Friday, October 16, 2020

National Geographic Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg on Breaking the News: What's Real, What's Not, and Why the Difference Matters

In this interview, Susan Goldberg talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about the National Geographic Children's book, Breaking The News: What’s Real, What’s Not, and Why the Difference Matters.


“We tell stories every day that can help make the world a better place.” ~Susan Goldberg

When she wrote an essay on journalism in the 8th grade, all Susan wanted to be was a great reporter. She is very thankful for all the opportunities she had in the past forty years, remarking that she came on “the scene of societal change,” as she received opportunities that women before her didn’t get.

“Journalists are the eyes and the ears of the public,” Susan says about what journalists are, writing out stories on subjects and places that the general public has no access to. “I think it’s one of the most important functions of our democracy,” she adds, as this enables people to become informed consumers. Where stories are concerned, Susan notes that the best reporters have “a million and one ideas,” and that reporters work with editors to prioritize what stories are more important.

Where her experiences as a female journalist are concerned, Susan notes that journalism was very much a man’s world when she started in the 1980s. “I didn’t see very many female editors,” she notes about the journalistic environment at that time. She remarks that journalism is still very much male dominated and that, despite “great strides” being made in the end of the 20th century, the momentum for female advancement in journalism has stalled out at the moment. Where leadership is concerned, she hopes that her style is collaborative, and she works to give “a hand up” to the next generation of journalists, coaching them and speaking with them on how to advance in their profession. She also adds that it is a journalist’s role to “shine a light in dark places” to bring forth that which otherwise would remain hidden, and that this is one of the things that makes her proud to be a journalist.

The term “fake news,” Susan points out, is a term used by the present and 45th President of the United States for news items that he doesn’t agree with. What is presently included under the blanket term of “fake news,” Susan notes, was called, in previous years, consisted of such things as hoaxes, conspiracy theories and propaganda - stories that appear factual, but which can be outright lies. She remarks that, in the past, news came from a limited number of channels, so people knew where the stories came from. 

At present, people are bombarded with information 24/7, thanks to social media and the Internet, and the sources are legion. Thanks to social media, information can be quickly spread, “almost like a game of ‘Telephone,’” though the story spread might not be a real one. Susan notes that people nowadays need to pause and make sure that they pass along real stories, rather than fake ones.

People “need to be curious and be skeptical consumers,” Susan remarks, adding the journalistic truism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” adding that this truism underscores the need for people to be sure where information is coming from and if that information is real. She also notes that a third of young people admit that they have passed on stories that turned out not to be true, noting that bad information not only misleads but can also do harm. Susan also notes that half of the information that young people receive nowadays comes from social media and the Internet, which makes their being smart and skeptical consumers vital, where discerning the difference between real and false information is concerned.

Author Robin Terry Brown had been writing books for kids for over twenty years. She is likewise a journalist who had assembled a panel of journalists from various news organizations, as well as journalism professors, to talk about the history of news and journalism, the kind of stories that people read, and how to evaluate whether a story is real or false (which includes such things as how to tell if pictures are doctored).

Susan notes that some of the stories printed by National Geographic can take years to finish, and that, while these stories can be as long as books, the process of investigating and writing a story in that magazine is different from the process of writing a book. What is important, Susan emphasizes, is the discipline necessary to present truthful and accurate information which has been ethically gathered.

“I don’t think any one of us want to believe things that aren’t true,” Susan remarks, adding that it is hard for one to behave if one doesn’t know the basic facts. Lies, she also adds, can spread far more quickly than truth and the facts can, particularly in the Internet age. She also notes that it is just as easy to figure out what is real and what is not, as checking on stories is likewise just as quick on the Internet. One good way of checking on whether big and outrageous stories are real or not is to check if other people are covering said story, she explains, as a lot of people, particularly in the established media outlets, will be covering the same story.

Breaking The News is a fun and easy read, Susan remarks, be the reader an adolescent or an adult. The journalist’s code of ethics is included in the book, and this includes making sure that one is meeting with an expert on the field, and being transparent with one’s mistakes whenever these occur. There are several examples of falsified information in the book, and one of the best ways to determine if the information is false is if a headline that one reads makes one emotional, so that one doesn’t go into the story itself to see if the story is real or not. The book includes a “Truth Toolkit,” and one of these tools, Susan shares, is for determining if the story feels like it belongs “on a supermarket tabloid,” (all caps, lots of exclamation points, includes aliens, etc.), while another aims to determine if the story is full of typos (spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, sloppy and messy, bad punctuation), as no legitimate news site puts out news in that condition. Yet another is if the website that the news comes from is a website of a legitimate news organization.

Susan admits that the book makes her proud to be a journalist, as it explains what journalists can do and the impact of what good journalism can do. It is a very excellent material for those who are studying journalism and for those who dream of becoming one in the future.

Purchase from Amazon: 

Breaking The News: What’s Real, What’s Not, and Why the Difference Matters by author Robin Terry Brown (with Mary Newton Bruder & Jamie Terranova) and published by National Geographic Children's Books with Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg


Friday, October 9, 2020

Kwame Mbalia and How Tristan Strong Destroys the World in Book 2 of the Tristan Strong Novel Series

In this interview, Kwame Mbalia talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, Tristan Strong Destroys the World (A Tristan Strong Novel, Book 2).


“The very first gatekeeper of one’s work that one would meet will be oneself.” ~Kwame Mbalia

Kwame had always written stories as a child, as these were the best way he would express himself. He joined an online writer’s group some years back, and the group members then encouraged him to become an author.

Kwame, who is from Wisconsin, was named after the first president of Ghana, and his name also means “born on Saturday,” which was the day he was born in. He was steeped in west African mythology as a child, as he heard stories about these, and as a writer he wanted to create stories which were based on this mythology, to pass on to others. The Tristan Strong stories are, for him, about storytelling and how these get carried on for others to listen to.

Where the mythological characters are concerned, Kwame notes that the traditional tales leave gaps where authors like himself can create other stories, to expand on these, so that a larger representation of the characters can be given. “These stories have been around for a long, long time,” he remarks, adding that he includes them in his books to pay homage to the traditions around them.

Kwame remarks that each of his books is centered around a theme, with the theme of the first book, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, being that of grief, both for the lead character and the world he finds himself in. 

The themes he writes about in Tristan Strong Destroys the World are trauma and diaspora, and these are interrelated with what the characters and real-world people deal with. Kwame remarks that readers can get an idea of how one person, at least, handles concerns such as grief.

