Thursday, July 10, 2014

REPOST: Nicholas Sparks’ latest love story appeals to teen readers

Nicholas Sparks' novels have tugged the heartstrings of largely mature (and later young adult) readers for years. Teens and Twenties' Kristian Whitesell writes about how Sparks' 2011 book “The Best of Me” would fare with teen readers.

Image source: NicholasSparks.com


Nicholas Sparks has done it again. He’s added another novel of romance and tragedy to his already extensive list of novels. “The Best of Me,” released on Oct. 11, is a story about two high school sweethearts, Dawson and Amanda, whose teenage romance was quickly halted because the two were not from the same social status. Amanda was born into a family that was highly respected by others.

Against her family’s wishes, she began seeing a man whose family was in and out of prison. Amanda didn’t judge Dawson because of his family; she didn’t care who his father was.

Image source: NicholasSparks.com

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always let us make our own choices. Dawson cared for Amanda more than himself, so he let her go. Neither of them ever forgot each other, but they created lives for themselves and moved on. Amanda went to college, married a good man and raised a family with him. Dawson’s life changed, too. After another incident with his family that landed him in jail, he determined that he would never go back to that town.

As is everything in life, though, things happen that we don’t expect. When a mentor of Dawson and Amanda passes away, his last request to them brings them back together in the small town in North Carolina where they first met and fell in love.

Image source: moviexclusive.com


Through a series of events afterward, Dawson and Amanda fall in love again and face hard decisions that result from it.

Nicholas Sparks is famous for his use of many emotions in his novels. Gripping everyone’s hearts with its believable characters and tragic events, “The Best of Me” is no different.

For more on the works of Nicholas Sparks, visit this Sheryl Pouls blog.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

REPOST: HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Featurette Goes Behind the Scenes

HBO's television productions are known for their stellar quality that have, at some points, surpassed that of their cinematic counterparts. Rob Frappier of ScreenRant describes the behind-the-scenes featurette that brings viewers into the the production of Boardwalk Empire.

Image source: screenrant.com

Without a doubt, my number one most anticipated new television show of the fall season is HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. The series, which comes our way thanks to the Emmy Award-winning writer of The Sopranos, Terence Winter, details how criminals and corrupt politicians in Atlantic City made millions during prohibition in the 1920s.

As if the subject matter of Boardwalk Empire weren’t interesting enough, the show stars the always terrific Steve Buscemi and the pilot episode was directed by none other than Martin Scorsese. Seriously, does it get better than that?

In anticipation of the show’s September 19th premiere, HBO has released a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette. The featurette offers insight from Winter, Buscemi, Scorsese, and others on the subject matter of the show – as well as how Boardwalk Empire intends to capture one of the most interesting periods of American history.


Check out the behind-the-scenes video below:



Pretty cool, right? If the “Making Of” video doesn’t have you hooked into Boardwalk Empire, then maybe you should go back and check out one of the trailers for the show. If you’re still not convinced that it’s going to be awesome, well I’m afraid you and I just can’t be friends.

Speaking of The Wire, I’m incredibly excited to see Michael K. Williams in the cast of Boardwalk Empire as the character Chalky White. For those not hip to The Wire, Williams played one of TV’s greatest anti-heroes – the gay stick-up man Omar Little. I didn’t get a chance to catch Williams on the big screen in The Road this past year, so I’m excited to see him back on the small screen.

Anyway, you know where my TV will be set on September 19th. In the meantime, feel free to use the comments to stir up some debate about your favorite HBO shows of all time. Am I the only one who thinks HBO is king when it comes to original programming?

Sheryl Pouls is a mother of two daughters residing in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, and is a fan of Boardwalk Empire and other programs. Visit this Facebook page page for more updates on TV productions, parenting, and other related topics.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

REPOST: 5 Myths About Teens and Technology Every Parent Should Ignore

It’s normal for people to be scared of something they know nothing about, which is most often the situation between parents and the technology their kids are hooked to. Read this article from the Huffington Post which discusses the misconceptions adults have about teens and technology.




























As the editor of HuffPost Teen, I spend a good part of my day talking to Snapchat-sending, Facebook-hating, selfie-taking, iPhone-obsessed teens that many adults love to judge. I also talk to their parents.

This week, I received a fairly typical email from the concerned mom of one of our bloggers asking questions like: Is having an Internet profile safe? How many people will see it? Will strangers try to communicate with my kid? What about online predators?

