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Bethany Jett. The Cinderella Rule: A Young Woman’s Guide to Happily Ever After. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2013. 192 pages. $12.99
Our world glorifies teen pregnancy, premarital sex and the role of domineering females. Girls are sexting, experimenting and initiating relationships. For young women this world is not only perilous, but deeply frustrating and disappointing. The Cinderella Rule encourages young women to understand that God created them to be His crowning achievement and teaches them to insist that the guys in their life treat them as such. While it is fun to be pursued, readers will take an in-depth look at how young women should act when the guy worth pursuing them shows up. When young women understand who God created them to be, they understand more fully the confidence they need to set higher standards for themselves as well as the wonderful rewards in store for those who patiently wait on the Lord for His purpose and plan. Bethany Jett is a writer, speaker, and longtime youth sponsor. Having first worked with youth at age 17, Bethany’s focus has always been on teens and 20-somethings. Bethany has been the guest speaker at various women’s events. She recently won the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference 2012 Writer of the Year Award. She blogs at BethanyJett.com and lives in Florida with her youth pastor husband and three boys.
5 out of 5 stars
Debut author Bethany Jett has done an incredible job of creating a guide for girls whose hearts are telling them to slow down and wait on the right guy to pursue them. They know there’s beauty in hanging back and focusing on the interesting things in their own lives–the result is that they become interesting to guys with substance.
I think we’ve reached the point of utter fatigue with the models popular culture holds up for girls these days–most of them idealize the aggressive pursuer. What we find more often than not, is that girls who target a particular boy and use every means to attract his attention are suffering from a lack of confidence and a fuzzy road map. What The Cinderella Rule does best is that it encourages girls to see the big picture, and it especially encourages them to clearly see the end result they want. They don’t really want a string of quick heartbreaks. They really want their hearts, souls, and minds to be engaged by guys who see that they are unlike any other woman on earth. They are special and they are worthy of pursuit.
Jett, in a beautifully transparent voice, shares her own times of feeling desperate for a boy’s approval and attention. She’s frank about where this desperation usually leads and she loves girls enough to tell them the truth. Be smart. Be creative. Be yourself. And be worthy of an honorable young man’s focus. And she’s clear, too, about what an honorable man looks like–he’s of high character, he never cheats, he never reacts violently, he never takes you for granted. And, above all, he’s ‘right’ for you.
We sure don’t need more lessons on the “games” that we can play to land a man. We need honesty. Refreshing, real, clear-eyed honesty. The Cinderella Rule accomplishes this neatly, plus reading it feels a lot like sitting with the author in your favorite coffee shop. This is a comfortable read that allows you to absorb solid truth free from judgment and criticism.
Interview with the author:
Bethany was gracious enough to talk with me in the middle of a youth group camp! I think you’ll agree with me that she’s like a breath of fresh air and I’m so glad she’s writing books and blogging for you guys! I had the privilege of hanging out with her in Chicago for a few days so I know she’s as gorgeous in spirit and heart as she is on the outside.
Laura: Was there a certain incident that made you say to yourself, “I’ve had enough. I know I can help girls do this dating thing better. I’m going to write a book.”
Bethany: I coach high school cheerleading, as well as working with our youth group, and I was tired of seeing girls be so forward and so willing to give a piece of themselves to a guy in exchange for something they hoped would fill their hearts. Instead, I wiped a lot of tears and shed a few of my own as I counseled girl after girl who’d gone too far and was left with nothing to show for it but puffy eyes and a broken heart.
Just teared up at the memory.
I’ve been a youth sponsor and youth minister’s wife for several years, and I noticed that my sweet girls in our youth group have the same questions every year about dating, like “what’s too far?” and “how do I know if he likes me?” etc. So I started a blog with my “dating rules” so that the girls could have a sort of 24/7 access to some dating advice and rules. I love rules. I took a couple of my favorite posts, transformed them into a book proposal, and took it with me to the Florida Christian Writers Conference in 2012, and ta-da!!! The Cinderella Rule was born.
Laura: Do you find that teens in youth groups have a healthier outlook on relationships than teens who aren’t involved in a church?
Bethany: I think it depends on their home-life more than their church-life. There are girls on my cheerleading squad that are well-adjusted, come from good homes, and have a healthy view of relationships (although they may or may not be abstinent-minded). Their attitudes are the same as girls in my youth group from good homes, with the exception that God’s ways are the right ways.
Similarly, the girls in my youth group and my squad who have a harder time with their parents, whether due to divorce, non-involvement, etc, seem to be desperate to fill that hole, and turn to guys to fill that need. I wish some parents understood the extent of emotional damage their daughters suffer when they don’t pour into their hearts the way God intended.
Laura: Where are we, as parents, youth leaders, teachers, failing at getting our message across? Are we just not talking loudly enough or have times changed so much that our message is no longer relevant?
Bethany: Oooh—this is a great question. I think it’s a two-part answer.
One of the problems I see is that sex is almost always talked about in a negative manner. We talk about abstinence in terms of consequences, i.e., teen-pregnancy, STDS, etc. I know it’s uncomfortable for kids to talk about sex with their parents, which is why having kids involved in a healthy youth group is a positive thing. But I think more discussion is needed on the benefits of waiting and how amazing sex is when it’s done within God’s timeline and the boundaries of marriage.
