Free Spirit Publishing 1.800.735.7323

Upbeat News December 2020

This year has been a precarious one. For teens, who even under “normal” circumstances experience a wide range of sometimes-overwhelming, often-fluctuating, intense emotions, it is imperative they have a safe space to express themselves. In Dream Up Now™, authors Rayne Lacko and Lesley Holmes encourage teens to explore their inherent creativity with guided activities for drawing, listening to music, and putting pen to paper as they process emotions, discover more about themselves, and pursue what they want out of life.
To give you a peek into the activities laid out in the book, in this issue of Upbeat News, we share an excerpt that features one set of emotions: anxiety and passion. Read that below. More related resources are at the bottom of the page.

I Feel . . . Anxious ️ I Feel . . . Passionate

Adapted from Dream Up Now™: The Teen Journal for Creative Self-Discovery by Rayne Lacko, with community outreach advisor Lesley Holmes.

I Feel . . . Anxious

vulnerability / shame / powerlessness / sensitivity / worrying about outcomes

Meet Rayne Lacko

As a teen, Rayne dealt with anxiety by escaping into a daydream life, creating made-up characters who lived dramatic and romantic lives of creativity and confidence, unlike her own in small-town Canada. A common trigger of anxiety is having to commit to one potential interest or path while giving up other equally tempting choices. Unsure of what the future held for her, Rayne studied liberal arts in college to feed her many passions: reading books, discussing music and philosophy, writing, and studying languages. She longed to travel to the faraway places she read about and immerse herself in the languages she floundered with in textbooks. From college into adulthood, she traveled, always seeking a place to call home. She now lives happily on a forested island with her husband, children, dog, and cat.
Rayne believes music, language, and art connect us, and she explores those themes in her books, A Song for the Road and Dream Up Now. Rayne grew up in Canada, earning a liberal arts degree in Toronto, including a semester in Spain, and a graphic design diploma in Vancouver. She migrated to the West Coast to San Diego and Orange County, California, where she attended UCLA’s writer’s program. She now resides in the Pacific Northwest, where she is secretary on the board of trustees at a performing arts organization. She cohosts a library youth writing workshop and an annual filled-to-capacity writing camp, and she established Teen Creatives Live, a twice-annual open mic event for teens. For over a decade, Rayne edited an outdoor adventure magazine. Learn more at

Rayne Shares

Anxiety looks different for everyone. Growing up, I was terrified of revealing my inner world. Some people choose to hide the workings of their hearts by keeping to themselves, becoming stoic and cold, and that makes sense. Me? I became a writer. My entire career objective is to reveal the scenes playing out in my head—and make them compelling for others.
Another anxiety trigger for me is public speaking. Ironically, I choose to teach creative writing to teens, and even helped establish Teen Creatives Live, an open mic event. It may seem like I’m weirdly into self-torture, but I’m so passionate about writing (and writers) that I’ve learned to accept that I’ll be anxious and just do scary things like public speaking anyway.
What triggers your anxiety? Big tests and exams? Important athletic competitions? Dating? Your anxiety is tied to the emotions you have about the thing that worries you. The more important the thing is (for me, it’s writing and teaching), the more emotions you’ll have about it.
Some would say I’m “too sensitive.” I cry during movies or books when the characters find hope after despair or realize a bitter and painful truth and grow stronger from it. My emotional reactions to events (even fictional ones) are very real. I have to avoid horror movies and situations with terror or abuse themes because I get absorbed in the sadness. Often, I don’t let on about how I feel. Have you had a similar experience?
There’s a risk involved in exposing your true feelings because emotions are fluid—they flow and change. They can be like music: rising and falling, growing louder, and then fading away. No two people read the exact same book or hear the exact same song, because we all react to the world with our own point of view. Exposing our emotions can seem like a dangerous risk because we don’t know what others will think or how they will react to us, and that can spark anxiety. But the problem with anxiety is that if we try to hold it down, it tends to grow. Anxiety fights back, demanding to be looked in the face and reckoned with.

Dream Up Now

So what can you and I do with anxiety? Download the Dream Up Now activity pages for anxiety here.

I Feel . . . Passionate

courage / pursuing goals / finding joy / helping others / standing up for your beliefs

Meet Rayne Lacko

Pursuing the things that give you the most energy and enthusiasm is essential to a life of joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s taking the scary first steps on the road to your dreams, trying out for a sports team or part in a play, or simply mustering the courage to have a difficult conversation with a friend or an adult in your life, you are often called to “perform.” Rayne confides her secret mantra for pursuing her goals passionately and presents a game plan for juggling anxiety with acts of courage. (For more about Rayne, see above.)
But what if you haven’t discovered where your true strengths and talents lie? Rayne offers straightforward advice for manifesting a passionate life.

