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Little Willow

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Interview: Terri & Brittany MacLeod

Terri and Brittany MacLeod, mother and daughter, had a really cool idea for a book - and now it's been published! The non-fiction book 113 Things to Do By 13 is exactly what you think it is: a list of things to do, ranging from having a sleepover to flying a kite to discovering your hidden talents, before you hit the tender age of 13. Of course, you can do all of these things if you're older, too. Bound in book form but laid out kind of like a magazine, the list comes complete with pictures, advice, and quotes from celebrities.

When I interviewed the MacLeods, I found out how they got to interview people like Selena Gomez, Julia DeVillers, and Sabrina Bryan, and what it's like working with your relative.

Who had the idea to write a book together?

Terri Right before Brittany's 13th birthday, she wrote down a 100 things she wanted to do before becoming a teenager. Most of the items were fun 'n' crazy stuff, like "Throw ice cubes down your shirt and create a new dance" or "paint yourself green and lay in the grass." When she showed me her list, I thought it was terrific idea for a book (or maybe a magazine article), but thought it needed a bit more girl power. So, the two of us brain-stormed and came up with a list of 113 things to do by 13. We added lots of items to help and inspire young girls to feel good and develop a can-do attitude, such as "stand up to the mean girl" or "learn to love the skin you're in."

How much did each of you contribute?

Terri: Brittany put together most of the fun items (i.e. dance on one foot and drink a Coke and tips to dealing with your first crush) and lists of her favorite books, movies, and best food fight flyers. The more girl empowerment items were mainly written by me (Terri). Brittany served as my editor and would make sure my writing was tween-authentic. We wanted to make sure the book had a legit tween voice and didn't preach to young girls. Also, a lot of the writing/tips are based on other people's expertise. There are a lot of girl power contributors (some famous, some just like us regular folks). Examples: Selena Gomez shared why she thinks it's important not to judge. Leighton Meester's celebrity make-up artist revealed his beauty secrets.

How long did it take to write?

Terri: We had a really tight deadline. We had to write the entire book in three months.

If either or both of you added something to the list that you had yet to do, did you then make it happen?

Terri: Brittany has done most of the adventurous, fun things on the list - and who hasn't dealt with a mean girl or nasty gossip? But, to be honest, young girls don't have to feel pressured to do everything in the book. The idea is to help girls think outside the box and be inspired to try something new or give them guidance and confidence on how to deal with a particular issue in their life. The great thing about [the book] is you're never too old to try or learn from any of the items on the list. After all, there's no age limit on making a massive sundae and pigging out.

Did you conduct interviews on the red carpet and other special events specifically for this book?

Terri: My job as a producer at Access Hollywood gives me a lot of access to celebrities, and I do have the advantage of knowing their publicists. But the celebrity contributions in the book were rounded-up the old-fashioned way -- a lot of hard work. I contacted publicists, wrote letters, and did interviews with the stars on the phone or had them answer questions via e-mail.

The book, full-color and glossy, definitely has a magazine look and feel. Who were your graphic designers?

Terri: Brittany and I were inspired by our favorite tween magazines, like J-14 and Twist. We wanted each page to be filled with lots of bullet-pointed tips, stylin' sidebars, and bold graphics. We pulled pages from magazines and drew-up our own page lay-out and this was then given to a book designer. Who did an awesome job of making our vision a reality!

How did you obtain the rights to republish photographs and sidebars/quotes from other publications?

Terri: There are agencies who own celebrity photos and you buy them. You can't just re-print photos or celebrity quotes; everything must be attributed.

How did you come to have a Canadian publisher?

Terri: Harlequin is a Canadian-based publishing house, but they have writers all over the world. Harlequin believed in 113 Things To Do By 13 and has been awesome in bringing little dream of a girl power guide to life. Also, Harlequin has a big office here in New York City, which is where our editor is based.

Terri, when did you first set your sights on becoming a journalist?

During college, I got an internship at Fox Five in New York, and was exposed to the industry a bit and also some people who worked in TV. I think it's really important for young girls to take on internships. It's a great way to be introduced to a particular field and be able to decide whether you want to pursue it as a career.

How did you break into the entertainment field?

After college, I moved to New York and got a job in TV. But working at an entry level in TV is a lot of hard work. I worked on a morning show, Good Day New York, and had to get up every morning at 3:30 AM to be in work by 4:30 AM. I worked long hours, never complained (well, maybe a little bit about the hours), and really took on every assignment, big or small. A good attitude and hard work goes a long way in the workplace!

What are your responsibilities as a Senior Producer on Access Hollywood?

Terri: I work in the New York bureau of Access Hollywood. I cover the entertainment industry in the city. My job is never the same - [it's different] each day. I work on whatever story is happening in the celebrity world. This could be anything from covering a red carpet event, to a breaking news story, to interviewing a celebrity, to reporting on a film set or even backstage at a fashion show. Besides being out in the field covering the story, I also have to come back and put it together for broadcast. This means screening tapes, writing a script, and then taking the script to an editor to cut-down into a package to air on Access Hollywood. We often don't have a lot of time to put these stories together and make air for that night's show – so dealing with deadlines and stress is a big factor on my job.

Brittany, what's your dream job?

I would like to be a journalist and travel the world. I really want to do stories on young girls in different countries and report on what their lives are like.

How old are you now, and what grade are going into this fall?

I am 14 and will be going into 9th grade next year, so, just like other kids, I am nervous about going into high school and what's next for me.

Do you two have any future collaborations in mind?

Terri: We would love to write another book. There's so much happening in the tween/teen world. We would love to [reach] other young girls and find out what's on their minds. (They can drop by the 113 Things to Do by 13 page on Facebook.)

Terri, when you were a teenager, what were your favorite books?

I loved anything by Judy Blume, the Little House on the Prairie series, and Little Women.

Brittany, which books or authors do you enjoy?

I am a huge Twilight fan. I read the whole series in a matter of weeks. Also love The Last Olympian and The Lightening Thief. And, of course, the Harry Potter series.

To learn more about the book, please visit
Tags: books, interviews, non-fiction, reviews

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