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Monday, October 15, 2012

A.K. Taylor speaks out on bullying + a giveaway

Today A.K. Taylor shares her thoughts on bullying. Not only that, but she has kindly offered up five kindle copies of her book, Neiko's Five Land Adventure!

How I Survived Bullying

I was more than happy to participate in this anti-bullying event. Why? Because bulling and I go a long way back—I mean a looooong way. Forget elementary school. My bullying trials began all the way back into preschool.
I grew up as an isolated, only child—there’s not too many kids around when you live in the backwoods. There are no neighborhoods. You don’t really pick and choose who you can play with. I hardly ever played with other kids. The next door neighbor’s son, who I played with most of the time, was older than I was, and he would play with me after school when my mother took me to their house. That wasn’t every day either.
Preschool was my first interactions with kids my own age. My first interactions with the outside world away from home and neighbors were bad. I was minding my own business when some kid would bite me or steal my toy or call me a “stupid head”. Being an only child meant I’ve never dealt with this; I didn’t know how to deal with it. I knew there was something wrong about, but what was I supposed to do?
Things didn’t get better in elementary school; they got worse. People called me names. They ignored me. They didn’t want to play with me. I never got into a fight, but there were a couple times it was a miracle that I didn’t. I could count on one hand how many times I went to another kid’s house that wasn’t one of the neighbors. The bus was even worse. I would get it there after being abused all day at school. I didn’t want to go to school, and I didn’t want to ride the bus. Maybe I can go to school, but I begged my parents to take me to school, but they couldn’t since they had to work.
During this time I was bullied by a grown up and her son, and there was a kid named Lily (not her real name) that pretended to be my friend only to betray me, hurt me, and humiliate me in front of everybody. She was a middle schooler; I was only in 2nd grade. Lily basically tore out my heart and stomped on it for God and everyone to see. Will she ever know what she stole from me that day? She completely destroyed my ability to get close to others or to trust. I had to go through a lot of therapy to undo what she did to me over 20 years ago. I was too afraid to let people get close to me and kept them at arm’s length after that. It already took me a long time to warm up to others, but now it was even longer. As soon as someone betrayed me, I never let them back in. No one ever hurt me as badly as Lily did—ever.
We move away. I was scared beyond belief. All new people? How mean are they going to be? I won’t know friend from enemy here. To make this a long story short, this place was much better than the first. I find my first real friend here. This sadly comes to an end.
We move to the suburbs in the first part of 8th grade, and this place was even worse than the first . It was pretty much the same thing as the first place, but worse. There were more cliques here. I was always in the “no more” part of the “us four and no more”. Things were so bad that I didn’t join a group or partner with someone unless I was invited or if the teacher would plug me somewhere. So in other words you could say I became a hermit.
I had casual friends, but I never felt like I “belonged” with anyone. I didn’t let anyone “too close” for fear of another Lily. If someone betrayed me, less damage was done. I felt as if I just “wandered” around. I never went to the prom. I didn’t date—I didn’t want another Lily on the romantic level, and I couldn’t find anyone who was generally interested in me since I think they saw me as a “last resort”. I didn’t hang out with anyone after school. I hardly talked to anyone. So basically I closed up within myself. I stop reaching out because people would shrug me off or bite my hand. I got tired of rejection. I am unwelcome, and I am introverted, so that means I am wasting my energy—it’s time to find other things to do than to reach out to people who don’t care about me or want me around.
For anyone who knows about being a bullying victim, the emotional pain can be excruciating—the loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, despair, and the abysmal self image and self esteem as a result of it all. It was no different for me. I may have not gotten beaten up physically, but I got my but kicked psychologically and emotionally every single day. I know there are some who also get whipped physically. I even had trouble with bullying as an adult in the workplace. The loneliness is what was hardest for me more than anything else. No one cared if I lived or died, or so that is how things seemed. Everybody hates me, no one cares, etc began to turn into I hate people; people suck; I don’t want to be around people because all they do is hurt me; they don’t like me, so I don’t like them, etc. I had become afraid of people. I was more scared of a stranger than I was of an eight-foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake as big around as a man’s arm or a tarantula the size of a softball. People do more harm to me than either of these. You have to at least provoke a rattlesnake for it to bite you at least; people just attack you for no reason. All you have to do is exist and they’ll be on attack.
There were times dark thoughts crossed my mind. I never contemplated taking my life, but an accidental death was weighed in the balance. If I died from an accident, no one would miss me or care, except for my parents or family. The entire school would probably celebrate with cake and confetti and on the cake it was say GOOD RIDDANCE with my name somewhere on it—kind of like how the munchkins celebrated when Dorothy dropped a house on the Wicked Witch of the East. If I became a complete hermit and never left to go to school again, no one would notice. These crossed my mind during my darkest and loneliest times. This is normally where people die; I had a stronger will to live though.
Combat Against the Dark Thoughts
I am a strong creative type and a type C personality. I reasoned that if no one cares about me nor I matter in the outside world, then I will create me place where I DO matter. If no one wants to be my friend, then I’ll create me friends who care about me. I also have my animals that love me unconditionally and don’t judge me. I also had another friend called Nintendo. There was another friend called Homework, but I don’t like to bring him home often especially when he wanted to do something boring… Mom and Dad are too busy to come on an adventure with me so I’ll have to tell them later. My toys would take me to other worlds I dreamed up.
From as young as age 5 I had been going on wondrous pretend adventures. As I grew up, the more elaborate they became. I could go anywhere, do anything, be anything, be loved and revered; I was the greatest hero of all time. I couldn’t wait to get home to adventuring again, but returning to reality at the bus stop the next morning always sucked, and I would tell my imaginary friends how much so-and-so sucked, how much I hate them, etc. After that we would go off and save the world. Oh, and the animals would come along too! They didn’t wait for me to come home; no, they came to school with me. What good are they stuck at home? We no one wanted to play with me there they were!
After doing this I didn’t really think about how much life and people sucked nearly as often.  I had my bad days, but a good nudge from a pretend friend would get me going again. Sometimes it was my parents too, lol.
When I got into high school I couldn’t really do that anymore. There were no woods to have adventures in. I couldn’t play with toys any longer. I had to find another way back to the worlds and people I’d created. Then, I remembered how much I like to write short stories and poems in school. Okay, maybe I can write my adventures since I can’t go on them like I used to. Then a challenge ran across my mind. I’ve mastered the small stuff, how hard is it to write a book.
Taking what I had learned from school and from reading books, I taught myself how to write books. At the age of 16 I sat down and wrote my first full length novel—Neiko’s Five Land Adventure was born—a YA fantasy novel that would have been written to my friends (if I had any). No help, no teachers other than myself, nada. I drew maps to the lands and drew pictures of the characters and colored them with crayons and colored pencils. I didn’t stop there I wrote another and another and another. While everyone was at the prom doing things they may regret, I was at home writing my book. No one ever knew. They wouldn’t have cared anyway.
My books were not about bullying whatsoever. No bullies found themselves in my work. Even as teacher I didn’t like. Not even Lily was there. However fragments about my experience did find it’s way in and I didn’t find this out till recently when talking with my editor. My theme for the whole saga was escape and it takes on several forms.
Did I ever publish? Yes, many years later. When I sat down at the computer for the first time publishing was the last thing I had on my mind. My self esteem was pretty abysmal—the image of myself that I had painted from others’ perspective was egregious. My own self image I had of myself was not bad, but it wasn’t great either. A publisher would laugh at some stupid little redneck girl’s stories; I thought family, friends, and other local people were kidding themselves when they said something about publishing. I was about 20 at the time.
The Message
Not everyone is going to sit down and write a 100K story in response to dealing with bullying. Surly there is something you enjoy doing or good at. It can get your mind off of how much life and people suck and something a lot more constructive. It could save lives.
Until we can find a way to get rid of bullying you have to find ways to survive and cope with it. As far as I knew there were no programs or activities like this available when I was a kid. If there were, they probably didn’t reach far into the boondocks where I lived.


