The #PubforPR Auction is LIVE and a matching donation

Hi friends!

A reminder that the #PubforPR auction is LIVE. And because I am enraged over where we are as a country, I will match the winning bid on my items with a donation to Everytown for Gun Safety.(And SuperAgent Marietta Zacker will join me in matching the donation on our combined item!)

There are two items of mine in the auction:

So please bid generously, and I don’t mean only on my items. There are hundreds of incredible prizes and the money is desperately needed.

On days like today, I have to remember my mantra: Help the most vulnerable. Work toward a better future. By supporting Puerto Rico and helping the advocates at Everytown do what they do, I will do both.

One foot in front of the other, friends. It’s all we can do.

#PubforPR Auction, or How to Help Puerto Rico When Everything is Terrible

The amazing writer Anne Lamott once described donating money as the drive-by way of feeling better fast. And it’s true…when I have no time, and cannot fathom what to do, donating even a small amount to a classroom or local nonprofit can make me feel better.

But right now in Puerto Rico, the amount of help needed feels overwhelming, and no matter what I give, it doesn’t feel like enough.

That’s why I was so grateful when a group of amazing publishing folks let me jump in and help them with an ENORMOUS auction they’re putting together. So many authors, agents, editors, and illustrators have connections to Puerto Rico, and their worries and fears for their loved ones propelled them to action. And like most good deeds, this one has snowballed into something amazing.

Usually entering data in a spreadsheet or checking links on a website doesn’t thrill me, but in this case it really did. Because the outpouring of generosity, the truly tremendous number of high-level editors, literary agents, bestselling authors, and others who desperately want to give, to donate, to help…well, it is like balm to my soul.

So for the past several days I’ve been watching this thing grow, and now it’s happening. And I’m here to say, IT’S FREAKING AWESOME.

  • If you’re an aspiring writer or illustrator, you can bid on one-on-one editor or agent phone calls, full manuscript critiques and even a free pass into the editorial meeting at a big publishing house
  • If you’re a teacher or educator you can bid on classroom sets of signed books and Skype visits with beloved authors
  • If you’re an author and need publicity help or headshots you can bid on professional photographs or swag design
  • If you’re a mega-fan of some of today’s hottest Young Adult authors you can win signed books and swag
  • And much, much more!

There are literally over 250 prizes that range from the opportunity to be flown to New York to meet with an entire literary agency, to original artwork by award-winning artists, to hundreds of chances to get professional feedback on your writing.

And all of it directly benefits Puerto Rico. After carefully researching and vetting different charities, the donations will go to Unidos por Puerto Rico and ConPRmetidos. No money comes to us, but instead you donate directly and forward receipt of donation to claim your prize. There’s even a special raffle for anyone who wants to donate without bidding, (or donate even if they get outbid).

Read all about the #PubforPR auction here, and bookmark your favorite items so you can be ready to bid starting tomorrow. And please help spread the word…the more people share and support and bid and donate, the more help goes to those who so desperately need it.

So please, share widely with your friends, family, colleagues, and community. And let’s bring the power of storytelling together for Puerto Rico, where they so desperately need a happier ending.

https://pubforpr.wordpress.com

 

P.S. Here’s a video by the amazing Lily Meade, telling you all about it:

Upcoming Events and Scheduling School Visits

Hello, blog and website friends, and forgive my lack of information on bookish events. I’ve been in the process of updating my website for…well, longer than I intended, and the result is that events and other news have gotten short shrift.

SO! In an attempt to rectify that fact, (even as we finalize the updated website!) I am listing my next few bookstore and conference events below!

In addition, I’ll remind all teachers, librarians, and other educators that I am now booking school visits, which are tremendously fun for me and the hundreds and hundreds of kids who get to hear about writing, revision, rejection, new books, and my cats. Please take a look here for more information.

 

Fun fact: this school had just done a production of The Little Mermaid, and the coral was still in the background. I may have sung a few bars of Under the Sea.

School visits usually include lunch with a select group of kids! Talking with your mouth full totally allowed.

 

If you want to see me in a bookstore or conference, here is a list of my next few events. I will update as I add more!

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 19th, 6:30 PM TRIDENT BOOKSTORE, BOSTON, MA
I will be moderating a rather spectacular lineup of middle grade authors at Trident, and you can find out more about them and the event here.

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 26th, 7:00 PM PORTER SQUARE BOOKS, CAMBRIDGE, MA
I will be joining debut author Darcey Rosenblatt to talk about what makes a story for kids. More information here.

 

FRIDAY – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3-4, KIDLITCON, HERSHEY, PA
I am super-delighted to be joining authors Jen Swann Downey and Jordan Sonnenblick to talk about tackling tough subjects with humor at this amazing conference. More information and registration here.

 

Occasionally People Can Be Wonderful

I need to tell a story about a horrible thing that led to a lovely thing.

I recently participated in an online auction called Authors For Grenfell, which was created to raise funds for the victims of the horrible fire in London. One of the items available to bid on was the chance to name a character in Philip Pullman’s new book, the Book of Dust 2.Needless to say, bidding was fierce. And then this happened.

Over 500 people added to James’s bid — not for themselves — but to add money to the bid from a teacher who wanted to name a character Nur Huda el-Wahabi, for an ex-pupil who died in the fire.
The final amount raised, just by this one item, was over £32,000. Nur Huda will live forever in the magical world of Mr. Pullman, and countless others who lost everything will benefit from this generosity.
From the ashes, good things rise…

 

P.S. The auction is over, but you can still donate to victims of the fire, if you wish. British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund

Signed Books!

Hey friends! My new book is out in the world, and I’m delighted and hoping it flies far! Also in the world, The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island, now in convenient portable paperback! Huzzah!

