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Advice To Young Writers, And Advice To Parents, From Koren Zailckas, Author Of "Smashed" (With Video)

Zailckas Meets With Teen Writers At R. J. Julia First Over Soda And Pizza; Then Heads Over To Library To Have A Talk With Parents; Presentations Sponsored By Madison Alcohol and Drug Education Coalition

In towns like Madison, we'd like to believe that all of our kids are happy and that none of them would ever drink or do drugs.

The reality, of course, is that some do and that some have not only gotten addicted, but that they have also overdosed, killed themselves or others in car crashes, or have stepped off a cliff while hiking and drinking.

Why would they do this?

While searching for ways to understand, and ways to get people talking about the problem, Kathy Leckey from Madison’s Alcohol and Drug Education Coalition came across a book called “Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood.” She knew immediately that she wanted to share this book and talk about it with others.

Thanks to her, Madison met author Koren Zailckas Wednesday night. Zailckas not only gave a reading and talked with parents, but also kindly agreed to talk with Madison teenagers privately beforehand to discuss her experience, why she wrote about it, and why they too should find their voices and write their stories.

Her advice to teen writers was to not make the mistake of thinking they should be older, more interesting, or accumulate more dramatic experiences before they start writing. She said there are not enough young writers, and young women writers in particular, who are willing to do the hard work that comes with writing honestly about their lives.

She also counseled them to write the first draft without fear or favor, to themselves, or to their parents or friends. There is always time to edit later. The key is to start writing, she said, without editing or censuring yourself the first time around.

As for parents who don't want their children to experience the harrowing trials that Zailckas put herself through, and so completely documented in her book, Zailckas recommended talking early and often with your children about the real and specific dangers of drinking, particularly at a young age. Nine is not too young. And once is not enough, she said.

She also pointed to studies that said overly strict parents, and those who do not provide structure at all, generally are at higher risk for having children who drink and do drugs. Best to find a middle ground, she said, that works for everyone involved.

M.A.D.E.'s next event is: "Be An Asset Builder" Workshop Wednesday, May 4th 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.  Hosted by the Ryerson PTO and M.A.D.E. at Ryerson Elementary School, this workshop is designed to give participants an overview of the Developmental Assets framework developed by the Search Institute and the lean how it applies to our families and our community.

Pem McNerney (Editor) April 14, 2011 at 10:48 AM
Thanks to Kathy and the others at M.A.D.E. who worked so hard to bring this event to Madison. From the thoughtful touch of providing Koren and the kids with pizza and soda, and the parents with homemade baked goods, to the great advice from Koren, it was a great event.
Patty Mash April 17, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Kathy I am so proud of you for the work that you are doing and the difference you are making in your community. The best that can come from an awful experience is to move forward and make a difference that helps others

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