The note surprised me, however, because of who her teen is: a prolific writer with a huge social media following. (To protect the teen's privacy I am not identifying them by gender.) Though the teen uses the name of a fictional character across social accounts, they use a real photo and regularly share personal anecdotes with an audience of thousands. Given the mom's questions, I assume she has no idea her kid has such an active, public presence.

It's not unusual for teens to be deeply involved in large, online communities that their families know nothing about, and this makes me sad. I want all parents to know how amazing, eloquent and popular their teenagers are in a world they're often too scared to be a part of.

But I'm not writing this article to convince that one mom to face her fears and get on Instagram. I'm writing it because she is part of a chorus of adult voices -- online and off -- who seem frightened by teenagers' daily use of technology, in its various forms. I'm writing this article because I see too many parents willfully alienate themselves from teens due to fear-mongering, technophobic myths that inundate them in mainstream media.

Here are a few of the misconceptions about teens, technology and the Internet I see come up again and again in articles and in my own conversations with "experts" -- and all the reasons why parents should not believe them.

1. "Teens are addicted to technology."

Most of the time, when I hear this, it's referring to teenagers' constant need to be online. But here's the thing: the Internet is not (just) technology -- it's people. Teens are obsessively engaging with friends, not screens. Youth researcher danah boyd discusses this idea in her insightful new book, It's Complicated. "Teens aren't addicted to social media," she says. "They're addicted to each other." boyd also points to teens' increasingly monitored and over-scheduled lives, which may have resulted in childhoods that had less in-person connection than previous generations. Meaning: Teens are not developing strange, worrisome relationships with technology. They just want to hang out with their friends, and behind a screen is their easiest -- or sometimes only -- option.

2. "All their 'text-speak' is making them stupid."

In fact, the opposite is happening: their reading and writing skills are being strengthened by the hundreds of "textisms" (OMG LOL SMH) they are sending every day. Studies show that teens' obsession with texting and tweeting is actually improving literacy rates, because they are spending so much time creating and responding to words. Who would want to discourage young people from engaging with something that's making them read even more -- and by choice?

3. "The Internet is giving teens a two-second attention span."

Here's what the Internet is actually doing: making them less passive. Teens are interacting with their entertainment directly, consuming communally using social media, producing alternative narratives and content and interrogating their media. They are engaging so deeply with stories and ideas that they are forming their own online communities around them, and even creating their own, unique dialects. This is far from "thrill-of-the-moment" interactions with technology; it's persistent, obsessive engagement with information.

4. "The more time teens spend behind screens, the more antisocial they become."

Communicating online is an important part of most adults' daily personal and work lives. Having strong online social skills will continue to be similarly -- if not more -- important for this generation of teens as they grow up. It troubles me to see adults dismiss online communication as less meaningful or worthy of our attention, and to read articles encouraging parents to limit or ban their teen's access to technology in the name of "healthier" relationships. Ask yourself this: Would you be worried if one of your close friends stopped communicating with you for a few weeks? When parents prohibit screen time, their teen is often cut off from peers in a similar way. If parents want to help teens develop rich, healthy relationships as adults, they need to teach them complete social etiquette -- which means acknowledging the importance of both their online and offline friendships.

5. "Teens are careless about online privacy."

Admittedly, this is a complicated topic that warrants its own separate article, but let me just say this: most teens grew up using social media, and because of this they understand extraordinarily well how to be private in a very public space. On Twitter, for example, many HuffPost Teen bloggers have joint handles with friends using made-up names, they "subtweet" each other using coded personal messages... the list of their creative, privacy-conscious communication strategies goes on and on. Sidneyeve Matrix, associate professor of media at Queen's University in Ontario, echoed this idea when she spoke to The Toronto Star about millennials and online privacy this week:

Over the past three years, the amazingly loud message from my students is that young people are very conscious of their privacy... They understand data privacy; they partition all their uses of social networks. Some are for professional, some are for personal and some are for school, some are for friends only.

Youth researcher danah boyd agrees:

Just because teens are trying to help shape public culture doesn't mean that they want their dirty laundry exposed. The notion that today's youth don't care about privacy is foolish. Sure, there are some teenagers who are exhibitionists, just as there are some adults who are. But most teens are very conscious about privacy, just as they're very conscious about their public self-expressions.

In my eyes, it's careless of parents to create rules around online privacy if they do not understand how social media platforms work. From the parent perspective, HuffPost's Lisa Belkin, wrote about why not "getting it" isn't an option.

Don't do it because you have specific fears that your daughter has fallen down the Tumblr rabbit hole looking for "thinspiration." Do it so that if you ever have those fears you won't dismiss them because you don't know where to begin to look. Parenting is about leading and teaching them, yes. But sometimes we help them most when we learn, and follow.

