Dialed In: Local author on a mission to empower teens

RICHLAND, WA - A local author has a way with words and a special connection to teenagers. From young adult fiction to young adult self-help, Michelle A. Hansen is laying some groundwork in the literary world. She started out as a teacher, but....

"I was teaching at Wahluke High School in Mattawa, Washington and my class was actually taken hostage by a teen gunman," she said. "There were two students absent and one of those students came in 15 minutes afterward with a loaded gun and took the class by hostage. We were fortunate. There are so many school gun incidents that don't turn out the way this did."

No one hurt and the gun was never fired as it was safely taken away from the teen. Still, that day in April, 2001 changed Michelle both as a teacher and as a person.

"I understood from that moment on all that really mattered in that educational process was the connection that those kids had to me and to each other and to the broader world around them," said Hansen. She eventually left teaching to be home with her family where she took up writing, a college love of hers.

"I just kept writing one book after the other. I couldn't stop. My biggest fear when I wrote my first novel was that I would never have another store. Now I have more stories in my head than I have time to write."

After two young adult novels, she's now finished her first foray into non-fiction.

"Research shows that the number one emotion that teens are feeling on a daily basis that they reporter is stress," said Hansen. "Not joy, not happiness, not love - but stress."

"Relax Girl You Got This" is out now. It's a book to help teenagers, specifically girls, cope with the stresses of school, mounting expectations and today's in-your-face society.

"They're living in a world of completely unrealistic expectations that are brought right into their hands with a cell phone, Pinterest, Instagram. So they're seeing all of these beautiful images of what they're supposed to be like and there's just no possible way for them to measure up to all of the things that are expected of them."

Hansen said there are some important questions teens, and everyone, really, should ask themselves: "what standard am I holding myself to and is that what I really want?"

She said if you're child is saying they are fine, parents shouldn't always take that at face-value.

"We condition kids in our society today to be fine. They're fine, they're fine, they're fine -- and then they're tanking," said Hansen. "Then we're rushing them to the emergency room because they're suicidal. We're waiting until crisis mode before we're intervening."

Hansen believes it's about finding and teaching the right tools to better deal with life's stressors.

"How can we empower them, how can we give them more confidence, how can we help them to love themselves completely?"

She had a candid response when asked why she's on this mission now:

"I could see a shift. I could see a change and I wanted to understand what is going on. Why do girls who are beautiful, have amazing talents and have so much going for them, know more and have more access to the world around them... why do they think less of themselves than girls a decade ago? So I started deep diving into the research and asking those questions. That's why I wrote my latest book. Because when I got to the point where I started understanding why we're seeing girls feel badly about themselves I just couldn't stay silent any more and I'm a writer so I thought what more could I do. Well, I can write for them and I can talk to them so I talk to them through this book."

Michelle also wants to talk in person - at parent groups, teen groups, for workshops and even as a life-coach. The best way to contact her is through her website: http://www.michelleahansen.com/

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