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Bullying Pink Shirt Day

Bully Beware! #PinkShirtDay

As most probably already know, Pink Shirt Day is today– WEDNESDAY, February 24th, 2016. IN CANADA.

I tried several times to draft this post. My hostility began to amp up every time, and I knew I’d be doing nobody any favours if I continued. So I thought, rather than focus on my own troubles with bullies growing up…I would try to tackle why I write what I write.

First off, for clarity, here’s a bit of the Wiki entry for Pink Shirt Day…as it appears Canada celebrates it at a different time than most.

The Wikipedia for Anti-Bullying Day:

Anti-Bullying Day (or Pink Shirt day) is a day when people wear a pink shirt (or blue or purple, depending on location) to symbolize a stand against bullying, an idea that originated in Canada. It is celebrated on various dates around the world. In 2012, the United Nations declared the official day to be May 4, which was recognized by over 25 countries worldwide, including the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

The idea of Pink Shirt Day began in Canada, but it seems most countries have adopted the USA’s chosen day of May 4th to celebrate it. Nevertheless, it could not hurt to draw focus on bullying on more than one occasion throughout the year. After all, the victims of this senseless debilitating morale crushing epidemic don’t get time off. For them, every day is a downer.

I know this, because I chose to make myself a target for bullies back in the day. I can still immediately recall the weight of being bullied. I say I chose to make myself a target because I lived in a backwater town as a teenager. A ‘GM town’ that had no tolerance for anyone who was different.

Oshawa, Ontario was an ugly horrendous place to be a teenager in the 80s. My high school, O’Neill Collegiate, was a place of nightmares for my friends and I. We were–heaven forbid–punk rockers. We dressed weirdly, we dyed our hair, we had mohawks, we wore eyeliner. Having just moved to the suburbs from Toronto, I was unwilling to acclimate myself to the school uniform of O’Neill. The uniform was Red and Black checked Lumber Jacket, Kodiak boots, and an Adidas bag tossed over the shoulder. Anything else was a no no. I was a no no.

I faced bullies every single day. I faced bullying from my fellow students, teachers, and the school administration. I remember one of my teachers held a binder up every day during class to block his view of my face. Needless to say, his class was the worst to get through…any teacher who would do that would also allow his students to abuse the freak in the room.

My bullies were relentless. I was too androgynous, too gay, too weird, too crazy, too much of a freak, too girlie, too offensive, etc, etc, etc. I was pushed in front of a moving car on Simcoe Street, just outside the front of the school. I was pushed down the stairs in the hall. I had numerous swirlies (where they take your head and hold it in the toilet while they flush), I was punched, kicked, slashed, jumped on, spit on. Every single day I had to pick spitballs out of my hair. Going from class to class was a combat zone. Teachers turned away. The ones who weren’t enticing the bullying (like the one mentioned above who couldn’t even look at me), were okay with it. They stomped me down, and down and down.

It was unbearable.

But…as I mentioned, I brought it upon myself. How dare I be different. ESPECIALLY in a place like Oshawa.

See, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write about bullying without recollecting the nightmares. I tried. I set out just now to explain why I write young adult fiction about boys who are marginalized, traumatized, bullied, different, abused, stigmatized, etc, etc, etc. It’s what I do. I always imagine that I’m writing the book that would have saved me when I was a teenager in high school. I still, to this day, am baffled that I survived it. I don’t feel particularly strong.

But as a writer I come from a place of personal experience. I am NOT my characters, but I do write what I know. I write about the weak and downtrodden marginalized lost puppy boys who are often forgotten. I try to write them into corners dark and dreary…and then I try to end my novels with a little bit of hope.

Because I believe in the motto THIS TOO SHALL PASS. I believe that IT GETS BETTER. I am, after all, living proof of this.

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#PinkShirtDay 2016 – February 24th – No More Bullying, Canada

I write young adult fiction with broken boy characters struggling to survive because I write for boys like me. #IWasBullied

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Categories
Bullying Pink Shirt Day

Pink Shirt Day – Bullies Beware…We’re NOT Going to Take it Anymore!

Did you know that PINK SHIRT DAY began in NOVA SCOTIA? And that it was the initiative of two high school students? Thanks to two students who weren’t afraid to SPEAK UP when they saw someone being bullied for the mere offense of wearing a pink shirt to school. All it takes to promote change is a spark. Once a spark is lit, it’s pretty hard to put out the flame. So today, I would like to thank DAVID SHEPHERD and TRAVIS PRICE. These two remarkable high school students stood up and said, “We’re not going to take it anymore…” These two students were not afraid to say, “NO. This is NOT happening!”

