15-Year Old Aims to Curb Cyberbullying

Trisha Prabhu is a fifteen-year old girl who saw a problem, and came up with a creative and ingenious way to help solve it. Trisha learned about an 11-year-old girl who committed suicide after being cyberbullied.

“How can a girl younger than myself be pushed to take her own life?” she said. “I was shocked, heartbroken and angry to learn about this incident and set out to find a long-term solution to cyberbullying. I knew I had to do something to stop this from ever happening again.

(read the entire article in BuzzFeed here.)

The ReThink website says:

ReThink is an innovative, patented software product
that effectively stops cyberbullying before the damage is done.
The world is currently in the midst of a technology revolution. There are 1.8 billion teens around the globe, and technology is increasingly at the hands of every adolescent. Everyday, millions of adolescents are cyberbullied and tormented online endlessly. 52% of adolescents in the United States alone have been cyberbullied. 38% of those cyberbullied suffer from suicidal tendencies. Cyberbullied victims suffer from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and drop out of school. ReThink is conquering this silent pandemic one message at a time.

It amazed me to learn that over half of all teens have suffered from cyber-bullying. Trisha’s idea was to stop cyber-bullying before any damage is done. According to the website:

ReThink is an innovative, patented software product that stops Cyberbullying before the damage is done. When an adolescent tries to post an offensive message on social media, ReThink uses patented context sensitive filtering technology to determine whether or not it’s offensive and gives the adolescent a second chance to reconsider their decision. Groundbreaking research shows that when adolescents are alerted to ReThink their decision, they change their minds 93% of the time.

I was never bullied as a kid or a teen. I have experienced bullying as an adult, though, and it is one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. I can’t imagine how confusing, frustrating, and demoralizing it is for kids. Of course, we didn’t have the Internet when I was a kid. It does seem like the Internet makes it awfully easy to do a lot of damage very fast. I love Trisha’s idea of getting people to stop and think before posting anything hurtful. What I love even better is that 93% of the time, when people stop to think twice, they choose NOT to bully.

Kudos to Trisha Prabhu’s compassion and creativity!

Meet Mrs. W (3)

Meet Sensei W from the Max Williams Adventure Series

Meet Max Williams of the Max Williams Adventure Series

Meet max (1)

In My Sister, the Traitor, Max Has an Admirer

Meet Twyla from My Sister, the Traitor

Meet Axel: The New German Kid in My Sister, the Traitor

I want to introduce you to Axel Wakenbaum, Mrs. W’s great-nephew. My friend, Collin Wildridge, suggested giving Mrs. W a nephew who would be Max’s rival in the second Max Williams Adventure book. The story unfolded from there. So, with a nod of appreciation to Collin, here’s Axel –

Meet Axel- (2)

Interview with the Author of My Sister, the Traitor


What’s new in this second book of the Max Williams Adventure Series?

Oh, there’s tons of new stuff. For one thing, Max has changed a little. Of course, he’s a year older. But most importantly, sixth grade has been a big year for him. After the big football game at the end of My Neighbor, the Spy, when Max defeated the Reedster with the Heaven and Earth Aikido technique, Max became popular. Instead of being teased and called names as school, Max and his team became the guys everyone wanted as friends. Mrs. W founded an Aikido dojo and Max is now one of the senior kids there. He even helps Sensei W with a beginner kids’ class. Unfortunately, Max’s ego has gotten a little too big. He likes being the one everyone comes to for help, and he likes being a star at the dojo. So, when Axel, Mrs. W’s nephew, comes to town for the summer, Max doesn’t react very well.

Axel is a totally new character. He wasn’t in the first book. He’s from Germany, a senior in high-school, and has trained in Aikido for about nine years. To Max, it seems like Axel can do anything. Axel is a great character, and one of my favorite parts is when he tells his family’s story of their escape from East Berlin after World War II.

Something else that is new about this book is that there is a ramped-up danger level. Max and the guys are a little older, a little more mature, and it seemed only natural that the situations they find themselves in are a little more serious. Max and the gang face some life-and-death situations in this book.

What role does Mrs. W play in My Sister, the Traitor?

Mrs. W is definitely back in a big way. Max’s rival, Axel, is her nephew. This puts Max in an awkward position. He loves Mrs. W. He would never do anything to hurt her. But his feelings of jealousy for Axel kind of overwhelm his better judgment. Max faces some very real risks, including losing Mrs. W’s friendship.

Why is the title My Sister, the Traitor?

Well, the last straw for Max is when Axel shows an interest in dating his sister, Belinda. Max feels like this is the ultimate betrayal. Axel is interfering with Max’s status at the dojo, with Mrs. W, with his own parents, and then with Belinda. Plus, because his friend Bump has a major crush on Belinda, he’s willing to help Max with a plan to ruin Axel’s reputation.

Why does Max try to ruin Axel’s reputation?

