Sixteen-Year-Old Author Riley Carney Inspires
Feb 28th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer


Riley Carney



How a Shy Teen Became a Published Author 

By Riley Carney, Age 16 – guest blogger


Breaking the Chain – Riley Carney’s Non-Profit Organization for Literacy – http://bit.ly/5SsOsA

Over the past year and a half, my life has changed dramatically. I have gone from a shy high school sophomore who liked to write and was passionate about literacy, to a published author and the director of a full-fledged, legal nonprofit organization. I have many people to thank for what I’ve achieved, family, teachers, myself. But there was one person who played a large role in my decision to recognize my passions and take them to the next level. For the purpose of anonymity, we’ll call her Laura.

Laura had been my best friend since fourth grade. We went to different middle schools and high schools, but we had stayed close friends, and saw each other on the weekends and throughout the summers. Middle school was a particularly difficult time for me, but it didn’t matter that I didn’t fit in at school because Laura was still my friend.



By the time high school rolled around, I had started to write my books and I had begun my quest to combat illiteracy by creating my program, Breaking the Chain. I was still shy, but I decided that I cared a lot about trying to raise money to build a school for a village in Kenya. So, despite a shaky voice and a bad case of butterflies in my stomach, I managed to give a presentation to my entire high school during an assembly to kick off my fundraising. After a few months of selling T-shirts at school and often feeling uncomfortable with the whole exercise, I managed to raise enough money to build a school and a water purification system for the village.

I felt great about raising the money and I was determined to push forward, but there were definitely times when I felt like an outcast. There just really wasn’t a place for me in any of the groups of kids at school. I wasn’t buying into the popular party groups and I didn’t fit into the misfit groups either. It was incredibly hard to feel so out of place, but I also knew that most teenagers, even the ones who seem popular, feel very insecure inside. Besides, I knew that Laura still accepted me, and she was still my best friend. 

The summer before my sophomore year my relationship with Laura began to change. She was suddenly much less interested in being my friend and much more interested in fitting in with the cool crowd at her school.  We saw less of each other and didn’t talk as frequently.  One day I called and left a message for her.   She never called me back. As quickly and as suddenly as that, our five-year friendship had ended. I was heartbroken.

My best friend had decided that I was no longer worth her time, and for a while I was distraught. I felt very lonely and I wanted nothing more than to fade into the background so that no one would notice how alone I felt. Soon, however, I began to I realize that there weren’t any kids whose opinion about me mattered! It was a very liberating moment to recognize that I didn’t care what other kids thought of me.  It didn’t matter if I was wearing the right outfit or the right makeup or if some boy thought I was hot or if I fit into a group.  The people I respect were the opinions of me that mattered. Most of the kids at school were so concerned with fitting in that they had lost themselves and their own personalities. What was there to respect?

This new mindset allowed me to discover what I was truly capable of.  My first book was published, six more have been written, and my organization has become a legal nonprofit corporation that has made a difference in thousands of children’s lives. I also have spoken to over 3,000 kids at schools across the country, hoping to inspire them to pursue their dreams and to reach out to help others.  I’ve also have made some great new friends who are involved in not being a clone of some other kid who they think is popular.

I no longer care about what my peers think of me; I only care about what I think of myself.  And that has made all the difference in my life.

I guess I have Laura to thank for that.

A note from Liza Wiemer:  It is truly an honor to include Riley on WhoRuBlog.  She epitomizes the term “Inspiring Teen!”  If you would like to purchase an autographed copy of The Fire Stone, you can do so from her site: http://www.rileycarney.com/  In addition, her book is available through Amazon http://tiny.cc/KgiND  Find Riley on Goodreads.com – one of my most favorite book sites. http://tiny.cc/Tkv9M

Mean or Snarky/Hero or Prodigy: What Your Writing Says About You
Nov 18th, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

Mean or Snarky/Hero or Prodigy:

What Your Writing Says About You

By Guest Blogger/Writer, Teresa Frohock


What does your writing style say about you?photo-8

With all of our online communities and blogs, a lot of YA and teens are writing. I’ve been absolutely thrilled to see the number of YA and teens writing novels and short stories lately. I’m also greatly impressed by the ethical issues they are approaching in their writing.

