Episode 61: Inside the World of Our Adolescents with Lynn Langan and Denise Wolf
Episode 61: Inside the World of Our Adolescents with Lynn Langan and Denise Wolf
On this week’s episode we welcome back our good friend, Denise R. Wolf MA, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPC along with our brand new guest, author Lynn Langan. Alyssa, Denise, and Lynn are passionate about helping adolescents and use this episode to dive into the struggles and unique challenges facing our youth today. In Lynn Langan’s brand new book, Duke & The Lonely Boy, she takes readers inside the world of our adolescents and emphasizes the importance of making kids feel seen and heard. Whether you are an adolescent, a young adult, a teacher, a therapist, or a parent, this discussion as well as Lynn’s book will help you to better understand how to navigate the world of our adolescents.
Alyssa Scolari [00:09]:
Happy, happy Tuesday. Welcome back to another fun episode of Light After Trauma. It kind of feels like an oxymoron, doesn’t it, to be like, “Oh yeah, this is another fun episode for a trauma-focused podcast,” but I hope that if y’all have learned anything from me by now, it’s that I think that the recovery process and the trauma process just isn’t really possible without some humor. I am a really big fan of humor therapy, which is not officially a thing, but it’s my thing because I believe if we don’t laugh about some things, we’ll cry about everything. We have with us two special guests today. One of them is a very familiar face on the podcast. We have got Denise Wolf back with us today, which is so exciting. She has done I believe two episodes already at this point, so this is her third episode on the podcast. We just need her to keep coming back because she’s amazing.
Denise has done some episodes. I think the one episode that she did with just me was on art therapy, and then the other one we did talking about law enforcement and the whole defunding the police versus backing the blue. So, definitely go and check out those episodes if you have not listened already, because Denise is really an incredible person and has a lot of awesome things to say. Plus, she’s really funny as hell. I’m just going to reintroduce her in case she is new and you a new listener here on the podcast. Denise R. Wolf has so many letters after her last name, which just is a testament to how incredible she is. Denise R. Wolf is the Owner and Practitioner Therapist of Mangata Services as well as an adjunct faculty member at Drexel and Villanova Universities.
Denise is a Licensed Professional Counselor, as well as a Registered Board Certified and an Art Therapy Certified Supervisor through the Art Therapy Credentials Board. For over 20 years, Denise has been practicing as a therapist primarily treating adolescents and adults with histories of complex interpersonal trauma. She works as a consultant for many Philadelphia organizations, including the Philadelphia Art Museum, providing clinical supervision and programming related to trauma informed care. Denise has presented at city, state, national, and international conferences in the areas of trauma informed care, trauma and neuro biology, pedagogy, clinical supervision. She has several articles published in peer review journals, and has contributed chapters to Seminole texts in her clinical work.
Actually as I was reading that, I think you might have even done… Actually, I think the episode where we talked about art therapy with Denise, I think that one was a two person episode as well. We just love doing two person episodes with Denise, because yes, I’m pretty sure we had somebody else on that podcast as well. Regardless, go check those episodes out because they’re awesome. Then I also want to highlight our other very special guest today, who is Lynn Langan. Lynn is brand new to the podcast, but I am really excited to have her on because we are talking all about adolescents, teenagers, whatever word you might have for them. I’m sure that some people have some choice words for teenagers, but I happen to absolutely love working with teenagers. As you heard, Denise with teenagers, I work with teenagers and adolescents, and kids that are young adults. That’s really my wheelhouse.
Lynn Langan is an author who just had a book come out that we are really going to dive in today, because it’s really all about kind of diving into the adolescent brain. Lynn lives in Pennsylvania, and her love for writing developed after she finally learned how to read in the fourth grade, after being diagnosed with a learning disability. She fell in love with the characters crafted by the wonderful Judy Blume, and found a great escape into the world of fiction where everything seemed to be possible from big problems to small. She went on to graduate from Kutztown University, with a BA in professional writing, and then spent three glorious years teaching at an at risk youth high school just outside of Philadelphia. There, she was inspired to write her young adult novel, which is After You Were Gone, which is available.
Her newest book is called Duke and the Lonely Boy, and that came out in August. That is published by Black Rose Writing. We are here today to talk about it. I cannot wait. Hello, Denise, Lynn. Welcome.
Lynn Langan [05:34]:
Denise Wolf [05:34]:
Lynn Langan [05:35]:
Thanks for having us.
Alyssa Scolari [05:37]:
I’m so happy you’re here. I have to admit, I feel like I’m missing the party over there because you’re both together recording this. I’m like I should be there. I should be over there with a glass of wine or something.
Lynn Langan [05:49]:
Denise Wolf [05:51]:
Alyssa Scolari [05:54]:
I’m so glad you both are here. As I was telling the listeners, Denise, one of the many things that I think are just incredible about you is your versatility and your ability to just kick absolute ass in so many different realms in the mental health field, and I love it. We’ve gone in depth about art therapy. We’ve gone in depth about the legal system. And now here we are today turning it to adolescence, which is a topic we could talk about forever, and something that I think all three of us are very passionate about.
Thanks for coming back again.
Denise Wolf [06:34]:
Thanks so much for having me again.
Alyssa Scolari [06:37]:
Of course. It’s such a pleasure. Lynn, it is such a pleasure to meet you. Talk to me about your journey to becoming a writer, because if I understand correctly, this isn’t is your first book. You’ve had a book out before?
