I recently had the pleasure of connecting with author of “Every Ugly Word” Aimee L. Salter. Aimee resides in southern Oregon with her husband and son. She is a writer of teen novels and the occasional adult, who much like herself, still holds on to that inner high-schooler. Over the years, Aimee has embraced those dark moments where you speak what you are truly thinking. She is a person that will ask you those questions that you wish she didn’t ask. “Every Ugly Word” is Aimee’s debut novel, originally self-published as “Breakable”. Later on, her book was picked up by Alloy Entertainment (a division of Warner Bros. Television Group) and re-released in 2014.
Aimee also has a blog for both writers and readers on her site: LINK.
“Every Ugly Word” is a story about a 17-year old girl named Ashley who constantly bullied at her high school and her own mother. She also happens to have fallen in love with her best friend, Matt, who is bullied by his father. The young teenager seeks help by channeling her future self, “Older Me”, who supports her through every obstacle she is facing. Along the way her future self teaches her to love who she is. When looking into the mirror, this is where Ashley can talk to her future self (“Older Me”). Through all the torment and relentless bullying, her unstable mother, and the love of her life, her future self is her major support system; however, “Older Me” eventually betrays Ashley in the worst possible way. So only a few questions remain: Will she have her chance at love with her best friend Matt? Is she truly looking within herself for the answers? Will she overcome?
I hope you enjoy this interview with Aimee as much as I did in bringing such an innovative and interesting story to your attention that I hope you all read. I know I was very intrigued after reading the synopsis.
What would you say to your future self when put in Ashley’s situation?
Dana Jacoviello: You are obviously very passionate about your writings, and you recently wrote a book titled “Every Ugly Word” to kick off an anti-bullying/pro-self campaign. When I was approached by your team to review and do an interview, I was more than happy when I saw that the message was something I am passionate about as well, and I am also a writer about these topics among others. Tell me a little bit about your background with this book and why you wanted to become a writer? Was it just something you fell into or a passion from a young age
Aimee Salter: In terms of writing, the earliest I can remember being determined to write books for a living was when I was eight or nine years old. Unfortunately, it was drummed into me early on that being an author wasn’t going to be a “real” career, so it took me until my early thirties to settle down and decide to beat the odds. It’s been a lot of hard work to this point, but I love what I do and am living my own personal dream.
As far as this particular book, I started writing it in 2011 after reading the website www.dearteenme.com. That’s a site where authors write letters to their teen selves, offering insight and advice. That really struck a chord for me because I’d always looked back on my teens and the negative experiences I had, wishing I knew then what I know now.
So I started writing a letter to my teen self, acknowledging all the things she believed about herself because of what others said and did, how they were wrong, and how if she’d just keep going, she’d find that out too. (Side note, Dear Teen Me published my letter on their blog last year HERE).
Writing all that out got me thinking about how my teen self would probably dismiss much of what I said – after all, when I was sixteen, I knew everything! That got me wondering what I’d say to try to make her believe me… and so EVERY UGLY WORD, a book about a teenage girl who could talk to her future self in the mirror, was born.
The story has changed significantly from that first iteration three years ago. But at its heart, it’s the story I’d want my teen self to read. It’s a story to offer her hope.
DJ: I find many people choose to advocate or write about bullying as they either suffered from some form of it, have experience with it through someone else, or feel very deeply about it. As far as your situation, were you ever bullied as a child or an adult?
AS: Bullying became an issue for me in the seventh grade, and got severe in high school. At the time I didn’t actually realize I was being bullied – I just thought I was REALLY unpopular. At its worst, I stood in a room as the leader of a debate team, forced to ignore signs in the audience that said “We Hate Aimee”, and a paper doll with red hair that was hung by a noose off a pole.
The hate messages and abuse (usually verbal, occasionally physical) had a major impact on me. It took years for me to begin to believe someone could love me. Honestly, without God and my family, I doubt I’d be here today.
That said, I did heal. And it was amazing to be freed from all that fear and self-loathing. Now, whether it’s the issue of bullying, or anything else that erodes a person’s sense of their place in this world, I’m passionate about helping people know their value. If my book, or anything I write can give anyone a spark of hope, I’ll die happy.
DJ: Your focus is towards youth; however, how do you feel about cyber-bullying and social media at any age?
AS: Cyber-bullying at any age is insidious. It brings all the negativity and hate into the places that should be safe: the home, private time, even when the target is alone. It can also create public shame over what should have been a private conversation when a bully releases information or throws their barbs in a publicly accessible space.
I also personally believe the relative distance and anonymity of the internet / texting brings out the worst in some, creating bullies out of people who might not have had the balls to do it, otherwise.
All of that said, social media and the internet offer opportunities for people who would otherwise be incredibly socially isolated to find their place with others of like minds and interests. As well as a chance to learn they’re not alone. I wrote an article called HATE BREEDS, which my publisher set up as its own page specifically so I can connect with people who’ve been bullied or involved in bullying, and so we can all spread a positive message. (LINK). Without social media I wouldn’t have been able to get that story in front of so many eyes. So all those apps and platforms do as much good as harm. I just wish more individuals were motivated to really, actually work against bullying when they see it. If more individuals would stand up to the administrators of these forums and platforms, they’d change their policies and watchdogs. The simple truth is, it takes a lot of people to change the culture of any environment.
DJ: What would you like to see happen with the book, the campaign, and any future projects? Do you have further plans to do more?
AS: Well, I always hope the book will eventually get picked up in school book groups or reading curriculums. I think it could have really positive benefits if pupils and teachers were talking about the real-life issues it addresses.
As far as the #stopthehate campaign, I just want more people to read HATE BREEDS, share the images, and talk about the issue as it impacts them. (LINK) I think this campaign is something I’ll always do. I hope it will open doors for me to talk to more young people (or older people!) about my experiences, my thoughts on how to actually address the issue of bullying – and also the difference between bullying and social jockeying. (I’m very passionate about the fact that negative feelings and conflicts are a normal part of life. Bullying isn’t. Everyone needs to understand the difference because too many people who haven’t been bullied dismiss the feelings of victims by saying “we’ve all been through that, it’s no big deal” or “Just ignore it.” They genuinely don’t understand the impacts of what the victim is experiencing, or how their marginalization of it will actually INCREASE those impacts).
In terms of future projects, I’m always going to be writing. And while bullying won’t be the focus of all my books, the theme of young women learning their value and place in the world will always be there because it’s such a crucial issue to me, and one that is too often overlooked.
DJ: Where can people find you on social media and information on the book and the release?
AS: If you want information about my publisher and the launch of their new business model of which EVERY UGLY WORD is a part, you can read the press release in the New York Times HERE.
As for me, I’m in a bunch of places:
DJ: It has been such a pleasure to do this interview with you. Is there anything else you would like to add?
AS: Only that I’m genuine when I say I always want to hear for people who’ve read my book, or shared some of my experiences. This can be a lonely life when you feel like others think it would be better if you weren’t around. I want to combat that message any way and any time I can. I’m always reachable via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on my Twitter or Facebook accounts. I’d also love to be talking with others on the twitter hashtag #StoptheHate. If we get real conversation happening, we can raise awareness and generate action from others. I want to start a movement and I’ll always be interested in talking with others who will come for the ride!
Thank you so much for hosting me today!
Interview by Founder, Creator, Writer, Mentor/Coach, and Motivational Speaker of Bullies Keep Out Dana Jacoviello and host of La Bella Vita