How to Start a Blog

By: Martha Pointer

51DanJuR0KL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_When I started my first blog in 2012, I didn’t know what I was doing. Blogging was less established back then than it is now and I had to start from scratch with only a few examples to follow. Deciding to start a blog can be intimidating, so Atlantic Publishing released a guidebook on how to go about making one. Today, I want to share some of the best tips and tricks from So You Want to Start a Blog and my own experience on starting a book blog.

Choose a Platform

Unless you want to start completely from scratch with designing a website and paying for a domain (which I advise against) you’ll need to pick a blogging platform to host your site. There are a number to choose from (Blogspot, Tumblr, Wix, etc.), but I recommend WordPress, especially for a book blog. WordPress is very reader-friendly and is better than other hosts, like Blogspot, at bringing traffic to your blog — i.e., more readers. It allows for more interaction between bloggers, and after trying a few different host sites, I’ve found it’s my favorite by far.

Build Your Brand

This is probably the most exciting part of starting a blog. You’ll need to pick a web design theme, customize it to your needs, and come up with a blog name and logo. I recommend starting out with a free theme provided by the host site and using a free logo or banner maker to design your header. Pick a blog name that’s unique, catchy, and that you won’t mind sharing with other people, because that’s the first thing people will see and remember when they view your blog.

Post Regularly

Consistency is key. Try to develop some sort of schedule for your posts so that your readers know when to expect new content and so that you can keep yourself accountable. I recommend writing posts in advance and scheduling them so that they post automatically on a specific day, especially if you have other responsibilities (which, let’s face it, we all do). Make sure you’re mixing up your content, as well. If you review a lot of books, add a feature post or recommendations list every once in awhile to keep your readers entertained and on their toes.

Interact with the Blogging Community

The best way to build readership for your blog is to read and interact with other people’s. Find other book blogs, both popular and up and coming, to read and comment on. This will help other readers find your blog (free publicity, yay!) and can also lead to you making new blogging friends. Then you can write collaboration posts with other bloggers, which will help you increase your followers and be really fun!

Share Your Posts

This last tip is so important if you want to increase your blog’s following. Share every blog post on your social media accounts (the basics are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Post your book reviews on Goodreads. You might even consider making separate social media pages solely dedicated to your blog in order to streamline your brand and keep your personal life separate. Whatever you decide, make sure you share your content as much as possible so that people can find it!

Well, there you have it: five of my top tips for starting a book blog. While I tailored this post towards book blogging, these tips can actually be applied to any type of blog. So whether you want to start a book blog, a fashion blog, or something else, I hope they help! Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Good Jobs for Teens in School

by Fiona Schneider

High school is a time where many students want to branch out and get their first job. It’s a personal choice, but when considering a job, you need to think about your options. Whether it is because you purely want the experience, or you just don’t want to keep asking your parents to pay for things, finding a job while still being a student can be intimidating. Below are some job choices that will work with a student’s schedule and allow you to gain better personal skills, such as communication or courtesy.

#1 Cashier

Being a cashier is a common entry-level job for teens in school. The hours tend to be more flexible so working around your school schedule is no problem, especially if you only work part time and don’t dismiss working on the weekends. Cashiers are present everywhere in your local grocery store, movie theater, clothing departments, and many other areas. Depending on where you work, cashiers often get an employee discount, so this may be a factor when deciding where to apply. Nothing beats bragging to your friends about revamping your entire closet with the latest clothes without breaking the bank.

 

#2 Camp Counselorshutterstock_452513506

If you are more time-constricted during the school year, consider becoming a camp counselor for the summer. Not only will you be able to get away from your parents asking about summer homework for a few weeks, but also get to participate in many outdoor, water, and other fun recreational activities. The best part is you get paid for every second of it. There are all kinds of summer camps so look for ones in an area you take interest, such as a science, music, or a purely summer get-away camp. Make a note that many camps often require their counselors to get certified in CPR or other health and leadership areas to ensure the safety of the other non-counselor campers in attendance.

