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sexual assault

Can I Call Myself An Author Now?

For the second time in the past couple years now, I can say I have had a poem of mine published once again! My first poem published was in an anthology called We Will Not Be Silenced which shares countless stories through poetry, prose and art of survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Me holding my copy of We Will Not Be Silenced, which contains what will be the first of many poems I’ll have published in the future.

What made me decide to contribute to this anthology about sexual harassment and assault is my own personal experiences. The long story short end of the matter was as I was growing up having to deal with being bullied in school by boys in my elementary and middle school years. The bullying I experienced in elementary school from boys my own age was physical, such as tugging at my hair during class to one of the boys sitting behind me on the school bus and punching the back of my seat.

Once I entered middle school, the bullying became more harassment in nature. In my 6th grade English class, I found myself hiding my face during class because one of the boys was always puckering his lips and making kissing noises at me. I tried getting him to stop to no avail. I also had to deal with another boy that same year telling me that he wanted to kiss me and telling me that he knew I wanted to kiss him too even though I never expressed any interest in him. At that point of my life, I’d never kissed anyone so I was worried that he might try to force a kiss on me one day.

These experiences and many others I experienced growing up inspired me to write my poem because the phrase I use to title my poem is a phrase many of us heard growing up when dealing with harassment from boys. But in my opinion, I see the phrase as a crutch to excuse boys from their wrongful behavior, which just continues to perpetuate and allow them to act that way as they grow up.

My most recent poetry publication is in an anthology called Through the Looking Glass: Reflection on Madness and Chaos Within. This anthology’s main focus is on mental illness and the experiences each of us have with dealing with our battle against our mental illness. Since mental illness is such a taboo subject, this anthology is an important step in the right direction to beginning the process of people actually talking about their mental health problems instead of feeling like their having to cope with them alone.

My big struggle that I talk about in Through the Looking Glass is with depression. I make a comparison between depression being an everyday fight against a demon that I have to slay and conquer every day because that’s how my experience with depression has been since I discovered I was depressed. I discovered I had depression when I was in college when I started having dreams and waking up with tears streaming down my face during the night and not understanding why. But it was not until years later in 2019 when my best friend lost her fight against cystic fibrosis that I discovered my depression getting worse. The depression I experienced during my college years was nothing like the demon I found myself fighting against once I lost my dear friend, one of the few people who I felt like knew me and understood me as a person. But I’ve been conjuring it one day at a time and I feel like I’m doing so much better now than I’ve been for a while.

 I also have another poem of mine that’s going to be published in another anthology that’ll be coming out in the near future that I’m excited about.

But one of the many reasons I wrote this post is now that I have some of my writing being published, should I consider myself an author? I mean most of the writing of mine that is getting published is poetry and each anthology is only going to have one of my poems, each one different from the other. But I do not know if I should consider myself an author because of these poems being put out there because I do not know if I feel like I deserve that title.

At the same time though, I love the written word so much and being published in any capacity has always been a dream of mine. I know technically I have been published since college along with since I started this blog back in 2015 after I graduated from college. But there is something different about seeing your name in a physical book you can hold in your hands. And to me (along with this blog of course), that feels like a huge accomplishment. Nonetheless, I still struggle with assigning myself the title of author because I still cannot believe I have accomplished this much in what feels like such a short amount of time. And I really cannot wait to see where my writing will go from here, what other publications I will find myself contributing to in the near future.

Book Review: Shout

Shout Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

This book was so beautifully written that I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. The overall writing style in this book reminds me so much of Ellen Hopkins’s young adult, contemporary, poetry prose. Like her works, Shout does a wonderful job of telling Laurie Halse Anderson’s story in poetic format. The difference being though that her story is a memoir, based on her own life experiences that she had during her adolescence.

For me, that made this book that much more beautiful. I found her story from teenager to young adult relatable as she talks about her experience with sexual assault and how that helped shape her into the adult she is now. Her poetry style flowed very well and was easy for me as a reader to follow along. As a result, I found myself wanting to continue reading her story to see how she handled her life experiences.

Another element of this memoir I enjoy is the honesty with which Anderson talks about sexual assault. Not only with regards to how it affected her own life but also how she’s seen her writing about it impact the lives of others. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned this in any of my blog posts before or not, but her book Speak is one of my favorite books. The first time I read it, I knew it was an important book that I’d always have on my bookshelf and it’s a story I’ve read countless times. With Shout, I find myself feeling the same way because the story being told within its pages is just as important.

I appreciate that this book brings up important topics such as sexual assault and censorship when it comes to allowing children to read certain books. Both topics need to be addressed, especially in books. It saddens me to see so little has changed when it comes to these topics and I appreciate Anderson’s words bringing this truth to light and letting us know she wants to continue being a voice of change.