Lynn Langan [06:55]:
That is correct. Not published though. It’s been for sale, but this is the first book that was sold for me. I went to college for writing, and then when you get out of college that’s not really how you’re going to make money apparently. I was doing newspapers and short story stuff, so probably when I was around 27 I was like, “You know what, I really want to write a book. I want to do this.” So I spent a lot of time digging in and learning how to do this actually, because college can only teach you so much. But when you get out into the real world, you have to continue practicing and learning, and growing in your field of whatever you’re doing.
SCBWI conferences, which is just a whole chapter of adolescent writers from probably picture books all the way up to 18 years old, so it’s a whole bunch of authors. They’re getting together and to these conferences, and learning, and figuring out how to write an entire book, and query it, and all the steps that go along with it. It’s been an incredibly long and hard journey, but worth it. Definitely worth it.
Alyssa Scolari [08:12]:
Yeah, I think that’s very important that you said that because the life of a writer is not an easy one.
Lynn Langan [08:18]:
No. No, it’s not.
Alyssa Scolari [08:21]:
I think it’s really important to shed light on that because I think a lot of people have an idea of what it looks like. “I want to be a writer. I want to be a writer,” but then putting that into practice, in theory it seems like a life of luxury. I write whenever I want. I sip my coffee. Pinky up. As I type of the computer while the birds are chirping outside. It’s like [crosstalk 00:08:46]-
Lynn Langan [08:45]:
No. And the words are so easy. They’re right there and I’m just plucking them out of the air. That is absolutely not the case. It’s a lot of discipline because you work a full-time job. There’s no one yelling at you to go to the computer to write this book. The future is unknown if it ever see the light of day. That’s kind of where I grew my peace from, was that I’m doing this thing because this thing, this art, is what makes me me. It’s my joy and my happiness, even there’s struggle along the way. If I wasn’t doing it, then I don’t think I’d be complete. It is a lot of discipline. It’s a lot of just sitting down and looking at the blank computer screen back at me like, “Come on. Put some words down.”
Alyssa Scolari [09:33]:
Any second now.
Lynn Langan [09:34]:
Any second now, this big idea’s going to come to me. That’s not true.
Alyssa Scolari [09:39]:
It’s so tough. It’s so tough.
Lynn Langan [09:42]:
Alyssa Scolari [09:43]:
My next question, and this is a question I have for both of you, tell me why the love for adolescence, because all three of us share a big passion for the kiddos in this world. Why? It doesn’t matter whoever can go first, but I’m very curious as to well adolescents are such a passion. At least in my experience, I always knew that I wanted to work with kids. Everybody would tell me, even my professors in college would be like, “No, you don’t. No, you don’t. No, you don’t.” In grad school, “What do you want to do?” “I want to work with kids.” “No, you don’t.” Everybody kept trying to talk me out of working with kids. It’s very unpopular. So tell me for each of you why it’s so important to you.
Denise Wolf [10:32]:
I’ll start. Part of it too, Alyssa, like I was told the same thing, “You don’t want to do that.” Tell me I don’t want something or I can’t do something, and I am going to do it 1,000% times over and everything on fire in my path.
Alyssa Scolari [10:48]:
Denise Wolf [10:48]:
That’s part of it, but it’s also a connection to adolescence and that inner 15 year old kid that still lives in my heart that says, “Fuck you. I can do this. Get out of my way.” That’s part of it, I’m oppositional, and that connects with adolescence. Part of it is that I had a troubled adolescence, you could say. I’ll stop there. Some of it I feel like is not quite payback. I don’t have the right word, but making repairs for some of the errors that I made along the way. Part of it is because I can. Because I can and because a lot of people can or don’t want to. I guess there’s a fourth part that adolescents are so exciting from a neuro developmental perspective. It is like the Fourth of July in their brains. It was such a great time of change and shifting, and possibilities.
Lynn Langan [11:46]:
Denise Wolf [11:46]:
And discovery, yeah. It’s really exciting. For all of those reasons.
Lynn Langan [11:53]:
Yeah, and I would go into that also for all those things, and say that I want to be an advocate because I remember my youth not being taken seriously because we’re young, and our voices don’t matter. That’s not true. We are young… Well, we are not now, but we were young and they are young, and they see things and make connections in ways that if you stop and listen to them it makes sense. We’re missing some of that youthful view in the way they see the world. As we get older, I think we get more narrow in our views and also take less chances where when you’re young you kind of live and learn by your mistakes. I want them to know that that’s okay. It’s exactly how you’re supposed to learn. The adults that are walking around judging you or saying what you’re doing is wrong or whatever, it’s not. It’s your time to grow into a person. I want to be there to foster that. Authentically, I want to make sure that’s in my work that they have opinions that matter, and the way they see the world matters, and they have a place for that.
Alyssa Scolari [13:06]:
Lynn Langan [13:06]:
Alyssa Scolari [13:07]:
Absolutely. Have either of you seen the Twilight saga, the movies?
Lynn Langan [13:13]:
Denise Wolf [13:14]:
Yes. [crosstalk 00:13:14].
Alyssa Scolari [13:15]:
I guess let’s take it to the fourth one, Breaking Dawn Part Two.
Lynn Langan [13:21]:
Oh, yeah. Oh yeah, part two.
Alyssa Scolari [13:23]:
I know, I’m going here, right?
Lynn Langan [13:25]:
Alyssa Scolari [13:26]:
Full disclosure, I just finished watching that series again last week so it’s fresh on my mind. But, this is kind of how I see adolescents and this is what I love so much about them. Remember the part in Breaking Dawn Part Two where Bella becomes a vampire and everything in the world is new to her, and her senses are heightened, and she can smell things, and run at a pace she’s never been able to run before, and her skin, she’s in a different body, she has a thirst for things she never thirsted before. She just feels like all of these things, like sensory overload. I feel like that’s what it can be like working with adolescents. The world is just new to them. They’re in bodies that they’re not super familiar with. Things are explosive and exciting.
