I grew up on a farm in rural central Pennsylvania and spent my summers in a rustic cabin on a river in upstate New York, settings that influence my writing, including many of the scenes in the land of Bitopia.
I attended Dickinson College, majoring in history and music, and studied ("studied") abroad in England and Greece. After college I moved to Boston, where I took courses in fiction and journalism at the Harvard Extension School and at Grub Street.
Bullying has been the focus of my work published thus far. In my first year of high school, I was bullied and endured what felt like an eternity of fear, anxiety, and dread until the day a bystander intervened and I witnessed a technique used by the bystander that rendered the aggressor’s bullying behavior ineffective. From that day on, I put the technique into practice and was never bullied again. I also realized how easy stopping bullying can be once the mechanics of it are understood. You can read more about this story in a guest blog post I was invited to write for CollegeXpress.com.
I used my bullying experience as the basis for Bitopia. When it came out in early 2012, I began looking at bullying prevention programs to see where my novel might be complementary and I was horrified by what I found. Many of the current mainstream programs were built on outdated research and use approaches that any middle schooler could tell you are destined to fail. And I confirmed this by delving into studies of these programs published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that all but declared them ineffective at best and sometimes counterproductive.
Not finding any effective bullying prevention programs, I started researching the topic and wrote a book titled Understanding Bullying and Ways to Make It STOP! a guide to empowerment for students and educators. A few copies of that book eventually circulated among educators in the Boston Public School district, and apparently they liked what they read.
In 2014, the BPS educators challenged me to create a modern, comprehensive bullying prevention program based on empowerment. They wanted the program to address a number of problems found in traditional approaches to bullying and to involve the entire community. It was the worst/best homework assignment I'd ever received. After putting aside a new novel, I spent two grueling years buried in research and writing, which were followed up by district reviews and vetting, and parent and teacher presentations. The program was finally accepted and launched as a pilot in February 2016. So far, the program is exceeding everyone's expectations. The program materials are also being used by a division of the Massachusetts General Hospital and are currently under review in multiple schools and by education departments in two countries.
With the program finally launched, I'm now turning back to fiction. While I'll be spending my days helping schools to implement effective approaches to dealing with bullying and raising awareness about the CirclePoint program, the early hours of the morning, while everyone is still asleep, will be focused on where I left off two years ago. I'm resuming work on that novel I put aside, revising an adult novel that I completed a few years ago, and tweaking the outline of a new YA trilogy that I'll start once these two other novels are complete. And hoping that no one gives me another homework assignment.