Tag Archives: bullying

Tales from the Bully Box Now Available

BullyBox_FrontCover-3I am pleased to announce the release of Tales from the Bully Box, a middle grade anthology of super awesome stories for the super awesome kids in your life. If you know a kid, have a kid or love a kid, please check out this new book which aims to open communication between kids and their parents/peers/teachers.

Excerpt: Bullying stinks, but knowing what to do about it can make things better. In Tales from the Bully Box, you will find short stories about kids just like you. They get bullied, and sometimes they even bully. But most of the time, they are bystanders who have to figure out what to do when they witness the bullying all around them. In “Hailey’s Shooting Star,” one-handed Hailey proves her worth on the basketball court and as a friend. In “The Eyes on the Back of My Head,” you’ll get to stare straight into Mike Mansky’s soul with a pair of super-secret laser eyes. Filled with stories that take readers on a journey from the classroom to summer camp and the basketball court to the mall, Tales from the Bully Box inspires kids to be the best friends they can be.

Questions from the authors are included for each story to help parents, teachers or caregivers engage in discussion with the children they love.

This is the first book in a the Colors for Causes series by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. EBP will donate proceeds to organizations that support bully prevention.

To find out how you can help stop bullying, check out The Bully Box or PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoyed editing them.


P.S. Did I mention I have 3 short stories included as well? Lucky for me, my publisher edited those!


Wear Orange On Wednesday

Yes, you. Tomorrow morning, don your orange and unite against bullying. Use this color to visibly stand up for kindness and community and compassion.

What Unity Means to Me

  • I believe that all people are equal. We all deserve respect, love and acceptance regardless of where we came from, what we have, what we do or why we do it.
  • I believe there is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Acceptance implies compassion and understanding. Tolerance implies self-import and civil disdain.
  • I believe that kids deserve a safe educational environment free from harassment and intolerance–certainly they deserve one free from bullying. I believe the same goes for adults whether at work or in the home.
  • I believe that many bullies are often victims of bad circumstances, and their behaviors are learned as a reaction to those life stresses. While this doesn’t make it right, it does make it easier to deal with.
  • I believe that teaching is better than punishment. If we understand the why, we are more apt to respond positively than if we view things through a negative lens based strictly on the what.
  • I believe that learning the intention behind the action is more important than knee-jerk reactions to things that seem cruel, odd, disgusting or rude. If we never understand something we can’t ever hope to help.
  • I believe there is no such thing as common sense. The world is so big and the population so vast that there isn’t one common experience to rightfully base our assumptions and expectations.
  • I believe that I have no right to judge others based on my moral compass. We all earn our compasses through our own personal experiences, therefore the things I hold dear might be meaningless to someone who lives a vastly different life than myself and vice-versa.
  • I believe the only thing strong enough to bring peace to this world is a communal desire to accept and care for others different than ourselves.
  • I believe we are all equal, and as such, we all deserve a life of hope, compassion and respect.

I know, I sound a little like Miss America, but without the slim stems, the luscious locks and the poetic prose. I’m just an average mom with big beliefs, and tomorrow, October 22, I will wear orange in honor of PACER’s Unity Day. I hope you will, too.

What does unity mean to  you?

Curious minds want to know.

Seemingly Small Changes Can Add Up BIG Time

I’m polishing up a short story for the middle grade anti-bullying anthology (details found in this post here), and just got feedback from a writer friend of mine.

“First person, maybe?”

Yeah, first person, definitely. It took him to point it out, but as soon as I started reworking my 2,500 words, I knew he was dead right. And so I started revising with a vengeance.

Katy I peered into her my lunchbox…

By the time I finished, I must have had a thousand and one changes. It was tedious. And I missed a lot the first time around. I still probably have some third person where it should read first.

This isn’t a simple matter of find/replace. Story telling is too nuanced for that. It requires a reread of every sentence–nay, every word–to keep the style, voice and story cohesive. The change, while seemingly minute, was actually huge.

In writing, there are a thousand and one minute changes that all add up to lots o’ work. It’s called editing. And if you don’t have patience for it, you will never be a writer. Getting that rough draft on paper is the easy part. Polishing it is a challenge worth accepting.

You never know, it could make the difference between seeing your words in print or lining the bottom of the bird cage.

