Daree Allen, MS
“D.elivering A. R.ich E.mpowering E.xperience”
Daree’s Insights Announcing… Kharacter Distinction Books!
Welcome Daree! Glad you could come and share your new book, What’s Wrong With Me. To introduce you to the reading public, I have some questions that will help them know more about you. Ready or no, here we go.
1. Did you always want to be a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?”
I have wanted to do many things over the years, and writing was always a part of it.
2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
Writing has always been a part of my life. In school I used to write short stories for fun, and in high school, I went through a few composition books writing a soap opera for my friends (it was hilarious!), but got away from it as I got older. Unlike my colleagues, papers were the best part of my undergraduate and graduate work. I liked collecting research and organizing papers, and at times where I had to submit a paper as part of a group, I liked being the one to assimilate all the information. Yes, I’m a nerd and proud of it!
As a technical writer for the past 12 years, writing and updating software manuals, writing can become very rote and routine. I’ve been blogging for the past few years and freelancing for various websites and magazines. Doing so keeps me sane and lets me express my other interests creatively.
“What’s Wrong With Me?” is my first book, available November 2011.
3. What is the genre you usually write in? Would you explain what it is?
I blog about personal development topics with an inspirational/motivational slant. I also like to talk about things that are not “PC,” such as depression and mistakes we as women make in relationships with our friends, our dates, and ourselves.
4. How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?
I don’t have a schedule like some people who will write a set number of hours or words per day. But what I always do is keep paper handy. It’s normal to see me in any scenario carrying a small notebook or a pad to record ideas, thoughts and quotes. I sometimes keep one in my purse, and I always keep one in the car. I also keep paper on my nightstand at all times, because typically my brain will come up with ideas when I am resting. It never fails. I get ideas on what to write about from books I read, sermons and speeches I hear, lessons I’ve learned, blogs, magazines (I have over 20 subscriptions!), and occasionally TV. I may be interested in something, read about it, and then involve myself in it so I document the experience on my blog or in an article elsewhere.
I don’t know the exact amount of time it took to write my book. I started collecting information in late 2008, and I got hung up in two areas: the mechanics of publishing, and lots and lots of articles on how to write. Sometimes you can read so much about writing and social media and blogging that you don’t actually DO it, because you become overwhelmed or confused about all the advice.
So a friend of mine who is also an author told me this: “Forget about all of that, and just WRITE. Just get that manuscript done. But from there, my next hurdle was the organization of the book. I spent MONTHS trying to figure out how to divide my content into chapters in a way that made sense. I didn’t have a writing mentor or coach, but I needed one. My life coach couldn’t help me there.
5. Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through?
Some people think that writers don’t have a hard time, that everything comes easy. If you ask people if they want to write a book, then compare that to how many of those same people have actually completed the project, you’ll get a smaller number every time. Writing is not for the faint of heart! And we are often our own worst critics. I can’t tell you how many drafts I’ve revised–adding things, taking them out, then putting them back in.
At one point I tried to pressure myself into blogging every day to boost my SEO and gain more readers, but I wore myself out doing that.
As for writing my first book, I had numerous fights with self-doubt and cynicism. I would constantly battle with myself thinking, “Who cares?” Who cares about my life? I’m not a celebrity or a top expert in the field. I haven’t risen up from the ashes of poverty or abuse, and I don’t have a rags-to-riches story. But I got over it and wrote the book anyway. You’ve got to push through all that mess and go for what you know.
Being a technical writer can be frustrating when it comes time to solicit feedback in the form of review comments. When the reviewers ignore your emails, don’t read your manuals, and don’t respond to your messages, it gets tiring. We are all busy. You have to learn to not take it personally if someone doesn’t read what you wrote. Likewise, when I write, it is always about something that I care about to some degree, and often, it’s a revelation that I’m sharing, or information that I want to use to encourage others with similar circumstances. My writing is as much for me as it is for others, so I no longer get disappointed if someone doesn’t read what I wrote.
6. Who’s inspired you the most?
I don’t know where the “muse” concept comes from. I can’t think of any one person who inspires me most– those superlatives get me. But God is over it all. His Spirit is present when I write my best work.
Games, cards, and private home gatherings with food and fun.
8. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
Bowling, skating; occasionally movies and concerts.
