November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ Chats with Teen Author and Bullying Survivor Aija Mayrock

Matthew Adam_Photography

Photo by Matthew Adam Photography

As we enter National Bullying Prevention month, the recent statistics on cyberbullying and teens published by the global YouGov survey of more than 4,700 teenagers from across the world shows how pervasive and destructive bullying can be. According to the new study, it is a worse problem among teenagers than drug abuse. Once a victim herself, bullying awareness advocate, speaker, and now published teen author Aija Mayrock shares how she was able to overcome bullying and what inspired her to write The Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Teen (Scholastic, 2015).

When did you decide that you would write a book for kids about your experiences being bullied?

When I was 16, there was a boy [who] committed suicide because he was bullied. In that moment, I realized that if I sat back and did nothing, then I was just as bad as the people who bullied me. So I decided to take a stand and share my story.

What was your turning point—when you felt like you could “survive” that horrible experience?

When I was 14, I won a competition in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for a screenplay I wrote on bullying. In that moment, I realized that something positive could come from what I had gone through. I knew it would be really hard to get over the bullying, but I didn’t want it to define me. So I didn’t let it.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

SO many! Definitely R.L. Stine, Lisi Harrison, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, and many, many, more.

survival guide to bullyingWas there an educator or librarian that helped you get through those tough times?

When I was 16, I met a teacher at New York University named Gay Abel-Bey. She told me that “It is never your fault that you are being bullied.” I know that it sounds so simple, but for some reason I could never understand that until she told me. She changed my life and I wrote about her in my book.

I believe that educators and librarians can be life-changing and life-saving [catalysts] for so many kids. Gay changed my life.

Can you tell us about your most memorable speaking experience?

Last year, when I self-published my ebook, I spoke at a school. I was really nervous because I was speaking to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. I didn’t know if they would feel impacted by my story.

But during the presentation, they swarmed me. They grabbed the mic and told their stories of being bullied in front of the whole school. To this day, I get messages from all of them telling me how my book and my presentation have changed their lives. It was unbelievable.

Every day I wake up to (sometimes) hundreds of messages from kids all over the world. This morning I woke up to 200 messages from kids telling me how my story has saved their lives.

Do you have plans to write other books?

Yes, I do! My readers are asking for books on other topics, which gets me very excited!

Do you still rap? Who is your favorite rap artist?

Absolutely! All the time. People never expect that from me. I recently saw the rap musical Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda. I haven’t listened to anything else since the album came out. It’s my new favorite rap/hip hop album.

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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