Other things that add up big time:

  • The writer who pointed out my POV mistake? Steven Carmen. His debut novel, Battery Brothers is set to release in March. Steve has been a critique partner of mine on several projects and I value his opinion almost as much as I look forward to holding his baseball novel in my hands.
  • Battery Brothers shares the same publisher as Whispering Minds, a YA novel that Steve also critiqued. Currently, author A.T. O’Connor has teamed up with four other authors for a romantic novel giveaway just in time for Valentine’s Day. Giveaway details here.
  • A.T. O’Connor and I both have short stories published in the Season Series by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. The last one, Winter’s Regret, is due out any day!
  • Lastly, EBP has invested time and energy into a new anthology for middle grade readers. I alluded to it above and posted on it before, but in case you missed it, I am the acquisitions editor on the project and will be accepting short story submissions (2,500 words or less) for readers 7-11 on bullying to be told in the POV of the bully, the bullied or the bystander. Stories must have a clear resolution and must be emailed to me by February 15. So, what are you waiting for?


Call For Submissions: antibullying anthology for middle graders

As everyone knows, bullying is a topic near and dear to my heart. Nobody deserves to be broken down and beaten up–physically or emotionally–by another person. Nobody. Ever.

And yet, we let it happen with great regularity. Even our anti-bully programs have been proven ineffective for many reasons: namely, that we are targeting our audience after their behavior patterns are set. Seldom do kids start bullying for the first time in middle school or high school. More often, these children have been exhibiting poor social skills (ie a propensity to bullying others) from their earliest school years.

Knowing all this, it is my pleasure to announce that I am heading up a middle grade anthology on bullying for Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. EBP is taking an active role in the anti-bullying movement and creating a collection of short stories that will delight young readers while empowering them to be stronger advocates for healthy relationships.

Studies show that targeting children before the age of ten and teaching them how  to positively interact with each other before their behavior patterns  are set is the biggest deterrent for future bullying. So, yay to EBP for recognizing this need and pulling together an anthology specifically with an eye to helping our youngsters grow socially.

Submissions can be told from the point of view of the bully, the victim or the bystander and must be suitable for middle grade (MG) readers between the ages of 7 and 12. All stories should have a clear resolution that will help readers better understand the impact of bullying and/or help give them appropriate tools to deal with potential bullying situations in their lives. The maximum word count for stories is 2,500.
  • Submissions can be sent to my email address ( catwoods.writer@gmail.com ) with MG Anthology in the subject line.
  • Submissions are due February 15, with a projected publication date of May 5.
  • EBP will not be able to pay for a story, but they will send authors a gratis copy of the final anthology.
  • So, spread the word, send me your stories and help ease the pain of bullying.

Going on a School Visit…and I’m not afaid.

Can I just say that I LOVE reading to kids?

Good, because I just said it. Tomorrow I get to read one of my short stories and help a high school-led anti-bully group talk about the impact of bullying.

I love speaking, I love kids and I love proactive teens who want to help make a better world for the upcoming generation.

Thanks, Lexi for seeing the need in our community and founding BRAVE. Thanks, Mrs. Anderson for taking on the BRAVE project so it could expand to more classrooms and more grades. And lastly, thanks to the peer helpers who take the time to spread the word about Building Relationships Against Violence Everywhere.

Now get ready fourth graders, cuz here I come.

United We Stand: In Orange!

If you’ve ever been bullied, seen someone bullied or care about someone who has been bullied, please make a stand against bullying by wearing orange on Wednesday, October 10th, otherwise known as Unity Day.

During an entire month dedicated to the prevention of bullying, I feel it’s important for people to fully understand the effects of bullying. Kids are bullied for many reasons including: race, religion, gender, sexual preference, athletic ability, glasses, braces, zits, clothing, grades, etc, etc, etc. And while kids can be cruel, the greater problem may lie with those who stand by and allow the bullying to take place.

Don’t be that silent witness. Stand up and say, “No more!”  Do your part to give people the respect they deserve.

In preparation for Unity Day, I’m going to share my Dear Daughter’s competitive speech piece from last year. While it specifically speaks about LGBT harassment, the truths found within are universal, particularly since many children are targeted for their perceived homosexuality despite being straight.


It is not about sex. It’s about getting up in the morning. It’s about going to school. It’s about acing that chemistry test. It is not about sex; it’s about being who you are and loving who you want.

Yet for many teens, sexual orientation makes them a target for ridicule, degradation, and harassment.

Lawrence King was such a teen. When he openly admitted his homosexuality, his classmate shot him twice in the back of the head from point-blank range. He died in front of the computer as he worked on his English paper. Lawrence was only fifteen.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, known as LGBT, deserve the basic human right to live free from persecution and the subsequent harm that comes from being beaten down and disrespected on a daily basis. They deserve the basic right to live like any other student across America.

Let’s explore how homophobia creates a vicious cycle of bullying, escalation of self-harm, and continuance of behavior that can only be alleviated by education.

Mental Health America states, “Homosexual teens hear gay slurs such as ‘homo’, ‘faggot’, and ‘sissy’ up to 26 times a day.” That’s once every fourteen minutes.

