Hey TMGEP followers! So sorry our Giveaways went M.I.A. for a minute there… but we’re back in action with our final Author of the Week!
Ladies & Gents, meet Jody Feldman–author of The Gollywhopper Games Series and The Seventh Level.
Jody currently resides about 20 minutes from the beautiful Gateway Arch is St. Louis, Missouri. In her free times she enjoys cooking on eight burners (potentially 14 burners, see her “Not as Random as It Appears” page on her website, http://www.jodyfeldman.com) and catching movies at the theater, but only when she’s not typing away at her computer–working on her next amazing book.
Check out our interview with Jody Feldman and then enter to win our book giveaway–instructions are at the end of this post!
Jody Feldman: I grew up with amazing parents, typically annoying little brothers,
good friends, and so many other wonderful people. Yes, we could have been models for shows like Leave It to Beaver (without June Cleaver’s pearls). And yet, like most kids, I didn’t completely escape all the mean girls. It’s not that I was their constant target; it’s more that they occasionally tested me with snobbery and snub-ery. My saving grace may have been that I was too embarrassed and too shy—and too embarrassed about being shy—that I wouldn’t let myself react. And because I never appeared to be bothered, they’d move on. Today, I’m still surrounded by amazing people who, by their love and support—and, yes, their good-natured jabs and jokes and general silliness—continue to make it easy for me to be creative. As for the mean girls? I cannot guarantee they’ve ever found real happiness.
TMGEP: When did you begin writing?
JF: I like to say that I never knew that I always wanted to be a writer. I never even attempted to write anything but assignments (unless you count some terrible poetry one day when I was 14 and feeling sorry for myself) until I was in my late 20s. The issue I always had with writing, and still do, is this: Ideas zoom into your brain all bright and shiny, and when you try and capture them on paper or screen, not only are they elusive (which makes the process feel like it takes forever), but the words don’t come out as perfectly as you first conceived them. I’ve managed, though, to get past that. But on days when I find writing especially hard, I look back on anything I’ve written then realize that those words in that order may never have existed without my efforts.
JF: Whenever I’d hear the words, “secret society”, my ears would perk up and my heart would race just a little bit. So I decided to create a secret society; on paper, that is. The Legend, however, isn’t your typical, notorious secret society. It’s reserved for select students in Lauer Middle School, and no one knows how to get in or even which fellow students belong. But the things they do! They create amazing school-wide events—an upcoming one includes a music superstar and they’ve even sent some kids to the Olympics. Enter Travis Raines, a kid who means well, but always finds himself getting into trouble. Suddenly, he starts receiving blue envelopes with messages that might be his entrée into The Legend. Travis solves the puzzles that take him to his next envelope and the next, but they also lead him into deeper trouble. Are these messages really from The Legend? Or is someone trying to take Travis down?
TMGEP: HarperCollins Publishers released a collection of books whose characters struggle with bullying issues called “Stop Bullying. Start Reading.” THE SEVENTH LEVEL is listed as one of the books in this collection. Why was it chosen?
JF: First, I’m proud to have books on that list especially because, as choices, they’re not obvious. And often, neither is bullying. The thing is, bullying comes in all sorts of degrees and disguises. It’s not only the flagrant and constant rumor-spreading, name-calling, brow-beating, fist-throwing type of actions people point to and point out. There’s also the subtle bullying that comes with hurtful glances and ugly side comments and general dislike of another person, all of which can be so very hurtful, as well. Travis, the main character in The Seventh Level, wouldn’t describe himself as a victim of bullying. He has good friends, he can stand up for himself, and yet, he has been under attack. He just deals. So after you’ve read The Seventh Level, doubtful you’d look up and say, “This book is about bullying.” You’d describe the action, the excitement, the puzzles, and the sticky situations. And yet, through it all, you’d feel a sense of how subtle menace and ugliness and intimidation can rear their ugly heads; how these less visible actions, ones which people tend to brush aside, still have the same effect of shaking people to their core.
TMGEP: How are you tackling the issue of bullying in your book?