9. How did you come up with title for your book?
My book title came to me while I was cooking one day while on the phone with an old friend. I was talking to him about the book’s contents, and my self-doubts (mentioned above). He was not actively trying to help me come up with a title, but he used the phrase “What’s wrong with me?” with regard to someone’s feelings, and I stopped him–”That’s it!!” I’ve lost touch with him since then so I don’t think he knows that the book is about to be released now.
10. Did you need to do any research for this book?
I had to look up statistics to keep myself credible, but I found that when I put too many in the book, the girls I surveyed found them confusing, as in, “You lost me.” I’ve also worked with youth in other settings (church, school) so I keep up with what’s going on with the under-20 set.
11. How did this specific book idea come to you?
I started compiling stories by reading and re-reading my diaries and journals that I have kept since age 13. My hope is to helping girls and young women who struggle with issues of self-esteem and coming of age. I never had a mentor or a big sister or a big mama to help me navigate through the tumultuous years of teen angst, so I’m now stepping into that role.
12. What part does God play in your writing? Have you ever been going one direction in your writing, and the Lord stopped you? Were there any surprises as you started writing this book?
God had everything to do with this book–from what stories to tell, what points to cover–to even continue writing when I got frustrated or subjected myself to self-doubt. I had to use discernment when determining how personal and revealing I could be without being exploitive. Every story in the book is there because it is relevant to a point I want to get across.
I wanted to quit but God wouldn’t let me let it go. There was always something inside me–His Spirit–telling me to push on, and keep going. He wanted me to get this message out in my voice, but He is behind it all. I wouldn’t have been able to keep going otherwise–I would have quit and never picked up the manuscript again.
13. What is one of the funniest moments you have had while writing?
14. Tell me about your book.
The new book “What’s Wrong With Me” is a part-memoir and part self-help young adult guide to encourage teen girls and young women in various areas of life, in an easygoing, conversational style. The messages in this book educate and empower young women in every facet of their lives, including: accepting their identity, dating relationships, dealing with toxic friends and family members, avoiding or delaying premarital sex, building self-esteem, developing a positive attitude, dressing for success, setting goals, spending money wisely, handling anger and depression, and embracing their singleness, and discovering their life purpose.
15. What takeaway value do you hope readers receive after reading your book?
When girls finish reading my book, my goal is that they will understand themselves better, feel more assertive, make better choices, and be on their way to discovering and walking in their purposes and destinies. They will realize that they’re not alone in the way they feel, that they don’t need approval from others in order to be validated, and that God should be #1 in their life. He will help direct them in their decisions, and He loves us unconditionally.
16. What are you thinking for the future? What are you currently writing?
This book is the first release from my publishing company, Kharacter Distinction Books. In the next few years, I’d like to write another book of my own about relationships, ghost-write a book for someone who hates to write, and publish other authors.
17. How can we pray for you?
Many people have mentioned that the book talks a lot about God, which could be a problem in some environments such as schools, group homes, etc. So pray that wherever my message or this book are rejected, that people can still see and feel God’s love through my mission and what I’m trying to do for young people, which is to empower them and give them hope. I want to impact their lives for the better and inspire them to achieve. I want to raise the bar for them, and for myself as well. Also pray for my patience–it is already being tested through this indie publishing process, although I know it’s worth it.
18. Any last thoughts for your readers?
You are enough! God has put everything in you to equip you for your purpose, so that you can live a joyful successful life. You don’t have to look for validation or self-worth in other people or material things.
19. How can our readers purchase your book?
”What’s Wrong With Me?” is an awesome guide of life for young women ages 15-19, and makes a gift for your daughters, god-daughters, nieces, neighbors and mentees. It will be available in November. You can preorder the book in September online at www.Amazon.com and on my website at http://DareeAllen.com.
