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Teen Sunshine Reflections: Words for the Heart and Soul

by June Cotner (HarperCollins Publishers, ©2002, $15.95, $9.95)

 

 

Teen Sunshine Reflections: Words for the Heart and Soul

by June Cotner (HarperCollins Publishers, ©2002, $15.95, $9.95)

 

1. What inspired you to compile Teen Sunshine Reflections?

I was busy working on my adult anthologies and thought I had found my niche when in January 2000, the 16-year-old son of a close friend took his life. His death affected me profoundly. In my anguish, I read everything I could on teen suicide and was surprised at the lack of books for teens that would help them cope with the complex and serious issues they face today.

I created this book because I want to give teens fresh, simple, and inspiring words of hope, wisdom, and comfort. The thoughts, poems, and prayers in this book will help teens connect with God, cope with hard times, and inspire them to achieve their goals.

 

2. What are some of the themes of Teen Sunshine Reflections?

Relationships, comfort, encouragement, praise, gratitude, love, kindness, forgiveness, individuality, tolerance, and spirituality.

 

3. How did you go about gathering and selecting the poems and prayers for Teen Sunshine Reflections?

Over the past year I have read many books dealing with teen issues. I talked with teens about what kind of writing speaks to them most deeply. These conversations made it clear that I should produce a book that offers comfort, encouragement and inspiration not only from great sages, such as Mother Teresa and The Dalai Lama, but also from teens reflecting on the gifts and joy of life. One third of the selections in Teen Sunshine Reflections are written by teens, for teens. In compiling Teen Sunshine Reflections, I put out a call for submissions and was stunned and excited by the talent of teen writers who responded. Word spread quickly and soon I was receiving poetry from teenagers around the world. After I had determined the preliminary content of the book, I enlisted the advice from a panel of 20 teens, representing various religious and ethnic backgrounds, who helped select the final content of the book.

4. You have two children; did Teen Sunshine Reflections grow at all out of your experiences with them during their teen years?

Yes and no. When I was considering a piece for the book, before I had put together the test market manuscript, I would think to myself, "Is this something that would have been relevant and helpful to my children when they were teens?" It was a good way to put the piece in perspective. However, the teens that were a part of my test market panel were the ones who really gave me helpful feedback in determining the final content of the book. A few teens from the test market panel made comments that there needed to be more selections in the book dealing with divorce, death of friends and family, and finding where you belong in groups at school. I realized that they were correct, and this made me seek out additional selections that dealt with these issues. Their criticism ultimately made the book much better.

 

5. Did any of the comments that the teens gave you about the test market manuscript surprise you?

Actually, yes. I was amazed at how honest and clear the teens were in their ability to express their opinions. The poems that were submitted by teens were so insightful, and caring.

6. What do you hope teen readers will take away from this book?

I hope they can turn to this book as a source of comfort when they are feeling discouraged or experiencing a difficult time in their lives. Teens are growing up in a time of great turbulence, and they need all the encouragement and support they can get. This book will hopefully make them feel more confident about their lives, God, and the world that they live in. Also, I hope the book will help them appreciate the blessings and joys of life, and put their difficulties in perspective. Knowing that because things are bad one day or even one year does not mean thatís the way it will stay. I want them to feel very optimistic about life.

7. What makes Teen Sunshine Reflections especially powerful for teens?

I wanted this book to speak directly to teens about what matters to them most. So I when enlisted the help from a panel of teens, I made sure to listen to what issues and topics were most relevant in their lives; such as friends, faith, self-esteem, and family. I then compiled this book to inspire them in their day-to-day lives with these issues and topics in mind.

8. As adults we donít all remember what moved us when we were teens. Was there anything you remembered while compiling this book about your teenage years?

Definitely, the selections in this book brought back a lot of old memories and feelings. There are pieces by adults that I wish someone would have told me during my teenage years because it would have really helped me out. However, the poetry written by teens was what spoke to me the most deeply, because it was written from the perspective of someone actually experiencing their teenage years, and not just reflecting upon them. These selections truly made me recall my own excitement and insecurities during these years.

9. Will Teen Sunshine Reflections help parents understand their teens a little more?

Yes, because this book reveals the mind-set that teens have. The 20 teen panelists chose the selections that went into the final book. At the very least, this book will help parents empathize with some of the issues teens face.

Excerpts from TEEN SUNSHINE REFLECTIONS

bullet"I wonder if Iíll make it/ I wonder if Iíll succeed/ I wonder if Iíll be accepted for just being me" (13 y.o. Ally Rakoczy from Decatur, GA)
bulletOne talented teen, 14 y.o. Nadia Kourehdar wrote this about divorce, "Dear God, do you see me?/ I am caught between ocean and shore/ My world separates in two/ My mother stands alone/ My father stands alone."
bulletWe hear so much that teens are not responsible, not caring. Listen to this by 14 y.o. Ashley Payne, " When will they stop,/ the "holy" wars--/ to God I ask/ What do you think?"
bulletStrong theme is forgiveness and tolerance. From the poems the teens selected, they seem more tolerant than many adults. Listen to this by 14 y.o. Nadia Kourehdar, " I wonder . . . / Perhaps there is no chosen faith./ Perhaps I "belong" when I realize no matter what faith I choose,/ God exists everywhere, equally, forever."
bulletThis part of a poem really illustrates how I felt as a teen. Itís written by 13 y.o. Katie Bonacini from Oakland, CA: "This is such a critical point in my life,/ between childhood and adulthood,/ a time when emotions rage, pressures surround,/ and change is in every breath we take." Adults need to remember this about their teens.
bulletIncluded an excerpt from Bev Cobainís book, When Nothing Matters Anymore, "If you look at your misfortunes as learning experiences and life challenges that you can survive and overcome, youíll grow stronger. Ask yourself, ĎHow can I make this work for me rather than against me?í"
bulletHockey player Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take."
bulletThe teens loved a piece by Bill OíReilly that said, "Be honorable. Find your talent. Work hard. And be true to yourself. Your life is waiting for you."

 

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