So, parents: don't be frightened by your teen's love for technology. Let them teach you how and why they're using it -- and maybe you'll get a glimpse into the engaged, energetic and complex teenage online world I have the privilege of seeing every day.

Follow Elizabeth Perle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizperle


Sheryl Pouls is a mother residing in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. She has two daughters: Samantha and Amanda. For more articles about parenting, visit this Facebook page.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

REPOST: Top ten parenting resolutions for 2014

Do you have parenting resolutions this year? Get ideas from Josette Plank whose resolutions include finding her kids an alternative role model to Miley Cyrus. Read her list in this article from PennLive. 
Goodbye, 2013! Hello 365 more days of being an awesome parent!

In 2013, we all agreed that a great parenting resolution would be to teach "Thou shalt not toss gallons of milk down the grocery store dairy aisle, even if my friends think it's hilarious."
Image Source: www.pennlive,com
Now it's time to write our resolutions for 2014. I came up with a few I think could be on most parents' top ten list. Let me know if I missed any.

Like Kate Middleton, my child will be a prince—but not household ruler.

All children are as special as royal offspring. But waiting on kids hand and glass-slippered-foot can create little tyrants.

I resolve to help my children learn to do things for themselves — fold laundry, make a sandwich, work for their own "can you buy this for me" money. When kids earn their own self-esteem, they feel like true kings and queens.

I will offer an alternative to Miley Cyrus as a role model.

Kids may say they adore actors, sports personalities and Bad Hannah Montana. But the people children look up to the most are the grown-ups under their own roof.

I'll try to be the person I'd like my child to be. I'll be honest and kind. I'll work hard, and I'll spend time with my family. I will not drive 90 miles an hour to catch up with some guy who cut me off in traffic, just to flip him the bird.

I will kick my kids out of the house.

Bickering kids, grouchy kids, kids with ants in their pants — nothing takes the stink out of a child like a good ole shove out the door and into fresh air. And no matter the weather, there's a thermal base layer, waterproof jacket and sunscreen with insect repellent to meet your parenting need, i.e. maintaining your sanity.

I will stop saying "I'm not a techy."

Pop quiz: Your 11-year-old daughter says she is tweeting Instragram screenshots from Vine videos she posts on Tumblr. Should you a) follow her on Twitter, b) say "I smell something burning on the stove" and excuse yourself, or c) move to an 18th-century reenactment community.

The answer is d) I need to understand what the heck my kid is talking about. Internet safety and know-how is part of today's parenting.

I will not compare my after-baby body to the svelte bodies of new celebrity mothers.

Unless I have access to a full-time trainer, housekeeper, nutritionist, cook and nanny, I will set reasonable goals for getting back in shape. "Nine months up in weight, nine months down" is the common wisdom for mere mortal women.

"Kids will be kids" is an explanation, but it will not be my excuse.

Even the most well-behaved kids will make choices that are crazy, stupid and downright dangerous. Hopefully, they'll grow out of their goofiness. Until then, I will continue to set limits and allow my kids to learn from the logical consequences of their decisions.

I won't be a dangerous sports parent.

I will take potential head injuries seriously. I will not allow myself or an over-enthusiastic coach to risk permanently affecting my child's brain for a sporting event. Not even the Very Important All-Township Mini Peewee Super Duper Deluxe Championship.

I will not overreact and wrap my kids in Kevlar.

Bike helmets, seat belts and hand-washing—I will be sensible and teach my children how to reduce risks. However, most of the United States is a pretty safe place for kids,and human bodies are designed to withstand childhood bumps and bruises. I will chill out.

I will learn to cook a few green things.

The future me will prepare three nutritious, well-balanced meals every day and not ever serve frozen pizza or chicken nuggets for dinner. Until I morph into Jamie Oliver, I vow to add at least one fresh produce item to each meal—cut carrots, steamed broccoli, a side salad. I will get good at this, and then set my bar of culinary awesomeness a little higher.

I will volunteer.

I work several jobs. I have a mob of kids. I need more hours in my day. However, I also know how much my children benefit from sports, scouting and community clubs. I will find an hour or two each month to help out, even if I have to paint numbers 13 and 14 on my clock.
Sheryl Pouls is the mother to teenagers Amanda and Samantha. Follow this Twitter account for more discussions on parenting.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

REPOST: Michelle Monaghan joins Nicholas Sparks film 'The Best of Me' (Exclusive)

Nicholas Sparks has done it again with The Best of Me becoming the ninth of his novels to be turned into a movie. Hollywoodreporter.com has the details on the potential blockbuster.