Where the consistency of his books is concerned, Kwame remarks that there is a large team of editors which makes sure his stories remain consistent over time and, in addition, Kwame also re-reads what he wrote to ensure consistency. He notes that food is one of his favorite things to write about, noting that: “Food is a wonderful way of world-building,” as it shows different aspects about the culture that prepared it. He also enjoys writing dialogue, particularly humor, as this shows the degree of friendship and camaraderie amongst the characters.

Where Tristan Strong is concerned, Kwame notes that the character “grew organically,” and that he thought a lot about how a teenager Tristan’s age would deal with issues like grief and trauma. In the second book, Kwame explores what happens after the hero defeats villains, and Tristan’s dealing with this is what makes him grow. Where Gum Baby is concerned, even Kwame himself wonders how Gum Baby has become the character she presently is, noting that: “She’s taken on a life of her own.” That said, Gum Baby acts as a foil to the introspective, thoughtful Tristan, as she’s confident, loud and boisterous. That said, Kwame does create a framework of the story, so he knows where the story is going, and the characters grow within the framework he establishes. The new characters that Tristan Strong Destroys the World introduces, Kwame notes, are interesting ones which add to the growing story, particularly Tristan’s relationship with Junior.

Kwame remarks that would-be authors will encounter gatekeepers - people who can reject and prevent one’s work from seeing the light - along the way, but the very first gatekeeper one would meet will be oneself.

Purchase from Amazon: 

Tristan Strong Destroys the World (A Tristan Strong Novel, Book 2) by Kwame Mbalia


Saturday, October 3, 2020

Brian Deer: The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception and the War on Vaccines

In this interview, Brian Deer talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception and the War on Vaccines.


“The science needs to be separated from the politics.” ~Brian Deer


Brian has investigated three vaccines to date: a diphtheria test which caused controversy in the 1970s and 1980s, which took a year; AIDSVax, which was a failed AIDS vaccine; and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, with the latter being the basis for the anti-vaxxer controversy which is presently sweeping the world. He also investigated oral contraceptive fraud in Australia in the 1980s and also investigated other drugs. The Doctor Who Fooled the World is a different kind of investigation, as the focus of this book is on an individual who essentially kicked off the anti-vaxxer movement, rather than a drug itself.

Brian never did think that he would eventually get the time to become an investigative reporter. “It’s extremely hard work,” he notes, “especially if you’re working in a field like science,” adding that he needs to understand, as much as possible, what is being talked about. Investigative reporting, he points out, is different from standard science journalism, which is essentially advertising for new scientific ideas, machines and concepts. Investigative journalism is presently facing challenges, as the money that would have gone into it from advertising is now being funneled to online platforms such as Google. Brian adds that it took him four months of research before he wrote out a story, and additional challenges come in the form of cultivating contacts and obtaining documents to support his story. This is because investigative journalism entails making public something which someone doesn’t want made public, and as that person could very well wind up suing an investigative journalist, it behooves the latter to have all of his documentation supporting his claims, to support his case. Brian notes that he has already been sued twice by the personality in the middle of The Doctor Who Fooled the World and is hearing rumors of a third suit against him by that same person. Brian also adds that research for his book took two years, as all of what he wrote had to be evidenced, which meant that he had to create an index of thousands of .pdf files for fact checking.

Brian remarks that he’s not an advocate for vaccination, and that his purpose is to question the knowledge available. While he isn’t a medical professional, he notes that the basics of vaccination is essentially that a weakened version of an infectious agent is injected into the body, so that the body’s immune system can overcome that infectious agent - such as a virus - when the full-strength thing hits. He notes that vaccinations have been successful against such diseases as diphtheria and polio, which used to be prevalent and worrying for parents in the past, but which are not presently large concerns for parents today.

Where Andrew Wakefield is concerned, Brian remarks that he was a research academic at a London medical school who, in 1998, published a paper in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, on a five-page, 4,000-word study, conducted on twelve children, which indicated that, in two-thirds of those cases, their child had been developing normally but then began exhibiting autism within two weeks of receiving an MMR vaccination shot. Wakefield then claimed to find a link between taking the vaccine and autism, and then had the government suspend the vaccine. Brian noted that, even in medical studies, twelve children is a small sample, but that there was a possibility that the doctors at the hospital had come upon something that others had missed.

Brian originally didn’t want to get involved in “another vaccine investigation,” given all the various fields and disciplines that were involved, but he got involved again when, in 2003, he was assigned to look into the matter, as outbreaks of diseases which hadn’t been seen in years were taking place. (By then, Wakefield was exporting the parents’ fear of their children taking vaccines to the United States, according to him.) After talking with the parents involved, however, Brian said he discovered that the children involved in the study weren’t the kind of statistically random participants that scientific studies should be based on. This meant for him that the parents were far more likely to complain about the effects of a vaccination than the average, randomly determined parent. Brian then came upon other aspects of the study and Wakefield’s subsequent actions which led to Wakefield being essentially tried by the British medical board for over 200 days.

Brian points to outbreaks of measles which took place in 2019 as being due to the lack of vaccination. He also remarks that he was in an area where children died from measles because they hadn’t been vaccinated. Brain also points out that autism isn’t caused by taking a vaccine, and notes that an “adult” debate - one free of personal bias - still needs to be conducted on the pros and cons of vaccination, with both sides need to be taken into account, particularly with fast-tracked vaccines like those being developed for the Covid-19 virus.

Purchase from Amazon: 

The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception and the War on Vaccines by Brian Deer


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ann Druyan on COSMOS: Possible Worlds & Her Hope for the Future

In this interview, Ann Druyan talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book and the associated TV series, Cosmos: Possible Worlds.



“It matters what’s true. Nature will not be deceived.” ~Ann Druyan

Ann had wanted to be a writer since childhood, with her parents introducing her to literature. Her interest in science was piqued by her exposure to pre-Socratic philosophers, who said that such observable phenomena as lightning and thunder is not because the gods were angry, but due rather to a rational, physical cause. Ann’s real push into science came when she met Carl Sagan, whom she regards as a great teacher, giving her a “20-year tutorial” on scientific matters.

Ann became the creative director of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 Golden Records because of her connection with Carl Sagan, who didn’t have the biases that were common in the 1970s, such as the great amount of sexism in scientific circles. Carl asked Ann to become the creative director of the project, which she took on willingly, calling it the intersection of science, culture and society. (The Golden Records have a projected shelf life of five billion years, and as of this interview, both probes might be outside the realm of the solar wind, but they are not yet in the region of the Oort cloud, which is recognized as the boundaries of the sun’s gravitational influence.) The records are designed to run at 16⅔ rpm, and a great deal of debate, within the team involved what and what not to include. The records also represent an inclusion of cultures all over the world, which Ann remarks as being the beginning of “world music.”

