Alumna Lauren Cook “celebrates happiness” with new book


Kienna Kulzer

Foothill alumni Lauren Cook ('09) talks about being a positive person in her new book, "The Sunny Girl: The Brighter Side of Things." Credit: Lauren Beltran. Used with permission.
Foothill alumni Lauren Cook (’09) talks about being a positive person in her new book, “The Sunny Girl: The Brighter Side of Things.” Credit: Lauren Beltran. Used with permission.

“Sunny Girl” and Foothill alumna Lauren Cook’s journey of writing and publishing her book “The Sunny Side Up!” began three years ago with another book: Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.”

Cook recalls hearing about the book at her cousin’s birthday, and then reading and highlighting the entire thing.

“I remember thinking, ‘I want to do something like that. I want to write a book about happiness,’” she said.

When she finished reading the book, Cook actually wrote to Rubin, offering to write a teen edition of “The Happiness Project” with her. When Rubin responded with a no, Cook decided to begin on her own. She started her own blog, “The Sunny Girl: The Brighter Side of Things,” and decided she would write her own book on the subject of happiness.

While “The Happiness Project” was about happiness following a mid-life epiphany, Cook wanted her book to be aimed at young adults and finding happiness sooner rather than later.

“I really wanted [my] book to be for young adults so that we can realize happiness at this time in our lives and not be thinking we’ll be happy when we’ve got the perfect job or gotten into the school that we want,” she said. “We have to find happiness in the situations that we’re in and not hope for someday.”

“The Sunny Girl: The Brighter Side of Things,” is a book about “celebrating happiness.” In the book, she discusses what happiness is and how to maintain it through positivity, motivation, and “The Three G’s”: goal setting, gratitude, and giving back. She interviewed dozens of young adults, including many Foothill alumni, about the different elements of happiness.

She said she was surprised by how many people choose to talk about spirituality in their responses.

“People were very spiritual- not necessarily religious- but I think people really do have a desire to be happy and have it be something deeper and for it to come from their relationships with people,” she said.

In her interviews she also found other trends among teenagers that counter various stereotypes. Many said they have good relationships with their parents and stressed the importance of both expressing gratitude and doing volunteer work in order to find happiness.

She said she wanted the book to be interactive and relatable, like having a conversation with a friend. At the end of each section, there is a list of quotes from other people on the same topic, followed by blank lines where the reader can write down their own thoughts on the topic.

“A bit part of the book is that I don’t want young adults to ever feel like they’re alone in what they’re going through,” she said. “I wanted readers to really see that even though they may feel alone in that experience or it’s not being talked about, it’s talked about in this book and people are really candid about what they wrote here.”

She said the one of the most difficult parts of writing the book was overcoming the fear of what people would think of it.

“When you write a book, you’re putting yourself out there to be judged in a way,” she said. “But if it helps one young adult with whatever problem they may be going through, that’s what counts more to me than what a critic may say about the book.”

She was a student at UCLA throughout the entire process, which often made finding time to write difficult. Still, she did her best to keep her blog updated daily and to write as often as she could.

After three years of working on the book, it was finally published in April 2013.

“It was really surreal. I think the real moment it dawned on me was when I was actually holding the book in my hands for the first time. That was pretty crazy,” she said.

Although she considered traditional publishing, she ultimately decided to self-publish because more people are buying online and it would give her more creative freedom. It also shortened the publishing process, and she wanted the book available as soon as possible, so she would still be in the same age group as the aimed audience when it was published.

“So many people have been so supportive and encouraging. I think we live in such a great time now because if you have an idea, with the way we have technology, you can seriously do anything,” she said.

Now that the book is published, Cook will be busy promoting it and traveling across the country as a national consultant for her sorority Chi Omega. And, of course, trying to find the brighter side of things.

“I think happiness is just loving your life,” she said. “You can’t choose happiness, but you choose your perspective. You can choose to see the bright side. It may be small, but it’s always there.”

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