Polishing Your Wardrobe!
With Style Coach, Megan LaRussa
Gearing up for an interview? Style Coach, Megan LaRussa shares quick and easy ways to ensure you look and feel polished!
Check out the GirlSpring Youtube page, here! You can watch more of Megan’s videos there.
Megan spoke at one of Wonder Woman talks, learn more here!
Interview with Megan McDonald, author of Judy Moody
By: Isabella León – Bella the Book Fairy
I recently had the honor of interviewing Megan McDonald the author of the Judy Moody book series. Ms. McDonald was a delight to meet and get to know. She was completely down to earth, funny, kind and by the end of the interview it felt like we were old friends.
Isabella: When did you first decide you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?
Megan: Wow. Well, I always loved to write, and when I was in 5th grade I got my first story published in my school paper. I thought it was exciting to see my name in print, but my first story was about a pencil sharpener! I didn’t really think that was something (a writer) you could be until I went to college and studied English literature and writing. After college, I worked in libraries and was always around books and always had the idea in the back of my mind that someday I really want to write my own book for children.
Isabella: If you weren’t an author, what would you be?
Megan: I would probably still be doing something with books. I would love to be a part of some unusual library. In Minnesota they collect all the original manuscripts and drawings of children’s authors. I often scribble my ideas on a napkin, so they have some of the napkins on display. I just think it would be cool to be part of a collection like that and be able to go through all the boxes and look at all the original things of an author.
Isabella: Do you ever feel intimated by the blank screen?
Megan: Well, I don’t start with the title, that’s last! You know those composition notebooks? The ones that are black & white and have those sorts of marble-y covers? I usually have one of those for each book. And I just start by brainstorming and scribbling ideas into the notebook. By the time I get to the computer— it’s so hard just staring at that blank screen, I mean where do I begin!? So, I usually start with sort of the beginning and end and then figure out what else could be in the middle. That’s how I do it so that when I get to the computer it’s not just this blank document staring at me!
Isabella: What inspires your books?
Megan: Well with Judy Moody I would say probably most of my books are inspired by family stories. I have four older sisters, and many funny things happened growing up with that many sisters! I did change it from my sisters to a brother— I changed it to Stink— I wanted also to be free to use my imagination and not have to have it be exactly like it was in real life. A lot of the stories in the first book are inspired by real life. Just funny things, like “The Toad Pee Club” was a real club, the fake hand in the toilet was a real joke I played on my sisters! So, it started with wanting to write down all those funny family stories!
Isabella: What do you like to read?
Megan: I like to read— wow, well I like to read everything— but I do like reading mysteries! I grew up reading Nancy Drew so that inspired that! I like to read fiction, I like to read poetry. So, I usually have a poetry book around so that when I get up in the morning, I can read a poem while I drink my coffee— but usually, books that my friends or other writers I know tell me about. I like to find out from other people what they are reading so that I know that it’s going to be a really good story that I can kind of disappear into! But pretty much everything I’m game for! Except maybe science fiction. That’s really the only thing that I’m not into, I don’t know why!
Isabella: Do you have a favorite book, something that you relate to well?
Megan: Well, when I was a kid my favorite book was Harriet the Spy! I really admire the books of Katherine Patterson! She is one of my favorite writers! She wrote The Bridge to Terabithia (upon the mention of this fantastic book I started internally sobbing), The Great Gilly Hopkins, which is one of my all-time favorite books. So, I really admire her writing. I like to read Louise Penny, I am reading this one mystery book set in a little town in Montreal, so that’s fun! And right now, I’m reading a book called My Brilliant Friend, which is going to become a television series, so I wanted to re-read the book again! It’s about two girls growing up in Italy, who are best friends and about their coming of age. I like stories that sort of start in childhood and take you up into adulthood.
Isabella: Are you planning on writing any more historical fiction books?
Megan: I do love historical fiction! I wrote this one book about the liberty bell, during the American Revolution when the British were coming into Philadelphia. They were going to melt down the liberty bell, and a group of farmers went in there at midnight and took down the bell and hid it in the basement of this church to save it! So, I like anything that’s really exciting. I wrote another book that’s in a series called Dear America, and they were diaries from a time in history, mine took place on the Santa Fe trail. Also, I wrote a mystery for American Girl and it was set in James Town.