When it comes to times having changed – yes, they have changed dramatically, even from when I was in high school, which crazily is about 13 years ago. Here’s the reality of what your teenager is used to: teen pregnancy, hooking-up (sex) on a date, homosexuality, oral sex being performed in school bathrooms, etc.
Some of the girls in my youth group say they won’t even go to the bathroom at school, instead “holding it” until they get home because they don’t know what they’re going to find when they go to the restroom.
Some things cross generations, like bullying, mean teachers, popular kids, etc. But when a parent truly understands what their teen’s life is like, they do everything they can to be involved on a daily basis. And thankfully, there are a lot of amazing parents who “adopt” their kids’ friends and get involved in their lives as well. I’m so grateful for their example.
Laura: Do you feel hopeful about the future of marriage as the teens you are guiding enter adulthood?
Bethany: There’s a lot of brokenness in the homes of a lot of my teenagers, and I think and pray that the girls will learn from the mistakes of their parents and be more selective when it comes to marriage. It seems the girls go to extremes—either they don’t want to get married because they are afraid of falling into a marriage like their parents, or they start sleeping around in order to feel some control over their relationships.
I think if we can reverse this trend of girls being the pursuer and sex being “no big deal,” then maybe we’ll see more and more young women chasing college, a career or talent and letting the guy chase her.
Laura: What would you say to the teenage guy who reads this book and says you’re teaching teenage girls to play manipulative games?
Bethany: God has blessed my husband and me with three little boys, and so help me if some young thing tries to manipulate them when they’re dating! From the very first chapter, the book instructs girls on how to work on themselves, from finding confidence in God, dressing modestly (with a peek into guys’ minds), qualifying guys before dating them, all the way through kissing, sex, and engagement. If a girl follows through with the guidelines, she’ll be protecting not only her heart, but her man’s as well.
Laura: What’s the most important take away from the book – in just one or two sentences?
Bethany: Pursue your God-given talents, goals, and dreams, and let the guy chase you.
Laura: What’s next for you?
Bethany: I’ve been doing radio interviews and speaking at youth groups, women’s groups, and conferences, and hope to be speaking a lot more! I’m about to start The Cinderella Rule as a small group study with my girls, and hope to assist other small groups as they start the study, as well!
Find Bethany Jett online here:
Thanks so much, Bethany!
Have you ever lived somewhere that you didn’t belong? I mean, just really, truly felt like a fish out of water every single day? I spent a decade in a place like that, trying (and usually failing) to feel comfortable. A lot of the blame rests with me because it’s hard for me to “bloom where I’m planted” if I can’t find like-minded people to bloom with. But there are always silver linings and one of my best silver linings during that decade was Jennifer Watrous.
I’ve had the amazing honor of watching Jennifer as she found her calling and made it a vocation. A couple of years ago, she bought a camera. Now, you should know that Jennifer is an artist–mostly a painter, but she’s gifted at creating a ton of different kinds of art. And it’s a given that she sees the world differently from the rest of us. She decided her camera could be a way for her to show us how she sees the world. To her, it’s a beautiful, wondrous, God-filled place that changes every single day. This was fantastic. I knew she’d be a fabulous photographer.
Then, one day, Jennifer and I were scheming about a photo shoot on a friend’s property. The friend has horses . . . beautiful horses. We walked into a back field to scout a location and Jennifer spotted the horses. I pointed out the new foals and the mamas they belonged with and then turned to check on Jennifer because she’d gone quiet and still.
Man, I wish I’d had my own camera so I could show you what her face looked like. It held equal parts fear and awe, but mostly I remember the wonder. She dropped down, moved her equipment around and started shooting and giggling. She’d inch a little closer and squeal. At one point, I had to remind her that mama was watching and not to get between a baby and her mom. I just don’t think I’ve ever seen someone more in love with a moment in time.
See, I was witnessing a woman who had found one of the things she’d been made for. Seriously. Jennifer Watrous, as it turns out, was put on this earth to capture images of horses. She’s crazy talented, too. People all over the world look at and buy her prints and I’m so proud of her. Soon after that first look at horses, JD Waterhouse Photography was born!
Jennifer loved Glass Girl and was one of my earliest fans. She also loved Perfect Glass, and she wanted to find a way to encourage her horse photography fans to read my books. Today, her photography blog is a stop on the Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour and that’s awesome enough.
But to make it even sweeter, she’s raffling this print!
Believe me, you want this print hanging in your home. It will make you happy every time you look at it. So enter here—
Also, don’t forget that we’re getting close to the end of the Perfect Clouds Virtual Tour featuring Perfect Glass and Rajdeep Paulus’s Swimming Through Clouds. Rajdeep and I are giving away some really great book swag that I know you want to win. So throw your name into that raffle right here— a Rafflecopter giveaway
For those of you visiting because you found me through Jennifer’s horse photography – here’s a little background:
The Horse Obsession
In Glass Girl and Perfect Glass, there’s a good deal of talk about horses. I’m often asked if I own horses, or grew up with them, since I talk about them so much. The fact is . . . no, to both questions. Although I live next door to the Windham Quarter Horse ranch in College Station, Texas where some of the nation’s finest champion quarter horses spend their days, I’m really not an expert at all.
