sticks and stones

I'm totally honored to have my poem, Girl Wars, included in the upcoming anthology DEAR BULLY. The book is edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones. It shares many personal stories from YA writers who have fought their own battles with high school bullies. Back then, I could've used this book. It's so easy to feel alone. In Carrie Jones' words: "If we can stop one bully--save just one life--it will be worth it."

You can read about DEAR BULLY in this month's Glamour magazine. Melissa Walker has shared the link on her website.

Words contain power. I can still remember some of the hurtful things that stayed glued to my skin. But words were also my sanctuary. I wrote stories to escape from reality...and sometimes it got me in trouble during school (when I was supposed to be concentrating on more important things, like math). If I could travel through time in a phone booth, Doctor Who-style, and take a look at myself, this is what I would say:

I know where to find you.

The elementary school library makes a perfect hiding place. Crouched between the stacks, you catch up with old friends--the orphans who lived in an abandoned boxcar, the boy who tugged the sword from the stone, talking dragons, girl detectives, a mouse who memorized colors for the winter.

"Aren't you supposed to be in class?" the librarian asks.

They used to read to you, sharing stories about magic and bravery. The words opened doors inside your head. Now they say it's time to grow up. But you can't let go. It would be like erasing a piece of yourself.

In fifth period algebra, you spend hours staring out the window, hoping that the vampire Lestat will carry you away. The numbers are a language you don't speak. Yet the teacher tells you: This is important. Pay attention.

Are numbers more important than words?

You doodle elves in the margins of your textbook. Try writing your own stories, printed secretly in the computer lab. You show the pages to your English teacher. She plunks them on her desk and frowns.

"Elves aren't real," she says.

She doesn't know. When you grow up, you'll become a teacher, too.

You will talk to kids about books.

You will write your own.

You will keep looking out the window.