Teen Book Publishers Premiere Louder Than Words TV

ltwAugust 10, 2009 It doesn’t get more real than this.

Louder Than Words teen series developer Deborah Reber hosts a live chat online all this week with the fresh voices and real issues of the teen authors themselves starting tonight on Louder Than Words TV. 8-9pm EST (5-6pm PST)

Kyte.TV is an online and mobile video platform in beta right now, hosting live and ‘on demand’ content (amazing media lens shift, but for now my focus is on the launch of the ‘teen memoirs.’)

Admittedly, the juxtaposition of the word ‘memoir’ with teen jolts me out of my media-analysis stupor with an incredulous, “Huh? Wait a sec, how much can you say about life when you’re just starting to live it?”

Answer? Plenty. I requested copies of the three-book set, even though I don’t do reviews, because frankly, I’m thrilled to see books written BY teens FOR teens rather than adults trying to step into their skin. (Collections like “Red The Next Generation of American Writers,Teen Girls” have always inspired me to ‘go to the source’ directly rather than filter through my take on things)

In the spirit of youth know-how, I didn’t even crack the spine before turning all three books over to Noelle, my new teen writing intern who is 16, so we could all hear HER voice. Not mine.

future of the bookMy coverage of the series is more about the media innovation of live videochat with embeddable ‘host packages’ for blogs to embed the show, complete with artwork, discussion guides and teen updates!

After all, the very existence of ‘real teens, real experiences, in-the-moment magic’ is a publishing breakthrough opening new media channels on an old media frequency, akin to the way readergirlz created the global book club, social media and music experience. (Shaping Youth interview with readergirlz here)

Ultimately, it all contributes to a larger conversation, “What is the future of print media, the library, books and reading” in our increasingly digital world?

Want to see how the whole teen videocast works?

Best bet is to go straight to the source, where Louder Than Words editor Debbie Reber houses her blog explaining,

“The Louder Than Words online show is available for anyone to post in their blog or website, which means, anyone can host the show and chat. So, the show will be carried on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, as well as on book reviewers’ blogs and magazine sites like Teen Voices.”

She goes on to give us the full schedule and points us (in friendly, conversational style as if she were right in the room) to the embedded video player underneath her words,

“Right now you can watch different promos from the show in that little screen. But tonight, at 5pm EST, it will go live and you’ll see yours truly talking about what it was like to create the series and work with such talented young authors.”

smart girls know

Each night, Louder Than Words will feature a different theme. And already there are interesting posts popping up giving me new leads on voices I hadn’t heard yet…

Such as Alea at Pop Culture Junkie who apparently found out about the Louder Than Words TV series because she’d done a blog-book tour featuring another teen memoir, called “Everything Sucks” published by HCI.

Go figure. I didn’t even know this was becoming a ‘genre.’ But it keeps with my theory on age compression and the KGOY effect (marketing-eze acronym for Kids Getting Older Younger)


Before we jump to Noelle’s review, I can’t resist one itty bitty little anecdote of how the series landed on ME versus my intern from the get go…just for comparison/contrast purposes:

When I opened the envelope and saw the Marni book (at left) I thought, “Oooh…cool cover!” and  Noelle sighed and rolled her eyes, “looks like another YA pretty girl like all the others.” Then, when I read the blurb on it involving an issue I’d never even heard of I said, “I know being ‘painfully normal’ doesn’t make for good kid lit, but do you really think teens have this many problems?”

She said, “Not really…they have MORE.”

So much for downplaying the drama…I guess normalcy is all relative and “it all depends who you ask.” I purposely asked Noelle to tackle this assignment because she’s had some significant “life issues” of her own along these lines. Again, part of my immersive ‘go to the source’ tactics to get as close as I can to the subject matter for an authentic evaluation rather than a ‘media-washed’ rendition.

Personally, I’m thrilled to support the whole concept of teen authentic voices entering the literary media mix in any way shape or form!

ltw frameMuch like Girls Horse Club uses their blog stories as an important hub for special interest horse enthusiasts (they have a summer fiction contest going on right now for all the barn goddesses out there!) and New Moon Girl Media hosts both tweens and teens to share their art, writing and thoughts…Louder Than Words will bring teens smack dab into a live videochat dialog…front and center, so we’re not talking ABOUT them, we’re talking WITH them. That may come with significant baggage as the themes develop, hard to tell…but bravo for bringing it forward to open dialog sans Hollywood spin. (can you tell I love nonfiction works and documentaries?)

ltw frame2 The live TV show is being produced by Steve O’Keefe the internet publicist behind projects like Random House’s Seussville, Annick Press’ LIVEbrary, and the Read Across America Day chat series…so they clearly have some chops behind this and have thought this through, as people can engage via Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal and other social media outlets. Hmn…I’m going to log on throughout the week to see how it’s goin’ so please let me know if you try it out, and what your experiences are. (especially if you’re a teen!)

