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Books Help Teens Get in Touch with Themselves

Authors help teens find the meaning of life through journaling, conversing with God
The teenage years can be a rough period in a person's life. The growing pains of adolescence, with the awkwardness of fitting in, dating, and dealing with parents, are very stressful. Teens can't always find healthy ways to express themselves.

Registered art therapist Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D helps teenagers express their true feelings in the safe, nonjudgmental atmosphere of personal journal-keeping. Her newly revised book, The Creative Journal for Teens: Making Friends With Yourself (Career Press Dec 2001), offers teenagers easy techniques for journal writing that help them understand their innermost thoughts and better clarify their goals, visualize their future, and achieve self-reliance.

Capacchione holds degrees in art and psychology and is a pioneer of self-therapy and healing through journal writing and drawing. Her other books include The Power of Your Other Hand, Lighten Up Your Body, Lighten Up Your Life, The Well Being Journal, and she is a consultant, lecturer, and trainer for healthcare professionals and educators.

"Journal writing, combined with drawing, is an inspiring and powerful instrument for personal growth," she says. "You can use these techniques to solve everyday problems, or to help make your wildest dreams come true." We spoke with Capacchione about her book, about the challenges of adolescence, and about how she reaches out to teens in both her writing and her marketing.

IP: Some critics say today's teenagers are becoming overly reliant on technology and computers. Are teens "creatively challenged?"

LC: Yes and no. On the plus side, computer games and the Internet have encouraged teens to become computer literate and imaginative in a new medium. They are learning what this technology can do. They need to do this in order to function in our society and create future possibilities. In this respect, young people -- who are unafraid of the new technology -- are doing what comes naturally for their generation.

Another plus is the fact that kids are reading and writing when they communicate on the Internet. Unlike a lot of writing assignments in school that appear irrelevant to teens, Internet correspondence is personal and compelling. It's great practice because they are motivated.

The past decade has also shown us that young people who were born with computers around the house are doing some cutting edge innovating in the field. Whether they have the life experience and group problem-solving skills to implement and sustain their ideas in the real world is another matter. The cyberworld is strewn with failed businesses started by whiz kids who couldn't keep them running.

IP: Has the computer world skewed teen's perception of reality?

LC: Without generalizing and saying "this is true of most teens," I do suspect that many of them spend too much time on computers. In other words, they abuse this medium, just as drunks abuse alcohol. As a psychologist, that concerns me.

If the motivation is to escape into a fantasy world of computer games or virtual reality because daily life is too emotionally stressful, then computers can become addictive. We have all experienced this danger. That screen can suck you right into it. Hours go by and you aren't aware of the time.

Escapism is escapism, whether it's drugs, liquid in a bottle, or any realm of entertainment. Just as many use TV as an escape, I think computers can be used in the same way. Such abuse would likely squelch creativity, especially in the case of teens playing games designed by others. I'd rather see them design their own games, which would require using their imaginations.

Also, the over-use of a computer does not encourage face-to-face people skills which are needed in social and work situations. There is a kind of creativity in relating to others that must be done in person, not via the screen.

IP: How does creative journaling work?

LC: Journaling is the best tool I know of for developing self-observation, self-reflection, perceptiveness about our inner world and the world around us (people, situations, the environment). Many great geniuses have this in common: they kept journals, diaries, or notebooks. Some of their best work came down to us in this form and was published. I dedicated The Creative Journal for Teens to one of these geniuses: Anne Frank, herself a teenager.

In order for it to work, a journal must be confidential. If a journal-keeper is worried about what others will think about his or her feelings, wishes, dreams, experiences, etc., then it will lose its value. A journal doesn't have to be used every day, but the more it is used, the greater the benefits. It's a place to de-stress by expressing emotions and to just be oneself. IP: How does journaling unlock one's potential?

LC: I'd say it's the honesty. Being honest with oneself is the key. Asking oneself:

How do I really feel?
What do I think?
What's important to me?
What do I need?
How can I develop my abilities and realize my dreams?

These are the kinds of big questions that can be asked and answered honestly in a journal, away from the eyes of judgmental people who cannot see into one's own heart and mind.

IP: What are some common teen problems that creative journaling can help solve?

LC: Adolescence is a time for finding ones way toward adulthood. Each teen has to do this for him or herself. In their Creative Journals teens are asking (and answering questions) like:

Where do I fit in?
What are relationships all about?
What about romance, sex, intimacy?
Where do I stand on the subject of drugs, alcohol, etc.?
How can I be accepted for myself?

Creative Journaling helps teens to ask these questions and explore their own answers, honestly and spontaneously.

IP: The teen audience must be difficult to reach. How do you relate to teens in your writing?

LC: When I wrote The Creative Journal for Teens I had just finished raising two teenage girls (and their friends who visited our house a lot). I was living with teenagers and knew what their concerns were. Many of my daughters' pals confided in me because they knew I wouldn't judge them. So I heard a lot about teens in those years: what they are concerned about and what questions they grapple with. I found that a lot of the issues were the same ones we dealt with when I was a teen.