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was the first time Ann and her co-writers did anything like writing a TV series, and she admits that it was like “jumping off the deep end.” She remarks that everyone went along with what their instincts and brains told them to do, and that the information in the TV series was, just like science, designed to be accessible to the common person. Ann noted that large, expensive scientific projects were paid for by taxpayers, and that the insights and discoveries made needed to be made accessible to the ordinary person. Ann also remarked that Carl Sagan would do such things as go to naturalization ceremonies and go to schools to encourage people with their work and their lives, as part of his own belief in the common person.

Ann and Carl were driven to write the novel Contact in part in reaction to the sexism prevalent among the scientists of the 1970s, wanting to create an odyssey where a woman goes on the journey. Another aspect was Carl’s irritation with the average science fiction movie, as these were greatly ignorant of scientific and physical reality. “For him, great art had to have some truth,” Ann remarks, and this was why the science was right in Contact.“ She also adds that, to this day, female scientists get in touch with her, telling her that Contact was a big inspiration for them getting into science.

Where the present trend of private companies being involved in space exploration is concerned, Ann believes that having “the super-rich” lead the way to the stars is “a step back.” She notes that, while she was in conflict with a lot of the policies of the American government at the time she was involved with the Voyager missions, she could look back with pride at the work she had done. Having private companies lead exploration, in her opinion, is essentially a return “to the 18th century,” as the motives for private-company exploration would be different from those funded by a government.

Ann remarks that Cosmos: Possible Worlds is a vision of what is attainable, should we humans “get our act together.” As a way to set the argument for that possible future, Ann wanted to include life stories that lay the foundation for that such future. She remarks that a lot of views on the future are pessimistic, and that telling the stories of people (such as Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov) who are not as well known as such scientific luminaries as Galileo, yet who have had an impact on human understanding, who persevered through some very dramatic times in their lives, is important to creating the vision for the future she noted. “These are heroes who have never committed an act of violence,” Ann notes, “but they are willing to put their lives on the line so that we, people who live in the future, could understand nature better and be better equipped to flourish.” Giving these people their due is one of Ann’s objectives, remarking that: “Science offers redemptive powers to us, that we have hardly used, that can undo seemingly intractable problems.” Ann notes that truth-telling, as well as scientists, have “taken a beating” under the present political environment, and that, after reading the book, a reader will be scientifically literate and thus able to tell when they are being deceived. 

“It is the intention to entertain and to excite the audience,” Ann adds about the entire Cosmos series, adding that 987 people, in total, worked on the Cosmos: Possible Worlds series over the past three years to bring it to reality. “It was a joy to work with all of them,” she enthuses. “If I don’t understand it,” Ann adds, where translating scientific principles to make these understandable to the average person are concerned, “then I can assume that people who are just like me will not, either,” adding that she prides herself on finding stories that move, inspire and enlighten.

Ann has also been involved, at a high level, in such activities as serving as a program director for the first solar sail deep space mission, providing pediatric care for disadvantaged children, and preserving the environment. Doing so, she remarks, is easy because: “When you love what you do, and what you do is meaningful, it gives you so much energy and appetite for more work.” Ann adds that she is also “lucky,” in that she has worked on those things that she believes in, also remarking that she has helped “tear down the walls” between science and the average person, noting that a democratic society entailed having people who are involved and aware.



Purchase from Amazon: 
COSMOS: Possible Worlds by Ann Druyan 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

J.C. Cervantes: The Shadow Crosser - Book 3 of the Storm Runner Fantasy Series

In this interview, J. C. Cervantes talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, The Shadow Crosser, book 3 of the Storm Runner Series.


“Read widely.” ~J. C. Cervantes

J.C. never did really think specifically about becoming an author, and the seed of this began when she wrote out a story for her youngest daughter. From then, she expanded on the story, and after several pages of writing, she realized that she seemed to be writing a book. She has been “heavily influenced” by such authors as C.S. Lewis and Sharon Creed, as well as by poets such as Mary Oliver. She admits that some of the books she read has had a strong influence on the language she uses when she writes. 

The Storm Runner trilogy centers around a 13-year-old boy named Zane Obispo who, while being homeschooled, finds that he is destined to release the Mayan god of Death, who just happens to be imprisoned in the volcano in Zane’s back yard. Zane is an intelligent young man who longs to have friends, and over the course of the books he learns about loyalty, courage, friendship and family are all about. Another character, Brooks, has her own concerns, as she is a shapeshifter who can only shapeshift into a hawk, whereas other shapeshifters can change into just about any shape they want.

J.C. used Mayan mythology because she had been immersed, since childhood, in Mesoamerican mythologies, as her grandmother told her stories of these. She became fascinated with such mythologies from such exposure, and learned during high school that there was just about nothing to be found on these, when she attempted to read more about these. J.C. notes that creating a “continuous narrative” for such mythologies is difficult, due to the Spanish suppressing (and destroying) records of these, so what is presently known came from the work of archaeologists who investigated the Mesoamerican cultures. She notes that a lot of books about these cultures are essentially biased, as the information that is written down is filtered through the author’s own cultural and personal biases. J.C. was surprised to discover the ideas of gender fluidity, as the gods concerned changed genders as needed, and that the Mayans were advanced for their time, when it came to mathematics, their language system and astronomical systems were. She notes that nobody today knows anything about the original myths and histories, as the only things left to base our knowledge on are essentially four incomplete codices. (Mayan glyphs related to numbers and astronomy had been decoded as early as the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but translating these glyphs only well and truly began in the 1970s.) J.C. also remarks that a lot of the ancient cultures which weren’t in contact with each other had such commonalities as gods of war, of the sea, of death and of the sky, which indicates that we, as humans, are wired to understand our origins through storytelling and mythology.

Where storytelling is concerned, J.C. wants her characters to grow organically, to the point of saying things that surprise her; and she admits she wants to be surprised, as this keeps her from “being bored.” That said, the characters stay to the core of what they are, such as consistently liking chocolate. Where structure is concerned, J.C. has learned to outline, as she tended to write herself into corners. She always starts off with the opening and ending scenes and then filling out the middle, which include four “pinch points.” J.C. admits that writing out action scenes are the most challenging for her, due to the need to write about physical movement in detail. Conversely, it’s creating the settings that are the easiest for her, to the point that she needs to “hold back.”

