Upcoming Author Appearances

There aren’t enough days in the summer, not here in Winterpeg. So I find that my time from the beginning of May until the end of September books up quickly. This year is no different.

At the next rainy day I’ll be going next door (I work at the daycare attached to my son’s school) on my coffee break to read Nelly Bean and the Kid Eating Garbage Can Monster to my son’s class. The rest of my author appearances are more formal.

May 1st – Kids Help Phone Walk so Kids can Talk – Duckworth Center Gym, Winnipeg. This will be my second year at this event. If you are interested visit the Kid Help Phone website to sign up for the walk. Everyone is welcome and both the route and the Duckworth Gym are full accessible. I saw strollers and wheelchairs last year. I will be at one of the sponsor tables with my books and $2 from the sale of every paperback at the event will be donated to Kids Help Phone. As an added bonus, for every e-book sold online that day I will donate $1 to KHP. (The only exception is the cookbook, Recipes and Memories, which is actually by my mother and is always sold in support of St Boniface Hospital’s Palliative Care Ward).

May 7th – Winnipeg Public Library’s Author Fair – Millennium Library, downtown Winnipeg. This is my first year at this event, and I am extremely excited for this.

Event agenda:
11 am: Informal talks with selected local authors
1-2 pm: Set up for Fair (Set up your table)
2–4:30 pm: Book Fair (Carol Shields Auditorium, open to public)

I am really looking forward to attending the talks and to meeting as many people as I can at the fair in the afternoon. All of my titles will be available on this day.

May 13th – Springfield Ladies’ Group – Springfield Public Library (or new location, they are possibly moving). A wonderful lady at my church invited me to speak to her group about bullying and about my books. I have done fairs and street markets and flea markets before. I have done readings before. This will be my first time as a guest speaker. I’ll admit I’m a little nervous but if you have to do something like this for the first time, getting up in front of some really nice older ladies is probably the best way to ease into it!

June 17-19 – Summer in the City – Steinbach, Main St. Steinbach’s annual street fair looks to be a grand event again this year. Authors of Manitoba will be attending so along with my books you’ll be able to find books by a dozen authors from all over Manitoba. We’re expecting to have over 40 different titles for children, teens, and adults in seven or eight genres. New this year will be our first graphic novel and our first cookbook, plus an awesome guide to local useful plants.

Saturdays – I’m hoping to attend the Steinbach Flea Market in front of the Co-Op gas station Saturdays from 10-2 (ish), weather permitting, most weeks, from the end of May until they close down for the summer. Still looking to get some details on this one though. I’ll let you know.

If you would like me to speak at an event, or if you have crafters’ tables for rent at an event in Manitoba, please contact me. I’m always looking to get out and meet people. I also do school and library readings for kids of any age.

 

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Upcoming Public Appearances

Have you ever read a blog, Facebook post, Tweet, or interview by/with an author and wondered what they actually sound like in real life? I mean we just sort of assign them a voice, right? And when we do hear them it’s like “Hey, you sound different than I expected.” Or, “Hey, you sound just like you write”.

Well, here’s your chance to hear me!

On May 1st at 1:30 pm (wait, what timezone am I in?) CDT (Central Daylight Time) or -5 hours UTC I will be on the radio! CJOB 680 AM is a local talk radio station here in southern Manitoba, it’s very popular and I’m already nervous about being on air! I’ll be talking with Dahlia Kurtz and I have 2, 8 minute segments over the half hour from 1:30-2:00.

If you want to listen but you’re out of range you can listen online at cjob.com.

On May 3rd I will be at the Kids Help Phone Walk so Kids Can Talk event. I’ll be at 400 Spence St (the Duckworth Center Gym at the U of W) starting at 10 am. You can swing by, say hi, and even buy a copy of Nothing Everything Nothing in support of Kids Help Phone. $2 from every paperback always goes to Kids Help Phone.

Can’t make it? Send me some good lucks on Twitter! I’ll be shaking with nerves both days. @CasiaSchreyer

If you can make it bring your phone for some #bookselfies!

Can’t wait to meet lots of new people!

Bullying: It’s Old News

Who gives a shit about school yard bullies? In the face of endless wars and countless tragedies why are we even talking about this? I’ll tell you why. Because bullying isn’t limited to the school yard. It never was. It didn’t even start there.
People don’t stop being bullies just because they graduate from high school and when they lose the easy targets of classmates they turn to co-workers, spouses, children, elderly parents or grandparents, or strangers they pass on the street to get their kicks. Spousal abuse, child abuse, corrupt cops, street harassment, teachers and school administrators who turn a blind eye to or participate in the bullying, intimidate or harassment in the workplace – it’s all bullying. All of it.
I was bullied in kindergarten. I was five years old when a boy told me my hair scrunchie was ugly. It was my favourite, I loved it, and I never wore it again. It hid in the bottom of my sock drawer and when I moved at age twelve I found it back. That’s when I finally threw it away. Seven years later it still hurt. Hell, twenty-some-odd years later it still hurts! I let that little jerk take away something that made me happy, something that made me feel pretty.
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The bullying became constant in the 6th grade. The girls teased me for being friends with boys, or with kids a year younger than me. In 7&8 I was the outsider because I liked to read, I wanted to be a writer, and because I was a practicing Catholic with actual knowledge about my faith. In a private Catholic school I was bullied for being Catholic. If there was irony there I didn’t notice it, I was too busy being lonely and watching my back.
In high school it was my braces, the fact that I was ‘out of touch’, I was sexually naive, I dressed in what I liked and not what was in style, I hung out with the boys a lot (which will never make you popular with the girls who are interested in dating), I was an introvert … the list goes on. They always put a finger on what makes you different and then shunt you to the fringes of high school society for it. There is no way to redeem yourself, but all too many ways to be noticed and being noticed means being targeted again.
So we all stand here and shout “Me too! I was an outsider! I was a victim!” And nothing changes. My five-year-old son had his sandwich thrown on the floor at lunch. Nothing has changed. We post memes and slogans and news articles about bullies winning or victims rising above and NOTHING CHANGES. Children are still bullied. People still end up in abusive relationships. The suicide rate is not dropping. Teens are taking guns to school. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
What do we do then? We can’t claim to be raising awareness anymore, we all know the problem exists. We need to start raising awareness about solutions and that means throwing our online presence, our time, and our resources, behind groups that are providing help to our youth, and our society as a whole, through counselling, crisis hotlines, abuse tip-lines, shelters, by increasing availability of health care, both mental and physical, education, and a way out of dangerous situations. Sure, a lot of these are band-aid solutions, we’re dealing with picking up the pieces. But the #1 difference between victims who survive and victims who don’t? Having someone listen. Having someone say “I believe you”. Having someone to talk to. And the more victims who survive the better.
I stand with a few organizations:

Our Lady of Hope RC Parish – yes, this is a church, the church I currently attend. I support them because going to church helped keep me solid as a teen. It had nothing to do with faith or god and everything to do with having a safe, friendly community to go to.

Kids Help Phone – a 24/7 youth crisis hotline that is available by phone and online for teens and children dealing with ANY issue. They have centers across Canada. My debut novel Nothing Everything Nothing is in support of their much needed cause. $2 from every paperback and $1 from every e-book is sent to them.

Facebook groups – there are several that I follow and regularly share content from. These range from “stop bullying” groups to mental health awareness groups. The mental health ones are the best, in my opinion, because they are offering real advice and point you in the direction of safe help.

Will you stand against bullies, in all their forms? Will you stop the cycle of abuse? Stop being an arm chair advocate and get out there. Things need to change.

Saving the World, One Child at a Time

Yeah, okay, the title may be a little pretentious, but I’m paraphrasing a friend. Some of you may recall back in November when I released my first novel, Nothing Everything Nothing, I donated half the profits to Kids Help Phone. In a little over a month I raised $236.00 for this worthwhile cause.

For those of you who don’t know, Kids Help Phone is a crisis hotline aimed at helping children and youth across Canada. They are available 24/7, by phone and online. Kids can call with any issue – abuse, bullying, mental health questions, rape, sexual exploitation, suicidal thoughts, and more. You can find out more at kidshelpphone.ca.

Nothing Everything Nothing deals mostly with bullying and suicide but touches on sexual harassment, street harassment, eating disorders, popularity, and the importance of getting the help you need. It is my firm belief, and there are statistics out there to back this up, that kids who have no one to listen to them, kids who are forced to face these problems alone, end up dead, hooked on drugs, or used for sex. They live on the streets as runaways. They shoot up schools. They slip through the cracks.

Kids Help Phone is filling a need, a critical need. They provide a listener, one who does not judge, one who is trained to provide help. If we don’t want to lose an entire generation to depression, cyber bullying, and other such issues we need to help our youth, and one of the ways of doing that is helping those who are trained and ready to offer help.

$2 from every paperback and $1 from every e-book of Nothing Everything Nothing will be donated to Kids Help Phone.

This is the same pledge I made for the month of November, 2014. And now I am making it for the entire year of 2015, perhaps even longer.

Go check out kidshelpphone.ca, see what they do and who they are, see how you can help. Buy a copy of Nothing Everything Nothing, only 2.99 USD for the e-book (all links to the e-book and paperback can be found here: https://casiaschreyer.wordpress.com/book-list/) and I will donate $1 to Kids Help Phone. Buy the paperback for $8.99 USD and I’ll donate $2. And if you happen to live in Southeastern Manitoba (Canada) you can contact me about getting a signed paperback for $10 Canadian (same $2 donation applies).

We talk all the time about the problems of the world. We don’t talk enough about solving them. Kids Help Phone is helping. They are addressing a serious problem. They’ve been doing it for 25 years.

Thank-you Kids Help Phone. And thank-you to everyone who has purchased a copy of Nothing Everything Nothing in support of this amazing group.

Casia’s Speech from the Nothing Everything Nothing Book Launch

Thanks, Steph, and thanks everyone for coming out this evening. (something about the weather or the roads). Nothing Everything Nothing is not a book I imagined myself writing. Most of my unfinished drafts are fantasy novels, or paranormal novels, or even science fiction, but not straight up realism like this one.
This past summer I went to visit my grandmother and she said, “I don’t want you to be too alarmed. Your cousin tried to overdose on her medication and she’s in the hospital, she’s going to be fine.” This cousin is also my goddaughter.
She wasn’t going to be fine. She was going to live, but I knew that she had a long road ahead of her, and I knew there was little, or nothing, I could do to help. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychologist or counselor, and I had no idea what to say to someone who was recovering from something like that. I’m socially awkward at the best of times! Seriously, getting up here to talk is not a problem, but stick me in a crowd at a cocktail party and I’m lost.
What I do know how to do is write. So I started this book. Originally I was aiming for about 30-40 K, the main character was named after my cousin and looked like my cousin, and the book was going to have a happy ending. All I wanted from this book was to have a girl my cousin could relate to and have her hit rock bottom and have her still find a happy ending. Because I wanted my cousin’s story to one day have a happy ending.
I think the first draft was 39K. I gave it to a friend of mine who I knew was well read, and familiar with depression and suicide and this is basically what he told me:
This book is too short, it feels like an outline. I want to know all about the characters, how they came to this point, you need to give yourself a bigger canvas and make this a novel.
I went over the draft and expanded, drawing up an outline of changes. It was about this time that two things happened. First, I changed the title, and the name of the main character. As the story evolved I knew this was becoming more than I’d intended, and it felt wrong to put my cousin through the things that Molly was going to go through. Second, Robin Williams committed suicide. Suddenly everyone was talking about living with depression and recovering from suicide and I had dozens of blogs and articles on the subject come across my Facebook newsfeed and my blog reader. I read all of them. I wanted this novel to be an accurate, and compassionate, look at something that affected thousands of people every year.
The revisions included the addition of over 2 dozen completely new, from scratch scenes. 18 of those were in a row and they were the hardest to write because they form the emotional core of the book. The entire hospital recovery sequence had to be reworked to reflect the new storyline and the information I had learned during my research. Dozens of other scenes needed little details, like names or dates or time references, changed to match the new storyline.
When all that was done it went back to my friend for another reading and he said,
It is kind of unusual that I hear depressed folks in books actual sound depressed. Molly captured that and the slow detailed build up will be familiar to anyone suffering this condition. The pace is actually a little depressing, you know its coming and you just want it over with. you made me feel not like I was reading about Molly.. you made me empathize with her, not an easy task. here you either become Molly and if not Molly herself you find yourself wanting to save her. I really wish you were a worse writer .. I usually have a list of NO’s and that’s all wrong
After that it was off to my grandmother, who has been editing school papers for 40 years, to be read over for typos. Then I went through with a fine tooth comb and fixed as much as I could, making one last big change – the sequence of scenes at the pool was second, and the sequence with Brandon was first, but I switched them. Then I started the publication process, with a little help from Marianne Curtis, and here it is.

