A Love Letter To My PitchWars Mentor


I am lucky. So, so very lucky. This August, I was chosen to be a mentee in the amazing PitchWars contest, run by the incomparable Brenda Drake.

Even luckier, though, is that I got chosen by an absolutely brilliant and generous mentor, Karen McManus.

A little background: I wrote my PitchWars book almost two years ago. I was represented by an agent, and this book was a huge departure from the book I signed with. It was much darker. It played with playwriting conventions. It wasn’t as feelsy (instead, I like to think it’s clever.) And, well, that agent sort of read it and gently said: write something else, this is way too problematic. So it got shelved. I shelved it despite having critique partners telling me not to.

It’s a bit of a scary book for me. I wrote characters outside of the gender binary. I wrote characters whose sexualities weren’t nailed down and certainly weren’t cookie-cutter hetero. And that took a lot of care. I hadn’t gotten it right when I sent it to my previous agent. But after time (and quite a few discussions with trusted friends in the LGBTQIA community) I dusted it off, reconsidered the tricky issue of pronouns, toned back the violence and tried to infuse a little more humanity.

And the reason I finally tackled the daunting revisions: I wanted to enter PitchWars.

The best thing was that when Karen got in touch with me to let me know I was her pick, she so clearly got it. She got the heart of the story, she got the weirdness, she got the humor. And after shelving it and leaving my former agent, just having someone get it was huge.

But more than just getting it, she saw how to make it better. She understood the parts of the book that were essential and couldn’t change and she helped me find the places where I had to push harder or dig deeper. She helped me look at so many things objectively. She helped me with pacing and with writing a more compelling first chapter.

I’m really proud of the work we’ve done. I’m proud to have worked with her. Because she’s awesome. And her book! Her book sounds amazing and I plan on buying a million copies and giving them all to my friends.

So, Karen, a million thank yous. I’m giving you a standing ovation and chucking flowers at your feet. You rock!

Confessions of a PitchWars Hopeful #pimpmybio

Hi new internet friends! I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to dip my toes in these waters, but what the hell, right?

A little about me. I’ve written mostly YA. Mostly of the contemporary and quirky variety. But I’ve also written some picture books and I’ve started working on a MG. But, really, I just love love love kidlit of almost all stripes. So why the hesitance to enter PitchWars? Because I’ve already been agented. Twice. I’ve been on submission with publishers. I feel like in some ways, I’ve done my time in contests. I signed with my last agent during a contest. But ultimately, it didn’t work out. And after all the celebration and joy that comes with signing a new agent (lots of shouting from the rooftops) it’s almost sort of embarrassing to admit that you are back to square one.

Except I’m not really back to square one. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve hopefully grown as a writer.


Other things about me. I also write freelance, mostly with articles about my experiences parenting and being a natural birth junkie. I’ve got two kiddos (6 and 3) and another on the way. I have two dogs, a one-eyed cat, and a husband who is nerdy and amazing. My favorite movie is Fargo. My favorite book is Jellicoe Road. My current favorite singer is Agnes Obel.

About my book! Okay, so I’m not sure which book exactly I’m going to enter. I do have some picture books and a YA that have never been queried/in contests. But I’m also working on a WIP that *might* be ready in time. And I really hope it is, because I’m giddy about it.


The WIP is tentatively called SIGNS SHALL FOLLOW and it is a dark, twisty, magical realism/horror YA set in a backwoods bayou. When Ben’s sins lead to the death of his first love, he’s banished and then blamed for a series of biblical-scale plagues. Beware, this story has many venomous creatures and a band of violent, feral children. But, really, what could be better?

Follow me on twitter @olivejuicelots and check out the playlist I’ve been using when I’m working on it. 😀

Falling for a WIP


All I want to do is write my new story! I’m in that sort of new, infatuation period of my swampy, horror, plague book. It’s all I think about. The playlist I’ve made for it is the only thing I want to listen to. And I’m positively giddy that it’s in a first lines/first page contest over at Adventures in YA Publishing.

The Reason I Write Personal Stories

This week, Romper published an article I wrote detailing my first miscarriage. As much as I view writing these articles as part of my job as a writer, I get so much more out of it than a paycheck.

When I write these emotional stories down, it’s therapeutic, like journaling. I now have sort of a keepsake of the experience.

