By Karen Billing
One of the world’s most famous diaries was written by teenager Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis with her family during WWII. Her reflections are among the most read in the history of literature.
With that in mind, Carmel Valley author Janet Larson Melugin has embarked on a project to piece together diary entries from teenagers, sharing their thoughts on the tough realities of growing up, of tortured self-esteem, and of inspiration.
“My Diary Unlocked: Keys to Making a Difference in the Lives of Teen Girls” will include entries that “reflect a poignant time in life that are gut-wrenching, funny, serious and heartbreaking,” said Larson Melugin.
“I want for teen girls to know that they are not alone and to give parents tools to help encourage their daughters to be authentic and to help create an environment that fosters high self-esteem,” Larson Melugin said.
As she continues to work on the book, Larson Melugin is still looking for diary entries. Submissions can be anonymous and sent in through her website, mydiaryunlocked.com.
As the founder of a consulting firm, Larson Melugin led motivational training for managers and published several human resources surveys about best practices. She studied both human resources and psychology at the University of Oregon and has always wanted to help people become the “best they could be.”
She was personally trained by Jack Canfield, co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, to present self-esteem seminars for young women. She has worked with everyone from Girl Scouts to teen unwed mothers to women and children at emergency shelters. She has also served as a Big Sister and teaches a lunchtime diary-writing club at Ashley Falls every week.
“I always had a passion for working with young girls because I had such low self esteem growing up,” Larson Melugin said.
Years ago she was preparing for a move from Del Mar when she pulled out an old dusty box with her high school diary inside.
“It was so sad,” Larson Melugin said of reading her diary. “I laughed, I cried, I wanted to shake her, I wanted to go back in history and give that girl a big hug because I just had so much self-loathing and a depressing way of looking at myself as a teen.”
She knew that it wasn’t just her — that most teen girls go through that kind of experience. Larson Melugin calls it her “a-ha” moment, when she decided to start her project to gather teenage diary entries, some of the most visceral and emotive writing there is.
“A diary is written with authenticity because you’re just writing to yourself, as your own best friend,” Larson Melugin said.
For the last two years she has worked on the book as entries poured in, some teens have even sent their entire diaries.
The book is broken into sections that deal with various topics, such as bullying, body image, pregnancy, sexuality and eating disorders.
One teen describes her feelings after keeping an abortion secret; another shares guilt after a boyfriend committed suicide.
“…I thought that I was cool and interesting and fun to be around. I guess the joke was on me,” wrote a 16-year-old named Ann. “All I ever see is the world laughing at me, making fun of me for my math grade (which my mom is gonna kill me for) or because I did something stupid or because I’m short!”
Each entry is paired with quotes, pearls of wisdom, tools for growth and discussion topics. Experts such as Canfield, Azim Khamisa, Roni Cohen-Sandler and Catherine Blyth provide some of the commentary.
Entries are also coupled with statistics that prove that issues young women experience are sometimes more common than not. Larson Melugin was most shocked with one figure she found, that 2,000 teen girls become pregnant every day in the United States. There is also a sobering suicide rate among young adults — nearly every two hours a person under the age of 25 commits suicide in this country.
Larson Melugin hopes her book will spark meaningful conversations between families and in society, as a whole, and let young women grow into adults with high self-esteem.
“If young women can learn to honor their true selves and live with integrity, everything else will fall into place,” she said.
To learn more or submit an entry, visit