 

bookcover#3 Waiter/Waitress

Waiting tables is a frequent job many teens take while in school. With all the walking and food lifting entailed, it could likely double as your work out time and save you a gym membership expense. You can pick your favorite restaurant (or least favorite, depending on how easily you get tired of food) and work with a variety of other people to keep a business running. A unique aspect of this job is the tipping system where for each customer you serve, you get a tip in return for your service. This can seem intimidating since you may not be confident in your professional or courtesy skills, but our book The Young Adult’s Guide to Being a Great Waiter and Waitress: Everything You Need to Know to Earn Better Tips lays out how you should conduct yourself as a waiter/waitress and how to earn great tips to add to your paycheck.

 

#4 Barista

This job is perfect for students looking to improve their time management and ability to work under pressure. Which is honestly something most students could improve upon, if we’re being real. You will also gain great communication skills between customers and your fellow employees to balance the work and get the right orders out. The skills you learn on the job may also help in the future when you can make all the smoothies, teas, coffees, and other drinks that were on the menu. This is great leverage for choosing roommates later in college when everyone asks you to be their roommate, and you get to choose who you think you won’t want to kick out after the first week.

 

#5 Receptionistshutterstock_410739736

Receptionist jobs are good for teens who love directing people around. If you are passionate about fitness, you can apply to a gym or if you love animals, watch for front desk openings at the local animal shelter. Communication and organizational skills are the top priorities for this kind of job where you will be likely scheduling appointments and distributing information such as open hours to customers as well as relaying these to your coworkers in other departments. Most of your time will be spent at a desk, so it doubles as a way to sneak in any last homework you may have procrastinated on between work tasks.

 

Taking on a job while still in high school will present you as a hard-working, responsible individual down the road on college applications, so don’t shy away from the opportunity. Not to mention having the extra cash isn’t awful, especially if your friend group is the kind who constantly likes to go out to eat or see a movie when they meet up. So start looking around your area to see what possible jobs are out there for you.

5 Textbook Reading Tips

By: Fiona Schneider

shutterstock_693418636We all have to read textbooks for school at some point or another. We get it, it’s an important way to learn and understand the information for a class, but at the same time textbooks can often be dense and unengaging to read. No matter how much you may love reading, if all you see is block after block of text about [insert subject here] it can feel tedious. Here we’d like to offer five tips on how to get through your daily/weekly/ monthly textbook readings and actually retain some of the information instead of staring at the page for ten minutes before flipping to the next.

Tip #1: PACE YOURSELF

Don’t put off all of the reading until the moment you are held accountable for the material. Everyone is guilty of a little procrastinating, and it is so tempting to put off assignments such as reading. “It’s only 40 pages, I can read that in under 30 minutes,” we think and then slide the textbook over and opt to watch another episode of Netflix. Instead of waiting, ration out the number of pages you read over the amount of time you have. Don’t tackle it all at once. Even if you’re way ahead of schedule and want to get all the reading done as fast as possible, you may just overload your brain with information and forget the majority of it by the time you need it. Stick to sections you know you can handle instead.

Tip #2: READ EFFICIENTLY

Take a moment to make sure you are actually reading the material and not just skimming. The experience of “reading” an entire page just to realize you did not take a single word in is probably one of the worst moments a student can have. It means you have to spend more time re-reading before you can move on. To combat this, while reading after a major section or after every page if you want to be proactive, try to recall the information you just read. If you can remember immediately, you’re in a focused state and can safely keep reading. However, if you feel like the last few minutes are a blur, it’s probably a good time to practice the next tip.

Tip #3: TAKE A BREAKshutterstock_378479308.jpg

Now if you have been procrastinating this may be hard to do, but if you followed the first two tips and have ample time to learn the information, go do something to take your mind off the reading. Mental stress can often be more tiring than physical, so giving your brain proper rest is important. Take a walk, pet your dog, do yoga. Whatever helps you calm down, take about 20 to 30 minutes for that activity before sitting back down at your textbook.

Tip #4: GIVE YOURSELF REWARDS

This will mostly be up to you and what you consider a reward, but many people find incentives motivating to get work done. You can place goldfish after each paragraph to eat when you complete that reading or you can have a friend block all of your social media until you finish. If you’ve been wanting something, you can select that item to finally buy when you get the reading done. Whatever may be your motivation, figure it out and see if it works as a proper motivator.

