Monday, June 15, 2009

A View from Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt's Window!

Breaking Up is Hard To Do was my introduction to The Miracle Girls series as well as to Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt's writing. I was blown away! It is a special treat to me to be able to introduce these two talented and charming ladies to you here in my Window! Anne gives the answers for the first three questions, and May takes the final three.

1. “In the second Miracle Girls book, we examine the complex relationships between family members, both new and o d, and between friends. The girls have a lot of growing up to do, but they make plenty of new memories together along the way.” This quote is from your website and gives the basic premise of the story Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.

Teens face greater challenges than ever before ranging from drugs and sex to broken families and confusing friendships. The pressure to succeed in an extremely competitive world is ratcheted up to incredible levels with internet and cell phone use. What do you perceive to be the greatest of these challenges? Why?

Anne: I suppose teens have always had a bit if a rough road, but things have definitely been made more difficult in recent years. But to be honest, the biggest challenge still seems the same to me: Feeling comfortable in your own skin. I think a lot of the problems and temptations teens face stem out of not being confident in who they are.

My first few years of high school, I was so self-conscious and worried about doing the right thing and fitting in, and whatever trouble I got into pretty much stemmed from not having confidence that people would still like me if I said what I really thought. It’s so hard to have the space to figure out who you are when you’re trying so hard to fit in.

But as I got older, I started to believe that who I was, was ok, and I started standing up for myself. If friends were doing something I didn’t think was right, I’d tell them. I was worried about it, but I kind of thought, “Well, this is who I am and if no one else likes it, at least I like myself.” But I found—strangely—that people respected me more for being who I really was. I had gained the confidence that my opinion mattered, even if it wasn’t popular, and people responded to that confidence.

As a society, I think we have a lot of work to do to help teens realize that we love them—and God loves them—just the way they are. Helping girls feel good about themselves is one of the most important ways to combat all of the problems you mentioned.

2. Friendships are so vital to teens, and parents in turn are challenged to balance their child’s independence with their parental role of protecting and guiding their child. How important is it for parents and teens to develop a close relationship during this time of life? Is that even a realistic goal? Why or why not?

Anne: Parents play a huge role in their teen’s actions and decisions; more than most teens would ever admit. Parents and teens need to be able to talk and communicate, in a relationship built on respect. I think that’s vital. But as to how close they need to be? I guess that depends on the family. I think it’s tempting for parents to want to hang out with their kids, act like them and be their BFF.s I can see the appeal of this on both sides, but I think it gets dangerous when a parent starts becoming so friendly that they stop being seen as an authority figure. A parent’s first role is to guide and shepherd their child. But how that role plays out in each unique relationship? I suppose that will look different for every family.

3. Death has taken Christine’s mother, and her loss seems to be her greatest stumbling block to the faith shown to her through her friends’ lives. Why did you choose to use a spiritual (ghostly) element to reach Christine? Do you think this might confuse teens reading the series or do you feel this was something unique only to Christine’s character? (she was rather retro!)

The series is built around the idea that God saved these four girls—the Miracle Girls—by intervening in their lives. None of them should still be alive, but God saved them—they’re real live miracles. So there’s a supernaturally spiritual undercurrent to the whole series, really, but it’s manifested more clearly in this book than in any of the others.

At several points in this book, Christine thinks she’s being… well, haunted, by her mom, whose spirit seems to show up here and there to encourage Christine. It’s pretty vague what’s actually happening—is it a ghost? Is it all in her head? But for Christine, and for this series, it seemed right. I think sometimes God will use whatever it takes to get us to notice him. It was the death of her mom that drove Christine away from God, and so it seemed appropriate to have her mom—or her memories of her mom—be what eventually leads her back.

4. What is the most important thing that parents/adults/teachers can offer to teens today? I thought Christine’s relationship with her counselor was particularly enlightening on this subject? What do you feel you have to offer teens?


I think the most important things adults can offer teens are their ears. Christine is very close with Ms. Moore, who is a recurring character in the series. The Miracle Girls quickly realize that they can go to her with their problems and she will really listen and be slow to judge. When I was a teen what I wanted most in the world was to be heard and offered wise advice. Sadly, all too often, my parents, youth leaders, and teachers were quick to tell me what to do instead of giving me the space to make my own decisions.

And I hope we offer teens a great story and some basic operating instructions for life. When we started writing this series, we decided to make our characters real but still good people, like boys but value their friendship more, and struggle with their faith but find strength and meaning in it too.

5. Teens and dating are another challenging area of parenting. I’m mother to two teen boys who are just now discovering that girls aren’t as gross as they have always perceived them to be. What role do you feel parents should play as they guide their teens through this part of growing up? How do parents keep from being unaware that their teen is making these new friendships? (like Christine’s dad when Andrew came to the door)


Whew! That's a tough one. Ana was the narrator in the first book and we showed how afraid her parents were of letting her grow up. Ultimately their inflexible rules almost drove their daughter away. But Christine's parents have to learn that being too hands-off doesn't work either.

When I was a teen, I found that making good decisions--even when my parents weren't watching--came naturally to me. My parents put a lot of time into raising me right and I wanted them to trust me. So perhaps the best advice I have is to build a relationship of trust with your teen--and be sure to stay involved.

6. What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Any words of encouragement you’d like to leave with your readers?


My goodness! It's nothing but excitement around here! Six months ago I got married to an incredible man and in three weeks we're going to Peru to volunteer for a week in an orphanage. During these tough times, I'm finding so much meaning in taking care of the least of these, just as God instructed. I suppose my words of encouragement would be, if you're feeling blue, focus outward for a while. Take a hot meal to a senior, send a care package to a soldier, plant a tree--you'll be surprised at how healing it is!

1 comment:

Cheryl Klarich said...

Nice job Kim. I haven't yet read this book but your review has me chomping at the bit to get into it!