There is very little with this memoir I didn’t enjoy, except maybe certain poems didn’t flow very well. Or that I found when reading certain parts of the overall story didn’t feel quite as strong as others. I overall loved each of the sections in this book, but I sometimes found the writing worked well in one section over the other. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the content, I just didn’t find that section quite as enjoyable to read as the other. It was interesting and caught my attention but didn’t speak to me quite as much.

Either way, I overall enjoyed reading Shout. To the point where I’m at a loss of words to describe my thoughts on this book. It’s a good book, full of content that gets straight to the point and leaves quite the punch. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it, especially to those who love poetry/prose and memoirs. It’s also good for young adult readers and those who enjoy reading books that deal with difficult topics.

Why “We Will Not Be Silenced: The Lived Experience of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Told Powerfully Through Poetry, Prose, Essay, and Art” Is Important to Me

We Will Not Be Silenced Book Cover

So, I know this will come as a surprise to many of you. If you follow me on social media at all, you might already know what I’m about to say. I recently submitted a poem I’d written for the opportunity to possibly be included in an anthology that talks about sexual harassment and sexual assault. At the time, I was feeling extremely passionate about those subject matters and an idea for a poem came to me. So I wrote down the words that were flowing through my thoughts and on a whim, submitted my poem to Indie Blu(e) Publishing.

Before this poem, I’ve never ever submitted any writing of mine for publication so I didn’t know what was going to happen. So when I received an email back saying that my poem was going to be accepted to be included in the anthology, I was completely surprised. I didn’t expect this poem I’d written on a whim to be accepted, but I was also happy too for a many number of reasons.

There are many reasons why the subject matter of sexual harassment and sexual assault are important to me. The best way I can describe it is this: I’ve had quite a few experiences of my own where I found myself feeling uncomfortable around someone of the opposite sex. Whenever I was in elementary school, I was bullied a lot by boys my age. When these boys bullied me, a lot of what they did was physical, such as pulling my hair.

Then when I was in middle school (6th grade to be exact) I dealt with having two different boys harassing me. One of the boys told me he wanted to kiss me and that he knew I liked him even though I never once expressed any interest in him.  The other boy would pucker his lips and make kissing noises at me during class. It was to the point where I found myself covering my face with my jacket or putting my head on the table so I could ignore him because he never stopped doing it even after I confronted him about it.

I’ve also had some pretty personal experiences with emotional and verbal abuse throughout my middle school and high school years. Whenever I was in 8th grade, my mother married a man we all thought would be a wonderful addition to our family. Instead, he was emotionally and verbally abusive towards the three of us along with being an alcoholic. The marriage was so bad that the summer before my senior year of high school, my mother decided she had enough and we spent several days packing our things so that we could leave. During that time, my older sister and I stayed the night at various friend’s homes so that we weren’t anywhere near our ex step-father and had friends help us pack until we collected all of our belongings. Those years were some of the roughest years of my life, but despite those terrible times, I’m extremely thankful for them. Because I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t had those experiences in my life.

So for me personally, I believe the “We Will Not Be Silenced” anthology is really important. I believe it’s a really great way for those who have their own personal stories about being sexually harassed and assaulted to come forward creatively. Or anyone that has any other types of stories to open up and share their experiences. And I’m extremely thankful and honored that my poem is within it’s pages.

We Will Not Be Silenced My Poem
The poem I submitted into the “We Will Not Be Silenced” anthology. It’s called “If ‘Boys Will Be Boys,’ Then Girls Are Allowed to be Angry.” There’s more of it on the next page, but I figured I wouldn’t share my whole poem on here.

We Will Not Be Silenced Back Cover
You can even see my name on the back cover, near the bottom.

We Will Not Be Silenced Me Photo 1
Me with “We Will Not Be Silenced” in my hands and our one cat on my lap.

If you’re interested in getting yourself a copy of the anthology, you can order a paperback copy on Amazon here and get it for your Kindle here. You can also send an email to indiebluecollective@gmail.com if you’d like to be placed on the wish list for a copy of the anthology. I would also like to add that seventy percent of the royalties raised above the publishing and promotion costs will be donated to organizations that provide services to sexual harassment and sexual assault survivors, which is another reason why I’m so happy to be a part of this.

I still can’t believe that a poem I’ve written has been published. But I can’t be any happier about it because I’m expressing myself and letting my voice be heard. Please if you can, get yourself a copy of “We Will Not Be Silenced” because there are a lot of powerful voices expressing their truths. From what I’ve read of it so far myself, these stories are pretty amazing. Just know too that if you have your own personal story, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to me. You aren’t alone and I believe you.

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