Tag Archives: Bullying

3 Reasons Writing LGBTQ Fiction is Mega Rewarding

 

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Like many authors, I have lots of book ideas in my head. One of the most difficult decisions I had early on was choosing which one to start first. That started The Great Debate (trademark pending). I even made spreadsheets with pros and cons of releasing each novel. OK I made that up, but I did think about it a lot.

Finally, I decided it was the right time for my LGBTQ novel. Things today are progressing, but there’s still a lot of hate and ignorance out there. So many teenagers are struggling with their sexuality and bullying. And I really wanted to give them something that attempts to be funny and poignant at the same time. I had to say “attempts” because it’s not up to me to decide if it succeeded. SEE! I’m a humble author! For reals! Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyway, since The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren was released, I’ve realized the decision to publish it first was absolutely, one million percent correct. So many wonderful things have happened as a result of the novel being LGBTQ. And I wanted to share a few! So let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

I had the most fun LGBTQ book launch party ever!

When planning the book launch, I racked my brains on how to make it interesting yet relevant. I had some really, really bad ideas, like doing those stupid teamwork games where everyone sits on each other’s laps in a circle. Or conducting trust falls off the top rungs of ladders.

Finally, someone suggested that, because my book is set at a pray-away-the-gay school, why not take everyone there? Consequently, I made name tags for everyone that read, “My name is X and I’m a gay”. Then, I conducted the same orientation written for Sanctuary Preparatory Academy (the homophobic school in my novel). Sanctuary is WAY over-the-top with their homophobia. There are posters depicting the stereotypical signs of gays and lesbians. They even serve food like “Cleansing Corn” and “Healing Hamburgers”. With all this in mind, I made my own posters and handed out meal coupons listing some of the food. For a half hour, everyone knew what it was like to be told they were essentially evil.

The fun part was half of the attendees were straight. So I got to pull them into my world along with everyone else. And they took it so well. I even convinced a few of them to come out. OK that’s not true.

But, in the end, it was a really fun, memorable event.

I dominated a Barnes & Noble event (Mwahahaha!)

Early this summer, I was fortunate enough to attend a young adult book event at my local Barnes & Noble. I had no idea what to expect so, the day of the event, I showed up all nervous, toting my box of books. Why was I nervous? Well, although I’m proud of my novel, I did have this little worry in the back of my head about backlash. I started concocting worst-case scenarios about prejudiced people shaming my novel or throwing giant Shakespeare books at me.

When I arrived, I was put at a table with two other local authors who immediately put me at ease. They were both friendly and approachable. However, both of them were much more established than me, so I imagined giant lines forming in front of them while I filed my nails.

Nope.

First of all, the event planners got us involved, making us compete in a spelling bee against the teenagers. It was really fun, except I was one of the first people out! You can laugh, but I was given a word from Harry Potter, like densaugeo or aparecium or broom. Who in their right mind knows how to spell those?

As embarrassing as it was – all the kids laughed and one even threw some Chocolate Frogs at me, screaming, “Spell this!” – being eliminated allowed me to chat with the teens. Their interest in my book was incredible! Virtually every teen there grabbed a copy and some talked with me about their own struggles. One teenager told me about her love of writing and interest in the LGBTQ community.  She and I have since exchanged e-mails.

Although I’m kind of bragging, don’t think this is how all my events go. I had another event where I brought 20 books and left with 19. And the only reason one was gone is because I forced someone to take it for free so it at least looked like I’d sold something. See! Humble.

I got to speak with an LGBTQ school!

Late last year, a friend connected me with a man who’d founded Pride School Atlanta in Georgia. While their students are primarily LGBTQ, the school is for anyone who wants to learn in a safe, bully-free environment.

I ended up sending him copies of my book and we’ve since become friends. Last week, he invited me to be a guest speaker to his students. It was amazing! I was expecting to jump onto Skype and see two students interested in writing. Instead, I found a room full of students and teachers all asking me questions about writing, LGBTQ issues, Pokemon Go, and everything in between.

One of my favorite parts of the chat was when I held up my book. When the students saw the word ‘Gay’ in the title, they gasped and clapped. That really touched me. Young people everywhere are clamoring for fiction they can identify with. And being able to fill that gap just a little is so rewarding.