But more than that, in the last two days, strangers and friends have reached out to me to thank me for writing an article about miscarriage. They thank me for teaching them something new, or for mirroring their own experiences. Of course that is a great compliment to a writer. But even more so, if I made them feel less alone in their struggles, they are doing the same for me.

Knowing you aren’t alone is a powerful thing. It can be life-changing. That’s why I’ll continue to share my experiences with stigmatized subjects, most notably: miscarriage and mental illness.

And a shameless plug, please check out the life-saving work of one of my favorite organizations: This is My Brave. They are working to start discussions about mental health and to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The Joys of a New WIP and a New Playlist

I’m finally digging into a book idea I’ve had for years. The idea has been there. Small pieces of the voice. A basic premise. But finally, FINALLY these characters are reaching out of me and onto the page. Thanks in no small part to me spending hours scouring Spotify for just the right music.

I put together a little sampler of the playlist JUST FOR YOU! (And maybe someday, I’ll figure out why the embed wasn’t working.)

This book is a little bit horror, a little bit strange, and a lot bit atmosphere. There are plagues of poisonous creatures. There is a wandering horde of feral children. In fact, I’m going to leave just a little taste of those feral children for you below.

They take turns being “The Beast.” That might be the scariest bit. They chew this root. It grows on one of the dryer islands up the river. Their gums bleed up from all the chewin’, or maybe it just looks it because the root is red, but they just keep gnawing on it, for a whole day. The Beast is wild. Doesn’t know what he or she is doing. As wild as they all are, there’s something different with this. They rage and fight and they have to be on a leash or who knows how much damage they’d do. If The Beast gets sicced on you, you might as well start praying, cuz running ain’t gonna do a thing. The one holding the leash, that’s Vipe. He’s never The Beast on account of his giving all the orders. You don’t want to mess with The Beast, but you really don’t wanna mess with Vipe.

I’m sort of ridiculously excited. And no offense to contemporary YA, but it’s fun to take a little break.

When Things Don’t Come Easily

Things always came easily to me. I mean in general. I’ve always had a lot of privilege: well-educated parents, middle-class upbringing, great school district. And I did well in school. I was always in the gifted/honors classes. I took APs in high school. I studied piano, and viola, and voice.

I excelled in math, and music, and science. Music came very easily, which is not to say I didn’t work hard at it, because I really did. But it wasn’t a struggle. I loved it, was told I was good, worked on it, was told I was great, tried out composition, studied music theory and decided to study music in college.

Here’s the thing, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to pursue a career in music, but there were other things I wanted to try, but had been too scared to. This is a problem for lots of people, I think. We’re told we’re good at things, and then, suddenly, when something is difficult we just don’t even try. We shrug our shoulders and say “well, that’s not for me.”

I was always afraid of writing. My confidence in that area was shot by the time I was a senior in high school. Hammered down by the previous three years of strict and rigorous classes, which were a bit like essay-writing boot-camp. I recently found a poem I wrote for an assignment in tenth grade. It wasn’t bad. It was about a girl sitting at a piano, feeling anticipation and hearing the music before she played. It was about that wave of nerves and the absolute rightness of playing those first few notes when everything is flowing. I got a D. I didn’t use enough adjectives. I didn’t tell the reader that it was a girl at the piano. Instead leaving an unanswered question of “why is this girl so poised? What is she nervous about?” It might be terrible. I don’t know. But I do know that that D made me feel like my ideas were bad and that I had no innate talent in that area.

But I did write. I wrote in secret. I’d go down to the basement, where my family computer was, and I’d write and write and write. I’d write stories and dialogues and dreams. I wrote for fun. I wrote embarrassing fan fiction, which I shared with only a few trusted friends. I wrote screenplays of movies I wish I could star in. Because that’s another thing I had been too afraid to try. I desperately wanted to be an actress or an artist, but I felt that because I didn’t audition for the first play my freshman year, I might as well not try at all. Because I hadn’t taken any art classes up to that point, I shouldn’t try now, because I’d be behind. It didn’t matter that I had been doodling horses since third grade, and could pretty well render anything that was in front of me.

I got to college, and something brilliant happened. I was a horrible fit for the music program. It was full of kids who wanted to be in the pop music industry. All of our assignments were to write drum loops and guitar riffs and to go to loud live-music shows. And, well, it wasn’t for me. So I changed majors.