Irvin Rodriguez does the artwork for the trilogy, and J.C. admits that the illustrations capture the essence of each book. An entire team actually works on each book, and the illustrator and editors are the ones who work together. The editor works closely with J.C. for the initial “sketches” for the story, and the details are filled out as the book is written out.

For would-be writers, J.C. notes that people read books in their own, individual way. She notes that she makes plot outlines for the books that interest her, and goes into details about the scenes she likes, as doing so enables her to somewhat imitate what they did until she can do it using her own style. She also recommends that would-be writers need to be widely read. “Read romance if you want to learn about character development,” she suggests. “Read fantasy if you want world building. Read action adventure to learn about pacing.”

J.C. is presently working on a quadrilogy as well as a romantic comedy.

Purchase from Amazon: 


Monday, September 14, 2020

Carolyn Wilman on Helene Hadsell's Books and the Secrets of Attracting Luck in Life

In this interview, Carolyn Wilman talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her editing and publishing Helene Hadsell’s books, The Name It & Claim It Game: WINeuvers for WISHcraft and In Contact With Other Realms: An Adventurer's Experiences in Awareness.



“There is no failure, only a delay in results.” ~Helene Hadsell

“Always listen to your inner voice, even if it seems illogical.” ~Carolyn Wilman

Carolyn feels honored to be publishing Helene’s works, as Helene spoke to her through these. Carolyn notes that Helene was friends with such people as Jose Silva and Dr. Joseph Murphy, doing a lot of things in the seventies which people are now doing, such as health and visualization methods. Helene was a housewife who didn’t work outside the home until her spiritual guides pushed her to attend seminars by Jose Silva, ending up, in the end, as his assistant and PR person, performing such duties as arranging trips to different cities. It was through this experience that Helene learned how to envision what she wanted and then get it. 
Carolyn had met Helene Hadsell for four days in 2008, and the latter then told her to teach Helene’s classes, as Carolyn was apparently the one best suited to do so. Carolyn, however, didn’t do anything about it until 2019, when Carolyn got in touch with Helene’s son, Dike (Helene had passed away in 2010). Carolyn then told him that his mother’s messages needed to be passed on, as these would be lost once Dike, himself, passed on (Dike is now in his seventies), and Dike agreed, which is why Carolyn is now publishing all four of Helene’s books. The Name It and Claim It Game is the first of these, while Contact with Other Realms is the second, and Carolyn has modernized it as well as included some of the notes that Helene had kept on adding to these until the day she died.

Carolyn remarked that she had used what she had learned from Helene to win prizes on her own, and noticed that, when she was depressed from a divorce, she didn’t win prizes. This is due, she believes, to her needing to be in an energized, happy state to do so. Carolyn notes that she and Helene seemed to resonate with each other, particularly since Helene used levity all throughout her life.

Carolyn remarks that Helene won a lot of the contests she entered, thanks to the mindset she had. Helene’s mindset was that of: “You’ll see it when you believe it,” and Carolyn mentioned a story of a woman who didn’t see herself winning, as well as another story of Helene wanting something very specific, which she then got. That said, Helene was into other things, such as overcoming her fear using the techniques she had learned. She was also in the New Thought Movement which, today, is called New Age / Positive Thinking, and while Helene wasn’t the only person involved with this, Carolyn remarks that so many different people are necessary because different teachers resonate with different people.

Carolyn notes that Contact with Other Realms is the book that Helene (and her spirit guides) really wanted to write, as she could talk to spirit guides, but she wrote The Name It and Claim It Game to get people used to the idea of using their mind - visualization - to get things; and what more better way to make people more open to changing their thoughts and using their intuition, than by showing how to win prizes in contests? That said, Carolyn says that one needs to attract love to win prizes, which is aligned with her needing to be in a higher state of vibration to win things.

Carolyn mentioned how Helene watched her grandfather’s passing at a young age as an example of how she could see into the spiritual realm, which is the first story in Contact with Other Realms. Helene also refers to her spiritual contacts as “guides” rather than angels, and wanted to impart that everyone can communicate with spiritual guides; and Carolyn remarks that she does this, herself.

Purchase from Amazon: 

and 



Amra Sabic-El-Rayess on Her Story of Love, War, and Survival

In this interview, Amra Sabic-El-Rayess talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, The Cat I Never Named: A Story of Love, War, and Survival.




“My hope is that, if every reader can connect with elements of who I was and what I had experienced, we can connect with each other on a basic, human level.” ~Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

Amra is a Muslim who grew up in Bihac, and she was discriminated against for her religious beliefs. This discrimination came into full play when the genocidal Bosnian War of 1992 - 1995 broke out, a war which pitted the Serbs (who followed the Orthodox religion) against the Bosniaks (who were Muslim) and, eventually, the Croats (who were Catholics). She experienced a four-year military siege, where she and her family lived without electricity and experienced part of her house being blown up by a bomb and the loss of several of her friends. That said, she was raised in a loving family, and it was that love which enabled her and her family members to survive the war. These kinds of relationship, Amra points out, hold just as true in the Covid-19 pandemic (which was when this interview was conducted) and given the present state of racism and social unrest in the United States.

Amra remarks that some of the memories she remembers intensely is the feeling of pain and seeing blood and bodies on the pavement. She also remembers the news of school opening again (she was then a teenager), but as the Serbs targeted schools for attacks with the intent of killing everyone there, attending school meant literally risking one’s life. Some of Amra’s friends had been killed during this time, and these teenagers were normal teenagers, with some being math nerds and who had crushes on others. Amra also notes that rape was a tool of war, and she, herself, almost became a victim when, in desperation, she and her mother crossed enemy lines in an attempt to buy food from her enemies so they could live. That said, Amra muses that one never recovers from such experiences, with these changing the way one lives and views the world. She remarks that surviving this genocide was a “mental toll,” but also made her more empathic and sensitive about others.

An important aspect of her life during that was was the unconditional kind of love she experienced with Maci (which is Serbian for “cat”), which was a contrast from what she was experiencing from other humans at the time. Maci came to Amra as a refugee cat, and Amra originally didn’t like to look after her, as Amra had been attacked by a German Shepherd while still a child. Maci followed Amra and her father home and stayed throughout that conflict, becoming “a light” in Amra’s life. Maci, according to Amra, was intelligent, bright, patient and polite, and likely had another family to whom something had happened, and it was because Amra interacted with Maci kindly that Maci hung around, quickly adapting to Amra’s family.

