Girl Zone

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I’ve had the luxury to recently team up with Erica Portillo from GirlZone is a wonderful website for young teen girls. The site covers a variety of topics on relationship advice, boys, fitness, and fashion along with blogs,  fun featured quizzes and book reviews all catered to the lives of teenage girls.

Here’s a brief interview to learn more about the lead editor Erica and cruise 2 (245x350)

What is your role at GirlZone?

Erica: I get to do a  little bit of everything, which I love! I was just named editor, which was quite an honor. I also run all the social media, so I send out tons of tweets a day. I have a bit of an addiction to FB & Twitter, so this works out perfectly. :) The best part is I get to write, which is my passion and fills me up. I write a blog, Erica’s Inspirations and am the GZ Advisor.

How did GirlZone get started?

Erica: MJ Reale, the GirlZone president, wanted to create a place for teen girls to read about all the issues important to them, as well as help them to discover their identity and learn how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Have you worked for GirlZone since it first launched back in 1997?

Erica: No, I was actually in high school when GZ began. :) I started writing the GZ Advisor column about 3 years ago. Girls send me their questions about boys, friends, family, etc, and I give them my heartfelt advice. I have my masters in school social work and provide counseling to teens at schools in Chicago, so I have an understanding of some of the issues teen girls face today.

What is the range of age groups that visit and benefit from GirlZone?

Erica: 12-17 years old

What are some of GirlZone’s most popular features?

Erica: We have quite a variety of topics on our site! Whatever you’re feeling that day, fitness, book reviews, fashion, relationship advice, we’ve covered it! I would say the most popular features are our quizzes, advice columns, and blogs.

What is your personal favorite feature on the site?

Erica: I love the “Your Body/Mind” section because it gives tips on how to manage stress, has healthy recipes, and works to motivate you!

When you write for the advice blog, what are some of your favorite topics to respond to and why?

Erica: The most common questions I receive are about crushes and boy problems. Relationships also happen to be my favorite topic to give advice about, probably because I went through a lot of the same issues as a teen. Boys are complicated! I want to share what I’ve learned through much trial and error over the years.

What were some of your own issues that you struggled with as a teen?

Erica: I was painfully shy in middle school, so I had to come out of my shell and learn to speak up for myself. Relationships definitely had their ups and downs. I was sensitive, so if someone didn’t like me, it would take a knock at my self-esteem. I used to think, “Well, maybe if I were skinnier, he would like me.” Thinking back, that sounds so dumb! I realized that I had to build up my confidence and self-image, so if a boy broke up with me, it wasn’t the end of the world. I just had to cry, wipe my tears, and move on. Time and friends heal all. :)

Does GirlZone have any current advice on what you struggled with in your youth?

Erica: Yes, absolutely! :) I think a lot of teen girls struggle with their confidence, self-image, speaking up for themselves, and of course, boys. We have advice and articles on it all!

If someone wants to share a life story or get some advice from GirlZone, how would they connect the website?

Erica: Life/Love/Family/Friend Questions email:

Health/Body Questions email:

If you want to share a life story email:

Also, please feel free to follow us on Twitter: @GirlZoneGZ

Check out Erica’s latest video on how to get over your first love. :)

Interview with Author Renee Novelle

This Wednesday I warmly welcome my featured guest, Renee Novelle, who is best known for her psychological thrillers and paranormal fiction.


Formerly a freelance journalist, R.S. Novelle has found placement of 75 of her pieces in both online and print publications since 2008. Additionally, she has written multiple screenplays, and contributed her effective writing style to many non-profit and profit organizations. She has launched several blogs over the years, which garnered international attention.

In 2013, Novelle returned to her first love – fiction. Writing under the names Renee Novelle and R.S. Novelle, she has a publication schedule that includes psychological thrillers, suspense, paranormal fiction, contemporary women’s fiction, chick lit, and new adult.

Though she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Communication, Summa Cum Laude, she considers herself a constant student of the written word. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic quote poster, and rarely takes “no” as a final answer. She has an unhealthy obsession for theater, dance, music and art, and strongly believes that wine is simultaneously the beginning of, and resolution to, all of life’s problems. She believes in following dreams, and that in the end, you always end up where you’re meant to be.

