Book: Out Loud
Photo Courtesy of Luz Agudelo
Author: Luz Agudelo
Luz Agudelo is a Colombian-born American citizen who lives in Miami with her husband and six rescued cat companions. She earned a B.A. in psychology from Florida International University. She loves to read, storytelling, and using metaphors and fantasy to make sense of her human journey. She wrote the first draft of Out Loud while volunteering with AmeriCorps.
1) What was the writing process like for your book?
It was about writing, reviewing, and revising over and over.
I started writing about two kids having fun at the beach and how they step out to help a Gull that needed rescuing from ocean trash. Initially, the story’s idea revolved around this environmental theme.
However, as I started to write about the characters, the setting, and the plot, I decided to give life to this ocean trash by turning it into a monster that taunts sea animals. So, the main theme of the story leaned more towards bullying. Using that basic plot, I created numerous drafts.
Then, life happens. I got busy with other things, and I ended up taking a long break from the story. After a while, I came back more focused and keep working on the draft: cutting, adding, and polishing the details.
Sometimes asked for feedbacks to friends, peers, and family member’s children. I tried to incorporate those feedbacks into my work in order to get the meaning across with clarity and in a more vivid way.
I tried not to become obsess with dates and timelines, and just to let the story unfold on its own. Every time that I made a new revision and I knew the story still wasn’t ready, I tried not to get discouraged. I focused on realizing that even though it was not ready yet, every revision was a step closer to the end I was looking for.
However, it seemed as if for some strange reason, I couldn’t bring closure to the story. That was when I realized that there was something that I needed to elaborate within myself in order to reach the level of consciousness from which I could finally complete the story. So, besides reading books and articles about bullying and speaking with friends that endured bullying, I knew that I had to revisit the moments was I - myself – adopted the roles of Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor as they are known in the Karpman's drama triangle.
After that process of self-discovery and healing, I not only found a resolution to my own issues with bullying, but I also found the clarity to finish the book as I decided to give more insight into the characters mindsets and the dynamics of bullying by letting each one of characters (Jonas, June, Skull, and Gull,) depict and reenact the mental and emotional reactions of the fixed roles of bullying (the bully, the bullied, and the bystanders).
Then, as the story progressed, shown how through persistence despite the challenges and a desire to change, the characters explored different ways of dealing with bullying. Until they completely break out of the vicious cycle of bullying.
2) What's the best book you've read in 2017?
I enjoyed reading, "The Ecstasy of Surrender" by Judith Orloff, MD.
3) Would you rather read books or write books and why?
I love doing both, reading and writing. To me, there are two sides of the same coin.
I cannot pick one over the other. From my experience, to write you have to read, and when you read your mind creates new thoughts. However, you may choose, or not, to write down those thoughts or turn them into a book or a diary.
4) Why should people read your book?
Well, besides entertaining with the rhyming words and the comic-like illustrations, Out Loud manages to shed light on the narrative of bullying by going beyond the problem and showing the reader through the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the characters a different way to deal with bullying. The story also offers a powerful lesson about forgiveness and understanding.
5) Do you plan to write more books in the future?
Yes. Absolutely. I'm currently working on another project, and I hope to finish it soon.
6) Growing up, did you experience bullying or any specific experience that contributed to the making of this book?
Actually, it was a cluster of personal experiences and reflections about bullying what contributed to the making of this book.
The first time that I faced bullying was at home, with my dad, and this profoundly affected me.
Luckily, I had my grandmother, who taught me that I needed to define my own self-worth and that I couldn’t let other people’s opinions determine how you feel about myself.
However, despite managing the best I could in those circumstances, by the time I was in elementary school when I felt threatened, I responded aggressively. In one occasion, a kid was teasing me, and after being ignored by the teacher I decided to take matters into my own hands. So I walked to my desk, sharpened my pencil, and stuck the pencil into the upper arm of that kid; which was a terrible thing to do.
From then, my strategy was too withdrawn from interacting with people that I felt bullied by and avoid situations that could trigger in me feelings of anger, fear, or pain.
Nevertheless, this approach was limiting my possibilities. I was creating a prison around myself. After all, how can you grow if you aren’t taking any risks?
So, instead of continuing to struggle with difficult situations. I decided to learn the necessary skills I needed in order to deal with conflict and negative emotions in an assertive manner. I started a journey of self-discovery.
I began to search within myself aspects of me that I needed to work on and heal. And, as I educated myself, particularly in the three roles of the victim triangle or The Karpman Drama Triangle, and as I gained awareness and clarity about the dynamics of bullying, this personal process literally took over the raw draft I was writing about and that was how the main theme of the story switched towards bullying.
7) If you could write a book with an author in history who would it be and why?
I haven’t really dreamed about writing a book with an author in history. However, I have wished I had been a passenger on the boat trip along the River Thames with Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll), Alice Liddell and her sisters while they were developing the idea for Alice in Wonderland.
Sometimes I wonder how different the book would have to turn out if I had actively participated and contributed with ideas. And, sometimes I wish to have been an invisible spectator. Just, riding along with them in the boat and getting a first-hand look at the creative process of the creators of Alice in Wonderland.
8) What’s your best advice for getting through writer’s block?
Quiet your mind and let go of the thinking process. Disengage from writing for a moment and do another type of creative activity.
My favorite was cooking without a recipe. No words involved.I just had to open the refrigerator and see all the ingredients available and imagine a delicious meal out of them.
I picked the ingredients, took my time to smell the each one of them, to observe their different colors and shapes, feel their texture on my skin, and taste their flavors.
This helped me to turn down my rational mind, and while doing that; my subconscious mind would start blooming with dialogues between and among the characters and all kinds of new actions for the story.
Sometimes, I had to stop cooking immediately and rush to write everything down. I didn’t want to loose the flow of ideas.
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This is an excellent story. I have the book and it has been tremendously helpful to explain bullying to kids, specially in these days.
The writer is very versatile in her prose and knows how to use it well to tell the story.
I recommend this great story to all parents and teachers to help spread the message of anti-bullying. Is a must have!