The book deals a lot with cyber bullying, bullying in general, street harassment, sexual harassment, depression, suicide, and recovery. In the background it also touches on eating disorders, and the system of popularity.
There is a new movie out, or coming out shortly, titled DUFF. According to the trailer it stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend. The idea is that a group of pretty girls have one dumpy friend who makes them look better and acts as a go-between between the friends and their crushes. Who knew that Molly’s situation in Nothing Everything Nothing would get a catchy name and a movie? This exchange between Molly’s friends happens early in the book:

In Kirsten’s room they called up Julie, setting Kirsten’s cell to speaker phone and flopping on the bed.
“I don’t treat her badly,” Julie huffed as Kirsten told her about the conversation with Lance. “It’s just friendly banter. It’s not my fault that Molly can’t take a joke.”
“Well we know that,” Kirsten said, rolling her eyes. “What we don’t know is why Lance is interested in Molly. She can’t flirt, she’s not that pretty, she’s on the large side, she’s socially awkward …”
“I’m still wondering why you let her hang out with us this year,” Julie said. “You knew all that when you invited her to that hang-out in September. She’s only been trying to be friends with us since ninth grade, the needy little …”
“Julie, you can’t be popular if people don’t like you,” Kirsten said.
Julie sighed. “But couldn’t we find adoring fans that are actually interesting to be around?”
“That would be beside the point. They’re supposed to be interested in us, not the other way around. And the boys are supposed to be interested in us too.”
Amanda propped herself up on an elbow. “I think it’s sweet. Molly will be so happy to be the center of attention.”
Kirsten glared at Amanda until the girl blushed and looked away. “Well, if Lance wants to make Molly the center of attention so will we.”
“I thought we weren’t going to help Lance,” Amanda said, confused.
“What do you have in mind, Kirsten?” Julie said.
“Oh, nothing much, we’ll just pay attention to everything about Molly so that Lance sees just how awkward she is and will stop paying attention to her.”
“I don’t want to pay attention to Molly,” Julie snapped. “I don’t even like her being a part of the group.”
Kirsten rolled her eyes. “Then we’ll drift away from her over the summer. Until then, let’s make sure everyone knows she’s less than we are, and that we’re just so kind to make her a part of our group.”

I was bullied for many years, though my bullying was mild by any standard. My testimonial was included in Rae of Hope: Stories of Survivors, written by Marianne Curtis. It was launched last week and she has a few copies with her if you want to take a look.
My own desire to see an end to bullying shows up in my book through the character of Brandon, Molly’s childhood friend. He does a presentation on bullying in school. I want to share that passage with you as well but I need a break from talking, and you’re probably sick of listening to me.
My godfather, my Uncle Len, is here and will be reading the next selection. He used to read to us around the camp fire and I particularly remember his telling of Rikki Ticky Tavi from The Jungle Book when I was younger, and more recently, his ability to read George Carlin and have you hear George Carlin.

READING BY LEN G.