Renee’s latest novel, REFLECTIONS, is a short paranormal suspense story, with just a touch of a romantic element.



Graham had a simple life: A job he enjoyed, a wife that he loved, and a young son that kept each and every day full of surprises. But when his father passed away unexpectedly, he inherited a family heirloom that would begin to…complicate matters.

A mirror that had been in his family for generations, Graham quickly found that its reflections were out of the ordinary, and that it had prophetic powers beyond his comprehension. Giving him just a momentary glance at souls who were on the knife’s edge of life and death, it was up to him to try to save them as they were thrust unknowingly into his path.

Finding a way to balance his daily life with this newfound responsibility was proving arduous enough, but when the mirror begins showing him reflections of his own family, Graham finds his world irretrievably changed. Will he be able to save them, or will he be forced to live with the same regret that so many have suffered before him?

Getting to know the Author:

How long have you been a writer?

RN: Technically, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember! But I never really took it too seriously until I hit my twenties, and I discovered that writing could be a career in addition to a hobby. I kind of detoured my path to do journalism for a couple years. And while it paid the bills, I always felt as though something was missing creatively for me. So, I’ve recently returned to fiction and haven’t looked back since. I think it’s the best decision I could’ve made for myself.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

RN: Oh, so many! I have so many stories that I want to tell, or issues that I believe in that I feel need to be brought to light. I’m constantly torn between wanting to write the light and happy and entertaining stories, and the dark and controversial ones. I think that’s why I’ve chosen to write across so many genres, to satisfy all those aspects. I really enjoy the challenge of writing a psychological or paranormal thriller with intricate plot twists. But then to balance it out, I feel like I need to write something lighter. So that becomes fun then too.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

RN: I LOVE anything that has to do with the arts – plays, dance performances, operas, gallery openings, art festivals, concerts – I’m completely addicted to attending those kinds of things. I’m a big yoga enthusiast and really enjoy time spent on the beach. If you can combine those two things together, even better! I also love shopping and fashion (who doesn’t!), I’m a pretty big foodie so I love trying new unique restaurants, and I’ll never turn down a good martini or quality glass of wine.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

RN: I’m a bit of a quote enthusiast, but one of my favorites is “You’ll never know how far you can fly, until you spread your wings and fly.” And it’s so true! If you want to succeed in something, you have to dare to jump into it. I think one of the biggest things that holds people back is themselves.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written?

RN: As of this October (2013), I’ve published two psychological thriller books and a paranormal suspense novella. In the coming months, I plan to release a new adult light romance, and I have a long publication schedule already set for 2014.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

RN: I think the overall message is to act with compassion towards all other people. We never know when our last moment may be, and if we can be open to helping others, instead of closed off and indifferent to strangers, we may make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

RN: Ugh, the dreaded writer’s block! For me personally, I’ve found that just stepping away for a little while, or even a few days, usually does the trick. I explore another story all together, meditate, do something fun and out of my routine. And that seems to put writer’s block in check and get the creative juices flowing again.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

RN: I think that for authors today, social media is absolutely vital. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to spread the word quickly about your projects, and it’s a pretty effective way to stay in touch with readers. I’m on almost every site – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Shelfari, Pinterest, Instagram, etc and I always encourage my readers to connect with me everywhere. I think this goes a long way in building relationships with readers, and it gives different people avenues they can use to recommend you or your work to their friends.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

RN: Practice, practice, practice! Don’t wait for inspiration, just get started. And use absolutely every opportunity to write that you can – a journal, an article, a blog entry, a book. The more you write, even if just for fun, the more you’ll learn about your style. And when you’re ready to try releasing something into the world for others to read, make sure it’s the most polished it can possibly be.

Most importantly, if writing is your dream, don’t ever give up on that. Keep at it, and one day you’ll find success at it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

RN: All of my information about my books and publishing schedule is on my website – Readers can also visit my Facebook or Goodreads page to find my books and interact, or can sign up for my newsletter to get all the latest information.