Amra mentioned that she became aware of how special Maci was when, on June 12, 1992, she, her family and several others were packed into a basement of another family to evade a Serbian attack (likely shelling). Amra and her brother snuck out to go to their house during a lull in the attack, unaware at that time that the Serbs would deliberately stop shelling to allow people to leave their shelters and go out so that they would restart shelling and catch a lot of people out in the open, thereby killing a lot of them. Amra and her brother encountered four of their friends outside their house, and while talking to them, the pair heard Maci somewhere. Amra and her brother then start looking for Maci, and at that moment a shell landed and blew up, killing their four friends. Another was when Amra and her family needed to escape the city to a farm of her uncle and aunt - a place that Maci had never been to - taking Maci with them. The family then needed to leave quickly and were unable to find Maci at the time; but some time after they returned home, Maci showed up, after having crossed hills and some possible minefields. And during her stay, Maci did such things as offer the birds and mice she caught to the family.

Amra is a self-admitted math and physics nerd and appreciates the value of education, particularly given the discrimination that she had experienced. She also wrote poetry during the war, with her poems being blown up during the war, and she would tell stories to her students to help make things more memorable to her students, once she was in the academe in the United States. She hesitated writing a book on her experiences because of all the traumatic memories she knew she would remember, and it was after her younger daughter asked her, given the present situation in the United States, what would happen to her and her older sister in case Amra and her husband were rounded up and taken away. “That was a question I never wanted to hear from my child,” Amra noted, adding that, if young adults ask such questions, society is on a negative tangent, and hopes that writing her memoir would evoke empathy and understanding from those who read it.

Amra remarks that she has been “pleasantly surprised” by how her book has been received by both critics and regular readers, and the praise that she had received because of it. That said, she has also received threatening e-mails and messages on social media from racists who only know that she is Muslim, because she is using her voice to tell her story.

Purchase from Amazon: 


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Toby Weston and His Sci-Fi Book Series - Singularity's Children

In this interview, Toby Weston talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his books, the Singularity’s Children Series.


 

“We need to believe that there is a positive future.” ~Toby Weston

Toby has dabbled with being in academia and presently works in information technology, in addition to writing. He had always wanted to be a scientist and had also spent a lot of time reading science fiction, with such authors as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams. His reading science fiction actually started when he began reading Douglas Adams at the age of eight, and this not only enabled him to finally learn how to read but also enabled him to get familiar with a wide variety of authors and stories. 

Where present-day IT developments are concerned, Toby remarks that AI - artificial intelligence - is the big development which is presently taking place, pointing to GPT-3 - a simulated language modeling program which, through learning, produces text that could be mistaken as having been written by a human being - as one such example. AI will “soon” be in “every fridge and mobile phone,” according to Toby, and while he acknowledges the possibility that AI could go rogue, it will likely not happen in the way that a lot of science fiction stories have. Toby remarks that AI algorithms presently know what people would respond to, and if people respond to anger, then it will present anger. AI is thus presently set up to, in effect, fight humans because of the way it was programmed. “It’s making a lot of money for people, so nobody’s complaining,” he adds. It’s more likely that people will wake up and “something weird” has happened unexpectedly, according to him. That said, Toby remarks that people’s appreciation of AI is maturing and are recognizing the subtlety of AI. “We’re in the middle of it,” he remarks.

Toby admits that the style of the authors he reads “inevitably” creeps into his style, and he hews to writing “hard” science fiction, although he does write about developments which might not be considered “hard.” That said, he focuses on writing about things which are conceivable, based on present-day technologies and the possible projections of such, such as an easy-to-use language interface that enables different species of animals to communicate with each other. He also strives for consistency, where the technology is concerned, with his books and stories.

Toby had always thought “it would be nice” to write stories, and at the age of 19 sent off some chapters for some books that he could possibly publish. He only got into having his books published with the self-publishing boom that began in the early 2010s. The Singularity’s Children series is set in what could be called a possible alternate version of Earth, as he didn’t want to be constrained by what does and doesn’t happen on our world, particularly with real-world technologies possibly becoming obsolete during the course of his writing. Although the series starts off somewhat negatively, Toby’s intention is for it to end on a note of hope, moving forward into other possible future stories possibly involving space exploration.

The series itself is one of “multiple threads,” with each thread representing one of the characters who, over the course of the series, get to interact with each other. Toby admits that managing all the threads is “difficult,” and remarks that his style developed over the course of his writing out the series. It was because of this that he essentially “wrote backwards,” as he needed to keep adding backstories - so much so that his first book was actually split into two separate books, as the original first book became so large because of this. He now keeps “copious notes” and also admits that he really doesn’t know what’s going to happen until he writes things out. The most fun he has, where writing the series is concerned, is thinking up the world and the stories, even though this is one which, he admits, is one that he has the least control over (which, he admits, can be “nerve wracking”).

Toby remarks that people need to stop being “sold to” by people who don’t care that what is being sold. Persuasion technologies, he adds, is what the “jungle” is today, as the environment is no longer natural. “What is it that we want?” he posits, and the answer being a genuine, positive thing is what is really needed nowadays.

Purchase from Amazon: 

The Singularity’s Children Series (1-3) by Toby Weston







ReImagination (Singularity's Children, Book 4) Kindle Edition by Toby Weston


ReImagination (Singularity's Children, Book 4) Kindle Edition by Toby Weston

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Michael Mathieu on Foundational Health Methods and Low-Oxalate Dieting


In this interview, Michael Mathieu talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his work on improving people’s health.



“We don’t have to think so hard, if we give the body the right foods it needs.” ~Michael Mathieu

Michael Mathieu
Michael started off getting interested in health and healthy diets during high school, when his sister began educating his family about such things as too much sugar being consumed. It was, however, when his lower back “gave out” on him when he was already working after college that he became really curious about diet. It was then that Michael went on a vegetarian diet, and it was during the five years he was working for Eastman Kodak that his health fell apart. He then spent the next few years figuring things out where food was concerned, and it was only from around 2019 or so that he truly began figuring out what did and didn’t work, where food was concerned.

Foundational health, according to Michael, is the idea that, if the basic building blocks for health are put in place, and that if easy-to-digest, high-density foods which have all the nutrients needed is consumed, then the human body knows what to do with this to maintain and heal itself. (“We don’t have to think so hard, if we give the body the right foods it needs,” he maintains.) He notes that people with chronic health issues need to have these investigated, but the foundational pieces of having the right diet need to be in place. Where people who are seeking to prevent issues are concerned, Michael notes that diet is all that needs to be focused on, but for somewhat more serious issues, supplements are important. These approaches, he remarks, are intended to ensure that resolving issues doesn’t happen “by chance.”

