The author’s 1989 school picture, care of L.A. Looks hairspray.
You don’t know me, but you will.
Soon the fear that’s curled inside you will contract into a smooth, hard stone—as heavy as her fists.
You will place it in your heart.
It’s okay; you’re making the right choice. Fear either hardens to stone or melts into something that can drown you.
There will be times when you’re lying here with flint in your eyes staring at the ceiling. You’ll wonder if the stone in your heart will grow, and then you’ll be like her. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo (THE FOURTH WALL)
Dear Teen Danielle,
Horse-loving Danielle, Age 15.
You are a horse-crazed girl. You know that, of course – you do spend six days a week at the barns. Seven, if you can swing it. The walls of your bedroom and the inside of your locker are coated with photos of your horses. Your bookshelves are full of books about them. Your best friends are primarily riders. And good portion of your clothing has, shall we say, a certain odor.
Speaking of clothes… I know for a fact that you’ve worn a t-shirt with a horse on it pretty much every day for the last four years. Your collection is so extensive that you could go three weeks without wearing the same one twice. You like to wear them with baggy jeans (it is the mid nineties), fake Doc Martens (because your feet are too narrow for the real brand), and a flannel shirt (you still like these 20 years later). It is your uniform, and you like it. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Danielle L. Jensen (STOLEN SONGBIRD, HIDDEN HUNTRESS)
Dear Teen Anna,
Flannel shirts: the official uniform of the ‘90s.
I bet you thought you’d never hear from me again. What can I say? You need more advice than I can give you in one letter. Last time I wrote to you, I talked about fear. This time, I wanted to talk about feeling lost.
Let’s face it. You feel lost most of the time. You know you love theater and writing, but what are you supposed to do with them? And which classes should you take, and which college should you go to? And, omg, what kind of sandwich should you have for lunch?? There are so many possible answers that sometimes you wonder if any of them are right.
Well, I have good news. You can relax. Even the wrong answers are still the right ones.
I know that sounds obnoxiously fortune cookie-ish, but it’s true.
So even though you’ll choose a college that you don’t love and then move to a town that bores you to tears and end up working at a job you hate—at a bank of all places!—all this will eventually rekindle your dream of becoming an author. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Anna Staniszewski (THE DIRT DIARY, I’M WITH CUPID)
Lauren and her two pigtail poofs of hair performing a skit sophomore year.
Dear Teen Me,
Hi, it’s you in the future.
Right now, for you, it’s the start of high school. You moved to Florida a year ago and realized your friends in NY have already kind of forgotten you. You haven’t really found a group of friends yet. You have the strongest accent; people think it’s hilarious, so they make you repeatedly say things in class. (You think this might lead to a friend—it doesn’t.) You don’t know how to dress, and you’re just incredibly scared-of-talking shy.
To say you’re feeling off is an understatement.
You may think I’m here to tell you that everything is going to turn out fine, and that there’s no need to worry, and that life will be seemingly perfect in just a few days. Well, I’m not. Not that life isn’t great, I just don’t want to spoil it for you. Instead, we’re going to talk about your hair. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lauren Gibaldi Mathur (THE NIGHT WE SAID YES)
Pompon outfit which angers some feminists, but she thought it was fun.
Hello Teen Ann,
I’ll divert from the usual “don’t go out with this guy, you are skinny enough, be strong and yourself” type of advice to tell you something depressing.
Just like your Grandpa, your mother will fall victim to Alzheimer’s. She won’t be fortunate enough to succumb to pneumonia before things get really bad. You’ll watch her suffer for years.
What will bother you the most isn’t her forgetting you—it’s you losing your good memories of her, replaced by the lonely image of her sleeping in a wheelchair, red eyed and puffy faced. You’ll panic, because, at times, this will be all you can remember of her. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Ann Noser
Dear Teen Mike,
7th grade Mike!
You’ve always been a sucker for lists. Growing up, during baseball season, you’d read the paper every morning to see who was leading the American League in hitting, RBI’s and home runs. You loved the Guinness Book of World Records and The Big Book of Lists (they had you at ‘lists’). Once you made a list of life goals you carried around in your wallet, until you lost it and never to be replaced.