Tip #5: TAKE NOTES 

shutterstock_512443126In your note taking, avoid copying everything the textbook says, try to keep these notes succinct and filled with key points and details for easy review later. Teachers often reuse material from earlier in the course on midterm and final exams, so notes from the textbook can come in handy. It’s quicker and more effective to review the major points than trying to read the entire textbook section again. If you keep your notes precise and focus on what’s important, you can identify where your problem sections are. Then you can choose to either go back and read those sections or to focus on what you already know to more effectively spend your study time.

 

Reading textbooks isn’t always fun, but it is necessary. With the help of these tips, you can tackle readings with renewed focus and learn the material you need for class.

Turn Your Hobby into Cash

By: Kristen Joseph

Do you remember that time when you were a little kid, doodling away in a sketchbook, putting together little crafts, or writing your own story, and you could’ve kept doing that all day long? But then you grew up and you were told to start thinking seriously about what you wanted to do with your life because you have to have a career and make money and whatnot. So you abandoned your hobby in favor of a career path that was guaranteed to make you money.

hobby4But guess what? You can absolutely make money by pursuing your hobbies, too! There are a bunch of online platforms where you can make a living selling your artwork, crafts, stories, etc.

It’s okay if you don’t believe me. It sounds too good to be true, right? You may think so, but for a lot of people, like Zandra Cunningham, turning her hobby into a business actually became a reality. This passionate teenager started her business at just 9 years old, and it’s still going strong today! Check out what she has to say about being a young entrepreneur:

I started my business in 2009, I was nine years old.

 I have always had a strong passion for lip balm/gloss. I would ask my dad  every day before he went to work to bring me home a new lip balm. Finally, he told me NO and told me I should make my own! The rest is HISTORY!

What I like most about running my business is that I can use it as a vehicle for change. With me running my own business, I inspire others; both young and old to do the same; I love that!

Our gross profit margin is very good, and our sales are steadily increasing every year.

hobby5I operate my business inside my production studio that I have offsite. I have satisfactory equipment to currently meet the demands from our customers; however, I see a need for an upgrade to occur really soon. Both my parents and my younger brother work for me. I occasionally have my uncle and aunt work for me seasonally. Also, some of my friends will come in to help out/hang out.

For years it was very tough to juggle work and school; with the last two years being the most challenging. Since the business is rising rapidly, we have decided that I will participate in homeschooling. By doing so, I can focus more on running my business while meeting the demands of school on my time, except my dad is a tough teacher!

The biggest sacrifice I have made is losing sleep. Although I don’t get to hang out with my friends a lot; especially spontaneously, I really miss out on some valuable sleep.  

hobby3My most satisfying moment as a business owner is being able to give back to girls’ education. I really enjoy being able to help empower girls to follow their dreams. Dream BIG, Write a Plan, Follow the Plan, and Plan to have fun! I also want others to know that success comes with great sacrifice and hard work, but going through the pain, makes the success that much more gratifying.

My parents help me out a lot. Not just with helping to finance my business, but constant encouragement and motivation. The fact that my parents are proud of me helps me to deal with sacrifices. My mom is my right hand, she is my mom-a-ger and she makes sure my scheduling is on task. My dad is my CFO, he handles all of our numbers and he also is my teacher for homeschooling.

 

9781620231784Zandra’s story is so incredible; I definitely admire her! If her story has inspired you and you’d like to learn more about how you can turn your hobby into a living, breathing business, check out our book The Young Adult’s Guide to Selling Your Art, Music, Writing, Photography, & Crafts Online.

Take a Break

By: Kylie Widseth

Sometimes there really just isn’t enough time in a single day, and we really have to come to terms with the idea that we actually need 25 hours in a day and not just 24. But 24 hours is what we have, so it’s what we have to work with. I’m guilty of overworking myself too; my agenda literally says, “I am very busy.”

Here are just a few tips to help you cope with the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.

shutterstock_526236691Tip #1: Take breaks

I know, I know. This seems quite obvious, but we often forget to take time for ourselves. All of a sudden it’s 4 o’clock, and you realize that you haven’t eaten lunch yet. It happens, we’ve all been there and done that. Take some time to read a book or eat a snack, it can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as an hour. I understand the hesitancy to take a break, but I promise that if you don’t your work will suffer because you’re so burned out.

shutterstock_178115057Tip #2: Learn to say no

You don’t have to be involved in a million clubs and activities, but being involved is still good. It’s all about finding a balance. If you start finding yourself overwhelmed with the amount you see on your calendar, then you already know that it’s time to start saying “no” to things. You don’t want to become the person that everyone asks to do things because you don’t know how to say “no.”

