Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stop Bullying Before It Starts

There are bullies everywhere; on the road, in the workplace, in the marriage, in cyberspace and schools. It is a problem that must be addressed where it is most prevalent---in grades 6-10. It falls upon the educators and parents alike to initiate clear rules of behavior that defines, discourages and deflects the bully from targeting other children. Bullying is never acceptable, in whatever form it takes.

The Where
School classrooms and the playground are the most likely places where a child is to be bullied. It is the primary arena where teachers, principals, crossing guards and supervisors can effectively intervene.

The How
Boys are more likely to use physical force, while girls are more likely to engage in spreading gossip, taunting or shunning. Today, we have the added onus of the cyber-bully, using the computer and cell phone to post pictures and text on the web, anonymously.

Prevention: Recognize the Problem
Aggressive behavior cannot be ignored, or shrugged off as something that children must learn to deal with---bullying is never a normal experience for children.

There is a difference between conflict resolution and bullying; and that must be clearly defined, stated and enforced by teachers, cafeteria workers, crossing guards, playground supervisors, students themselves and parents.

Prevention: Raise Awareness
Awareness of the problem can be highlighted in the classroom by the teachers openly discussing the effects that bullying has on others. The act of isolating a target, making a child vulnerable to taunts, physical and emotional abuse has to be clearly stated and outlined as unacceptable behavior.

Often, students stand by, not knowing how to help another child who is being attacked verbally or physically, and both the target and stand-by suffer from anxiety, fear and insecurity. This has severe consequences on concentration and feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

Prevention: Role Playing
Another way of helping children to understand the effects of harassment is by role playing: having the student act as the target, and reverse the role and be the bully. This can be done in the classroom with the teacher participating in the discussion and redirecting the aggressive behavior towards resolving a conflict, or as a written assignment.

Children can be told it is okay ignore the jibes, walk away, say “NO!”, or get adult intervention for a physical threat. Adults must be available and understand it is important for a child to have protection against the bully. The school administration must have and enforce a policy against all forms of bullying, even having students sign pledges that they will not participate or tolerate bullies.

Prevention: Work with Parents
We are responsible for our children, all our children, who will be adults having to deal with the negative and positive experiences of childhood. We must empower our children, giving them the social and work skills they need to live productive lives, and we can start at home.

Parents must monitor sibling behavior and must not allow older children to dominate the younger or weaker brother or sister. Also, it is the parents’ and teachers’ responsibility to make it clear that using the computer or cell phone to post text or pictures to intimidate another child is morally wrong and socially unacceptable.

Parents and educators make a difference in the life of a child. We cannot ignore the suffering of a child who is bullied by another. We must work together to ensure that each child has a safe environment at home and at school.

The Weigh of Words

The Weigh of Words

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
—Lord Byron, English poet, Don Juan, 1819

History cites the first written language about 3100 BCE in Sumer (located in present day Iraq). We have words to live by, words to capture your attention, to break your heart, to make your day. As a writer, I live with words and am conscious of the impact of words. Thoughts are nebulous until the words are realized on paper; then the thought becomes viable, something that can be as sharp as a razor or as comforting as a blanket.
The human heart, fist- shaped, weighs between nine to eleven ounces, yet can feel like a two-ton rock sinking to the bottom of the soul; the human brain, our complex, neurological computer, weighs on the average about three pounds, yet can be as empty as a blank screen. It is words that give the human organs weight that cannot be quantified, but always qualified.
Words have the power to transform lives, heal, destroy and shape civilizations. Philosophers, poets, scribes, all writers throughout history, have left us words to live by, words to instruct the students, to teach children the ways of the tribe, even the how-to manuals of our daily lives. The power of word is greater than any machine, for a machine may move a mountain only if the operator knows how to use it. If the scale records a loss of ten pounds, I am ecstatic, light-hearted; but if I have gained, I feel heavy-hearted. Love can make me light-headed, but a lover’s rejection can lay heavy on my mind. The written words of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Christ, Buddha, Marx, Sarte, Lord Byron, Sappho, Coleridge, Neruda, Emily Dickenson, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Ellison, Dickens, to name just a very few great minds, have had immeasurable influence on our personal and political lives. The Bible, Marx’s Communist Manifesto, Machiavelli’s The Prince, The Constitution of the United States, have changed the course of history and molded civilizations.
Climbing down that epic ladder onto my own lawn, I am painfully aware of how my words affect others. A careless, critical, remark can sever a tenuous link between mother and daughter; a sharp rebuke has shattered a friendship, and perhaps most damaging of all is silence, the lack of words, the shunning of another, when wordless becomes a brick wall. On the opposite side of that is that joyful silence, stunned by beauty or an act so full of love that it leaves one speechless. My heart can sing, my brain can rhapsodize eloquently, or my heart can whisper listen, listen. I save and re-read cards I get all year, savoring the kind words of friends and family. I understand why people have always kept letters stashed away, because one cannot just throw out those precious jewels that are words written from one special person to another. Everyday I hope that it is my best I give, my words kinder than I may have thought yesterday, just in case someone takes it to heart and carries that careless remark like a stone weight. And perhaps, one drop of ink can make me think.

