So about nine years ago, DEAR BULLY, the anthology of authors telling their stories of being bullied, or standing by, or being bullies was released. Carrie was the co-editor for this anthology.
And I am so proud of all the authors in there.
HEY YOU! AUTHORS! I AM PROUD OF YOU!
For a lot of them, it was a big act of bravery to tell their stories. For a lot of them, it was a big act of bravery just to survive.
I was thinking about that right now because our country (The U.S.) is having some major difficulties and bullying is the norm despite all the efforts and advocacy that happened back in 2009.
And there are truths in every single story of that anthology that resonate. Those truths are that pain is real, that actions and words can shatter us, that it’s hard to remember how awesome you are when people are telling you that you aren’t.
And there are differences in the experiences too. Some authors hurt more than others. Some used the experience to try to become stronger. For every one of us, the story is our own, and it is different. But one of the biggest, and greatest truths in those stories is that each and every one of us survived. We all lived to tell our stories. And if you are reading this right now or listening on the podcast that means that you have lived through too.
And here’s the thing. You must keep on living and fighting and trying to remember that you are awesome even when people are hating on you.
People hating you doesn’t change that you have worth.
People being violent towards you, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve respect, and tolerance and love.
People ignoring you on purpose, doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to exist.
And the opposite is true. You don’t get to hate, to decide other people’s worth, to be violent and disrespectful either. We have to be the shiny light that we want in our lives.
Writing Tip of the Pod
What’s this have to do with writing? Well, it was an anthology of true stories from writers that Carrie co-created, but it’s also about what makes the best stories.
Hint: It’s not just having a beginning, a middle, and an end.
It’s about having a point. It’s about believing in something. It’s about being honest and having something to say, something that might be hard to say but needs to be out there.
Dog Tip for Life
Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. It’s as simple as that.
Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com
On one of my Patreon sites I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD. This is a monthly membership site (Hear the book chapters – $1/month, read them $3-month, plus goodies!). Sometimes I send people art! Art is fun.
On this, my second site, WRITE BETTER NOW, you can do a one-time purchase of a writing class or get two of my books in eBook form or just support our podcast or the dogs. It’s all part of the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME.
It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.
When I was a little kid I talked funny. If you’ve heard me in person or listened to the podcast, you can tell that I still do, but it was way worse then. I slurred my s sounds. It wasn’t a lisp. It was more of a slur – like my tongue was kind of lazy and just didn’t want to do all the work.
So, in first grade for the whole first week, Jay Jamison (almost his real name) made fun of me. I’d raise my hand and answer and he’d lean over his desk and repeat whatever I said only super exaggerating the bad ‘s’ sounds.
So, if the answer was Sunday, I’d raise my hand and say, “Sunday.”
And then he’d lean over and go, “Ssssssshunday.”
And something inside me would tighten up. And something inside of me would want to cry, so I’d have to press my lips together really hard. And something inside of me would die a little bit.
Then, things got worse. Jay got his friends to mock me too at recess. They’d stand around me and say ‘s’ words, copying my voice, making their voices really high, laughing. They made fun of my last name, which was Barnard, and call me, “Carrie St. Bernard.”
It was pretty bad. Sometimes they’d pull at my jacket or my hair. Sometimes they’d monster hug me, which meant they’d try to squish me. The entire time they’d make fun of my voice, my s’s, me.
So, I stopped talking. I stopped raising my hand. I stopped answering questions.
I’d talk to my best friend Kathy Albertson and that was pretty much it. They had silenced me.
And I also tried to be invisible because I figured if they didn’t notice me then they couldn’t hurt me. I wanted more than anything to have invisibility be my super power. I would pray for it every night.
Pretty much all of first grade I didn’t talk. It was too scary to talk. I didn’t ever raise my hand even though I always knew the answers. And when I did talk I would try really hard to find words without ‘s’ sounds. (David Sedaris has a great essay about this. He did it, too). And the teacher thought there might be something wrong with me in a developmentally divergent and/or emotionally challenged way. And she told my mom. And I promised my mom I would talk more in second grade.
I spent the whole summer trying to learn how to talk better. I was home alone most of the time so I needed a model. You couldn’t hear people when you read books so I turned to the television.
We were super poor and we only got two channels – sometimes three.
One channel was soap operas and kissing, which was grosser than gross.
The other channel was mostly game shows, which was so tense. I had issues watching people almost win things and then not win things.
I was the least tough kid ever, basically.
This left one channel – PBS.
PBS is full of kids show, and back then it was also full of Muppets.
Yes, like the brilliant kid I was, I watched Sesame Street over and over to learn how to talk, so yes, I modeled my voice after Muppets, which pretty much explains my voice now.
Helpful Hint: It is not the best idea to model your voice after Elmo and Big Bird and Grover if you’re trying to fit in and not be bullied.
Yes, I taught Carrie how to talk.
Obviously, Sesame Street did not fix my s’s, but it did tweak my accent AND make me sound like a Muppet, which means that in second grade people still made fun of my voice, but my teacher, Mrs. Snierson gave us a haiku assignment that I totally aced and she realized I was smart, and pretty much protected me all that year.
Say “writing changed my life” is what.
I also learned that if you give your snacks away to the kids who never had enough money for snacks they would protect you, too.
And I also learned that if you asked people what was wrong when they cried, they’d protect you, too, once they were done crying.
And I also learned that Timmy Bourassa also liked smelly stickers, so I gave him some and then he protected me, too.
