My HuffPo: Five ways Parents can Help Prevent Cyberbullying

Please read my latest article on Huffington Post:

Five ways Parents can Help Prevent Cyberbullying

barkIt’s difficult for parents to know if their teen is a victim of cyberbullying. Many teens choose not to tell, worried their device will be taken away. Instead, your daughter might complain of “drama at school.” Or maybe your son feels embarrassed or ashamed. Bullying makes most people feel weak and powerless.

Cyberbullying refers to internet bullying, an act of bullying through electronic devices such as smartphones and computers. Cyberbullying may take the form of sending aggressive or mean messages, or posting embarrassing photos or information about another person. Common platforms used for cyberbullying include text messages, social media and messaging apps.

According to Bark, an algorithm that scans for indications of cyberbullying, sexting, drug-related content and signs of depression, one in three children have experienced cyberbullying.

BullyingStatistics.org reports that cyberbullying affects many adolescents and teens on a daily basis. The Cyberbullying Research Center emphasizes that cyberbullying affects all races, and can be very damaging to adolescents and teens. Chad Rose, an assistant professor of special education in the MU College of Education found that bullying rates for teens with disabilities remained consistently higher than those without disabilities.

Worse, once an image or post is circulated on the internet, it may never disappear, resurfacing at later times to renew the victim’s suffering, or affect college or work applications. Cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide.

 

Did you like this? Read my piece about how music lessons can help get your teen into college here!

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My HuffPo: Teens, Music & The Sober Curious Movement

Please read my latest article on Huffington Post:

Is the Sober Curious Movement the End of Teen Binge Drinking?

Created by JAVI_INDY – Freepik.com

For many teens, social activities never stop. With a smart device in hand, texts, posts, likes and shares are vital components of modern peer interaction. Parents often complain of adolescents glued to their screens, maintaining friendships, ironically, in a state of isolation.

When teens turn off their screens to join friends and peers for get-togethers and parties on weekends, many parents worry about the possibility of underage drinking – and for good reason. Social media has been linked to binge drinking, according to several new studies. On social media, young people can get unrealistic ideas about their peers’ seemingly “fabulous” lives, and posting of photos depicting drunken revelry serves to increase of the appeal of alcohol consumption.

Is underage binge drinking a problem? Let’s look at the statistics:

  • 1 in 6 teens binge drink
  • 90% of alcohol consumed by teens involves binge drinking
  • 4,300 underage deaths are caused by excessive drinking each year
  • Binge drinkers don’t drink alone. It generally requires peer pressure

“With neuroscience now showing that the human brain develops well into the mid 20’s, we can deduct that the introduction of alcohol into a teenage brain can cause permanent changes to its growth and function,” said Kristin Wilson, National Director of Clinical Outreach at Newport Academy, a teen treatment center. “Because of underdeveloped executive functioning, teens are often very easily influenced by peer pressure and are more willing to engage in high-risk behaviors.”

Dance Raves, Drinking and Drugs

The need to belong and experience social connections is a fundamental human characteristic, and while raves and teen parties have a long-held reputation for underage drinking, young people assert that the fundamental rewards of attending these events include meeting new friends and sharing one of the most highly valued aspects of teen life: music.

Fortunately, a shift toward a healthy lifestyle is trending. Over the last few years, there has been a decline in alcohol consumption for teens. Teens are experimenting with remaining sober while engaging in social activities that once highlighted alcohol use. The Sober Curious Movement includes day rave dances and juice bar crawls infused with the increased dopamine levels caused by up-tempo music and positive social interaction.

“If you’re used to hiding or escaping with alcohol, and then you discover that you can have genuine fun and make meaningful connections without it, that’s really empowering,” explained Annie Fabricant, coproducer of Morning Gloryville, a series of sober rave parties.

The Sober Curious Movement’s Impact on Teens

It’s all about building authentic relationships. “The Sober Curious Movement is a great step toward healthy living and overall wellness for teens. At fun, wellness-focused, sober events, teens can feel free to create face-to-face, authentic connections with one another, without the pressure to drink,” continued Kristin Wilson. “The relationships that are established within the Sober Curious community are based on mindfulness and a shared passion for healthy lifestyles.” The trend is proving universal among teens and millennials, building momentum across the US and around the world.