When David and Travis organized a protest in their own school to encourage fellow students to don pink shirts in solidarity with a grade nine student who was bullied for doing the same, I’m sure they had no idea how far the torch of their spark would reach. They wanted only to change the life of ONE PERSON for the better. To tell that harassed and bullied boy that he wasn’t alone, that it was okay to wear pink.

David and Travis, along with friends, quickly organized their protest. They bought 50 pink tank tops, brought them to school the next day and handed them out to boys as they entered the school. When the bullied boy entered the school and saw the sea of pink standing in solidarity for him (with him)…well, I can’t even begin to imagine how he must have felt. The relief must have been palpable.

That’s all it took to spark a change. Two boys and a couple bags full of shirts.

Today…it’s not only that small Nova Scotia high school putting on pink shirts. This is now a national initiative. It’s not even just for teenagers and schools anymore. It’s for everyone. Anyone who has ever been bullied, marginalized, picked on, made to feel different, odd, invisible. OR anyone who knows how wrong it is to bully. This day is for everyone. It’s the day to stand up against thugs and bullies and meanies…the day to say, “That’s it. No more. We’re NOT going to take it anymore!”

Wear a pink shirt today. Show your support. Be the spark that won’t die out. SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUT. It’s so easy…

Head over to ERASE BULLYING to learn more about Pink Shirt Day…and how you can get involved. Did you know there’s an online portal available for reporting bullying?

Head over to PINKSHIRTDAY.CA

A Youtube Video on how PINK SHIRT DAY BEGAN. Please share the video:

THE STORY OF PINK SHIRT DAY

A little bit of fun…


I tackle the bullying issue in my young adult novel Burn Baby Burn Baby. You can read the synopsis at Amazon by clicking on the image below…

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It’s ALSO…

INCONVENIENCE YOURSELF DAY – to read more about this day, and how you can help spread a little sunshine, head on over to the BOOM 97.3 blog to read more about it. Boom is a local radio station that plays 70s, 80s & 90s. I wrote my first blog for them today.

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Bullying Charlene Jones Interview Writing Life

Radio Interview Part 2 with Charlene Jones AND Burn Baby Bullying…

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Today, I’m sharing PART 2 of my interview from Whistle Radio. CHARLENE JONES interviewed me for their OFF THE TOP segment after the most recent WCDR Roundtable Meeting! Here’s PART 2, in which I talk a lot about Trafalgar24, the upcoming fundraising play creation event for Driftwood Theatre.

Much thanks to Charlene for the interview. She was an absolute pleasure to talk with. I really enjoyed the experience!


Bullies – Still! After All the Campaigns – SPEAK UP AGAINST BULLYING

It’s hard to believe that bullying is still a thing. It seems the more we speak out against it, the more it happens. This doesn’t mean the dialogue against it should end. We must NEVER stop pointing out instances of bullying, rallying against it, educating.

In a recent review of Burn Baby Burn Baby, I was called out for something my narrator character, Francis, said. In his narration, he made a passing comment about him not being one of those narcs who tells on someone who picks on him. I did this to be authentic…not to suggest it is uncool to speak out. We must always speak out. If you know someone who is being bullied, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT. If you are being bullied, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT. If your friend is bullying, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT. Never be silent. Silence, history shows us, can kill.

anti-bullying-sloganFrancis is a victim of bullying in my novel BURN BABY BURN BABY. He lives with a physical deformity, after being severely burned in a childhood attack by his own father. The bully character in my novel gives Francis the nickname BURN BABY. And he taunts and abuses him mercilessly. Francis tried to be strong about it. But in his efforts to be strong, he was actually weak. Because it’s NEVER a good idea to be silent when you are being bullied. In Burn Baby Burn Baby, please understand that I was NEVER condoning silence. If you’re silent, the bully wins. If those who witness bullying are silent, the bully wins. The bully should never win. Silence can escalate into a chaos of circumstances where, in the end, no one wins.

TELL – SPEAK UP – GET HELP

In Canada, reach out to KIDS HELP PHONE ONLINE or CALL 1-800-668-6868

Also, reach out to PREVNET

In U.S.A, reach out to STOP BULLYING

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Canadian Suicide Crisis Centres

BE YOUR OWN HERO. BE A HERO TO SOMEONE WHO NEEDS ONE. SPEAKING UP CAN STOP BULLYING.

Categories
Bullies Bully YA Young Adult Young Adult Fiction

Writers Get the Last Word – Bullies Beware

One of the things I enjoy the most about writing YA are the issues involved. It’s true that one must be careful about coming off too preachy or soap-boxy when tackling the issues today’s teen faces. Nobody wants to read a story in which issues are crammed down their throats.

