Catherine DePino is stopping by The Library with Elliot K. Carnucci as part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Catherine will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
This is a TV interview with Elliot, my protagonist from Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying. I’m interviewing as Barbara Walters, known as BW here. Elliot will be called “E.”
BW: Elliot, I’d like to welcome you to our interview today. I hear you’ve been through a lot of bullying episodes. Can you tell us what happened and how you dealt with it?
E: I have to tell you, I’m a little nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before. Me—on TV? Get real! But my vice principal, Doc Greely asked for a volunteer to talk on TV about bullying. I was surprised when your producers picked me out of all the other bullied kids in my school.
BW: I have to say that you came highly recommended. When our producer saw the tapes, he said, “This kid’s got chutzpah.” He looks kind of nerdy, like the kind of kid who wouldn’t stand up for himself, but the way he came off in the interview blew us all away.
E: (laughs) I don’t consider myself anybody special, certainly not a big hero, so that surprises me. I seriously felt hurt and even beaten down sometimes when the bullies ragged on me. But at some point (after the incident where they dunked my head in the toilet), I knew I’d reached the breaking point. I figured it was either me or them. That’s when I began to fight back, not in the sense of physically getting back at them, but in trying to find a way to get out of this mess.
BW: So what helped you turn things around?
E: Actually, it didn’t happen all at once. It was a gradual kind of thing. It took me a while, but I learned that it’s important to talk to people about what’s happening. If you don’t talk about it and keep it all inside, you’ll crack, and the bullies will have beaten you.
I found it hard to talk to my dad at first. He’s hung up on the funeral business, which keeps him busy 24/7. Nonna, my grandmother who lives with us, is sort of goofy (in a nice way) and bosses me around a lot. Also, Mom and Dad are divorced, and when Mom comes into town, she’s always bugging me about one thing or another. For one thing, she’d drop dead (excuse the pun), if I ever went into the funeral business, which I may want to do someday. She also treats me like a baby and obsesses about my being overweight.
BW: So if you can’t talk to your family, who do you talk to?
E: I have a good friend at school, Mr. Boardly. He’s actually the custodian, and he’s helped me a lot. (fidgets) The only problem is he has lung cancer and isn’t doing too well. I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to him. He’s like a Dad to me.
BW: So you’re saying that because you often can’t talk to your own family, you’ve created your own family to talk to. Who else has helped you besides Mr. Boardly?
E: I’ve got a couple of good friends, named Roy and Le Bron. We like to shoot baskets and talk about stuff that’s on our minds. We get along great. Roy comes from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and used to be bullied when we went to grade school because he was tall like “Big Bird” in Sesame Street. LeBron’s a star football player. Some kids can’t understand how he can be friends with me, especially the ones who consider me a loser.
Le Bron and I like to talk about books, and Roy and I talk about other stuff like girls we like. Roy even talked me into getting a hair makeover from his crazy Uncle Pablo, thinking it would make kids see me differently. Pablo shaved my head into a scaldini (that’s what the kids call a baldie haircut). That made kids make fun of me even more, but I know Pablo’s a good guy and didn’t mean anything by it.
BW: I know you’re a top student, Elliot, so I wanted to ask if you read a lot and what your favorite book is.
E: I love to read although I wouldn’t tell most kids in my school that or they’d bug me more. My friend LeBron told me about this book by a guy named J.D. Salinger. He lived like a hermit and didn’t like talking to people. He wrote this book called The Catcher in the Rye. It’s about a kid who leaves his school because he can’t stand the phonies in it. He ends up in a mental institution, but, if you want to know the truth, I think he’s the most sane person in the world.
Anyway, my mom, who was an English major, told me they studied this book in college psychology classes when she attended Temple University. That’s why I like it. It teaches you a lot about people.
BW: Do you see an end in sight for your bullying issues?
E: I have to have hope there will be or I’d find it hard to wake up in the morning. It gets pretty depressing sometimes. After all, how much can you take when people are always on your back?
I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, trying my best to fight the good fight, getting help from people at school and my friends, and sometimes, my family when they’re not getting on my nerves! I’ve got to believe it will get better. That’s what keeps me going.
BW: What’s your best piece of advice for someone facing bullying?
E: Hang in there. Never give up. Try talking to an adult you trust. Always tell someone; don’t keep it inside. Things will get better.
BW: Have you thought about what you can do to help other bullied kids since you’ve been through it yourself?
E: I’d like to help bullied kids by being there to listen, like people who helped me by listening. My friends and I plan to start a Bullies Anonymous Club to help kids deal with their bullying issues. This will make you smile! We’re planning on having it in the funeral home where I live. If that doesn’t spook them out, nothing will!
BW: (shaking hands) Thanks, Elliot, for telling us your story. You are wise beyond your years, and it’s been fun talking to you.
Since his parents divorced, he splits spending his time with his funeral director father and his mother Rayna, who dreams of becoming the queen of commercials on the west coast.
At the hands of his peers, Elliot experiences a series of bullying episodes that escalate from entrapment in a school supply closet to a brutal “swirly” (head dunk in the toilet) that lands him in the hospital emergency room.
Elliot has a small circle of loyal friends and a mentor named Duke, an aging school custodian, who root for him to overcome his bullying issues so that he can enjoy his life as a teenager and a budding singer/performer. Can Elliot win his fight against the nasty bullies, or is he doomed forever? Read this funny, sad, and crazy book to find out.
What were they planning to do to me? Had they all gone over the edge? I tried to scream, but all that came out from under the gag was Mmmmmmmmm.
Most of the teachers and staff had already left to get an early start on spring break. Duke was probably somewhere in the building, though, giving the place a final once over before locking up. His doctor had told him to slow down after the tests proved he had lung cancer, but it only made him work longer hours.
Kyle slammed me on the back. “Tell you what, promise not to open your mouth and I’ll take the gag off.”
I nodded yes like my head was going to roll off.
He untied the gag, and I heaved in a gulp of air.
“We don’t want you to suffocate when your head hits the water.”
Were they going to throw me in the river? Drown me? Could they be that crazy?
I tried to make a run for it, but Kyle caught me before I could make it to the door. His biceps bulged like baseballs from his lean arms. How I wished I'd added weight lifting to my fitness routine.
Canfield looked at his friends. “Part of the fun is the anticipation. Right, guys?”
Why couldn’t they look at me?
I heard on the news that when you’re threatened if you call a person by name, maybe he'll act more human and be less likely to hurt you. Was it worth a try?
“Kyle, you don’t want to do this…”
Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer.
For many years she served on the board of The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She holds membership in the Association of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Her new self-help book, 101 Easy Ways for Women to De-Stress, Reinvent, and Fire Up Your Life in Retirement,appeared on the market in March, 2014.
Visit her website at www.catherinedepino.com or on Facebook.
Buy the book at Amazon.
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