Not a Funny Story by Emily Franklin

Not a Funny Story
By Emily Franklin

A note to readers: I planned on making this essay funny. I thought I’d write a sarcastic, amusing letter to a former bully or the girl who made me feel crappy in eighth grade. I am funny. Really. My novels are filled with wry humor and wit. And yet, when I sat down to write about this particular incident, funny isn’t what came out.

Say it’s sixth or seventh grade and say you’re one of those girls who is not quite in one group and not quite in another. You can’t be categorized. You don’t know this at the time, but some girls find this a problem. People like to have you fit neatly into one social heading: alpha girls, bookish girls, poor girls. You—h happily—float from one group to the next.

This means that while you are welcome in all the groups, you are integral to none of them. No one waits for you to go to lunch. No one feels their party is incomplete without you. On the other hand, you always have a place to sit and can chat equally well with B about her new hair cut and crush on A or S about her parents’ divorce or C about writing stories, which you both love to do.

When X announces her sleepover, you can’t wait to attend. There will be laughter way late at night, food tucked into bathrobes, dares and truths about boys, private jokes to reference the following Monday.

But then you can’t make it. Not because you don’t want to—nothing sounds better than sitting with your knees tucked to your chin while X braids your hair or asks who you like. But you’ve got a high fever, a serious infection—again—and wind up missing not only the sleepover but the whole following week of school.

When you enter the classroom on Monday morning, hang up your red book bag on its metal hook, you see W and wave, looking forward to hearing every details of the sleepover jokes and conversations you missed. But W turns away from you. So do K and B. In fact, no one will make eye contact with you, and when you decide it’s not just your imagination, you approach E and B and say, “Hey, what’s going on?” they turn away.

You experience the same feelings as watching the scary movies everyone else loves but you hate: chills, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, fear, that sickening pull in your gut. You try again, just to talk to someone. Anyone. But even the people who have no one to talk to—the girl who doesn’t wash her hair, the boy who still picks his nose—they won’t speak to you.

Finally, S with her sad eyes, divorced parents, and tiny voice, says, “Just so you know, I didn’t sign it.”

You ask what she means.

“The petition. The one W wrote.”

This is what happened when you were away. You missed the sleepover and W moved in for the kill. You never realized she was jockeying for some social position, or how it’s always a game, even if you chose not to play it. So W writes a document, forms a club called the I Hate [Your Name Here] club. Like all clubs, it has focus, a sole goal: hating you. She works on it the whole week and convinces some kids easily. They are eager to please W and sign without question. Others take work—W has to persuade them, make them long to be part of the majority of haters, woo them with campaign promises. She is the president of the club.

But there are those who will not be so easily conned or swayed. For them, W offers them to the chance to just be in the band. It’s like a lesser form of hating. You just sing the club’s theme song. But still, you can’t speak to the subject.

S is the only person in the entire grade who joins neither the band nor the club.

I could tell you how this is all real, how hellish it was, how alone I felt, or how I rallied. I called W’s second-in-command and when she hung up on me, I went right to her mother. Once I involved the parents, the club crumbled, but the damages were never addressed, just absorbed into everyday life.

We should have talked about it. We should have all spoken with teachers and parents. I never did.

I tell this story to my own children so that they will tell me, so they will speak.

But mainly, I tell my children so that they will be like S and stand up—though standing up is difficult and sometimes dangerous. I tell my children this because it is easy to pass it off as a funny incident that happened a long time ago. I tell them now because as a parent I am amazed at how quick people are to say “Well, girls are mean at that age” or “Everyone does stuff like that at one point or another” or “I wouldn’t go back to that age if you paid me a million dollars.” Where do you draw the line between not being nice and being cruel? At what point is it unacceptable? How threatened can you feel going to school each day?

I tell this story now because it should have been told then. Because out of a class of sixty people, only one of was by my side. Only one said no.

Emily Franklin is the author of over a dozen books for teens, including two critically-acclaimed series, The Principles of Love and The Other Half of Me. Emily’s other young adult titles include the novels in the Chalet Girls series, and the forthcoming Half-Life of Planets. She has also written two novels for adults, Liner Notes and The Girls’ Almanac. She also edited the anthologies It’s a Wonderful Lie: 26 Truths about Life in Your Twenties and How to Spell Chanukah: 18 Writers on 8 Nights of Lights. Check out her website at

New Story: The Trinity From Hell

The Trinity from Hell
By Jenny O’Connell

Dear Amy, Lauren and Maura,

As the bouncy-haired, tight-jeans trio of eighth grade, you walked the halls like you owned them. As a seventh grader I was supposed to know my place. And my place was way below you. For no reason other than that you didn’t like me. Not that you actually knew me. But I knew you. You were like Charlie’s Angels, three girls who were as dangerous as they were beautiful.

