DAYTON - When Kali Moriarty clicked on an advertisement last January called "Get Published" while surfing the Internet, she never thought it would actually happen.
"Those things don't happen to me," she said.
But this time it did, because after writing an essay decrying the cliques, ridicule and overall angst that teens tend to inflict on one another, Moriarty actually got a response.
"They wanted to get an essay on something that is important to you or that you are passionate about," she said. "It was supposed to be more about happy things, but I wasn't feeling that way."
Inspired by a friend who was the target of ridicule by some of her classmates, Kali, then a freshman, wrote about the difficulty high school students had when they weren't part of certain cliques.
The essay is being published in "Red: The Next Generation of American Writers - Teenage Girls - On What Fires Up Their Lives Today," by Amy Goldwasser, who chose 58 of the best essays from 800 submitted. The book, published by Hudson Street Press, retails for $21.95, and is available on Amazon.com.
"Maybe this sort of harassment happens to everyone," she wrote in her essay. "I know it does to most of us. But it's not like you get numb to the abuse. It hurts to see it - and sometimes feel it - firsthand."
Kali, 15, knows that this kind of behavior has been going on as long as there have been teenagers, and that it is a result of insecurity.
"People are afraid of people who are different or they feel threatened by that person," she said, adding that it's not one group or another that is hurting others.
"It's everybody," she said. "Everybody is picking on somebody."
It can take the form of name-calling, rumor-spreading and talking behind someone's back. It's common among teens, and even some adults, and it's hurtful, she said.
Kali, who sings and participates in drama, said she doesn't have any answers on how to get teens to stop being hurtful to one another. Getting teachers involved could make things worse.
"I don't think there is any easy way to solve it," she said. "You have to change the way people think. To change the way they are. It's hard to change the way people are."
She admits that at times she has engaged in the same kind of behavior, but only in response to being picked on herself.
"It's hard not to try to get even," she said. "I try not to get too mean, but if someone pushes you, you have to push back."
She said she hopes people focus on the message of not being afraid of people who are different, or being obsessed with social status.
"Bad things could happen if we keep promoting, or at least not punishing, discrimination against people who are different from us," she wrote in the essay. "With everyone - the government, the school administration, the teachers, our parents, the people we look up to - so worried about their personal, political or social status, they forget how to treat one another."
• Karen Woodmansee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 881-7351.