“Conscious clubbing” parties are popping up in cities all over the globe, encouraging dance fans to rave without alcohol, drugs or judgment. Parties are held in industrial clubs featuring mega sound systems and hipster DJs, and bars are stocked with raw coconut juice, water and green smoothies only. While many young people traditionally turn to alcohol to break the ice in social situations, today more teens are choosing to bust a move instead. The most common benefit cited by Sober Curious devotees: when sober friendships are formed, people remember making them.

Generation Z music fan Alexsys Chesnut has been in the Seattle rave scene since age sixteen. “A lot of my friends and I participate soberly. It’s about the music and losing yourself in dancing in an environment where you can be yourself, and dress like you want. It’s about all the new friends you make.”

Matthew Brimer and Radha Agrawal, creators of Daybreaker raves welcoming an average of 400 to 500 attendees said, “We want to take out all the bad stuff associated with raving – the drinking and self-destructive behavior – and just bring people together.” Healthy, sober fun translates into honesty at home. “There’s no guilt whatsoever here,” they added. “You can tell your grandmother about Daybreaker.”

Ready to Party Sober?

Here are Newport Academy’s tips for teens interested in creating positive social experiences without alcohol:

1. Surround yourself with friends who are living a healthy lifestyle, and like you sober.

2. Get outside. Plan a beach day, go on a hike, or try a juice bar crawl. Just being in the daylight helps increase serotonin levels, a brain chemical that boosts mood and creates feelings of overall happiness.

3. Listen to music. Music not only creates connection but can help you relax. Listening to music you love has also been shown to increase dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter that allows us to feel pleasure.

The more time young people use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In fact, “engaging in activities of little meaning on social media gives many teens a feeling of ‘time wasted’ that negatively influences mood,” reported researcher Lui yi Lin. Music allows isolated teens to establish real friendships, crush the dangers involved with binge drinking and be their authentic themselves.

Did you like this? Read my piece about how music lessons can help get your teen into college here!

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Our 2nd Teen Story Slam is Coming This Spring!

teenstoryslamApril17The teen writers asked for it, so we’re bringing it back! On April 20, 2017, the Teen Story Slam returns. This time, we’re taking over Island Cool, the huge, popular fro-yo restaurant in Lynwood Village on Bainbridge Island.

Teen creative writers in grades 7-12 are invited to step up to the mic to read their own prose for 5 minutes. Anything goes: a short story, a scene from your novel or screenplay, poetry, or wild and wacky true stories. Just keep it PG, please. Every writer who participates gets prize. No competition, no memorization, just pure storytelling awesomeness. In partnership with Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN), the Kitsap Regional Library, and Island Cool Frozen Yogurt, benefits from the event will support our Teen Writers Workshop after school writing program, and Teen Creative Writing Summer Camp. (More info to come on the camp. We’re going even bigger and brighter this year!)

Beloved Bainbridge High School English teacher Noah Barfield will serve as master of ceremonies. Mr. Barfield is known in the community for his achievements as a playwright, and among his students as a comedian.

At the inaugural Teen Story Slam we had 23 intrepid writers who kept the standing-room-only audience rapt. Will you share your magical words with us in April?

WHEN: Thursday, April 20th, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm (Island Cool has offered to keep the party going if stories remain to be told, but you must sign up!)

WHERE: Island Cool Frozen Yogurt, 4642 Lynwood Center Rd, NE, Bainbridge Island 98110

SIGN UP online here, at the Reference Desk at the Bainbridge Library, or by calling 206-842-4162.

Registration is required to participate. Family and friends are welcome to come cheer on the writers! Donations will support the Teen Writers Workshop at Bainbridge Public Library.

*I co-facilitate a free Teen Writers Workshop with author Margaret Nevinski, MFA. Students meet for the Workshop on the 2nd Thursday of every month during the school year. We also host a week-long Teen Creative Writing Summer Camp each summer that is free to writers in grades 7-12.

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Party for the Oscars – Presented my book!

What an amazing weekend! I had the honor of presenting RADIO HEAD to Oscar nominees, actors, recording artists and press at a pre-Oscar Awards party at the W Hotel in Hollywood! I met some fabulous people, from the legendary Maria Conchita Alonso, to up and coming actors who score roles pretty much everywhere – hi, Austin Mincks and Bill Parks! As a Middle Grade writer and fangirl, I was thrilled to meet Dee Wallace, star of the show, Just Add Magic. My sons and I binge-watch the excellent MG-targeted Amazon series. Thanks to visual artist and dear friend Jason Mascow for taking photos and going above and beyond.
(Love these? Check out my pics from the Grammy Awards party at REN Gallery!)