One of the big problems with today’s diet in the United States, Michael notes, is the present trend towards vegetarianism and veganism, which causes the health of a lot of those who follow such diets to fall apart. “There can be multiple reasons for why,” he admits, “and this is where the story becomes a little bit complex.” Michael noted the example of dentist Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who, in the 1930s and 1940s, traveled around the world and noted that the healthiest people in the world had, in their diet, high amounts of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2. These vitamins, he notes, have several different functions in the human body, one of which is telling other minerals where to go, making these crucial in creating flexible and dense bones. Michael remarks that such vitamins, in the modern diet, are diminishing in amount consumed, due to the focus nowadays on consuming lean meat. The latter is due to the belief that animal saturated fats cause cardiovascular disease, a review of the research showing these findings indicating that the research methodology was bad, as egos were involved. He remarks that such a belief isn’t “holding up” to the data presently available.

Michael also that the basis for people going fully carnivorous - that is, eating only meat - is presently based on incomplete or nonexistent research. That said, he gives the example of the Inuit people, who have apparently existed on a carnivorous diet for thousands of years, as a group of humans which have “robust” health and which indicates that plants aren’t as important to health as popularly believed. Michael also notes that adding animal meat to one’s diet has, in his practice, been shown to improve his clients’ health.

Michael and others like him are thus now focused on re-educating people, given all the bad information on nutrition that is present. He explains that, as an electrical engineer, he delves into research with an open mind and goes to where the data and results lead him, as engineers are trained to be unemotional where getting results are concerned. In his practice as a health coach, he works to keep adapting the diets he has given to his clients so that they can achieve their goals.

Michael also notes that a lot of people are becoming “citizen scientists,” who do not have the biases that medical professionals have, are driving the paving the way where nutrition is concerned. He points out that medical professionals get no training in nutrition and that they are “overwhelmed” with their practices that they don’t get into the research available, which leads to medical professionals relying on what was taught to them in medical school. Michael also remarks that critical thinking is somewhat missing in today’s medical training, and that is something that he brings to the table.

Michael notes that there are chemicals in plants which are actually toxic to us, which makes sense, given that plants produce toxins and anti-nutrients - compounds which are typically found in crop plants which interfere with the absorption of nutrients by the human body - as a way to defend themselves from being consumed by animals. One example of this is oxalic acid, which is produced so a plant can store calcium as well as to defend itself. Oxalic acid, in the human body, crystallizes by binding with such positive-charge minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Not only do these minerals become unavailable to the body, as the body has no way to break the bonds of the minerals from oxalic acid, but the oxalic acid can also rob the body of such minerals. These crystals, which are as sharp as glass particles and can range from nanomolecular sized (which can then cause damage to a cell it enters) to those seen with the naked eye (such as kidney stones). Only a certain amount of these crystals can only be eliminated per day, which means that what is left will accumulate and become toxic to the body. Where his practice is concerned, Michael notes that reducing oxalic acid can help even those who don’t have kidney stones.

(In a conversation conducted after the interview, Michael identified the following foods as being high in oxalates:

Rhubarb, beet greens, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, beet roots, celery, carrots, yams, tomato sauce, parsnips.

Nuts, seeds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, tahini, almonds, cashews, peanuts.
Unripe avocado, blackberries, figs, guava, kiwi, olives, plantain, pomegranate, star fruit.

Most beans, Black beans, soy flour, soy milk, soy protein, pinto beans.

Most grains, wheat germ, rice bran, potato flour, whole grain bread, corn grits, green banana flour, buckwheat barley, amaranth, quinoa.

Black tea, green tea, chocolate milk, almond beverages, rice milk.

Black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, curry, onion powder, parsley, poppy, turmeric.

Michael also recommends a gradual tapering of consumption of such foods over time, rather than stopping consuming these all at once, as suddenly dumping oxalates from one’s diet could prove to be intense.)

As an example of a client who successfully changed her life is a young woman, Sarah, who was 20 years old when she consulted with Michael. Sarah, all her life, has had such health issues as low energy and chronic constipation, and she consulted Michael after being diagnosed with celiac disease, which is one where the small intestines of people will get damaged when they consume gluten. Sarah later on discovered that she has osteopenia, which could lead to osteoporosis, and a bit later she experienced pain, nausea and vomiting whenever she ate, due to her spleen being so oversized that doctors considered that it might need to be removed. Michael also remarks that, until she was diagnosed with celiac, none of Sarah’s doctors asked her what she was eating.

Sarah kept a diet diary, so Michael got a sense of what she was eating, and after asking a lot of questions and reading her many medical tests, Michael suggested moving her diet from that of the typical American to one where she ate more meat and fat and cut back on plants to reduce oxalates, as well as cutting back on carbohydrates. (As he is not a medical practitioner, Michael can only suggest, rather than directly tell, a client what to do and what not to do, where their bodies and health is concerned.) Because of her condition, where her vitamin D levels were low, Michael recommended supplements to boost her levels of vitamin D, as well as levels of vitamins A and K2. Where vitamin A supplements are concerned, Michael did his research on the right kind of vitamin A supplement to recommend, as he is leery of fish foods, given the amount of heavy metals and microplastics in the ocean, and is concerned that some vitamin A supplements use a form of that vitamin which is not easily absorbed by the human body. In less than a week, the nausea and pain when eating was gone, and two weeks later Sarah felt so rested after waking up that she stopped drinking coffee (she had been drinking coffee for years to get her energy level up after waking up). Sarah then told Michael, after around a month and a half of being on the foundational diet she was on, that she felt healthier and more energetic than she had felt all her life.

People can get in touch with Michael at michaelmathieu.com. He also has a YouTube channel called Michael Mathieu Foundational Health, the content of which is presently in the process of being expanded. His Instagram account is CarnivoreQuad.

Experience the magic! Where ever you are, I bring my 25+ years of experience healing bodies directly to you. Highly skilled, finely tuned, efficient and effective! By combining osteopathic and energetic bodywork, diet, nutrition, fasting strategies and other modalities, I can help you design a customized foundational health program to optimize your true potential. Feel free to book some time with me here. michaelmathieu.com

BUY on AMAZON:



Saturday, June 27, 2020

Dr. BS Ajaikumar and How He Created a World Class Cancer Hospital Chain


In this interview, Dr. B. S. Ajaikumar talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, Excellence Has No Borders: How A Doctorpreneur Created A World-Class Cancer Hospital Chain.