shutterstock_528805507Tip #3: Meditate

Meditating can be an amazing form of stress relief if you can really sit down and focus on it. Although I’ve only meditated a handful of times, it really, really helped me calm down and focus on what was really important. In today’s world, it’s really hard to just have a few moments of quiet without any distraction, but if you fit this into your schedule, it really works wonders. If you’re interested in learning more about meditation, check out our book, The Young Adult’s Guide to Meditation!

shutterstock_554478352Tip #4: Set boundaries

This ties back into learning how to say no, but set boundaries for yourself. You also have to learn how to say no to yourself. Set a bedtime for yourself; it sounds really childish, but stick with it. Tell yourself that no matter what is happening you will go to bed at that time. Sleep is incredibly important especially as a teenager. It’s the time in your life when you should be getting the most amount of sleep, but we all know we really get the least amount of sleep because there is always so much to do in any one given day.

shutterstock_284570321Tip #5: Talk it out

Sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone, to either just vent to them or to have them give you some advice after you’ve vented. An outside perspective might give you some guidance on activities in your life that you probably don’t need to devote as much time to. They can help you understand what activities are benefitting you and what activities are just taking up time in your life that could be used for other things.

We all strive to be the best that we can be in our everyday lives, but that doesn’t mean that you have to work until you drop. It’s better to learn how to balance your schedule earlier rather than later before it’s too late and you don’t even know where to begin.

Motivating Yourself to Read

By: Kristen Joseph

It is a truth universally acknowledged that even bookworms occasionally have difficulty motivating themselves to read. I’m sure even the great Jane Austen (the mastermind behind the first half of the previous sentence) had trouble finding time to read. I know I do, especially during the school year when I’m trying to balance schoolwork and required reading with reading for fun. Some days I can read 100 pages, and other days I just stare longingly at my shelf wishing that I had time to crack the cover of one of my favorite tomes.

If you’ve ever felt like you were utterly failing at carving out a time for reading during your day, here are some tips to help you jumpstart your voracious literary habits once again:

1) Actually make a habit of it. Before bed, during lunch, while waiting at the bus stop. Choose one time during your day when you can spend a few minutes with a book. It’s okay to start out small at first; even reading a page is an accomplishment. Eventually you’ll get into the habit of reading during that time without even thinking about it. Mission accomplished.

mo12) Always carry a book with you. Even if you don’t crack it open, having a book with you is a great motivator, and honestly, it’s a great comfort, too. Whenever moments of delay or boredom hit, you know that you have something to occupy your time. (If you’re like me, you may even refuse to buy certain bags/purses if they don’t have enough room to carry a sufficiently sized novel). People may call you silly for always carrying a book around, but you’ll be the one having the last laugh when they’re complaining of boredom while you’ve happily escaped to a parallel universe that is far more interesting than the present.

3) Make bookish friends! I honestly can’t stress this one enough. Your friends don’t have to be as book-obsessed as you, but even surrounding yourself with people that enjoy reading a limited amount will motivate you to continue reading. You can talk to each other about books and plot lines and all the fascinating new information that you learned.

mo5Book clubs (in-person and online) fall into this category, too. Having people to share your excitement for reading with encourages you to read that much more. All of my closest friends fall under some category of bookworm. We borrow each other’s books and give each other books for Christmases/birthdays/any gift-worthy special occasion. ­I’m so glad to have them (my friends, I mean, although the books are always a welcome addition).

4) Keep track. Make a To-Be-Read list (mine’s in a color-coded palm-sized notebook). Write down the books that you’ve read (and I have a journal specifically for this). It feels so good to be able to look back at all that you’ve read. You feel accomplished, and you can track your changes in reading habits from year-to-year. During my first two years of high school, I was averaging 40 books read per year, one to two books per week. When I got a part-time job during my final two years of school, and now that I’m in college and enjoying everything that comes along with that, my annual-books-read average has dropped 50%.

mo3At first I was bummed when I realized this – why, oh why, did my life goals have to interfere with my reading goals! – but I eventually came to terms with it. I like my life, and I wouldn’t change any big decisions that I’ve made in the past just so I could read more. Reading even less than this is totally okay, too! One book a month, only reading books for class, half a book per year. Don’t worry about having a busy schedule or being a “slow reader,” either. (There’s no such thing, in my opinion; everyone reads at their own pace, it’s part of their individuality.) As long as you are trying, you are succeeding!