Rayne Shares

Before my passion found me, I never even considered teaching teens or writing Young Adult (YA) books. When I was a kid, I had many career dreams, but the two ongoing ones were 1) becoming a rock star, and 2) making my literary mark on the world. As an introvert with an off-pitch singing voice and a bad case of stage fright, the rock star fantasy hasn’t exactly panned out.
A few years back, I was on the board of a literary event–planning organization, and one of the members asked me if I’d take over for her as a teen writing mentor. This person was a brilliant writer, but first and foremost my friend. I couldn’t say no because of my deep respect for her.
Discovering what the teen writers in the workshop were working on, I found their ideas refreshingly original, honest, and vulnerable. Whatever fears I had about getting up in front of a class were forgotten, because I wanted to walk with each writer through his/her/their journey and to see their stories come to “The End.” I was hooked. Working with teens lit me up, inspired me, and reinvigorated my own writing. I switched gears and started writing alongside them, focusing on the YA category. I found that I receive more joy in helping other people be creative than I do from
pursuing my personal goals. Making other people’s lives amazing is among the most powerful pleasures known to humankind.
So I found other ways for the writers to shine, creating Teen Creatives Live, an open mic event, with my friends at my local library. The more you give of yourself and try things that are “scary,” the more you’ll find what matters to you, and the clearer you’ll be about the life you wish to create.
Don’t know what you’re passionate about yet? All through high school, teens have a ton of pressure around what the future holds. I encourage you to give up waiting for the perfect gig or the one thing you think you can stick with forever. Taking a job (any legitimate paying position) gets you unstuck. Going to college (for anything you don’t abjectly hate) gets you unstuck. Volunteering (in any capacity for a worthy cause you believe in) gets you unstuck.
Choosing to commit to something gives you a reason to get up in the morning and a place to go where people need you. It’s totally okay not to know what you’ll be doing a few years from now because the most fulfilling passions are those that find you.
Let me tell you a little secret. Passion is contagious. When you’re fully present and giving yourself to whatever task you’re doing, people around you notice and want in on your good vibes. Passionate people are drawn to passionate people.
As an introvert, I am terrified (every time!) of standing up in front of the class. But I’m more afraid of missing out on something that brings me real and lasting happiness. So I have a little mantra I tell myself: anxiety, or it didn’t happen.
I look at anxiety as a badge of honor. It means I got out there and did something that scared me. Believe me, I’ve accomplished all I can inside my comfort zone. Everything good that I want is outside my comfort zone. I had to decide to stop craving comfort all the time to find my passion.

Dream Up Now

Keeping in mind that you aren’t locked in forever, try giving your 100 percent enthusiasm and interest when working at your part-time job, doing your homework, practicing a musical instrument or sport, or even when helping with the laundry—just as an experiment to see what happens.
Act like your life depends on it, like you’re making a difference, and like your part counts, because in reality it does—for you. Whether there are external rewards or not, you’ll get your own reward. You’ll build a passionate life, and you’ll find out what is or isn’t your thing, because you gave it your all. For more advice on finding your passion, check out the online leadership guide at
Download the activity pages to set a goal.

Get free shipping when you spend $50 or more on with code FSDEC at checkout. Sale ends December 31, 2020.

Related Resources

Sort By:
Show #
Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Results

NEW! Name and Tame Your Anxiety

Help kids understand and manage anxiety to boost their mental health and well-being.

NEW! We Listen to Our Bodies

Deja helps young children recognize their emotions by listening to their bodies.

NEW! What’s the Big Deal About Addictions?

Help teens make informed decisions about their health and wellness with judgment-free information about addictive behaviors.

Dream Up Now™

Teens explore emotions, create art, and envision life’s possibilities with this guided, creative journal. 

Violet the Snowgirl

This versatile story gives children permission to grieve and helps them find ways to cope with loss.

Mindset Power

Positive, practical, you-can-do-it advice to help kids of all abilities achieve their goals and build a growth mindset.

NEW! Mental Health Educator Resources, Elementary

Reduce challenging behaviors and improve elementary student outcomes by increasing your skills to support students’ mental health and social emotional learning.

Mental Health Educator Resources, Secondary

Reduce challenging behaviors and improve secondary student outcomes by increasing your skills to support students’ mental health.

Mental Health Preschool and PreK Collection

Help preschoolers develop their emotional vocabulary so they can use words to express big feelings. Ease worries and help children feel safe with this set of twelve picture books.

Mental Health Kindergarten, First/Second Grade Collection

The nineteen non-fiction and story-based picture books in this early elementary school collection will help educators and school social workers meet children where they are at and support their often complex emotions and mental health needs.

Mental Health Third/Fourth/Fifth Grade Collection

Explore more nuanced emotions and support kids’ mental health with these eight books for upper elementary students.

Mental Health Middle School and Teens Collection

Tweens and teens can benefit from reading about how kids like them cope with stress and tragic events.

Mental Health Board Book Collection

Ease worries and help toddlers calm down and feel valued with this set of eight board books.

Mental Health Early Childhood English-Spanish Bilingual Collection

English-Spanish Bilingual editions of board books and picture books help meet mental health needs of young children.

Mental Health Resources for Kids

Support kids’ mental health with expert resources from Free Spirit.

I Calm Down

A little girl works through strong feelings and learns how to calm down.

1-2-3 My Feelings and Me

This friendly counting book invites young children to learn about coping with emotions.

Get Gifted Students Talking

This practical resource helps teachers, counselors, and youth leaders bring gifted students together to talk face-to-face about important issues in their lives.

The Struggle to Be Strong

Through thirty first-person teen narratives, including new stories on social media and gender identity, readers learn about seven resiliencies everyone needs to survive and thrive.

A Leader’s Guide to The Struggle to Be Strong

Activities, exercises, and questions invite teens to go deeper into the stories and issues of the updated edition of The Struggle to Be Strong.
Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Results

Free Spirit’s monthly e-newsletter, Upbeat News, is full of practical tips, free downloads, and special offers. Sign up today!