Happy International Women’s Day everyone.
Today I’m pleased to be hosting an interview with author of Being Miss Nobody Tamsin Winter as part of the blog tour for #YAShot2018.
YAShot is the brainchild of author Alexia Casale and is a one day book convention taking place this year on April 14th. The theme for the programme this year is Human Rights and Being Miss Nobody is a perfect selection.
I have not been a very nice person
I have lied to a lot of people I know
I have done some bad things
All of these things I have done pretty much deliberately
…I am Miss Nobody.
Rosalind hates her new secondary school. She’s the weird girl who doesn’t talk. The Mute-ant. And it’s easy to pick on someone who can’t fight back. So Rosalind starts a blog – Miss Nobody; a place to speak up, a place where she has a voice. But there’s a problem…
Is Miss Nobody becoming a bully herself?
Interview with Tamsin Winter
What is selective mutism?
Selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder which makes it very difficult or impossible for someone to speak in certain situations. In Being Miss Nobody, Rosalind can speak completely normally in front of her immediate family, and her slightly batty next door neighbour, Mrs Quinney. In front of anyone else she can’t say even one word.
What is the worst thing about having it?
Not being able to ask for help, not being able to make friends, not being able to express yourself freely. SM is a condition which makes so many situations incredibly difficult. During my research for Being Miss Nobody I read about a young girl with SM who broke her arm at school but was unable to tell anyone, and nobody noticed she was in pain. For Rosalind, the worst thing is the terrible bullying she experiences at school. She is known as the weird girl who can’t speak and, because she remains silent, the bullying goes (mostly) entirely unnoticed.
What is the most positive aspect of having it?
SM is an anxiety disorder which, believe me, is not very much fun! But, people who have anxiety are usually hyper-sensitive. I can remember being called sensitive like it was a bad thing, and I used to think so too. But now I don’t agree. Being sensitive means you have a high level empathy, that you experience emotionsdeeply, and that you know what it’s like to not find life very easy. An anxiety disorder is not exactly a party, but it isn’t a death sentence either. Living with a mental health condition can make achieving things really, really hard. But it doesn’t make it impossible. Rosalind finds an awesome friend in Ailsa, who accepts her condition, supports her and most importantly of all – shows her kindness.
One of our human rights is the right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest. How do you think Rosalind’s blog Miss Nobody fits into that?
For Rosalind, her Miss Nobody blog is the only way she can speak out about what’s happening to her at school. She names the bullies and exposes them for what they are. She reaches out to other people who are being bullied, and she tells everyone exactly how it feels to be a victim of bullying. But she does all of this anonymously. Social media can be a wonderful way of speaking out but, as Rosalind discovers, it can easily spiral out of control.
Another right is the right to education. What would be your top tips to teachers and fellow students on helping someone with selective mutism to access school life?
The first step when teaching or communicating with a child who has SM is always acceptance of the condition. Accept that your student or classmate may not be able to respond through speech, but provide alternative ways for them to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Do not put them in a situation where they are expected to talk, or put under pressure to talk, as this will only make them feel more anxious. Do not exclude them from discussions or group work, instead find ways for them to join in. You have to be creative and you have to find out what will work for the individual student in your class because obviously, they are all different. Rosalind is given a set of cards she can use to signal different things like she needs help, or she needs the toilet, but she finds it very hard to use them at first because she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself. She is given a notepad by her teacher which she uses to have silent conversations with her classmate Ailsa. Many young people with SM get excluded from activities, so it is important to involve them in the lesson and in conversations, but allow them to express themselves without speaking. The absolute most important thing is to show them kindness. Living with a mental health condition is really hard, especially at school. It makes an enormous difference when people are kind.
Obviously speaking up is a big theme of the book. Why was that important to you?
I’ve worked with so many young people who find it very difficult or even impossible to stand up and say what they think. It’s something I found extremely difficult as a teenager. I think we’ve all been in situations where we’ve been unable to speak up for ourselves but, for me, it is a crucial thing to be able to do. It’s important for friendships, for protecting ourselves, for showing people our true selves, for romantic relationships, for achieving what you want in your career, for sticking up for your beliefs and values. Speaking out takes an enormous amount of courage sometimes. But if you can do it, even for a moment, then you have the power to change your life.
Bullying is also a major issue in this book. What advice would you give to someone being bullied?
Tell someone you trust. Then tell someone else, and then tell someone else. Keep telling people until something is done about it. So many victims of bullying stay silent. It’s one of the ways bullies operate so effectively. I’ve read so many heartbreaking stories of bullying that ended in tragedy, and the question is always the same – why didn’t they tell anyone? People stay silent about being bullied for all kinds of reasons. They are scared it will get worse, they feel ashamed, they don’t think it will make any difference. We need to make it a lot easier for young people to speak out if they are being bullied.
And what advice would you give to someone who has realised they might be bullying someone else?
I don’t believe that anyone is born mean. I don’t think that bullies are happy, fulfilled people. I think there are some young people who have had hate poured into them, and it comes out in bullying behaviour towards others. If someone gets kicks out of being mean to someone, then they’re probably in a home environmentwhere they don’t get shown very much kindness. If you’ve realised that you’re bullying someone, then I’d suggest owning up and asking for some help. Your victims may not be ready to hear an apology directly, so the best apology is changing your actions. I hope Being Miss Nobody ultimately has a positive and important message about bullying. We always have a choice in anything we do, so we can always choose to be kind.
What I thought
I really loved this. Ironically Rosalind had a very strong voice throughout and she really went on a journey of development, but one with a realistic ending, where everything isn’t completely perfect.