At first the camera bounced around, showing Brandon at the front of the room setting up his presentation board and organizing his paper. The camera quickly steadied and she heard the teacher’s voice ask, “Are you ready Brandon?”
“Yes, I’m ready.”
“Okay,” the teacher said. “Our final presentation is Brandon. Please give him your full attention.”
Brandon stood in front of a blank presentation board. Someone close to the camera snickered. Brandon took a deep breath and said, “I was going to do a presentation on drug usage but after recent events I changed my mind. I want to talk about teen suicide.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24. People commit suicide for a variety of reasons.”
Molly sat staring at the screen as Brandon went on about factors and statistics and warning signs. Throughout his speech his presentation board remained blank.
“Bullying is also a prominent motivator behind teen suicides. Weight, appearances, race, sexuality, and odd or misunderstood hobbies or interests have all made teens targets for bullies. In the last ten years bullying has moved out of the hallways, change rooms, and cafeterias and into the digital world. Teens are teased via text message and over social media. Hate pages are put up online and receive thousands of hits every day. This form of bullying goes unchecked because schools cannot supervise or intervene and freedom of speech on the internet is often twisted to include bullying. Add to that a bully’s favourite defense ‘it was just a joke’ and it’s no wonder authorities are powerless to stop it.
“I would like to look at three cases where cyber bullying drove a teenager to suicide. In doing so I would like to show that this behaviour is not funny and should never be dismissed as a joke.
Finally Brandon half turned and stuck two pieces of paper to the board. Two teenage girls now smiled out at the class. “These girls are Amanda Todd and Megan Meier. They both committed suicide. Megan killed herself in 2006 after two fellow students, and a parent, created a fake MySpace account and befriended her online. After weeks of very pleasant exchanges this fake friend changed his tone and told Megan: “Everybody in O’Fallon knows who you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.” She hung herself that same day.
“Amanda was coaxed into revealing her body to an online friend. He then blackmailed her and tormented her online for three years. Using fake accounts on social media sites he turned everyone at her school against her. When she changed schools, and towns, he did it again. After three years of this continual abuse she killed herself.”
Molly was speechless; the class in the foreground of the video was not. There were murmurs and whispers until the teacher finally said, “That’s enough. Let’s let Brandon finish his presentation.”
Brandon placed a third photo on the presentation board. “This is Molly. She was in our class. Now she’s in the hospital. She attempted suicide, not because of a mental illness or a learning disorder, or because she used drugs. Like Amanda Todd and Megan Meier, she was pushed into suicide.”
The class erupted and the camera started shaking again. Over the talking and shouting of the students the teacher was saying, “Sit down, all of you. Sit down! Be quiet, please, and listen to the end of the presentation. Shut up and sit down or I’ll fail the whole class!”
Order was slow to return and the camera stabilized again.
“I’m not making this up,” Brandon said. “I’m not pointing fingers but I’m not making this up. I know most of you have heard some version of what happened but I am going to fill you in on the actual events. Molly’s boyfriend, Lance Maher, got angry when Molly refused to have sex with him. So, Lance posts pictures which Molly believed would remain private. And when she confronted him he insulted her and physically abused her – on school property. He blamed Molly.”
There were more mumbles from the crowd and someone even said, “It was her fault.”
“He posted a lie online, portraying Molly as, please excuse me language, as a slut. Molly attempted suicide in the face of these events.”
Chaos reigned. People stood from their chairs and shouted at Brandon. The camera shook and for a while pointed directly at the floor.
Molly held her breath as muddled noises poured from the speakers. Finally the noise quieted and the camera was righted.
Brandon took a deep breath before continuing. “In summary: bullying isn’t a joke, we can’t dismiss it. It is normal, ordinary teens who are the bullies, and the victims. Teens need to be held accountable for their words and actions, in school, on the streets, and online. If we are not, more of us will commit suicide. Are there any questions?”
“How can you prove any of that?”
“The cases of Amanda Todd and Megan Meier are public record. As for Molly, I have only told you what I witnessed myself or was able to confirm with her parents or the detective investigating the photos.”
“Are the cops really charging people?” This voice sounded panicked.
“Yes, for sexual harassment, soliciting a minor, and spreading child pornography.”
“What does soliciting mean?”
From behind the camera the teacher’s voice said, “Asking someone for something, in this case, sex.”
“You couldn’t have known why Lance was fighting with Molly,” said a male voice.
“I do, actually. I witnessed the fight in the hallway and turned a video of it over to Mr. Penner.”
This uproar was smaller, mainly from the boys in the class, and it sounded like they were all demanding why Brandon would do such a horrible thing to such a cool person.
“All right,” the teacher roared. “Everyone is going to sit down. Brandon’s presentation is over; I’m putting an end to the questions. Sit down and …”
The video cut out.

Besides the fact that he’s an amazing story teller, there’s another reason I asked Uncle Len to be here today, and that’s because I want to speak about resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to adapt to adversity, the ability to cope with stress, and the ability to ‘bounce back’ from traumatic situations. There are many ways we can help youth become resilient, but the first is to help them build connections with other people.
This includes friendships but it is more than that. Often youth who are the targets of bullying do not trust their peers. They need a network of adults.
It can be any adult – a parent, a teacher, a coach, a youth leader, a pastor or other religious leader, a relative, a neighbour. So long as the adult listens without judgement, believes what the teen is telling them, offers advice and advocacy, and respects the teens privacy by keeping private conversations private they are helping add to the resiliency of that teen.
I was very lucky. My parents had a happy and loving marriage. There was no abuse at home. If I had a problem I could talk to my parents, or my four grandparents, or my aunts and uncles. I got along well with most of my teachers at every school I attended. There was always someone to turn to. And at a young age I was told that if there was ever anything I needed to talk about that I couldn’t go to my parents with I was to go to my godparents. I never needed to go to them in confidence, but knowing that there was someone I could go to if I had a problem made me feel secure.
One story in Rae of Hope illustrated this quite clearly. Teachers would not help her, there was abuse in the home, so after being expelled she ran away. She ended up in foster care and people started listening to her. She says in her story that if even one teacher had stepped forward and said, “I believe you” things would have been very different for her. It was the presence of a few good adults that started the positive her life.
One of the signs that a person is in an abusive relationship is that the abuser slowly encourages, or even forces, the abused to cut ties to their friends and family, isolating them so the abuse will go unnoticed, and so the abused will have no one to turn to. This is breaking down someone’s resiliency and this happens to Molly throughout the book.
Repeatedly Lance tells her “Your mom won’t understand”, “Your mom doesn’t want you to have a boyfriend” “Your mom doesn’t want you to be thin/popular/happy”, and eventually “your mom hates you”.
He also tries to drive a wedge between Molly and her life-long friend, Brandon, using the same tactics. “He’s not cool, he’ll drag you down”, “He doesn’t understand, doesn’t want you to be happy or popular” “He’s jealous of you” “He’s not really your friend”.
Fortunately for Molly none of the people closest to her really abandon her and when she needs them they are there for her.

