Every time I talk about my book, there is a different slant to the presentation. Sometimes I focus on the writing process, and other times I talk about how I came up with the characters. It often depends on the questions I get asked from students and teachers. I recently spoke at a school, and this time the main topic of conversation was bullying.

My heart hurts when I hear about kids getting bullied. I know it is a huge problem in our world today, and it is something that many schools are addressing. Mari had to face the bully to follow her dream, so this subject is absolutely relevant to my story.

Kids aren’t really equipped to deal with bullies. They want to fight back but don’t always know how. Sometimes fighting back can make things worse. It is important for adults to have conversations with kids regarding this topic. At a recent event, I spoke to parents about it, and the most important thing families can do is love and reassure their children. They must also have honest conversations with them. Communication is key, and a big part of communicating is listening and observing changes in the child’s behavior.

I realize that many educators only want to deal with topics that pertain to learning, but I know there are a lot of kids who cannot focus on math, reading, and more when they are preoccupied with the bully they will face at recess. Thousands of kids miss school every day due to fear of being harassed, so we must deal with the issue in order to reach and teach our children. We need a two-fold plan to deal with this problem. We must counsel the person being bullied as well as the one causing the harm. The bully has a hurting heart, and heart work can be tricky.

When I spoke to parents, I told of many famous people who were once bullied. It’s as if the bully sees that special spark and potential for greatness in someone, and they want to put out that fire. I encouraged parents to build up their children and cheer them on to follow their dreams. These challenges can make kids stronger and more compassionate if we help them to frame encounters with bullies in a positive way. Part of navigating this world is learning to deal with difficult people. That is definitely a lesson for all of us!

A major theme to my story is that Mari was different and special, yet she didn’t let the bully keep her from being true to herself. Mari literally launched into her destiny and onto amazing adventures! (In fact, she moved forward right in front of her bully. Take that, Diablo!) The bottom line is that we cannot control what other people will do or say, but we can control what we do about it. That is empowering.

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