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This letter was written by children’s book author Leslie Margolis
Here’s a true story: This very famous actor has a nine-year-old daughter who was being bullied by a classmate so badly he took her out of her school and then asked his nine million Twitter followers to throw rotten eggs and dog-poop at the school.
Yes, he asked nine million people to throw dog-poop at a school. I first read this and thought – this actor is a lunatic! Because guess what? I went to the same school as his daughter to get away from the bullying I’d experienced elsewhere. And it worked. The kids at this school – let’s call it Viewcrest – were nice – at least to me.
My little brother Ben transferred to Viewcrest, too. He was bullied horribly. Kids threw food at him and made fun of his lips, which puffed out because of his braces. One day, Ben got so fed up he locked himself in my car and refused to get out. My parents pulled him from Viewcrest soon after this incident.
The whole experience was rotten and painful and even writing about it now is upsetting. So can we all agree that bullying is awful and soul crushing?
Can we also agree that asking nine-million people to throw dog-poop won’t really solve the problem? And in fact, inciting this type of violence is a) totally crazy b) a recipe for a smelly disaster and c) a kind of bullying in its own right.
Yes? Cool. So what is the answer?
I don’t know. Sorry – just being honest here. Bullies exist. It’s a fact. The world would be a better place if we were all kind and compassionate to ourselves and to one another. But not everyone accepts this truth.
So here are two things you can do. One – read. And two – turn your pain into art.
That is what I did and here is my story:
When I was eight and in the third grade, my family moved from Connecticut to California. On day one at my new school I wore my favorite jeans and a red collared shirt. From the moment I set foot on campus it was obvious that no one in Southern California dressed like me. Most of the boys wore shorts and t-shirts. The other girls were in pastels. Also? I had short hair and my name is Leslie. As you probably know, there are male Leslies and female Leslies. I am a female Leslie – always have been.
When my teacher called me to the front of the room and introduced me to the class, someone joked that he couldn’t tell if I was a boy or a girl. When everyone laughed I knew I was sunk.
I sat down for lunch alone that day, figuring the rowdy boys at the other end of the table would ignore me. I figured wrong.
“Is that a girl or a dude?” Forest asked.
“She’s so ugly, I can’t tell,” Dustin replied, throwing down his corndog. “And now I lost my appetite.”
I became a playground pariah. Some kids teased me. Some kids ignored me. Sometimes being ignored felt worse. I came to hate school and the entire state of California.
Then I began visiting the library every day during lunch. I discovered amazing books including The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Harriett the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol, Skinnybones by Barbara Park, No Coins, Please by Gordon Korman, and anything and everything by Judy Blume and Paula Danziger.
I fell in love with reading. In these characters I saw a better way of living. I came to understand that there was a big world outside of school. A compassionate world filled with smart and interesting people.
Reading saved me and that is why I became a writer.
Boys are Dogs, the first book in my Annabelle Unleashed series, is about a sixth grader named Annabelle Stevens who moves to a new town and transfers to a new school, where she gets teased. Boys kick her chair and steal her homework. Annabelle gets stuck in a lab group with Oliver and Tobias, who call her names, hog the lab equipment, and steal her pens. Some of this stuff actually happened to me in real life!
Lucky for Annabelle, her mom gets her a puppy. Annabelle trains her puppy and discovers she can use some of the same techniques on the troublesome boys in her life. When Annabelle learns how to stick up for herself the teasing stops. My character does exactly what I wish I had been able to do back when I was her age.
In Girls Acting Catty some mean girls tease Annabelle for wearing the wrong kind of high tops and for not shaving her legs. This happened to me too.
I have another series called The Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries. It’s about a twelve-year-old dog-walker, who becomes a detective. In chapter one of the first book, Maggie gets publicly humiliated at a pizza parlor by her former best friend in front of the boy she has a crush on. Okay, this actually happened to me at a frozen yogurt store, but you get the idea…
I transformed my suffering into my work and passion.
So if all else fails, keep reading. Turn your pain into something beautiful. It doesn’t have to be a book. You might want to write poetry or plays or jokes or make movies or music or sculpt or dance or sing or play basketball or tennis or soccer or squash. My point is, find something you love, and focus on that. Also, be kind and compassionate.
Whatever you do, don’t throw dog-poop. But you know better than that…
Sound good? Cool! Thanks so much for reading!
For more on me and my books please visit www.lesliemargolis.com and www.maggiebrooklyn.com And/or send me a real letter here:
West Brooklyn Writers
400 N. Larchmont Blvd., Suite 201
Los Angeles, CA 90004
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