Bullying Resources Online

Want to know more about bullying and prevention techniques? Below are a few sites I found most helpful while I was doing research on bullying for my Bully Dogs series.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Myth-Ing Persons

If you've read middle-grade novel Bully Dogs, you know the main character, Fran Reed, is a big reader. She loves a good story just as much as I do! Here are two books Fran likes. They're real novels, so you can read them, too!

T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone
The Sword in the Stone is a retelling of the legend of the young King Arthur. The boy Arthur (known as "Wart") becomes Merlin's student after an encounter in the forest. But Merlin is no ordinary teacher as Arthur learns after being transformed into a fish, dueling with a witch, and being captured in a giant's castle. This adaptation is full of fun, wit and charm and likable characters. While this humorous adventure fantasy is written in Old English, it's easy enough for children to understand.

Robert Asprin's Myth-Ing Persons
This is book 5 in the series The Myth Adventures of Aahz and Skeeve, partners whose best intentions always seem to land them in a heap of trouble. In Myth-ing Persons, it's Aahz who gets into trouble after heading off to another dimension to round up some crooks and it's Skeeve and friends who must come to the rescue. The entire series is witty, funny and fun-to-read.

If you're new to the series, do start with book 1: Another Fine Myth. If you like a good pun and fun fantasy adventure, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Meet the Three Musketeers!

Have you met the Three Musketeers? Not the legendary figures from the famous novel by Alexandre Dumas—I’m talking about the black Labrador, the cocker spaniel, and the golden retriever!

Aramis, Porthos, and Athos are the Three Musketeers in my middle-grade novel Bully Dogs, the canine trio who give Fran Reed three times the trouble nearly every day on her way to school!

Here’s a picture of the four-legged Musketeers by Bully Dogs artist Phyllis Emmert:
And here’s what the same kind of dogs look like in real life:
*If you click on a photo you can see more pictures of black Labradors, cocker spaniels, and golden retrievers!
A black Lab cozies up for a nap (image from Labster.net, the Labrador Retriever Daily Photo Blog).

Two happy cocker spaniels smile for the camera (image from Scooterthecocker.com, Scooter's American Cocker Spaniel Pictures).

A golden retriever shows off its great golden fur (image from BreederRetriever.com, Your #1 Resource for Dog and Breeder information)!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why Bully Dogs?

Why Bully Dogs? Some people might find the title of my latest book a little funny. That’s because it is! “Bully Dogs” is another name for types of pit bulls and bull dogs. These dogs weren’t actually named after the human bullies we think of—though their tough appearances and secretly soft personalities often match real bullies!

According to Bulldoginformation.com, bull dogs got their names because they used to “guard, control and bait bulls.” Not exactly an easy job!

In my middle-grade novel Bully Dogs, there are two types of bullies: girls like Marcy who hurt Fran with words, and the real dogs— Aramis, Porthos, and Athos—who chase Fran to school. When Fran talks to her mother about Marcy, the bully from school, her mother tells her, “You’ll have to face her, or someone like her, the rest of your life. You can’t just wish your problems away…because they come back at you like rabid dogs.”

Fran wants to avoid the bullies in her life—the human and the furry ones! But she begins to get tired of her problems chasing her around. The only way to face a bully is to stop running! And, well, you'll have to finish the novel to find out what Fran does!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More From Inside My New Book!

In my last blog entry, I shared with you a little bit about my new middle-grade novel, Bully Dogs. The last novel I wrote, Forcing the Hand of God, was for adults, so I didn't have the chance to work with an illustrator. This time I was so excited to see the illustrations artist Phyllis Emmert created for Bully Dogs!

Here are just a few sample illustrations…but you’ll have to read the book to see them all!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Peek at My New Children's Book!