I’m honored today to be in the presence of such horse lovers—all of you who follow Jennifer’s blog and photography site amaze me. You possess knowledge that I envy.
My grandfather was a horse trader in Poteau, Oklahoma, and he raised his kids, including my mother, to be comfortable enough to ride whenever and wherever. My mother, as a small child, would ride to the city pool in the summers and depend on her horse to get her home after a long day in the sun, as she slept in the saddle. My riding experience, sadly, only includes trail rides in Colorado—although, these are rides to elevations of 11,000+ feet, and they take a fair amount of courage on my part.
In my novels, one of my main characters is a boy named Henry Whitmire. Henry is the son of a rancher in Wyoming, and one of his responsibilities is tending the large number of horses on the ranch. One way he gets to know Meg, the girl of his dreams, is by taking her on long horse rides in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains. Meg is a city girl from Pittsburgh, so this is all new to her. It was easy for me to describe the healthy fear she felt and the victory of actually making it into the saddle without flinging herself over the other side of the horse.
As someone who has always considered horses to be her favorite animal on the entire planet, I enjoyed writing about the world that you love so much. The creaking of the saddle’s leather, the rocking of a gentle trail horse, the stubborn nature of horses who know better than to stop on the trail and eat.
This is one reason I enjoy JD Waterhouse photography—Jennifer is someone who truly loves the beauty of a horse. And she’s unconditional about that—horses that have thrown her or bitten her get just as much camera time as the ones who stay out of her way. As you all know—that’s true love.
I hope, if you’re looking for a good story about a boy who loves horses as much as you do, that you’ll pick up Glass Girl and Perfect Glass!
For everyone else—-
I think you would all enjoy following Jennifer on Facebook and keeping tabs on her JD Waterhouse Photography blog. In fact, she’s hosting today’s stop on the Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour so don’t miss it!
And she’s thoughtful—when we chat by phone, she always throws a y’all into the conversation in my honor. Although her Canadian/Chicagoan/New Yorker accent makes ‘y’all’ sound a little different. And I hardly ever say y’all anyway, so it’s especially funny.
Her first novel, Swimming Through Clouds, releases June 1. Look at this gorgeous cover!
Can’t wait for you to read this book. It’s intense and emotional, but also incredibly hopeful. You will pull for her narrator, Talia, and you’ll fall for sweet, sensitive Lagan (pronounced La-gone).
Here’s the synopsis—
When high school cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, slowly revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.
I love that Lagan writes notes on paper to Talia. I miss those days.
I invited Rajdeep over today (all the way from Locust Valley, New York) so you can get to know her before her release. You’ll want to follow her blog, her Twitter, and her Facebook, too, to get all the latest news about her upcoming releases.
So who is Rajdeep Paulus? It’s such a beautiful name. What does it mean?
“Rajdeep,” someone yelled back.
“Rajdeep, it is.”
And that’s how I was named, more or less.
Determined to give a little glamour to the story, I researched its meaning so I could salvage my less than glorious beginnings. Raj comes from “Raja” which means “king,” and “deep” is the Punjabi word for “light” so at face value, my name means King of Light. Kinda corney, right? So the writer in me decided to tweak and nowadays, I tell people, “Since you asked, Rajdeep means ‘ruled by light.’ ”
Where did you grow up? Are you from a large family? Did you move around a lot?
I was born in India, celebrated my third birthday in New York City, and then we moved to Canada, where I spent most of my growing up years. Moved across the border from Windsor, Ontario to Livonia, Michigan around my senior year in high school. I don’t have a huge immediate family, but I grew up surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. Family is very important to me.
You approach life with a great sense of humor. Where does that come from?
I love to laugh and I have lots of memories being the cause of laughter, simply because I’m a klutz and a tad blond under this dark head of hair. But, early on, I think I just learned it’s a lot more fun to laugh at yourself. Life’s short. Hafta laugh!
But I’m a crier, too. Movies, songs, or when someone shares his or her story. Doesn’t take much.
Were there things in your childhood that taught you to be resilient and to roll with the punches? How are you teaching your girls to be resilient?
My parents always approached life with an attitude of “when life knocks you down, get back on your feet and try again.” My husband and I try and teach our girls the same thing. Life’s about second chances. And third, and fourth and so on. Grace is key. To give and receive—the constant challenge.
What books from your childhood and teen years were most influential on the person you are today and the writer you are today?
I have always loved stories that pulled me into a world I’m not familiar with, but leave me feeling like I totally lived through the lives of the characters. Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and even stories like Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt and I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier were some of my favorites. And in more recent times, Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns really blew me away.
If you could do one thing over in your life, what would it be?
Wow! Just one! Truth is, as much as I think erasing or undoing a moment in my past would make for a prettier story or cleaner resume, I know that each moment has shaped me to become who I am today. A work in progress.
At times, I do wish I had spent more time with my grandmother while she was alive. Some things you can’t get back. Like time. Miss her a lot.
Do you have a secret ambition that not many people know?
Haha. So many!
I’ll narrow my list down to
1. Official Taste Tester for Godiva.
2. Personal Assistant to Denzel Washington (Laura here . . . I was glad to find out Mississippi Masala is one of Rajdeep’s favorites. I loved this early one of Denzel’s.)
and 3. And of course, ballgirl to the Chicago Bulls would be a dream come true!