So far I have talked mostly about bullying because that is what I have the most experience with, but suicide is a very serious issue as well. Mental health issues, including clinical depression, are the leading cause of suicide with medication issues, bullying, and abuse being other factors.
Sadly I cannot find any statistics on suicide newer than 2011, most of the statistics date back to 2000. Youth, when the age brackets are added up, have the highest suicide numbers in Canada. In 2011, there were 3728 reported and confirmed cases of suicide, and this does not count those who attempted suicide but lived. Of those 528 were under the age of 25. 29 were under the age of 15.
528 is a big number and it’s hard to visualize.
It’s roughly 26 full hockey teams. To put that in perspective, there are 30 teams in the NHL. Now imagine 26 of those teams disappearing this year.
“528” is more than half the population of my high school the year I graduated.
“528” is roughly 18 classrooms of elementary school students. Which equals roughly two entire K-8 schools.
More youth kill themselves every year than there are MPs in Canadian Parliament.
And these statistics only measure children over the age of 10. Jenna Nikki, a mother in Carlyle Saskatchewan, caught her son trying to hang himself at the age of 9. She is still fighting with the school board to end the bullying that drove him to that point.

I have felt a strong connection to every bullying survivor whose story I have heard or read. On Tuesday that changed. I have made the shift from survivor to fighter. Not because I’ve been bullied recently – the worst thing I’ve faced lately is indifference – but because my son was bullied. Now I feel a connection to Jenna Nikki, and to Jetta’s mom, and to Leah Parsons.
So far, my son has faced mild teasing, but it is happening on a fairly regular basis from multiple children. Tuesday morning, my son got an award at the school assembly. The virtue they were studying this month was respect. On Tuesday, in addition to the teasing, his sandwich was taken from him by two boys in his class and deliberately dropped on the floor. Right now this is mild. Right now it is the beginning of a problem that may just go away.
But I do not want to find my son with a belt around his closet bar in four years’ time.

Currently a student at my old high school is being bullied because he was born with dwarfism and the school is failing him – they can’t stop it. While I hope this won’t be the case at my son’s school, it is the case at many schools, and has been for many years.
The school that expelled the rape victim instead of the harassers because it was easier, the public school that allows Christian students to bully non-believers because most of the teachers are also Christian, the school that suspended a terrified teenage girl because it must have been her fault that everyone tormented her, the school that told a parent “tell your daughter to suck it up, words never killed anyone”, these schools are failing their students.
In Nothing Everything Nothing Molly’s school also fails her. These two scenes take place after the bullying starts but before her first attempt.
The first time Molly’s mother, Joanna, goes to the school, the principal is adamant that they can do nothing about the cyber-bullying because it started in the evening, outside of school hours and off of school property. He also refuses to do more than speak with Lance about giving Molly alcohol on school property because there was no proof. He does agree to cooperate with any police investigation that might arise.
And later, after speaking with the police and starting a formal investigation, Joanna and Molly return to speak with Mr. Penner a second time:

Joanna and Molly didn’t have to wait at all when they walked into school Monday morning. Mr. Penner was waiting for them and ushered them straight in to his office. After a quick exchange of pleasantries Mr. Penner got down to business.
“We were contacted by a Detective Price this morning. He says he’s in charge of the investigation into the pictures.”
Joanna simply nodded. “Good. And what’s going to be done about the pictures already in circulation?”
Mr. Penner’s eyebrows came together as he frowned. “The police are handling Lance and the photos, are they not?”
“Of course they are. But are you doing anything to stop the spread of those pictures? Can you be one hundred percent certain that not a single one of your students is viewing or sending those pictures while on school property?”
“That’s not something we can control.”
“All right, thank you. You have a good day today, Molly. I’m going to the newspaper to see if any of the reporters want to write a story on a high school that protects pedophiles. It was nice seeing you again, Mr. Penner.” She looped her purse over her arm and stood.
Mr. Penner also rose. “Now wait just one minute! We are not protecting anybody. If students are caught with those pictures they will be dealt with.”
“How?” Joanna pressed.
“Their phones are confiscated until the end of the day, as per the Electronic Device Usage Policy.”
“And?”
“That is the extent of our school policy.”
“You don’t report them to the police? You don’t inform their parents? What is it about Molly’s situation that makes this excusable?” Joanna’s voice was rising in volume and pitch as she spoke. “Do you think students in your school have the right to view them because Molly is sixteen and not twelve, or eight, or younger?”
“It’s nothing like that.”
Joanna sat again; her body angled forward, the perfect picture of attentiveness. “Then enlighten me. What would you do if it was the photo of a twelve year old rape victim?”
Mr. Penner cleared his throat. “We would call the parents and the police.”
“My daughter is a minor. She is being sexually harassed by a boy who is legally an adult. I assume you will do what is right in this situation.”
“Of course. Parents and police will be notified every time we find one of those photos on a phone belonging to one of our students.”
“Or staff members,” Joanna prompted.
“I resent that accusation.”
“I don’t care. This is my daughter’s reputation and future on the line. I want to know that you aren’t protecting anyone who is violating her privacy.”
“Should the unforgiveable circumstance arise, the police will be notified that a staff member is in possession of those photos.”
Molly looked from her mom to her principal and back again. She’d never seen her mom act like this before but it made speaking out a lot easier. “What about the boys who keep asking me for …er … favours?”
“You’ll have to report them,” Mr. Penner said.
“I don’t know their names. They just walk up to me at the bus loop. There are no teachers and I can’t come back in or I’ll miss my bus.”
“You’ll have to report them,” Mr. Penner repeated. “We can’t have a teacher shadow you everywhere, I’m sorry. How many times has this happened?”
“Twice,” Molly mumbled.
Mr. Penner glanced over at Joanna then said, “Tell us about every incident, even if you don’t know their names. We’ll keep a record. It will help us to know how many copies we’re looking for.”
“Thank-you,” Joanna said.

