October 19, 2011

Guest Post: Katrina Kittle of Reasons to Be Happy

Today I'm very excited to welcome Katrina Kittle to The O.W.L. author of Reasons to Be Happy - a book that looks at what happens when middle school girls lose who they are.  This is of course a topic very close to my heart. Katrina taught middle and high school English for 11 years and I like that because it shows she knows this age group!

Before the guest post you need to know a little about the book.  I will be reviewing it later today!


Let’s see, you could be a plain Jane daughter of two gorgeous famous people; move to a new school; have no real friends; your mom could get sick; and, oh yeah, you could have the most embarrassing secret in the world. Yep, that about does it.

Hannah is an eighth grader trying her hardest to cling to what she knows and loves while her world shatters around her.  Her parents are glamorous Hollywood royalty, and sometimes she feels like the ugly duckling in a family of swans. Faced with her mother’s death and her father’s withdrawal into grief, Hannah turns to the one thing she can control: her weight.
Hannah’s self-destructive secret takes over her life, but the new Beverly Hills clique she's befriended at school only reinforces her desire to be beautiful, and not even the quirky misfit Jasper—the only one who seems to notice or care—can help. It will take a journey unlike any other to remind Hannah of who she really is, and to begin to get that girl back.  Reasons to Be Happy is about standing up for all the things you love—including yourself.

Welcome Katrina! 
I'm so glad you are visiting The O.W.L. and sharing what you were like in middle school including what you read and how much you wrote.  
Since this book is about a middle school girl, I'm interested to hear if any of it influenced the story!

     In Reasons to Be Happy, Hannah is in eighth grade. When I think of myself in eighth grade, I shudder a little—mostly at my horrible fashion sense! I had giant geeky glasses, and Farrah Fawcett feathered hair…and I was especially fond of these mustard-gold Converse sneakers I wore with everything. What was that about?

     I was a good student, especially in English, art, and any of the social studies. I loved to be creative, and I loved to read. As a matter of fact, the reason I was a “good” student instead of “great” is that I was often reading novels in class instead of paying attention. Usually I didn't mean to ignore the teacher, but if I finished, say, a worksheet, and started reading while we waited for everyone to finish, I'd just get sucked into the story and become oblivious to everything else around me! I remember (oh so many times) hearing my name spoken sharply and looking up from my book to see the teacher and the entire class staring at me. Oops…I did it again.

     I especially loved to read mysteries then. I had devoured every single Nancy Drew book when I was younger, so had graduated to other detectives. I was a geek for Sherlock Holmes (and so I've been giddy about all the remakes and “rediscovery” of this great detective in recent years) and read every book and short story Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote about this eccentric, brilliant character (I became somewhat of a Sherlock Holmes expert. I swear, I could win a trivia show about this guy and his cases if such a thing existed). I was also a big horse lover, so was thrilled to discover the writer Dick Francis, a former horse jockey, who wrote a series of fantastic mysteries that all centered around the horse racing world. Another obsession of mine at the time was all things British (I loved books about the royal family and would sometimes obnoxiously talk in a British accent, fooling no one...but theatre was another of my big loves), so I also loved the author Martha Grimes who set all her mysteries in England, with the names of her books all being names of British pubs.

     I'm still a lover of vampires, zombies, and all things creepy. I adore a good ghost story, or a story that makes you unable to sleep! (I know, I know, that's kind of sick, but it's true for me. I love to get myself all worked up and scared, knowing deep down it's not “real,” and that started way back then). When we read Edgar Allen Poe in English class, I couldn't have been happier, and when I discovered the short stories and novels of Stephen King, I was in seventh heaven! I read King's Salem's Lot and became fascinated by vampires. I wanted to be a vampire, and even took the screen out of my bedroom window (unbeknownst to my poor parents, of course) in hopes that if a vampire showed up floating outside my window (like they did in Salem's Lot), I could invite them inside and get them to turn me into a vampire! Obviously, I hadn't thought this all the way through—I was attracted to the idea of getting to live forever, so I could do all the things I wanted to do (that I could never squeeze into one lifetime). I was failing to consider the whole drinking-blood-only-going-out-at-night-losing-everyone-I-loved thing...  Anyway, I'm not going to spoil anything here, but there's a story Hannah's mother tells in Reasons to Be Happy about wanting to be a vampire that is pretty much how it went down in my real life! (Like I said, my poor parents...)

     My days then were full of ballet (I was a fairly serious ballet student who ended up too tall for the “classical ballet profile” and I'd just like to add here that perhaps those Converse were because my feet always hurt from my pointe shoes? I'd like to believe there was a reason for leaving the house looking like that!), horses (I took lessons and worked weekends and summers at the magical Rocky Point Farm), basketball (hey, I made that height work for something), and track. I also read lots and lots of nonfiction, especially biographies, about famous ballerinas, horse jockeys (had a huge crush on the jockey Steve Cauthen, the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby, complete with a poster in my bedroom), and Olympic Equestrian team riders.

     I remember I was very fond of theme parties, and for about three years in a row created an incredible (if I do say so myself) haunted house in my basement for Halloween parties. I freaked everyone out during a “seance” by having one of my sister's friends make an appearance in glow-in-the-dark makeup. One of my friends (who I will not name here) peed her pants!

      I kept journals and wrote a lot of lists—lists of books I'd read, with an elaborate scoring system, lists of movies I'd seen (movies remain a love of mine today), lists of places I wanted to travel to, lists of things I wanted to do in my life (when that list topped 100, you understand why I briefly thought vampirism might be a solution!). I wrote a lot of bad poetry and loved when we were assigned creative writing prompts in English class. Of course all of my stories went way over the length requirement. Fellow students even teased me: “Let me guess. Yours is about horses, right?”). My beloved English teacher, Ms. Andes would joke, “Maybe Katrina will surprise us this time with a topic we'd never expect.” Sadly, I never did surprise them then…but hopefully I am now.
Thank you Katrina! I will be sharing this with my students because they always want to know what authors were like at their age!

To learn more about Katrina and the book check out the links below:

Twitter:  @katrinakittle
http://katrinakittle.blogspot.com/  (Reasons to Be Happy Blog, lists a reason to be happy everyday)

There's a hash-tag—#reasonstobehappy—for your tweeting purposes. :-)


  1. I just saw this title on your blog, then ran across it at Sam's this morning. Needless to say, I added it to my cart.

  2. Just put the book on my amazon wish list. Thanks!