What’s the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
Forgiven me. Given me grace. Every day. That would be my hubs. Yep. Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
What makes you sad?
A lot of things. But I think near the top of my list are children being trafficked for sex, a person who refuses to forgive, and when I forget to call my mom.
What’s your favorite room in your house and why?
My bedroom. Because I love sleep! And dreaming.
Some of my favorite scenes come to me in my dreams.
And I love my red blanket. [Thanks, Mom!] I also love the paint on the wall. It’s a sandy pink on two walls, a deep purple on a third, and the signature wall has a sponged combination of the colors. I worked on it for a whole day and I love how it turned out, my one canvas if you will.
The walls have portraits from our wedding day, as well as a fun collage from our ten year anniversary. It’s also the messiest room in our house (the last frontier, we call it) but it’s where hubs and I have some our best heart to hearts. And my youngest snuggles with me every morning. And I love my pillows. I could go on…
What’s the view out of the window closest to you right now?
What a fun question! It’s a drizzly Monday morning in Glen Cove, where I can see cars whizzing by on School Street. I’m at the Gly Cafe, where I do most of my writing.
What’s one piece of clothing you can’t live without?
My royal blue tank top.
Is there something you did as a kid you regret? Want to apologize for it right now?
Haha. Sorry baby sis for the time I ratted you out to our friends about the cotton ball incident. Yeah. Enuf sed!
Do you think writing is fear-inducing? Or is it all a rush?
Neither, really. I think rereading a scene I finished can be a rush. While I’m writing, I try not to get caught up in the emotion of it because that slows the flow. And fear hasn’t played a factor, yet. But then again, I haven’t exactly lived the deadline-driven writer’s life, yet.
Tell me about the germ of the idea for Swimming Through Clouds. What made you want to write about a family in a dark crisis? Have you known people in a situation as dire as this one?
The truth is when I started writing Swimming Through Clouds, I didn’t know where I was headed. I had already completed my first Young Adult manuscript, in which the main character had a secret he kept from his best friend. So as I started Swimming, I was searching for that secret, a story that made sense to keep in the dark. I’m hoping I pulled it off.
Are there places or names in your book that come from your real life?
Nothing except for the location—the suburbs of Chicago. I attended Northwestern University and lived there for a few years afterward. But that’s literally it.
What’s next on your horizon?
I’m working on a second book to follow Swimming Through Clouds. It’s Jesse’s story—he is the main character’s brother in Swimming.
On a personal note, I’m joining my hubs and bunch of friends on June 1st to face my first Tough Mudder! So the day Swimming Through Clouds launches, I’ll be up to my knees in mud! Hoping I make it out alive to hear what the readers think!
On behalf of all the Playlist Fiction authors and agents, let me say we’re really happy you’ve joined us and that we get to share in the joy of your debut book with you!
Thanks for having me, Laura. Still laughing about the fact that we sat next to each other in Chicago for a lit agency meeting, and I had no idea I’d be working with you and the Playlist Fiction team a month later! So happy to be part of the team!Read More
You’ve heard me say this before–learning how to break up with someone is an important lesson. (See Ray Charles and Yesterday.) It’s a necessary part of becoming an adult. It happens. It can be no big deal or it can be ugly and awful. It can happen early on in the relationship or it can happen in the dressing room of the church before you walk down the aisle. If you’re with the wrong person, the breaking up thing needs to happen before you say, “I do.” You’ll save yourself and your significant other heaps and heaps of heartache.
When I write on this blog about break-ups, I inevitably receive tons of emails about how to do the breaking up and how to survive the breaking up. I know it’s on your minds and I know you have a lot of questions about it.
Well, good news! Renee Fisher’s book on all things break-up released today and you’re going to want to get your hands on this ebook! It’s called Loves Me Not: Heartbreak and Healing God’s Way. Renee has been there. She’s giggled with her friends over that first crush. Thrilled to the pressure of her hand in his. Lost herself in his kiss. Dreamed about the proposal and imagined the day they’d become husband and wife. And she’s had those dreams come crashing down around her. Like sitting down to coffee with a best friend, Loves Me Not offers the hope and healing you need to see through to the other side. Renee guides readers through the confusion and pain of a shattered relationship and shows how to embrace the real love of your life: Jesus.
Renee and I chatted today about break-ups and I think her answers will make you want this book as a resource.
You write a lot about healthy relationships and dating. What prompted a “break-up” book?
I wrote Loves Me Not for a few reasons. After I released Not Another Dating Book, I met my husband, and I didn’t get to include our story in that book. This is good because I needed to be married for more than a year to realize how unhealthy some of my past relationships were. I can’t wait to encourage those who’ve had a bad breakup or lost a close friend. I want to help them deal with that heartbreak.
What’s your favorite chapter?
I hate to give the cliche author answer here, but it’s true that every chapter is my favorite! In each chapter I make a point or tell a story that is so personal to me. I can’t wait to hear what my readers say is their favorite chapter.
Are breakups getting more difficult and muddied with social media?
Absolutely! You see that him (or her) moving on and maybe you’re not. It hurts a lot. To this day, I’m only friends with one of my ex-boyfriends on Facebook for this reason.
Do breakups last longer or get dragged out these days because of the way we tend to “do” relationships online?