5) Don’t book-shame. It sounds kind of weird, but you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all do it. We don’t feel like reading books at the moment unless they’re in this genre, or we’re purists and we refuse to read books in that format because reading anything that isn’t printed and bound feels like sacrilege. I know exactly how you feel; not every book fits your literary mood at the moment. That’s totally okay. But if you really want to motivate yourself to read, you can’t let that kind of pickiness constantly stand in your way of reading a great story or enjoying a good nonfiction narrative.

mo4I personally prefer printed books, but I’ve grown to really love having access to hundreds of e-books on my Nook, phone, and tablet. They carry the same comfort that having a book in my purse does – if I’m ever bored, I easily have access to something to read. Audiobooks are also a perfectly acceptable format for getting through books. You can listen to them while you’re in the car, on the bus, exercising, you name it. If you’re already using earbuds/headphones and listening to music all the time, what’s the harm in substituting that playlist for a book every now and then?

So if you’re having trouble reading a book today, try one of these ideas to help you get started. If you motivated yourself enough to read this entire blog post, you’re already halfway there. Good luck!

 

College Advice + GIVEAWAY!

By: Kristen Joseph and Kylie Widseth

If you’re about to start college, you probably have a million different emotions running through your head. You’re equal parts excited and nervous about starting this new chapter in your life, and you’re wondering what exactly the future will hold. I bet you wish you had some useful tips to help you start the year off well, right? Well, surprise! We have a few for you, as well as a chance to win one of our Young Adult’s Guides to College (entry details below the article)! Let the learning commence….

Tip #1: Don’t get intimidated. We know sometimes it feels like your classmates are college2way smarter than you, and you feel like you can never measure up. But guess what? You’re literally all starting at the same place. You weren’t accepted to your institution in some rank order from best-to-worst. You were accepted. Each and every one of you. Point blank. The person beside you in class isn’t smarter just because he can come up with a quicker answer to your professor’s question. Just worry about yourself and strive to do your personal best, not the other guy’s. -Kristen

Tip #2: Be friendly. You don’t have to go around saying “Hello!” to every single person you meet on the street, but a small smile never hurt anyone. Meet people on your dorm floor, hang out in the lounge, and chat with the people in your classes. A casual smile or conversation can honestly make someone’s day, especially if they’re stressing out about all the work they have to do. So just be nice. Odds are, it’ll lift your mood too, and make those late-night study sessions a little less depressing. -Kristen

Tip #3: Naps are heaven-sent. I never realized just how amazing an afternoon nap could be until I started college. (On my first day, I literally went to all of my classes, then immediately returned to my room and took a nap, and it felt great!) You shouldn’t constantly put off going to class and studying in favor of sleep; that will get you nowhere. But if you’ve suddenly hit that point where everything you read is gibberish and you can’t form a coherent thought, please take a nap. You’ll thank yourself later once your brain begins to function again. -Kristen

college4.jpg

Tip #4: Get involved. I know just making the plunge to go to a few events where you don’t know anyone can be really scary, but it’s also really important. It’s obviously one of the best ways to make friends, and club meetings are where you can meet people that have some of the same passions as you. Also, meeting friends can encourage positive peer pressure, and it’s much easier to go to an event if you already know that you will know someone there. -Kylie

Tip #5: Go to the library. We sometimes forget that we are at college to study and get a degree! The library can be a great place to study and get work done. For some people, it’s hard to do work in the confinement of their dorm room or they have too many distractions in their dorm. The library can also be another great place to meet people. Maybe that person from your class that you’ve always wanted to talk to just happens to be in the library. Your library also has so many resources available to you and maybe while you’re there, you can check out a book or two (one for class, and one for your own personal enjoyment)! –Kylie

Tip #6: Call your family. Make sure to call your family every once in a while, but don’t let them call too often because you’re only in college for a short time, and you need to take advantage of every opportunity you can! I know this can be hard because you’ve probably been living with them for 18 years and then suddenly, you’re just not. Your parents realize that you’re out having fun and making friends, but they still really like to hear your voice. Set up a schedule of when you can have your phone calls so that you will be sure not to miss each other. –Kylie

college3

All in all, college is such an exciting time in your life, and you should enjoy it as such! At the end of the day, you will know what works best for you, so as they say, you do you! Do what feels comfortable and right for you.