Youth fiction has always been a huge passion of mine, so I’m very excited to give you a first look at my newest book, a middle-grade novel called Bully Dogs!

“My mom’s wrong. These are not my best years, and I seriously doubt I’ll look back upon my childhood as the happiest days of my life.”

Meet Frances (Fran) Reed. She’s already got a mom like Henry the VIII (known for head-chopping, though in Fran's case, it's more like daughter-nagging). Throw in a fierce ring of girls making sixth grade less than perfect, and to top it off, three even fiercer dogs that turn Fran’s walk to school into an episode of Animal Planet.

Luckily, Frances Reed is about to learn she’s a lot tougher than she thought. The question is, what’s harder to deal with: bullies or bully dogs?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Art Imitating Life

One of the things I love about historical fiction is that it's a portal to real people and places. The Golden Gloves is an actual boxing tournament in Chicago! (I don’t have that good of an imagination!) If you happen to be in the Chicago area, you might even be able to catch a match! Click here to see The Golden Gloves’ site (and stop by the online store to pick up your own varsity jacket!).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Major Motion Picture

Pardon the pun (I couldn't resist!).

I'll admit I've done some daydreaming about Forcing the Hand of God as a movie. There are some brilliant actors out there, and I'd love to see Rodger and the rest on the big screen.

So, cue the drumroll; here's my dream cast list:

Major Rodger Brown . . . . Liev Schreiber or Viggo Mortensen
Ada . . . . Meryl Streep
Adele . . . . Hilary Swank

Adele would be the hardest to cast, but I think Hilary Swank could embody her strength and independence, and her sense of humor. Anyone know of an actor who could make a better Adele?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Signing on July 23!

It's officially summer, I've got a new young adult book coming out—Bully Dogs—and I'll be doing a book signing for Forcing the Hand of God on July 23!

Come join me at Auntie's Books in Spokane, WA, on July 23 at 7:30 pm! I'll be reading from Forcing the Hand of God, holding an audience Q&A, and signing copies of my book.

Auntie's Books is a great bookstore that's been around since 1978. Check out their Web site here.

Hope to see you there!

PS. I'll have more news about my latest book coming up!

Friday, May 29, 2009

June 6 Forcing the Hand of God Book Signing!

I'm so excited to tell you that I have an upcoming book signing! I'll be at The Bethel Avenue Book Company in Port Orchard, WA, on June 6 from 1-4 pm. Come stop by and see me!

I will sign copies of my novel Forcing the Hand of God. It's always fun to meet readers—so don't be shy!

Eight other local authors will be joining me for this fun way to kick off the summer reading season! (There's nothing quite like enjoying a good book on a sunny afternoon!) Bring some friends and expect to discover great new books and meet local authors!

Find full event details here.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Forget tuning in at five forty-five, like Rachel and Heather had to in Forcing the Hand of God: you can hear Captain Midnight anytime you want! I found archives of Chicago’s own WGN’s daring radio series online. Have a listen! Pull up a chair; the Ovaltine’s on me!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Meet the Flying Tigers

To paint an accurate picture of Major Rodger Brown, I needed to understand the real Flying Tigers, the American Volunteer Group.

I spent a lot of time researching the fighter pilots for my book Forcing the Hand of God. This is one of the best sites—their official site. You can get a comprehensive history of the Flying Tigers and read some personal accounts from the airmen.

Monday, May 18, 2009


You know how something turns out more magically than you could have ever planned yourself?

Back in 1982 I was writing my very first draft of Forcing the Hand of God. My husband happened to mention that he had an aunt named Ada who lived in Chicago. I was stunned to “recognize” her when he showed me this picture.

Doesn’t she look just like Ada? Her hair looks windswept from her busy life. Her eyes have that amazing serenity that sets her apart. What do you think: does she look like the Ada you pictured as you read the book?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Flying Tigers Action Figure?

Look what I found! First of all, the Flying Tigers were a real group of fighters in WWII China. But did you know there are Flying Tigers action figures? I didn’t—until I saw this on Toy Haven’s blog. Who knew! Click here to see one action figure, and here to see another!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On Writing Forcing the Hand of God

Like many writers, I didn’t intend to write a novel. For my master’s thesis in the University of Washington's Creative Writing program, I had a collection of short stories. One day, I joined a professional writers’ group hosted by Jean Bryant, who challenged me to see that what I had was not a collection of shorts, but the guts of a novel (thank you, Jean!). From there, Forcing the Hand of God was off and running with me chasing after.