I guess it depends on how quickly you forgive those who hurt you or broke your heart. It’s easier when the breakup is mutual, of course.
What do you say to the girls who think they’ll never heal? What about the ones who think they might move on and marry someone else, but they’ll never really get over the one who broke their hearts?
I write about that in Chapter 3 – “Breaking up with Idols.” The guy I thought I was going to marry and spend the rest of my life with broke my heart in such a huge way that it took my health and I ended up in the hospital. If anyone understands the thought that life “can’t move on” it’s me. I hope my advice in the book about moving on will resonate with readers and that they’ll see that I’ve been there, too.
What can breakups teach us about life? Do they make us better spouses one day?
This question sums up the reason I wrote this book. When we lose our first love–God–it can be easy to place that pressure and unfair burden, including our own personal expectations, on someone. Breakups remind us that we need God’s help in every area of our lives. We can’t have healthy relationships apart from Him–even friendships. I do think that breakups have the potential to make us better spouses one day. I was able to learn from my own mistakes and it has made my relationship with my husband, Marc, richer.
Knowing what you know, do you think Tennyson was right? “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”?
I think that depends on the person. I wanted to get married a decade earlier than I did. In all those years of waiting, I would look at others who had loved and lost and even the heartache they were experiencing made me compare myself to them. Why hadn’t I had a love like that? Don’t do that! Live YOUR life and learn from the experiences given to you!
What do you make of the dating movement that says every time you give your heart to someone you’re losing your fullness that you were supposed to save for your spouse?
I write about this in the foreword of my book. Every decision we make in life can do one of two things–bring us closer to God or take us further from Him. If you’ve first given God your heart, mind, and soul, and strength, you’re going to make it through anything because your priorities are right.
Where is Jesus in a breakup? Does He understand? How can going through a breakup actually lead you back to Him?
Jesus is in every part of our life–we just have to acknowledge Him and seek Him first. Sometimes people use Jesus as a reason for a breakup and this can be very dangerous at times and it can be the right thing at times. My own breakups led me back to Jesus because they sent me to his Word and and to seeking His will for my life again. I became more prayerful about my future.
Where does personality fit in a breakup? Are there some personality types who handle breakups better than others?
It’s an important element. Some people have more difficulty dealing with the dramatic elements of a breakup–the conflict. Some people are able to breeze right through conflict. It helps when the breakup is mutual. I encourage my readers to think about what a Godly friendship looks like because the hope is that you’ll be able to see your ex in this way.
(READ THROUGH UNTIL THE END of this post AND YOU’LL FIND OUT HOW TO WIN A FREE BOOK!)
Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler wrote this intriguing little book last year called The Future of Us. Have you read it? It’s about two teens in the nineties who get new desktop computers and find a strange application installed on them called Facebook. It doesn’t exist in the nineties world and it turns out they’re being sent messages from their future selves.
I liked this book a lot because it reinforced everything I’d been thinking about how odd it is that we’re so invested in our social media today that we don’t remember what life was like before. When you catch a glimpse of our weird ways through the eyes of uninitiated nineties teens, it’s all so creepy and wondrous and wrong. It’s quickly addicting and, at least for the teens in the book, it’s so unreal that they have a hard time finding what can be believed. Yes. Therein lies the problem, eh?
If, at seventeen, I’d been stopped in my high school hallway by a stranger who told me that one day the whole country would be obsessed with telling all their secrets to anyone and posting endless pictures called “selfies,” I would’ve been confused. Or, if this stranger told me that one day kids my age would take naked pictures of themselves and send them to each other instantly, I would have run and alerted an adult that a crazy person was in our school.
How quickly our reality shifts.
I have a great new friend and resource on all things teens and technology related. Christy Baca has taught abstinence education for nine
She teaches from the perspective of a real mom living in a real world, and her book, Saying Yes! to Saying No. A Parent’s Guide to Value-Based Abstinence is a fantastic resource for parents and educators who need practical advice about social media and and all aspects of society that influence teen sexuality.
With you guys in mind, I asked her a few questions recently and she was kind enough to take the time to answer them. She has two teenage daughters and has a heart for teens, so I think you’ll find her answers refreshing and full of grace. She understands this strange new world you’re living in and she wants to make sure you have all the information you need to navigate it successfully.
Christy, how are you feeling overall about the message of purity in our culture? Are we in a hopeless place right now?
I read an article several months ago that argued that the U.S. needs to relax and let go of our “puritanical” ways. The author predicted that eventually our culture will look like the culture of a country like Brazil, where sexuality is so pervasive that it’s no longer shocking. It’s just not a big deal so teens aren’t as curious or likely to act inappropriately through social media. Do you agree?
This is a hot topic right now. Current data has shown a trend of pull back from overt sexuality; however, with the message media is sending in all forms from talking about sex and homosexual orientation, to glorifying distorted meanings of sex on TV, the Internet, and in music, it does seem that our culture is on a slope aimed at desensitization.
Do I think this is a good thing? No. And, on the flip side, with continual efforts from the Christian community in America, we can maintain teaching biblical morals and standards that reflect Christ to this generation. I don’t think that just because our society is lowering the standard that we should lie down and stop educating this generation with truth.
Media is a reflection of the culture, and, even more, the media looks for ways to actively mold the culture Parents can reflect the culture they want their children to imitate through their marriage and communicating their values to their children. We’re called to step up now more than ever.