Up until now I have focused on the negative impacts of bullying, and failures of the system, but the book isn’t all negative, and neither is the journey of recovery. Many blogs spoke of good days, days when they would feel strong and almost normal, days when it was easy to pretend that there was nothing wrong. They also spoke of days when they could not even get out of bed and how these extremes were unpredictable.
During Molly’s recovery she has several moments of great strength. Her eight-year-old half-sister, Shannon, has a part in the school play. The performance takes place after Molly is released from the hospital and Molly agrees to go see it. This is her first time stepping out of the safety of her house since coming home from the hospital. That alone took great strength. But she is so impressed by her sister’s performance that she writes her sister a letter and slides it under her bedroom door.

“Shannon, I went to see your play this afternoon. You were amazing. You lit up the stage. You never forgot a line. I loved every minute you were on stage.
“I know I said some unforgivable things about you, and to you. I know I was mean to you. I know there are no excuses for how I acted. It was easier to hate you then feel guilty about hurting you. It was easier to blame you than to blame myself.
“You’re annoying sometimes, you really are. And sometimes I get angry at you. But today I was proud of you. Molly.”

After reading the letter Shannon bursts into Molly’s room and says “I don’t hate you either. You’re the best big sister in the world.”

Several weeks later, as Lance continues to harass her and Brandon she works up the courage to return to Lance everything he purchased for her while they were dating.

To everyone else Molly looked determined, single-minded, and strong. Inside Molly was shaking with terror and now that she was alone on Lance’s side step that terror was seeping through her brave façade.
She knocked again and took several deep breaths trying to slow her racing heart and steady her shaking hands.
Before she could talk herself around to running back to the car the door opened and all that separated Molly from Lance was a screen door.
He stared at her for a moment and then sneered. “Did you come back to pay up?”
“No. I came back to return something to you.”
The sneer dropped from his face and his eyes narrowed. “Return what?”
The closed screen door gave her courage and she dropped the bag on the step at her feet. “Everything you bought me is right here. And since I’m not in possession of it any more I don’t owe you anything.”
“I bought you food. I paid the taxes when you didn’t have enough money.”
“And I threw that shirt in the bag too. That’s twenty dollars you owe me for the shirt. Keep the shirt and the twenty and call it even.”
She stepped down onto the walkway.
“What am I supposed to do with a bag of clothes?”
“I don’t care,” she said without turning around. She forced herself to walk down the driveway when everything inside her was screaming at her to run before he came after her.

Lance doesn’t follow her and this isn’t the last time she encounters him. The next time doesn’t go as well and triggers a minor relapse. But this is the normal up-and-down of life after attempting suicide, or living with depression. Things that don’t bother you today will put you in tears tomorrow. Things that don’t scare you today will be so terrifying tomorrow that you will feel like running away, or cutting, or self-medicating. And then next day things might be better again, or worse yet. There is no real way to tell.

The book ends with an epilogue that takes place several years later when Molly finally graduates from high school. As her parents are leaving the dinner so she and Brandon can enjoy the party her mom sayd “We trust you. We are so proud of you, and we love you.” And the last line of the book is “And Molly believed them.”
There is a long road ahead of Molly. She still has scars, physical and emotional ones. Those scars will still cause her to have doubts and bad days. But she is finally in a position where she can see and believe in the love of those closest to her.
To my cousin, your story isn’t over.
To all teens and adults battling depression, you are not alone, your story isn’t over.

That is the end of my formal presentation. I would like to open things up to you for comments and questions about me and my writing, about the book, or about bullying, suicide, and other issues facing teens. I will try to answer everything as best I can.

Q&A PERIOD

If there are no other questions I’d like to thank my volunteers: Jon, John, Andy, Angil, Janet, Thea, Len, Steph, Sara and Larry, for their help with the event this evening. A big thank-you to our two sponsors, Modular Storage and Sobeys on Reenders. Thank-you Andy and Thea for your help with getting this book published, and thank-you to my aunt for the permission to use my cousin’s photo in the promotion of this book – it was nice to give Molly a face. A lot of people helped make this project possible and they are all thanked in a blog entry that will be published tomorrow morning.
I’m going to invite Stephanie back up here to help me with the door prize draw. As each ticket is drawn and announced the winner may come up to the table here and select their prize.
The prizes include a copy of Nothing Everything Nothing – if you’ve already purchased a copy we can refund your ten dollars, or you may keep both copies. This copy is special as it is the only one signed by me and by my cousin. There is also a signed copy of a collection of short fiction I self-published several years ago, and a collection of poetry I released at the same time. Only half a dozen copies were ever printed. There is a hard-cover coffee table edition of a poetry anthology in which I was featured with my poem bookmarked, and a collection of short fiction and poetry put out by a writing group I once participated in. Each book comes with a gift certificate to Modular Storage.

The Biggest Thank-you

Last night was the book launch party for Nothing Everything Nothing and, as promised, here are the thank-yous and the fundraising facts to date.

FUNDRAISING

E-books sold: 4
Money raised: $4
Paperbacks sold: 88
Money raised: $176
Free will offering: $51.75
TOTAL: $231.75

EXPENSES

Food: ~$40
Posters: $10
Donated books: $12
**These expenses came out of MY half of the royalties on the books, not the half set aside for Kids Help Phone.

