Dear Teen Me,

Candy dancing at 14, the summer before she enters the High School of Performing Arts.

Candy dancing at 14, the summer before she enters the High School of Performing Arts.

First, You know how much you love dancing? Soak up every second of it. I know the eight hours a day of training gets old, and there are days when you want to cry while pulling on your tights because your body hurts. There comes a time in the next few years when you can’t do it any more, and you’ll appreciate those memories from the hours and hours of dance classes. The dance instructors at HSPVA and Ms. Sharon are hard on you. Sometimes they make you cry, but they will instill a confidence in you that lasts a lifetime. Dance is your life right now, and you have no idea how much it will help you in the future. This first picture was taking at a recital the summer before you went to HSPVA. It’s scary as hell that first year, but you come away with so much more than you could ever imagine.

All of that discipline comes in handy when you are forced to change your dreams. A few years into college, Dad is going to sit you down in a Square Pan Pizza and tell you something that is going to help you through a really tough time and launch a new dream for you.

You know how you always end up working on school newspapers and magazines? Well, that will also come in handy. That new dream is journalism school. I know, weird, right? That leads to a kind of cool job as a television and film critic for magazines and newspapers. You’ll end up on the radio, and almost everything good in your life comes from taking a risk and jumping into the fray. At first, you have no idea what you’re doing, but you figure it out. Your ability to adapt to almost any situation is one of your best assets.

Oh, and the klutz thing… you never quite get over that. But being a klutz leads you into yet another dream job, one you could have never imagined. You have an embarrassing moment at a party in Hollywood (Yes, you get to hang out with even cooler people than you are now.), and a friend of yours starts talking to you about books to take your mind off the situation. In one of the strangest moments ever she says, “You should write a romance novel. I bet you’d be good at it.” So you go home and do it. You aren’t very good at first, but you do get better. You know how you crush on authors more than you do celebrities? Well, you become one. I know, that’s some crazy talk, but it’s true. Mrs. Chapin told you that you should be a writer when you were seventh grade. She was right. For the rest of your life, she’s still going to be your favorite teacher.

Boy crazy Candy at 17.

Boy crazy Candy at 17.

And you’ll love being an author so much that you’ll want to help other authors. You’ll open a writing workshop, and you’ll take the craziest job yet – as an Editorial Director at a publishing company. Like everything good that comes your way, a call will come out of the blue from this friend of yours, Liz. She’ll challenge you in a way you could have never imagined. You think she’s nuts, but it turns out she knows what she’s talking about it. It’s the toughest job you’ll ever have, but you love it. Trust your instincts when it comes to books and people. Those instincts will continue to serve you well. Oh, and that discipline from dance has honed you into a beast who can work hours more a day than most folks. Unfortunately, you spend most of that time on your ass, which we will discuss later.

If I can impart one bit of knowledge, it’s this: Dump the next five boyfriends quickly. There’s not a good one in the bunch. Don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable. I mean it. You don’t need boys to tell you that you are pretty. You are. And you don’t need boys to tell you that you are loved, because you are. You have the world’s greatest family who is there for you through the good and the bad. All your friends say you have the coolest parents and grandparents in the world. They are right.

Here’s a hint about boys in your future: Your first year of college, you’ll meet a guy who becomes your best friend. He’s the one. You two crazy kids end up falling in love, having two of the greatest boys ever, and while it isn’t always the smoothest ride, you have an enduring love and respect for one another. So send the rest of those dudes packing.

And one last thing… All that dieting to stay under 105 so you don’t get kicked out of the performing arts school, well it comes back to haunt you in a big way. Years later you’ll continue to have those nightmares about stepping on the scales. Take better care of yourself. Treat your body as a temple, because if you don’t you might end up with an ass the size of Montana. Just sayin.’

Harlequin Blaze, October 2013.

Harlequin Blaze, October 2013.

Bestselling author Candace Havens has written multiple novels for Berkley, Entangled and Harlequin. Her books have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion and Write Touch Reader Awards. She is the author of the biography JOSS WHEDON: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities including Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, George Clooney and many more. Her entertainment columns can be read in more than 600 newspapers across the country. And she is the Editorial Director for the Covet, Edge and Select lines at Entangled Publishing. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 2200 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing class. She does film reviews with the Hawkeye & Dorsey on 96.3, and is a former President of theTelevision Critics Association.

Follow Candy at: @candacehavens