“Anybody can be good. It depends who you are and what kind of passion you have.” ~Dr. BS Ajaikumar

Dr. Ajaikumar’s father was the dean of a law school who had a passion for medicine. Dr. Ajaikumar’s older brother then went into medicine, which was a “gateway” for him to get into medicine, which he had always had a passion for and felt he could make a difference in that field. He had a vision of serving people in the rural areas of India, and while he was one of the top graduates in cardiology he wanted to learn more about the “high end” aspects of cardiology. Since India didn’t offer him that kind of opportunity, he emigrated to the United States, where he became interested in, and challenged by, oncology while undertaking his rotating internship. He thus transferred from the hospital he was then working at, at the University of Virginia, to MD Anderson Hospital in Texas. He made the long trip to the hospital, and despite no opening being immediately available, he impressed the higher-ups enough that they offered him a position, which he took.

Oncology in the 1970s, according to Dr. Ajaikumar, focused on palliative care and wasn’t that well understood, compared to cardiology. He wanted to understand what oncology was all about and improve the methodologies of the field, particularly as few doctors didn’t want to go into the field, due to the mortality rate associated with it. Dr. Ajaikumar liked challenges, and he took this on and met patients from several countries. Practicing oncology in the United States was an enlightening experience for him, and the biggest learning for him was the reflective mindset he learned, and what true friendship was all about, while treating his patients, giving the example of a patient who consoled him before she passed away.

While practicing in the United States, Anderson wanted Dr. Ajaikumar to run the lung cancer program. While that was okay with him, he realized he would remain in academia. As he already wanted to set up cancer centers in India by that time, he went out and set up a center from scratch, and within a few months he was “overloaded” with seeing 150 patients a month - an indication of his success.

Dr. Ajaikumar had long wanted to return to India, during his years practicing in the United States, as he understood what the situation was where cancer treatment was in that nation. By the time he moved back to India, in 2003, shortly after he suffered losses from his stock market investments and after he had set up women’s empowerment programs in India, he had enough technical knowledge as well as experience with setting up a medical center to work on creating medical facilities that gave world-class treatment to cancer patients. (Also driving him to do so, despite his financial situation, was his desire to meet and surmount challenges, a trait which he has had all his life.) He was able to use some of his earnings as seed capital for his first cancer center, which was located in Mysore, and he realized that setting up the center as a non-profit center wasn’t sustainable, so it was then that he looked around for investors.

The investment climate in India in the early 2000s wasn’t “good,” according to Dr. Ajaikumar, with high interest rates and high customs duties. He needed to provide results as an entrepreneur before he could get good investors, and one of the ways he did this was by going to big companies and negotiating for good rates for the equipment he would get. He first made sure his center was running efficiently before looking for investors, and while he received a lot of rejections, he eventually managed to get some investors onboard. Dr. Ajaikumar is up front about returns not being guaranteed, to the point of once turning down a potential investor who wanted 25% return on investment.

Dr. Ajaikumar notes that he never took a grant from the Indian government, as he wants his company, HealthCare Global Enterprises (HCG), to succeed on its own. He works to keep his organization operating in a transparent and legal manner and focuses on doing the right thing for the patient. Where treating people is concerned, he doesn’t deny treatment to anyone, pointing out the cost of a particular service is a fraction of that same service which is offered in the United States and Singapore - a helpful boon in a country where medical insurance isn’t commonplace, which means that people pay for the treatment out of their own pockets. One of the ways he does so is by utilizing the available equipment as much as possible, such as giving treatments late at night, when things aren’t busy. As Dr. Ajaikumar noted, the equipment is already there, so might as well use it, adding that balancing technology, finances and keeping things “patient-centric” are the hallmark of his organization.

At the moment, Dr. Ajaikumar’s unique business model is one which Harvard has taken note of, and has created a case study for. “All the money we generate is put back into the system to bring in more technology and train doctors,” he remarks of his organization’s policy of not giving dividends - a style of management which has enabled HCG to presently create 24 centers in India and Africa.

The experiences and challenges he faced throughout his life, as well as those with his son (who has lived for thirty years despite not being expected to live beyond 15 years of age due to muscular dystrophy) were what made him think about writing a book about his experiences. The title, Excellence Has No Borders, was suggested by his son-in-law, who said that, “Where excellence is concerned, there should be no borders.”

He believes that doctors should look upon their patients the way they would a close relative, and that that attitude can carry on where relating to the world is concerned. “If we can contribute, we can make a world of a difference,” he notes, adding that, one should be reflective and be conscious of oneself, as well as have positive vibrations, which aid greatly with interacting with the world and others in a positive way.

Purchase from Amazon: Excellence Has No Borders: How A Doctorpreneur Created A World-Class Cancer Hospital Chain by Dr. BS Ajaikumar

Friday, June 12, 2020

Susie George on Sustainability, Sustainable Business, and Sustainable Living | Branching Together & Chew on That


In this interview, Susie George talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her YouTube channel, Chew on That and Branching Together, her online project to reconnect to one another and the earth.



“Remembering that everything is connected is key to living a sustainable lifestyle.” ~Susie George

Chew on That is a channel that Susie started as a capstone project for her Master’s degree in Sustainable Business, and for that project she highlighted restaurants which were undertaking sustainable practices. Susie points out that sustainability isn’t seen as “relevant” for most people, and she hopes her channel will challenge the viewpoint that sustainability is accessible rather than far-fetched, and to highlight that sustainability and, thus, care for the environment, can be integrated into one’s life as a logical practice. Her degree is actually called a “Sustainable MBA,” which is a standard MBA which focuses on integrating sustainability and environmental awareness into business practices while still maintaining business value. The “triple bottom line” that sustainable businesses aim to strive for are, according to her, “people, planet and profit,” which is different from the standard view of profit coming first and the impact of the planet comes last. A sustainable business, Susie remarks, should be as potentially long-lasting as present-day businesses running on the conventional, profit-based model. Apart from her YouTube channel, Susie also has a website called Branching Together, whose mission is to empower people through education, inspiration, and products to become stewards of the earth and of each other.

Ever since she was young, Susie has practiced sustainability, such as when her mother practiced curbside recycling, so much so that she was amazed when she saw her friends tossing recyclables in the trash. She also spent a lot of time outdoors, connecting with Nature, and this, she admits, grew her “protective” nature where the environment is concerned. “Waste is a big concern, and always has been,” she remarks, and the linkage between this, human actions and what we see in the world around is one of the things that interests her. “The research is already there, “Susie notes; “the disconnect is with our actions.”