All in all, I’ll never forget their reactions, and the reactions of everyone I’ve spoken to about the novel. It made the decision to write a novel about a gay teen and a siren one of the best I’ve ever made.

 

About the Author

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

My Child is being Bullied? Oh, I Don’t Think So!

Bullying Circle

Ouch! That hurts! Why did you smack me!? “I’m being bullied again today and this is getting serious, but who will help me?”

Bullying is no joke, and it’s no dress rehearsal. Bullying is real and children who choose to exhibit these behaviors are not backing down without intervention. To answer this child’s question – YOU will help him/her.

Because we realize bullying behaviors occur daily in our nation’s schools, we must stop, look and listen to our children and deal with the pressures that these annoying behaviors pose on their lives.

Parents, school officials, and legislators, we have a huge responsibility, so we must do ALL that we can to help our children, but not just the child being bullied. We must also reach out to the child bully, and we can.

Let me ask these questions

As a parent, are you aware of anti-bullying laws and policies in place at your child’s school? If so, how are these policies being enforced? If not, have you voiced your concerns and/or asked to work closely with school officials in hope to create anti-bullying procedures at your child’s school? Do you know if school officials at your child’s school are clear about what actually constitutes bullying behaviors? If not, what are you waiting for?

School officials, have you written anti-bullying policies and campus plan of action? Have you disseminated your plan to parents? Are your main stakeholders (students) feeling comfortable and safe in the school setting? I hope so, because it’s your duty to ensure these policies are not only in place, but acted upon consistently and proficiently each school day.

In some cases, there are concerns about what constitutes bullying behaviors verses normal play, or friendly horsing around. Remember, bullying behaviors are intentional and are repeated acts over time. The child bully intends to pose harm, and he/she does not plan on stopping. I know that you have these concerns too, so I’ll define what bullying is and what it looks like.

Bullying Defined

Repeated acts of:

Verbal (name calling, teasing, insulting, or threatening)

Physical (hitting, kicking, scratching, pushing, stealing, hiding/destroying someone else’s property)

Social (refusing to talk to or play with someone, purposefully excluding someone)

Cyber (using electronics such as computer to write mean, demeaning messages about someone)

Religious (individuals who use religion as a weapon in order to gain power while trying to make people do things their way, or believe in their religious tactics. These individuals may also quote the bible, but most times do not follow the teachings of the bible).

Signs of being bullied: Be Watchful

Bullying younger siblings/cousins – taking his/her frustration out on others

Sudden moodiness

Emotional – Crying/Whining

Poor eating habits or asking to eat as soon as he/she gets home – bully takes lunch or lunch money

Depression

Torn clothes or mysterious bruises/scratches

Isolating self from others – appearing lonely

A change in grades – poor grades

A sudden dislike for school

Exhibiting unfounded anxiety

Low self-esteem

Complaint of sick feelings – stomach aches, headaches

Asking not to go to school

Signs of threats or suicide

If you have reason to believe that your child is being bullied

Stop, Look & Listen – Take Action NOW

Talk to your child. Ask him/her about their school day. Ask if there is anything that you should know. Whatever you are doing or plan to do, stop! Your child must trust that you will drop whatever you are doing to see him/her through this crisis. Your child needs to know that you are listening to him/her; you hear their frustration and the pain they’re experiencing. You may want to repeat what you heard them say to you, thereby acknowledging that you are really listening. Let your child know that you will be there for them “at all costs.”

Documentation

Get the story as clearly as possible from your child and document everything from your child’s version of the bullying incidents to every conversation you have with school officials. Be sure to write things down as soon as an occurrence arises or a conversation happens. This way, incidents are still fresh in your child’s mind. You may want to keep documentation separated by tabs in a tablet or a notebook to maintain a distinct record of each person’s story. It will be important to keep your child’s version separate from a school official’s so that messages don’t end up overlapping, getting accidentally mixed-up or combined.

Have other students been affected by the bully or bullies who are attacking your child? If so, what are their names? Were there any witnesses to the incidents? If so, what are their names? Does your child remember which class the other students are enrolled in? Can your child point them out? Encourage school officials to interview other children who may have been bullied.

Use dates, times and settings in your documentation. Did the incident happen in the cafeteria, classroom, or playground? Detailed documentation will not only help school officials target bullying incidents, but it will also give school officials an indication of how best to resolve issues as they examine antecedents (causes/variables that may have prompted the bully to react inappropriately), so that changes and individually tailored support plans can be implemented.