I changed majors to playwriting. I was actually going to pursue this thing I loved. I got involved in theater. And once I was on a roll, I signed up for art classes, with actual art majors. I was unfazed. I took oil painting and printmaking and I acted in plays and student films. It was bloody brilliant.

College was ten years ago. (Holy shit, I’m old). And since then, I’ve had two jobs as a preschool teacher, I’ve gotten married, had kids, and become a stay-at-home mom.

Sure I had studied art and theater and writing, but I still hadn’t really gone for it. And then about four years ago, one of my best friends landed a literary agent. And suddenly all I wanted to do was ask her about her process, and about the industry. Pretty soon I was writing my first novel.

It felt great to be so into a story again. And since I had written a book, I figured, well, what the hell, I might as well try and get an agent. But I didn’t get an agent. This was not going to come easily to me.

So I wrote another book. And I got an agent. And it was a terrible fit. So I left that agent and wrote another book. That was hard. After feeling like Getting an Agent was the big goal and I had reached it, I was back at square one.

That next book also got me an agent. And we revised that book. I’m immensely proud of the work I did on it. I truly believed that was going to be my debut. I still loved my first two books, but this was my ticket to a book deal. We submitted it to publishers. And we got some passes and, mostly, we heard silence. That was so hard.

Harder still was the realization that that agent wasn’t a good fit. That I had one way I wanted to work and she had another. This time, leaving an agent was so much harder. It was awful. A kick in the gut. But while I was working with her, I had written two more books, the most recent of which, I’m back to querying with agents.

I feel like there are people on the outside, people who maybe don’t understand the process, who probably look at me, someone who’s been seriously writing and pursuing this dream and very open about pursuing it, for three years. Three years ago I signed with my first agent and shouted it from the rooftops. “I’m a writer! A serious writer!” But that next bit, that “I have a book deal!” announcement has yet to come.

It’s hard. Any writer knows that the path to publication is rarely a direct one. But still, sometimes I think “how can I be back to querying when I’ve worked so hard and when I’m such a better writer than I was when I wrote that first book?”

That’s the key though. I’m a better writer. And I’ll keep getting better. I have enough confidence in my work to take freelance jobs. Somehow I have the energy to bare my soul about parenting trials and tribulations. Somehow, I’ve kept going with writing novels, even though writing essays is now my job. That isn’t nothing.

And the big thing is: this might be my third time around with looking for an agent, but I know so much more about what I’m doing. I’ve struggled a lot to get where I am, and I’ll keep struggling to get better and to find publication. Because struggling is everything. Improving is everything. I’m hopeful about the future, and damn proud of my past, for doing things that scare the shit out of me.

Summer Reading Round-Up, Long Overdue

I read so many good books this summer. So, so, so, so many. So obviously I need to share.

The Boy in the Black Suit

I read this in one sitting. The character was so real to me. I was rooting for him and his family. I love stories about connections between people. That maybe sounds vague, but this story really spoke to how important it is for us to look out for each other. That’s a message I can get behind.

The Anatomical Shape of A Heart by Jenn Bennett

I admit, I was super skeptical about this one. One of my favorite books of all time is Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, and I didn’t know if I could love another romance between an artistic girl and graffiti artist. But this one is so different. And it is a swooningly good love story as well as having a lot of substance to it. I am rooting for these characters so hard.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

Oh my heart. This one was tough to read. It dealt with grief and bullying and illness and deciding to live even when things seem bleak. I dare anyone to read this one and not have their heart grow a couple sizes.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I feel like a common thread with my favorite books this summer is that the settings of all of these were so vibrant. But this one takes the place. I was right there with the main character, desperate for her to escape and terrified of the danger of the desert and awed by its beauty.

Paperweight by Meg Haston

Wow. This is another one I absolutely devoured. Like Stolen, I was squarely in this character’s head and felt like I understood so much about why she was the way she was. It’s a tough read because it pulls no punches in depicting eating disorders and trauma.

Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu

Guys. This book is amazing. It was so vivid and so complex in how it dealt with sibling relationships. We see what it’s like to lose ourselves and try find ourselves again. This book worked on so many levels. It’s an other-worldly fairy tale, but it’s also grounded in some really real experiences.


I just finished this one, so it is still super fresh in my mind. I don’t know if I was just on a roll with reading about grief and families and how connected we are all to each other, but this one tackles all of that. This book also has an amazing sense of place. My favorite thing about it was how it showed the romantic relationships, especially the ones that fell apart. I could go on about that, but I don’t want to spoil any part of how this story comes together.

Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson

This one is a punch in the gut. (Perhaps I need to read some more light and fluffy things this fall?) I expected that, given that it’s about a school shooting. Each story was amazing, but how they all came together to show the different facets of this boy, a boy who did something truly horrible, was magical. This definitely made me want to find more novel/anthologies that work as seamlessly as this one did.

I’m Officially a Goodreads Author!

For a while now, when you search my name on amazon, a book pops up there. It’s a book I contributed to called TO THREE AND BEYOND. This was an awesome feeling. But perhaps, even better than that, was becoming an official Goodreads author, which I am! This is all thanks to an awesome anthology of short stories called NEVER BE YOUNGER.

And it came out last week. Which I guess means I’m sort of officially published! Hooray!

I got to make a nifty Goodreads bio. I got to upload my little picture. All that stuff. And I got to read reviews. One even called out my story! (In a good way.)

So, about the anthology. Perhaps I should have led with this…

All the stories are based on a work by my favorite author of all time: William Shakespeare. I chose to update/adapt The Merchant of Venice. This play isn’t actually my favorite, but because it is dark and romantic, I thought it would be fun for YA. And it really was. Guys. I’m super proud of this story. If you know the play, hopefully when you read it you have moments of “Oh! I see what she did there!” And even if you aren’t familiar, hopefully you’ll say “Wow. That was a neat world and some memorable characters.” Or something.

The coolest part of being in this anthology is that all proceeds are going to a great cause. United Through Reading helps US military families who have to be apart. They do this by taking videos of parents reading their kids’ favorite stories or by providing video chats so that story time can continue even when a parent is deployed.

Lastly. The cover is pretty. Isn’t it?


Reading Roundup: April 2015 Edition

So far 2015 has not found me with my nose in a book as much as I would like. I blame having a very active toddler. And Global Warming. BUT! I do have some recs and things I’m loving, so allow me to give you an update.

Book I’m Currently Reading

The Shark Curtain by Chris Scofield

So Chris is an agency sister of mine. And really, Team Howland is one, big, happy (if not a little neurotic) family. So naturally I had to pick this book up. We are passing a copy around to all the agency sibs, and we’re all making notes in the margins. Eventually we will send it to Chris and she can see what we think. I’m gonna be honest, most of the times my comments are “This is hilarious/haha/love it,” or “this is heartbreaking.” I’m still reading this, but trust me, I never want to put this down.

Current Audiobook

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Obviously she’s a killer storyteller. The romance in this one is very Eleanor & Park to me, which, if you haven’t read that book, is high praise. I’m only about halfway through this one, but the language is great. It’s quiet and soul-searching and unflinching. The characters are dealing with traumatic pasts and trying to recover. The compassion that Anderson writes with is amazing.

Audiobook I’m still obsessing over

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This one is one of my favorite books. And normally, I try and listen to new books on CD so I can maximize new book consumption, but I heard time and time again how killer this audiobook is. And OMG, it so was. And not just because I have a major crush on whoever voiced Sean Kendrick, whom I had a crush on already. Also, the brilliant music from the book trailer (written and played by the author herself.) Highly, highly recommend.

Book I’m Reading to my kids

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek, Illustrated by Christine Roussey

This is hands down the best kids’ book I’ve read about feelings. The illustrations are colorful, sparse and whimsical. Each spread describes the way a feeling feels, like physically and emotionally. And I’m just a sucker for a good die-cut.

Book I Keep Thinking About

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

I was so excited to read this book for two big reasons. 1. It deals with depression in a real and honest way, and the world needs as many honest stories about mental illness as possible. 2. I met Jasmine at the NoVA Teen Book Festival and she was lovely! This book design is also straight up gorgeous. I keep thinking about this book. Really. It was so real to me. I still feel like these characters are people I know. Please read it and get to know Aysel and Roman.

A List of Other Books

Other books I’ve read recently that were awesome:

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (seriously, I could write an entire post on how wonderful it’s been to correspond with the author and discuss mental health stories)

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg This one was a Christmas gift from my dear brother-in-law. It has little meditative chunks of advice and exercises, so I’m reading just a bit at a time. A lot just about putting pen to paper and allowing yourself the freedom to just write.

