High school is a weird time for any girl. All women who have been through the experience could easily agree that it is a time of major self-exploration that can be incredibly difficult to navigate on your own. Luckily for young girls today, they have a powerful resource in the page-turning novel Everything I Couldn’t Tell My Mother by author Pauleanna Reid.
This novel follows the story of Aaliyah Panarese as she tackles not only the start of high school, but a strained relationship with her mother who has high expectations for Aaliyah’s future. When searching for inspiration for this timely coming-of-age story, Reid did not have to look very far. “Aaliyah is me, but I just changed the name [for the novel].”
“For me, it was very important that my first novel was written from personal experience. Everything I do, I do with the intention of creating a legacy and telling a gripping story. So for me, it was very important that the common thread throughout the novel series was going to be pulled from actual life events that I encountered.”
Reid found this strength at an unlikely point in her life, when she dropped out of college and started writing the book. Since then, she has gone on to become a journalist, celebrity ghost writer, and motivational speaker who travels the world spreading her inspiring message to others.
Read our interview with Reid to learn more about her path, her book and what’s next for her.
Her Agenda: Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
Pauleanna Reid: In my real life, I went through a period of depression. I still live with depression and anxiety. It started when I was a kid and stemmed from all the experiences you read. Once I hit college, that’s when I hit one of the darker periods of my life. I ended up trying to commit suicide twice, I ended up dropping out of school. I journaled a lot during school – journaled doodled, all of that. I knew I had a story in me and I would literally just take observations of what was going on around me. I knew I wanted to write a book from a young age so it was all about timing and courage and about having strength, faith, and confidence.
Once I quit school, I thought ‘this is a good time for me to cultivate all my experiences and really make that transition.’ And so I was really strict with myself. I would write anywhere from 6 to 12 hours at a time. I would [pull] all-nighters if needed. I wasn’t going out to parties, I was saying no to all my friends when they wanted me to go to dinner or BBQs. I was really passionate. I didn’t want to be one of those individuals that says ‘yeah I’m writing a book’ and then the book never comes out, which a lot of people do. For me, it was important to establish habits of great execution.
Her Agenda: One major group of fans of EICTMM are women, but is there an unintended audience that you’ve found positively responding to you book?
Pauleanna Reid: Mainly fathers who have daughters and want to see the world through their lens. It gets me teary-eyed a little bit because it’s so cool that they care enough because they were once young and now they’re on the other side of things. I had my book launch two years ago, and nearly 300 people show up. A lot of fathers showed up and one individual, Nathan [whose] daughter at the time was 7 said ‘I’m buying this book so that in 7 years she can read this book and know what’s to come, and be prepared.’ I thought that was so amazing!
Her Agenda: What are some things you have done with EICTMM since its release?
Pauleanna Reid: I’ve turned this novel into a 4-week school curriculum and I’ve created all the lesson plans, student/teacher guides, basically a toolkit for the facilitator to either teach at a youth organization a church group, a Boys & Girls Club, a school, or any educational institution of any kind. I’ll be putting that before the start of the next school year. My big dream is to transition this novel into a feature length film, [and] I’m working towards working on the screenplay.
Her Agenda: What other projects are you currently spearheading in addition to the creative expansion of EICTMM?
Pauleanna Reid: I co-founded an organization called New Girl on the Block and our tagline is ‘we turn shy girls into fly girls.’ [We help] millennial women in transition, whether they’re going through a career transition, starting a business, graduating from school or going through a quarter-life crisis. They come through my program to essentially get the tools and resources they need to advance their career. We’re very hands on in the mentorship program We have successfully impacted the lives and careers of over 80 women in 5 different countries so far so that’s an accomplishment that I’m really proud of.
Her Agenda: What is one challenge that a lot of young women you meet face?
Pauleanna Reid: The problem is that a lot of millennial women are not thinking outside their block. They’re not thinking outside their city or their country. You need to see the world outside of your bedroom. You need to know that it is possible to get out of the hood or to expand on your opportunities or seek out a friendship in another part of the world.
Her Agenda: What is the best piece of advice you have for other women at the starting point of their next journey?
Pauleanna Reid: Progress is a process. You have to be patient. That’s what I tell all my girls. They come at me with all these elaborate goals which are cool, but it’s not going to happen overnight. I worked tirelessly to get to where I am today. I started my brand in 2009 and I’ve been grinding day in and day out. Be patient with the process. I put in the work for 5-6 years and I’m just now making the money that I want, I’m just now getting the opportunities that I’ve always desired. People just want the results but they’re not willing to put in the work. And it’s because of social media – all we see is the results, we don’t see the grind. You have to earn the right to have the opportunities that you want.
[Editor’s note: This feature published on May 30th, 2016. It has been edited for length and clarity.]