Also, my older daughter was living with me for awhile after a year away at college, and since she had kept a journal since she was a small child, I enlisted her help. She aided me with the editing of the book. She was still a teenager at the time.

I also put myself back in memory to my adolescent years (which were very difficult as we moved and I changed high schools three times). I could relate to a lot of the issues my daughters and their friends were dealing with. The rapid changes they were facing included divorces, relocations, and the prospect of leaving home.

IP: How do you relate to teens in your marketing? What are some creative methods of reaching out to teens?

LC: I reach teens through their parents, teachers, therapists, grandparents, and relatives. That's because I teach journal and expressive arts workshops that are attended mostly by adults. Parents give the book to their teens as gifts, as do other relatives and friends.

Many teachers are using it in the classroom. They swear by it. Therapists are using it, too. The kids get hooked--hooked on writing, hooked on self-reflection, hooked on creative thinking.

Then there are the teens themselves, telling other teens about my book. Word of mouth advertising among teens is the best possible method of promotion, much better than having it come from an adult. Teens trust other teens.

IP: What kind of feedback are you getting from teens?

LC: Many teens have told me their journal is their best friend. They can tell it anything and it doesn't put them down or ridicule them. What they're really saying is that THEY are their own best friend. And that was my intention in writing the book.

IP: It seems logical that one of the best ways to bring about positive change in our society is by inspiring our youth. How can authors and publishers make this happen?

I'd like to see publishers do more of what I did in The Creative Journal for Teens, which is publish the work of adolescents. All the drawings and journal entries in my book were created by adolescents in high school. Interestingly, they were mostly teens who were considered high-risk kids or were having problems in school. I happen to think they were very creative and just hadn't had the proper outlet for their imaginations. That is, until they started keeping a Creative Journal.

According to their teachers, these kids blossomed. You can see it in their work--and can you imagine the celebrating they did when the book came out and they found themselves as published writers and illustrators? That's what we can do for out adolescents: give them an opportunity to express themselves and invite them to exercise their imaginations in the publishing realm. Hampton Roads' Young Spirit line: The Key to a Whole New World

While there are many wonderful titles available for children these days, very few, if any, bear any metaphysical thought or teachings, and even fewer communicate the values and understandings that we all want our children to learn.

Hampton Roads has created a new line of metaphysical books devoted to the evolving human spirit of our children, by providing quality children's books that stimulate the intellect, teach valuable lessons, and allow our children's spirits to grow.

Teenagers are especially hard to reach and inspire, with all the distractions of today's trend-mongering society to cut through. Who better than Neale Donald Walsch, whose Conversations with God series of books had such an impact on the world. And who better to write a foreword for the new Conversations with God for Teens than Alanis Morissette, the 2 year-old singing star (who also played the part of God in the movie "Dogma") whose music and lyrics have touched so many young people?

Conversations with God for Teens by Neale Donald Walsch
Suppose you could ask God any question and get an answer. What would it be? Well, young people all over the world have been asking those questions. So Neale Donald Walsch, author of the internationally best-selling Conversations with God series of books (in 27 languages so far), had another conversation. It's a simple, clear, straight-to-the-point dialogue. The answers may challenge your beliefs about God, money, sex, love, about everything you may have been taught. But if you ever wanted to know if God is listening to you, if God can really help, if God cares about you, if there is a God, and if there are answers to your questions, then this is the book for you. Because you'll discover that it is not really the author's conversation with God that matters. It's your own conversation. And there's not a better time to begin than right now.

From the book:
"You called this book to you because you live in an insane world, and you want to change it. Somewhere inside, somewhere deep inside, you know how life could be. You know that we are not supposed to be hurting each other here. You know that no one has the right to seek it all, to take it all, to hoard it all, while others have so little.

You know that might is not right. You know that truth is what matters, and openness and transparency and fairness, not hidden agendas and under-the-table dealings and behind-the-scenes maneuverings and getting the advantage. You know that when you get the advantage at the expense of someone else being disadvantaged there is no advantage in that at all." - NDW

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"in the finding of this book (CWG#1) i immediately felt less alone...more understood. affirmed. many a recognition tear was shed during the reading of it. i felt validated and inspired and comforted. i felt connected with all of life and encouraged. i felt recognized. god in this book was how i had always envisioned god to be: unconditionally loving, consistent, and without expectation. it felt like coming home.

i am so happy to know that this book is out there now, for you to read, if you choose, at this point in your life. and i am very happy to know that now there is a version of this message available for young people.

may you be touched by it the way i have been by this and all the With God books, and may you know that many people, of all generations, are proud and relieved to know that you are part of shaping the future.

i send a huge hug to you for the courage and openness it takes to read a book like this. and i thank you so much for your contribution here on this earth, regardless of what form it takes. whether it be considered grand or sweetly simple by your definition, i thank you.

and i believe the world thanks you. for being exactly who you are, right now." - alanis morissette

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Conversations with God for Teens
ISBN 1-57174-263-8, Hardcover, $19.95, November 2001