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Monday, October 8, 2012

Bullying with Joanne Levy & a Giveaway!

Today I have invited the fantastic Joanne Levy to visit the blog and she has offered to tell her story about writing SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE and how bullying plays into the book.

After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her over opinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a séance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel.

"Usually, when I start a book, it begins with a ‘what if?’ question or maybe even a plot point or two. Ideas are nebulous and can fly into my head at weird (and often inconvenient) moments and sometimes the greatest joy of being a writer is capturing those little bits and pieces and putting them together into a something that ends up being a book. But SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE began as a title, fully formed in my head as I woke up one morning. I wish I could say the rest of the book was as easy, but it went through many rounds of edits, most notably, one taking it from a young adult novel to one for a middle grade audience. This wasn't my brilliant idea, but the vision of a very smart editor, who felt my voice was better suited for a tween book. A lot of great feedback from the book centers around how I nailed the tween voice, so it seems that editor was right.

Although much of the book changed (a lot of the themes and content were too mature for middle graders), one of the components that didn't was the main character, Lilah, having to deal with mean girls and one exceptionally mean girl in particular: Dolly. Dealing with bullies is something I think a lot of us dealt with in school and although my book is overall a lighthearted and often funny look at middle school, (with a few ghosts thrown in) I wanted to capture the day-to-day stuff that makes middle school such a crazy and emotionally packed time for kids (even without the ghosts).
So Lilah has to deal with an older girl who chips away at her self-esteem and makes fun of her for her clothes and not having boobs and really, just for being who she is. I definitely know how that feels. Although I wasn't horribly bullied the way some kids are, I had a few run-ins with mean girls when I was growing up. Girls who made fun of my clothes or my weight or even my taste in music. And what’s weird is that I had been okay with who I was until other people pointed out my failings. That sucked. And living up to someone else’s expectations, (borne, I’m sure, out of their own insecurities) meant I wasn't being true to myself and was acting a part to avoid censure. That makes me sad. And I hate thinking that this kind of thing happens even today, though I know it does.

So I very consciously made Lilah strong (though not infallible or perfect) and although she’s scared of Dolly, she stands up to her and in the end, helps her, even when she would rather turn the other way. In the end, the girls become friends thanks to Lilah’s ability to forgive and willingness to help out. I realize that doesn't happen all the time, but I like to think that sometimes bullies can be reformed by kindness.  

And maybe a kid reading my book will see a bit of a message between the funny things that happen to Lilah. Maybe kids will see that Dolly didn't gain anything by being mean. But she did gain something when she stopped tormenting Lilah and let her help out even though she’d treated her badly—she gained a friend. And really, isn't getting more friends what everyone really wants in middle school? Well, not just friends, but it’s high up on the list of middle grade wants. Right before boobs."

--Joanne Levy

Author Bio:

Joanne Levy’s love of books began at a very early age.  Being the youngest and the only female among four children, she was often left to her own devices and could frequently be found sitting in a quiet corner with her nose in a book. 
After much teenage misadventure, Joanne eventually graduated from university and now spends her weekdays as an executive assistant at one of Canada’s big banks, planning meetings and thwarting coffee emergencies.  When Joanne isn't working, she can usually be found at her computer, channeling her younger self into books. 
Joanne still lives in Ontario with her husband and kids of the furred and feathered variety. You can follow Joanne on Twitter or find her on Facebook.  

The Giveaway:

Joanne has been very generous and donated a hardcover copy of her novel SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE. This giveaway is open to everyone and will last until 10/14/12. The winner must respond in 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen.  To enter the giveaway go --> HERE! 


  1. A Christmas Carol is my all time favorite.
    Thanks for the chance!

  2. My favorite book is Angelfall by Susan Ee.

  3. Little Women & Jane Eyre are tied for my all-time favorite. :)

  4. Persuasion by Jane Austen.
    Thank you for the giveaway :)

  5. Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas.
    Thank you so much for the giveaway! :D

  6. Thanks so much for having me here to talk about my book and the important issue of bullying!
    I wanted to add MY favorite book of all time is Anne of Green Gables - what can I say, I'm a redheaded Canadian!

  7. This book sounds really interesting. I dont have one all-time favorite, but i could mention Harry Potter, Song of Ice and Fire, a few of Agatha Christie and one or two by Jane Austen.
    Thank you for the giveaway :)

  8. Little Women is my all time favorite - still have my broken spine copy from when I was a

  9. My favorite book of all-time is Where the Red Fern Grows!

  10. It is very hard to choose, but I suppose I would have to pick The Lord of the Rings

  11. Wow, it was turned to middle grade then?
    I kind of want to give it a go! :D
    Thanks so much Joanne...
    I was specially touched at THIS-> "And living up to someone else’s expectations, (borne, I’m sure, out of their own insecurities) meant I wasn't being true to myself and was acting a part to avoid censure." PART.

    Even now that I'm a somewhat older young adult... From time to time I get bullied...and have to sometimes be someone I'm really not.
    Thanks for donating.

    And Amy <3
    As for my favorite book?
    I'll go with one of my favorite contemporary books...
    The first is
    -If I Stay by Gayle Forman... and this book along with the other I'll mention were the ones that saved my life, literally. #YASaves
    The other is
    -Dark Song by Gail Giles, this book was the one that got to me the most... I felt like I was Ames... I've only ever read it once... BUT that's because the first time was enough to stick in my mind forever... I know dialogue, excerpts... you name it... from one reading alone...

    1. Hi Amy, thanks for your comment and it sucks to grow up and find that some bullies don't grow out of their ways.
      To your question, yes, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE was completely re-written from a YA to a middle grade book. A lot of the mature content had to go (including some racy jokes that I rather liked) but I don't think the end result suffers from it.

  12. My favorite book of all-time is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
    Thank you for the giveaway!

  13. All time favorite book at the moment is Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (if you couldn't tell from my last blog post, haha)


  14. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

  15. My all-time favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird. Thanks!

  16. HArry potter, because it made me fall in love with English and I've been reading in this language ever since. And pride and prejudice