Susie points out that the actions of large corporations and agricultural systems have severely impacted the world’s climate, and if changes can be done on a large scale, then an improvement in the world’s climate will be noticeable. There are many ways in which people live unsustainably, and one of these is single-use packaging, be it chip bags to laundry soap packaging, which are tossed out after these are used. Individually, such waste isn’t much, but cumulatively such will have an impact. Using such, however, is “indicative of a mindset of putting convenience first,” she notes, and long-term solutions need to be implemented with the environment first and convenience second. “This concept, in our human history, is relatively new,” Susie points out, and this will need to change, along with other unsustainable practices. Bringing one’s own containers to a bulk store would be the best solution for single-use containers, Susie notes; and she likewise notes that society is already starting to lean away from single-use containers as well as find other solutions which have yet to be created. As another example, Susie gives the practice of making one’s own snacks and storing it for later use; and for this practice to become widespread, a “cultural shift” is necessary, given today’s presently busy workplace practices. 

Sustainability, according to Susie, is a holistic mindset about existing long-term on and with the Earth and its systems, at its heart, noting that the term has taken on a different meaning in the environmental sphere. “Business that adopt environmentally sustainable practices are going to be able to exist long-term,” she notes, “because that’s where the priority is.” Susie notes that the impact of changes to creating sustainability will not be felt by the present generation but by future ones, which means that a lot of investment must be made over time.

“Individual action is extremely important,” Susie notes, “but climate change is seen on a larger scale than individual.” That said, those individuals who adopt sustainable practices will eventually ripple out to leadership, as well as to companies and politics, which is why the focus on individual action is important. Susie gives the example of mass meat production being unsustainable, as farming animals in tight quarters releases vast amounts of the greenhouse gas methane, which contributes to the changing climate. Reducing meat consumption, or a consumer purchasing meat from a small farm, which is likely to have more sustainable practices than large farms, is a way to create sustainability. “People are really embracing individual responsibility,” Susie remarks, noting that the shift is taking place.

On the topic of sustainability in skin care, Susie points out that people can create their own products made of natural, organic ingredients, and that these are actually better for one’s body. Where effects are concerned, the results aren’t instant, but are longer-lasting and healthier, as one creates a relationship with one’s skin, as well as reducing the consumption of single-use packaging.

To those who would want to start off on a journey into sustainable practices, Susie recommends that people read up even an article from an environmental professional or a documentary about the environment or nature and human interaction with it. This is due to the need to create the kind of mindset from which sustainable practices spring. “Connection is the bottom line of sustainability,” she adds.

BUY on AMAZON: 


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Elizabeth K. Englander Reveals the Myths of Bullying and Cyberbullying

In this interview, Dr. Elizabeth K. Englander talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, 25 Myths About Bullying and Cyberbullying.



“Myths can really hold you back.” ~Dr. Elizabeth K. Englander

Dr. Englander is a researcher, trainer and college professor who has been studying children and violence for some 25 years. She applied for a fellowship in 2004 to found the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, a center which presently works with schools around the world, creating programs designed to deal with bullying and cyberbullying, which enables the center to reach some 200,000 children a year. Dr. Englander noted that a lot of violence that, while most of the violence students experienced was violence in the school, compared to violence in the streets, for example, cyberbullying really began to pick up in 2005, due to the increasing prevalence of social media. She had always been interested in technology and how people worked with it, and she combined these two interests into her present research into cyberbullying.

Dr. Englander differentiates being mean from bullying, as being mean is an occasional or unintentional act, whereas bullying is when a more powerful individual or group targets someone who can’t defend themselves, in a continuous campaign of repeated targeting. Such campaigns are destructive and difference from mean things that happen just once, and Dr. Englander points out that what is done is less important than how it’s done and how often and how consistently it’s done, citing the example of consistent staring as one such method. She also remarks that, when a child complains about such non-physical acts, adults tend to brush off this off without asking the child the context in which such acts took place, which leads to a lack of understanding about what is going on and what the impact is on the child.

Children always give signs when they struggle with something, such as changes in their eating or sleeping patterns, or change the people they interact with, and the lack of information on what’s causing this can confuse parents, Dr. Englander notes, which means that parents need to talk to children to find out what is going on. She also remarks that this is particularly confusing with teenagers, who don’t want to talk to their parents about what goes on in their lives, but while this is so, teenagers also appreciate it when parents try to keep the lines of communication open. “You get credit, just for asking,” Dr. Englander comments, giving the example of one of her kids.

Bullying, Dr. Englander remarks, might not be rare, but it’s also not commonplace, adding that, while all kids experience meanness at some point in their lives, one in four children will be affected by bullying at some point in their lives. This is “exacerbated” by the way parents raise children nowadays, she notes. Where a parent being told that their child is being bullied is concerned, Dr. Englander remarks that the parent should stay calm and talk to the child to get the details of what is going on. The way to move forward becomes clear once such details are known, particularly since the circumstances of bullying differ from one child to another. Such details need to include where and when and how often such acts occur, as well as who is involved, and who are those who know what’s going on. Letting the school know about cyberbullying can also enable the school to help out, even if they don’t have total control over the situation, and letting the child know one can handle the situation, and creating a plan to work on, gives the child more confidence that they can be supported. “The number one reason children don’t tell their parents,” Dr. Englander says about her research, “is that their parents run around and get hysterical.”

Dr. Englander remarks that she wrote the book to help make clear what does and doesn’t work, where responding to bullying is concerned, citing the myth of bystanders stepping in to confront a bully as being effective, as such a strategy could backfire. (In that situation, Dr. Englander notes that bystanders helping the target and ignoring the bully would be far more effective.) Where cyberbullying is concerned, the concept that the school can’t do anything is a myth, particularly since, among teenagers, the target is very likely to be bullied by someone they know in school, rather than an anonymous person.

The most common way for the target of bullying to get through the situation is by getting social support - being around friends and family and people who can show that one is a likeable person - as well as pursuing one’s own interests, which help one feel good about oneself. “This is true for adults as well as for kids,” Dr. Englander also adds, remarking that such is a learned skill that needs to be taught to kids. She also remarks that these are “anxious” times for parents, and that focusing on human connections and getting away from screens really pays off where creating more resilient and more able children are concerned.

Purchase from Amazon: 
25 Myths About Bullying and Cyberbullying by Dr. Elizabeth K. Englander