JF: As Travis is solving clues that may lead him into The Legend, he wishes he could swat Randall away with the back of his hand. It’s not just the way this big guy keeps looking at Travis. And it’s not how he seems to be the cause of all sabotage. It’s the uncertainty of how Randall will treat him from moment to moment. “You can’t trust a guy who snipes at you in science class then tells you it’s good you’re back. Either you’re my friend or you’re not,” Travis says in the book. But if Travis were to look at himself, he’d see he wasn’t the perfect kid, either. He continually refers to Randall as an oaf. He goes out of his way, not just to avoid Randall, but to get back at him, and not always in the most constructive manner. It’s these more subtle issues of bullying that people don’t often address. Maybe, hopefully, that will change.
TMGEP: How can your character’s struggle with a bully help one of your readers who may be dealing with bullying issues?
JF: Travis tends to fight fire with fire. When he thinks Randall is making his life miserable, Travis’s first line of defense is to lash back at his tormentor. That just fuels the feud, but solves nothing. What works better is when Travis tries to ignore Randall. And what works best is when Travis tries to understand Randall’s words and actions. Such tactics won’t erase all bullying, but it will go a long way to stop much of it.
TMGEP: What advice do you think your protagonist would give to someone being bullied?
JF: Here’s how Travis might reply: “I’d tell you to just ignore it, but we all know that’s impossible. So if you can’t figure out how to make it stop, you gotta get help. If the first person isn’t smart enough to understand what’s happening, you need to find someone else. And if that second person isn’t smart enough to be on your team, either, you might need to change the way you’re picking people. Just don’t quit. Keep looking for an ally until you find one. That person is out there. “Another thing, and it’s sorta embarrassing, but I have to say this. As a frequent visitor to the office of Mrs. Pinchon, assistant principal in charge of discipline, I’ll quote her favorite saying: ‘Things aren’t always as they appear.’ When you find out she’s right, that you might’ve been just as bad as any oaf, the first thing you have to do is to tell your brain to stop beating yourself up about that. Even if you’re as short as me, you can be the big guy and start acting better and making things right.”
JF: If your local bookstore is out of stock, ask them to order it for you. It should only take a day or two. Or if you’d like an autographed copy, I work with three different bookstores that can make it happen. You’ll find that info on my website.
TMGEP: Where can anxious readers find you?
JF: Right now, at my desk typing. Or at the grocery store, at a football game, on the golf course, cooking in my kitchen, watching TV, at the movie theater—Oh! You mean these:
TMGEP: Is there anything else you would like to share?
JF: Like this killer oatmeal cookie I’m eating now? Not a chance. But I’ll make you another batch if you want. Back to topic, I could go on about the joy of finding one good friend or the patience it takes for hurts to heal or the necessity to rebuke ugly words and deeds. Instead I’ll share a quote from Scott Adams, creator of the cartoon Dilbert. “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
This week we will be raffling away two of Jody Feldman’s books:
- Paperback copy of The Seventh Level
- Hardcover copy of The Gollywhopper Games: Friend or Foe
We’re excited to give these amazing books to two lucky winners!
GIVEAWAY ENTRY INSTRUCTIONS:
To enter TMGEP’s Author of the Week Giveaway, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your NAME and PHONE NUMBER (don’t worry, we won’t call you unless we can’t get ahold of you via email to claim your prize!) by Thursday, March 17th at 11:59PM PST. A winner will be selected at random, contacted and announced by Tuesday, March 22nd.
And now for the less exciting stuff…
This is a sweepstakes involving The Mean Girl Extinction Project and an outside party henceforth referred to as “Author of the Week”. Both parties are aware of the sweepstakes and the donated prize. The value of the prize will not exceed $50 (US).
Sweepstakes is open to all legal residents of the United States ages 18 and older. Sweepstakes begins at the time of blog post and ends the following Thursday at 11:59PM PST. No purchase necessary. All entries must be received via email. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Winner agrees to have their name and likeness used for media and publicity purposes. If potential prize winner forfeits or does not claim the prize, prize will be re-awarded, in TMGEP’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded.
Sweepstakes is hosted by The Mean Girl Extinction Project, California 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
P.O. Box 2041 | Windsor, CA 95492
VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.