Anti-bullying expert Walter Meyer wouldn't mind making his living doing something else.
The author of "Rounding Third" has been in demand in recent years, and he'll return to Jamestown Community College on Wednesday night.
Released three years ago, "Rounding Third" follows the story of two 17-year-old baseball players who don't fit in with their teammates. The book's popularity has led Meyer to several cities, including Jamestown, where he spoke at JCC on bullying in October 2011. "Rounding Third" deals with teen bullying and suicide, and continues to sell well, according to Meyer.
Walter Meyer, author of “Rounding Third,” is shown speaking to Jamestown Community College students in the Cyber Cafe in October of last year. Meyer will speak again at the college on Wednesday night.
P-J file photo by
"As long as bullying and suicide stories keep making the news, I keep getting requests to speak and write about the topic," he told The Post-Journal. "I didn't really set out to become a bullying expert, but I am now because the book just happened to be about that. It would be nice if the book would slow down in sales, because that would mean that fewer kids were getting attacked and bullied."
Meyer, who has written for dozens of publications on a variety of topics, spoke in San Diego recently and has dates at Penn State, the LGBT Center of Cleveland, and in Pittsburgh this month.
He spoke in JCC's Cyber Cafe last fall after receiving an invitation from Interweave, the college's gay/straight alliance student club. Meyer spoke during a weekday afternoon, making it difficult for many area residents to attend.
"The people who did come enjoyed him so much that we decided to bring him back," said Shannon Bessette, Interweave adviser and associate professor of anthropology. "We wanted to take more time and make it a bigger event this year."
On Wednesday, Meyer will speak at 7 p.m. in the Student Union in the Hamilton Collegiate Center. The event is free to attend, and refreshments will be available.
Meyer hopes to see many area adults at JCC on Wednesday night.
"As much as I like talking to LGBT student groups, I am kind of preaching to the choir," he said. "They know what life is like for young, gay kids. Teachers and administrators should come to see what goes on, to hear me share the stories - not that I'm that brilliant or that I'm that much of an oracle on these things - but to have an outside perspective of what goes on in schools. It's amazing to me, when I do speak to schools, how often the administrators and teachers are sort of disconnected from this. They don't even realize what is going on and what they could do to prevent it from going on."
Meyer plans to read from "Rounding Third" and will have a book signing at the end of the night.
Bessette believes area residents will connect with the book.
"It's written about a boy in high school," she said. "We've all had tough times in high school. It doesn't matter if the book is about gay relationships or straight relationships. The themes and the issues are the same: feeling out of place, not knowing what to do in these relationships, the growing pains we all go through."
Meyer will also show the film "Bullied," which focuses on Jamie Nabozny, a gay teenage boy tormented by classmates in Ashland, a small town in northern Wisconsin. He won a landmark lawsuit in federal court against the school's administrators, who failed to stop the harassment.
When Meyer speaks Wednesday, he plans to focus primarily on bullying in schools. Audience members are invited to participate in the discussion.
"One thing I'm sure I will touch upon is that patterns children establish in middle school and high school often are the patterns for the rest of their lives," he said. "If a bully sees that he or she can get away with that, then they will stay bullies for the rest of their lives, and clearly that will have detrimental consequences to really getting advanced in the workplace. Being a bully can get you a few early advances, but it can be a career ender if you bully the wrong person."
Middle and high school bullying victims suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives, Meyer continued.
"Being a target, being bullied, becomes such a pattern to people that they're afraid to contribute; they're afraid to really stick their necks out," he said. "How good of an employee are they going to be, how good of a member of society are they going to be if they're afraid of their own shadow? That's where a lot of kids end up. It's important that you address (bullying) younger. Yes, you can address it in the workplace, but usually people's habits are so established by then. It's much more difficult to have an intervention with a 36-year-old than it is with a 15-year-old."
DAVIES TO PRESENT DOCUMENTARY
In addition to Wednesday's event, Interweave has booked filmmaker Erin Davies to present her documentary "Fagbug," at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Carnahan Center Theatre.
Davies' VW Beetle was vandalized while she attended a gay pride event in Albany. She left the graffiti on her car and drove around the U.S. and Canada on a 58-day trip.
"She decided to essentially embrace that experience and to experiment with people's attitudes," Bessette said. "She made a documentary about how people reacted to her. It's interesting because she's traveling right now. Sometimes, she's still being harassed even though she's raising awareness. It shows that we have a way to go. As much as we talk in the news about the need to end bullying and the need to stop harassment, it's definitely part of the landscape."
Davies' car will be on display at 6:30 p.m. outside the Carnahan Center. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, call Bessette at 338-1223.
MAKING IT STOP
Interweave provides support for all LGBTIQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/transgender, intersexed, queer, and questioning) students, and their straight allies. The club also focuses on community outreach, which could be key in preventing bullying.
"LGBT youth are way more likely to be bullied than other youth are," Bessette said. "We know that bullying can be a problem in the local area. ... I think we need to have good conversations about healthy behavior in young people. We need to act as role models as well as advocating good behavior for them."
Calling the bullying problem "systemic," Meyer believes our society will be dealing with the issue for a while still. He has, however, seen progress in the past few years.
"There is an awareness now," he said. "People cheer the response. It used to be people cheered the bully. I think that people do step up now and say, 'Stop.' Those things are changing our culture, but it takes a while."