I teamed up with my three best friends and wrote a feminist 'zine called Kill Supermodels, which of course did not indicate actually killing supermodels, but rather the standard of beauty that it seemed only the tall, skinny, white girl could achieve. We ranted about all of the things that made the world hard for a teenage girl to live in and advocated for change, dreaming of a safer, more just and equal life for all. I used to fantasize that me and my three friends could start a real revolution right there in my bedroom, typing up our stories and creating collages and illustrations to go with them. That time period, junior year of high school, was probably the single hardest year of my life and the one beam of sunshine was doing those 'zines and the community--the girls across the country and the world that they would lead me to, some of whom remain my best friends.
I also wrote three very raw, very personal 'zines that dealt with what I was struggling with: self-injury, addiction, depression, the painful recovery from an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship, and just plain growing up and realize that the world was not what you thought it would be.
I wrote and distributed my last 'zine around my eighteenth birthday. I still have file folders with ideas for other issues, but I got distracted by college and short stories and an ugly period of self-destruction. When I got through that I focused on writing my novels, only publishing the occasional personal essay in a friend's magazine or on a website or here on my blog.
My regular blog readers probably won't be surprised that I've always wanted to do some sort of project like a big 'zine that would reach teenage girls and give them a voice the way Sassy did for me. It's been a deep down desire for years that has only gotten stronger lately. You see I don't have a daughter, but my childhood best friend had a baby girl during our senior year of high school and that little girl is now a brilliant and talented young woman who is entering high school this year. She is like my daughter, she is definitely my niece (blood does not matter there) and she is my muse. I wanted to gift her with something like Sassy because like all good parents and aunts, I want her life to be better than mine.
Then almost a year ago, I was hanging out with two my high school best friends/fellow Kill Supermodels founders and one of them asked, "Have you heard about Tavi Gevinson?" My other friend and I had not, so she went on to describe this fourteen year-old girl from our town--Oak Park, Illinois, where BALLADS OF SUBURBIA was set--who became a well-known for her fashion blog Style Rookie at the age of eleven. The more she said, the more awestruck I was of Tavi. She gave all three of us massive hope, this young teenage girl who who was letting her voice be heard and had a lot of the same beliefs in feminism and girl empowerment that we had developed as teenagers. Unlike us, she had her shit together, had a platform, and a real chance to make a difference.
A few weeks later my friend emailed me and my other friend to tell us that Tavi was planning to start a Sassy inspired magazine and would even be consulting with Jane Pratt, the woman who started. I kid you not, I almost cried when I read about it. My friend suggested that the old Kill Supermodels craw submit so we did. Last November. I practically forgot about it, but in early April, I received an email from Tavi inviting me to be a part of her online magazine, which the group of us would eventually decide to call Rookie. She said she couldn't pay, but I didn't care. I had to do it. I thought the world needs this. Today's teenage girl needs this. I needed this. Hell, I still do.
So I've been plotting and planning and writing pieces all summer with Tavi, our incredible story editor Anaheed, and the rest of Team Rookie--a bunch of fabulously talented writers and artists that I am unbelievably honored to work along side. We're creating the kind of project I wished to be a part of since I was in high school. I was not kidding last week when I tweeted that this Super Sekrit Project might be the project I am most proud of out of anything I've done, possibly even my books. I can't believe I've kept it a secret (from all but a select few) for five months. Part of me also can't even believe that it's real. But here it is.
This is ROOKIE.
I'll be writing two to three times a month for it (which has been keeping me quite busy, but is soooo worth it), mostly personal essays about the things I've grappled with as a teenager, but every now and then I'll write something fun and light about pop culture because angsty as I am, I do have a sense of humor. I'm really proud of the pieces I wrote for our first issue and will be sure to let you know when they go live. The way the site works is super cool with a new piece (some are written, some are images or multimedia) going up three different times a day, around the time people are getting home from school, around dinner time, and around that time you are supposed to be finishing your homework but are procrastinating instead. Tavi explains more about that and the site in general in her letter from the editor, which you should read here. You can also read more about how it all came together in this article that ran in the New York Times magazine. And do check out the full list of amazing contributors here.
There are already some wonderful written pieces and gorgeous visuals up, so if you have the day off today, I hope you'll spend it exploring the site. I'm also going to run a contest, which I will detail below after one more announcement.
I haven't been keeping this one secret at all. The DEAR BULLY anthology comes out tomorrow. I am one of 70 YA authors (including a bunch of huge amazing authors like Ellen Hopkins who I am truly humbled to be included with) who wrote an essay, letter, poem or comic about their experience with bullying. It's amazing, inspiring, and another project I hope will make a huge difference.
If you've read my novels, you know that silence and the need to break it to survive the painful things in life is a major them in my work and it is so because that's the hardest lesson I've ever learned. In fact I'm still learning it. I think Rookie and DEAR BULLY can play a big part and breaking the silence surrounding the hard issues and giving teens a voice. I'm insanely proud of them and I want to get the word out, so I'm gonna do a massive contest this month.
The mission is to spread the word about Rookie and DEAR BULLY. So you will get:
+5 for writing a blog post about Rookie
+5 for writing a blog post about DEAR BULLY
+1 for following Rookie on Twitter
+1 for following DEAR BULLY on Twitter
+1 for "liking" Rookie on Facebook
+1 for "liking" DEAR BULLY on Facebook
+1 for following Rookie on Tumbler
+1 for every piece you comment on on Rookie, so that means the more pieces you read and comment on, the more entries you get
+1 for *each* tweet or facebook status update about Rookie (yes, each one, so tweet your hearts out)
+1 for *each* tweet or facebook status update about DEAR BULLY
You can record your points in your comments here (including links to tweets/status updates/blogs etc) or if it is easier to email me a big list at the end, you can do so to stephanie AT stephaniekuehnert DOT com. The deadline is September 30. I'm going out of town the day after that, so I will tally things up and announce/contact the winner on October 7th.
The prize will go to the person who has the most points (and if there is a tie, it will be decidedly randomly using a coin toss, dice roll or random.org). The prize as of now is signed copies of both of my books PLUS a copy of DEAR BULLY PLUS Karen Mahoney has also agreed to give away a signed copy of her fabulous book, The Iron Witch! I'm hoping to get some more of my author friends who are all about empowering teenagers and giving them a voice to donate prizes. Hey author friends, if you are willing to, let me know either here or via email.
Okay that's it. I hope you guys are excited not only about the contest but also about Rookie and DEAR BULLY. Please visit Rookie and tell me what you think!