Max is so jealous of Axel, he just wants him out of his life. He figures if he can make Axel look bad to his sister, she’ll stop dating him. If he can make Axel look bad to parents of students at the dojo, Mrs. W will stop letting Axel teach classes. Max just wants Axel out-of-the-way, and making him look bad is a convenient way to do it. I’ve recently had a personal experience where I learned what feels like when people tell lies about you. Rumors have a way of taking on a life of their own. And, with social media as popular as it is, it’s extremely easy for rumors to go viral. Rumors are a form of bullying, and the damage they can do to a person’s life is as great as physical damage. Max didn’t feel like he was doing anything harmful when he began, but he wasn’t thinking clearly. It’s an important lesson for him to learn, and I don’t think he’s going to make that mistake again.

Is Mrs. W’s sensei back in this story?

Absolutely – at least in a small way. Sensei taught Max the Heaven and Earth technique and how to eat sushi in My Neighbor, the Spy. To me, Sensei represents the Aikido community at large. I’ve met so many awesome people through Aikido. It’s a martial art that seems to attract super bright, ethical, caring people.  I want readers to get a sense of how the Aikido community supports one another. Sensei is a wise teacher, but also has a sense of humor and is accessible to even the youngest learners like Max. Max makes some terrible mistakes, but Sensei uses the mistakes as a learning opportunity and not an excuse to scold or make Max feel worse than he already does. I love Sensei. He’s one of my favorite characters to write, besides Max, of course.


Your son’s experience with Aikido inspired you to start writing the Max Williams Adventure series. Now that he’s in college, is he still pursuing his training?

He sure is. It’s a little harder with the demands of college studies, but his Aikido training is an important part of who he is. He also finds that training is a great way to relieve some of the stress of college life. He’s taken many of his friends with him, and some of them want to learn Aikido now. He’s also exploring the idea of teaching an Aikido class on his college campus. Teaching is an important aspect of training in a martial art. I think he’ll be a great sensei, and I’m excited that he’ll be spreading Aikido to a new generation of students.

Did you enjoy writing this book as much as you enjoyed writing My Neighbor, the Spy?

Of course. The best part of writing this book was that the idea for the story came from a fan of My Neighbor, the Spy who contacted me through e-mail. Collin was a senior in high-school when the first book came out, and heard about the book through his sensei. He was so excited about having a book about aikido for kids that he e-mailed me. I’ve enjoyed corresponding with him ever since. It was his idea to give Mrs. W a nephew who would be Max’s rival.  Collin is now in college and is a wonderful writer in his own right. He taught me how to do zazen.

Why does Axel tell the story about his family’s escape from East Berlin?

There are several answers to this question. In My Neighbor, the Spy, Max uses stories about real, famous spies to motivate his team with their morale flags. Max is a smart kid. He sees history as a relevant way of learning how to deal with the present and the future. This is a quality that my father passed on to me, and I’ve tried to pass on to my son. My son has a wonderful ability of finding older people who have developed wisdom in their field and learning everything he can from them. It was important for me to have Max have this same characteristic.

Another part of the answer is that the inspiration for Mrs. W’s character is a woman my son met through his training. We had the privilege of sharing gumbo and cornbread last Christmas Eve with her and she shared her family’s story of their harrowing escape from East Berlin just as the wall went up between East and West. I took some liberties with the details and added some characters, but Axel’s story is based on her story.  I think, for me, it just confirmed the depth and breadth of resources within the Aikido community. This is an amazing woman, really.

So, I included the story because it’s a fascinating story and because I wanted Max to continue to use stories from history to shape himself, his beliefs, and and view of the world.

Is this part of the reason you introduce some Zen into My Sister, the Traitor?

Kind of. It really just fit. Axel needed to introduce something that seemed strange to Max and the other kids. And, Zen principles are often taught along with Aikido principles. The ideas of balance and harmony are common in both, and this is something that Max is learning in this story. Max lets his ego get in the way of his Aikido practice and his interactions with his old and new friends. This creates the problems that lead to danger for Max and Axel. In order to get out of danger, Max has to learn to work with Axel and earn back the trust of his friends and family. Just like in Aikido, where you have to sense your partner’s movements, Max has to learn how to tune in to how his actions affect others. It’s what we all have to learn: how to live in harmony with others.

Release Date for My Sister, the Traitor: May 29, 2015

I can't believe the worst summer of my (2)

Never Underestimate the Power of a Kid

This blog often features kids who’ve achieved amazing things. But, because Max, the character in my Max Williams adventure books, is kind of nerdy, usually the achievements featured here involve science or technology. I am absolutely delighted to share the above video of 13-year old Joshua Colley hitting it out of the ballpark performing a scene from Broadway’s Les Mis.  Actually, the performance was a parody, part of a Broadway fundraising performance. It was designed to make the audience laugh. You can hear people laughing at the very beginning of the video – as Colley walks out onto the stage. What a silly idea, for Jean Valjean to be played by a kid, they must have been thinking. But the laughter quickly gives way to applause.

It’s not that Colley isn’t already a Broadway pro. He is one of the actors playing the character of Gavroche in the current Broadway production of Les Mis. What he does that’s amazing here is that he takes on the role of the main character, Jean Valjean, a role often refered to as “iconic.” (See boingboing article here.)

