Readergirlz Issue 4 (May 2007)

Welcome to our May issue! Readergirlz divas Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, and Justina Chen Headley are pleased to present The Phoenix Dance by Dia Calhoun in honor of National Mental Health Month.

Do you love dragons, princesses, mystery, and magic? Are you a creative person? Do you admire a girl who can conquer her own demons? Have you ever felt sad one moment and happy the next? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this is the book for you!

The Phoenix Dance

On the island of Faranor in the kingdom of Windward, twelve princesses dance their shoes to shreds each night. No one knows why. Not the king and queen, not the knights, lords, or ladies-in-waiting. When the queen blames the royal shoemaker, his apprentice Phoenix Dance puts her life at risk to solve the mystery. She braves magic spells, dragons, evil wizards, and the treachery of the princesses themselves. As Phoenix faces these dangers, she finds herself caught in her own dangerous dance inside herself -- a dance of darkness and light, a dance that presents her with the greatest challenge of her life.

This captivating companion to Dia's other Windward adventure, Aria of the Sea, weaves a retelling of Grimm's fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses with the tale of an imaginative young woman's struggle to understand an unpredictable, and sometimes overwhelming, part of herself.

What people are saying:

A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

"The story is well crafted and offers excellent insight into the life of an individual suffering from bipolar disorder." -- School Library Journal

"The Phoenix Dance is a lovely retelling of the fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, told from the perspective of the shoemaker's apprentice. It's a beautiful, mythic story about overcoming challenges and trying to find one's place in the world." -- Wands and Worlds

"The compelling portrayal of Phoenix as she slowly slips from one emotional extreme to the other gives a memorable edge to the novel." -- Booklist

"Calhoun tackles real-life bipolar issues (finding effective meds; side effects; whether losing the mania is too high a price for stability) with specificity and aplomb." -- Kirkus

The While-You-Read Playlist

Diamond Road - Sheryl Crow
X-Amount of Words - Blue October
Pale - Within Temptation
Lithium - Evanescence
Girl Anachronism - Dresden Dolls
Vincent - Don McLean
Everybody Hurts - R.E.M.
Imaginary 2.0 - Evanescence


Dia also recommends you listen to the music of Lindsay Rush, our May Gutsy Girl Shoutout, available at MySpace.

Dia chose Lindsay's Gepetto Cut the Strings as the theme song for The Phoenix Dance. It was featured on our MySpace page during the month of May.

You can get Lindsay's music at and tell her thanks for doing her part to break the stigma associated with mental illness!

Shoutout: Lindsay Rush

The readergirlz divas want to give a shout out to Lindsay Rush, a singer-songwriter who is the national spokesperson for mpower, musicians for mental health.

mpower is a new youth awareness campaign that's harnessing the power of music to change youth attitudes about mental health and fight the stigma facing the 1 in 5 youth with mental health problems. Working with artists, music industry executives, mental health advocates, and youth leaders, mpower is dedicated to reaching out to today's youth about a range of mental health issues, including depression, substance abuse, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide, and providing important resources and information to encourage those in need to seek help.

Readergirlz Community Challenge

In honor of The Phoenix Dance, author Dia Calhoun encourages readergirlz everywhere to help overcome the stigma surrounding mental illness. So check out one of Dia's favorite websites, National Alliance on Mental Illness at

Click on their TAKE ACTION tab. Find the link Fight Stigma and click on that, or just or just click here.

You will see several ways that you can become a StigmaBuster! NAMI StigmaBusters is a network of dedicated advocates around the world who fight inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness. Whether these images are found in TV, film, print, or other media, StigmaBusters speak out and challenge stereotypes and educate society about the reality of mental illness and the courageous struggles faced by consumers and families every day. StigmaBusters' goal is to break down the barriers of ignorance, prejudice, or unfair discrimination by promoting education, understanding, and respect.

Readergirlz can bring the anti-stigma program In Our Own Voice to your school. You can also go on a NAMIWALK in your state to help raise funds to support mental health programs.

Another NAMI program is Breaking the Silence: Teaching School Kids about Mental Illness. This is an educational package designed to teach students on three grade levels, upper elementary, middle school, and high school about serious mental illness. This attractive, easy to use educational package for three grade levels uses stories to humanize serious mental illness and teach that these illnesses are no-fault brain disorders. Students also examine the role the media plays in perpetuating stigma. Bring this program to your school!

In Lindsay's Own Words

"I'm a 20-year old singer-songwriter-guitarist and have been working with mpower: musicians for mental health and Mental Health America (formerly NMHA) since 2003.