I love digging into the research and what’s cool about writing historical fiction— and I’ll probably keep doing it— is that you find so many stories that are true, and with the mystery at James Town I didn’t even have to make some of those things up! So many things happened to them!! But I don’t have anything specific in mind at the moment, but that’s a big love of mine!
Isabella: I also read that you once chased down a book thief! Could you tell me about that?
Megan: [laughs] I can’t believe you found that! So, when I first moved to California, I worked at this one bookstore, and teachers would come into the store and buy books for their classroom or school library. So, this teacher, who had ordered a whole bunch of books, was coming to pick up her books, and I had stacked them up into two big piles and put them into the paper bags with the handles. I set them in the back of our book store where the office was, but I opened the back door to get some air, so the bags were sitting right there. And then this guy rode his bicycle past them— it was in this shopping center with all these shops — so he rode past them on the back sidewalk and must have seen these big shopping bags, and he came up and grabbed the bags!
He put them on his bike to steal them— and I’m sure he thought they were from Target or something— but they were so heavy because they were full of books that he couldn’t steer right because they were weighing him down! I hear all this noise, so I run out there and see him getting away on the bike! And I’m like “Stop!!! Thief!!!! Those are my books!!!!” And he dropped the books and we got them back! I don’t think he ever really got caught, but when the owner of the store came after I called her, she was like “Oh my gosh Megan! Next time just let them have the books! Don’t endanger your life for saving some books!” [laughs]
Isabella: What’s next for you?
Megan: Oh, good question! Let’s see— for two years I’ve been working on a new book that’s not Judy Moody. And it’s totally different— it’s fantasy! And for Judy Moody—Judy and Stink are going to be in a book quiz. So, they read a bunch of books and have to answer questions on the books, and face off against another team, and they find out who the other team is. They are in 2nd and 3rd grade and on the opposing team, there’s a 4th grader!
She reads Harry Potter and her name is Mighty Fantaski! And they’re like, “How are we going to win against a 4th grader named Mighty?!?!” And right now, I’m working on another Stink book, and in that one there’s going to be a brand-new character called Lula. A South American Pink Toed Tarantula! So, Stink has to get over his fear of spiders to make friends with Lula!
Read more reviews by Bella here.
GirlSpring is seeking extraordinary girls (13-18) to be featured in our Sheroctober video series! 31 videos of sheroes will be selected and displayed on our website and social media throughout the month of October. This is your chance to shine! Build up your digital portfolio and let others know what you are doing that is special! All participants will be part of a compilation video celebrating girls in Birmingham!
A shero is someone extraordinary and is in general making the world a better place! This could be someone who has started a community initiative, shown academic achievement, overcome adversity, is enhancing the wellbeing of others or using their artistic talents to be a positive change agent in this world. The possibilities are endless!
- Girls ages 13-18 years old
- Nomination from a non-relative
- Access to an electronic device with video and audio features
- A standout reason for her sheroism
How to Submit:
- Create a video clip (2 minutes max) acknowledging that you (can be more than one person) has been recognized as a shero, addressing what you do that makes you a shero, explain why we need sheroes in the world, and if you have any heroes in your life.
- Videos should be interview-style, but feel free to be creative with background music and any other artistic and fun elements! MAKE IT FUN!
- If using a cell phone, please turn horizontally when filming.
- Upload videos to youtube, vimeo, or dropbox and include public link on the application form.
- In addition to the Shero video, all submissions must include a second, separate video clip with the following phrase “My name is __________. I am a shero. We are Birmingham.”
- Submit a nomination form and link to videos by September 28th to be considered.
Nominees will be notified by October 1st if their video is going to be featured.
Questions? Email [email protected]
College admission officers carefully assess your high school grades, courses, test scores, essays, activities, recommendations, and interviews, if required. You will increase your chances of getting into the colleges of your choice by following these twelve tips:
1. Get the best possible grades you can during ALL four years of high school. Grades are extremely important.
2. Take academically rigorous classes ALL four years. You should carry as many challenging courses as you can handle—college prep, Advanced Placement (AP), honors, and International Baccalaureate (IB).