Funny, how you loved my brother, a fellow eighth grader. You’d think you would like me, or at least tolerate me, simply because we were related. Not so. And not so funny that when I started dating an eighth grader you called me a slut. You knew there was no other name that could cut a girl down to size even if she’d never actually French kissed a guy in her life. Even if the mere thought scared her to death.

So I avoided you at all costs. Would take the long way to class if it meant I didn’t have to walk past the three of you watching me, whispering, laughing. I was outnumbered and it brought you such pleasure, such amusement. Slut.

But then there was a day that you were outnumbered, Amy, at Paul H’s Bar Mitzvah. Paul only invited three girls—me, my best friend and you. You were there because your families were friends. We were there because we were Paul’s friends. Two against one. Us against you. We should have showed you what it was like to be made to feel like the unwanted one. We should have taught you a lesson.

Only we didn’t. Because we were nice. And we were naïve. So we talked to you, cautiously at first, waiting to see what you were really like, if you were the same bitch we encountered in the hallways of school. And without Lauren and Maura you lost your edge, or maybe you just lost your power.

That Monday at school we waited to see what would happen, if you’d acknowledge us, if you’d tell your friends that we weren’t so bad after all. But you didn’t. And you know what? We weren’t really surprised. I wasn’t surprised, although I was disappointed. Because I’d really hoped that you’d tell Lauren and Maura that we were nice, that we were fun, that I wasn’t a slut—that they were wrong. Not because I wanted to be your friend, but because I wanted to believe that even a bitch like you could be a regular person.

The next year you all went off to high school, and the following year I went to a different school in another town. I never had to see you again. So why, all these years later, do I remember your names, how your hair would curl away from your face in perfect Farrah Fawcett-styled feathers, how you’d look at me with narrowed eyes and snide smiles, how you made a thirteen year old loathe and fear you? Because you helped make me the person I am today. The one that wants to kick the ass of every smart-mouthed girl who thinks she’s better than everyone else. The one who knows how small you were inside no matter how big the curls in your hair, how blue your eyeliner or how tight your jeans. You might not even remember any of this, but I do. And I know that putting up with your shit made me stronger, made me kinder, made me me. You didn’t break me, you didn’t win. I am who I am not because of you but in spite of you.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. Something I wish I’d said to you as a seventh grader: You suck.


Jenny O’Connell is the author of Plan B, The Book of Luke, Local Girls,and Rich Boys. Visit her online at



New Story: Letter to Nine Year Old Me

Letter to Nine Year Old Me
By Catherine Ipcizade

Dear Cathy,

I know how much you’ve always loved being first. You were born eight minutes before your twin sister. Your name was always said first—Cathy then Beth, because let’s face it—coming out the birth canal in the lead was a huge feat, and you deserved the recognition.

But things are about to change for you. You’ll still be first, but you won’t want to be. This year, you’ll have to start wearing a bra. Not one of those flimsy, flowery things your friends beg their moms to buy them before they actually need them, but a real, bona fide, cup-sized bra. And you’ll wonder, as you fidget with the clasps, if your future is destined to be the same as the memory you have of your grandmother—the one where she lifts her breasts one at a time, spraying Right Guard deodorant under each before she heaves them into her Over-the-Shoulder-Boulder-Holder. You’ll try to cover your chest—with your arms, with sweaters—but everyone will know what you’re wearing. People you thought were friends will tease you from the confines of the tunnels on the playground, and you’ll be embarrassed and angry that they have a place to hide, while you don’t.

So you’ll start running—literally. You’ll become the fastest girl runner in your class, and you’ll love the attention; that is, until the sixth grade—the day of the big race. You’ll start out strong. You’ll feel the wind in your hair, and you’ll hear the cheers. But then you’ll see her—a long shadow of competition edging closer and closer. And those voices that propelled you forward will begin to holler…for her. And just as she starts to pass you, at the exact moment you could plunge forward or hang back and take defeat gracefully, you’ll fake a stomach cramp and quit the race. Because this was the one thing that took the attention off your changing body, and because somewhere between the tunnel and this race, you started to lose your confidence. It’s not gone forever, though; it’ll come back.