"Maintaining good mental health is so important and writing and music are, in my opinion, the greatest forms of self-expression. When you write something- whether it's a song, a poem, a short story- it's automatically YOURS. How many things in life are there that we can truly say are our own?

"And, you can never be wrong when you write something. I think it's so important to bring that option to the attention of people, and youth specifically. I live by it."

- Lindsay Rush musicans for mental health

Shout out to CABF (The Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation)

Dia and the other readergirlz divas give a shout out to CABF for all the good work they do. The Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation educates families, professionals, and the public about pediatric bipolar disorder; connects families with resources and support; advocates for and empowers affected families; and supports research on pediatric bipolar disorder and its cure. Check out their website at

Check out this link to CABF's e-newsletter article about readergirlz and The Phoenix Dance.

Recommended Reads

Impulse Ellen Hopkins

Wildwood Dancing Juliet Marillier

Dancing on the Edge Han Nolan

Stop Pretending Sonya Sones

The Illustrated Mum Jacqueline Wilson

The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, illustrated by Jane Ray

Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (nonfiction) Kay Redfield Jamison

Additional Online Resources

Check out these other great sites and blogs:

UCLA School Mental Health Project: Center for Mental Health in Schools

Their mission is to improve outcomes for young people by enhancing the field of mental health in schools.

NAMI Washington
NAMI Washington provides a statewide unified voice for people affected by brain disorders

The Columbia University TeenScreen Program is a national mental health and suicide risk screening program for youth. Their goal is to make voluntary mental health check-ups available for all American teens.

Mental Health Recovery and WRAP
WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) is a self-management and recovery system developed by a group of people with mental health difficulties. Run by Mary Ellen Copeland, their mission is to promote personal, organizational, and community wellness and empowerment. Check out their wonderful WRAP recovery books!

DRADA: Depression and Related Depressive Disorders Association
DRADA understands the need to eliminate the stigma that is attached to mood disorders, and is constantly striving to promote public knowledge of signs, symptoms, and resources available to persons affected by these illnesses.

About: Bipolar Disorder
For early warning signs of bipolar illness and much more

Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
Helping children with mental health needs and their families achieve a better quality of life

Pendulum Resources
Gateway to Bipolar Disorders on the web

The Internet's largest and oldest mental health social network created and run by mental health professionals
Provides quality education on mental health topics where information on the Internet is scattered or non-existent

Check out John McManamy's great bipolar blog

The Icarus Project
Navigating the Space between Brilliance and Madness

Dr. Ivan's Depression Central
A clearinghouse for information on all types of depressive disorders

The Ultimate Book Celebration Guide

The Ultimate Book Party

Gather your favorite readergirlz together for a spectacular fantasy book party for The Phoenix Dance. Make sure to e-mail us a picture of your readergirlz celebration. If we post it, you'll win a special readergirlz prize!


Dia used to create invitations for her book release party. To be author-authentic, download the book cover image.

If you want to create your own invitation, scan a photo of cool shoes from a magazine ad. Import into your word processing program and add book cover, date, time, and place of the book party. Make it colorful - Phoenix's aunts love bright colors! Print out on your ink-jet printer and wala! You have a custom made invitation! If you don't have a scanner, cut and paste shoe photos from magazines onto your invites.

For content, how about: "Put on your best dancing shoes and dance on over to 1234 Readergirlz Lane on May X, 2007 to celebrate The Phoenix Dance."


For your The Phoenix Dance book party, Dia recommends serving food featured in the book:

Corn Muffins - Percy Snailkips gives Phoenix corn muffins when she first meets him.

Sugar Cookies and Pancakes - Phoenix whips up several batches of these when she is in one of her manic moods.

Ginger Snaps - Phoenix's rival, Teeska, makes these for Whelk.

Cheese-filled sausages - one of Phoenix's favorite foods.

Chocolates - the favorite food of the mysterious old woman who gives Phoenix the magic cloak.

Brickly-brick sweetie sticks - a candy sold in the Faranor market on Harbor Road. Use your imagination to come up with these!

AND (not from the book) Red Hots - represents the Black Dragon's fiery breath.

Tea - the Twelve Dancing Princesses' favorite drink.

The boiled water from cooking mustard greens - For the full The Phoenix Dance experience, get a taste of Phoenix's medicine!

Craft and Decorating Ideas

Buy shoes from goodwill or use old shoes of your own. Clean and polish. Using a glue gun, go wild decorating the shoes with one or more of the following:

  • glitter
  • sequins
  • faux pearls
  • feathers
  • cording
  • braid
  • shells
  • fabric paint
  • silk flowers
  • ribbons

For a decorating idea put some of these materials in a bowl and use as a centerpiece. Add lilies and bluebells. OR scatter shells across the tables.

