Body Image Month

I’m really excited to be participating in Once Upon A Bookshelf’s Body Image Month. If you’ve read My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, you already know how much I care about these issues. I try really, really hard to feel good about my own body (after years of hating my nose). But now I have daughters and I know that I have to be a good role model.

Popular teen radio stations in Utah regularly play ads for a liposuction company that promises to deliver the “body you’ve always wanted” in time for Christmas, Prom, Bikini Season… But here’s the thing: most of us will never resemble six feet tall fashion models, the ones sporting those bodies we think we want, in all the magazines and all over television.

Media images make it seem as if true happiness can be acquired through physical beauty. A few weeks ago I came across this article on about a teen who regretted having a nose job. She thought that plastic surgery would help her overcome shyness. It didn’t. The cure for shyness is self-acceptance–flaws and all–not surgery.
These days I’m being bombarded with various procedures that will make me look “young.” I changed doctors when my gynecologist started offering in-office Botox and other beauty treatments. It’s bad enough to wear paper clothes and get weighed in the hallway. What would they do next? Make me look in a mirror for wrinkles? Now my hair salon is offering the same stuff. I already say no to hair dye, will I now have to say no to various injections?
I like being my age. As much as I love writing for teens, I’m glad that I’ve made it through those tough years. Now if I can just help my daughters and readers with their own journeys…
I’ll be guest posting for Once Upon A Bookshelf on July 29th, but please check out all the book reviews and posts starting today!

Hanging On Versus Letting Go

For the last three weeks, my family has been debating “hanging on” versus “letting go.” Here’s the situation:
During our spring vacation, I flipped out of a river raft in a Class IV rapid. I held on to the thin safety cord attached to the raft with a grasp so intense that my pinkie finger was numb for the next ten days. And I injured my shoulder. It all happened so fast; I didn’t know whether I’d smashed my shoulder against a rock, or tore it up by hanging on. Thus, our family debate.
I held on because I didn’t want to go down this rapid like these people (this is NOT me):
And I didn’t fall out of the raft again, not even when we got stuck between boulders with water rushing over us. I held on like crazy, painful shoulder and all. But I’ve been thinking about hanging on ever since. If I had let go, maybe I wouldn’t have hurt my shoulder…
Over the years, I’ve hung on to a lot of things when I should’ve let go: not-so-good relationships, dead-end jobs, unrealistic goals…and a cute skirt that never quite fit.
The thing is: deep down I knew I needed to let go of the relationships, the jobs, the goals, and even that skirt. But I didn’t trust my intuition–you know that feeling that pricks your gut, whispers in your mind? Eventually, things reached the point that I absolutely had to let go–of the relationships and jobs and goals that simply didn’t work. I also–finally–gave the skirt to a friend, and it looks great on her.
So back to the river raft: I did trust my intuition. I knew I wasn’t a strong enough swimmer to escape a Class IV rapid, so I held on. And I didn’t regret my decision–even if it meant surgery. Last week, I was happy to learn that I broke my acromion bone (the very top of my shoulder) by smashing against a rock when I flipped out of the raft. No torn muscle, no surgery!
Holding on didn’t hurt me this time, but I still think it takes more courage to let go.

Guest Nose Cynthea Liu

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Cynthea Liu back–for her middle-grade debut! I adored this book and couldn’t wait to pass it along to my 4th grade daughter. She’s reading it right now and loving it just as much as I knew she would. Here’s what Cynthea has to say:

PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE does address the issue of beauty somewhat through Robin’s character. In a society where tan-ness is good and fairness is almost considered sickly, I’m sure Robin had many insecurities about herself. And its not just the lightness of her skin either- for her, it was her hair, her outfits… Basically everything about her was ridiculed. She was different, and people like Mayo, made sure she knew it!