By the time you’re in high school, you’ll wear a bra big enough to fit on your head like a helmet. In an unsuccessful attempt to cover it up, you’ll put on some weight. You’ll get bullied for that, too. It’s not easy to be the chubby twin, and kids and teachers can sometimes be thoughtless in speech.

And boys—older boys—will approach you and think you’re older than you are. Don’t talk to them. Other boys will be afraid of you. They’ll break your heart. Try to ignore them; they’ll get over it, and you’ll get over them…eventually.

Next year, before your tenth birthday, you’ll start your period before anyone else. And in the sixth grade, you’ll have an accident that stains your white shorts ruby red. You’ll wonder why you ever wanted to be first.

It’s going to be a rough decade for you, Cathy. You’ll become insecure, and sometimes you’ll get mad. You’ll think no one understands, and most of the time, you’ll be right. And the bullying—it’ll settle like a bowling ball in the pit of your stomach. But you’re strong. You’ll ignore them when you can. And once, though you won’t be proud of it, you’ll fight back—in the seventh grade you’ll slap a boy who makes crude comments to you before school. It’ll hurt you more than it hurts him, but you’ll see the embarrassment on his face.  He won’t do it again. Neither will you.

So hang in there, kiddo, because things will get better. Eventually, your classmates will catch up with you—almost. And your intrigue will fade—the bullies will move on. Some of them will get bullied themselves, and you’ll feel sorry for them. You’ll have close friends—friends who are too worried about their own imperfections to notice yours—friends who see the inside of you before the outside. And you’ll find things you love—writing, theatre, books, and photography. You’ll have passions.

As you grow up, the bullies—they’ll grow up, too. They’ll face challenges of their own. Some of them will feel remorse. Some of them won’t remember your name. That’s okay—you won’t remember all of their names either, and you will have moved on. And in time—you’ve got to trust me on this—and with a whole lot of patience and a few too many double-stuffed cookies, you WILL learn to love yourself—Grandma’s breasts and all.

Catherine Ipcizade is the author of 24 books for kids and teens. She teaches creative writing for UCLA Extension and Composition and Literature for other universities online. In her spare time, Catherine loves cooking, photography, and spending time with her family. Catherine’s current work in progress is a novel in free verse for teens. Visit her online at

New story: Bullying by Sarah Antz

By Sarah Antz

When I was in primary school in England, there was a girl called Mary who everyone was afraid of. I was no exception. If she wanted to be your friend, you were friends with her, until she decided she no longer wanted you around. No one dared refuse. And I was picked up and dropped more times than I care to remember.

Reflecting on it now, I realize that she was jealous of close friendships and so she tried her hardest to split them up by wanting to be “friends” with one of them. I remember vividly the times when I was out of favor and dreading having to go to school, knowing that she’d instruct the other girls in our class not to speak to me. And even though each time didn’t last long—she’d always have someone else in her sights—it was enough to induce stomach pains and for me to beg my parents for a day off school. No one dared tell the teachers or their parents for fear of repercussions, because Mary wasn’t afraid to deal with anyone who crossed her.

At age eleven everyone in the area took an exam to see which high school they’d attend. Most of the girls in my class passed to go a particular girl’s school. Including Mary. We formed about a third of the girls in my new class. As soon as we got there, Mary started in on the bullying again. It was the same routine she had in primary school: No one was brave enough to stand up to her. It seemed like we were destined for another seven years of torture.

Then, quite unexpectedly, Mary’s father, a local vicar, was moved to a different parish in another part of the country…and she left. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. It was like a cloud was lifted off the whole class. Suddenly, everyone was friends with each other. We no longer had cliques, we all hung out together. Our sense of relief was so powerful.

We later heard that Mary had run away from home, become involved with drugs, and died. I was upset that someone so young had lost her life. And now that I’m older I can recognize that it was her troubled background that made her the way she was.

Looking back, it’s incredible that a single person could affect so many of us. I guess that we pretended not to notice when someone was being victimized because we were thankful that it wasn’t us. I often wonder how things would have turned out if we’d all got together and stood up to her.