Mood Music

Simply crank up the playlist from above.


Of course, because the book is all about shoes! shoes! shoes! Everyone should come to the book party wearing her favorite shoes! Even bring a pair to trade!

Discussion Questions

1. Phoenix has extreme highs and lows. Many teens have highs and lows, too. How do you manage your own highs and lows?

2. Several of the Twelve Dancing Princesses treat Phoenix badly when they learn she has bipolar illness, a mental illness. Have you ever been treated badly for something that you had no control over? What did you do about it?

3. Phoenix's aunts do not want her to become a shoemaker. Have you ever had to convince your parents/guardian to let you pursue a dream?

4. When her illness is first diagnosed, Phoenix doesn't want to take her medicine because it makes her feel like a different person. Have you ever had to do something that you know is good for you, that helps you ultimately, but that made you feel strange or weird at the time?

5. Mederi Gale (yes, this is the grownup Cerinthe Gale from Aria of the Sea!) asks Phoenix, "If you sweep away the fire, the smoke, and the darkness, and saw instead the ship of yourself sailing in the light of a clear dawn, what color would your sails be? Who are you, Phoenix, at the heart of yourself?" What color are your own sails? Who are you at the heart of yourself? Do you know? Or are you still finding out?

6. Phoenix loves the feeling of being "on fire" and "alive" when she is being creative. How does creativity make you feel inside?

Author Chat

Listen in as Dia Calhoun chats with the other readergirlz divas about The Phoenix Dance.

Janet Lee Carey:

What inspired you to write The Phoenix Dance, Dia?


I've been fascinated with the fairy tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses ever since I was a child. All those princesses! All those dresses!

All that dancing! Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Two Illness. That's a mental illness where your mood swings back and forth between mania and depression. My doctor traced the illness back to when I was a teen. A light bulb flashed. I could write a young adult book about this, I thought. But I did not know what form the story should take. Years passed while I wrote my other books. Meanwhile, I read the Twelve Dancing Princesses again. What, I thought? What is calling me? I kept thinking about the story. Then one day, in spite of medication, an episode of my illness struck. Imagine yourself spinning on a stool, huddled, legs tucked up, spinning faster and faster, dizzy, sick. Sometimes when I am hypomanic—the low-level type of mania that I get—I sometimes have bursts of creative energy. As my thoughts raced, the princesses popped into my mind. I saw them dancing in their gorgeous dresses, but dancing wildly, on fire, all night long. Like me. Then I knew. The princesses were manic. Like me. They were sick. That interpretation of the fairy tale was what had been calling me all those years. Then I knew I could use the fairy tale as the basis for a book about bipolar illness.

Justina Chen Headley:

Is it true that you kept your bipolar illness a secret until you finished writing The Phoenix Dance?


Yes, until then I had only told a few close friends and family members. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to having a mental illness, especially bipolar illness. I was afraid people would treat me oddly or be prejudiced against me. But when I finished writing the book I thought it would do so much more good in the world if I told people it was based on my own experience. I thought I could help educate teens and help overcome stigma. And I'm so glad I came forward! So many people have told me how much the book has helped them. And not only people who have, or know someone who has, the illness. I've also heard from girls who just feel different from everyone around them and feel misunderstood.

Lorie Ann Grover:

Phoenix is lured by the manic state she feels in the Kingdom of Brilliance (mania). Have you felt that way, too?


Oh yes! The hypomania can feel wonderful at first. I feel alive, on fire, full of creative energy. Wonderful ideas come rushing, connecting, one after the other. But then there is no OFF switch. I can't turn my mind off. I can't stop the ideas. I can't stop working. I can't sleep. Exhaustion overwhelms me. It feels as though every nerve ending in your body is on fire. It turns into a nightmare. And a plunge into depression often follows. The depression is terrible.

Janet Lee Carey:

How did the illness affect you when you were a teen?


What I remember most is the depression and suicidal thinking—I never attempted suicide, but I thought about it. I took a bus across town to ballet class every day. Once a woman came up to me on the street and said, "Why are you so sad, little girl?" I'll never forget that. I walked around with a huge ache in my chest. I also had terrible insomnia and racing thoughts.

Justina Chen Headley:

Why did you give Phoenix that name?


I have always thought that the myth of the Phoenix is a great metaphor for bipolar illness. In mythology, every 500 years the phoenix bird is consumed by flame, then it rises again from its own ashes, only to be consumed by flame in another 500 years. This is like the great dance from the fire of mania to the ashes of depression that cycles over and over in those with bipolar illness. For more about the Phoenix legend, click here.

Lorie Ann Grover:

Would you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a writer?