Michael Hoffman will direct the pic for Relativity.

Michelle Monaghan will star in the next romantic Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Best of Me.
Image source: hollywoodreporter.com



Gambit helmer Michael Hoffman will direct the film, which follows a pair of former high school sweethearts who reunite after many years when they both return to their small North Carolina hometown.

Sparks wrote the book, which was released in March 2013. He is also producing along with Ryan Kavanaugh, Theresa Park.
J. Mills Goodloe and Will Fetters wrote the script.

In July, Relativity picked up the rights toThe Best of Me, making it the third partnership between the author and studio. Warner Bros. initially bought the rights to the novel back in 2011.

Best of Me will be the ninth Sparks book made into a film.

Relativity worked with Sparks on his previous film adaptation,Safe Haven, which starred Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. That film, which opened on Valentine's Day this year, has earned $71.3 million domestically to date.

Monaghan's previous work includes Mission: Impossible III, Gone Baby Gone and Source Code. Her upcoming projects include HBO's drama True Detective, and on the film side, she'll be in Claudia Myers' Fort Bliss with Ron Livingston, A Many Splintered Thing opposite Chris Evans and Better Living Through Chemistry. She's repped by ICM Partners, Circle of Confusion and Sloane Offer.


Sheryl Pouls is a mother of two and a fan of novelist Nicholas Sparks. For articles on her interests, visit this blog.

Friday, November 1, 2013

REPOST: Michelle Monaghan will front Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Best of Me

There's a new film in pre-production based on a Nicholas Sparks novel on the works and actress Michelle Monaghan is taking the lead. Cinematic Blend shares some of the details here:

Michelle Monaghan

After years of playing the love interests and sidekicks to quipping action heroes in movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Mission: Impossible III, Eagle Eye and Source Code, Michelle Monaghan is finally stepping into a lead role in the romantic drama The Best of Me. THR reports the American actress will headline the project, which is based on the 2011 Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. This production will mark the ninth movie made from Sparks' tragedy-strewn romance novels, following A Walk to Remember, Dear John, The Notebook and Safe Haven, which proved a hit for Relativity Media earlier this year.


Set in 1984 North Carolina, within the small town of Oriental, The Best of Me follows the troubled love story of Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole, two high schoolers who come together despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks. But their relationship turns out to be short-lived, and they break up the summer of their senior year. Leap ahead twenty-five years spent without each other, and the two, whose lives haven't turned out as they'd hoped, are forced to return to Oriental and reunite at the funeral of a beloved and departed mentor, Tuck Hostetler. Urged by Tuck's final request to reconsider the past they once shared, Amanda and Dawson have a second shot at love and the life they truly want. But will they be brave enough to take it?


While the THR piece never says so directly, we expect Monaghan is set to play Amanda, though no hint is given to who might play opposite her as Dawson. Former leading men in the Sparks adaptations include Josh Duhamel, Shane West, Ryan Gosling, and Channing Tatum. So presumably only the strapping and dreamy need apply to this casting call.


Perhaps more than any other Sparks adaptation, The Best of Me was made to be a movie. The rights to the book were bought by Warner Bros. executives based on a pitch Sparks had offered back before he'd written a word of the would-be novel. However, WB dropped the project last summer, selling to Relativity, who was eager to get back into business with Sparks following the success of Safe Haven, a $28 million production that pulled in more than $71 million worldwide. Back in September of 2012, Warner Bros hired One Fine Day director Michael Hoffman to helm the feature, and J. Mills Goodloe to pen its adaptation. Even with the studio shift, both names are still attached to the project. However, The Lucky One scribe Will Fetters has since been added as a co-writer.


It's unclear when production on The Best of Me will begin. But considering how well these movies tend to play in the first quarter of the year, I'd bet that we'll see this romance debut around Valentine's Day 2015. In the meantime, you can look for Monaghan in the upcoming drama Fort Bliss, the star-studded dramedy Better Living Through Chemistry, and the Chris Evans-fronted comedy A Many Splintered Thing.



Sheryl Pouls is an avid reader of Nicholas Sparks' novels. She also enjoys watching films with her two teenage daughters. Visit this blog to read more updates like these.

Friday, October 4, 2013

REPOST: We Killed Our Television. And I Have No Regrets.