I adored her brother Seb and once again thought that it was a wise decision not to have Rosalind’s selective mutism arise as a result of his ill health.
The power of social media to give people a voice is explored so well and is balanced alongside the notion that it can also be used to silence or speak over others. It’s a tool that can be used in many ways and I think this book does a great job of addressing how to use it morally.
Huge thanks to Tamsin for taking the time to answer the questions. Join her and a host of other authors at #YAShot2018 – http://www.yashot.co.uk/.
To win a signed copy of Being Miss Nobody (UK only – winner selected after Sun 11th 5pm). Post the following to Twitter with your own response to the …
Being Miss Nobody by @MsWinterTweets is about speaking up. I found my voice when … (#yashot2018, @kirstyes @yashotmediateam)
I was hugely lucky to pick up an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of Moxie at YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention) this year. I am really loving the proliferation of books that feature feminist characters. If you are a fan of Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club series you are going to love Moxie.
Vivian Carter is fed up.
Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong.
Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class.
But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.
Viv’s Mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrl in the 90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates Moxie, a feminist zone that she distributes anonymously to her classmates.
She’s just blowing off steam, but then other girls respond and begin to spread the Moxie message…
I loved the book so much I reached out to the PR to see if Jennifer would share some Activism tips with us. And huge thanks to Jennifer and Sarah for these tips from Vivian Carter herself.
Viv’s Tips for Activism
Hey, Moxie Girls! I’m so excited to share with you some tips that me and the other Moxie Girls hold dear to our hearts.
1) Support other girls! It sounds so obvious, but so much of being a feminist is supporting other women in a world that pits us against each other all the time. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t criticize other girls for justifiable reasons, but catch yourself when you feel the urge to make fun of another girl’s hair, clothes, weight, hobbies, or interests. Making fun of other girls because of their appearance or what they like to do is so not Moxie.
2) Be inclusive! Before Moxie, girls at East Rockport High didn’t really mix outside of their cliques. But feminism has to be intersectional and, thanks to Moxie, the girls of ERH are getting to know each other better. It’s so awesome! Being a feminist means voices of girls of color, girls with disabilities, queer girls and trans girls should be recognized and amplified! Make sure all girls feel welcome at your meet ups and, if you’re an activist, look to the voices of girls from other communities and listen to what they have to say. You’ll learn so much.
3) Educate yourself! The women’s movement didn’t start yesterday – it stretches back decades and centuries. Read your women’s history and learn about the movement’s successes, challenges, and missteps. If you’re in university, take a women’s studies class. I can’t wait to take one when I get to college! An educated feminist is a powerful feminist.
4) Reach out into your community! It’s great to start local, but take your activism outside the walls of your school if you can. In America, we have a real issue with shelters not having enough feminine hygiene products for female clients, so the Moxie Girls want to start collecting supplies for our local shelters. Is there a progressive female candidate running for office that needs your help or younger girls who need tutors or mentors? Is there a women’s organization in your area that you can learn more about? Go for it!
5) Have fun! Activism has to be fun! The first big Moxie meet up that Kiera organized at the VFW Hall helped solidify Moxie into a real movement at our school. Get together and dance, watch a feminist-friendly film, do each other’s makeup, and eat chocolate! Part of being a feminist activist is just enjoying the company of other girls and reminding yourself of what you’re fighting for!
Bonus Tip for male allies from Seth!
Hey, it’s me, Viv’s boyfriend, Seth. I wanted to chime in and say that feminists need male allies, and I’m proud to be one. What does it mean to be a male ally? It means listening to the feminists in your life and not taking the limelight. It means believing girls when they tell you what they’re going through and what they’re feeling. And it really means speaking up when your fellow guys start saying and doing stuff that objectifies and degrades women and girls. It’s hard to stand up and speak out – I get it – but it takes guts and it’s the brave thing to do. Forget the crap in the culture that tells you that “real men” are only out to get laid, get drunk, and be violent. Real men are protectors and defenders and stand up for what’s right. You’ve got this.
What I Thought
This was such a good book. It was a fun and quick read with some serious messages. Viv is such a great protagonist, she’s perhaps not your typical activist. On the surface she’s very quiet and perhaps the last person people would expect to stand up and shout. It’s the small drop in the water that creates the large ripples
There are so many parallels with what is happening in the news on a daily basis. Over the last week the #metoo campaign in response to insidious sexism in Hollywood has shown the power of women raising their voices.
The book includes the issues of Moxie that Viv produces and that adds an extra special touch that draws the reader into the story. Each issue encourages an action. A quiet protest such as writing hearts and stars on your hands to identify others like you (or you know bending the knee peacefully??!!).
Point 3 above is illustrated in the book through the inclusion of Viv’s Mum previous activism. Hopefully we can start to share these ideas with our children and encourage them to respectfully question.
I particularly love the inclusion of the character of Seth, the male feminist, the ally. As well as following women’s metoo stories do check out the few men who are examining their own past behaviour too.
Tying in to Viv’s tip no 5 about having fun I just want to do a shout out to the concept of Craftivism: the art of gentle protest. If you want to find out more check out this link.
Also check out the hashtag #feministfriday on Instagram today.
Thanks so much to Hachette Childrens for having ARCs of Moxie availabile at YALC.
You can buy your own copy from Amazon or your favourite independent bookshop.
Back on the 22nd July I was lucky enough to interview Zen Cho at Waterstones CastlePoint. Freakily enough what book turned up from The Willoughby Book Club at the beginning of July? This gorgeous Black and Gold Edition of the Book.