Today, I have as a guest on my blog, writer Elaine Wolf, the author of the YA novel Camp (Sky Pony Press, June 2012)and the upcoming Danny’s Mom (Arcade Publishing, November 2012), for ages 17+. Elaine has taken on the mission of making “our camps and schools kinder, gentler places for everyone.” Toward this goal, she fights bullying “one novel at a time,” which has led her to be known as the anti-bullying novelist. What I find amazing is that Elaine is one of the fortunate people—a person who never became the target of bullies. Yet she writes about bullying as though she were. Here, she describes some of experiences she has had as a result of becoming known as an anti-bullying warrior.
My Neighbor, The Bully Buster
Last night at a community meeting, a neighbor approached me and said, “I have a bullying story for you.” That’s been happening a lot lately: People who have read my coming-of-age novel, CAMP, and people who’ve heard that I’m known as “the anti-bullying novelist,” often have bullying tales to share with me. They talk about experiences they had when they were young –– experiences like those of the brutally bullied teenager in CAMP. People tell me about bullying that their children or grandchildren endured. They share horror stories, which, frankly, sometimes leave me speechless. They ask me how children can be so mean. They ask if I think this bullying epidemic will ever end. And they always ask if I was bullied as a child. When I reply that I’m lucky, that I wasn’t ever bullied, they ask how I was able to write “the realistic bullying scenes in CAMP.” I tell them that, even a decade after I retired from my school district position, “mean girl voices” still thunder in my head. Last night, though, my neighbor shared a bullying story that left me with hope…and questions.
My neighbor Rod is a strapping man with a deep voice and a salty sense of humor –– not the kind of guy I picture telling bullying stories. But Rod was eager to share his with me. As a youngster, Rod said, he was “a really big boy.” And his buddy, Rod told me, was “super strong.” So whenever they saw a kid being bullied, Rod said that he and his buddy would walk right up to the ringleader and quietly say, “Stop.” They would put their arms around the bullied student, and escort him away from the group.
I must admit, it was refreshing to hear about these guys helping bullied students rather than hearing about another brutally bullied victim. It made me happy to hear a story of hope: a story with a moral that kids have the power to say “no” to bullying, that kids can stand up and help the victims.
But this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if Rod and his buddy wouldn’t have been “really big” and “super strong”? Would they have stood up to the bullies? And if they had, would they have become the next targets?
We have an obligation to teach our children when to intervene and when to walk away and seek help from adults. And we have to let our children and our students know that each of them has a moral imperative to seek us out when they witness bullying; they have an obligation to be “upstanders” –– not bystanders. And we, as adults, have an obligation to help end this epidemic by being available to our children and our students when they call on us. We must expect nothing less from each other. Like my neighbor, we all must be bully busters. Together, we must stop the bullying epidemic.
Upstanders, not bystanders. I like that.
Elaine Wolf, through her books and her reputation as the anti-bullying novelist, is, herself, a bully buster. It’s a goal for all of us to strive toward.
For more information about Elaine and her books, be sure to visit the
Now get out there and be a bully buster!