Friday, March 7, 2014

Mia Kerick on Bullying and her newest novel, The Red Sheet!


It's my pleasure to have Mia Kerick on my blog talking about her personal experiences with bullying and her newest novel, The Red Sheet!

Hi, Cody. Thank you for inviting me over to be guest on your blog today and for writing the foreword in my book. 

Bullying. It has been around for as long as people have; even cavemen dragged each other around by the hair. I went through it. Chances are fairly good that you went through it, too. And bullying changes you.

I was bullied by other girls since I first set foot in my neighborhood park as a very young child. Back then I thought of bullying as getting “bossed around.” Getting “bossed around” included being pushed, tripped, or pinched, having your forearm twisted painfully, and even being slapped or scratched factored in—all of which were committed when my mother wasn’t looking. I was always an easy victim; one who never pushed back. Never. Why did the other little girls do this to me? I think it was just a pecking order thing. If I was on the bottom, then they weren’t.

In my grade school years, bullying came in more subtle forms. And these are the bullying experiences from which I never fully recovered. Out on the playground during recess, the other girls would shape themselves into what I called “the inner circle”; they would form a tight O-shape with their bodies and present their backs to me, refusing to let me in. So I stood outside the circle and stared at the backs of the more “worthy” girls, and wished I was one of them.

By the time middle school hit, the female bullies had achieved a degree of finesse in their tactics. The result: I lived in fear. And not fear of physical pain, but emotional destruction. They used note-writing, name-calling, and even somehow managed to rally the boys’ help, to throw their “superior” weight around. It always seemed strange to me that the teachers could not see through these girls’ falsely smiling faces, or past their cruel barbs, which were often referred to laughingly, of course, as “teasing.” The teachers seemed to accept and even encourage the “popular” girls catty behavior, as if they too wanted to belong to the “inner circle” of these teens who were so snarky and shiny and confident.

And so until sophomore year of high school, I tried my hardest to fit in. But my very nature—insecure, sweet, and so very open—allowed my status as an easy target to prevail. But I was growing older, and I soon tracked down the resources to go outside my school for acceptance. I found this acceptance it at a roller skating rink several towns away, where no one knew I was such an easy victim. I found some other things at that rink, too. Not good things at all. But I felt that I fit in somewhere for the first time in my life so I stuck around. I guess, in hindsight, it is easy to see that I was successfully driven out of my hometown high school.

I graduated high school alone with my parents in the principal’s office, as I was unwilling to face those teenaged girls, who still figuratively formed the “inner circle” and wouldn’t let me in, for even one more day. And unsurprisingly, friendships with other women have always been extremely difficult for me to achieve. I never learned to trust, to grow with, to become comfortably familiar with other females, and this pattern extends into adulthood.

Bullying changes you. The ways in which you protect yourself from the pain, the coping mechanisms you develop, are pattern-setters in your life, and in this manner they mold your very nature, as well as your life experiences.

Scott Beckett is bullied in my new release, The Red Sheet. Find out how he reacts to his emotional pain.

About The Red Sheet

One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession. 

The Red Sheet is available at Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner Press 
You can also read about The Red Sheet on Goodreads

Excerpt:

I plunked my tray down at the Superjock Table and was just about to start forking it in when I heard Brandon’s voice, loud and offensive. 

“Hey, Beckett, why aren’t you wearin’ green today?” 

There was no response from the corner lunch table where Scott always sat. 

“And where’re your wings?” 

The entire room became silent. The pin-drop kind. 

“You’re a fairy, right? So, I expected you’d be all decked out for Halloween like Tinker Bell!” 

I heard a scattered round of uncomfortable laughter emanating from all corners of the lunchroom. Then I looked over at Scott. His face was beet red, but he hadn’t lifted his eyes from his tray. And I’m pretty sure I’d turned a matching shade of red, as well, because I was pissed. 

“What the fuck’s your problem, Wilson? Lay off the kid,” I said and then looked around at the five other faces of the guys at the Superjock 

Table, wondering if I’d get any support from them. Jackson, Broughton, and O’Reilly were staring into their casseroles, and Delgado was scowling in my general direction. Only Javitt was looking directly at me, but he was blank-faced. And not that I really cared, one way or the other, but it was clear that none of my so-called friends were gonna go out on this particular limb with me. I stood up anyways. 