In your book Saying Yes! to Saying No. you make a point that resonated with me immediately. You talked about how teens have lost the sense of empathy through social media and that this makes it easy to take, record, and forward hurtful images. My first reaction when I started hearing of these cases where rape victims had their images forwarded was, “Where’s the empathy?”
It’s rare and getting rarer. Here’s the thing, our kids need to respond to sexting with empathy by reminding their peers that they are worth more than they think. If someone sends a teen an inappropriate photo, his best response will be to delete it. Deleting a photo keeps it from being passed on, this is the first step in showing empathy for the person who is in the photo. The next thing that teen should do is talk to the friend that sent it. Ask them if they realize how sending that photo will make the person feel. Ask them if they would want a photo of themselves being sent to everyone. Acting with empathy toward a peer that has sent a sext message is a very mature thing to do. A teen risks losing friendships if he points out the emotional implications of forwarding texts. It’s a hard stand to take, but it’s very necessary for our kids to see that they must take that stand. They must be empathetic AND courageous.
Another way friends can help their peers deal with an issue like sexting is to remind them where their identity should be in Christ. When we are sending pictures of ourselves to others we are placing more dependence in their opinion of us rather than what the Lord thinks of us.
You talk a lot about how a physical relationship changes us chemically and emotionally and spiritually. Does it become like an addiction?
Yes, it’s very much an addiction. Engaging in physical relationships while young distorts a teen’s ability to make good judgements for a number of reasons. Sexual attachment among young people brings about jealousy, shame, guilt, rejection, and often those emotions can lead to anger and depression. It is evident in observing teen behavior that it is very difficult for teens to react in a healthy way to breakups after there has been a sexual bond.
There are chemical changes that take place during sex. The limbic system of our brain stores our emotional and sexual memory. Smells, music, and sexual intimacy are all things that turn on the limbic system. When engaged in sexual intimacy, our body releases a chemical known as dopamine. When your body experiences pleasure, the limbic system-a part of the brain-is washed with dopamine, which makes you want more of what you just had. Dopamine is a pleasure attachment. Another chemical released during sexual intimacy is oxytocin. Oxytocin is the bonding chemical our brain is washed with during sexual intimacy.
SO, all in that one act of “connecting” through sex, our brain is washed with an addictive chemical followed by a bonding chemical-no matter the source that produced the reaction: friend, acquaintance or spouse. Because of the bonding and addictive reaction in our brain that takes place as a result of sexual intimacy teens are telling a lie with their body by bonding with someone they most often stop having sex with. I believe this explains why the Lord intended for us to be addicted to our spouse. When we marry our spouse we seal the covenant of marriage through the act of sex. That is the only bond we want to make in our sexual intimacy.
We’ve seen some recent devastating incidents happen in the U.S. and in Canada involving sexual abuse, sexting, and suicide. Do you think our laws have caught up to the use of social media in these crimes?
I think that the current laws hold some offenders accountable at a level where the punishment fits the crime. But I also believe we need to come up with new laws that recognize the difference between certain types of sexting and sending images that lead to horrific results. I think it’s like our drinking laws. We have laws that give consequences based on age and whether a minor is found drinking or a person is found driving while intoxicated or a person is publicly drunk. In the same way, we need to adjust punishment based on the type of sexting involved and the consequences.
One thing to consider here is that the lack of neurological development of the teen brain causes teens to be impulsive and unaware of the dangers of sexting. I feel that the laws that are in place now are too strict for SOME of the teenage behavior that is taking place through sexting that happens because teens aren’t aware of all the implications.
But what about the outrageous examples of photos being shared of horrendous crimes being committed against young women? The media seems to side with the perpetrators. The ones who shared the images seem to be getting a slap on the wrist.
I’m not in any way minimizing the effects of sexting at any age. This is what I meant when I said we need to legislate punishment that fits these new crimes. There are cases, like the recent one in California where a fifteen-year-old took her life after three boys took pictures of her while she was being sexually assaulted. The pictures made the rounds at school and she was victimized over and over. This happened in Canada recently and it’s happening more often than we want to believe. These cases, where malicious intent leads to further victimization and even death, should be punished to the FULL extent of the law.
What do you say to teens in your audience about sexting? What do you say to teens who are reading this?
To teens reading this or listening to me, I say, think before you take that photo. Think before you send a photo. Before you forward something. Please put yourself in the shoes of the victim. I know that sounds so parent-like to say, but it can’t be said any simpler. I truly think that teens today are so accustomed to instant gratification that they forget who they might be harming in the process of getting what they want.
Kidshealth.org, found that 44% of high school boys have seen at least one naked picture of a female classmate. Unfortunately, teens do not realize that if they send that photo to someone else that could be considered distribution of child pornography.
So, here’s what you do:
1. delete the photo
2. tell a trusted adult about it and give the name of who sent you the photo.
3. if you continue to receive inappropriate photos from that person, you need to involve your parents, school administrators, and sometimes even legal counsel.
What if you’re a kid who tries to do the right thing, but you made a mistake and forwarded a picture you shouldn’t have?