Lynn Langan [14:23]:
Alyssa Scolari [14:24]:
I love it. I feel like that’s what it’s like to work with kids sometimes. That’s what it’s like to be an adolescent sometimes.
Lynn Langan [14:31]:
Denise Wolf [14:31]:
Lynn Langan [14:32]:
Yeah, you’ve got these thoughts and everything is brand new. Everything. Your world is so small. You don’t realize how big the world is until you become an adult and you start living in it. The adolescent brain, the picture that they see is very tiny and then it makes the things that they’re experiencing seem so heavy. That’s another thing to work with the adolescents is cool, because you can be the person that says, “Calm down. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Or you could be the person that says, “Sit down. Let me talk to you. Let’s talk about this. Let’s have a real conversation about it.” This isn’t the end of the world. This is just the beginning.
Denise Wolf [15:09]:
Yep, and it feels gigantic and soul-crushing.
Lynn Langan [15:13]:
Right, because it is for you.
Denise Wolf [15:14]:
Right. Because your life is only yea long, and this is taking up such a big part of it.
Lynn Langan [15:19]:
Denise Wolf [15:20]:
Which is cool and exciting, and to be there and to validate it and celebrate it.
Lynn Langan [15:24]:
Alyssa Scolari [15:26]:
Yeah, to validate it and to celebrate it, especially because so many kids get shut down.
Denise Wolf [15:33]:
Lynn Langan [15:33]:
Alyssa Scolari [15:35]:
The amount of times… Like I was saying before we started recording, the amount of times that adults say to children, “You don’t know how easy you have it. What do you know? You’re just a kid.” I’m like I actually think they know a lot more than we know as adults.
Lynn Langan [15:57]:
Denise Wolf [15:59]:
Alyssa Scolari [16:00]:
They’re smart as hell.
Lynn Langan [16:01]:
They’re smart, yes. And they just need a platform for themselves to be able to… That’s what’s so critical too, because if that age if you have that one adult that’s shoving you down and you’re influenced by that, your whole trajectory of your life could be changed just by some adult making some offhanded comment to you. I see that a lot. I think we see that a lot too, probably all three of us, because everybody works with kids, or has worked with the kids. You have one person that doesn’t validate, and then you get in your head and you can’t put it down.
Alyssa Scolari [16:37]:
Lynn Langan [16:38]:
Alyssa Scolari [16:39]:
Absolutely. I’m sure we’ve been those kids. I know I for sure was that kid who really felt like… I felt like as a kid I was always too much. My emotions were always too big for somebody. It was always like “Calm down. Stop crying. Why are you crying about this? You have to get over it. You have to move on with your life.” I see kids in my office who come in with those same big emotions, and those same big feelings, and I think about how they suffer so much less simply because another adult is able to say, “Aw man, of course you feel that way.”
Lynn Langan [17:20]:
Alyssa Scolari [17:20]:
It makes all the difference, doesn’t it?
Denise Wolf [17:23]:
Lynn Langan [17:23]:
It really does. “I see you.” That’s what you’re saying, “I see you. You exist. Everything you feel exists. It’s real. It’s here.” Don’t bury that down because it’s making other people feel uncomfortable it. I think a lot of kids get their voice shut off because of that. No one’s validating them or they can crawl inside their head and just be quiet. [crosstalk 00:17:45]-
Alyssa Scolari [17:46]:
1,000%. [crosstalk 00:17:46] 1,000%.
Lynn Langan [17:48]:
Yeah, and it’s sad. I don’t want to see that for anybody. I think it’s good to think of it in terms like that. It could just feel like you have a breakup with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Yes, as an adult you’re like, “Get over it. You’re going to get hurt 1,000 times.” Well guess what, this is the first time I’m being hurt and everything you’re saying to me is how I’m going to model my life from this point on. This is how I’m going to deal with things that come up in my life because you told me to calm down, or didn’t see, or didn’t hear me. I think that’s good to give kids voices.
Denise Wolf [18:23]:
Alyssa Scolari [18:24]:
Absolutely. It makes them feel human. I almost feel like we dehumanize kids, and we don’t see them as having the same kind of complex feelings and emotions that adults have. There’s always “I’m the adult and you’re the kid. This doesn’t concern you.” It’s like if we could shift that. Your kid is an independent human with independent thoughts and feelings, and viewpoints of the world. If we could shift from “You’re just a kid. What the fuck do you know?” To “Hey, tell me how you view that,” it would make such a big difference in the lives of adolescents I think.
Lynn Langan [19:16]:
Absolutely. When people say, “Oh, well you don’t know how good you have it,” I look at kids and I’m like, “Man, you don’t know how bad you have it.” Because you have to be plugged in to this social media, to this… You’re always plugged in and you don’t get a break from that ever. Ever. I look at my nieces and nephews and I’m just like, “What would it be like if you could just put that phone down?” I know you can’t because you feel like you have to be involved in that, but it’s just crazy. You don’t ever have a safe spot. When we were kids, you can get away from school or all of that, and just go geek in your room and do whatever you want. But not these kids. They’re just sitting there taking selfies 24/7 and feeling like they have to, and people are judging them for that, and they’re not looking at what are the consequences of that? What does that really feel like to be plugged in 24/7 and never getting a break?
Denise Wolf [20:13]:
They don’t know because they haven’t had a different experience.
