Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lessons from Lenny Lee

"It is less painful to learn in youth than to be ignorant in age”
- Proverb

As a children’s writer, I believe youth have more to teach me than I could ever hope to teach them. While I pull from past experiences and feelings in my writing, my everyday life is consumed by adult worries, joys, and obligations.

Most of my on-line writer friends are adults.  Lenny Lee was the first child to follow my blog.  I’ve learned much from the few years I’ve known him.

Lessons from Lenny Lee

1.    Don’t let age stop you.

I think back to my youth. It never would’ve occurred to me to contact an author I admired, let alone start collaborations with other writers.  And since the Internet didn’t exist when I was his age (man, I’m old), writers weren’t as accessible as we are now.  Lenny Lee not only writes, but critiques other writers’ manuscripts. He’s part of the writing community! 

2.    If you want to do it well, learn it.

While I breathed books and liked to write, when I was his age, it also never occurred to me I could be a writer.  I thought people were just brilliant at it. If not, then I had no right to pursue it.  Didn’t know there was a whole craft to learn for everyone.  See, he’s smarter than me.  He actually finds out how this whole writing thing works. And does it!

3.    Use your knowledge to give advice to other writers.

Clearly, I didn’t have a blog when I was his age (since the Internet hadn’t even been invented). When I started a blog 3 years ago, I didn’t think I had much writing advice to offer the world. Lenny not only learns about the craft of writing, but also shares his wisdom with others. He has written excellent posts on writing. I’ve learned from reading his blog. 

4.    Be positive.

I don’t want to admit how often I feel sorry for myself. Actually, read the archives, and you can find out.  I’m sure Lenny Lee has down days too, but his blog is all advice and encouragement. 

5.    Have your own unique voice.

It took me YEARS to figure out how to find my voice as a writer.  Read Lenny Lee’s blog and it’s all VOICE.  His personality shines on his blog.  I bet it’s the same for his fiction.

I can no longer call Lenny Lee a child.  
He’s turning 13 TODAY!  
Please visit this teen’s  BLOG

 and wish him a very  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Happy Birthday, Lenny Lee!
May you have many, many more.
It’s great seeing you grow.


Miss Theresa

“Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire.  It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes


  1. HI Theresa .. love Lenny's lessons - and you're so right he has so much to offer ... and it's done with so much love and laughter - we can feel is hugs and smiles shining through ...

    The young can teach us much ... great post - cheers Hilary

    PS - oh boy of course he's no longer a child?! Wonder what he'll think of that!!?

  2. You're so right Theresa. Lenny is amazing for being so young. I sadly was nothing like him at that age.

    Happy Birthday Lenny! Enjoy your special birthday!

  3. I've learned a lot from Lenny too! Happy Birthdat Lenny!!

  4. Lenny has sure brought a lot of sunshine to this world!!

  5. Oh my gosh, you are so right about Lenny being all voice! I use some of his posts in class when I'm trying to teach them how to bring voice into their writing. Of course, they always ask if they can skip using capital letters like Lenny. I say, sure -- when they start their own blog and develop that as part of "their style." No one has taken me up on it yet.

  6. Awwww! I love this. Happy Birthday Lenny!!!!

  7. So true about all of it! It never occurred to me either that I could learn this stuff. And amen about his voice! Chock full! :)

    Happy Birthday Lenny!

  8. AWESOME post, Theresa! His voice is BODACIOUS! I love him so much. And you too, Miss Theresa. *wink* Lenny and you too have me chuffed all the day long! Hugs and smiles!

  9. Theresa,

    Thank you for introducing me to Lenny, and reminding me of the wisdom of the young!

  10. Terrific post, Theresa! You learned so much from Lenny, as we all have. Happy birthday, Lenny Lee!

  11. I love that you posted his writer's oath. It's right on. And Lenny is one of the most positive bloggers I've come across. Thanks for this post! :o)

  12. Greetings Theresa,

    What a list! Yay to my young human buddy whose pawsitive, sorry, positive outlook to life and his ability to rejoice in the magic of the written word, is an inspirational lesson that I embrace. Indeed, the heart of the great blogging community, beats with the ideals that Lenny so eloquently describes.