This happens, unfortunately. If you’re in that place, tell an adult that you trust. Tell them who sent you the photo and who you forwarded it to. Deleting the images is the most important thing to stop the victimization of another person. So everyone who received the photo from you needs to be contacted and encouraged to delete the photo and stop the forwarding chain. As humiliating as it seems at the time, you need to tell your parents what is happening. They can help you make sure the situation is resolved quickly. Admitting what you’ve done is part of that empathy we talked about earlier. Your embarrassment is nothing compared to the humiliation suffered by the person in the photo. Think of that and put an end to it. You aren’t alone in this. We want to help you get these things under control.
I started this post by talking about a book where the future talks to some book characters in the form of Facebook. They’re suddenly confronted with how their lives turned out and they realize they’ve got time to fix mistakes before they happen. Do you encourage kids to think about the future sending a message back to them, begging them not to create these permanent technological signatures and images and posts that never go away?
I do. Teens need to be reminded that these thing hang around on the Internet forever. They are never erased completely. They can mess up job possibilities, future relationships, and friendships. Be aware that one day, you’ll regret making unwise decisions on social media. That’s a guarantee. Slow down and think.
AND NOW FOR A BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!
Christy has agreed to give away a copy of her book Saying Yes! to Saying No. to one of my readers. Here’s how you can enter your name into the randomizer.org drawing.
I’ll enter your name EVERY TIME you do one of the following:
1. Tweet a link to this blog or to Christy’s website (http://christybaca.com). Include @LauraKurk in your tweet so I’ll know to add you to the drawing!
2. Post a link on Facebook to this blog, Christy’s website, or the link to Amazon where people can buy Christy’s book (http://www.amazon.com/Saying-Yes-No-Values-Based-Abstinence/dp/1449756905/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367532676&sr=8-1&keywords=saying+yes+to+saying+no). Be sure and copy me on the post so I’ll know to add you to the drawing!
3. Comment below with how you plan to use Christy’s book if you are the winner and I’ll add you to the drawing.
I’ll announce the winner on Thursday, May 9!
Regardless of whether you win or not, you should take a look at this resource! Christy’s book is fantastic for parents, youth leaders, and even teens who are struggling with these issues and want solid advice from a professional in the field. You can also find Christy online at ChristyBaca.com.
Good luck on finals and field trips and concerts and all the end of school stress!
I love you all!
Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that makes me wonder if the author knew me in high school. It touches a little close to home. Dredges up a few too many pages of my awkward journal. The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is just such a book. And, bonus, one of her male characters, Chase, reminds me of Pony Boy in The Outsiders, so I got to relive the weird book crush I had in high school.
YA author Stephanie Morrill (author of the Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and the power behind Go Teen Writers) captured the true voice of the American teenage girl again in The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet. From the first line, I knew Ellie was a girl I wanted to know yesterday. She’s made of stubborn, sprinkled with wryness, and wrapped with heart.
Using the classic literary device of a story within a story, Morrill keeps readers turning pages. We get to live in the contemporary lives of Morrill’s high school characters while also traveling back in time to medieval Italy where Ellie’s friends have become players in a courtly scene. The story within the story reveals so much about how Ellie’s mind works and how she has absorbed and interpreted the drama in her life. Plus there’s the “can’t look away from the train wreck” aspect because we know that if Ellie’s friends get hold of her manuscript, they’ll be furious at how she has depicted them.
I loved so much about this book—the solid advice it gives for writers of any age who dream of publication, the presentation of a teenage girl who isn’t afraid to be an intellectual, and the characters (male and female) who sound real enough to be in any high school hall.
But what tugged at me most was the lesson Ellie learns (one I learned over and over) about how to balance speaking truth with protecting the feelings of others, and why it’s not always the best decision to keep secrets from everyone.
Morrill understands the delicate social lives of teen girls better than most writers these days. I highly recommend this book for girls looking for honesty about the awkward situations we find ourselves in so often in high school. Morrill doesn’t pull punches about things like deceiving parents and friends or keeping secrets, but she’s also gentle with Ellie and allows her to come to an awareness that’s uncommonly mature by the book’s end.
I can’t wait for the sequel to find out how Ellie’s writing life takes off and what happens to the characters she plucked from real life!
And, we’re lucky today because Stephanie joins us to answer some pressing questions.
Tell me why working with teen writers is so important to you.
It’s mostly selfish. They’re just FUN to be around. I love their energy and creativity. I love the unique way they view the world. So that’s the main reason.
It’s also partly because I was a teen writer, and I knew nobody in the industry. I didn’t even know anyone who worked in a bookstore. Yet I desperately wanted to write novels, so I learned everything by doing it wrong first. I learned about story structure by writing approximately a hundred stories that aimlessly wandered for about 50 pages before I threw in the towel. I learned about query letters after printing out my manuscript and mailing it to random publishers. I didn’t know a thing, and I didn’t know a soul that I could ask. So part of what motivates me is remembering how lost I was at that age, and the hope that I can help make a writer’s path smoother than mine was.
How old were you when you finished your first manuscript? What did you do with it? Did your high school teachers know this side of you? Did they encourage you?
I was 16 when I finished my first “novel.” It was only, like, 90 pages, so it wasn’t full length, and it was TERRIBLE. But I didn’t know that when I printed it out and mailed it to publishers. It’s now hidden on my hard drive. It wasn’t a waste at all though. I learned so much.
