Introducing… Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self

My daughter, Anevay, goofing around with friends in Brooklyn

I live for two things: my kid; and those rare times when lightning strikes and I’m inspired to work on a project bigger than myself, to connect with people in real ways. The conception of this blog was one of those moments. Last Monday, not yet out of bed, a new idea struck me silly… (Can you hear the crackle of lightning?)

THE IDEA: To edit a book called Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self that will consist of letters of advice written by 50 women to their 13-year-old selves.

While there are other books on the market that include letters by adults to their teenage selves, they are written predominantly by American and English celebrities. I knew I wanted Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self to be different, therefore, it will be a project specifically by powerful women for girls, women, and the people who love them. Rather than simply having a Western focus, and much more than a book of advice,  Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self to be a guidebook for any girl crossing into womanhood, anywhere around the world. The book, as I envision it, must examine identity, passion, death, definitions of “beauty,” and self-love (among other things). It must be at times humorous without shying away from difficult issues such as drug abuse and sex. It must be a book that I give not only to my daughter next year on her thirteenth birthday, but one that can be gifted to anyone’s daughter, niece, granddaughter, sister or friend. 

Anevay with our friend, Viola, in Rimini, Italy

I got to work. I put together a website for Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self, a Facebook page to let people know I had started a new project, and an email address where people could send their submissions. I then sat down and wrote a list of about 200 women who inspired me. I wrote some of them emails (some are yet unwritten!) inviting them to contribute to the project. Then, I went to bed, wondering what the universe would bring.

The next morning, I found not only affirmative responses to some of the emails I had sent out, but there were over 100 email submissions from friends, acquaintances and strangers flooding my inbox. In just a week, that number has climbed to 600. I’ve responded to every single email letting the women who have written know that I’ll be getting back to them within a month or two after I’ve given their submissions the attention they deserve.

Some ideas, I’m learning, last longer than the lightning that inspires them. They spread, it would seem, like wildfire. 

Anevay and a friend in Madrid, Spain

Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self, having a global focus, will hopefully include letters written by an indigenous woman living in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon, a woman incarcerated in the American prison system, a transwoman from New York, and even, I hope, my mom. Below are just a few of the many women who have graciously written (or have promised) letters for the book:

  • Angela Berners-Wilson – First woman priest to be ordained by the Church of England
  • Ericka Baylor – Former Miss Black Deaf America, and mentor to the black deaf community across America
  • Martina Clark – First openly HIV-positive person hired to work full-time at the UN on their global AIDS project
  • Rita Golden Gelman Life ‘re-inventor’, nomad and author of over 70 children’s books and a memoir for adults called Tales of a Female Nomad
  • Ponheary Ly – Survivor of the ‘Killing Fields’ (Khmer Rouge), and leader for the rights and education of Cambodian children via the Pondeary Ly Foundation
  • Jenn Miller – Founder and writer of the popular education/travel blog, The Edventure Project, which inspires families from all around the world to live their dreams
  • Jennifer Tress – Author of You’re Not Pretty Enough, a book that provides examples of how to feel comfortable in one’s own skin
  • Usha Vishwakarma – Founder/leader of the Red Brigade, a group of young girls and women who combatant sexual violence in India
  • Dr. Jessie Voigts – Writer/publisher of Wandering Educators, a website that promotes global education; Founder of the Traveling Youth Blogging Mentorship Program.  

A lot can happen in a week. And, I’m finding, a lot can come of having just one good idea. I hope you’ll support my project by liking the Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self Facebook page and sharing news of the project with, you know, everyone you’ve ever met around the entire planet. (Actually, why stop with the planet? I’ve written an astronaut to see if she’ll contribute to the book!)

More importantly, I hope you’ll consider submitting a letter. While there’s only room for 50 letters in the book, I’ll be adding letters to the Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self website over the next many months.

Anevay and friends in Iceland

Think you don’t have a story to tell? Think your advice isn’t important? THINK AGAIN! There is no such thing as “normal,” and I haven’t received a single “typical” submission. Women of all races, cultures, sexual orientation, religions and economic status will be included in this collaborative effort. Essentially, I believe that if a person identifies herself as a woman, then she is a woman (here’s lookin’ at you, Chelsea Manning!). I’m hoping that some fellas also get involved by nominating the important women in their lives.

Thanks, all, for your support as I fall headlong into this book project. I’m passionate about it, and hope you will be, too.

Anevay and our friend, Amauta, in Cusco, Peru



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