Brandon got right in my face. “You wanna make somethin’ of it?” His breath smelled of fish. “You know I can take you.” 

“I don’t feel like fighting. I just want you to find a different hobby, and stop harassing Scott Beckett.” We were both speaking in our “outside voices,” or so teachers liked to say. And we had gathered an enthralled audience. 

“He’s nothin’ but a faggot, so what do you care?” 

Well, that was an easy one. “He’s a person, just like you and me… and everybody else here.” I scanned all the staring faces, and then I picked up my tray, marched straight over to the table where Scott sat alone, and that’s when I really hung my ass out there in the wind. “Mind if I join you?” 

He looked up at me, clearly unsure of my motivation, probably waiting for me to spring some kind of a cruel practical joke on him. “It’s a free country. You can sit wherever you want,” he replied blandly. 

So I dropped my tray, and then my ass, down and started forking in the food. 

Scott gawked at me for a moment (along with everybody else in the cafeteria, so he was in good company) and then started shoveling down his own lunch. We didn’t talk to each other at all, but I hoped I’d made my point, to Scott and everyone else: I didn’t give a single shit what anybody else thought about me. 

Over at the Superjock Table, Brandon was far more vocal than we were. “What the fuck’re you thinkin’, man?” 

I kept on chewing, looking at my tray, contemplating my next forkful. 

“Get your ass back over here, douche bag… and I’ll lay off the little pussy, if it means that much to you.” 

Sorry, dude. Too little, too late. 

“Come on, Dennison, you made your fucking point. Now get back over here!” 

Brandon went on that way for a few more minutes—until his frustration told him it would be a good idea to flip over the Superjock Table—which led to the vice-principal finding it necessary to restrain him before he did any further damage, and finally him being escorted forcefully from the lunchroom. 

Truthfully, my goal hadn’t been to piss Brandon off, and I felt kind of bad that he was now up shit creek. But on a positive note, nobody was staring at Scott and me anymore.


The Red Sheet is available at Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner Press 
You can also read about The Red Sheet on Goodreads

Follow the blog tour and enter the 
for FIVE chances to win one of FIVE prizes!!!

15 comments:

  1. Benedicte GiraultMar 7, 2014, 11:16:00 AM

    Mia thank you for sharing what happened to you when you were young. I bought your book and will read it soon (I'll also make a review and post it on Goodreads and on DSP France FB page). I will never understand the pleasure that some people may find in the act of bullying others.

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  2. Beautiful post Mia. Too many of us have experienced bullying in our lives and it's wonderful of you to reach out and help others through your stories. Big hard hugs!

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  3. Thank you, Dianne. I felt so alone back then, but I realize now that so many people were suffering their own private pain, all alone in their little boxes. Remember the posters that used to say, "Try a little kindness"? That is really all it takes- for everybody to try to be just a little bit kinder. The world would be safer and warmer and more welcoming for everyone.

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  4. Terrific post, Mia. The school years can be so traumatic for kids. That's one reason my little brother has always been one of my heroes. He was very popular in school and a jock (huge guy-over six feet tall). BTW, I did NOT get the tall gene. But everyone loved him because he loved everybody. My nephew as he prepared to enter his first year of school was petrified and asked his dad "What if nobody likes me?" And my brother said, "Son, the best advice I can give you is to like everybody and treat everyone with respect. If you're nice to people and treat them as friends, the ones that matter will be your friends. You do that and your school years will be some of the best of your life." He turned out just like his dad and everyone loves him. Now they are both heroes to me. Mel

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  5. Mel- I think the advice that your brother gave his son is right on the money. I never thought to ask anybody the kind of question that your nephew asked your brother. I wish I had. I just went into school and basically reacted to things that "happened to me" and I never really thought too much about MY role in it. More it was as if I just waited to see what would come my way, instead of stepping out there and being somebody. I'm glad you pointed that out, as I do feel that I am now, at this point in my life, especially with my FB friends, trying to just show who I am by being nice and friendly to everybody. Some awesome people have responded with so much love I am awed (like you and Cody). Others are mere acquaintances, but that is OK, too. Positive attitude and high expectations for my peers probably would have made me more of a friend and less a target- or as a person who was easy to push out because I almost expected it of them and they could tell. Thanks for the story Mel.

