Author Tales: Mari Mancusi

Mari Mancusi is the author for this Thursday’s Author Tales! Mari is the author of Boys That Bite, Girls that Growl and Stake That. Her new novel Gamer Girl will be released November 13, 2008! For a chance to win a novel by Mari Mancusi be sure to leave a comment! For official guidelines, check out the Monthly Contest post for November.
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Eric Aker Must Die

It was more than twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Me, in class, doodling in my notebook. Eric Aker, my arch nemesis, looking over my shoulder. He laughs and starts loudly taunting me so the whole class can hear. Making fun of my precious drawings. Announcing to everyone in earshot what a weirdo I am. My face burns as he teases me, over and over again, without relent. The tears blur the pencil lines as they fall onto my drawings. I want to crawl under my desk, run out of the room, whatever it takes – just to get away, but class is about to begin. The teacher walks into the room, completely unaware, and Eric retreats to his seat after one last burning remark.

Twenty something years ago and it still makes me furious. To know that this one boy had the power to turn something I loved more than anything into a burning shame I wanted desperately to hide. I gave up drawing after eighth grade—too embarrassed to continue. And I never drew again. Today, I’ve lost the talent I once had—couldn’t draw if my life depended on it. And I blame Eric Aker for taking that gift away from me.

And yet, now, looking back on it, I also blame myself. I let him do it. I gave him my power. Let him control my own-self image. Allowed him to take something from me that I loved. Because I didn’t know any better. Because I felt I had no other options. I didn’t want to be the freak girl. And I didn’t know what to do about it.

I wrote the book Gamer Girl to let teens know that there are better ways to deal with bullies. You must stand up for yourself and not allow an outsider to define your own self-image–to take your power away from you. You are special and amazing – even if you’re different. Heck, especially if you’re different. You should embrace those differences and shine like a beacon into the world saying, “Look at me! I’m freaking great!”

Seriously, weird girls are the most awesome. And usually the most successful later in life.

I know what you’re thinking. Easy for you to say, adult girl. But I’m being tortured, ridiculed, tormented on a daily basis and I don’t know how to make it stop. Believe me, I would have said the same thing at the time. But take it from someone who’s been there. It can turn around. Not overnight. But it can happen.

Actually, it wasn’t until High School that I learned the secret. From a girl named Gretchen who shaved her head and wore black combat boots to school. She walked into each room like she owned it and embraced the stares and jeers as if they were glowing compliments showered upon her. She didn’t care what anyone thought. It was awesome.

I knew that from that first day I wanted to be like Gretchen.

And what I realized, a few years after that, was once I stopped caring what people thought—once I stopped allowing their judgments to affect my life—that was the point that everyone started wanting to be my friend. I ended high school on a high note with many friends and acquaintances. Real, true friends that I could trust—not fremenies who would sell me out as soon as my back was turned.

The old advice goes, “You can’t let them know it bothers you.” I say take it one step further. “Don’t let it bother you to begin with.” They’re only teasing you, they’re only pointing out your flaws, because they are so desperate to hide their own. They want the attention to be off of them—and their perceived inadequacies—and on to you. But if you don’t play the game—if you laugh them off and move on with your life—eventually they’ll get bored and move on, too. And you will still be standing. And you will still be yourself.

I don’t hate Eric Aker anymore. I actually feel sorry for him. He must have been a very sad person with a troubled life. He must have felt pretty bad about himself in order for him to go so far out of his way to hurt me. I hope, in the end, he figured things out. I know I did. And I’m a better person today for it all.

Even if I do suck at drawing.
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For more information on Mari Mancusi and her novels visit the following links:

Website: http://www.marimancusi.com/
Blog: http://marimancusi.blogspot.com/
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/marimancusi