MASSENA - When Massena resident Carina Lamendola experienced a particularly nasty episode of childhood bullying in the early 1990s, she never would have believed that approximately 20 years later, her tale would be featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids.
The book, which hit stores this week, tells 101 Stories about Good Decisions, Self-Esteem, and Positive Thinking.
The Norwood-Norfolk Central School graduates story, The Best Way to Get Even, is among nine entries in chapter 5 entitled Handling Bullies.
(The story) is about how I dealt with bullying, which is a very timely topic for nowadays. It wasnt really discussed much when I was a kid and that bothers me, but now its open discussion. Everybody talks about. Its the subject of news stories, Ms. Lamendola said.
To tell it from the beginning, when I was in the seventh grade, the whole school was required to enter a writing contest; a national writing contest just for fun. Well, a year later, quite frankly I forgot all about it. I was 13 years old and forgot all about it. One day these two girls were bullying me and I go home, and while Im complaining how mean those girls were, there was a knock at the door. It was UPS. For a 13-year-old to get a package from UPS, I was like, How could that be for me?
So I opened up and theres all these books. Then, I remember, I got a letter (that said) you won. So Im thinking, I forgot I entered that, let alone won because that was a year ago.
Ms. Lamendola explained that the following day, the bullies who had previously harassed the teenager about the way she dressed and the hairstyle she displayed, were acting quite different.
I get these press releases and they tell me to give it to the school, give it to the local papers. Well, the next day I was like a celebrity. They took a picture of me for the paper, Ms. Lamendola said. They put an announcement on the PA. The principal says, Congratulate Carina Lamendola. Weve been entering this contest for years and years and she is the only person who has ever won.
So those girls are sitting right next to me; the girls who made my life a living hell the day before and always did. So theyre going up to me and (they say) Congratulations Carina and dont you look pretty today. I said, Well I have to look pretty, Im getting my picture taken in the paper. Have you ever been in the paper? They said no and I told them, Ill tell you what its like when Im done. So the point of the story was, when you have these bullies, rather than worry about punching them in the face or calling them a name; to me the bigger revenge was I win this national competition, something they couldnt do and they had just as much an opportunity to do it.
The junior high writing contest was sponsored by a now defunct company that sold young adult fiction called Trumpet Club. In 1992, Ms. Lamendolas entry, a Spanish/English bilingual poem, was also included in the Trumpet Clubs Young Authors of America vol. 4.
The Norfolk native, who lived in New York City for five years before returning north, said that she found her discovery of inclusion in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book to be ironic. This is so strange. I had been submitting stories to them for years and years, she said. I went to Lake Placid with a friend and we were in a book store and I bought Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers. I said to my friend, You know, I submitted my story for this particular book and they didnt accept it. So I went to buy the book to see what they did accept and she says, Theyre not great stories in there so I dont know how you couldnt get published.
Then, on the two hour drive back, again we started talking about Chicken Soup for the Soul and how I submitted stories. They dont give you a rejection letter. You just dont hear from them. What do you know, once she drops me off, I got home late at night. She drops me off, I get in the house, turn on the computer and my first e-mail (says) Chicken Soup for the Soul. Weve selected you.
Ms. Lamendola said that she submitted the story in the spring and found out in July that her story would be published.
Applicants fill out a form on the Chicken Soup for the Soul web site for a specific issue of the book series, with each one having a different deadline for submission.
Ms. Lamendola indicated that she is still submitting stories for the series and has also had her work published in numerous magazines. I am still sending them more stories. For example, living with Alzheimers. (They) want stories about people who have loved ones with Alzheimers Disease. I submitted to that one because my grandmother had it, Ms. Lamendola said. Although I am the only one (in my family) who has been published nationally, the others quite, frankly, are much more talented than I am. ... I would go to the store and get every magazine or book I could find that accepted submissions online. Ive sold a story to Country Woman (Magazine) and ironically, GreenPrints Magazine about gardening. I know nothing about gardening, but I wrote a story about me and my grandmother used to hang out in her garden, so they bought that story.
After graduating from Norwood-Norfolk in the late 1990s, Ms. Lamendola left for New York City in 1998. While there, she attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, starred in plays, wrote and joined a theater company. In 2003, she moved to Massena, where she has been since.
Ms. Lamendola admitted to previously not being a fan of Chicken Soup for the Soul, even going as far as making fun of the series. Now however, she realizes the uniqueness of the publication.
The beauty about Chicken Soup for the Soul is they do want personal experiences and we all have personal experiences. I would always try to find a story from my life. Im like, What happened to me thats suitable for this? And that story came up, she said.
About two decades after experiencing an instance of bullying that stood out in her mind, Ms. Lamendola is now putting the experience to good use. With the recent release of yet another Chicken Soup for the Soul book, the Massena residents sentiments are now likely being read by many victims of harsh bullying.
This story makes me very proud. I defeated those girls not with violenc, or insulting words, but with two weapons that are far more threatening: success and excellence, she wrote. (The bullies) could insult, degrade, and humiliate me; but one thing that they could not do was win that contest. They had entered it the same as I had. Funny, I guess (they) only had a way with words when it came to abusing, and belittling people. They could keep that gift. I liked mine a whole lot better.