I knew when I began writing poetry in the second grade that I wanted to be a writer. I majored in English in college. But after college, I went to graphic design school, because I needed a way to earn a living. I then freelanced as a logo/lettering artist for many years. I designed the Alaska logo on the side of the Alaska Airlines aircraft! After I bought my first computer, I began writing for an hour every morning before I went to work. I had always loved YA books, and that is what I wanted to write. My in-laws have a beautiful apple and pear orchard in Eastern Washington, and I knew I wanted to set a book there. My YA fantasy novel Firegold was the result. It took me five years to write it! Then while I was trying to sell it, I wrote Aria of the Sea, a fantasy about my ballet experience. After I sold Firegold, I wrote a prequel to it, White Midnight.

Janet Lee Carey:

The Phoenix Dance has the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Brilliance. Are darkness and light themes in any of your other books?


Yes! White Midnight and my latest, Avielle of Rhia, are both fantasy novels about girls trying to find their courage in the face of great darkness. Darkness and light almost become characters in the books. I have a Christmas fable, The Return of Light: A Christmas Tale, coming out in October 2007, that is also about this. I wonder if I am obsessed with it because of the bipolar illness and my swinging moods that plunge me into darkness and have me fighting my way back toward the light again and again.

Thanks so much for the great interview, divas!

I send greetings to all readergirlz and look forward to chatting with you each at the MySpace group site or through e-mail

For more interviews with Dia Calhoun:

Interview with Michele Dillard

Interview with Miss Erin, children's lit blogger Part One
Part Two

Interview with Dia about The Phoenix Dance


And thank you, Dia! To learn more about our featured author, visit her website and

Next Month: Dragon's Keep

June's spotlighted title will be DRAGON'S KEEP by Janet Lee Carey.

Far away on Wilde Island, Princess Rosalind is born with a dragon claw where her ring finger should be. No one, save her mother, the queen, knows her terrible secret. Rosalind must wear golden gloves to hide her claw until a cure can be found. She is a princess, she must be perfect – how else can she fulfill Merlin's six-hundred-year-old prophecy that will restore her banished royal family to its rightful throne?

But Rosalind's flaw cannot be separated from her fate. And soon the bloodthirsty dragon that plagues Wilde Island carries her off. The dragon sees beauty in her talon where her mother saw only shame. And on Dragon's Keep, Rosalind comes to understand the truth behind the prophecy that has haunted her since birth. Is Rosie a princess? Or the spawn of a dragon? Which part of her blood holds the secret to who she really is?

Carey has written a stunning portrayal of the complex relationship between a mother and daughter in a lyrical novel sure to thrill readers who love fantasy - and those who don't.

Stunning, lyrical prose . . . thoroughly compelling.
Booklist Starred Review

The author has crafted something new and magical, and unexpected plot twists will surprise readers throughout.
School Library Journal Starred Review

The Ultimate readergirlz Group Guide

How to set up your own readergirlz group:

Ten Tips for Starting Your Own readergirlz Book Club

1. Contact other girlfriends who love to read and chat about books as much as you do, and invite them to join readergirlz. Be sure they stand by the readergirlz Manifesta!

2. Your group can be any size, but staying below 12 seems to work well. Everyone has a chance to share. Will your group be all girls or will it be a mother/daughter group?

3. Consider if there's one girl who will always be the leader or will the leader change from month to month? That person might download readergirlz monthly info and discussion questions for the group and send out meeting reminders.

4. Consider where you'll meet. Homes, a library, a bookstore, or a school classroom are great choices.

5. Is your group going to have a party each month where you follow the great readergirlz suggestions? Who will take care of the food, decorations, and music? The fun preparations might rotate through the group.

6. How long will your meeting last? Two hours is a good amount of time to gab about a book.

7. Have a commitment from everyone to keep to the readergirlz monthly pick and avoid gossip. Redirect discussion that strays.

8. Share your opinions, but be willing to hear other points of view. Everyone doesn't have to agree. Differences make great discussions!

9. Once your group is meeting regularly, be respectful of the other members and ask before inviting another readergirl. Groups can be tight with each other, and everyone needs a say before an addition.

10. As all true readergirlz are, be a great friend in the group and out. These are friendships for a lifetime!

Readergirlz Ground Rules

So here's the deal: readergirlz encourages healthy discussion and debate about the books we're celebrating. What does that mean?

1. Keep it clean: no swearing and definitely no personal attacks, threats, porno, or cybersex. That is very uncool and un-readergirlz-ish.

2. Keep it pure: no ads of any kind, please. This is about the book, the whole book, and nothing but the book.

3. Keep it safe: don't share your personal info in any of our public forums. 

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