Occupations: MG/YA fantasy/scifi author, beekeeper, amateur herpetologist, scientist, artist, marksman, blogger, outdoor sportsman, and animal lover. Musician and instrumentalist who played the French horn since middle school.

Interesting facts: I love the animals that most people hate. I LOVE snakes. Snakes need love too, but I don’t cuddle with the venomous ones, BTW, so you won’t see my life story on “Fatal Attractions”. Most people hate bees (not the same thing as wasps and hornets), but they aren’t as easy to hold and pet since they are too easy to squash and they sting. I love them enough so that they will make honey.

Chocoholic and action addict. Big Vin Diesel fan. I have a lot of favorite movies: Star Wars, Dirty Harry, Legend…I’ll stop there. Did I mention I was an action addict? I don’t like being bored.

I began my writing career young at sweet 16 that began with my debut novel Neiko’s Five Land Adventure. Instead of a car, I wanted my own computer, but didn’t happen till I bought my own about five years later. I started out on my parents’ ancient slow computer. I received my first rejection slip when I was 21, but it was a blessing in disguise. I chose the indie way instead!

Graduate of UGA with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. Total science nerd. I love all science besides biology; chemistry is my fave. I hate political science, but that’s not science–I don’t even think it’s a pseudoscience.

Synopsis for Neiko's Five Land Adventure: The Indians and the Crackedskulls are locked in the turmoil of war and presently in a stalemate. Her enemies, Raven and Bloodhawk, have come up with a scheme to up the ante and break the stalemate into their favor. Neiko later finds out that a land she thought she had only imagined is actually real and contains a legendary and otherworldly evil within it. Not only that, she becomes trapped there and must escape the world, the people within it, and the sinister evil within. Neiko must find her way back home and turn the tables on her enemies. Can she come back home and escape the evil that seeks to claim her?

Taylor is a YA fantasy/science fiction adventure writer who has been writing since age 16. Taylor also draws her characters and designs her covers and illustrations which she also began at 16. Taylor has also written a nonfiction piece about self promotion.

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