In a hyper-connected society, cutting off technology may seem a little extreme, but it just might be what families need to do to build strong connections with each other. The Huffington Post shares the benefits one family are currently enjoying.
We killed our television in the living room yesterday. It happened fast. I read a study that correlated even small amounts of TV viewing with expressive speech delay (my son's recently diagnosed delay is noticeable -- he regressed from talking to "mute" at 18 months after a seizure, and is still not talking at 22 months), and I sounded the alarm. We only allowed him to watch "educational programming," but that was specifically the kind of TV mentioned in the study! Anyway, it couldn't hurt to try less TV, right? My husband took swift action. He took the TV down with a drill and buried it in a box in the garage.  
Image Source: www.makeadare.com
Since then, we have noticed about a million surprising and wonderful things.
1. It feels like we have more time. Way more time. What parent doesn't need more of that?
2. My husband and I talk to each other more and feel more connected and in love. Before, our conversations were always rushed and not very thorough. In this one weekend without TV, my husband has told me more fun stories about himself; stuff I never knew before, but always craved. We are in sync.
3. We pay better quality attention to our son.
4. Our son seems happier -- I'm sure the additional attention helps a lot. We were very attentive before, but the quality and duration of our attention could definitely suffer depending on what was happening on TV.
5. We both have plopped down in the recliner and reached reflexively for the remote at least a dozen times in the 36 hours since we packed the TV away. Neither of us had realized before how automatic this behavior had become for us.
6. When we reached for the remote but couldn't find it, we often discovered that we were actually bored, or thirsty, or tired, or craving a change of scenery.
7. Since taking the TV down, we have suddenly regained our long-lost creativity at coming up with good ways to spend our time with each other, alone or at play with our son.
8. We both have had three times the glasses of water per day that we did before -- because somehow taking down the TV got us in touch with our long-lost sense of thirst. I don't get that one either...
9. We have eaten more protein snacks to regain energy when feeling sluggish, instead of plopping into the recliner.
10. We have gone outside twice as much as before, in order to satisfy our cravings for a change of scenery.
11. My husband and I both feel much more aware of ourselves, our thinking, our bodies, each other and "in the moment."
12. My son has exponentially increased his vocalizing and word attempts since TV went bye-bye; this after five months of zero progress in the regaining speech department. The immediate results of his receiving extra, high-quality face-talk time have been truly staggering and such a blessing.
Before taking the TV down, we wouldn't have considered ourselves TV addicts. At best, I now believe we weren't being completely honest with ourselves. By unplugging the darn thing, we only then noticed how much we were abusing TV time instead of satisfying our true needs. The TV was easy and brought a false sense of satisfaction, while simultaneously causing us to unwittingly neglect many of our real needs and desires and waste valuable time in the process.
We often lamented how little time we had for keeping up with stuff around the house; however, without a TV on, we plowed through a list of household chores AND played really fun games with our very active toddler, all in half a day -- and these were chores that might have taken three or more full weekends to complete before! It felt fantastic to accomplish so much and still have plenty of time left over in our weekend for an awesome, spontaneous day trip with Grandma to the train museum and river. My son, his Grandma, my husband and I will have warm memories of the day forever! 
Image Source: www.allparentstalk.com
It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience.
I will never judge another person's beloved TV time and that is not my purpose here. In fact, we haven't gone cold turkey, and we do keep a TV in our bedroom to watch one cartoon in the morning with our son and news/funny stuff after our son goes to bed.
I hope that people won't dismiss my experience by thinking that we were some kind of crazy TV junkies turned anti-TV activists. My only hope is that some of you, who perhaps have wondered about life with less TV, might hear my sincere desire for you to experience the joy of greener pastures on this side of TV land, and might be inspired to experiment with your wonderings.
It really is awesome over here in the land of less TV. Even my husband, a super-gadgety, loves-his-screen-time-kinda-guy, has spontaneously and sincerely expressed supreme happiness and pleasant surprise at this dramatic change in our household. 
Image Source: www.thepunch.com.au
For us, this experiment wouldn't work unless the TV was completely removed from the main room of the house. Our habitual remote-grabbing would have prematurely ended the experiment -- so we had to banish the whole contraption and its accoutrements to the garage. I wasn't sure how long we'd make it, but I figured a couple days would satisfy my curiosity. I am shocked to say it, but I don't think that TV will come back anytime soon. The many wonderful surprises we have gained and deep satisfaction we feel will keep this experiment going in our household for a long time.
Happy experimenting. Or not. Whatever floats your boat, people.
Sheryl Pouls lives in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, with her two teenage daughters. More articles on parenting can be found here.