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington I wrote about her other book, Courage for Beginners, here. This one was equally as good. It was a really lovely middle grade read.

Kindness and Safety

The first time I felt unsafe around a boy, I was thirteen. And I remember thinking, how did I get in this position? I did everything right.

It’s only now, almost two decades later, that I’m starting to gain the perspective I need to answer that question.

My mother always told us, that her wish for us, more than anything else in the world, is that we grew up to be kind. Kindness was put above intelligence and success and looks. It’s not wrong to teach your children this. I agree with her philosophy that there isn’t enough kindness in the world, so by raising caring and conscientious children, she was doing her part.

I believe I lived up to, and maybe even exceeded, her expectations. It wasn’t all learned though, I think I was also born this way. Naturally empathetic. When someone is hurting around me, I hurt. I pay close attention to the feelings of others. I go out of my way to make things easy and comfortable for everyone else. If I thought I might have inflicted any unintentional pain on anyone else, it made my stomach hurt. It kept me up at night.

In a lot of ways, nothing has changed. Except I now have an added piece to the puzzle of being kind. And that piece that I was missing back then was protection.
In this ideal world that my mother dreamt of, where everyone is kind, you wouldn’t need protection. You could be open and loving and nothing bad would ever happen to you. That’s not our world. And while I hate the idea of teaching my own children to be world-weary and pessimistic, I think it is important to teach them: you must always look after yourself first, because you can’t trust other people to always do it for you.

My kindness got me many kudos in my young life. I was a nurturing older sister. I was the kid who always got paired with the intellectually disabled or behaviorally challenged peers for class assignments. These things made me proud. They still do.

In third grade, there was a boy named Charles that was picked on a lot. He was shy. He had some medical needs that necessitated certain accommodations to be made. I still think of him as a turtle. He’d get picked on, and he’d sort of draw himself inward and put on this bitter, angry face and he would try to repel the mean words and the exclusions of others.

Here’s the thing, Charles was a really nice kid. I really did like him. I think I was the only one. When he was called to talk to the school counselor, I went with him. We’d talk about the social dynamics of the classroom. I think by being there, I made it easier for him to talk. I felt so proud to be his counseling buddy.

One day, as we were walking in a line up the stairs, there was some pushing and shoving. Charles didn’t instigate any of it. In fact I think he was shoved on the stairs and he lost his balance, falling into the classmate behind him. That classmate’s glasses fell off and broke. Back in the classroom, when we discussed the incident. The entire class positively crucified Charles for breaking this kid’s glasses. And I spoke up. I was the only person in the entire class not to jump on the bandwagon.

When I think about that, I’m still proud of third grade me.

In middle school, there was this boy, Andrew. I didn’t have any classes with him. I can’t even remember how we might have met. But I was nice to him.

He never had clean clothes. He smelled bad. He was awkward. And every day, at the end of the school day, he met me at my locker.

He’d come up behind me and put his arms around me, grasping around my shoulders and weighing me down. He’d walk me to my bus. And he wouldn’t let go of me until the very last second.

I was so uncomfortable with this. I didn’t want to be touched by this boy. And I was so ashamed to admit to myself that I was embarrassed by being seen with him. That was such a mean thought. And I needed to be kind.

This happened every day. Every day, I was touched by this boy. My personal space was encroached, and I felt guilty about hating it.

Thirteen-year-old me didn’t think I could do anything about it. Because telling a teacher or my parents would be mean. I would seriously hurt his feelings. I would create conflict. So I sucked it up.
And really, the thing that still kills me is, I was probably one of the only people who was nice to Andrew. I got the sense that his home life was troubled, though he didn’t ever really talk about it. I think he was literally clinging to me, because I was the only person who ever showed him kindness. And I don’t think he wished me harm, but he harmed me anyway.

One day, he told me he was moving away. I feigned disappointment, though, of course, I was happy. He asked if he could write to me. I said yes. Of course I did. Because what would the harm in that be.
“Oh!” he said when I had written down my address, “that is right near me! I could ride my bike to your house.”

And I’m sure I mumbled something in response. Something like “Oh, that’s cool.” I’m sure I was careful not to invite him over. Although I’m also sure, I probably considered it, because it would have been the kind thing to do. Back in third grade with Charles, I often went to his house after school. Only now that I’m a mother, do I look back and realize that these were exciting days for Charles’s mother. She’d always make us really special snacks. We read Tintin together, and when I enjoyed it, they bought me my own copy. And though I didn’t understand French, I adored it.