I’m about to send the links to my newly formed ‘Twitter tribe’ of tweeple. (I’m @ShapingYouth see sidebar) So with that, I’ll hush. Please welcome Shaping Youth TEEN Correspondent, Noelle for her first S.Y. ‘review’!

Update 8-19-09 Don’t miss the new Ypulse Interview with the teen authors’ & backstory Q&A with series creator Deborah Reber here!

Louder Than Words

Written by Teens for Teens, Now Reviewed by a Teen!

by Noelle, Age 16, S.F. Bay Area, California

WriterThe power of words is an incredible thing…

It would be amazing to see that power given to teenagers without it being held down by rules and regulations. Imagine the size of the positive force that could be unleashed through some honest storytelling.

That said, when I first glimpsed the covers of the three books, I was more than slightly apprehensive.

Each cover featured a melancholy model who would not look out of place on a TV show, the back of each book bore the kind of melodramatic hook that I, as a teenager, am frankly sick of finding on books written specifically for my age group. (“Marni pulls. Pulls her hair, that is.”)

The series was being advertised in the very same way that nearly all other “teen girl books” are: with an image of a pretty girl bearing some dark and intriguing baggage, designed to intrigue teens who either see a part of themselves in her, or wish they did.

Generally this advertising continues within the binding in the form of a blandly written soap opera starring a cast of spoiled teenagers, some of whom have real problems and most of whom make up for their apparent lack in that department by creating their own.

So you can imagine my surprise when I opened up Marni and began to read! (editor’s note: The real Marni Bates, now 19  photo by Bob Pennell, Mail Tribune)

marni2I was immediately struck by how much her experience with trichotillomania (an impulse control disorder which causes people to pull out their hair) reminded me of my own experience with cutting.  At 14 I was shy, awkward, and prone to bouts of depression just like her seeking a rush in an otherwise hum-drum existence.

I also sympathized with the anxieties she had about hiding her problem with hats and bangs, because I did the same with long sleeved shirts. For me the book brought up some interesting questions, mainly: would trich be as popular as cutting if it too came with an entire persona available for adoption? For all intents and purposes they are essentially the same; an addiction like any other. I can just see the music videos: groups of disaffected youth with patches of hair missing from their scalps screaming at their parents. It would be an interesting experiment.

Overall, the book was surprisingly unpretentious and pretty well written. I know there are thousands of teenagers in this country who could relate at some level.

emilyMy next read in the series was Emily, the story of a girl who got infected with the West Nile virus and had to stay home for well over a year.

While there was not much of a plot to the story, the author made up for it with all kinds of interesting little lists and blogs, keeping the mood light in the face of her dreary circumstances.

It was at times funny, and at other times sad, and I actually learned a lot, not just about West Nile, but about Mennonites, the religious group Emily belongs to. I found Emily to be a fun and quirky character who I knew was bound to get better from the start.

chelseyThe third and final book is titled Chelsey, the story of a girl whose father was murdered when she was fourteen.

This was the book I thought I would most relate to, not because of any tragedy of my own but because Chelsey goes to a high school that focuses on the arts, just like I hope to do.  I was at times disappointed with the writing style, maybe because with such a terrible tragedy I hoped that the storyline would be told a bit more chaotically to emphasize the way she felt at the time. As it is, the book is written in the most chronological pattern of the trio, so it felt very much like an emotional news report to me at times.

However, there are some very moving moments, as well as several poems scattered throughout the book.

My favorite line?  “When you left, home became a house.”(110) This could be a very comforting read for someone who has suffered a loss and is in the process of healing.

Although these books were not among the best I have read, they are exciting, just because they are true stories written by actual teenagers, and not some vaguely romanticized drama that an adult thought teens would like.

ltw trioI hope this series can continue, and become a great collection of the experiences that teenagers are having all over this country. How incredible would that be?!

It’s a fantastic idea to let teens speak for themselves, about themselves, and I think it could provide support for a lot of people across this country if it takes off. I do have a few concerns that I would like to express on the subject…

One, it struck me as odd that not one of the three authors wrote much (if anything) about sex. At such a crucial time in our development, when our hormones are meant to be stampeding around like raging bulls, I find it hard to believe that none of these three girls have anything to say on the subject.

I sincerely hope that these books are not being censored, (and will not be censored in the future) because I think it is extremely important that teenagers be given a safe arena to discuss sex and the place it takes in their lives without being told that it is inappropriate.