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Book event! I presented my novel at the Grammy Awards

Who is the ideal audience for a novel offering an insider’s look at the dark reality of the LA rock music scene? Music fans in LA, of course! To celebrate the 2017 Grammy Awards, I had the honor of presenting my debut book, Radio Head, to Grammy nominees, recording artists, music press, producers, and a fascinating group of actors, fashion designers, artists and models. Hosted by European TV host Nana Churcher, the high energy event was held at REN Gallery in downtown Los Angeles on the eve of the awards ceremony. My pen name appeared on the backdrop of the red carpet – how cool is that?! The DJ kept the music pumping, and the vibe was positive. My dear frifaveend, artist Jason Mascow, took all these great pics. Cheers to all the amazing talent I had the pleasure of meeting. Here are some of my favorite pics from the party.

 

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My latest on Huff Post: Worried About Your Teen Getting Into College? Consider Music Lessons

The following is an excerpt from my article, Worried About Your Teen Getting Into College? Consider Music Lessons, published on HuffingtonPost.com on February 2, 2017:

pedrosimao

Courtesy: Pedro Simao

Gaining mastery over any challenge your teen may face – sports, travel abroad, or acing AP Math – results in feelings of being ready to take on the challenge of post-secondary education. But many high school students aren’t able to compete, or don’t have access to classes and experiences that improve their chances for getting into and succeeding in college.

However, music training begun as late as high school may help improve the teenage brain’s responses to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills, suggests a new study from Northwestern University.

Nina Kraus, senior study author and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication recruited 40 Chicago-area high school freshmen in a study that began shortly before school started. They followed these children longitudinally until their senior year. The stable processing of sound details, important for language skills, is known to be diminished in children raised in poverty, raising the possibility that music education may offset this negative influence on sound processing.

“While music programs are often the first to be cut when the school budget is tight, these results highlight music’s place in the high school curriculum,” said Kraus.

Can Music Lessons Make a Difference?

The U.S. Department of Education recommends at least one year of visual and performing arts for college-bound high school students asserting, “Many colleges view participation in the arts and music as valuable experience that broadens students’ understanding and appreciation of the world around them.” In addition, music education plays a part in improving “children’s intellectual development.”

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, a Los Angeles-area music education company specializing in school-site music instruction, music education advocacy, and custom-designed band and orchestra books. “Students taking courses in music performance and music appreciation scored higher in the SAT than students with no arts participation. Music performance students scored 53 points higher on the verbal and 39 points higher on the math. Music appreciation students scored 61 points higher on the verbal and 42 points higher on the math…

I invite you to continue reading the entire article on HuffPo, including resources for parents and teachers. Click here to continue.

If you have ideas for supporting music programs in American high schools, please comment below!

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The 2017 Newbery Medal Winner – Read the Opening!

The Newbery awards (both the Medal and the Honor Books) are an obsession at my house. With two Middle Grade-aged readers, and the recent completion of my first MG novel, over Book cover image: The Girl Who Drank the Moon the years we have read the Newbery winners with passion, admiration, studious examination (reading good books is how we learn to become better writers!), and pleasure. Selected by the American Library Association, we are excited to learn more about the 2017 Medal Winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by  bestselling author, Kelly Barnhill. Check out the opening pages, courtesy of Workman Publishing. This book looks absolutely delightful–congratulations, Kelly Barnhill!
After the book sample, read on to learn about the 2017 Honor Books and their wonderful authors. Congratulations to you all!!

The following passage is excerpted from Kelly Barnhill’s 2017 Newbery Medal winner The Girl Who Drank the Moon

For as long as Xan could remember, every year at about the same time, a mother from the Protectorate left her baby in the forest, presumably to die. Xan had no idea why. Nor did she judge. But she wasn’t going to let the poor little thing perish, either. And so, every year, she traveled to that circle of sycamores and she gathered the abandoned infant in her arms, carrying the child to the other side of the forest, to one of the Free Cities on the other side of the Road. These were happy places. And they loved children.

When Xan arrived at the grove, there was no baby to be seen, but it was still early. And she was tired. She went to one of the craggy trees and leaned against it, taking in the loamy scent of its bark through the soft beak of her nose.

“A little sleep might do me good,” she said out loud. And it was true, too. The journey she’d been on was long and taxing, and the journey she was about to begin was longer. And more taxing. Best to dig in and rest a while. And so, as she often did when she wanted some peace and quiet away from home, the Witch Xan transformed herself into a tree—a craggy thing of leaf and lichen and deep-grooved bark, similar in shape and texture to the other ancient sycamores standing guard over the small grove. And as a tree she slept.