 

Now it’s time for the giveaway rules…

How to enter:

Any one of the following count as a single entry:

Facebook: Like our Facebook page and share the pinned Facebook post

Twitter: Follow our Twitter account and retweet the link to this post

Instagram: Follow our Instagram and tag 2 friends in a comment on the announcement photo

Contestants are able to enter up to 6 times with no more than 2 entries on the same social media platform. For example, you could share on Facebook 2 times, retweet 2 times, and comment 2 separate times tagging a total of 4 friends on Instagram, for a total of 6 entries.

The giveaway will last for a week, closing at 11:59 pm on August 23rd.

Once selected with a random generator, the winner will have the opportunity to pick from five college advice guides.

*Giveaway open to U.S. residents only*

Don’t miss out on your chance to win an entire book’s-worth of college advice!

Well That Was Awkward: How to Combat That Embarrassed Feeling During Conversation

By: Kristen Joseph

Comm1Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and noticed you were rambling? Or you said something that you immediately wished you could take back? Communication is definitely not the easiest skill to master. Whether you’re in a professional situation, giving a speech, or just having a casual conversation with friends, you’re bound to experience moments where you feel incredibly awkward. I know I have. But don’t worry, life goes on; you likely won’t feel that awkward forever. If you’d like to start getting rid of that awkwardness now, take a peek at the case study below to begin embracing the embarrassment.

Let’s face it—you’re awkward. You’re going through puberty, discovering yourself, and finding out who you want to be friends with. High school is a time of difficult change. But you don’t have to let your awkwardness inhibit you from making friends and being a great communicator. Everyone is awkward, so you don’t need to be embarrassed.

Meet Anna—she wears thick glasses, tends to be shy, and never knows when to say the right thing. Overcoming her awkwardness has always been a struggle. It’s her junior year, and she’s determined to make a change; but how?

Here are a few tips for combating your awkwardness:  Comm3

  • Accept your awkwardness: It’s going to happen either way, so just accept it. Who cares if your voice cracks, you tend to stutter, or blurt out the wrong thing. Those blunders last momentarily, and everyone does them. Instead of being afraid of messing up while talking to people, be comfortable with yourself and accept your mistakes. Don’t let fear hold you back from potential opportunities.
  • Laugh it off: If you make a mistake, laugh it off. People around you will take it better, and so will you. It’s better to make light of a situation instead of stressing about it.
  • Know that your social skills will get better: It’s going to get better, that’s the great thing. This is only high school; you have college and your career ahead of you. No one will remember how awkward you were 10 years from now. Embrace your personality, and be yourself.

Instead of letting her awkwardness continue to get the best of her, Anna accepted her social blunders gracefully and continued to meet new friends. After this acceptance, she soon grew confident and bettered her social situations, making new friends along the way. You can do this, too, with time and being true to yourself.

510yQ9vjwALFor even more tips on how to communicate like a pro, check out our book The Young Adults Survival Guide to Communication.

Summer Slump: 10 Long-term Cures for Summer Boredom

By: Kristen Joseph

July is typically the midpoint of summer vacation for most school-goers, which means it’s also primetime for a horrible case of summer boredom to set in. You’ve already done all the fun stuff you had planned for the summer, and now you’re just stuck sitting around marking off the days on your calendar until you start the new school year. Never fear! Here’s a list of ten things to do to that will keep you occupied for the rest of the summer:

1) Get a job. It may sound like a complete summer cliché, but getting a job — which means earning more pocket change — is a tried-and-true way to keep busy during the summer. You can learn a new skill, gain experience, and potentially do something fun with your free time. Regardless, you get paid. Definitely an upgrade from sitting on the couch all day. (If you’re worried about the interview process, here’s a handy-dandy survival guide, courtesy of Atlantic Publishing.)

ssinstrument

2) Learn an instrument. Or keep practicing one that you already know. There are so many benefits that you can obtain from playing any musical instrument, from gaining discipline to improving your memory. And the world of music is so vast that you’ll never run out of things to play. Or you could write a song yourself, once you master your instrument.

