Although I have always loved words and everything they could do, Stand by Me did not emerge from a desire for authorship, but from a passion for kids. Having worked with children for years in public schools, I find hope in their optimism and energy in their enthusiasm. Kids who are typical and kids who are not so typical share a desire to alleviate suffering and do the right thing. A surprising number of them have suffered themselves. Many of the words in this book are theirs. My words were easy because these kinds of truths are simple to express. It is the kids who drive Stand by Me, who teach me, and who inspire me to continue to share their experiences. My responsibility is to get it right.
My advice for authors is to follow your passion and lose your fear. Try not to discourage yourself from writing because you feel you cannot compete. If you have something unique to say, you will find an audience. The most important thing is to do; to say the things you feel need to be said; to persevere. There was a decision point where I could have let this program go and left it as a local intervention. It was a “now or never” moment, and I decided “now” was what I wanted. It took eleven years from the initial idea to publication. It was time well spent.
I have found that I write best in the morning, in privacy, and in silence. If I feel I have all the time I want in that space. I can relax and get work done. Secondly, I try to follow my mother’s advice, that it is not “all about me.” If I can get my mind off myself and onto the kids, everything makes more sense.
Standing up is incumbent on all of us. Kids are courageous and willing to act, once they know what to do. Bullying is familiar territory for them. As I have worked with this program, I have reflected on other issues I encounter and thought many times, “What would the kids do?” If I ask it of them, I have to expect as much of myself. If I see something I consider wrong, what am I doing to correct it? We, as adults, fail children when we cease to model for them what we ask of them. Be brave, grown-ups!