Rain, a photo by Isabel Antunes inspired by my story, Shame Shame.

Recently one of my personal essays, Shame Shame, was published at Hippocampus, an online literary magazine devoted to memorable creative non-fiction.

I was so excited when I received the acceptance email over Christmas, I leaped out of my chair, screamed and jumped up and down.

Acceptances are rare! But word that my piece would finally be published inspired such joyous dancing because it’s so close to my heart. Since I wrote it a full year ago I’ve been very eager for it to find its proper literary home.

My essay retraces the fall of 1989, when I was bullied by two girls at school over a boy. This piece is about more than bullying, though. It’s about first love and loss, and how vulnerable we are as teens, constantly trying to gauge our worth while, at the same time, unable to really see ourselves.

Writing it dredged up all the fears I experienced the first time around; thinking about publishing it raised new fears. Would one of the girls who bullied me read it and insist it never happened? Would, after everything else, they try to take that away from me, too?

I’ve received amazing support for having written and shared my story — every day, from known and unknown sources, more likes, comments and shares! It feels good to have told the truth about what was for so long a pent up secret, and for people to respond to my story by calling it gutsy and beautiful.

What was also exciting about having this particular piece published in Hippocampus was the opportunity to provide a photo to accompany it. With the support of the publisher, Donna Talarico, I asked the photography teacher at my old high school to invite a few students to an anti-bullying day collaboration. They each read my story and used it as inspiration to take some photos around the school.

It was difficult to decide which piece to submit to the magazine, but after careful consideration I chose Isabel Antunes’ Rain. It so perfectly captures the mood of the piece — the endless rain, the girl in the jean jacket walking away, alone, under the umbrella. I love how Isabel tied the imagery from my story into the piece so beautifully.

Centennial photography students Ian Garcia & Isabel Antunes.

The timing of publication for Shame Shame lined up with anti-bullying day here in Canada — the perfect opportunity to wear my pink shirt, meet the photography students at my old school and get one last tour before it gets torn down in a few months.

I would love for Isabel’s photo and my story to keep making the rounds online. If you have a moment to read the piece and feel inspired to comment, like or share, please do. Hippocampus keeps a tally on social shares for each story and at the end of the month, the one with the most shares receives a “Most Memorable Award” — a special badge added to the archived article, which will also be notated on a most memorable page.

An amazing opportunity for my story to continue to reach new readers over time!