It’s not every day that one of your best friends has her life work published. But today that happened for me – and for my dear friend Haley Kilpatrick. Her first book The Drama Years releases today and if you are a woman, a parent, an educator, a pediatrician or OBGYN, or engage in any way with tweens, this is a must read for you.
In between hits on the Today Show, her whirlwind book tour and running a successful non-profit dedicated to these young women, Haley found the time to answer a few questions for you, our Better World Books fans and customers.
Answer: I started Girl Talk in 2003, when I was 15, after my sister came home from middle school in tears because of the anxiety and stress of feeling bullied by the popular girls in her grade. I’d dealt with that constantly as a middle schooler — even eating lunch in the bathroom to avoid girls making fun of me! — and I just had a moment like, “This has to stop.”
I wanted to create a place where high school girls could support middle school girls from a “just-been-there” perspective. It started as one chapter in my high school, and it kept growing. Now there are over 40,000 members in chapters all over the world!
What book and author was one of your early inspirations?
I clearly remember reading Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia, a game-changing book about how young girls’ self-esteem drops when they hit puberty, when I was in high school, and thinking “I want to write something like this someday!”
I devoured similar books, like Peggy Orenstein’s Schoolgirls and Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes. I feel like our book really contributes to the field and does something differently — namely, relying on middle school and teen girls as the book’s experts for the adult readers.
Parents often tell me what their daughters are going through and ask my advice. It seemed like so many parents were dealing with the same issues (Why won’t my daughter tell me what’s going on at school? What’s all this “drama” about? Is she getting involved with boys? Why are her friendships so hard? Why does she suddenly need this specific Abercrombie shirt?); adults really seemed to feel lost when the middle school girls in their lives hit this age. Since I have access to this amazing community of insightful, honest girls, we felt like what better way to help parents get the answers to their questions than to ask the girls themselves?
What was the hardest and the most rewarding part of writing the book?
Writing a book certainly has it challenges (tight deadlines, learning curve and time commitment). I went into it blindly because I was more driven by the purpose of the book and less focused on the book being a published. So we were two years in before we submitted the proposal to publishers. With that being said, I have had such a wonderful experience from start to finish with the whole Simon & Schuster team. Everything from the editing, publishing, legal and now publicity has been an incredible learning experience.
What do you hope people will learn from your book?
We really hope adults who work with middle school girls will come away from the book feeling that they have a better sense of what their girl might be going through — a greater sense of compassion for all the subtle pressures she’s juggling — and how to better help her deal, including connecting her with what we call the Three Takeways to Downplay the Drama: an activity outside of school where she can channel her energy; a volunteer commitment to help her gain perspective on the drama in her life; and an “adopted older sister” — a high school girl who can be part of her support network.
For girls, we hope that the book will make them feel less alone. And we hope that teen girls might be inspired to start mentoring a younger girl in their life!
Do you have hopes of writing another book? About what?
There’s so little information out there for girls this age and for parents. I would gladly do it all again if I knew a second book could help more people.
How can people get involved with Girl Talk after they are inspired by the book and your story?
If anyone wants to learn more about Girl Talk and how to start a Chapter in your community & The Drama Years, they can go to desiretoinspire.org, and visit our Facebook pages at www.facebook.com/InspireGirlTalk and www.facebook.com/HaleyKilpatrickAuthor.
Have a question for Haley? Post it here!