THANK-YOU

To family and friends who pre-ordered or reserved copies of the book:
Jill Simonite, Janet Ediger, John Ediger, Len Guilmette, Sara Gratton, Thea Clincke, Valerie Schreyer, Sheldon Schreyer, Melissa Schreyer, Stephanie Murphy, Tia Nemeth, Krista McCollum, Sheri DeSorcey, Fran Doyle, Mary-Louise Clincke, Kyla Balleny, Irene Klopack, Clara Chongva, Brenda and Gary, Carinna Rosales, the Grace Girls (Sue, Boo, Mo and Kitty)

A special thank-you to Diana Cameron who purchased ten copies to be donated to libraries and resource centers. We are working on a list of resource centers and libraries to send these copies to. Any suggestions are appreciated.

To family and friends who helped me spread the word:
Marianne Curtis, Andy Ganz, Angil Graftin, Sara Gratton, Jill Simonite, John Ediger, Thea Clincke

To family and friends who helped me with the launch:
John Ediger, Sara and Laurent Gratton, Janet and Lloyd Ediger, Thea and Frank Clincke, Jon Schreyer, Len Guillmette

To Mary-Louise Clincke and her daughter Marlee, for allowing me to use a photo of Marlee (who was my inspiration for Molly) in my promotions

To the Transcona Library for the room. And for their amazing children’s programs. I attended story time there as a child and got hooked on books young.

To Marianne Curtis for her support, and for the opportunity to do a little piggy-backing on the launch of her book, Rae of Hope.

To the Nanowrimo Facebook Group, for help with the promotional material and the writing of the book. They’re an amazing group.

To my beta and editor, Andy Ganz and Thea Clincke.

To Prairie Sky Books for agreeing to carry the book in their store.

To those who have, or plan to, post reviews or ratings of the book.

To my husband, Jon Schreyer, who is perfect. No, really, I mean that.

A LAST NOTE

It’s impossible to thank everyone who inspired, supported, and helped. But every one of them is in my heart. I hope to pay it forward by reading and reviewing as many indie books as possible.
It’s tempting to address those who did not believe, or did not support, and say “I told you so” but I won’t. It’s painful when family and friends don’t hop on board with the same level of enthusiasm that I feel for this project but I can understand the many reasons that hold them back and I don’t want to blame, shame, or guilt anyone. I don’t feel any resentment or anger, only understanding. I hope they will find causes that call to them.

WHAT’S NEXT?

There will be a book signing after mass at Anola Parish on November 30th to wrap up the fundraiser (and a short post detailing any increase in the amount raised). After that there will be a reading and an author’s fair at the Jake Epp Library in February – dates to be announced.
As for further books, the next one is started and I shall keep everyone updated on the status. I doubt it will be ready by February but it should be done by summer.

THANK-YOU

Nothing Everything Nothing – A Book Launch for a Good Cause

Cover image by Evan Wilman. Author promo photo taken by Sara Gratton.

Cover image by Evan Wilman. Author promo photo taken by Sara Gratton.

Bullying touches us all at least once in our lives. A thoughtless comment from a parent, a petty remark from a classmate, a bad encounter with a co-worker – these are the mildest forms of bullying. For some people bullying is something they cannot escape. It is constant belittling from one or both parents. It is constant torment from peers. It is being ostracized, discriminated against, or sabotaged in the work place on a daily basis.

Constant. Deliberate. Intended to insult and hurt the victim while making the instigator feel ‘big’.

Bullying doesn’t go away. Even when you reach a point where no one in your life is really harassing you any longer the affects of bullying can make life difficult. You feel socially awkward. You are wary of new people for they may be bullies. You are self-conscious. That’s if you survive the bullying.

Poster designed by Andreas Ganz. Book cover image provided by Evan Wilman. Photography of author promo picture by Sara Gratton.

Poster designed by Andreas Ganz. Book cover image provided by Evan Wilman. Photography of author promo picture by Sara Gratton.

Bullying isn’t a joke. Suicide isn’t a joke.

I have learned a lot about suicide while researching for this book. I have learned that so many things we say intending to help people recovering from suicide attempts are really hurting them. I have learned that this isn’t something that is ever fully overcome. I have learned that there is an immediate, ongoing, desperate need for trained individuals who know how to help and who are easily accessible.

That is why I made this book about more than just me. This isn’t about money. This isn’t about fame. This is about teenagers. This is about being aware of the power social media has. This is about understanding suicide. This is about being aware of what you are saying and how it affects people. This is about supporting a cause that is out there trying to help teens in crisis.

There are so many groups out there: Big Brothers and Big Sisters, YM/YWCA, Kids Help Phone and other crisis hotlines and chat groups, CFS and CPA, and many many more.

I chose Kids Help Phone because they are Canadian, because they work hard to be there 24/7 for all youth in any crisis, and simply because I believe in their mission. I want to raise awareness so things get better for teens. And I want to raise money for Kids Help Phone so they can make things easier for teens.

cover 2

This book isn’t about me. This book is about my cousin, Marlee, and how she is fighting to stay positive even when she feels like cutting. This is about her friends and family and foster mother, all of whom are trying to build her up while the world tries to tear her down.

This book is for every teen who has ever felt like there was nothing left to live for.

Show your support for our teens. Reblog this post. Reblog my other posts about teen suicide. Write your own post about depression and suicide. And if you want to help me raise money for Kids Help Phone, then please, buy a copy of the book. It just received a five star review – you can find it on Good Reads. (And that’s all the self promotion I’m indulging in today)

Let’s get the anti-bullying conversation started. Let’s stand up for our teens.

Something to Think About

Youth are dying.

528 youth across Canada between the ages of 10 and 24 committed suicide in 2011.

That’s well over half of the population of my entire high school the year I graduated.
That’s 21 classrooms of students.
That’s 48 soccer teams.

Does it scare you to know that children as young as ten are committing suicide?
It scares me a lot.

Do you know the leading “causes” of suicide?

