Dream Up Now ™: The Teen Journal for Creative Self-Discovery

About the Book

This guided journal for creative self-expression allows teens to explore emotions, create art, and envision life’s possibilities.

Dream Up Now™ offers a safe space for creative self-expression of all emotions, both positive and negative. Every emotion is valid in this journal, and teens are encouraged to move from dark (negative) to light (positive) emotions. For example:
● From tired to fired up
● From confused to confident
● From jealous to appreciative
● From loss to peace

To help teens understand, manage, and channel their emotions into passion for the life they want to live, this guided journal with a convenient lay-flat design includes 36 activities for creative self-expression. Crafted by community leaders across North America, these activities encourage teens to create, draw, listen to music, and put pen to paper as they process emotions, discover more about themselves, and pursue what they want out of life.

Using simple journal prompts and art project ideas, with plenty of room for writing and reflection, Dream Up Now is a powerful tool for navigating emotions and creative self-expression. A digital leadership guide includes information to help teens advocate for school music programs, find their passion, and start a club in their school.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?

If a person feels called to write a book, it’s agony to ignore that call. It’s the not writing that hurts. I have many yet unwritten books swimming around in my head and I wish I could write them all at once. I know I’m not alone; many writer friends feel that urge to write that can’t be ignored. The problem of course is that writing isn’t easy. Sure, there are days of blissful flow, when the hours slip by without our noticing, and the next sentence pours forward, and then the next. We feel what our characters are feeling, all the while rooting them on, reigning them in, or jettisoning them into the fray. But most days aren’t like that. Most days we carefully choose our words, scratching below the surface for an unexpected turn that might hopefully delight our future reader. It’s rarely the first idea that comes to mind, and hardly the second or third. In fact, I learned years ago in a writing workshop that often our seventh idea is often the one that rings the breakthrough bell when creating a scene. (Although sometimes it’s the twentieth, in truth.) To get there requires patience, trial and error, digging deeper (but without damaging the surrounding scenes) and allowing yourself to feel out the situation as though you were yourself living it. It requires turning things over and allowing yourself to be surprised. It sometimes involves uncovering your character’s hidden opinions you may not have known existed. It’s this seventh idea that is the hardest. And we need to find it in every scene.

What songs are most played on your phone?

I like a wide variety of music. My books are very music-centric, and each has its own playlist that is personal to the characters. I like everything from classical and opera to LatinX. I listen to rap, hip-hop, Classic Rock, 80s and 90s jams, dance and EDM, atmospheric chill, and world music. My book, A Song For The Road, was inspired by songs of the American Southwest, and early rock’n’roll.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

It takes a village to write a book! Thank you for being such an important and beloved part of that village. It’s essential to invite others into the process because every person reads a different version of your story. What one book meant to you, meant something very different to every other reader. Your viewpoint is valid and desired. When a writer is enmeshed in the world of her book, it is enormously eye-opening to receive constructive and motivating feedback. It’s a relief. It helps a writer stay on track when she’s gone off chasing a shiny object in the form of a side character or incident that doesn’t ultimately progress the thrust of her story. It helps a writer know what’s working and what isn’t. It can even help a writer figure out what she’s really trying to say. We might start out writing a book about finding yourself, or solving a personal dilemma, only to realize that we have been pouring our hearts out about the relationship between a child and his absentee father. Or the amazing parent who has loved their child, but to the point that their love is holding the kid back. Sometimes we don’t know what story we’re telling until a reader sees themselves in our protagonist.

It’s also important to point out that writing is a solitary pursuit. We need the friendship of other book-loving souls. Our relationships make life and literature all the richer.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading several books at the moment, and many are research for my next Dream Up Now social-emotional learning book. One of my research books is a surprise joy: The Book of Human Emotions, by Tiffany Watt Smith.

Outside of research, I’m reading Plays Well With Others, by Eric Barker; and The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow.  

How did you start your writing career?

Like most authors, I fell in love with books at a very young age. I always dreamed of writing. Growing up, I saved spending money for prized picks from the classic literature section in the tiny bookstore at my local shopping mall. My physical world was limited, but my imagination crossed continents and cultures, and centuries and sensibilities.

I fantasized about becoming an author or journalist, but after high school my parents convinced me there was more money in banking than writing. In college, I was miserable in Accounting, and my grades reflected my disinterest. After the first year, I transferred to Liberal Studies and adored my classes in English, French, Spanish, and Philosophy, rewriting my class notes each evening just to relive the contents of my lectures. Studying languages and the human condition helped me better understand humankind and stimulated the desire to share ideas through the written word. I traveled and the more deeply I explored another culture, the more its longings, issues, victories, and setbacks mattered to me too. I learned that at the heart of Humanities is compassion. But I didn’t have the courage to pursue my dream of writing.

After graduation, my parents earned their “I told you so” moment when I had a hard time finding employment. I enrolled at Vancouver Community College, earned a diploma in Graphic Design, and was promoted through three organizations, teaching others how to communicate creative vision into tangible finished projects. But the desire to write never left me. I attended Writers Studio at UCLA and earned positions as Managing Editor for both trade and consumer magazines. For nearly a decade I ruminated over a project that felt “too big” for me to write. I wrote 50,000-word outlines and developed it at a weeklong writing workshop. But I didn’t feel “qualified” to write it.

Compassion encouraged me to serve others. I contributed to magazines on the topics of family issues, and why the arts are essential for the well-being of adolescents. This focus led to Dream Up Now, a nonfiction guided journal for teens utilizing various art forms, including music, writing, and drawing, as a path to mental wellness; and the music-themed young adult novel: A Song For The Road (SparkPress, 2019). Compassion for struggling teen writers compelled me to teach writing workshops and creative writing summer camps for students in grades 7-12. I founded an annual spoken word event, Teen Story Slam, I served as President on the board of trustees for a non-profit performance company, and became certified to teach poetry writing to youth in juvenile detention. I finally nurtured enough compassion for myself to write.

More books are on the way. I’m currently pursuing my Masters in Humanities (Creative Writing) at Antioch University.

Tell us about your next release.

I am working on Dream Up Now: PreKindergarten to Grade Two. This book introduces emotions and emotional vocabulary in a comforting and celebratory tone. Emotions are not labeled “bad” or “good.” The activities and descriptions help children recognize and name their feelings and understand what they may be feeling by exploring examples of emotions appearing in response to everyday issues. All social-emotional learning activities are instructor-led. Detailed instructions and samples are provided for parents, educators, counselors etc., and intended to be explained and demonstrated to young children. Understanding one’s own emotions is essential to self-awareness and agency and is the first step to cooperation and compassion with others.

I’m also working on a contemporary fiction book, called The Secret Song of Shelby Rey. It features magic realism and explores the healing power of music.

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