Lynn Langan [20:15]:
Right, yeah it’s very disheartening when adults judge the kids. They’re like, “Oh, you don’t know what it’s like. I walked up to school on a hill and back again on a hill.” No, these kids are going through it. There’s a lot of pressures on them. New things that they’re coming against. There’s just so much for them I feel.
Denise Wolf [20:37]:
Yep. I think part of the reason we collectively adopt, dismiss and minimize adolescents is because they don’t want to remember their own eps because they’re growing pains. Growing pains, they’re emotional and physical. They shut them down, “Be quiet. Get over it. Calm down,” like being on an airplane when there’s a crying baby and somebody’s like, “Shut that baby up.” My response is, “Oh, you were born a full grown adult asshole? You were never a baby?” People want to forget or deny their adolescence.
Lynn Langan [21:14]:
Denise Wolf [21:16]:
But we don’t. That’s why we’re amazing.
Lynn Langan [21:18]:
Alyssa Scolari [21:20]:
No, that’s right. That’s why we’re fucking amazing at what we do, because we understand the magic that lives in adolescence. I love it. I love it. Tell me, Lynn, where was the inspiration for this book? I’ll let you answer that question before I drill you with five more questions.
Lynn Langan [21:47]:
The idea of we indirectly impact people versus directly impact people has always been fascinating to me, because Denise and I worked at Carson Valley Children’s Aid, which is a residential facility for troubled youth. We had a lot of Philadelphian children who came out to our school that were bused in.
Alyssa Scolari [22:08]:
Is that how the two of you met?
Lynn Langan [22:09]:
Denise Wolf [22:10]:
Alyssa Scolari [22:10]:
Lynn Langan [22:12]:
This one day the guidance counselor came out said, “Okay, I want you to give out a soft pretzel to a student that you think is deserving.” We’re teachers. We’re like a million miles… You just take the ticket and you’re like, okay whatever. So, I gave it to this student who was very short, very quiet, very closed off. She didn’t like to talk at all. I walked up to her and I said, “Here you go.” She started crying. I was like, “What’s going on?” She was like, “I didn’t think you knew who I was.” I’m like, “I’m your teacher for a long time. Of course I know who you are.” She was like, “I just didn’t think you saw me.” From that point on I was like, wow the littlest things that we do really do make a difference sometimes.
You don’t know. You don’t know what that thing is going to be. Then that kind of just fascinated me like how many other things have I done to people that changed their perspective or vice versa. That whole seed was planted in me that I wanted to write this book where you think you know, but you don’t know. You don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life. What does that really look like, and how would that really spawn out into a novel? How could I get that across? That’s kind of where I started playing with Duke and the Lonely Boy, because they both have these ideas about each other, but they don’t really know each other at all.
Alyssa Scolari [23:45]:
Yeah. Yeah, it seems like… Again, I’m still reading this, but from all that I’ve gathered from the book so far, it seems like that is the moral… One of the many morals of the story is that you truly just don’t know. What you did, is you magically crafted two characters who couldn’t be further apart from one another. Without giving too much away, can you say a little bit more about who Duke and the Lonely Boy are? I just love their story right from the get go.
Lynn Langan [24:19]:
Yeah. It seems stereotypical, but it’s not, I promise. Duke is the popular boy, and he’s the All-Star football player, and he’s got a very bright future ahead of him, but he’s struggling in math. So, something very simple. The coach gets him this tutor, Tommy, who is just this outcast, but not in the stereotypical form. He’s just quiet and nobody really knows his existence in this school or the story. They meet up and that’s how the story begins, but it’s told obviously through two perspectives. The first half of the book you’re really getting Tommy’s perspective as the little person and his story of what’s going on. You’re seeing him through Duke’s eyes as a teenager. I think it’s unpacking that for Tommy.
Duke’s got his own struggles going on, which Tommy kind of looks at like, “What’s up? You can’t do math, but you got everything else going for you.” The story too jumps around in time, which kind of reminds me of therapy work, where it’s not like you sit down with the client the first time and tell their entire history. You’re working through their story kind of like event by event, and it’s not sequential. So we as therapists have to be mindful that we don’t make assumptions from go because I think for me one of the big takeaways is when you know, you know, and to remember that you don’t. Duke and Tommy have these really complex stories, and have this sort of initial encounter where they think they know each other. Then throughout this jumping in time, back and forth in time and these crossovers of their interactions in their own personal stories, your perspective and understanding and empathy really shifts.
Alyssa Scolari [26:18]:
Yeah, absolutely. You know what also I love is that you’re breaking this stereotype. If a high schooler were to pick up this book and read it, whether that high schooler is the football star in the school, the popular one, or more of the loner, you can still learn something. I love that this breaks the stereotype, because I think a lot of people feel like the kids who are loners are the only kids who have stuff going on. Like “Oh, they’ve got issues.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard other kids be like, “Oh yeah, there’s the loner. That’s the kid that’s going to shoot up the school,” and say dumb shit like that that kids say.
But you als don’t know how much is going on behind the football stars, the basketball stars, the most popular girl. I like that you break that stereotype as well.
Lynn Langan [27:24]:
I wanted the reader to be able to identify with real characters. These are not those heavy issues in there, but with… I’m not sure if [inaudible 00:27:36] that for you is the right [inaudible 00:27:38]. I feel like the reader deserves that.
Alyssa Scolari [27:42]:
That it’s like there are heavy issues in there.
Lynn Langan [27:44]:
Yeah, that there’s heavy [crosstalk 00:27:45].
Alyssa Scolari [27:45]:
Some of its tough.