You’re still a sucker for a good list. If you see one of those “10 Best Places to Retire” or “8 Ways to Save Money on Your Utility Bill” you’re instantly drawn in. It’s a real ‘thing’ with you. You make little lists at work all the time and feel far too much joy when you cross off something like ‘lunch’. You’ve just never gotten over it. Therefore, it only seems logical that I give you a list I wish you could have had back then.
Pay attention. (And yes I can see you rolling your eyes.)
1. Don’t take everything so seriously. You tended to take things far to seriously as a teenager.
2. Read number one again.
3. You’re going to lose your hair. Better enjoy those curly 70’s locks while you can.
4. When you go to college, the girl you meet at the party wearing the pink cowl neck sweater with eyes that sparkle like blue ice? She’s the one.
5. When you begin your career you are going to have people who mentor you. Pay if forward. Change is constant. At some point someone will come along to replace you. That’s life and it’s not the new person’s fault. Teach them what you know. You’ll be happy you did. And that way a part of the things you helped create will live on. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Michael P. Spradlin (THE KILLING SEAS, THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR)
13-year-old Susan at Pacific Northwest Ballet Company summer program, dressed up for Rocky Horror.
Dear Teen Susan,
I am so, so, sorry.
If I could go back in time to you, I would give you a week-long hug and tell you it really will be okay, eventually.
I know it broke you to find out—in such an ugly way—about Dad. About his years-long affair. About the other kid he had, his whole other family. How he lied to you for most of your childhood.
How he gave her your bike, the one with red and white streamers that he taught you to ride on.
That still gets me, to be honest.
All I can say is I’m sorry. Sometimes people don’t even know how much they suck, and you learned that the hard way. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from Susan Adrian (TUNNEL VISION)
Kristi at her high school graduation, circa 1989.
Dear Teen Me,
Here’s what people will think of you when they see you in high school: cheerleader, perky, and perfect life. I know this because they tell you this to your face. They’ll be right about the cheerleader part.
They don’t know you weren’t supposed to make it to high school—that you were told you would die in 8th grade. They didn’t see you those months in the hospital when the doctors gently asked your parents if they had other children (they did) because they said you wouldn’t survive the sepsis and blood infection that had quickly ravaged your heart. When you live, they admit to your parents that there was no medical reason you should have survived and they call it a “miracle.”
Your peers will see your cute bob haircut in high school, but won’t know you did it because of the desperate bad perm your mom gave you in an attempt to make you look less skeletal when you dropped to 75 pounds from the illness. What you’ll hear is that you’re lucky to be so “skinny.” Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kristi Helvig (BURN OUT, STRANGE SKIES)
Valynne’s senior photo!
Dear Teen Me,
Life for you is unbelievably good. You have grown up with friends who will be there for the rest of your life. You’re captain of the soccer team, in student government, and headed to an Ivy League school. As excited as you are to go to college, you know it’s going to be a struggle to leave your family and friends behind. You recognize how lucky you are to be surrounded by people who love you, so it would seem ungrateful to complain about these privileges you’ve been given. And because you feel this way, there’s something you never voice: No one knows how marginalized you feel.
You’ve grown up in Utah where there are very few people of color. You’ve grown up never seeing yourself in movies, in the toys you play with, or in books. You’ve grown up thinking your story isn’t important enough to tell unless in a setting with internment camps where people like you are hated for the way they look. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Valynne E. Maetani (INK AND ASHES)
Marissa, age 15.
Dear Teen Me,
I could write the same letter to you at 13, 14, 15, all through your teens, because you’ve really always wanted the same thing – to tell stories and draw pictures to go with them. Nothing is as magical as the moment you put the pen to paper, either to draw or to write.
The big question is whether you’ll make it or not, will you ever get published. What you really want to know is whether to risk it, whether to follow a safer path that guides you to a job or take a leap of faith that you can make a living writing and illustrating.
Here’s what I say: do it! Take that risk and keep on taking risks! You’ll make mistakes, some risks won’t pay off, but surprisingly most of them will, some in ways you could never predict. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Marissa Moss (AMELIA’S NOTEBOOK series, MIRA’S DIARY series)