Personally, growing up, I always thought I was okay to look at, despite the braces and the insecurities about my flat nose. But oh, how differences can make a difference! I coveted those big eyes my peers had. Gorgeous eyes in all different colors. Large, voluminous eyes that can see into your soul! I even tried to draw in bigger eyes in my yearbook photos when I was in jr. high. (And I was shading in the sides of my nose to make it look less flat, too!) EEK!

It just goes to show a simple insecurity can be such a big deal when you’re younger. To the point that you’ll try to doctor your pictures with a ballpoint pen.

But I am happy to declare that I am no longer drawing in bigger eyes for myself. (I just look paranoid that way!) And I did give Robin an ending that shows that Robin’s character IS about character, and not all of those stupid things kids AND adults spend way too much time thinking about.

About Paris Pan Takes the Dare

Twelve-year-old Paris Pan’s life is a mess. She’s just moved to a tiny town in Nowheresville, Oklahoma; her family life is a comical disaster; her new friends are more like frenemies; and the boy she has a crush on is a dork. Things couldn’t possibly get worse, until she discovers that a girl mysteriously died years ago while taking a seventh-grade rite of passage–the Dare– right near Paris’s new house. So when Paris starts hearing strange noises coming from the creepy run-down shed in her backyard, she thinks they could be a message from the ghost of a girl. But while she has no plans to make contact with the great beyond, her two new friends have other thoughts. Everyone who’s anyone takes the Dare, and now it’s Paris’s turn. Buy the book here!

About Cynthea Liu

Cynthea spent her formative years in Oklahoma and Texas where she was a Whiz Quiz member, an Academic Decathloner, and a spelling bee champion. (Yes, she was very popular.) After attending college on the East coast, she worked at a corporate job where she mastered PowerPoint and racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles. Eventually, she traded in her suit for sweats to do the fun stuff–writing for children. In addition to PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE and THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA (buy it here), Cynthea’s nonfiction book WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE (how to write, revise, and publish your kid’s or teen book with children’s book publishers) is available in paperback here.  Find out more about Cynthea at

Guest Nose Mandy Hubbard

Today it’s my pleasure to host Mandy Hubbard debut author of the very charming Prada and Prejudice. Like her main character Callie, Mandy has also struggled with her own fashion issues. Mandy says:

I was never a big risk taker in terms of fashion and beauty. I couldn’t figure out mascara (let alone eye liner), and I was so tall that jeans were almost always high waters on me.

I do remember in 8th grade, taking a daring fashion risk: I wore jean shorts with nylons, tube socks, and combat boots. And I felt cute! My BFF definitely raised an eyebrow at me and wondered what I was thinking, but one of our more popular friends really loved the look. It still stands out in my mind—feeling bold and crazy for a day, walking down the halls. I wish I’d taken more risks instead of trying so hard to blend into the walls!

About Prada and Prejudice

Fifteen year old Callie just wants to impress the popular girls when she buys a pair of Prada heels on her class trip to London. She didn’t plan on tripping, conking her head, and waking up in 1815! Now she’s wearing corsets with her designer pumps, eating bizarre soups, and breaking up engagements. If only the nineteen year old Duke of Harksbury wasn’t so bloody annoying, she might have a little fun in Austen-Era England… Buy the book here! 

About Mandy Hubbard

Mandy Hubbard grew up on a dairy farm outside Seattle, where she refused to wear high heels until homecoming—and hated them so much she didn’t wear another pair for five years. A cowgirl at heart, she enjoys riding horses and quads and singing horribly to the latest country tune. She’s currently living happily ever after with her husband (who, sadly, is not a Duke) and her daughter (who is most definitely a princess). Prada and Prejudice is her first novel. Learn more about Mandy at

Guest Nose: Danielle Joseph

I’m happy to be hosting Danielle Joseph today. I spent the weekend reading Shrinking Violet. The book made me laugh, but also really made me think–especially about the shy girls I knew in high school. Some of them were so pretty and smart, but entirely unnoticed. I love the way Shrinking Violet shows how a shy girl uses her passion for music to find her own unique voice. The book is full of other great thinking moments, but I’ll let you discover those on your own. This book seriously belongs in your beach/pool bag!