Lynn Langan [27:46]:
Yeah, some of its tough, and it’s real and maybe you could see yourself in some of these things. I like that Duke is the popular one, but he’s growing so much in this story. He’s trying to find his place. Just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you know your place. Duke constantly questions whether is this real, or if I don’t keep doing things that these people are saying that I do then I’ll lose everything. I do think that that’s a struggle for the popular kids. If you could pick up that book as a popular kid and be like, “Yeah. Right, I have things too and I don’t know what to do with these things. They’re heavy and maybe I don’t want to be in the box that I’ve suddenly found myself in. Maybe I want to go sit with the loner or the art students, or the music group,” or whoever.
High school is very segregated in where you’re going to be, so it’s nice for the popular kid to be able to pick up that book and say, “Yeah, I do have things and I don’t necessarily know what the hell I’m doing. I don’t have it all. I just appear to have it all.” Sometimes our appearances really plays with your head.
Denise Wolf [29:01]:
In a lot of ways, Tommy has more resilience than Duke because Tommy’s endured a lot and in some ways that’s given him a lot of strength.
Lynn Langan [29:12]:
Yeah, but he doesn’t know he has it.
Denise Wolf [29:15]:
Lynn Langan [29:15]:
Yeah, that’s his journey, is that he is authentic to himself, but he doesn’t know how to get that out to the world because he’s just been shut down by his life situations.
Denise Wolf [29:30]:
I’m thinking about The Breakfast Club. I’m like is this a modern day Breakfast Club? You know in the end when I think Jeb Nelson’s narrating, he’s like “In each one of us there’s a cheerleader [crosstalk 00:29:40]-“
Lynn Langan [29:39]:
Denise Wolf [29:39]:
“And the football player.”
Lynn Langan [29:42]:
Denise Wolf [29:43]:
Right, and they’re dealing with other characters in the book. You meet Charlie, and Lexie, and I’m thinking there’s a little bit… It’s not like, oh the popular kid’s going to read this and identify with Duke. These characters are so well developed and complex. They really speak I think collectively of the adolescent experience.
Lynn Langan [30:03]:
Yeah, and sometimes I find I read young adult books and they bring up something that’s heavy, and then they leave it. They just leave it there-
Alyssa Scolari [30:14]:
Skirted away, yeah.
Lynn Langan [30:15]:
It’s like, actually that’s not what the real emotion of that is. Don’t just put it in there because it’s heavy. Don’t brush over that. We’re also, as authors, I think we have a moral code that we should say we’re not going to breeze over these emotions because it’s not going to sell books or it’s not Hollywood enough. No. I think that’s what it is. We have the duty as these authors that are writing to these young children to really be their users into the world and validate their feelings that they’re feeling, and not gloss over. I was reading a book recently and the main character was raped. Then we were done. I was like nothing-
Denise Wolf [31:00]:
[crosstalk 00:31:00] that’s not how that goes.
Lynn Langan [31:01]:
That is absolutely not how that goes.
Denise Wolf [31:03]:
[crosstalk 00:31:03] like that.
Lynn Langan [31:05]:
Right, my fear is that the young girl who is reading that is like, “Well, I guess I gloss over that, this thing that happened to me. I guess I don’t talk about it, or I don’t have real feelings about it.” Well, no. That’s an injustice.
Alyssa Scolari [31:22]:
Yeah, and as you’re both saying this, my adolescence is very much on the forefront of my brain just b because of all the inner child work that I’ve been doing recently. I have lots of memories from my adolescence, and I was in school. The time that I was in middle school, we didn’t talk about this stuff. This really wasn’t something that got talked about not even in the slightest. Even today, when it is getting talked about, it’s usually not getting talked about correctly, or not handled well. So, we’ve got a long way to go, but that’s a whole other podcast.
I turned to books. I was such a reader, and I turned to all of these young adult novels. I remember… As you were saying that Lynn, I’m sitting here and the feeling that I used to feel as a 14 year old is coming back to me, where I was opening these books, these young adult novels, trying to find the darkest ones I could find. I need the darkest book that is in this section that somebody will let me take from this God forsaken school library. I would read it and look, and it would touch on something dark, and that to me would be what I needed to get into. I would be like, “Okay, we’re talking about drugs here. We’re talking about sexual abuse here.” My 14 year old brain is like, “I need more of this. I need more of this. What do you mean you were raped? Are we ever going to talk about this?”
No, we’re just going to talk about how you got into a fight with your best friend now, and that’s the plot. The rape is… So, I love that you’re doing that because I agree, and I think that that is such a missing piece for so many young adult novels, is that for Hollywood purposes, for selling purposes, for stigma purposes, because we don’t like to talk about these things, a lot of authors gloss over it. There’s not many people who dig right into the core and look at all facets of it, because it’s uncomfortable for folks.
Lynn Langan [33:34]:
Yep. Yeah, definitely. There’s going to be times where the reader’s going to be uncomfortable in Duke and the Lonely Boy, and that’s appropriate. My only hope is that I did a good enough job that if it touches one kid’s life, if it’s a map for one kid’s life, then I’ve done my job. That’s kind of what my philosophy is on that. I want to be authentic and give you a real picture of what’s going on.
Alyssa Scolari [34:04]:
Lynn Langan [34:05]:
Sometimes that’s ugly.
Alyssa Scolari [34:08]:
Sometimes it’s ugly, but that’s what’s so helpful. I know I shared this when we were going back and forth in emails, but for me the book that I was finally able to get my hands on that went into detail, this book it was called Almost Lost. It was the journey of a teenager’s healing process and recovery from addiction, and it’s the transcript of his therapy sessions were in the book. I read that book and I felt like I was home. Not only did I feel like that therapist in that book was speaking to me as a 14 year old, I was in the eighth grade when I read this book and did a book report on it, but in that moment that book told me this is what I need to do with the rest of my life.
