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July 13, 2014

Letter of advice evolves into book manuscript

ENID, Okla. — When a local mother sat down to write a letter of advice to her teenage daughter, she never anticipated the letter eventually would evolve into something much more.

Enid YWCA Youth Director Shalonda Kearney said she wanted to give her 17-year-old a bit of wisdom before she went off into the world.

“We have a lot of heart-to-heart conversations, but at this particular time, I really felt like I needed to give her something more, because she’s getting ready to leave the house,” Kearney said.

As Kearney began writing the letter, the pages kept coming, and she realized it was something all teenage girls could use. After about two months of writing, “Teen Girls Confidential: A Mother’s Letter to Her Daughter” was born.

Kearney said she found an Oklahoma publisher, Tate Publishing, to produce the 60-page manuscript. The book was released Tuesday and contains bits of insight for young girls in any situation, Kearney said.

“I thought there are a lot of girls who could really use some type of guide, encouragement and empowerment,” she said.

With the short attention span of today’s younger generations, Kearney said she wanted the keep the book short and simple. It’s divided up into small sections on a variety of topics, from hygiene to relationships.

“It’s laid out in such a way that it’s simple, very plain, very uplifting and not degrading or belittling,” Kearney said.

Kearney said she used wisdom passed down from her parents and her own personal experiences to fuel her writing, but she also took criticism from fellow women at the YWCA and even someone she had never met before.

Kearney’s husband connected her with Sara Richter, the sister of a friend he met at the gym. The two women had never met before, but Kearney said that allowed Richter to be more objective when critiquing the book.

“You don’t ‘talk down’ to your reader,” Richter wrote in an email to Kearney. “I believe that young people would respond well to your tone and vocabulary.”

Kearney’s peers at the YWCA had similar sentiments. Linda Anderson, a counselor, said the book could help girls who have trouble connecting with their mothers.

“I think this book is going to help some young ladies with self-esteem issues,” Anderson said. “Maybe they don’t have moms that they can relate to easily or talk to easily, and this book could be a great benefit to them.”

Kim Blankenship, Enid YWCA executive director, said “Teen Girls Confidential” also is an opportunity for mothers to create dialogue with their teenage daughters.

“It’s just a great way, I think, for a mother and daughter or even a mentor and a teenager to open communication and to talk about some of those things that parents and older people may not want to talk about with their older kids,” Blankenship said.

Kearney said even single dads might find the book useful to give to their daughters, especially since they tend to lose connection with their teenagers as they grow up.

No matter what the situation, the book has something for every girl, from teenagers in stable families to victims of domestic abuse, Kearney said.

To honor Kearney’s accomplishment, Enid YWCA will host a book signing 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Virginia Groendyke Conference Room. There will be copies of the book for sale, and it also will be available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

Blankenship said Kearney also will be the keynote speaker at the YWCA’s Girl Power conference Sept. 21. The event is for girls in 4th grade through 7th grade, and they hope to provide everyone with a copy of “Teen Girls Confidential.”

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