This has a profound impact on a student’s perception of self-worth and future success. According to the organization, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays , “Growing up and getting through high school can be challenging for any student, but LGBT youth too often face additional obstacles of harassment, abuse and violence.”

These difficulties are often under-addressed. A 2009 National School Climate Survey revealed that nearly 85% of LGBT students reported being bullied. More than 64% failed to report it for fear that nothing would be done.

Unsurprising, since we know that bullying for any reason often fails to gain appropriate attention. Consider the case of Gretchen Miller who was bullied for her weight. Gretchen sought help from the principal, only to have her tormentors remain free and able to continue their bullying. Eventually, Gretchen quit school.

The choice to drop out is even higher for LGBT youth who skip school rather than face being ostracized. A missed class quickly turns to missed days. On average, 30% of LGBT students skipped school at least once in the past month compared to only 6.7% of students in a national sample. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network cites bullying for lower GPA’s and higher drop-out rates.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Besides decreased school success, homosexual youth may fall into a pattern of escalating self-harm. They participate in risky activities, and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs or alcohol than their straight peers.

When illicit chemical use no longer dulls the emotional pain of being bullied, LGBT students may inflict physical pain on themselves through cutting or burning. This type of self-harm provides a tangible outlet for the turmoil within.

Still others don’t stop there. Gay Pride Inc. estimates that 1/3 of LGBT youth attempt to take their lives each year.

Kids as young as 11 have decided the abuse was too much. Carl Walker-Hoover was called gay on a daily basis. On April 9th, 2009, he was found dead. Carl had hanged himself. But the thing about Carl: he never openly said he was gay. People just assumed and bullied him to the point where he thought suicide was his only option. Carl never got to truly figure out who he was; he wasn’t given the chance to be himself.

Sometimes bullied youth do more than internalize their despair. They redirect the ridicule onto others or retaliate against their attackers, turning into bullies themselves. Violence is escalated and the perpetual cycle of harassment, prejudice and hate continues.

Like most discrimination, fear drives the way we treat each other. Common sense doesn’t dictate our actions. Education, or the lack thereof, does. The history of prejudice in our country is rich: the Irish, women, Indians, and African Americans.

“What people don’t understand they will torture.”

Though these words were spoken by Mel Piche, a contemporary young lesbian, they could have been spoken by Rosa Parks. Her historic arrest prompted individuals of all races to boycott city bus lines and advocate for the equal rights of all people.

We have a long way to go.

Today, the LGBT community faces fear and misunderstanding. Fear that homosexuals are pedophiles. Fear that all homosexuals do is have sex—all day, with anyone. Fear that homosexuals want to convert us all.

Fear that if we accept those different from us, the moral fabric of society will unravel.

Sound familiar? This fear, this myth, is the very same argument used against abolishing slavery.

Blacks—with their different skin and different traditions—were deemed unworthy of respect and freedom. Their “otherness” granted the close-minded permission to ridicule, degrade and control them.

As history proves, civil rights are not guaranteed. Only through education can we understand that different is not bad. Only through education can myths be dispelled and fears be laid to rest. Only through education can bullying against the LGBT community be stopped.

Educators must be trained to effectively deal with incidences as they occur. In a 2010 report based on a New York City Department of Education initiative, 9 of 10 teachers who participated in the LGBT Educator Training Program changed the way they dealt with bullying, creating a more welcoming and safe school environment for all students, regardless of gender orientation.

According to the 2010 collaborative project between the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, only 4% of principals surveyed reported that training on LGBT issues was provided to staff in their school district. This leaves 96% of schools undereducated.

Student/teacher organizations such as the Gay and Straight Alliance can strengthen the image of a united front within the school. When students and educators no longer stand by as passive participants, bullies lose the upper hand. This will create a new atmosphere. One where respect is expected, accepted and strived for.

Yet we all know teens do not like to listen to authority. We want to figure things out for ourselves-or at least be told by someone reputable, who gets it, and gets what it’s really like.

At fourteen, Jonah used a series of notecards and a video camera to tell his darkest secret. He was gay. He didn’t take it to the school board, he didn’t talk to his friends, he didn’t even tell his mom. He let himself get bullied. The summer before eighth grade, he decided enough was enough. He made a video outlining his experiences. Suicide was an option for him, but Jonah realized he had a million reasons to be here.

By putting his video on the internet, his message touched many lives. People who didn’t think they could make it found their strength after watching this fourteen year old boy find his. Thanks to him, Jonah and so many other people can now love who they want and be happy with who they are.

They will have earned the respect to live free from ridicule, degradation and harassment-at least from themselves.

As you can see, it is not about sex. It’s about understanding, safety, support and education. It’s about the basic human right to live free from fear and prejudice.


BRAVE the Unknown

This morning, my Dear Daughter and her Awesome Speechie Friend (aka, ASF) embarked on a BRAVE new journey.