I think about ethical issues and my writing quite a bit. For example, the protagonists in my novels don’t start out as a hero/heroine. By the end of the novel, my protagonist usually works through a great many difficulties, both spiritual and physical, and these challenges give the hero/heroine multiple opportunities to display heroic qualities.

This, however, is certainly my personal point of view.  In my stories heroes are not born. Prodigies are born, but being born with an exceptional skill does not necessarily transmute into heroism.

Heroism is an inner quality an individual obtains from applying their own moral codes and spiritual beliefs to life circumstances. Most often these circumstances call for a person to draw from inner strengths and principles inherent to their nature. Heroes make their decisions based on ethical and spiritual philosophies they have learned and employed in their lives by practicing those principles on a daily basis. So when the moment of crisis comes, a hero acts instinctively from the core of their being, not from external motives.

While by no means a prodigy, I was born with the skill to write and imagine worlds not my own, and I love to tell stories. Taking that special skill and utilizing it properly is an example of how I actively incorporate the skill of writing into my life.

I have the choice to moderate my words when writing or I can use my skill to be snarky and mean to other people. This is where I use the principles I have chosen to live by so I can decide whether to be a heroine or not. I’m certainly not successful all the time, but I do try to moderate my words so my intent will not be misinterpreted. Over the years, I’ve developed my unique writing style the same way young writers today are working on crafting their styles.

So what does your personal writing style say about you? Are you snarky and is this okay? Or do you try to think about other peoples’ feelings before you write something either online or in a story?

A note from Liza Wiemer:  Many thanks to Teresa Frohock for this great article.  

I have been fortunate to work with many YA/teens in a school newspaper setting.  Here are a few of my personal tips for excellent writing.

1. Be FEARLESS – If you are interested in interviewing someone famous, have confidence.  Many of my students over the years have interviewed famous or high-profile individuals including: United States senators, The Milwaukee Bucks owner, a Milwaukee Bucks player, Milwaukee’s mayor, Wisconsin’s governor, Ace of Cakes top chef Duff, Broadway singer, Dudu Fisher to name just a few.  Be polite, write a clear request, be flexible, don’t take too much of the individual’s time, and be persistent but not a pest.

2.  Write about WHAT INTERESTS YOU or what you know.  This is always a great place to start!  If you’re interested in basketball then, of course, this is something you may want to pursue in your writing.

3.  WRITE FIRST, EDIT SECOND.  I am not aware of any school that doesn’t teach writing skills.  The key to success, in my opinion, is getting down everything you want to say first and then worrying about spelling, grammar, editing…  Editing often takes longer than writing.  Don’t neglect this important step.  When you write and edit at the same time the process slows down and so can creativity.   

4.  As Teresa said, your WRITING SAYS A LOT ABOUT who YOU are – be careful on your language, attitude, message.  With the Internet it stays around FOREVER!  Make sure that you reflect on what you write before you post it.  Shine the best light possible.  Even IMs can be cut, pasted, and posted by others.  We all have heard – think before we speak – think before you post!

5.  Have OTHERS READ what you wrote to check for grammar, spelling, structure, message.  READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD.  How does it sound to you?  Does it flow?  Language matters.

6.  SEEK MENTORS, ask someone you trust for guidance.  WRITING IS PERSONAL, so choose someone whom you can trust to be honest because they want to see you succeed, not fail.  There are people out there who will be critical because they feel in competition with you and therefore may not be well suited in providing constructive criticism.  Find other writers who truly know what they’re talking about and want to see you succeed.  

7.  BEST TIPS:  In non-fiction writing avoid was, were, has been, -ly words, very – see if you can condense your sentences.  In fiction writing – show, don’t tell!  When asked to write about an experience relating to you, especially for college essays – show, don’t tell.   

In addition, please take a look at the comments connected to this post.  There are some excellent suggestions and I deeply appreciate these contributions from other authors because they are helpful for YA/teens.  Authors, please keep them coming!

I was working with some students at school on an article about The Magic Tree House Series.  Obviously these books are for much younger readers, but the interview with the author, Mary Pope Osbourne, was incredible and definitely helpful for any age writer!  I found it inspiring.  Here is the link: http://tiny.cc/mE9Bv

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