My high school English teacher was so supportive of me. When I was receiving my first round of rejection letters, she told our class that she believed I would be a published author someday. Those words meant so much to me because she was the first non-family member to express belief in me.
Is there a teen you mentor on whom Ellie is based?
Ellie’s personality is very similar to mine in middle and high school. I was so desperate to belong to a group, and I never did. I had great friends, of course, and I dated my now-husband all the way through high school, so I experienced a lot of acceptance. But there was so much rejection too. Like Ellie, I learned to use that real life rejection in my stories.
Writer Ellie is a conglomerate of the teens who hang out at GoTeenWriters.com. So many of them are destined for greatness, just like Ellie.
In the book, you surprise us all with a mentoring relationship. Without revealing the surprise, was this twist based on experience? Do you find that even mentors can be competitive to a fault?
Yes, that twist was a surprise to me the author as well. But upon reflection, it’s a truth about this business that I didn’t want to romanticize away. This writing business, this pursuit of publication, can do nasty stuff to a person’s insides. Writers who seem like your friends, who seem to want the best for you, can quickly turn on you if you become “more successful” than they are. And even though I try to be happy for people, the announcement of another’s success can bring out envy and anger within me as well.
The only thing I’ve ever found that compares to the emotion of it all is having a baby. When things were going well for me, like when I was holding my newborn baby or when I had one sprouting to life within me, I was THRILLED for others who announced their pregnancy. But when I was longing for another or wondering if it was ever going to be my turn to have one, an announced pregnancy could bring me to tears.
Why was Ellie hiding her manuscript and her intentions from her father, a published author?
While Ellie is enjoying the silent revenge on her friends, I think she also feels a bit ashamed of it as well. She knows it’s not the best way to handle her anger with these girls. Also, Ellie wants to prove her worth as a writer, apart from her father’s reputation, and she’s pretty keen on the idea of unveiling her true self in a blaze of glory.
I often say writing is made of fear. How did fear motivate and hinder Ellie? How do you see fear playing out in your own life as a writer?
Ellie fears being ordinary and amounting to nothing, of not living a full life. So fear is what motivates Ellie to start DOING something with writing, to start submitting it to contests and literary agents. But at the same time, fear also hinders her from finding good friends and from demanding respect from the boy she really likes.
As for me, with each stage of my career, I’ve found new fears crop up. What if my book fails? What if my sales numbers stink? What if people leave nasty reviews for me on Amazon? Sometimes the fears overwhelm me, and other times I’m able to keep them in check by remembering I can’t control that, I can only control doing my best work on a book.
What do you say to the teen writer who has been disappointed by the vagaries of the industry? The contest losses, the poor reviews or critiques, the rejections?
Now that I’ve looked up vagaries and know what it means, I think it’s really easy for all writers to get discouraged by the unpredictability of this industry. Books that are written horribly sometimes stay on the bestseller lists for months. I had an agent who rejected me rather harshly…but then when we met in person a few months later, completely fell in love with the story, and started pitching it like crazy to editors. My debut novel bombed a contest…and within the year was contracted with a publisher.
To survive this industry, you often have to put your blinders on and run YOUR race. You can’t control the whims or opinions of others. You have to just do your best with the stories on your heart.
Even in your writing career, you’ve seen huge changes in the industry. Are you hopeful about the future of publishing? How do you see the changes as beneficial to teen writers?
My agent describes publishing right now as “the wild west.” I have no idea where things are headed or what kind of device people will be reading books on next. What I know is I love to write, and I’ll be writing stories until the day I die.
I think in many ways the changes benefit teen and new writers. There are more ways than ever to break into the industry. There are so many good small presses, and ebooks make self-publishing affordable. I also think there are more “short cuts” to publication than ever before, which scares me a bit on their behalf.
What is the larger message of Ellie’s story? Is it something about identity or being true to one’s calling or the complications that arise when one keeps secrets or what? What should we learn from her experience?
The phrase in that book that started popping out to me was “real life.” Ellie constantly refers to people being in her real life or not her real life. And what I wanted her to understand is that it’s ALL real life. It all counts – friends on-line, the stories she’s making up, that cute boy who sits next to her in Algebra. They’re ALL her real life. The choices you make in middle school, high school, and college are woven into your adulthood, so you can’t just say to yourself, “Oh, it’s high school, it doesn’t matter.”
Until the very end, Ellie has a hard time figuring out which boy would be better for her. Even at the end, I don’t think she’s quite sure. Can’t wait until the sequel . . . What do you say to teen girls who struggle with distracting crushes and figuring out how to make good decisions about boys?
I was interested in boys from, like, day one of kindergarten. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was one of those girls who didn’t care, but I am who I am. I don’t know if that makes me a good or bad person to take advice from! Since I’ve been happily married for 9 years, and since I continue to fall deeper in love with my husband everyday, I suppose I’m not the worst person to take boy advice from.
As it relates to Ellie, I guess I would say you should feel comfortable being YOU around a guy you’re dating. Ellie really struggles with that (partly because she’s not totally sure about who she is yet) and it’s something I really struggled with too. But one of the nicest things my husband has ever said to me is, “I love you just how you are. I love every bit of you.” And I feel the same way about him. I don’t feel like I need to fix him, and he doesn’t try to fix me. There’s great freedom in that.
Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.
Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrill.com