One of the issues I enjoy tackling the most? THE BULLY. Why? Because I was bullied relentlessly in high school. What I like to get across to my teen readers is that IT REALLY DOES GET BETTER. Sure, there are bullies out here in the adult world. But often we learn along the way that we (THE BULLIED) actually hold all the power. In high school, my bullies held the power only because I allowed them to do so. I didn’t know I could put up shields to block their negativity. That I could survive all the physical attacks. That one day I would be free of them. When I was in the thick of high school, just trying to survive the hallways, I was sure I wasn’t going to make it out alive. Because I allowed them to control me with the fear they instilled in me. I allowed them to tear me apart. I allowed them to get inside my head.

Before I go any further, I have to point out the one saying I hate the most: STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME. That is the biggest crock of shit going. Don’t sell it here, because it’s not true.

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Names hurt. They leave a lasting scar. When it comes right down to it, the names are carried with the bullied victim far longer than the sticks and stones. In high school I was thrown in front of a moving car, punched and kicked almost daily, pushed down the stairs, tripped, had chairs and food thrown at me. Some of those things stung. The moving car incident hurt the driver more than it hurt me. The woman behind the wheel was in her 70s, and I’m not sure she ever recovered from the trauma caused to her that day. The thing about the physical abuse is…I knew how to process it. It hurt.

The names…another story completely. The names get in your head and drill themselves down into your psyche. Twenty years later, when you’re having a bad day and feeling somewhat worthless, those names pop back into your head in the form of TOLD-YOU-SOs. Just a little self-doubt is all it takes for the wellspring of negativity to turn back on. And you get to hear those old recordings in the voices of those loathed bullies themselves. It’s miraculous how that happens.

If you let it.

I can’t even imagine what today’s teens go through…with cyber bullying. They must never get a break. Social Media bullying sounds like a nightmare onto itself. Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

But you can turn the cycle around. You can take the power back. I know. It’s hard work. But it can be done. The moment we stop letting it get to us is the moment the power shifts. Where does the bully come from? Chances are your bully is a swirling mess of non-confidence on the inside. Chances are they are suffering. Chances are they are unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied. They might even be experiencing bullying themselves. Maybe at home, where it is hardest to imagine it happening. We should all have a safe-place to lay our heads at night.

When I tried to be empathetic towards my bullies, I found things a little easier. I found I could forgive some of their anger…that it might not all be about me. Who could hate the way a person looks THAT much? Who could want to kill you because you have a mohawk and dress like a crazy person? There was more to it than met the eye. My bullies were simply suffering in a different way than I myself was suffering.

It’s hard to grow a thick skin, but not impossible. Bullies can’t hold you down forever. There is light at the end of the narrow high school tunnel. Believe it or not.

As a YA writer, I now have the ability to create bullies and show how very fallible they are. Often they appear to be the cream of the high school crop…but this is not always the case. What I get to do is save my bullied characters from their bully. It’s liberating. It shows readers that maybe the bully doesn’t always win. Believe me, when you’re in high school fighting the battle day in and day out…you’re CERTAIN the bully wins. When you’re on the ground, with one side of your face scraping asphalt and the other side being stepped on by the guy who just can’t wait to ruin your day, you tend to forget the possibility of a bully-free future. With the tunnel vision that comes with being in high school, one really can’t imagine a day when they will be bully free.

Some thirty years ago, I always allowed the bully to get the last word. I was afraid not to. They controlled me. Sure, I had my days where I got lippy. I would just get fed up and say my piece…because I needed to. But I knew that for every deposit I made into the bank of TALKING-BACK, I’d have to make a withdrawal out of the bank of TAKE-A-BEATING. I paid for every word I uttered in my own defense. It was the way it went.

Today, I get the last word. I get to write these bully characters into corners. I get to dissect them. I get to confront them. I get to say, NO MORE. WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE. Writing is an extremely powerful form of self-therapy. And the finished product has the potential of helping others. If my writing on bullies (or any of the other YA issues I happen to tackle) helps one reader–only one–I feel it’s worth it. Because I know how easy it is to forget that your high school bullies won’t be making your life a living hell for the rest of your life. But I know that NOW…because I’ve been through it. When I was in the heart of it, I considered these people my lifelong shadows. I was filled with despair whenever I thought of going to school. I knew they would find me. I knew I would have to fend off their slings and arrows time and time again…forever.

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I have to remind people that they will be free. There will come a day…