I think that it’s by speaking out about painful issues that we help bring healing for us all. I want there to be more kindness in the world, more compassion and understanding—and my way to do that is to speak out about painful issues and to write books that deal with those issues in an emotionally honest way.
I’ve been hated, abused, raped and tortured, bullied, had my life repeatedly threatened, and had people mistreat me because I’m queer. I’ve seen what people are like when they let hate twist them. And I know what it’s like to be in so much pain and feel so alone in that pain that I want to die. I want to lessen that pain for others if I can. And I want to increase compassion. I think one of the best ways to do that is through books. They help us get inside someone else’s soul—their emotions and thoughts—and really help us understand someone else for a little while. And with understanding comes greater compassion and empathy—for ourselves and for others. We learn that we’re not alone, or we understand a bit more why someone else acts the way they do.
I wanted to die a lot as a child and teen. One thing that saved me was talking about my experiences with a therapist, getting empathy, and finding out I wasn’t alone. Another thing that saved me was books—finding in their pages, in small ways, things that told me that someone else understood my pain, what it felt like to be unloved or hated. What it was like to be bullied. Books saved me, and I know from the reader letters I get every week that books help save others, too. I hear that SCARS helped teens stop cutting, get into therapy or talk to someone for the first time, know they’re not alone, and keep from killing themselves. And now in STAINED I deal with more issues that need to be talked about—bullying, body image issues, rape, torture, and the need to save ourselves. Discovering that we are stronger than we know. Sometimes a book is the only way that a reader finds out that they’re not alone, or discovers (after feeling understood) new, healthier ways to cope. Books that deal with painful issues are powerful. They encourage healing and greater empathy. And they save lives.
So this conference combines two things I’m really passionate about—talking openly about painful issues to encourage healing, and YA books that are emotionally honest and that deal with issues that teens need to talk about. I’m honored to be part of the conference, and excited about it.
If you’re at the conference and come up to me, I’ll have STAINED bookmarks and some “sometimes you have to save yourself/love yourself” wristbands. See you there!