As one of the loudest anti-bullying voices in today's media, Jodee has created a brand for herself by writing four books, doing subsequent book tours, and speaking at seminars. These career accomplishments have come in addition to successes such as owning a public relations firm and working as a music publisher.
We contacted Jodee in regards to how she managed to craft a writing career based off a topic she was not only familiar with, but passionate about. Here's what she had to say.
WAHM: Many adults are bullying survivors. What makes this issue so important to you that it inspired so much of your career, including your books, tours, and seminars?
JB: I myself am a survivor. From fifth grade through high school I was tormented by my classmates for the same reason so many other kids are today—simply for being different. I wanted to turn that pain into purpose. All those years of exclusion and loneliness affected me as an adult in ways I never anticipated. I was haunted by insecurity no matter how successful my career. I had a hard time trusting, and I’d relive the rejection continually.
I travel the country sharing my story in schools with students, teachers and parents. I do a day-long program which includes an evening seminar open to the public. It seems no matter what country or state I’m in, those evening seminars are not just full of bullied students and their parents, a large percentage of attendees are adults who may not even have kids in the school system, but who were bullied or felt invisible when they were young and are looking for help getting past it. This issue is important to me because it affects millions of others just like me. We’re kindred spirits.
WAHM: Many work-at-home moms in our community are freelance writers. What advice do you have for writers who want to write their own book and get published?
JB: Read, read, read! And read the types of books that you dream about writing. For example, if you want to write a self-help book, go to a bookstore and look for other self-help books that you think might be similar to the one you’d like to write one day. Pay attention to how the author structures the book, the narrative arc, exposition of character and dialogue. Even though a book is non-fiction and self-help, it should still have flow, and engage the reader from each page to the next. Also, and this is a really good tip if I do say so myself—scour the acknowledgements pages of these books. Authors almost always acknowledge their agents. Keep a running list of books and the authors’ agents. Then when you’re ready, submit a query letter to those agents. Start the letter by congratulating the agent on the lovely acknowledgement his/her author included in their book. Then segue into your book idea. Tell the agent in the letter that you’re coming to him/her because of that acknowledgement, that since he/she represents these types of titles, they might be interested in considering your book. You can choose your own words, but you get the idea. The best way to get someone’s attention is to compliment them about something specific, and let them know you’ve done your homework on them, that you know the types of, in this case, books that they like, and that you have something that may interest them.
WAHM: What was the hardest thing about the career path you’ve chosen? What about the most rewarding?
JB: I’ve had and still have several careers. I’m a true entrepreneur, in that I cross-pollinate my areas of expertise, and create opportunity. I owned a public relations firm for many years that exposed me to the entertainment industry, publishing, music. From there, I’ve continued to build on my own experiences. When I began the anti-bullying work, I never imagined it would affect so many people. I thought I’d write my memoir Please Stop Laughing At Me…, and then resume my normal life. I could never have imagined the book would become a New York Times bestseller, and that thousands of kids around the world would reach out to me for help. That was the genesis of my speaking in schools. While I don’t do PR anymore, I often consult, especially on projects that include kids, bullying, or education. I also write books. I continue to try and put all my experiences both professionally and personally into projects that make a difference. So the hardest part about all of this has been finding balance. The most rewarding part? That’s easy…knowing I’m making a difference.
WAHM: What general advice do you give to parents of a child that is being bullied?
JB: The clichés don’t work. Ignore the bully and walk away, they’re just jealous, when you’re older…, I know how you feel, leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone—all those old sayings don’t work. In fact, they make the bullying worse. Instead of relying on tired advice that probably never worked when you were a kid either, help your child find a brand new social outlet separate from school where he/she can make new friends with new faces. Try the park district, local library, community center, and research their organized activities for kids. Also try private entities like dance studios, martial arts centers, drama clubs, music fantasy camps. Gather the information, print it out, and share it with your child. Ask him/her to pick something they’d like to try and enroll them. Make sure however that when you start your search, that you go one or two neighborhoods away from where you live, to guarantee that that your child will be interfacing with new kids, and not current classmates. The purpose of this approach is to give your son or daughter the sense of a fresh start.
And lastly, try and have compassion for the bully. I know this is hard. I get that. But the more curious you are about the bully’s backstory, the more you’ll learn about what he or she may be going through that’s causing their cruel behavior. And the more you know, the more compassion you’ll feel. Once you can feel compassion for your child’s bully, you’ll be able to work more effectively with all involved. Remember, there’s no such thing as a bad kid, just a good kids emerging out of bad circumstances.
WAHM: Do you have any parting words for the WAHM.com community?
JB: Yes! Risk your heart, go for your dreams, and encourage your kids to do the same. Anything is possible. Lead with courage and confidence.
Jodee Blanco is the author of New York Times bestseller "Please Stop Laughing at Me...One Woman's Inspirational Story" as well as a number of other books discussing the topic of bullying. Her latest book, "BULLIED KIDS SPEAK OUT: We Survived How You Can Too?" is in stores now. She is also an anti-bullying advocate, public speaker, and much more. You can learn more about her here.