    Thank you for your pawsting, sorry, posting. And Lenny, my good young friend, a peaceful and positive birthday! :)

    Pawsitive wishes, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star, now promoted to superstar status! :)

  13. You are so right! We all have learned so much from Lenny. He has great insight and the biggest heart in the world. Happy Birthday, Lenny! You are loved and adored. <3

  14. I believe you're the one who introduced me to Lenny's blog. Thanks.

    As for no Internet at his age, um, yeah, me too...

  15. hi miss theresa!

    BIG THANKS for doing such a cool post for my birthday. im just way happy you and me are friends and we could learn lots of neat stuff from each other. youre a real special part of my life and a big part of my heart. my birthdays lots happier cause of you.

    ...hugs from lenny

  16. What a lovely post, Theresa! Lenny has a lot of friends out here in the blogosphere :) Happy Birthday, Lenny!

  17. Lenny is great! I've learned a lot form him as well. Happy Birthday Lenny!

  18. You are so sweet--and so right! Lenny has taught me tons. I'm glad we have him in our lives! Thanks, Theresa for sharing. Hugs! <3

  19. Lovely post Theresa! Happy Birthday to Lenny!

  20. That is an awesome post, Theresa. I think kids today are smarter than we were yesterday. I'm off to check out Lenny's blog.

  21. Such a cool post, Theresa. Lenny is definitely a teacher.

    Happy Birthday, Lenny!


  22. Lenny is one of those old souls who light up the world.

  23. what a wonderful way to celebrate Lenny's birthday! He's a smart kid, and I couldn't agree with you more that he can teach us a lot. That part about not believing I could be a writer at his age--totally me, too! Good stuff. :o) <3

  24. This is a great post and wonderful way to help celebrate Lenny's birthday, Theresa!

  25. Happy birthday, Lenny!

    P.S. I read your review of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

    I'm so torn by this book, but I can see why so many WHITE young adults from middle-class to upper middle-class families have chosen it as their banner song. I don't know if I should even write a blog post about how I feel with this book and the themes it promotes. That being:

    1) I am infinite. Translation: "I can do anything" which is the lie all parents have fed to their spoiled children for over a decade and thus created the most needy and spoiled generation to have ever walked the Earth. I don't know how I should feel about this.

    2) "Write about us." Well why not, right? Don't write about anyone else because the real super stars are you. It's the YouTube generation of self indulgent young men and women who believe that their story deserves to be splashed before the world and not anyone elses. It's why Tumblr even exists. It's for young people to blog and reblog each other's pictures so that they can feel like their famous.

    3) "No one understands me." Translation: Our generation has taken everything that's negative like "nerd and slut" and spun it into a morose depression of uniqueness that means "I should be famous because I do these things and you just don't recognize why I should be famous." It's kind of like how "porn stars" have been relabeled. Yes, they are now called "models." I kid you not. So people now aspire and look up to "models" and these people make millions and live glamorous hedonistic lives.

    Yes, I liked the book and I liked the movie. But I feel like it should be read with education in mind and not just tossed to the masses and that it's already a huge poster child for a disenfranchised generation that doesn't know what true suffering and hard work really is.

    I should write a post about how the Earth could really benefit from a short-lived zombie apocalypse. For every Charlie that mopes and says "No one understands me" and "my friend committed suicide leaving me in a bad place" there would be the survivor that says, "That's horrible, but this morning my mom was eaten by a zombie, guts and everything. I'm so traumatized. And we'd better run cause more zombies are coming down the hall!"

    There's nothing like a zombie gnawing on your leg that would put things into perspective again and balance about all this teenage angst and mopiness.

    Anyway...sorry for the rant. I just read your review and it got me spilling.

    1. Michael, I didn't take "infinite" to mean that. I thought it was just this pure moment where he feels tied together with his friends and his surroundings. I thought those moments were sweet. Who doesn't want to feel connected?

      Sure those guys wind up having these conversations that are really teen, but I think that's what teens sound like at that age when they're grappling with their place in the world.

      As far as "write about us" well that's self-publishing now, right? Everyone wants to be heard and now we have the technology. Just like reality shows. But everyone wants to be heard and I think, again, the book is interesting because it reflects how teens feel. You and I may or may not like how they felt/feel, but there it is in every awkward detail.

      Every single teen feels misunderstood. That's universal. As a parent, I can say, "I understand," but it doesn't get perceived that way by my son. It's like the first time a person falls in love or has great sex. They feel nobody could possibly understand the intensity of their experiences.

      And I actually don't know much about the hype since I only heard of passing references to the book before the movie hype began.