I met with some surprises along the way. Ada came to me the most naturally—and then her relationship with Rodger in turn helped me understand him. I was fascinated by how Rodger’s and Ada’s emotional connection and sexual tension illuminated their inner lives.

You may have already guessed one of the hardest parts of writing historical fiction is keeping a tangle of dates, places, and facts all on a timeline! I changed the timeline for the action in Kunming, China and that proved to be a nightmare. I had to painstakingly string together all the subsequent actions, while keeping my characters in tow. Those of you who have written historical fiction know this agony of late nights, black coffee, and endless editing! But it does pay off.

Are there any writers out there who have similar stories? I'd especially love to hear from historical fiction authors!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Support from My Readers

Writing Forcing the Hand of God has given me a definitive sense of accomplishment. Throughout the process, I’ve felt a lot of support from family and friends, and some folks even sent me some kind words applauding my efforts (a big thank-you to all of you!). Below are some of the amazing comments I’ve received from readers:

I have pondered many times how to express my impression of “FORCING the HAND of GOD”
From the start, one is drawn in, first to the family, then to the dilemmas, then to the feeling that I was with the pilot, in the left seat, throttles full open as the wheels broke free of the runway. Through the words and minds of these characters, I am the mother, wife and son existing each day torn apart not just by geography, but by the beating heart of each person. This book is pure pleasure and a must read!
Love ya—

I really loved "Forcing the Hand of God." The writing was lively and created vivid pictures in my mind. I thought the interplay between the two time periods and locales was especially well handled. And, of course, as an old military airplane buff, I was delighted with your depth of information on and descriptions of the Flying Tigers at work. (For instance, I was fascinated to learn that P-38s were flown by the "Tigers." I had not known that before.) You obviously did an enormous amount of research. I have just sent copies to the St. Louis Reams and Kirsten in Santa Barbara. Lyn, who was with us last week, has one too.

Prepared for a sense of WWII from a pilot’s point of view, I was moved by the interspersing of life on the home front. Having recently read letters written home by my own father, this gave me a certain insight as to what loved ones went through as daily life continued. The ever present shadow of fear clouding the mundane. —Heidi Clarke

Tell Jacquie that I read her book last year and just never got around to letting her know. It was good reading and very well written.
—Jim Hodges (flight instructor at Queen City)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are You 4 or Against It?

As a former teacher, I think education is in my blood! Educational issues are frequently on my mind. 

What do you think of the text messaging controversy? Do you agree that when kids and teens keep using extremely abridged text messaging words  it affects their ability as writers and communicators? Check out my opinion on WGN Radio’s podcast, and tell me your take on texting. (Yes, I typed the title on purpose!)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Keep it Short and Simple

Happy Spring! Here in Seattle the sunshine is peeking through the clouds and the flowers are beginning to bloom. While many people's thoughts are turning to venturing outdoors I find myself drawn back to my writing.

Have you heard about my how-to book on writing: KISS: Keep it Short and Simple? KISS is all about easy ways to write better reports, short stories, or essays. I followed my own advice and wrote it as a short and simple book anyone can pick up!

My hope is that it guides and encourages all writers, from K-12 students to continuing education students to aspiring fiction writers! All you have to do is follow the steps in KISS and you’ll take an idea and turn it into an excellent, A-worthy piece of writing!

KISS is available online (Amazon). You can also read an excerpt on my website.

Let me know how KISS: Keep it Short and Simple transforms your writing—I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Review for Forcing the Hand of God

Many thanks to Sherry Shadday who recently reviewed my book, Forcing the Hand of God. Sherry served in the US Air Force for 21 years.

Sherry writes:  
"This book takes you back in time to World War II from both feminine and masculine viewpoints. There are several stories threading through this book, with glimpses of the past interspersed throughout, tying the individuals together. Jacquie Ream's perceptive descriptions place you in the activity, whether it be mechanics scattering from incoming bullets, Rodger leaving for an air mission, Adele learning about her husband's past, or a simple stroll by Ada to Adele's home. 

I became entwined with the characters as I discovered a piece here and a piece there that fit together, like a puzzle unfolding before me. Experience wartime emotions, family strife, the ties that bind, and bits of history as you explore lives affected by war, distance, economical and social situations, love, and friendship. You may not be immediately pulled into Forcing the Hand of God, but Ream's characters soon grow on you, drawing you in. This is more a slice of life than a piece of fiction."