They have spent the past few weeks creating an anti-bullying program for one of our elementary school classes. Only one, because a certain amount of research is going into this program to help them better understand the impact of teaching methods on behavior modification.

They have researched bullying and the way we learn. They have discussed deeply what they feel is the most beneficial message to spread to youngsters in regards to peer interactions. They put together a presentation and rallied support from teachers and principals.

They are BRAVE. Through their program, they will be Building Relationships Against Violence Everywhere. Their mission statement is clear. Their goals for the year extensive and measurable. They are committed to creating a program for the highest risk demographics for bullying: children in grades 3-6.

They are finalizing their website, which should be online in the next week or so. This site will be a resource for parents, teachers and students to help them build relationships based on respect. When it’s live, I’ll link to it for you.

I’m very proud of DD and her ASF, even as I’m sad as to how this program came about. Bullying is prevalent and damaging. It’s an issue nearly every child has to deal with on some level. It’s often under-addressed or swept under the rug by parents and educators who aren’t quite sure how to deal with certain behaviors.

I can only hope their research will indicate a new model of programming that will help our school district and community get a better grasp on the bullying that has almost become an acceptable and expected part of childhood.

BRAVE the unknown. Take a chance and make a difference.

 How about you, dear readers? How is the bullying in  your community? Does your school have a solid anti-bullying program in place? If so, have you seen a difference? If not, are you interested in starting one?

Curious minds want to know.

Bully: One Point. Victim: Zero. Again.

I don’t know about you, but I am well and truly tired of the unchecked bullying that goes on in our schools and on the air.  Cyber space, with its photoshopping and instantly viral social networking capabilities, is one heck of a nasty place.  In this technologically advanced world, the playground–and the bully–knows no bounds.

According to irate students in a small rural community, one such instance occurred yesterday.  A photoshopped picture with a cruel caption was posted on a social networking site FROM A SCHOOL COMPUTER DURING SCHOOL HOURS.

As the story goes, the guilty party was told to take it down.  Great.

Take it down.  Check.

Parents called.  Check.

As soon as school let out, the picture went back up.  My question: where were the parents on this?  The ones who had been called as the sole form of punishment for the child’s violation of school policy?  Where was anyone?

The photo was reposted over and over again by the bully’s friends.  Some kids saw it and laughed, no doubt spurring the bullies on.  Encouraging them through their applause and like buttons and nasty comments.

Other kids are furious.  I’m furious.  I’m tired of the hand slaps that bullies receive for violating another child’s privacy, for smearing reputations and for causing emotional damage.  But more so, I’m frustrated by the lack of consequences.  When nothing substantial is done, adults send the message that we condone this type of behavior, thus perpetuating the cycle and escalating the viciousness of future attacks.

When the Ravi/Clementi verdict was handed down, I rejoiced for a brief moment.  I’d followed the story and was rooting for justice.  But then my heart stopped when “guilty” made me realize a young man could be deported–away from his family, away from his friends, away from a culture he knew and transplanted unceremoniously into foreign territory.

The consequences are scary and heart-wrenching.  Nobody wins in this situation.  Not Tyler Clementi who took his own life after Ravi’s deliberate invasion of his privacy.  And not Ravi who is looking at a possible prison sentence and deportation.

Had Ravi known he’d be caught, had he known Clementi would commit suicide, had he known he would actually be prosecuted and found guilty, I guarantee, he would have made a different choice that day in his dorm room.

And that’s my problem.  Kids don’t know.  They don’t know because they continue to get away with bullying.  They receive a tiny reprimand, an empty threat.  It isn’t until things escalate to the point of tragedy that verdicts are made and sentences carried out.

Why, though?  Why do we wait for extensive damage before we act?  Why do we feel that parents and teachers and principals and grandparents and aunts and uncles do not have the right–nay, the responsibility–to demand respectful behavior from kids?  Why are we so lazy with the well-being of a child’s life that we sit back and allow bullying to take place?

Ravi knew what he did was wrong.  He knew it.  You can’t attend school in America and not know about the so-called zero tolerance policies on bullying.  He knew it, as did those who launched the cyber attack yesterday.

Sadly, they also knew that adults rarely follow through.  Their chances of serious consequences were virtually nil.  Ravi gambled and lost.  So far, yesterday’s perpetrators have won.  I can only hope that won’t be the case for long.

What do you do to enforce positive behavior in the kids you know?  What is an appropriate consequence for bullying within the school setting?  Do we, as citizens, neighbors, friends or family, have the right to intervene when we see bullying?  Do we have a responsibility to do so? 

Furious minds want to know.

*And no, this isn’t my kid.  And yes, I am fully aware that my children are not perfect.  Nor am I as a parent.*