Thursday, July 28, 2011

Author Spotlight: Stephanie Kuehnert: Dear Bully Edition!

Stephanie was born St. Louis, Missouri in the fine year of 1979. She moved to the Chicago area with her parents and younger brother, Daniel in the late eighties. Stephanie got her start like most authors by writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades back in eighth grade. That was also around the time she discovered punk rock. Along with literature by geniuses such as Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Steinbeck, Sylvia Plath, Francesca Lia Block, John McNally, Irvine Welsh, and Louise Erdrich, noisy guitars and lyrics by Kurt Cobain, Johnny Cash, Mike Ness, Courtney Love, Robert Smith, Mark Lanegan, and Brody Dalle are Stephanie's primary influences...Continue Reading

In one word, describe a bully:


What motivated you to contribute your story to Dear Bully?

Because I survived and my experiences of being picked on and bullied by people who were weaker than me eventually did turn me into a stronger person. They made me explore who I really was instead of just being a cog in the machine. I made a choice in fifth or sixth grade to stop trying to fit in with the mean girl/popular clique and to be myself. It resulted in me being bullied, but it also resulted in me finding my own strengths and talents. It makes me so sad to hear so many stories about teens being bullied so far that they can't find that inner strength. It was hard work finding mine and I wanted to share my method in hopes that maybe it could help one person even a little bit. Honestly that's a main part of why I write period. If I can help one person get perspective on what they are dealing with, I feel like I lived through what I lived through for a reason.

Why do you think you were targeted?

Because I was different. I was targeted by a few different sets of "mean girls" over the years. At first, in grade school, it was because I'd moved to a new town and I didn't fit in. I didn't care about the labels on my clothing, which hadn't mattered at all at my old school, but mattered more at my new school. Plus I loved to read and learn, which made me a "nerd." Not to mention I was usually the smallest girl in the class which made me physically an easy target. At first I tried to fit in and the bullying was more like hazing. Then I decided I didn't want to be a carbon copy of the other girls at my school. I had my own style and I wasn't going to stop reading or learning because it was "uncool." The experience I had with a group of girls in junior high, which I wrote about for DEAR BULLY, probably happened because I stood out. I wanted to be me, I wanted to act even though an outsider like me belonged on stage crew instead of on stage according to some unspoken rules. I also was a loner, which made me an easier target. Above I described bullies as weak. They are. They pick on people they think are weaker than them to try to convince themselves and others that they aren't weak. Being the loner, weirdo girl made me a target, though honestly a lot of it also had to do with miscommunication. Those girls thought they had a justifiable reason for picking on me because of a rumor they heard. For some reason girls will turn on each other on a dime. It's because so many of us are insecure and rather than listening to each other or building each other up, we tear each other down to make ourselves feel better. It's a major societal ill in my opinion and I'm not entirely sure how we fix it, but I know it starts with communication, hence the importance of books like DEAR BULLY.

If you could give your teenage self a message, what would you say?

Just keep being you. Don't bend to them. You will end up being a stronger person. The ringleader of the girls bullying you will get so drunk at senior prom that she will have to be taken out in a wheelchair and she'll miss graduation and practically get suspended. You know why? Because the girl has issues and she's taking them out on you.

How would you handle a bully now versus when you were a teenager?

Now I would probably look at the situation more closely and try to figure out why someone was acting the way they were. I would remind myself that most likely they are doing it because they feel threatened by me in some way or to prove to themselves and whomever else that they are not weak. I might call them out on this. In the case of someone spreading rumors/misinterpreting my actions, I would at least clear that up even though I've learned that bullies usually don't listen. Bullies are still intimidating even now as an adult. They still make you feel powerless, but you remind yourself that in reality they are the powerless ones. And now the biggest, most important thing is that I talk to other people about how I'm feeling. Usually those people can help me get out of a bad situation, but at the very least, they make me feel better and less alone.

A lot of bullied kids and teenagers suffer in silence, How would you encourage them to reach out?

Silence is deadly. Silence is defeat. That is something I know for sure. You have to find some sort of way to speak up when someone is hurting you. It took me years to learn that if I didn't talk about something it only festered. I usually start by writing things down, just for myself, so I can work out how I feel about it all and understand it. That usually makes me feel stronger, strong enough to approach someone else. There has to be someone you can trust, a friend, a teacher, a parent, a counselor, a librarian. Turn to them. You may not think they can help, but you'd be surprised how much it helps just to get it off your chest and then you can go from there.

Did you ever come across a book that you could relate to, or that has helped you in some way?

Oh yes, tons. That's what I was always looking for, books that helped or made me feel less alone. I had a harder time finding them as a teenager which is why I write for teenagers now, I write the stories I needed. But when I was younger the books that really helped me were the Weetzie Bat series by Francesca Lia Block. Lots of characters who are unique and beautiful in there that reminded me to be me.

What would you like to say to the readers of Dear Bully?

Just that I hope they find something they can take from these many varied experiences that all of these survivors had. Maybe they will better understand bullies. Maybe they will better understand themselves. Most of all I hope they see how important it is to talk about bullying, to share these stories because the more we do, the more powerless we make the bullies.

Thank you so much, Stephanie!

Thanks for having me, Cathy!

Visit Stephanie: Webiste | Blog | Twitter | Buy Stephanie Kuehnert's Books

Click to learn more about Dear Bully and the authors participating. If you would like to learn more and/or participate in Dear Bully: Blogger Edition click HERE

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1 comment:

  1. Hi! Old follower stopping by. I spread the news about your Dear Bully : Blogger Edition at my blog. Feel free to stop by or email me if you need extra help.



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