3) Volunteer. Many high schools and scholarship organizations require students to have a certain number of community service hours. And colleges like to see that you’re involved within your community, volunteering your free time with different organizations for the greater good and all that jazz. There are lots of fun ways to earn those community service hours, too. It’s a great way to make new summer memories while earning school credit.

4) Exercise. Just hearing the word sounds strenuous, but I promise you, exercising can actually be fun. You can either do it the standard way, or try some interesting new exercise routines. For example, I just started hula hooping with my best friend three times a week (the hula hoops are weighted so you end up burning more calories and work up a sweat). It’s been great so far! And I used to be terrible at hula hooping, but now I can keep it up for an entire hour. These workouts are honestly one of my favorite parts of the week.

ssdance

5) Dance classes. Another fantastic, untraditional method of exercise. Technical, enjoyable, rhythmic, character-building. You could learn types of dances like Latin, hip hop, or contemporary, and look like a pro busting a move to all of your favorite songs. Any type of dancing is just incredible; you definitely won’t regret this activity.

6) Learn a sport. Or keep playing one you already love. It’s a fun activity to do with friends, counts as exercise, and it counts as strength training for your brain, too.

7) Start a garden. You just need plants, water, sunlight, and a little bit of knowledge on how to properly care for your new green friends. For more info on how to easily grow your own garden, check out our book The Complete Guide to Growing Vegetables, Flowers, Fruits, and Herbs from Containers: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply Revised 2nd Edition (Back to Basics).

8) Learn a new language. This activity will definitely be challenging, but think of how cool you’ll sound saying things in another language. And just imagine all of the new awesome places that you can visit to test out your newly acquired speaking skills.

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9) Write a story. Flex those creative muscles! With pen and paper — or fingers and word processor — you can create an entirely new world where literally anything can happen. You can even publish your stories online for fellow story-lovers to read. So work up your imagination and get to writing. I can’t wait to read your next bestseller. (If writing children’s books or screenplays is your thing, check out our books So You Want to Write a Children’s Book: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing for Kids and So You Want to Write a Screenplay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing for Film, Video, and Television for tips on how to get started).

10) Read books! Come on, you had to know this was coming. Reading books is literally one of the best ways to pass the time no matter what season you’re in. Once you discover what genre you’re in to, there’s an endless treasure trove of books to add to your to-be-read pile.

And now you have ten activities to help you get through the rest of the summer. Enough to count on your fingers. You should mix the numbers of the activities up and assign each number to a finger…. Have you done it yet? Good, you have. Pick the numbers on your thumbs and decide which of the two activities you’re going to start today… like, right now… why are you still reading this? Go have fun with your new hobby!

 

College: The Stepping Stone to Real Life

By Danielle Lieneman 

With the end of the semester coming up, that means a lot of changes for a lot of people. High school graduates are about to leave home for the first time, college seniors are about to enter the real world (although I’m still in denial about that one), and for everyone else it’s still the end of a school year and one step closer to the finish line. Has anyone else noticed that life sometimes feels like one long marathon but as you start to get closer to it, you realize it’s just another hurdle and you don’t actually get a break? I can’t be the only one constantly feeling the pressure, especially when it seems like everyone has his or her life completely figured out. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel inadequate, but from one terrified senior to another: it’s ok to not quite have it all set in stone just yet.

Before my freshman year began I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I do mean exactly. I had my entire life mapped out: I was going to double major in international relations and French, with a killer GPA of course, and continue my education at Georgetown and eventually work at the State Department or the United Nations. 4 years later I’m about to graduate with a degree in advertising and English, bound for the publishing industry. Things happen, plans get derailed, people change and that’s ok.

Don’t worry if you still don’t quite have your life figured out yet. That’s what college is for. You’ve always been curious about art but don’t know the first thing about it? Take art history.  Love the mechanics of things and think engineering might be for you? Join a robotics club.  No matter your passion, there’s a club or a class, or both, that can allow you to explore it.  I took my first college English class on a whim (not that I wasn’t reading nonstop before then), and now my English classes are usually my favorite classes of the semester. I’m a member of my school’s Model United Nations team even though it has no direct correlation to my career goals anymore.

Get to learning. Start exploring. College may be the first stepping stone into the real world, but it’s just that: a step.