August 28, 2023

Landis’ new book empowers youth through positivity

Jen Landis has published a new book titled "Skip the Bad Songs! The Art of Rocking a Happy Mindset." The book includes illustrations by Rachel Dempsey (B.F.A. 2022).

Jen Landis has published a new book titled "Skip the Bad Songs! The Art of Rocking a Happy Mindset." The book includes illustrations by Rachel Dempsey (B.F.A. 2022).

Jen Landis, assistant professor of practice in graphic design in the School of Art, Art History and Design, has published a new book titled “Skip the Bad Songs! The Art of Rocking a Happy Mindset.” The book is an ultimate guide to personal growth to uplift teens and tweens to unlock their potential and embrace positivity. It includes creative exercises and fun activities to help readers conquer life’s challenges.

“It’s super timely, I feel,” Landis said. “Because teenagers and pre-teens are still feeling isolated coming out of a pandemic, and they don’t necessarily want to talk about it either, especially to their parents. So I wanted to give them all the tips and tricks that I personally use and have used that could be there for them when they are just looking for a little bit of help. And it’s small enough that they can just carry it in their backpack and just know that there’s power inside.”

It continues a line of work that Landis has done to spread positivity, that includes Pincurl Girls, an enterprise that creates products and services to remind girls of their strength; Art Gang, an online and in-person community for girls to make art and inspire each other; and daily positive text messages for teenage girls and women.

“I’ve been writing and doing text messages for three years where I would text young girls and women an inspiring quote, and I would add their name to it,” she said. “I had this full list of quotes, and I thought I could put the positive quote on the left page and and then write a little more about it on the right.”

The title comes from one of those text messages.

“As we’re in the car, we’re listening to the radio and that song that you hate comes on, you change it instantly — it takes no seconds and you don’t feel bad about the song you hated,” Landis said. “I want to make the analogy that we can do the same things with the negative thoughts that pop into our head. I could think something negative, but I can say, ‘nope, I’m not going to think about this right now, and I’m going to change the channel and skip over that bad song and think of something more positive.’”

As she put the book together, some repeating themes emerged, such as being true to yourself, making mistakes, finding motivation to try new things and feeling good.

“I chunk those themes together and came up with different emotions that you can search for,” she said. “So the book isn’t supposed to be read from front to back. You look at the table of contents and look at what mood or what inspiration you need and then flip to that page. You read a little pep talk on the right, and then you can try one of the activities on the left. Then you can put the book away until you need another dose of inspiration.”

The book is illustrated by School of Art, Art History and Design graphic design alumna Rachel Dempsey, who is now a multimedia designer at Pixel Bakery Design Studio.

“Rachel was in my capstone class, and I have just always been drawn to her style,” Landis said. “I had the book written and did a focus group of some girls, and they said, ‘well, I like the information, but I won’t read it.’ It was more in paragraphs, so I rewrote it into these different bullet points and activities. I didn’t want to illustrate it because I wanted a fresh take, so I asked Rachel if she would illustrate it for me. She rocked it. She has added so much personally in there, and I love the color palette. I just couldn’t be more excited about her work and having her be a part of this.”

Dempsey said she wasn’t sure if Landis was serious in asking her to work on it.

“I was still a student, so it was hard for me to believe I could be a part of such a cool project,” Dempsey said. “Imposter syndrome is something I’ve always struggled with, but Jen has really helped me overcome it and is one of my biggest inspirations.”

Landis described the book to Dempsey as a self-help book for young teens. It was ultimately was more than a self-help book — a way for teens to express and identify what they are feeling through interactive writing and activities.

“Jen gave me full creative freedom,” Dempsey said. “So, when I got my hands on it, it took me some time to just dive into the project and figure out how to layout the book and include illustrations. I basically had a summer to do everything.”

Dempsey purposefully didn’t illustrate people for the book because she wanted readers to be the main character in the book.

“For the illustrations themselves, I was in the middle of finding my illustrative side during this project, and I think you can see glimpses of where I was heading in the simple, lined drawings,” she said. “Everything came together when I got the idea of Girl Scout patches. The patches are these simple icons that refer to something that was achieved. I liked that idea and wanted to implement it in the book. As you make your way through your emotions, you’ll view new illustrations/icons that relate.”

Landis has worked with area non-profits such as Teammates, Lighthouse and Girls, Inc., to get the books into the hands of area teens.

“I’m also accepting donations to help print the book and then give them out to the girls that need them the most,” she said.

She hopes readers find the book useful.

“I want people to know that they are enough, and that there’s someone cheering them on and encouraging them to think thoughts that make them feel better about themselves,” Landis said. “I don’t expect people to go from feeling angry to feeling amazing. But you can notice that you’re feeling angry and look for that next step—that next thought of could I look at this situation in a way that relieves a little bit of that tension, and then you can move on from there. So this is full of activities that, depending on where you’re at, whether you’re angry or you’re having trouble with friends or you’re in the middle of a creativity project, will get you to that next step in order to keep you along your path.”

Landis is happy with the final product of the book.

“It’s just been so fun connecting with all these nonprofits and seeing the smiles and hearing their reactions and seeing my work and Rachel’s work come into something that we didn’t know what it would be when it started,” she said. “And not being afraid of not knowing what it was going to be and just letting the process move us to create something, in the end, where we’re both really proud of it.”

Those interested can purchase a book or to make a donation to give books away.