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

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