I also found it bizarre that none of the three authors exhibited much teenage rebellion, in whatever form it may take. I hope that as more and more girls are being given the opportunity to tell their stories, this proves to be merely a coincidence, because as I said before, censorship is damaging to not only the author but the would-be reader.


As you can see, Noelle’s teen views are ‘unedited and uncensored’ too.

I should add that from a parenting standpoint, as squirmy as I’ve been in the past about ‘book club selections’ my own daughter has chosen, when I interviewed YALSA President Paula Brehm-Heeger for Teen Read Week and wrote my post on ALA Banned Book Week, I learned to ‘check the judgment at the door’ and not jump to a literal context.

Example? Just because our (then tween) book club chose Natasha Friend’s “Perfect” and “Lush” it didn’t need to turn into a ‘sound the alarm’ moment of ‘mom’s over-thinking.’

Sometimes kids just want to read about issues others are experiencing, much like I wrote in the FML post, and even the Blame Drew’s Cancer article which gives kids a conduit for action and a place to put some of the angst.

It’s all a part of living life “Louder Than Words”

Good luck with the show tonight teens, I’ll catch you as I can this week…And parents? “Breathe.”

Here’s the whole schedule:

TONIGHT!!! Monday, August 10, 8-9 p.m. ET – Deborah Reber, “How the Louder Than Words Series Came To Be”

How were the teen authors chosen? How were the books put together? How much of what happened is true? What has been the most fun part of the project for you? What’s been the hardest part? Are there more books coming? How can I be a Louder Than Words author?

Tuesday, August 11, 8-9 p.m. ET – Marni Bates, author of  “Marni”, Compulsive Behavior and How the Internet Can Help

Marni Bates answers questions about her book, “Marni.” Marni has trichotillomania — a irresistible desire to pull out her own hair. What do you have? Marni discusses how the Internet helped her understand the problem, and also how she feels about having her secrets revealed in a book.

Wednesday, August 12, 8-9 p.m. ET – Emily Smucker, author of “Emily” – Sickness and Faith, Pickles and Cake

Emily Smucker will answer questions about what it’s like getting through senior year with a chronic illness. Emily is a Mennonite but, don’t worry, it’s not contagious. She’ll also talk about blogging and writing books.

Thursday, August 13, 8-9 p.m. ET – Chelsey Shannon, author of “Chelsey”, Assembling a New Life with Pieces from the Past

Chelsey Shannon talks about fashioning a new life for herself after her father was murdered a week before her 14th birthday and she had to move away from home and school. She’ll talk about overcoming grief, and how she discovered a group of women writers who helped her get over.

Friday, August 14, 8-9 p.m. ET – Deborah Reber – How to Break Into Publishing for Teen Writers

On Friday, series editor Deborah Reber will answer questions about how teen writers can break into publishing.

ltw live

8-10 Update Live Now! I’m listening to Debbie and enjoying this Kyte.tv experience. Fascinating. Breaks it into 15 minute segments…

As you can see by the visual, I’ve asked in text who they might be teaming with on the book series…YALSA? SLJ? Teen librarians? Ypulse? etc.

I also just asked her about any fears of this ‘seeding’ ideas that weren’t there before? (e.g. pulling, etc.) And how she’d address parents’ concerns about same?

Debbie had a great answer and talked about Marni’s healing being part of the process, plus lots of info on the fascades being dropped and the girls’ desire for honesty and candor to breakthrough the media bubble…

As for the media attention itself…already, one of the teen authors, Chelsey has been chosen for CNN’s Young People Who Rock.(always on our sidebar)

Congratulations to ALL of these worthy teen authors and to Debbie R. tonight for keeping her cool under a couple of techno blips (and thanks for the ‘toughest questions award’ 😉

p.s. The channel owner/moderator thanked the support of “TeenVoices, SelfInjury.com, DOLLY Magazine, ShapingYouth, SmartGirl.org, and GirlsWithDreams” in the transcript, so now I’m going to go visit some of those sites to read more…

Looking forward to exploring the format itself as a live conduit for Shaping Youth, too, if I can ever get over my camera shy issues. (Debbie do you do media training? 😉 Off to ‘Tweet’ this!



  1. Thanks for running the videochat series, Amy! I hope you are enjoying the event…it’s been fun! And I really appreciated your interns great reviews… so nice to get feedback directly from the intended audience. Thank you!
    .-= Debbie´s last blog ..Kelly Clarkson and Self Magazine =-.

  2. Fabulous interview on Ypulse today with Debbie Reber and the teen authors doing a Q&A! Don’t miss it! In fact, I may go back inside the post and embed the link! here it is:

    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..So Sexy So Soon: Shaping Youth Chats With Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. =-.

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