3. Practice taking the SAT or ACT. Become familiar with the types of material covered and the test directions. Take the PSAT during your sophomore year. Determine what knowledge and skills you lack and master them for the actual tests. Take advantage of free online SAT or ACT materials, study guides, practice tests, tutors, and prep courses before or during your junior year.
4. Try taking both the SAT and ACT. Colleges will accept either test. You may do better on one test than the other. This will boost your chances for admission. Take the SAT or ACT more than once if you are not satisfied with your scores.
5. Take SAT Subject Tests and AP Tests. Competitive colleges may require you to take some of these exams and they take note of exam results. Only AP scores of five (5) are accepted by top colleges.
6. Spend sufficient time developing your college essays. Think and reflect before you write. Write, edit, rewrite. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. Convey who you are in your writing: energetic, exciting, passionate, and intellectually curious. How can you make the real “you” stand out from the rest of the crowd? Get feedback on the essays from your teachers and/or other school personnel.
7. Become involved in your school and/or community during ALL four years and summer vacations. You need to keep track of your involvement in extracurricular and co-curricular activities, sports, and/or volunteer activities in your community. Move up to leadership positions. Demonstrate growth. Develop a deep interest or talent in one or more areas.
8. Ask your school counselor and teachers who know you well for recommendations. At least a month in advance of college deadlines for recommendations, jog their memories by providing them with a “personal data” or “brag sheet” highlighting your academic accomplishments, athletics, activities, and community service and leadership positions. Also, highlight anything special you did during the summer (for example, foreign travel to improve language skills, volunteer work, projects).
9. Prepare for on-campus interviews, if required by colleges. Re-read your essays and any information you have acquired on specific colleges. Be friendly and articulate. Dress professionally, not casually. After the interviews, send thank you notes or e-mails expressing your continued interest in their institution.
10. Decrease your stress by starting your search for colleges early—no later than the start of your junior year. This gives you adequate for researching colleges, completing applications, writing essays, and taking necessary exams.
11. Get organized and stay focused. Make a file folder for each college that interests you and put relevant information inside of it (for example, a copy of your application and essay, any materials downloaded from the Internet). Keep focused on your ultimate goal: Getting into the college of your choice. Use these checklists to plan the tasks you should take to get into the college of your choice:
12. Get on-going assistance from your school counselor and teachers. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions no matter how simple your questions may seem.
Article From: California Career Center
Interview with Amanda Keller, Executive Director of The Magic City Acceptance Center, right here in Birmingham!
Q. What is Magic City Acceptance Center (MCAC)?
- The Magic City Acceptance Center is a safe, supportive, and affirming space for LGBTQ youth (ages 13-24), adults, and children in Birmingham and surrounding areas. MCAC initiatives include, but are not limited to: Drop-In Hours, Movie Nights, Access to Community and National Resources, Free HIV/STI Testing and Education, Free Counseling with Licensed Professional Counselors, Self-Care Workshops, Tutoring, LGBTQ Children and Adult Programs.
Q. If someone is questioning their gender or sexual orientation, what should they do?
- We tell parents to try to be as calm as possible during this time because your child is just as confused as you. Parents are typically the last to know, which is OK. Stay patient and supportive. We advise questioning youths to know that whatever you are going through – it is OK, and you are not alone. Find resources and talk with people you trust. The Trevor Project is a 24/7 hotline if you are in need of support. Other resources like The Trevor Project can be found on MCAC’s website and Facebook page.
Q. If someone is questioning their gender or sexual orientation, what can MCAC provide for them?
- MCAC acknowledges that no two cases are the same. Therefore, no blanket statements are offered for any circumstance. If it is within MCAC’s power and resources, we will find a way to help in any way we can.
Q. Why are places like MCAC necessary?
- Every day is proof of why safe spaces like MCAC are needed. Youths have expressed that without us, they may not have had the courage to continue life and that MCAC provided them with hope and a reason to exist. Experiencing the strides and successes people have made because of the center is extremely rewarding. Members know that MCAC will affirm them and use the pronouns they wish. (65% of our members identify as transgender or non-binary.) MCAC provides a safe space for people to escape the lack of knowledge that surrounds them. The public desperately needs to be better informed, and the amount of information needed is endless. We see the bigotry and it is clear that change is crucial.
To learn more about the Magic City Acceptance Center, click here.