write. When I can’t stop thinking about something and it ends up invading my dreams, I write. I can’t force creativity; it has to flow naturally.

Your poem “Days Ago” was published in four different anthologies and it has won four awards, including a first place award from World Poetry Movement. Pretty amazing! What and/or who is your poetry inspired by?

My poem “Days Ago” was inspired by my grandmother Annette, my mother’s mum, and was dedicated to my father’s mum, Rosalind. They were very close before Annette passed away, and I wanted to write something about how I felt during her passing but still recognize her relationship with my other grandmother.

My general poetry is inspired by recent events in my life or a story I want to write but don’t feel the idea is fitting enough for a novel or short fiction.

You are the creator of the most popular competition group on Figment.com called Figment’s Next Top Writer. What does this competition entail and how do you manage it?

The writing competition, Figment’s Next Top Writer, entails providing bi-monthly to monthly writing prompts and extensive editing and critiquing of the submissions. Before every new prompt there’s an eliminated contestant until only one is left standing. The winner’s biggest prize is a published anthology of their challenge submissions. Since the contest has earned an excellent reputation, I have been able to recruit other writers to help me judge.

What traits make a great leader?

Traits that make a great leader: courage, ability to aid others, and the capacity to listen to what people have to say and act accordingly.

How do you balance being a student with your activities? What are your time management tips?

How do I balance being a student with my activities? I’m the kind of person that writes term papers for fun. If an essay is assigned in class, no matter what the topic is or how many words is the absolute minimum, I finish it within one hour and receive an A every time. Most of my homework just consists of writing essays, so technically my teacher is having me do my favorite hobby for school. It’s an easy balance because I enjoy it so much and I get it done quickly.

As for time management tips, I’m afraid I can’t offer much. My general process is to do everything I want to do before my homework, and the reason why is because then all that I would be distracted by isn’t there. The downfall of that is I’m putting off schoolwork in favor of Facebook or writing a new post for my blog. However, if you’re desperate to finish something and find time management difficult, I suggest offering a reward for yourself once you finish. Whether that is eating frozen yogurt or watching the next episode in your favorite TV series, the reward-after-work idea helps a lot when I am studying for an exam or have something I really need to finish in a short amount of time.

What three things are you most looking forward to in college?

The first thing I am most looking forward to in college is the fact that I will be living thirty minutes away from my amazing kid-cousins, Matilda (10), Montague (6) and Mervin (6). I hardly ever see them and they mean the world to me. I am like their big sister and they treat me as such, so it’s important to me that I am there for them and be a big part of their lives.

The second thing that I’m looking forward to is the independence. Australia is an 18-hour flight, so popping over to see my parents every weekend isn’t an option. I will be living on my own and forced to look after myself. It will be a big change, but an exciting one.

The third thing would have to be the environment of where I’m going. I have visited Australia 14 times, and each trip feels like I’m growing into a stronger person. While Washington State is always raining, Australia is in the midst of a drought. I find myself a lot more water-saving-savvy, environmentally-sound, and careful because that’s the norm in Australia.

What does a day in your life look like? How do you plan out your days?

Oh geez, I’m afraid my normal days aren’t that exciting. I wake up at noon (unless my dad wakes me up at 9AM because he thinks I’ve already slept in long enough), eat cottage cheese with agave and berries, and figure out whether or not I should spend my day hanging out with friends. If I feel more like being on my own, I swim, I write, and I watch re-runs of Nikita and The 100. Recently my father has been elected for the at-large seat for Whatcom County Council, so often at night I will be attending political events and campaign parties. My favorite political event was when my father and I attended Governor Jay Inslee’s inaugural ball. I enjoyed it the most because I got to dress up in a fancy ball gown and stroll the halls of one of the most magnificent buildings in all of Washington State.

When it comes to day-planning, I have begrudgingly learned to rely on using my phone’s calendar. I’ve never been a fan of calendars, I don’t know why, but now I use it constantly and I set up alerts for whenever I have something to do that day so I am constantly reminded.

Anna Gov Ball

What issues are you most passionate about?

The issues I am most passionate about are stopping animal cruelty and advocating for women’s rights. I could go into a very long tangent on why, but basically with animal cruelty I stand up for the voices unheard and refuse to buy anything that has been tested on animals. I actually haven’t eaten any product made by Mars Candy Company in seven years since I learned that Mars funds deadly animal tests not required by law.

As for women’s rights, I educate people and try to teach myself of how women are still treated unfairly compared to men and what we can do to change that, as well as why men have no right to dictate what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time writing, editing, writing, critiquing, writing, watching my favorite TV shows, writing, and fro-yo dates with my friends. Oh, and writing.

What motivates you?

Love. The simple concept of love motivates me in my life every day.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Don’t let the opinions of others slow you down; be who you are, because there is only one of you and only you can be the best version of yourself.

Anna Browne Qs

CultureEducation

Happy summer! Now that the school year is over for several months, it’s time to kick back and read the books you’ve had to put off for essays and exams. Whether you’re on an airplane, on the beach, or in a cozy chair next to the window, pick up one of these summer reads and enjoy! P.S. Did you have a chance to read any books off of the spring reading list?

1. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

We can’t get enough of memoirs, and this one looks juicy and captivating. Rakoff recalls her experiences in New York City working for J.D. Salinger. We bet this story will be captivating from the first page to the last.

2. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

We’ve seen this book around for a while but have yet to read it. This story about six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts and how they grow into middle age looks like a great slice-of-life novel. We’re excited to see how these six friendships change as life progresses, especially through the complexities of each character.

3. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Talk about an inspiring read. The Boys in the Boat tells the story of nine Americans and their quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. We love stories about beating the odds, hard work, perseverance, and true grit.

4. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

It doesn’t matter if you love math or hate math. How Not to Be Wrong shows us how math is intertwined with everything we do with a fascinating perspective. With chapters like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Win the Lottery” and “Dead Fish Don’t Read Minds,” color us intrigued. Math may not have been our strongest subject in high school, but we have a feeling we might start to like it now.

5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is the story about a wealthy family who meets on their private island every summer. A book appropriate for summer, this book has suspense, true love, and a gripping plot. Sounds good to us!

We’d love to know, what are you reading this summer?

Skills

Starting April 1, the Carpe Juvenis team is going to take on a 30 day challenge. There are 30 days in April, hence why it is called the ’30 Day Challenge.’ There can be challenges every month, but we are starting this April and we’ll see how well it goes before committing even more time. Before the 30 Day Challenge even begins, though, we are faced with our first challenge: what to challenge ourselves with! How does one go about deciding what to improve and how to make something challenging? We came up with a list, and if you have any other suggestions, please send them our way!

It is tough to choose just one from this list, but we think that focusing on one challenging thing first will help us stick with it and actually achieve our goals. There is only one rule of this Challenge: do the thing you say you are going to do each day for the entire 30 days. That’s it! It might be hard, it might be the push you need to start something you’ve been delaying, and it might even be life changing. We can’t wait to find out.

30 Day Challenge Ideas (things you will do every day):

1. Don’t hit the snooze button.

2. Read the newspaper every morning.

3. Journal every day.

4. Read one play every night.

5. Exercise.

6. Take one picture a day.

7. Blog.

8. Cook a new recipe.

9.  Go to bed early.

10. Send a handwritten letter.

11. Tell someone you love them.

12. Watch a movie.

13. Write a page of your novel.

14. Apply to internships.

15. Study another language for one hour.

Good luck, keep us posted on how it goes, and remember: good things take time.