Sarah Antz is an author of fiction for teens. Her debut novel The Second Virginity of Suzy Green was published by Flux. Visit her online at

Michael & Marisa: “The Same”

When I was in the second grade, a bunch of classmates always picked on a boy in our class. I suggested to the other girls in circle of friends that we do something about it. I went to the head of the school with one of my friends and described everything I saw. The head of the school had a talk with the victim and the bullies and told the other teachers to keep an eye on the situation. But there were times when no one teacher was around and the boys would still get to him. My friends and I started to guard him whenever teachers weren’t around and when we saw the boys bothering him, we told them they’d better stop, and they did. This situation stayed in the back of my mind, and I always made sure to keep my eyes open watching for bullying.

In January of 2010, we saw on the news that Phoebe Prince, a fifteen-year-old student at a Massachusetts high school, hanged herself after being severely bullied. We were emotionally impacted by her story and how horrible her situation must have been for her to take her life. Whenever we write songs, our goal is to motivate the listener or impact them in a way that makes them think. We decided to write a song about the role of the bystander and how one bystander choosing to step up can not only save a life but can set an example for other bystanders, causing an even bigger impact.

Phoebe was the new girl at school. Her problems started when she dated a boy that a girl in the popular crowd had her eye on. This girl, along with her posse, made it their mission to make Phoebe’s life miserable. They bullied her badly every day until Phoebe could not see a way out of her situation.  Everyone around Phoebe at the school could see what was happening, but no one did anything. The bystanders could have helped her and even saved her life, but no one wanted to take the chance of becoming an outcast.  Our song “The Same” takes the listener through the mind of the bystander as she weighs her options.

We wanted to turn the visions behind the lyrics into a music video that’s being played in schools nationwide, and from these schools we hear that the video is hitting home with students and helping bystanders to take that difficult step. Schools not only play the video, but they are teaching the song in music classes and performing it at school concerts.  What still amazes us is that Phoebe Prince’s aunt saw the video and traveled two hours to attend the video release event at House of Blues because she felt so strongly!

But we know there is so much more to do. We are spokespeople for PACER Teens Against Bullying and make appearances at schools and other anti-bullying rallies whenever we can. We also participated in a movie documentary called “Bullied to Silence” which will be released later this year. The movie trailer is extremely moving and we know the movie is going to  make a very strong statement. Our new single, “Beautiful Comeback,”  addresses what we struggle through as teens and we hope gives its listeners an uplifting perspective. So, we continue to use our platform to help, heal, empower and inspire others  The goal for our music is to help heal, empower, and inspire others, and our plan is to put all of our energies in that direction.
-Michael & Marisa

Link to Michael & Marisa’s music video: “The Same”


New story: Locker Weather

Locker Weather
By Jennifer Sky

My school locker is on the south side of an outside courtyard, exposed to all the weather Florida can conjure—tangle your hair wind, sideways rain, subtropical heat—but I don’t mind. I like the weather.

In my hands, I hold it: the issue! The one I plucked from the mailbox, delivered yesterday. The issue of Seventeen Magazine featuring me! Me! I was in Seventeen!

Marisol with the raven locks and ruby lips won the grand prize and was featured on a page all to herself. But look across from her smiling face and there I am, wearing a cute bikini, laughing and carrying a giant beach umbrella.

Word had gotten around that I had won some modeling contest and would be in Seventeen. This was a small town—of course it had.

And with that, came the anger.

“Jenny isn’t pretty enough to be a model!”

She’s a dork; that will never change.”

“Are you kidding, Jenny is in Seventeen? Ew.”

Yes, I heard them, loud whispers behind me. But it wasn’t going to get me down, not this time.

Bent over and half hiding in my locker, I shuffle books—math, history, Spanish—trying to decide if I should leave the magazine there or bring it with me, when an on-it’s-way-to-baritone voice speaks behind me.

“Saw your magazine.”

I turn slightly startled to see Seth Walker and a friend approaching. Seth ,who laughed and pointed at my blonde hairy legs when I was just starting sixth grade. Seth, who had pulled my slip down to my ankles in the middle of the crowded cafeteria. Seth, who cornered me one day between classes, alone in the hall, his breath on the side of my neck, and asked if I liked girls.

Inside, my belly gave a quiver. Oh no.

Seth’s locker and mine were always near each other because both our last names started with W. Lucky me.