You might try color-coding verbal vs. behavioral actions just to make sharing information more succinct and organized.

Approach school staff immediately

Bullying will not just stop on its own. Don’t be afraid to approach school administrators.

You might find that some school officials and administrators may be territorial and believe that they are the educational experts, and you are “just a parent.”

Since you are your child’s greatest advocate, here are a few ideas about how to approach the issue of your child being bullied while working collaboratively with school officials:

Do your research. You can assist school leaders with ideas of how to bully shield and bully proof the school that your child attends.

Approach the school leaders as if you are on their side. Do what you can to avoid creating an adversarial relationship between you and the people who have the power to help stop what is happening.

Let the school leaders know that you are not only concerned about your child, but all children enrolled at the school. This will soften your approach thereby giving you greater lead-in for support and next steps.

Begin speaking to the school counselor before working your way up the organizational chart – Test the water, first.

When my own child was bullied at school, I spoke to the school principal directly. Due to budget cuts, this particular school had no assigned counselor. I approached the situation as a concern for the other child as well as my very own child. I said, “Perhaps this young girl is having personal problems in her home-life that’s making her feel angry.” Other times I would say, “Sounds like this child wants to take charge and is a bit bossy. Perhaps she can be shown how to use her leadership skills in a more positive and productive manner.” By using this approach with the school principal, I believe that I softened the conversation, thereby gaining the principal’s attention. It appeared that she was more willing to hear me.

But, there are times when the school will not help. Now What?

Before I address this problem, I want to urge parents to always gather as much information about your school the first week or two of the new school year. This is the time when the climate is still warm and friendly, and stress levels aren’t heightened due to the pressures of trying to keep up with everyday school life. Know the district level office organizational chart and levels of administration assigned to your child’s campus. Attempt to retrieve their contact information such as names, email addresses, voice mail, and telephone numbers, and perhaps location of their office – This is last resort. Never show up without an appointment.

When your child’s school will not listen to you or help you through a bullying crisis, and you know that you have done your part, you have spoken to the classroom teacher, school counselor, assistant principal and principal if circumstances have taken you this far, you should contact central office staff and speak to your child’s school assigned area superintendent.

Share your concerns and let this individual know that you have tried to work collaboratively with school officials at the campus level of your child’s school. Trust me – Now that bullying has gained national attention, there is no doubt this person will be all ears.

There are approximately 48 states that have laws mandating anti-bullying programs and services in schools, but some schools have been slow in implementing the programs.

Be sure that you know the anti-bullying laws of your state (Bully Police, USA has a state by state listing of anti-bullying legislation). Be ready and able to recite the Senate Bill and House Bill laws associated with the bully’s offense. For example, if you live in Texas and your child is experiencing sexual harassment issues at school, and no one will address the issue, share your knowledge of SB 471 and HB 194. If you do this, everyone will know that you mean business!

When to call a lawyer

If you have gone through all the recommended steps above, more than likely you will not have to call a lawyer; however there may be times when your story will land on “deaf ears.” If no one will listen to you, or if everyone has listened to you and they have chosen not to intervene, there is no more time to waste. You will want to get legal advice immediately. Time is of the essence and the safety of your child is paramount!

Focus on your child

Remember, there are effective steps that you can take as your child’s anti-bullying advocate. Consider the fact that bullying related suicides are real.

STOP whatever you’re doing and act quickly on your child’s behalf. Our children count on us to help them during crisis. This is not the time to put ANYTHING else before your child. Show your child that they can trust and count on you.

About the author

Author Cherrye Vasquez has a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction; a Master of Ed in Special Education; and a BA in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Vasquez specializes in Multi-cultural education and holds certifications in Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-Management and Educational Diagnostician.

Vasquez is passionate about empowering children, so her platform centers on diversity and bullying issues. She feels strongly that if children are empowered and armed with the tools needed for a deep love of self and self-identity, they will be able to withstand life’s challenges, including bullies.

Website:

http://www.BooksThatSow.com

Twitter

https://twitter.com/bullieswillstop

Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/BooksThatSow

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Fall 2013

Please look for Cherrye’s new release – Clique, Clique, STOP