And then you get something like this in the mail . . .
It was a packet of letters from the 5th graders Hardy Elementary School in South Lyon, MI. They wrote about what my books meant to them, and what they'd like me to write about next . . .
Their teacher, Susan Maurus, sent along these words . . .
Here are her students . . .
Katie Kehrer, who was Ms. Maurus's student teacher wrote . . .
"We used your books so many times to teach lessons to put bullying to a stop or show students how their actions rub off on others."
I've heard that WARP SPEED, which is about a Star Trek geek who gets beat up every day, is opening up lots of discussions about bullying. I've gotten letters from kids who are being bullied, from teachers who have students come forward about abuse at home, and parents saying that the book has helped their child.
My friend, author Phil Bildner came up with the idea to bring children's/YA authors and illustrators together as one voice to help campaign against bullying via the It Gets Better Project.
(Above: That's Phil, on the right, and his partner Kevin Lewis and me when we invaded Brooklyn Flea.)
Out of Phil's idea, Authors and Illustrators Unite was created. 35 of us contributed short messages of inspiration and hope. Here's a list . . .
Kathi Appelt, Jay Asher, Phil Bildner, Coe Booth, Bruce Coville, Matt de la Pena, John Holyfield, Ellen Hopkins, James Howe, Gordon Korman, Jarrett Krosoczka, Nancy Krulik, Loren Long, Betsy and Ted Lewin, Kevin Lewis, Emily Lockhart, Peepy, LeUyen Pham, Olugbemisola Rhuday, Dan Santat, Cynthia Letiech Smith, Sonya Sones, Jordan Sonnenblick, The Texas Sweethearts, Don Tate, Tanya Lee Stone, and me.
For my clip, I started writing down notes, but I knew I only had about seven seconds. Yet there was so much I wanted to say . . .
In the end, I pared it down and shot my segment . . .
My segment was edited together with the others . . .
And "here's what we had to say:
I asked Phil about the making of It Gets Better - Authors and Illustrators Unite. Here's what he had to say . . .
LISA: What was your inspiration was for creating the video?
PHIL: I think Kobe Bryant's homophobic sideline tantrum this spring was my tipping point. In fact, I see it as a tipping point for the entire movement, if you can call it a movement. Here you have everyone from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga saying "it gets better," and then you have this idolized basketball player spewing hate. For me, enough was enough. It was time to walk my talk, so to speak.
LISA: Was it hard to get the authors and illustrators onboard?
PHIL: Everyone rose to the occasion. I asked people if they were interested. Then I asked a few more. And a few more. And others suggested names. Once I had the names and contacts, I sent one email laying out the instructions and timeline. Then I sent out one reminder email. That was it. Everyone truly came together.
LISA: Of all the clips, do you have a favorite?
PHIL: I don't think one author/illustrator had the most compelling or special clip. I spent so much time with all of them over the last few days that it's impossible to say "this one is the most poignant," or "this one is the best." Together, all the clips form a beautiful mosaic.
LISA: If you added up all the authors in the video, and multiplied them by 5.2, and then added in all the illustrators, multiplied by 7.4, and then divided that by the number of minutes in the video, what would that come out to?
Okay, then! Now you've got the inside scoop of It Gets Better - Authors and Illustrators United!!!
For a more in-depth look at the video, here's School Library Journal's interview with Phil.
Also, I'm proud to one of 70 authors who have contributed true stories about bullying to an anthology called DEAR BULLY: Young Adult Authors Against Bullying. Edited by Megan Kelly Hall and Carrie Jones, some of the authors involved is this project, Mo Willems, Nancy Werlin, Megan McCafferty, and Jon Scieszka. The book will be out in August, and I'll talk more about it then.
If you, or someone you know, are being bullied or abused, talk to someone -- a friend, a teacher, a librarian, someone.
It gets better.
Disclaimer: No proofreaders were harmed (or even used) in the creation of this blog.
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