Seth’s behind me now, both hands on the lockers next to mine, and I can’t turn or leave. I feel fingers brush the back of my jeans as I try to hide the magazine. He sees and snatches it away.

Flipping pages, he comes to the one marked with a Post-it—my page, my picture. Me, happy.

The blue of his eyes taking in every contour and color on the page. Roaming. Hunting. Judging.

A slight giggle or a hmph escapes his lips. Leaning in, he pins me against the wall, face-to-face. I am caught.

Coming too close he says, “Your boobs look hot.”

Blood rushes up to my cheeks and out my hair follicles.

I suddenly feel dirty.

Dirty and ashamed of my body I have worked so hard to get into shape, to rid myself of “ugly-dorky-Jenny.” All my work, all my wild ideas for the future, for being successful and pretty and happy; all my belief suddenly feels stupid and shameful in his eyes.

And I’m mad.

Mad at the pig-boys for making me feel this way, mad at myself for feeling the blistering embarrassment, and mad at the magazine for making me wear a bikini when I wasn’t really comfortable with it in the first place.


Is this the way it’ll be? Is this modeling? I thought I’d be proud, have self-confidence, but this feeling of being tiny, this compulsive shame, the disgrace of my body through wolf-boys’ eyes?

Why does a boy saying I look hot make me feel this? Maybe because, for the first time, I feel that I am being seen as an object. And it’s creepy.

Seth and his friend cast a few more glances and then stride off as the bell rings.

Leaving me, my show-and-tell, my pride, shattered like delicate stained glass back into just boring sand.

I place the evidence in my locker and shut the door. The lock spins and twists—like the sudden weather inside me. Landing in a totally random pattern to be put back straight someday.

And I walk away.

Jennifer Sky is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, a student, and believer in magical things. Her work has appeared online at The Rumpus, Interview Magazine, Electric Literature, 12th Street, and in the short story anthology Love Magick. She lives in Brooklyn and is working on a memoir about fashion, Hollywood, and PTSD.  Visit her online at

New story: Bullying Isn’t Funny

Bullying Isn’t Funny
by Eileen Cook

I’ve always been funny. It’s my thing. Some people get beauty, others sports ability, a lucky few even get musical talent. Me? I can’t dance, sing, catch a ball, and no one has called to make me a top model, but I can make people laugh. It’s a handy skill and unlike sports ability, it rarely results in injury. You don’t see too many torn tendons from cracking a good joke.

Being funny is a bit like your own personal super power. It can be used for good or evil. Granted not always as handy as being able to fly, or having your fingertips shoot lightening, but you have to work with what you got. The question is what do you do with all that power? It isn’t that you plan to use your power to be cruel, no one sets out to be the villain, but sometimes it’s easy to make fun of someone who doesn’t fit in, who’s different, or just plain weird. No one means anything by it. It’s just a joke. Besides, if they are laughing at what you say, it means they aren’t laughing at you.

In high school I had a classmate named Dennis. Dennis was pretty dorky. He wore his pants too short and he seemed to always have hot lunch spilled on his shirt. He had terrible acne and wasn’t the best student. He was always trying to fit in, but he never did. I don’t know if anyone ever physically bullied him, but he certainly had more than his fair share of “funny” comments made at his expense.

Dennis died in an accident. They announced it the morning on the PA before classes. He was the first person in our class to die and everyone was shocked and a few of us started to cry.  I wasn’t crying because I was sad he was gone. You can’t cry for someone you didn’t know. I cried because I was ashamed. I knew I could have been nicer. I could have used my humor to turn the situation around on the person making fun of him, but I never did. I laughed at Dennis, not with him.

I realized then that it was up to me. Being funny comes with responsibility; I had to use it wisely. Bullies aren’t just the people who shove someone around or the one who makes the snotty comment. Bullies are also the people who stand on the side and laugh. I promised myself I would never feel that shame again. I would use my humor for good, to make people laugh with me, not at someone else. I wanted to be a hero, not a villain. I wanted to know I stood up when it mattered. Feel free to join me, the world can always use another superhero, and you don’t even have to look good in a Lycra suit.

Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. She is the author of The Education of Hailey KendrickGetting Revenge on Lauren Wood, What Would Emma Do?, as well as the Fourth Grade Fairy series. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and dogs. You can visit her online at