      I don't think it's fair that you say a book promotes one thing or another. I think Charlie as a messed up boy was written well. The author captured the social awkwardness of him and his thoughts about what was happening to him so well. For better or worse, the dynamics of students at school, and between Charlie and his friends is a lot of what school is like. As an adult writing fiction for teens, that's not an easy feat to pull off. Is it Chbosky's job to create a new reality with different dynamics, so we can have a picture of people who are more like we wish they could be?

      I don't think you're fair to Charlie. He's not written as a typical woe-is-me. He's had psychological episodes/been hospitalized. And the reason behind it all is a pretty big deal. Not to be taken as a typical "get over it" teen experience.

      I work with so many kids who are social misfits. My heart goes out to them because they want to relate and have such a hard time doing so. And back in 1990 there was no such thing as "inclusion", so "normal" students weren't used to dealing with anyone different. As a result, most of those kids were even more isolated than they are now.

      In 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, a girl commits suicide and leaves tapes to explain why. She blames a lot of people. But it doesn't make her right. The author has a right to write the character and let the readers make a judgement on the character's thoughts and actions.

    2. "Write about us" is in no way self publishing. It's a directive. Similar to "go north" or "watch the presidential debate tonight." Sam identifies what to her is something worthy of a bard's song and that's "our lives." It's extremely narcissistic but not at all surprising considering it's said by privileged white children. Children that have not endured World War 2 or seen their country burned to the ground or worked to harvest cotton from fields.

      I'm not saying that the book is promoting anything. I AM saying that sadly, it IS a reflection of our youth which is probably why it's such a huge hit with them. And yes, Chbosky captured that perfectly. Almost too perfectly. Because it sours my mouth thinking of all the kids that are, for lack of a better word, really whiney.

      When discussing Perks, it is often said that the author captures what it is like being a teen and finding a place in the world. What exactly is a place in the world? I'll tell you. Our world is over populated. There aren't enough good meaningful jobs for everyone. That's a fact. Earth wasn't intended to support 7 billion people. So that whole phrase is a euphemism for a greater issue. And that is: I have no place in this world because truthfully, this world has no place for me. Yet, I deserve a place.

      I couldn't agree more. But I guess my beef is that there are lots of people who "deserve a place". You deserve a place Theresa (as a successful Big Six author) but where did that train stop? I deserve a place. I deserved love in my life. Why isn't my life immortalized? Why isn't yours?'s Charlie's life that is immortalized. And every youth that reads this book is going to live vicariously through Charlie because they believe that their lives are worthy of the bard song.

      I still have no idea how I feel about Perks. It's a deeply emotional and moving story, but there's parts of me that love it and parts of me that really hate it. But no matter what...I agree that IT IS how American youth are today. And I can see why it's so huge. It's universally appealing to the adolescent human ego saying, "you just being you is the best story." If it were me, I would say, "You being you could possibly be interesting, but why do you care if other people validate you? How about you drop the narcissism and just live your life?"

    3. Michael, I think writers want to be heard, so I do believe it's similar in that way.

      Oh, I don't know if I'd want to live vicariously through Charlie. That's a tough life to live!

      Yes, we are "softer". We've had a war going on for 10 years, but have made no sacrifices for it. But I still think teens are allowed to have their time to question, whine, mope, whatever. And I think the point at the end is Charlie is trying to learn to not let people validate him. That's what Sam tells him.

      I just enjoyed the writing. I was interested the whole time even though it wasn't full of action like so much being published for teens now. It felt fresh even though it's not new. I appreciated it in that way especially.

      The middle class white me, who liked The Breakfast Club and felt like it spoke for me at the time, thought this would do a similar thing for teens. This mish-mosh of people all seemingly different, all looking for the same things. Makes us feel our commonality.

    4. I think "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" is a masterpiece of a book that definitely belongs in the same category as "The Catcher in the Rye" if anything, because it encourages discussion like the one we are having. I still can't stop thinking about it for good or for ill. But I think I won't know if I like it or don't like it for a long time.

    5. I agree. We'll have to periodically discuss this book then.

  26. beautiful, meaningful words & sentiment!
    way too wise!

  27. Yes! to all of these points. We can learn a lot from Lennie.

  28. I can't wait to check out his blog. What a brave guy!

  29. I myself started blogging when I was thirteen and it always makes me happy to see other serious bloggers my own age. :)