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Teen Sunshine Reflections: Words for the Heart and Soul
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?
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
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
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
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
Excerpts from TEEN SUNSHINE REFLECTIONS
"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)
One 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."
We 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?"
Strong 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."
This 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.
Included 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
Hockey player Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you
The 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