When you say “If this book can help one person,” I guarantee it’s going to help so many more than that because I see what a book did for me. It can change lives.
Lynn Langan [35:09]:
Right, absolutely. There’s a theory I have to bring up here.
Alyssa Scolari [35:12]:
Please do. Please do.
Denise Wolf [35:16]:
A theory about why looking at art, why we have sort of these “oh my gosh” relief moments like you’re say the art museum, or listening to a piece of well composed music or whatever it is. So, [inaudible 00:35:29] have this series born in psychology to arts that we take a well crafted piece of art, like [inaudible 00:35:36], but we take our defuse tensions and anxieties from our lives, the day, whatever it is, project it into the work of art or reading a book, and through resolution of the formal elements, story after story, our plot, characters, all that kind of stuff, we then experience a sense of our own relief or release of tension, cortisol, all that kind of stuff.
I’m really connecting that to when story and your story, and my story of the dark, dark books that I dug out, or the banned books from the library [crosstalk 00:36:11]. Even if it wasn’t directly my story to be able to be part of somebody else’s that reflected a part of me, that’s well crafted, we get a sense of relief and release.
Lynn Langan [36:23]:
Right, absolutely. Absolutely.
Alyssa Scolari [36:26]:
Yeah. I have never heard of that before, and that is fascinating. As you’re sitting here, I’m such a dork, as you’re sitting here saying that, I’m going “Oh shit, that’s why I love Harry Potter so much. That’s why I can’t stop reading Harry Potter.”
Lynn Langan [36:46]:
Denise Wolf [36:47]:
Right, yeah. There’s a part of us that we project into these works of art. Then through the character’s resolution we experience a sense of our own. Does that mean it’s going to fix your problems? No, that’s not at all what I’m saying.
Lynn Langan [36:59]:
No. But sometimes, think we’re all saying it too, it’s nice to not feel alone. We’re not alone and that. Even if it’s not our story, if it’s just something that’s sort of singular or where we can insert ourself, even it’s just a false victory because you read the character’s victory, it does give you hope.
Alyssa Scolari [37:21]:
Lynn Langan [37:22]:
And hope is all you really need at the end of the day, because if you feel that you have that, some kind of glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel per se, then you’re going to chuck through to the end and find it for yourself. I think.
Denise Wolf [37:22]:
Alyssa Scolari [37:38]:
Yes. When you are dealing with the biology of an adolescent brain, and their emotional response center is on fire, and their prefrontal cortex, the place for rational thought is under-developed, hope can be a hard, hard thing to come by.
Denise Wolf [38:06]:
Very. Yeah, it’s abstract. I think in adolescent, the top third of their brain is like under construction.
Lynn Langan [38:13]:
Denise Wolf [38:14]:
It’s not even there. So, hope is [crosstalk 00:38:16] that belongs in that top third. So, you can talk about it, you have to feel about it. That’s where art comes in, to create that-
Lynn Langan [38:28]:
Alyssa Scolari [38:31]:
Lynn Langan [38:33]:
There were several scenes in this book that I wrote, and then I would walk away from my desk and come back and be like, “Nope, you wrote that as an adult. Stop. You can’t fix the problems like that. Stop it.”
Alyssa Scolari [38:50]:
Yeah, now this might a little bit of a, I guess, abstract question, but was there anything that you had to do to be able to really channel your inner adolescent? Or is that something that’s very easily accessible to you?
Lynn Langan [39:05]:
It’s something I think is very easily accessible to me, for some reason. It’s a gift that [crosstalk 00:39:11]-
Alyssa Scolari [39:11]:
It’s a gift. A gift and a curse.
Lynn Langan [39:15]:
[crosstalk 00:39:15]. It’s both those things. I was reading this book. I’m dyslexic, so there’s book about… A dyslexic author wrote this book about the gifts of being dyslexic. One of the things is that the way we form memories around the events that are happening because for a normal brain it goes syntax… What’s that word? Here we go, [crosstalk 00:39:39].
Denise Wolf [39:39]:
Lynn Langan [39:41]:
Synapsis. But for a dyslexic brain, it kind of takes a U turn. It pings differently, and because of that we’re really grounded in memory. We have an excellent memory for all things, but that’s kind of like our survival guide because it’s how we thrive. Because of that, I can basically tell you everything that’s happened in my life. My memory, for some reason, well not for some reason, for that reason is extremely strong. When I sit down to write these adolescent books, I can just sit down and be like, “Okay, you’re 17. Go.” You got to think of high school, of events, and just remember how small my brain was, or what I was thinking or feeling at that point. Then I can dive in. That’s how I know when I’m not being authentic to the characters or the voice, is when I feel like my adult brain is coming in and being like, “Well, that was easy.” I’m like, wait no, it shouldn’t be easy. It’s not an easy [crosstalk 00:40:39] job. You can’t think like that.
I feel like because of all of that, that’s why I’m very good with my memories and all of that.
Denise Wolf [40:47]:
Mm-hmm [affirmative], it makes sense.
Lynn Langan [40:48]:
Mm-hmm [affirmative], I’m very in touch with that.
Denise Wolf [40:52]:
Fun fact about Lynn, oh my gosh, this so cool, Lynn has soundtracks or song for the characters, so trying to get into character, then they’re like, “Oh I need to listen [crosstalk 00:41:03].”
Alyssa Scolari [41:03]:
Really? Oh, that’s so cool.