I did not invite Andrew over, but it didn’t matter, because he came over anyway.

I was home alone in the early afternoons. My parents were at work. My younger brother still in school, my older brother at football or track practice. And I was definitely not allowed to have anyone over when my parents weren’t home.

Thank god for that rule, because it was the only thing that made me feel safe.

The same day that he had gotten my address, he must have sprinted home from the bus stop, gotten on his bike and pedaled over to my house as quickly as he could. I had only been home for a short time before I heard the knock on the door.

It was awful. I felt so awkward. I let myself outside, because he wasn’t allowed in.

And here, in my thirty-year-old perspective, I know that I should have stayed inside and told him I wasn’t available and he should go home. But then, I thought, better not be rude or mean, you might hurt his feelings.

So I went outside. We sat on my front steps, his arms around me, making me feel small and sick. And when I felt like I had spent enough time with him as to seem kind and friendly I remember I told him that I needed to do math homework.

“Oh,” he said. “I’ll help you with math.”

And I still remember my reply, because it wasn’t nice. I said, “but I’m two years ahead of you in math.”
“In that case, you can help me with math homework.”

I did not know how to get out of it. He had totally destroyed my grasp at a reasonable excuse. Blessedly, my phone rang inside.

“I’ll be right back,” I told him.

I went inside and answered the phone. It was my dad checking in. I remember telling him, in a small and frightened voice that this boy Andrew was here.

No sooner had I said that, then I realized Andrew had let himself in my house. I had a jolt of panic, because I had told him before that he was not allowed in. And even more horrifying to me at the time, he might have heard me tell my father he was over, and my tone of voice might have hurt his feelings.

“Is he in the house?” my dad asked.

“Yes,” I just barely managed to whisper.

“He needs to leave.”

“Okay.” I hung up the phone, and Andrew’s arms were around my shoulders again. “That was my dad, he said I can’t have you in the house.” Saying this took all of my strength. And I was very afraid. I felt unsafe. And here’s the thing, I was a young thirteen-year-old. I was still more than a year away from getting my period, and to really knowing anything about sex beyond the basics.The idea of sexual assault had never even crossed my mind. But something in me was frightened of something. And I already felt small and cowed by the unwanted physical contact we had had.

I still feel small when I think about it. My stomach still lurches and I cringe.

“Okay. Well. Maybe I’ll see come by tomorrow.”

“Sorry,” I said, as I walked him to the door.


Nothing beyond that ever happened. There were other times he came over and I made excuses. He continued to plaster himself on me after school. I continued to be embarrassed. I guess eventually he did move away.
I was ashamed at the animosity I felt toward him. I don’t fault my dad for not following up. I honestly can’t remember if he did. But I almost certainly didn’t feel like I should tell my parents about it. I felt like I had done something wrong to let him come over. Even though I didn’t consent to any of it.

I can now see how these issues are so important. I wish I had told my parents how I was feeling about Andrew. I wish I had asked my mother if telling him to let go of me would be unkind. Because I know now what they would say. I’m sure they’d be startled or horrified and tell me to look after myself first. That I didn’t need to consent to anything I didn’t want to do.

But the reality is, I didn’t want to be anything other than kind and giving and nurturing in their eyes as well as mine.

With my own kids, who are still too young to really understand these nuances, I teach them consent and kindness. I teach them to stand up for themselves but to not inflict undue pain. But pain happens. It happens regardless. And I’d rather it not be my kids that are getting hurt.

I consider myself lucky. I have never been a victim of rape or sexual assault. The thing is, that does not mean that I have never felt unsafe or violated. And I doubt there is any woman out there who hasn’t. In college, I remember bringing male friends with me to any party I attended and asking them to please put their arm around me because I didn’t want to be hit on or touched by anyone I didn’t trust. I was lucky to have men I trusted, I always have. But still, I gave my number to boys I had no desire to talk with. I felt I owed them a piece of myself.

Kindness is a tricky thing. But never, not ever, do you owe anyone a piece of yourself. I hope my children always feel empowered to keep themselves safe. I hope they know they can tell me if they feel unsafe or anxious or sad.

Kindness is important. Consent is important. Empowerment is important. Safety is important. You should never have to sacrifice any of these things for another.