20. Where can they find you on the web?
You can also follow me on Twitter @DareeAllen or like my Facebook page which ends in /DareeAllen. You can also go to my blog Daree’s Insights and sign up for a free blog subscription at http://DareesInsights.wordpress.com
Reviewed by Brown Books Small Press, a division of Brown Books Publishing Group:
This is a nonfiction piece, part memoir and part self-help, intended for teenagers and young women. The author shares her own story, mistakes, and life lessons in order to be a guide or mentor to young women. After sharing some of her story, she begins tying in the over-arching theme of learning to love oneself. She encourages readers to dress appropriately out of respect for themselves, giving advice on how to tell if your clothes don’t fit. Our self image begins with our thoughts, the negative ones of which we should learn to purge. Allen spends a chapter discussing body type, weight, and eating. Her point is that we need to find the trigger for the ways by which we try to control (or relinquish control) of body weight. She spends a chapter on advice concerning friends. Using her own story of successful and failed friendships in high school, she also encourages her readers to be a friend. She then delves into the issue of guys—that if you don’t love yourself first, you will look for love in all the wrong places, which will leave you feeling emptier. She explains why leaving sex out of the picture is vital and shares the value of virginity. She relates her experiences of being the “other woman” and contracting STDs, besides the emotional damage. She urges her readers to see that God desires better for them and will help them remain abstinent. Allen tries to destroy the myth of the superwoman, promoting taking time for self as well as singleness. At the same time, she supports marriage—done in honesty and genuine love. She goes on to discuss single parenthood, sharing statistics of single moms and absent fathers and the effects on children. She encourages girls to make God the center of their work and cautions them against spending money unwisely. She concludes by challenging girls to examine their own beliefs and motivations, encouraging a relationship with Jesus Christ and reminding her readers of their innate self-worth.
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5 WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY FRIENDS?
“A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others
throw at him or her.”—David Brinkley
The word “friend” is an overused catch-all phrase. Calling someone your friend could mean various things: an acquaintance, a casual sex partner, or a person who helps you and/or shares things and experiences with you. We all have struggles with friendships throughout life. “What about your friends?Will they stand their ground, or will they let you down again?What about your friends?Are they gonna be on down, or will they ever be around …or will they turn their backs on you?”—TLC R&B band “What About Your Friends?”
I had a hard time keeping good friends. I felt that I didn’t have enough in common with the kids I wanted to be friends with. I told myself that kids were missing out if they didn’t want to be my friends, but it really felt like the other way around. Sometimes I wondered if no one liked me because I didn’t like me. What you project about yourself and how you feel about yourself comes out in your body language even if you don’t talk about it.
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In addition to my experience with friendships, in this chapter I’ll also discuss how to deal with “mean girls,” how to choose the right kind of friends, and how to keep from being discouraged when you lose friends (or have to cut them off yourself).
Sometimes I wonder what kind of person I would be if I had grown up in Pittsburgh with a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins—where my dad’s side of the family is from. As a girl, I felt like I was missing out. Other people went to school with their siblings or cousins who were their instant friends—friends who would stand up for them if there were any issues with other kids at school—but not me. I always wondered what it would be like to have that.
I was the middle child, spaced out five to six years apart from both of my siblings, and we never went to the same schools at the same time. It wasn’t until 12th grade when I learned that one of my classmates was my cousin (a boy I’d known since the seventh grade, and liked, too)! Holidays were boring with nowhere to go because my whole family lived in the same house—our extended family was far away, so we just spent Christmas in the house all day every year.
Sometimes my girlfriends from school liked me one day, and we got along great, but the next day they would act jealous and talk about me—even my so-called “best friends.”
My first best friend was a girl named Kim. She is six months older than me to the day. We met when we were 4 years old. We were neighbors, and best friends throughout elementary school. Sometimes she acted like she hated me, and other times she seemed to love me. We
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shared a lot of things with each other, but she often would talk about me behind my back, blab about something I told her in confidence, or make fun of me. Another girl named Deanna was my best friend from the 7th to 10th grade. She lived a few blocks from me, and our parents knew each other (my mother worked for her father after we finished high school). Because of her religion, she was not allowed to wear pants, and could not go to the movies (although she could watch the same movies on TV). In spite of our religious differences, we were very close.
Although I felt like I could talk to Deanna about anything and everything, sometimes I still felt empty and inadequate. Deanna liked me for who I was, even when I stressed her out. I argued with her quite a bit as our friendship progressed because of my fears. I always had a fear of someone liking me and then after I started to like them, they’d leave me and stop being my friend. I felt like I had to impress her or make her laugh so she’d continue to be my friend. I’d feel threatened just because she was friendly with everyone. I was afraid she would like another girl better than me, and then I would lose my best friend. I had a lot of insecurities, and at times that came out as controlling behavior. I needed to learn to accept myself and be comfortable being myself around others. I eventually learned to stop being possessive and smothering her (she was my best friend, not my girlfriend). Just having fun is the way to go. I’m still friends with Deanna to this day; I was in her wedding, and we remain in touch.
