Carrie Berk is a bestselling teen author, influencer, and @NoBully_org Ambassador (#nobully) who has already published 21+ books by age 15. Her first book series, The Cupcake Club, was published with her mom’s help in second grade! One of her personal passions is to help stop bullying in America. To that end, her latest book series called Ask Emma deals with her personal experience being cyberbullied and sheds light on the damaging effects bullies can inflict on their targets. The first book in the Ask Emma series was published earlier this year, with book two due January 2019.
Carrie experienced what bullying in America was like when she received hateful comments on, and was made fun of for, her online social platforms. Through her writing, she wants to let teen readers know they are not alone in dealing with these issues. The book even includes an appendix on cyberbullying resources as an extra support.
Since October is National Bullying Prevention Month, we decided to conduct a Q&A with Carrie to inspire you and also give you some advice if you are being bullied in person or cyberbullied. We can stop bullying in America if we continue to raise awareness and take effective action — like Carrie is doing. Now onto the Q&A! ❤
Hi Carrie, nice to e-meet you! Before we get into your book series Ask Emma, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I have always loved to write—the day that my second-grade teacher taught me about realistic fiction, I came home and wrote a book proposal. The paragraph I put together was about four girls who are misunderstood at their school; they come together to form a cupcake club that combats bullying. My mom sent the idea to her literary agent because I nagged her to, and surprisingly, we got a call at sea when we were on a Disney cruise saying that there were three publishers interested!
I would have never imagined that The Cupcake Club would turn into a 12-book series and sell 400K copies around the world, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spread such important messages to young girls through my writing.
Thanks! Now, please tell us where the idea for Ask Emma came from, and what’s it about?
The bullying in The Cupcake Club was inspired by the cruelty I witnessed as a peer mediator in elementary school. I never really knew what it felt like to be bullied until I started middle school, when I, myself, was cyberbullied. Others spread cruel rumors about me that left me feeling helpless and hurt.
There are not a lot of books out there that depict bullying from a teen perspective, so I felt like I had a responsibility to make one. My mom loves Jane Austen’s Emma, so we decided to combine our interests into Ask Emma, a modern day take on the 19th Century novel where a middle school advice blogger faces cyber bullies. The response has been incredible from readers; they are really connecting to Emma, and I know it’s because the words are written straight from my heart and soul.
What can readers expect from the second book coming out in January 2019?
The first book set up the characters and the early issues Emma faces in launching her blog. The second book, however, depicts the challenges in the relationships between the characters, specifically Emma and her best friends, Izzy and Harriet. All tweens and teens are familiar with frenemies, so I wanted to show how to handle yourself in that type of situation. You will also see Emma and Jackson’s relationship continue to grow 😉
Looking at your Instagram page and your website, it doesn’t seem like you are the typical target for bullies. What sort of bullying have you experienced and how did you deal with it?
Everyone is an easy target for bullies, no matter how extreme or subtle that harassment may be. Some bullying is quiet, such as the eyes that roll when you wear your favorite glitter sneakers to school, or when you’re squished at the end of the lunch table because no one wants to make room and include you. I have been made fun of my fashion sense for many years now; people tell me that my style is too “out there,” or bluntly state “What are you wearing?” in the school hallway.
I have learned that my style is my superpower, which turned into the slogan for my style empowerment blog, Carrie’s Chronicles. The goal of the website to empower others to embrace their individuality through fashion, beauty, fitness, food, etc. Being different is what makes you beautiful, so own who you are!
What do you think is the difference between bullying and just plain criticism – which we are all subject to and is a normal part of existing?
Constructive criticism is when others make recommendations that are genuinely out of concern for your best interest and are meant to lift you up. For example, when someone points out that you have chocolate smudged all over your face or that you have toiled paper stuck to your shoe. Bullying, however, makes you feel broken and belittled. Girls at my ballet school used to tell me that I was not talented or pretty enough instead of giving me constructive ways to improve my skills. That’s the difference.
What tips can you give to other teens out there who are being bullied?
It gets better. Don’t let bullies bring you down. They strike solely out of self-hatred and insecurity—it’s not your fault. As soon as you’re being bullied, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted adult and tell them what’s going on. You’re not a tattletale, you’re simply being smart. As a teen ambassador for No Bully, I am currently helping encourage tweens and teens to practice empathy and respect each other. The more we become aware of the issue, the closer we’ll be to a bully-free world.
Tell me something people would be surprised to know about you?
I love boxing! I’ve done ballet for 14 years, and boxing allows me to break my perfect dance alignment and release stress.
Biggest pet peeve (apart from bullying in America)?
People who are ungrateful for their circumstances. My mom has taught me to stay humble and always be thankful for the opportunities I’m given. Those who forget to stay grounded are not truly worthy of success in my opinion.
I love watching One Tree Hill! I’m such a fan girl…lol.
Favorite song ever?
“Breathe” from In the Heights.
One thing I always carry in my purse _______________.
Are Ice Breaker Mints.
Most embarrassing moment IRL you wish you could do over?
I’ve dropped my clutch on the floor at so many fashion events, I can’t count. I’ve got to be less clumsy, although my mom tells me that they are total Carrie Bradshaw moments.
What else are you working on or have coming up?
In addition to my new Ask Emma book coming out in January, I am redesigning the Carrie’s Chronicles website this December for its one-year anniversary! But overall, I want to continue to use my writing as a platform to spread positivity and empower others. Whenever you’re feeling down, remember this: You are unique. You are beautiful. You are enough. I believe in you.
Could we get a selfie?