Lynn Langan [41:06]:
Right, yeah. It’s that initial, here’s the story that I’m thinking in my head. Here’s the soundtrack that I’m going to put to that, and [inaudible 00:41:14] music. It’s very helpful in rewrites because my agent’s coming back and saying, “Go into this novel and fix this problem.” I’m like, “What? That was so long ago. Oh, I know. I’ll just hit this play button right here.” And then boom, I’m right back into their world. I’m right there.
Alyssa Scolari [41:32]:
That is brilliant. Where did you even think to be able to do that? [inaudible 00:41:38] music, depending on whatever you put on, can get you anywhere. Anywhere you want to go-
Lynn Langan [41:45]:
Yes, anywhere you want to go.
Alyssa Scolari [41:46]:
Music will take you there.
Lynn Langan [41:48]:
Yes, it will take you there. The writing process is unique in the fact that you sit down to the computer and you’re asking yourself to leave yourself. You’re asking yourself to forget about whatever troubles you had that day, or your perspective of the world, or sometimes your gender, and go. As a writer, that’s the thing that you have to work on the most, is who is actually at the keyboard today? Is it Lynn, or is it Duke, or is it Tommy? Who is it? In order for me to train my mind to do that, when I first wrote my first novel, I would play their songs. I would play them three or four times before I even put my hands to the keyboard because I knew I had to listen to it repeatedly to get all of my personal baggage out of the way so that the character could step forward and would be influenced in my writing.
I can do it now without music. It’s really just training your… It’s almost like a meditative state, is what I would best explain. You consciously ask yourself to exit.
Alyssa Scolari [42:54]:
That’s fascinating and brilliant. Wow.
Denise Wolf [42:59]:
Something else [crosstalk 00:43:00] tell me about writing, because I’ve done some academic writing, is to write first with an old timey pen on paper. There’s something about that kinesthetic sensory, just kind of writing actual words on paper and then the first edit becomes entering it into the keyboard. That connects so much more with sort of the I think emotional part of ourselves.
Lynn Langan [43:25]:
Absolutely. I usually edit… My first round, I’ll print out the manuscript and edit that way because there’s something about that process that gets you at a computer.
Alyssa Scolari [43:35]:
Lynn Langan [43:36]:
It’s more authentic to you.
Alyssa Scolari [43:38]:
Yes, agreed. There’s something so different that comes out of you when you are physically writing than hitting buttons on a keyboard. It’s a completely different experience.
Lynn Langan [43:51]:
Alyssa Scolari [43:54]:
I talk about journaling with some of my kids who I feel like it might be helpful for, and they’re like, “Can I just type it out on my phone?” I’m like, “Hell no.”
Lynn Langan [44:04]:
No. [crosstalk 00:44:06]. Get that pen in your hand. Feel it. [crosstalk 00:44:08].
Alyssa Scolari [44:08]:
And get a fun pen, right?
Lynn Langan [44:10]:
Alyssa Scolari [44:11]:
I have a set of I think it’s like 100 pack. Oh God, 100 pack of glitter gel pens. I’m still a giant child.
Denise Wolf [44:21]:
Yep. Yeah. Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Are they scented?
Alyssa Scolari [44:26]:
Denise, I looked for the scented ones. Lord knows that I tried. Unfortunately, they’re not.
Denise Wolf [44:31]:
Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Alyssa Scolari [44:34]:
But I wish. The last question I want to ask you, because I also think this is important because I do know that we have listeners out there who are parents, and if they don’t have an adolescent currently, they have an up and coming adolescent or adolescents at home. Do you feel that this book is one that can also help parents and even any adults who work with kids get a better view inside the mind of a kid, which will then also better help them to relate to their kid in real life? Does that make sense?
Denise Wolf [45:14]:
Yes and yes.
Alyssa Scolari [45:15]:
Lynn Langan [45:18]:
One of the things that you try to do as a young adult writer is remembering the place of everybody in their lives. Yes, you’re living in a family. Yes, you have chores and you have bedtimes, and you have all those things. That’s all true. But what’s really important is the social aspect. That’s where you’re getting all your connections, and that’s the most important part. As a parent, I think it’s easy to look at your 17 or 16 year old kid and forget that there’s this whole other life that is very complicated. You’re just thinking they’re upstairs in their room. They’re taking out the trash. It’s easy to get into the routine of life and forget that there’s these little stories that these kids are having that have nothing to do with you. [crosstalk 00:46:08]. You can only hope that you’re a great parent and you modeled well, because they’re out there in the real world by themselves, and this is the time.
I think that’s why I like this age, because it is the loosening of the parents and the influence, and the family structure, which is also very hard on the parents, but it’s just as hard on the kids. It’s that constant, I think you see that a lot with Duke, where he feels guilty for not watching football with his dad because that’s what they used to do. He has a social life now, and he needs to go out with his friends, but he still has that little internal battle like, “I’m going,” but there’s also a sadness that I know that this slipping away. Even though I’m looking forward to my independence, it is also scary. I think for both parents and kids, that’s a good reminder of that.
Denise Wolf [47:01]:
Right, that it’s all the feels. It’s all the feels. I had to do an art engagement with youth, so I had to craft a 50 message about adolescents to adolescence. So, that’s not a lot of words. Lynn helped me write it, thank you, and it started off with “No matter what, it’s going to hurt.” It was really great, if I do say so, and I submitted and they changed it before publication and didn’t check with me. So, when I read my message to adolescents in this glossy thing they put out, it was like being a teen is great. I’m like, fuck no.
Alyssa Scolari [47:37]:
What the fuck?
Denise Wolf [47:39]:
[crosstalk 00:47:39] I said it’s going to hurt, but it’s okay.