Here’s what Danielle says:
In Shrinking Violet, Tere has a lot of insecurities about her looks. Much of this comes from her mother who wants Tere to be a “popular girl”. Tere is much more comfortable in jeans and her fav band tee. Throughout her life she has struggled with self image but as she finds her voice, she begins to take more risks with her outer appearance without compromising who she is. And her biggest fashion embarrassment is when she has to dress as Helen Keller for a school assignment.

About Shrinking Violet
For high school senior Teresa Adams, every day is an ordeal. She’s so painfully shy that she lives in dread of having to speak to anyone in the hallways or answer questions in class. But after school, in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks—doing mock broadcasts for Miami’s hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up, Tere surprises herself by working up the nerve to ask her stepfather to give her a chance—and finds herself The SLAM’s newest intern on one of the station’s most popular shows. Behind the mike she’s Sweet T, her sexy, confident on-air persona. To everyone’s shock—especially her mother’s—Sweet T is a hit. Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ’s awesome taste in music, making Tere wonder if it’s possible to be jealous of yourself. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest—and a prom date with “Sweet T” is the grand prize–Sweet T’s dream could turn into Tere’s worst nightmare. . . . Buy your own copy here!

About Danielle Joseph
Danielle Joseph was a college DJ for five years on the Gyroscope, a world music show. She also interned at several top Boston radio stations while earning her BFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Marketing Communications and Advertising from Emerson College. She has taught Creative Writing and English to Middle school students.

Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Danielle now lives in Miami, Florida with her husband and two young sons. These days you can find her cruising around with the tunes blaring and her internal DJ hard at work. Read more about Danielle: 

Guest Nose: Saundra Mitchell

In Shadowed Summer, my main character Iris trails behind her best friend Collette in the getting-to-the-beauty phase of being a teen. It doesn’t occur to Iris to think about the way she looks until her uncle brings her a few faintly fashionable odds and ends from a tag sale.

Among these pieces, Iris finds a fitted, blousy shirt unlike her usual beaten-up Ts. And when she puts it on, she feels different. More obvious; more like Collette, who’s still delighted enough with her recent transformation that she wants people to notice the bra strap peeking from under her sleeve. But Iris isn’t ready for that kind of scrutiny yet–this new skin is pretty, but not exactly hers.
As someone who spent most of junior high wearing skinny ties and suits, then most of high school in combat boots and floor-length skirts, I relate. Trying to find myself, I tried on a lot of skins–some more successful than others. But I remember clearly, meeting up with a high school friend, later, in my 20s. By then, I had moved on to comfortably casual department store–normal enough, I suppose.
When he saw me, he said, “If I had known you looked like that, I would have asked you out.”
I think if he’d said that at any other time, I would have been devastated. Felt like I’d failed somehow. But he caught me on a day when I was exactly me–and that was exactly enough. And instead of being ashamed that I hadn’t been pretty enough, I was amused.
I replied, “Hey, I’ve always looked like this. It’s not my fault you didn’t see it.”
Though Iris isn’t at that point by the end of Shadowed Summer, I like to think she’s approaching it. I like to think I’m hitting it more often than not. So I hope that on those days, when you feel exactly wrong, entirely ugly and unlovable in the extreme, you’ll take a moment, stop, and realize that you’ve always looked like this. 
And you are beautiful.
About Shadowed Summer
Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered.
Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind “The Incident With the Landry Boy.”
Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette’s latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew.
What she doesn’t realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret. Want your own copy? Find it here.
About Saundra Mitchell
A screenwriter and author, Saundra Mitchell penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director’s Chair short film series. Her short story “Ready To Wear” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. In her free time, she enjoys ghost hunting, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children. Find out more about Saundra at or