Around the 10th or 11th grade, I started hanging out with a White girl named Jennifer who accepted me for who I was. Although I lived in a nicer part of town that was predominantly White, and Jennifer lived in the “ghetto” part of town, she was my first White BFF. The reason Jennifer and I became close was because of a falling out with what you would call “mean girls” or “gossip girls.”
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These days, I like to say that a hater is a motivator. But back in the day, I didn’t see it that way. I remember hanging out with a group of friends including Kim, Deanna, and Ayana, and we were pretty tight from the 7th to the 10th grade, but things came to a head in 11th grade. : One of the funniest, boldest, and most outspoken girls in the group, Ayana, considered me uppity and claimed I thought I was too good for them and was trying to “act like a White girl” because of the way I talked and what she perceived to be my “I’m-better-than-you” attitude. Kim and Ayana’s sister sided with her, while Ayana’s cousin and Deanna remained friends with me (but not as close as before). It was during this time that I started hanging out with Jennifer. Mean girls, gossip girls, bullies, b*s—they’ll always be around.
Girls’ reasons for being mean vary—they could be insecure, not getting enough of the right kind of attention at home, and they may even be victims of abuse. Regardless of why they treat others the way they do, your reaction and response to their antics will make the difference in the drama-meter of your day. Mean girls like to see that their words and behavior affect you. If you react to them, showing that they’re hurting your feelings or bothering you, it gives them the power and satisfaction to keep it up. In many cases, their own source of self-esteem is putting others down and getting attention from it.
You don’t have to answer to name-calling. If someone addresses you by anything but your name, you don’t have to answer (in fact, you probably shouldn’t). Often, ignoring the mean girl is the best way to go (at least hold out until you get home to cry or complain about it).
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Don’t talk about the mean girl to her friends or with any of them around. If you choose to stop ignoring her and confront her, take note. Confrontations are best done one-on-one because there’s less pressure on both of you. Don’t be defensive; just be honest. Confronting her in the company of others gives her attention, so you have to be ready if you really want to battle with her (and hopefully you keep it verbal—not physical). Please—walk away from the threat of a physical fight. The emotional scars won’t heal when your skin does. I was able to mature and grow out of my teenage angst. During the last weeks of high school, I wrote in my diary, “I’ve gotten acquainted with everyone I wanted to in the past three years. I’ve grown so much emotionally, and the turmoil with my ex-BFFs [Kim and Deanna] has made me stronger.”
KEEP YOUR CIRCLE TIGHT AND RIGHT
Everyone can’t be on your front row. A few close friends are more than enough. Choose positive friends, even if they’re not the most popular. It’s likely that you’ll be laughed at and ridiculed for doing what’s right, so you’ll need supporters to walk that positive, upright lifestyle with you to encourage you. Think about and look for people who have the same mindset as you, and befriend them.
For example, if some of the girls you hang out with smoke, it doesn’t mean you should try it. If anything, you should reconsider your friendship with them. Or maybe there is a group of popular girls who are promiscuous. Just because they engage in sexual acts doesn’t mean you should, but if you hang around them, the pressure to do what they are doing will intensify. Don’t underestimate the power of influence. If a bunch of people in your circle of influence are doing
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something, it won’t be long before you go there, too (this applies to good and bad behavior). Maybe you need to move them to the acquaintance category and not keep them so close—just say, “What’s up?” in the hallways and keep it moving.
There’s a Scripture where God tells Samuel, “…The LORD does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b, NIV).iii Don’t just look at a person for what they seem to be on the outside, but consider their personality and how they treat others (this goes for girls you want to be friends with, and guys you’re interested in, too).
IT’S LONELY AT THE TOP
It takes a lot of courage to be the first person to take a stand when no one else will speak up against something wrong. If the people you admire want to be liked, or those who are considered “popular” in your school are in the wrong, it’s easy to keep quiet or just go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t matter how old you are—right is right and wrong is wrong. You may not feel like drawing attention to yourself, but if you’re a Christian, you’re called to a higher standard.
Are you afraid to step out and do something bold, new, or exciting because of what others might say? Often when you’re on the right path, others can’t go with you, and you feel alone, but you’re not—God is leading you to a better place in your life. Pastor Paula White preached a sermon in 2006 called “I’m Back!” that addressed this idea:
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When you get a Word, you have to work it out in your life, then it becomes real and the enemy [Satan] comes. You will be isolated and disconnected from others. You will miss your former associations and feel like you don’t fit in anywhere. This causes a hunger for a connection to God. … It’s good that people let you go, because this is a job for Jesus.