She didn’t hear the procession.

She didn’t hear the protestations of Antain or the embarrassed silence of the Council or the gruff pontifications of Grand-Elder Gherland.

She didn’t even hear the baby when it cooed. Or when it whimpered. Or when it cried.

But when the child opened its throat into a full-fledged wail, Xan woke up with a start.

“Oh my precious stars!” she said in her craggy, barky, leafy voice, for she had not yet un-transformed. “I did not see you lying there!”

The baby was not impressed. She continued to kick and flail and howl and weep. Her face was ruddy and rageful and her tiny hands curled into fists. The birthmark on her forehead darkened dangerously.

“Just give us a second, my darling. Auntie Xan is going as fast as she is able.”

And she was. Transformation is tricky business, even for one as skilled as Xan. Her branches needed to wind back into her spine, one by one, and the folds of bark devoured, bit by bit, by the folds of her wrinkles.

Xan leaned on her staff and rolled back her shoulders a few times to release the kinks in her neck—one side and then the other. She looked down at the child who had quieted some, and was now staring at the witch in the same way that she stared at the Grand-Elder—with a calm, probing, unsettling gaze. It was the sort of gaze that reached into the tight strings of the soul and plucked, like the strings of a harp.

“Bottle,” Xan said, trying to ignore the harmonics ringing in her bones. “You need a bottle.” And she searched her many pockets to find a bottle of goat’s milk, ready and waiting for a hungry belly.

With a flick of her ankle, Xan allowed a mushroom to enlarge itself enough to make a fine stool to sit upon. She let the child’s warm weight rest against the soft lump of her midsection and waited. The crescent moon on the child’s forehead dimmed to a pleasant shade of pink, and her dark curls framed her darker eyes. She was calm and content with the milk, but her gaze still bore into Xan—like tree roots hooking into the ground. Xan grunted.

“Well,” she said. “There’s no use looking at me like that. I can’t bring you back to where you were. That’s all gone now, so you might as well forget about it. Oh hush now,” for the child began to whimper. “Don’t cry. You’ll love the place where we are going. Once I decide which city to bring you to. They are all perfectly nice. And you’ll love your new family too. I’ll see to that.”

But just saying so made an ache in Xan’s old heart. And she was, all at once, unaccountably sad. The child pulled away from the bottle and gave Xan a curious expression. The Witch shrugged.

“Well, don’t ask me,” she said. “I have no idea why you were left in the middle of the woods. I don’t know why people do half the things they do, and I shake my head at the other half. But I am certainly not going to leave you here on the ground to feed some common stoat. You’ve got better things ahead of you, precious child.”

The word precious caught strangely in Xan’s throat. She couldn’t understand it. She cleared the debris from her old lungs and gave the girl a smile. She leaned toward the baby’s face and pressed her lips against the child’s brow. She always gave the babies a kiss. At least, she was pretty sure she did. The child’s scalp smelled like bread dough and clabbering milk. Xan closed her eyes, only for a moment, and shook her head. “Come now,” she said, her voice thick. “Let’s go see the world, shall we?”

And wrapping the baby securely in a sling, Xan marched into the woods, whistling as she walked.

And she would have gone straight to the Free Cities. She certainly intended to.

But there was a waterfall that the baby would like. And there was a rocky outcropping with a particularly fine view. And she noticed herself wanting to tell the baby stories. And sing her songs. And as she told and as she sang, Xan’s step grew slower and slower and slower. Xan blamed the onset of old age and the crick in her back and the fussiness of the child, but none of those things was true.

And Xan found herself stopping again and again just to take yet another opportunity to unsling the baby and stare into those deep, black eyes.

Each day, Xan’s path wandered farther afield. It looped, doubled back, and wiggled. Her traverse through the forest, normally almost as straight as the Road itself, was a twisty, windy mess. At night, once the goat’s milk was exhausted, Xan gathered the gossamer threads of starlight on her fingers, and the child ate gratefully. And each mouthful of starlight deepened the darkness in the child’s gaze. Whole universes burned in those eyes,—galaxies upon galaxies.

After the tenth night, the journey that usually only took three and a half days was less than a quarter done. The waxing moon rose earlier each night, though Xan did not pay it much mind. She reached up and gathered her starlight and didn’t heed the moon.