Alyssa Scolari [47:44]:
You wrote, “It’s going to hurt,” and they took that and said, “Being a teen is great”?
Denise Wolf [47:44]:
Lynn Langan [47:50]:
Denise Wolf [47:51]:
Mm-hmm [affirmative], [crosstalk 00:47:52].
Alyssa Scolari [47:51]:
Jesus Lord Almighty.
Denise Wolf [47:55]:
To your question earlier, Alyssa, I think it’s really valuable and important for adults, educators remind ourselves of all that angsty stuff, all the feels. Get back into that. Like, no matter what it’s going to hurt. You’re going to be okay, but can’t escape the pain. That’s where growth happens.
Lynn Langan [48:15]:
Right, exactly. Just go ahead and feel what you need to feel. It’ll be funny if you interviewed I would say Duke’s family, they also I think would come away and have the perspective that everything in Duke’s life is okay, where it’s not. His family member that really knows that is his sister, which is also good for parents to I think see from that angle that siblings have that connection with each other and they can look out for each other, or they can call each other out on their bullshit, or any of that. Yeah, it’s just a weird time in the like where everybody’s learning how to let go of this family unit.
Denise Wolf [48:57]:
Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Alyssa Scolari [49:00]:
I think the most important part is just what both of you were speaking to is, being able as adults to get back in touch with not just the angst, but all of the feelings. I think so much of adulthood has become just about numbing out, by working 9:00 to 5:00, playing music or a podcast, or a news radio in the car to and from work. You come home. You eat. You do whatever. You go to bed, and you do it all the next days. Weekends stereotypically include going out, drinking, this, that… it’s so focused around just numbing out. As adults, we almost just even have time for our feelings. I think that’s what makes the three of us so fucking incredible, because I don’t sense that we do that. We feel things.
Denise Wolf [49:52]:
Lynn Langan [49:52]:
Alyssa Scolari [49:53]:
And refuse to live in the numbed out state that I think a lot of adults have found themselves in.
Denise Wolf [50:01]:
Lynn Langan [50:01]:
Yeah. I should say I think one of the best advice that Denise has ever given me in my life was that she said, when I was going through some tough times, she was like “Look, pull up a chair. Make yourself a cup of tea. Get to know that feeling that you’re feeling. Ask it questions. Just don’t shy away from it. Lean into it.” It’s really good advice to remember that as an adult, you’re right, we get into these routines and again, we get more and more narrow in our thinking, in the way… I think that’s part of society’s pressure too, like don’t talk about your feelings. Just do, do, do. It’s okay to have feelings around if you want to feel sad. It’s okay to feel sad. If things are not working out, it’s okay that things aren’t working out. It’s not the end of the world. That’s what’s so fun about adolescents too is that they can fall down and get back up. You’re so resilient when you’re young, because you just haven’t really quite learned to stay on the floor.
I think that’s probably what the three of us have learned, we keep standing up. We’re going to take the punches in the ring and it’s going to hurt, but we keep going and we’re going to feel those feelings, we’re going to figure out how not to get hit by that again-
Denise Wolf [51:17]:
But we probably will.
Lynn Langan [51:18]:
We probably will.
Denise Wolf [51:19]:
We will. [crosstalk 00:51:20].
Lynn Langan [51:22]:
Yeah, we won’t shy away from it.
Denise Wolf [51:23]:
Yeah, and we’ll have great stories to tell.
Lynn Langan [51:26]:
Alyssa Scolari [51:27]:
Yes, that’s living. To me, that’s living at it’s fullest.
Lynn Langan [51:31]:
Denise Wolf [51:33]:
Alyssa Scolari [51:34]:
I love it.
Lynn Langan [51:34]:
Through mistakes. Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [51:37]:
If people would like to buy this book, where on earth can they find it? I know Amazon is one, but I also want to plug if it’s in any kind of small businesses or anything like that, or is it mostly Amazon?
Lynn Langan [51:50]:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the great and wonderful Bookshop where you can go on and order it and it fosters independent bookstores. So, if you buy it from Bookshop it will be pulled from your local store. Bookshop.org, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [52:06]:
Bookshop.org. Okay, I will make sure… So yeah, to the listeners out there, this is a book you absolutely going to want to get your hands on, whether you’re an adolescent tuning in, whether you’re in the young adult phase of your life, whether you have kids of you own, whether you are a teacher, or a therapist, truthfully even if you’re a therapist who works with adults, so many of the adults that you’re working with have unresolved childhood issues. I don’t like the word “issues”, but I can’t think of a better word right now. It’s very important to be able to tap into this type of stuff. Honestly, this book is very useful for everybody. Of course, feel free to use Amazon because it’ll get to you very quickly, but also I am going to put the other link in there because, you know, support your local bookstore, or support small businesses as well.
So, head over to the show notes. Denise and Lynn, thank you for a wonderful episode. I love talking about kids.
Lynn Langan [53:13]:
Alyssa Scolari [53:14]:
It’s been fun.
Lynn Langan [53:14]:
Yeah, thanks for having us.
Denise Wolf [53:16]:
Yeah, thank you.
Alyssa Scolari [53:17]:
Thanks for listening, everyone. For more information please head over to LightAfterTrauma.com, or you can also follow us on social media. On Instagram, we @LightAfterTrauma. On Twitter, it is @LightAfterPod. Lastly, please head over to Patreon.com/LightAfterTrauma to support our show. We are asking for $5.00 a month, which is the equivalent to a cup of coffee at Starbucks. So, please head on over. Again, that’s Patreon.com/LightAfterTrauma. Thank you, and we appreciate your support.