Jean Valjean is a grown-up role, always played by grown-up actors. Here’s a scene from Les Mis with the Hollywood heart-throbs Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as Javert:

Without taking anything away from the awesome performance of Jackman, I think Colley brings as much depth and gravitas to the role of this adult character as do real adult actors. Because kids haven’t been through the full range of life experiences as an adult, some assume a kid is incapable of expressing the depth of emotion of a character like Jean Valjean. Colley proves those skeptics wrong. Colley proves that it’s a mistake to underestimate a kid’s ability to draw on great reserves of talent and heart.

Here’s another version of The Confrontation, an impromptu performance by Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segal.

I’m thrilled to share this video of an accomplished kid Broadway performer because it’s a reminder that kids are achieving amazing things in all kinds of places. Max has never been to a Broadway show and hates it when his mom and sister Belinda watch ballet on TV. But, in my new Max Williams adventure, My Sister, the Traitor, readers will discover that former bully, Stuart Bender, has a previously hidden artistic talent. Mrs. W, who has a habit of recognizing the awesomeness of kids, recognizes Stuart’s talent and encourages him even when his parents make fun of him for being artistic instead of sporty.

So, seeing Colley’s performance thrilled my heart. Kids never cease to amaze me with their strength, creativity, and talent. Write me and let me know about other amazing kids and their accomplishments – maybe even your own!!

Would You Like to Review My New Book?


There’s nothing more gratifying to a writer than having a reader appreciate your stories. Even bad reviews are helpful, to tell the truth, because they guide you to do better the next time. As an independently published author, I depend on reviewers to get the word out about my books. So, I’d like to offer to any of my website readers the chance to receive a complimentary electronic copy of my new book, My Sister, the Traitor, for review, before the book is available to the public. If you enjoy the book, I hope you will post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or on your own website or blog.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the book for review, simply e-mail me at contact@beckyblackpowell.com, or leave a response below. I’ll need to know where to electronically send your e-book.

I appreciate my website readers and my book readers, and look forward to many more good stories to share.

My Sister, the Traitor is available for pre-order on Amazon. Just click here.

Being a Beekeeper: Disappearing Hives and Bee Rustlers

You probably don’t think about bees while you’re eating your dinner, but maybe you should. Like the video shows, we’d be in a world of hurt without our bees.

President Obama knows bees are important. Watch what happens when bees dive bomb some kids at the annual White House Easter Egg hunt.

The White House has its own beehive on the South Lawn and the White House kitchen uses the honey the hive produces.

But, disease isn’t the only reason bees disappear. We have five hives now. We’ve had bees since my son was in middle school. We had seven, but someone stole two recently. Someone came on our property and took two entire hives plus a large number of frames from some other hives. As bizarre as bee-stealing sounds, it’s an actual thing. It’s called “bee-rustling” after the wild-west no-no, cattle-rustling. An article on the Modern Farmer website says:

Worth an estimated $20 billion to the agriculture industry in the U.S. and about $200 billion worldwide, honey bees are big business. Add to this a plummeting population due to factors that includes colony collapse disorder, and you have a whole lot of money at stake. And where there’s money, crime will surely follow.

1-bee boy2

The problem isn’t just in the U.S. Great Britain also has a bee rustler problem. According to an article from The Guardian:

David Sutton, the National Bee Unit inspector for western England, said: “You used to get the odd one or two, but not like this. People are realising the value of bees now because they are very scarce.”

Experts believe the bees may have been stolen to order, destined for beekeepers whose own hives have failed.

Second-hand hives that used to sell for £30 can now fetch more than £200. With each hive capable of producing around 50lb of honey a year, victims stand to lose thousands of pounds.

And the culprits may be in the beekeeping community. Tim Lovett, president of the British Beekeepers Association, said: “To steal bees, you have to know what you are doing. Beekeepers are now on the lookout. It’s a vicious circle. You lose more bees, the price of bees goes up and the risk of them being stolen goes up.”

A truckload of beehives

A truckload of beehives

Bee Rustlers

How would you go about rustling bees?

“To steal a colony of bees, you need to know what you’re doing. A person walking the street would not know how to come in and effectively remove a colony of bees. (see entire article on the BBC website here.)

According to Modern Farmer:

…bee rustlers, unlike their more traditional criminal brethren, are likely to use a flatbed truck and forklift or nothing more than a beekeeper’s veil, gloves and a getaway vehicle.

Bee rustlers usually come under cover of darkness. They may also take advantage of rainy weather, since bees are less active when it rains. Rather than taking whole hives they may simply take full frames out and replace them with empty frames.

It’s hard to catch bee rustlers. Most bee keepers don’t mark their equipment with the way ranchers brand their cattle, so it’s hard to identify their stolen equipment.

On the other hand, if a bee rustler doesn’t know beans about bees, things could get dicey.  But in all honesty, don’t they deserve what they get?:

Occasionally the burglars are so inept they provide entertainment. There was the one time Romance saw a guy loading a hive into his hatchback car, but moments later the man jumped out of the car flapping his arms around in horror. He dumped the hive 100 feet from where he’d attempted to steal it. Romance found that episode pretty funny. (see entire article here.)

Photo Credits:

Truck of hives: By Marion Schneider & Christoph Aistleitner (own picture (User:Mediocrity)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons