Bearing Witness to Violence, a guest post at Teen Librarian Toolbox

Hey, I have a guest post up over at one of my favorite sites, Teen Librarian Toolbox. You can read it here, or click the link below, and read at Karen’s site. She has a treasure trove of excellent content, so be careful to set aside a few hours.

Bearing Witness to Violence, a guest post by author Eric Devine — @TLT16 Teen Librarian Toolbox.

Recently I was at a school in Harlem, giving my standard presentation of how I became an author and what my work is about, and I found myself at the section on Press Play, which many of the kids had read, and I was nervous to speak about the story’s roots. There, before me, sat multiple athletes and the athletic director, and I looked at them and said, “I hate jock culture. That doesn’t mean I hate athletes or sport, but I do detest the privilege athletes are given merely because they are strong, or can run fast, or throw a ball well. Those same privileges, by and large, are not afforded to students of similar academic prowess, and that is a problem.”

Boy do I know how to work a crowd :)

Yet, in spite of the bristling athletes and the way the director looked at me, they began to nod as I talked about how I looked at this concept in my work.

Press Play is about Greg Dunsmore, who is his own worst enemy. Bullied for being overweight, he has turned to his phone and the movies he makes with it for solace. He lies with his film and has a reputation because of it. He is a pariah, especially in a school dominated by its devotion for the boys’ lacrosse team. So in his senior year, for his film class documentary, as a way of demonstrating he is more than the lies and the taunts, Greg decides to film his weight loss. He wants this for himself, not for them, or possibly as a way to make one honest film. Therefore, he sets out with his “friend” Quinn to train. While doing so, the boys hear something going on during the lacrosse team’s indoor practice in a nearby gym. Greg grabs his phone and they investigate. This sets in motion the dilemma of the novel, because Greg finds the team brutally hazing the underclassmen and gets it on film.

What does one do with such evidence? Go to the principal or the authorities. But how does one do that when the principal is the coach and seemingly everyone in the town has either played the sport or is financially connected to the team?

And so the story takes on these two dimensions: the will-he-won’t-he-Hamlet-like waffling of Greg, alongside the increasingly horrific abuse. This scenario is an unfortunately common parallel to so many who find themselves in sexually violent scenarios. Who can you trust when your trust has been taken? How can you move on when you have experienced what you have, and yet in your gut know others may be victims?

Because it’s all about power, and so often victims have only their voice matched against entities infinitely more powerful than themselves. And so they stay quiet, and who can blame them?

Yet, here we have Greg, witness to the acts, with evidence, and in the age of all things internet, the possibility of a voice powerful enough. But he’s a liar. Has proven that time and again. What can he do, after years of being abused and subsequently and callusing himself with lies, to now help these victims?

I’ll let you read the story to find that out.

But I can tell you that after I detailed this scenario to the athletes and the school’s athletic director, it opened up a conversation in which the director asked about hazing in their school’s program.

Now, on the spot like that, I’m not one bit surprised that the kids said nothing occurred. So of course I asked, “Does it not occur, or do you not recognize it for what it is?”

That caught them off-guard.

And I think that this question is the key to the #SVYALit program. Replace “hazing” with “rape” and then ask the same question above to a teenager who isn’t comfortable talking about sex, much less a violent encounter with sexual elements. I think the response is universal, and is the one I received from the boys: shrugged shoulders, and a “maybe.”

This is why I am proud to be a part of the conversation. Because teens do commit violent acts against one another, and many have sexual aspects that make them rape. And yet teens are not fully aware of this, nor how to talk about it. Therefore, the chat Anthony BreznicanJoshua Cohen, and I will have on 1/28 is important. Hazing abounds in high school, in small incidents and in massive, conformist ways. And often it teeters on, and then falls into, sexual assault, and may be the one area in this spectrum of violence where boys are more represented than girls. That worries me. That predilection, or at least that shoulder-shrugging acceptance of violence, sexual or not, paired with the privilege of athletics, is a noxious creation.

Please, tune in, or catch our conversation after the fact. The angles of this issue are vast and knotty, and only through relentless exploration and discussion will we ever make headway. Because a shrug in the face of the aftermath of such violence is not only unacceptable, it is reprehensible.

Join us on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 12 Noon Eastern for a Google Hangout led by Press Play author Eric Devine and featuring Brutal Youth author Anthony Breznican and Leverage author Joshua C. Cohen. The topic will be hazing. Learn more about the #SVYALit Project.

More on Hazing at TLT:

Take 5: Hazing

Initiation Secrets: Press Play and a look at hazing with author Eric Devine

Breaking Tradition: BRUTAL YOUTH author Anthony Breznican on the fight against hazing

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Eric Devine is the author of fearless fiction: Press PlayTap OutDare Me, and This Side of Normal. He is also a high school English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Eric is represented by Kate McKean of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

About Press Play:

Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.
Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.
Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities. – October 2014 from Running Press Kids

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TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Breaking the Gender Molds, a guest post and giveaway by author Eric Devine

Reblogged from Teen Librarian’s Toolbox (Which is a phenomenal site. Head over there to enter the giveaway)

Breaking the Gender Molds, a guest post and giveaway by author Eric Devine

I’m a 36-year-old, cisgendered, heterosexual, white male, who writes Young Adult novels that are boy-centric, and I’m bothered by the slim definition of what it means to be a man.
 
I was raised under very stereotypical precepts about manhood, and I was always bothered by them. Instead of watching sports, I read. Shyness overtook bravery. I did not demand, I accepted, and it was problematic.
 
Until I flipped the switch during middle school and played the part. It was instantly apparent how much easier it was to be a loud-mouthed punk than it was to be me. But in spite of the ease, I was unsettled, because I knew who I had abandoned.
 
Painful, yes, but excellent training for the work I do today. Because those expectations, those norms of masculinity, still exist, are extremely pervasive, and put boys and teens into extremely uncomfortable situations where they either have to behave the part or suffer the consequences. The pressure is real and terrifying, and something I try to address in my work.
 
 
In summary: Tap Out is about what one does as a very stereotypical “tough” male in a hostile and violent environment that has only one use for him. One he doesn’t want, but is hamstrung to escape.
 
 
Dare Me explores what it’s like to want to break the profile of “nothingman” and win acclaim, earn money, and come out on top by succeeding at feats of valor––or more commonly known today as YouTube stunts.
 
 
Press Play is about pushing back against the dominant, violent culture, by fighting with technology and intelligence, instead of fists. It’s about choosing not to hide, in spite of the enormous danger of exposure.
 
Much of my decisions regarding what I write and how I address issues of gender, in particular masculinity, are informed by my own experience, but equally by my students. We talk. A lot. And I tell stories of my youth because they want to understand how I’ve arrived at my perspectives. I’ve addressed aspects of drug use, sexuality, violence, suicide, rape, privilege, and any number of humorous/disgusting combinations about life you can think of. Often we talk about expectations placed on girls and boys, even if my students don’t realize that’s what they’re talking about.
One day we discussed fighting. There had recently been one, and based on the details, I innocently asked about a broken nose. The class sensed I knew more about this topic than I was letting on and asked me to tell a story of what I knew of breaking someone’s nose.
 
I did, briefly, but more importantly, then asked, “What are the expectations for males in our society, especially contact sport athletes, when it comes to fighting?”
 
This led to an engaging conversation that quickly turned from only males in sports to males and females broadly. And it was an interesting experience for many of the girls to hear the boys talk about the pressure of fitting in. They deftly detailed that on some level the dirty jokes and swearing and fighting are part of the roles in which they are asked to play (Yes, they struggled to word it this way––they’re teens––but the message was clear: forced stereotypes are universal).
 
I was so proud of our conversation because it was obvious that I had provided a space for my students to think about concepts they’d never fully entertained, which is exactly what I try to do in my stories. Yet, the issue stuck with me. Because what didn’t emerge in that conversation was that those pressures don’t go away. They morph and become stronger. And in light of very recent events of parties and rape and fight clubs, I felt a bit hopeless. How is a male, today, supposed to successfully navigate the pressures of being “a man” and evolve into someone who is unafraid to embrace a balance of masculine and feminine traits? In essence, how are they to succeed where I failed?
 
I won’t say books are the answer, because that’s naive. Parents, adult figures, older brothers and sisters, and by very large measure peers and pop culture all have a hand in shaping boys and girls. Books are a part of that, and a significant one if they flip preconceived notions on their heads. If they challenge the stereotypes. If they offer alternatives to the norm of cisgendered, heterosexual, white protagonist. Or if they expose and explore the trappings of how and why the stereotypes abound.
 
And they already exist. But the audience needs to be wider. I know men and women who haven’t read a book since high school, and so for all the good that I can do by writing novels that challenge societal assumptions, how are my stories ever going to find a way into the hands of the sons and daughters of these adults, who do not value reading, who may be completely comfortable with the expectations of the standard male and female models because they were never challenged to think otherwise, and who have not had conversations with their children about the fact that “being a man”  or “being a woman” is an ever-evolving process that is a paramount pursuit in order to have a fulfilling life?
 
But there are others. Like me, and not at all like me, who are having these conversations, who are reading and helping teens navigate. There are teachers and librarians and adult figures in various capacities who are open and willing and helpful. There are allies in every struggle. And I feel that the issue of redefining both masculinity and femininity is a pressing and important concern. Not so that we can foist new roles on boys and girls, but so that we can accept the traits of masculinity and femininity, the fact that they are a part of us all, regardless of gender or sexuality. If only so that the “boys will be boys” mentality, that is one of the most ignorant concepts in our culture, can die.
 
And so with it, some of that pressure. I say “some” because there will always be pressure. But it is up to us to decide how it is applied, and to what end. Do we want to continue the binary opposition of male versus female in our culture, or do we want to move forward with a better understanding of humanity and of ourselves?
 
Because in the end, even my freshman understand the pressures are they same, they just manifest differently. Therefore, we should be seeking virtues of behavior and not categories. Because breaking the mold is beautiful, but never again having to fill one is stunning.
 

Eric Devine is a high school teacher and the author of Tap Out, Dare Me and the upcoming Press Play, all from Running Press Kids. He blogs here at Teen Librarian Occasionally and wrote a chapter in The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services, edited by myself and Heather Booth and published in July from ALA Editions. You can follow Eric online: 

 
Win Eric Devine’s Books!
 
Eric and Running Press Kids have generously donated a copy of Tap Out which I am putting together with my arc copies of Tap Out and Dare Me picked up at various library conferences to give to you as a prize. You can win a complete set of Eric Devine books! If you live in the U. S. you can do the Rafflecopter thingy below until Saturday the 23rd, The Tween’s birthday and the debut of the new Doctor, to enter.

At a Glance: Six Months of Promo and Events for Dare Me

I have been promoting Dare Me for the past six months. It was fun, exhausting and very rewarding. However, I am glad that the crunch is over. The time and energy it takes is extensive and wreaks havoc on anything else scheduled––you know like the rest of my life 🙂

That’s not a complaint, just a simple fact. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the craziness, and I’m fortunate enough to be doing it all over again for my next novel, which will be released in the fall (details to come).

Therefore, for those of you who might be interested, I’ve outlined all that I did, or that happened regarding Dare Me for half of a year. Many authors do more, and many do less. This is what I did, and I hope it illustrates the business of books on the personal level. Because trust me, if I were to write about the behind-the-scenes work, this post would have to run for a week straight.

July 2013

I didn’t get started until the end of the month, but I kicked things off with a bang, releasing my trailer for Dare Me through a blast, released by over 50 bloggers, worldwide. There was a copy of the novel and a t-shirt giveaway that netted over 5,500 entries. Not bad, right?

Then I wrote an article for one of my favorite librarians and her site Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, titled “Careening with our youth culture“. It’s all about why teens like to do crazy things, and especially why I felt compelled to do some of my own. It was paired with a giveaway, too.

August 2013

August is always busy, and so I only managed to release the flyer for all of my scheduled events for Dare Me. I put it on Scribd, which made sharing so easy.

September

My publisher printed 200 copies of those same flyers I posted to Scribd and I sent them to local high schools at the start of the school year.

Then I had my Dear Teen Me letter posted. Go read it, if you haven’t. It’s awesome.

I then held my first signing at Market Block Books.

October

Dare Me was published in October, so things got cooking. I was interviewed by our local WNYT affiliate, and then held these signings and events:

Signing @   Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library

Signing and panel discussion Troy Author Day @ Troy Public Library

Signing @ Barnes & Noble:  Saratoga Springs

Release party & Signing @ McGreivey’s Restaurant

During this time I also ran a five-day giveaway for Dare Me as a build up to the publishing day.

I also received this awesome review from Kirkus

November

I was interviewed by Kori Miller of Back Porch Writer for her podcast. It was a blast, and if you have a half hour, go listen.

Awesomeness hit in November when I went to NCTE. I signed copies of Dare Me and met English teachers from around the country. A couple of my colleagues even showed up, which was so nice. And then I met a few authors whose work I love, and I even got my picture taken with A.S. King.

December

The last month of the year started out fantastic with both the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune selecting Dare Me for their holiday books gift guides for Young Adults.

Then I got to use my author status for some good by participating in a signing/fundraiser for the High School I work for at another, local Barnes and Noble. If you have kids or are an author and teacher like me, contact B&N and set up a Book Fair. So simple, yet so effective.

January

The American Library Association’s Widwinter Meeting was held in Philadelphia this year, home of my publisher, Running Press. Therefore, I got to go to the city of brotherly love, sign, meet awesome librarians, and then have a blast wining and dining with everyone from Running Press and some of my pub siblings. I even met Daniel Kraus while at our cocktail party. I refrained from getting all fanboy and we had an awesome chat.

For the duration

I ran four giveaways at Goodreads, at various times throughout these six months. I now have only two copies of those I receive from my publisher left. But it was worth it, as close to 2,500 people entered the giveaways and, therefore, have Dare Me on their radar.

Now

Phew. That was a lot. Or maybe it was just enough. Possibly there was more I could have done. I have no idea, because that’s the impossibility of any business. Some analytics cannot be measured.

So what matters to me are the answers to these questions:

Did I have fun? Yes.

Did all of this enrich my life? Yes.

Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.

And I will, in another six months. Be sure to join me, and thank you if you did this time around.

TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Careening with our youth culture: the daring nature of Dare Me (a guest post by Eric Devine and GIVEAWAY)

I was invited to write a guest post on “Why Dare Me“? It’s an excellent question. Those of you who know me may have a clue. However, for those who don’t, here’s some insight:

TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Careening with our youth culture: the daring nature of Dare Me (a guest post by Eric Devine and GIVEAWAY).

I spent a lot of time as a teenager risking my life. And not in some symbolic sense. I put myself in harm’s way on so many occasions that when I tell stories of my youth, someone always says, “I cannot believe you’re still alive.”

Neither can I. And I blame the Internet.

Really, the lack of it. When I was a senior in high school (’96) our library got its first computer with Internet. At home, the same happened. But in its infancy, PCs with Internet connection weren’t that alluring, so I had to find entertainment elsewhere.

The problems my friends and I faced were classic: boundless energy, lack of supervision, devil-may-care attitudes and “stupid creativity”. I use that term because had we channeled our energy into anything positive, who knows what we could have achieved? Instead, we were all fortunate to simply maintain our lives, but not without scars and not without stories.

Like the one time we jumped off the ledges at this local abandoned quarry:

(this is not us, but the location).

My friend jumped, but for some reason believed in cartoon physics–that if she just stepped back she’d defy gravity. Instead, she belly flopped from that height, came up, gasped for air, and went right back under.

I was a lifeguard, so I swam under and rescued her, dragging her to the ledge where she vomited a gallon of water.

We kept jumping.

Read the rest of the post here.

Hollywood proves my point

Over at Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, for a guest post on YA and guys, I wrote the following:

I believe the zombies and romance elements are rooted in the same concern: love. This is a giant untouchable for boys. They don’t talk about love. They don’t talk about feelings much, period (at least in a class). Men don’t either. Not stereotypically or theoretically, but in the majority. So why should boys buck the trend? Because they’re still naive enough, still hopeful enough, and still vulnerable enough to learn.

Zombies are the manifestation of death of the human spirit. They exist, but have no emotion, just pure desire for the ultimate taboo. Romance is on the other end of the spectrum, the pining, the swooning, the tears—all of which gets made fun of during Romeo and Juliet, but in reality hits home when it’s delivered correctly in YA. Boys stumble, are inarticulate, are overwhelmed by hormones. They need a character to be there, too, but somehow still manage to go out with the girl. Not because possession of the girl is the goal, but love is. Feeling. Not being a zombie.
Hollywood has proved my point. Thank you Warm Bodies.

Schedule of Events

Tap Out has been out for almost two weeks and I’ve been receiving fantastic feedback. Yet, I still have more to come. This week I have a guest post appearing at Teen Librarian’s Toolbox about the state of Young Adult Literature and boys as readers, and Ultimate MMA will be reviewing Tap Out in the near future. I also have reviews slated to appear on some very fantastic websites, including Forever Young Adult.

Therefore, I extend thanks to my fans for spreading the word and letting people know about my work. Below is my updated list of events. Notice that November now has two dates at Barnes and Noble. Please come out and get your copy signed or purchase Tap Out if you haven’t had the chance yet. I look forward to seeing you.

9/25:  Clifton Park Library from 7-9 pm. The Open Door Bookstore will be on hand for purchases.

9/29: The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza from 3-4 pm. They, of course, will have copies for sale.

10/6: Release party and signing at Legion Training Center from 2-4 pm. Come out and let me sign your copy of Tap Out in the cage of the best MMA gym in the area. Not only will books be available, via Good Buy Books, but you’ll receive 20-30% of merchandise and memberships. If you have any interest in MMA for conditioning or for self-defense, this is THE place to be. For all ages and ability levels.

11/3: Barnes and Noble Colonie from 2-4 pm. Proceeds from the day’s total purchases will go toward Guilderland High School fundraising.

11/4: Barnes and Noble Niskyayuna from 2-4 pm.