*Depression caused by chemical imbalance in the brain
*Depression caused by side effects of medication
*Depression caused by bullying
*Gay/Lesbian teens are at risk if they suffer bullying, or come from overtly judgmental families/communities.
*Some Aboriginal teens are at risk depending on the situation in their community
*Depression or guilt caused by the suicide of a friend or family member

Do you know the signs of a suicidal person?

*Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
*Seeking access to the means to kill themselves (firearms, pills, etc)
*Actually saying “I’m going to kill myself”, “I want to end it all”, “I wish I were dead”
*Less direct verbal indicators – “No one will miss me” “The world is better off without me” “Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me”
*Dramatic mood swings
*Giving away possessions
*Reckless, life endangering behaviours

Do you know what to do if someone you love is showing these signs?

*Call a community mental health center. In Canada the Canadian Mental Health Association has a branch in every major city, and some smaller cities as well. They have a webpage and even a facebook page.
*If they are a minor or are living at home, call the parents or primary care provider
*Tell a school nurse of guidance counselor
*Tell a pastoral counselor
*Tell another qualified professional – a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a nurse, or a doctor
*Tell any professional adult such as a teacher, police officer, or fire fighter – while they may not be able to help directly they know who to call
*Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
*Call Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

We have the chance to save 528 lives every year by being aware of our youth, by caring about them, and by raising awareness. No, we have the chance to save 1056 lives every year in North America, and more world wide.

I will be raising money for Kids Help Phone. If you would like more information on that fundraising initiative see my previous posting.

Help me raise awareness. Help me save the lives of countless youth around the world. Let’s raise awareness about suicide. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Please share this blog on social media. Please reblog this post. Please, get this information out there. Make it visible. We can’t help if we don’t understand the problem. We can’t help if we don’t know how to help.

This is for our youth. Our children.

How to Save a Life

What do you do when someone you love is threatening or attempting suicide?

In this case it’s my younger cousin. The situation is complicated. My aunt is adopted but had some contact later in life with her biological siblings. Her biological sister has 3 children that we know of. My aunt adopted the first two, the third one had major developmental issues and my aunt just couldn’t keep her. 

So, my cousin, she was born premature, has always had some development issues stemming from severe FASD, and is now on meds. I’m not sure what the meds are for but they’re the type that make you feel good and stable, like you don’t need meds, like you aren’t sick anymore. Once she’s off her meds she has major freak-outs. She doesn’t like taking her meds because they’re making her gain weight. She throws them down the sink or threatens to take all of them. 

She tried that once and ended up in the hospital. This was after cutting for months with the blades from pencil sharpeners. 

Then, because of an argument with her mom, she held two knives to her stomach and threatened to kill herself. She’s now with protective services.

Yes, they have her on a list of psychiatric help. Yes, we are all trying to be positive and supportive. You know what makes it really hard? All these damn depressive memes on the internet. “No one hates me more than I hate myself”. “My friends mean the world to me but I feel like they wouldn’t even notice I was gone”. “I’m only pretending to be all right”. And on and on and on.

I fully support freedom of speech and self-expression. I think it’s great that people are working out their issues. But this stuff is feeding the depressive, self-indulgent, attention-craving attitude of teenagers. They’re all posting this crap so people will pat them on the head and say, “we love you, don’t die”. I fully support suicide intervention, and positive reinforcement, but when this crap is fueling her suicidal thoughts it’s hard to stay unbiased and accepting.

And before you suggest taking her off the internet, take a quick guess what the above mentioned fight was about. Her only friends are on Facebook and Instagram. The only people who care about her and understand her are on the internet. Anyone who takes that away is cruel and mean and heartless. Yeah, it gets that bad.

So, what do you do when someone you love is threatening or attempting suicide?

How do you convince them that you would love them? How do you find all the subversive jerks in their life and make them stop being jerks? How do you build their self-esteem? How do you make their skin thicker? How do you make them see themselves as important people instead of as victims? How do you put value in their lives? How do you make them believe they are valued?

I don’t know.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a counselor. I’m not a social worker. I’m not a doctor. I don’t even get to see her that often.

I am her godmother. And her cousin. And my heart is breaking because there is nothing I can do. 

So I’m doing something.

I am doing the only thing I’m good at. I’m writing a book. I’m writing a book about a teenage girl who is mildly overweight but not fat, who has a kick-ass punk haircut and a beautiful smile, and is named after my cousin. I am giving that girl friends who use her, and friends who care about her. I am giving her a loving and supportive family. I am going to show her hitting rock bottom because my cousin hit rock bottom, you can’t deny that or turn back the clock. And then I am going to have this girl claw her way out of that hole. She is going to hate it. She is going to kick and scream and try to stay depressed and alone and her friends and family are going to love her until she sees the love around her. This girl will be surrounded by love. Because it is the only way I can think of to show my cousin that she is surrounded by love.

I’m going to give my cousin a copy as a gift.

And then I’m going to sell this book as an e-book (perhaps the only book I’ll ever self-publish) and I’m going to give the proceeds from the first week of sales to Kids Help Phone, the kids and teens crisis hotline center. Because I support suicide intervention. I support organizations that support teens and children. And because I believe they, and other professionals, have the power to change lives for the better. 

And because I want to show my cousin that her story isn’t over. I want to show her that the bottom isn’t the same as the end. I want to show her that people care enough about the issue of teen suicide to read a story that is based on her, to help her and teens like her.

And because it’s the only thing I can do to show her that I love her and that I would miss her. She is beautiful. I wish I could post a picture of her for you to see her beautiful smile. I might just use her photo for the cover of the book. 

Writing is about inspiration. I have found mine. 

*Note* Originally this said all the proceeds would go to Kids Help Phone but has been edited to give the donation period a deadline. I’m not being greedy, I swear. I don’t have time to monitor and constantly send little donations as sales maybe trickle in. So I’ll do one big push and give one big donation. Thank-you for understanding.