There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. But because the light travels such a long distance, the magic in it is fragile and diffused, stretched into the most delicate of threads. There is enough magic in starlight to content a baby and in large enough quantities to reveal the best in itself. It is enough to bless, but not to enmagic.

Moonlight, however. That is a different story.

Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.

Xan couldn’t take her eyes off the baby’s eyes. Suns and stars and meteors. The dust of nebulae. Big bangs and black holes and endless, endless Space. The moon rose, big and fat and shining.

Xan reached up. She didn’t look at the sky.

(Did she notice how heavy the light felt on her fingers? Did she notice how sticky it was? How sweet?)

She waved her fingers above her head. She pulled her hand down when she couldn’t hold it up anymore.

(Did she notice the weight of magic swinging from her wrist? She told herself she didn’t. She said it over and over and over until it felt true.)

And the baby ate. And ate. And ate. And suddenly she shuddered and buckled in Xan’s arms. And she cried out—once. And very loud. And then she gave a contented sigh, falling instantly asleep, pressing herself into the softness of the witch’s belly.

Xan looked up at the sky, feeling the light of the moon falling across her face. “Oh dear me,” she whispered. The moon had grown full without her noticing. And powerfully magic. One sip would have done it and the baby had had—well. More than a sip.

Greedy little thing.

In any case, the facts of the matter were as clear as the moon sitting brightly on the tops of the trees. The child had become enmagicked. There was no doubt about it. And now things were more complicated than they had been before.

Xan settled herself cross-legged on the ground and laid the sleeping child in the crook of her knee. There would be no waking her. Not for hours. Xan ran her fingers through the girl’s black curls. Even now, she could feel the magic pulsing under her skin, each filament insinuating itself between cells, through tissues, filling up her bones. In time, she’d become unstable—not forever, of course. But Xan remembered enough from the magicians who raised her long ago that rearing a magic baby is no easy matter. Her teachers were quick to tell her as much. And her Keeper, Zosimos, mentioned it endlessly. “Infusing magic into a child is akin to putting a sword in the hand of a toddler—so much power and so little sense. Can’t you see how you age me so, girl?” he said over and over.

And it was true. Magical children were dangerous. She certainly couldn’t leave the child with just anyone.

“Well, my love,” she said. “Aren’t you more troublesome by half?”

The baby breathed deeply through her nose. A tiny smile quivered in the center of her rosebud mouth. Xan felt her heart leap within her and she cuddled the baby close.

“Luna,” she said. “Your name will be Luna. And I will be your grandmother. And we will be a family.”

And just by saying so, Xan knew it was true. The words hummed in the air between them, stronger than any magic.

She stood, slid the baby back into the sling and began the long journey toward home, wondering how on earth she’d explain it to Glerk.

2017 Honor Books

Book cover image: Freedom Over MeFreedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan, written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.
 “Using real documents from an estate appraisal dated July 5, 1828, Bryan has created beautiful portrait paintings for 11 people who were named and priced as property on the Fairchildses’ estate. Bryan gives voice to their history, their longing for freedom, and their skills as artisans, cooks, musicians, carpenters, etc. Each person has two visual portraits, with each accompanied by a poem (on the opposite page). Collaged historical documents of slave auctions fill the negative space of the first portrait frame. The second portrait depicts that person in a private dream, often a dream for safety, family, community, or the freedom to create. A significant contribution to U.S. and African American history that will elicit compassion and understanding while instilling tremendous pride. A must-purchase for all collections.” — School Library Journal

Book cover image: The Inquisitor's TaleThe Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, written by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly and published by Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

The Inquisitor’s Tale is one of the most celebrated children’s books of 2016! New York Times Bestseller; A New York Times Editor’s Choice; A New York Times Notable Children’s Book; A People Magazine Kid Pick; A Washington Post Best Children’s Book, A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book; An Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book; A Booklist Best Book; A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book; A Kirkus Reviews Best Book; A Publishers Weekly Best Book; A School Library Journal Best Book 

Book cover image: Wolf HollowWolf Hollow, written by Lauren Wolk and published by Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
“Eleven-year-old Annabelle lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943. The continued fighting of World War II haunts everyone, but life is mostly peaceful—until Betty Glengarry’s arrival. Betty is cruel and threatening and thrives on inflicting pain. Thematically, this book raises some of the same issues as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with social status rather than racism as the basis for injustice. Vicious bullying is also a highly relevant topic, and this aspect is sure to spark important conversations. Highly recommended for purchase; a truly moving debut.” — School Library Journal

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