Training always happens in the wilderness. … Don’t listen to the criticism or the praise— just keep walking the path. People will be fickle! In the end, you’re gonna thank God for all the people who hurt you because they drew you closer. ‘Judas’ [the one who betrays you] is your friend!”
Remember when I mentioned that mean girls become jealous when good things happen to you? What Pastor White is saying is that people who you thought were your friends may hurt your feelings, talk about you, and accuse you of negative behavior, but these people actually push you into your destiny—you cannot continue to stay close to people who want to drag you down—you cannot thrive and develop into the person God has called you to be when you remain in a toxic friendship or relationship. Some people will put you down when you accomplish things, just because of their own insecurities. As much as you may care about your friends, you can only do so much for them. Don’t let your feelings of guilt enable them or allow their manipulation to take advantage of you.
Friendships change, just like seasons, with different ebbs and flows. Some relationships come and go. It’s normal throughout life. It’s hard to find real, true friends, but we all need them.
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“Friends will let you down
Friends won’t be around
When you need them most where are your friends?
Friends are hard to find,
Friends—yours and mine,
I’m talkin’ ‘bout your friends.”
When you do the right things in life (making the right decisions and not following the crowd), you’ll be blessed, but you’ll also be talked about and disliked. I remember when people would talk about me (and not always behind my back), saying things like “She thinks she’s all that,” when good things happened in my life, or “She’s trying to be White,” because of the way I talked. It may start as just one person, and then others follow suit because they’re afraid, jealous and insecure. If this happens, it’s important for you to uphold your values and standards. Strive to stay above it.
Be careful when you form friendships in general. Do it gradually. Don’t start off telling someone all your personal business right off the bat. That person has to prove he or she is trustworthy and deserving of your friendship. Don’t be too clingy, either. Clingy people are insecure and always looking to another person for approval and personal validation. Every other phrase is a question about them: “How
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does my hair look?” “Does this make me look fat?” “Why didn’t you wait for me after class?” “Do you like her better than me?” All the questioning gets tiring pretty quickly.
If you feel like you don’t have real friends, why not look for someone else who needs a friend? The girl who eats lunch by herself, or the shy one who’s always looking down when you pass her in the hallway, or the one who mean girls make fun of because of her hairstyle or the way she dresses? She would probably welcome making a new, sincere friend like you.
A true friend loves at all times. There are seasons of friendship, and everyone you meet can’t (and shouldn’t) be a close friend. Use a discerning heart to determine the type of people you should spend your time with—those who lift you up and who you feel make you better just for knowing them. Nourish those relationships and build bonds with the people who are truly there for you and care about you (you can tell when someone cares about you—they’re genuine and not selfish; they’re not constantly trying to take from you).
Don’t underestimate the value of having the right people in your life. Toxic relationships, friendships, and family members drain your energy and—if you’re not careful—can make you lose sight of your focus, distorting it. With some people, there comes a time to stop trying to be their friend and let them go. Toxic people will only bring you down.
When you grow, everyone doesn’t grow with you. Be a positive example, and never lose sight of your God-given purpose. As God told Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you,… plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).iv He doesn’t ask us to do things that we can do on our own because He won’t get the victory for it. He doesn’t give us assignments that are easy. We have to go through hard times so we can learn to trust Him and
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rely on Him. In times like this, He shows us His faithfulness and He gets the glory. Be a light that draws others to Him—and people will naturally be drawn to you as well.
Why get caught up in the he-said/she-said stuff? Who cares who’s messing with whom? You’re above that nonsense. Stay focused on God and your studies. Treat people right—even friends who turn out to be phonies or haters. A hater is a motivator. I know it hurts sometimes when you’re going through it, but when you’re 25 or 35, you’ll look back on these petty situations (if you can even remember them) and see that they don’t matter.
Above all, remember you can’t change how other people act. You can’t make a person like you or be your friend, but don’t give anyone a reason not to. The way you treat people is so important. How you talk to people, your tone of voice—all the little things do matter. Don’t say anything you would be embarrassed to repeat onstage in an auditorium of people or printed in a newspaper. Watch your language, be respectful of others, and when it comes to school, do what you came to do—learn.