It was weird, but it was how I dealt. I coped by taking care of other people. I coped by buying protection with food and stickers.
The price of my protection?
No lunches for me
And things got better for a long time. People stood up for me when Jay was mean. Jay eventually became a kid named Chris. Both of them gave up when other people stepped in for me.
I never stepped in for myself.
I didn’t know how.
Things were better though because my caring about other kids returned as they cared about me. ,
But then in seventh grade after years of speech classes that didn’t help my s sounds at all, one of my teachers made me stay during recess and said, “Carrie. You are never going to succeed because of your s’s. You’re a smart girl, but you’ll always be a loser if your voice sounds like that. “
He told me I had no hope.
He told me that there was no point in me trying or going to college or even finishing high school if I didn’t get those ‘s’ sounds fixed.
He told me I would never succeed.
I cried a lot in the hall and another teacher asked what happened. I still remember how red that other teacher’s face got when I told him.
I remember him hugging me while I sobbed.
I remember him storming into the first teacher’s room and yelling so loudly the whole school heard.
That teacher saved me. My mom saved me too.
She went to the school and complained. Nothing happened to the first teacher, but I knew my mom cared and that was important. But no matter what either my mom or my nice teacher, or any of my friends said, that first teacher’s words echoed in my head and in my soul for a super long time. They still echo there sometimes and I hear those words in that teacher’s voice, and Jay’s voice, and those recess boys’ voices, and sometimes I hear them in my voice and that’s when it hurts the most. It hurts the most when I, myself, am thinking:
I have no hope.
There is no point in me trying.
I will never succeed.
I am a loser.
My books have made New York Times bestseller lists and bestseller lists in France and I’m published in a bunch of countries and I get fan mail, but I still can hear those bullying words sometimes – not all the time – but sometimes.
And I realize I cringe every time someone makes fun of speech impediments on tv or movies or books.
And I realize that I still do what I did in second grade – I surround myself with people who protect me by making me feel better. If I’m really hurt, I’ll friends-lock blog about it and people are always so kind. That’s how I cope. But other people? They aren’t so lucky for a bunch of reasons.
Sometimes you are too hurt to help other people.
Sometimes sharing a lunch or a smelly sticker isn’t enough.
Sometimes the pain inside of you becomes so big that there is no way for you to help other people because your own heart has fractured so much.
So, thanks to all of you who have ever helped me through a bully experience. I hope you know how awesome you are.
I’ve recently contributed to the anthology THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID and Megan Kelley Hall and I co-edited another anthology, DEAR BULLY, which was an effort of writers, readers, bloggers and people to raise awareness about bullying. The money we raise from Dear Bully’s royalties continues each year to support programs meant to raise awareness about bullying and support those who have suffered. I am so grateful for that opportunity.
But it doesn’t feel like enough, you know? Nothing ever feels like enough.
If you’re a survivor of bullying, please know that you aren’t alone. Check out this website for some resources. And if you are a person who bullies? Try to get some help too. Your life can be so much better than it is now. Let’s change our culture into something better.
The Class at the Writing Barn
The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.
Praise for Carrie Jones andWrite. Submit. Support:
“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”
“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”
“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”
People are saying super nice things about me, which is so kind of them because helping people on their writing journeys and their craft and supporting them? That’s pretty boss, honestly.
I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1. From 11:30 to 12, I’ll be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball. If you’re going to be there, come hang out.
Flying and Enhanced – the Young Adult Science Fiction Series
Cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.
This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking action – School Library Journal
Sparty knows all about that. More info about FLYING is here and the rest of my books? Right here.
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
I don’t usually write about the bad things that have happened to me.
That’s a choice I deliberately make that has nothing to do with other writers and their choices. It’s just about me.
I don’t usually write about the bad things that have happened to me because I don’t want them to define me. I want people to meet me, Carrie Jones, and not think about my past, or things I’ve battled. I want them to just see me. I don’t like pity. I really don’t like stigma. I like to just be my goofy, quirky, flawed self.
And tonight I don’t get to do that.
That’s because I made a choice to be a part of THINGS I HAVEN’T SAID, an anthology for teens about surviving sexual assault. I made a similar choice when I edited DEAR BULLY and wrote about being bullied for my voice. That bullying is part of the reason I get so stressed about our podcast. I still have people mock my voice. Adults.
But both of those times, I made the choice that makes me uncomfortable because I believed it was for the better good. I made those choices because stories of surviving and eventually thriving need to be out there. My sexual assault gave me mono. The Epstein Barr virus that causes mono attacked my brain causing cognitive degeneration and seizures. I live with the knowledge that I used to be smarter, more articulate, with a better memory. I live with the knowledge that this changed because of what someone did to me.
And I thrive.
It resurfaces. There is still frustration and annoyance and pain.
But I thrive.
I even get hugged.
And that’s why when someone like Erin asks me to help kids by sharing my story? I do it. Even though I don’t want the labels, or to be defined by the things that were done to me. I want to be defined by the things I do, the choices I make, the stories I write.
There’s power in that.
But anyway, THINGS I HAVEN’T SAID is out now. I’ll be in Exeter, NH tonight at Water Stone Book Store at 7 p.m. as part of a panel. I’ve never been so afraid of being part of a panel before. Ever. But the proceeds of books sales go to HAVEN, that serves women, men and children affected by domestic and sexual violence and tries to prevent violence.
That’s a big deal. Come hang out. Help me be brave.
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!