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  6. Oh Mia, it's horrible what those kids did to you and makes me sad. I wish I had some words of wisdom or a magic spell to make the hurt go away, but this is all I've got. You, Mia, are a wonderful, sweet, loving human being. My life is better just for knowing you. For as much as they hurt you, it's their tremendous loss because they will never know the genuinely fantastic person you are.

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  7. Sandy- well, I think you DO know a magic spell to make the hurt go away, because what you said makes me feel much better. No, the pain left over from growing up is always there, but telling other people about it and then hearing comforting responses like yours, DOES make the pain go away. Thank you for describing me as sweet and loving. I hope it is obvious, as I don't want people who I interact with to ever feel like my back is turned to them.

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Mia. When I was growing up, I never realized what is so often now referred to as "girl bullying" even WAS bullying. Like you, I was always left with the impression that this was just teasing, and that it was what popular (and even normal) girls were supposed to do. I'm so glad that nowadays adults talk about "girl bullying" with a lot more openness and honesty than they did when I was young.

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  9. Hi Johanna-
    We have definitely become more aware as a society of what bullying is and that it can be instituted by pretty, shiny, fresh-faced girls as effectively as by big, rough-and-tumble, "bad boys".Teenaged girls simply use different tactics.

    I really took the blame for what was done to me during my school years- I felt I was too silly, too girly-pretty in a way that no one took seriously, way too open and uncool- to deserve to be accepted. And the feeling that you are somehow internally flawed does not go away, as Cody says in his foreword of The Red Sheet. Years of "teasing" and being "bossed around" is fairly convincing to many of us.

    The very positive aspect is in the realm of the research I did to write The Red Sheet. There is so much information on bullying available online. It is varied and covers much ground. And when I researched "bullying by teenage girls" I also came up with a lot of information and examples. Awareness of a problem is step one to solving it. And it appears that awareness is increasing, Johanna. Thanks for your post!!

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  10. Wow, Mia, what a heartrending post. It almost made me cry. Thank you for sharing your pain so that others might benefit from it. I can't imagine going through what you did for all of those years, especially since you are such a warm, caring, and amazing person. I'm so grateful they didn't turn you into one of them and destroy the precious gift to this world that is you. You survived, and you will help others do the same.

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Mia. I have no doubt that it will provide an aha moment or comfort for others who have similar stories. I guess the flip side of those painful times growing up is that they made you the person you are today: sweet, welcoming and supportive. *hugs*

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  12. Hi Aniko. I just reread my post and I will say, much has changed since March. Some of my best friends and supporters are the women I have met on Facebook. So, I will say that I now can relate so much more openly and honestly with women that I ever could before. Being honest, on FB and in my writing and in my own blog posts, seems to be the key to getting past pain. Thank you for being my friend and supporter.

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  13. I don't know how I could have missed this blog post.
    Thank you for sharing with us, I understand exactly the feeling of being an outsider, never being let inside the group of awesomeness that were the other girls at school (did 9 different schools in 11 years). So I drifted to the boys, played soccer, (our kind of) baseball, ice hockey. And of course all that just made me even more teased by the girls.
    Yes, I also say teased, because that's what they called it in those days. We were told to chin up and go back for more.

    Your post just leveled me; reading it all the memories came rushing back and oh my god I am so sorry you had to go through all that.
    c'mere, let me give you a hug you beautiful woman you

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  14. Anna- I'll take that hug!! I think more of us went through that kind of experience than we know. It is such a relief to be an adult, somewhat emotionally separated from the pain, and able to look back at it and make some sense of it. It is also a gift that I can express the feelings I remember so clearly in my YA novels, like The Red Sheet. And here's a hug for you...

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