To celebrate I went into town yesterday to get iced coffee, but walked by an antique/thrift shop that happened to have a set of kraken bookends on display. Reader, I bought them.

Awesome, right? I KNOW.

Anyway, thank you to all the under-the-cover-with-a-flashlight readers, book-lovers, educators, word ninjas, writers-in-training, and others who help celebrate the arrival of new books. If anyone wants a signed copy of THIS WOULD MAKE A GOOD STORY SOMEDAY and lives locally, come on by! And if you’re not local, or can’t make it this Saturday, either call Jabberwocky and they will have me personalize a book and they can ship it, or contact me directly to get a snazzy personalized bookplate!

 

A New Book! This Would Make A Good Story Someday is coming

It’s that exciting and sometimes slightly nausea-inducing moment when I realize that something that I made up while sitting alone in my office in cat-hair-covered yoga pants is actually going to go out into the world with my name on it!

Coming to bookstores, libraries, and bookshelves near you (I hope) is my newest book for nine-to-twelve-year-olds (Ish. My fifteen-year-old son informed me he thinks it’s my best book so far, so I guess older readers might like it too). This Would Make a Good Story Someday is the story of Sara Johnston-Fischer, her two moms, her younger sister Ladybug, and her older sister Laurel, and their summer travels on a cross-country train trip. But of course that’s not all it’s about.
It’s about, in no particular order:
  • Learning Latin
  • Learning to open your mind
  • Computer safety
  • Grand Canyon safety
  • Duck safety
  • Elvis Presley
  • Dying
  • Living
  • Texans
  • Writer’s block
  • Hair dye
  • Friendship
  • Sisters
  • The environment
  • Snoring
  • Writing
  • Roman centurions
  • Coffee
  • Family
  • What makes a good story
I’ll be honest with you. This was a hard book to write, and  in some ways a hard book to celebrate. The writing of it was hard for no particularly good reason. As I talked about on the wonderful Mr. Schu’s blog, I struggled mightily to find the core of this story. I don’t know why — it’s not that different from my other books — but for whatever reason I wrote in circles for months before finally unlocking Sara’s story. Still, I got there eventually, and wound up pretty delighted with the final product.
But now here we are, in the spring of 2017, and my mind isn’t really on book celebrations. There are hard conversations about really important things — health, equality, justice — happening all around us, and I’m spending a lot of time thinking, writing, and acting to support the values I believe in. With all of that in the background, it’s hard to feel like shouting from the rooftop “HEY YOU BUY MY BOOK!!”
But here’s the thing I believe. Stories ARE worth celebrating. Stories are how we connect with each other, how, as it’s been famously said, we find windows into other lives, mirrors that reflect our own lives, and doorways to step through and experience a world beyond our reckoning. Stories. Matter.
I write silly books, and this one is no different. There are shenanigans and mishaps and some hopefully amusing physical humor (at least I amused myself writing it, which is always the goal, to be honest).
I hope readers find their way to this book and laugh and roll their eyes and cringe at Sara and her ridiculous family. But I hope they also recognize that they are asking some of the same questions that we are all asking these days, and while there are no easy answers, talking always trumps silence.  I hope readers laugh at the scene through the windows of this book, but also step through the doorway and share Sara’s life.
So go ahead. Get yourself to your local independent bookstore, or a Barnes & Noble, or even the big online behemoth, and see if you think it’s a good story. I certainly hope you will!
Read on,
Dana

Marching. And What Comes After

This is a hard day.

I am frightened for the most vulnerable among us, for our whole country, for our foreign relations, and honestly, for our whole planet. I am desolate at the end of the Obama era, which was not perfect, but which filled me with a pride in my country and a hope for the future that I had never felt as an American. It’s not helping that the song from the Hamilton musical, One Last Time, is playing in my head, as though on endless repeat.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Obama_greets_the_cast_and_crew_of_Hamilton_musical,_2015.jpg

The cast of Hamilton with President Obama. Photo courtesy of: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Obama_greets_the_cast_and_crew_of_Hamilton_musical,_2015.jpg

It is easy to cry these days, and hard to do much else.

But I am incredibly privileged, with those privileges comes work. I have books to write, and food to cook. I have teenagers to parent and Congresspeople to call. I have signs to make and letters to write and stories to read and understand and share. There is so much to be done, and I’m tired already, but not as tired as so many people who have done so much more.

Like hundreds of thousands of others, I’m planning to march in one of the six hundred Women’s Marches this Saturday. I have friends who think this is a waste of time, that this is a feel-good indulgence of going through the motions. Who think that nothing will change.

They’re right, of course, and totally wrong. It will feel good. It will feel great to be among so many like-minded people, to get energy from the group and share a feeling that I am not alone. And it won’t make a difference, if by that we mean the new administration will not look at the million women, marching all through this country and around the world, and say, “Wow, they really mean it. I guess we’d better ensure quality healthcare and equal rights.”

File:The Obamas and the Bushes continue across the bridge.jpg

photo courtesy of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Obamas_and_the_Bushes_continue_across_the_bridge.jpg

Of course not. But action begets action, and voices amplify each other, and we are #StrongerTogether.

For anyone, really almost anywhere, who is reading this and wants to join a march, please do check out this website: https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters — there are marches happening all over, and it is very easy to plug into one. If you can’t march due to health, work, or family commitments, but really want to be a part of it, consider making a sign that another local marcher could carry or share. Or donate to support the marchers. Here are a bunch of other ideas: http://www.upworthy.com/thousands-will-be-in-dc-to-stand-with-women-heres-how-to-stand-with-them-from-home

Basically, if you want to feel like you’re a part of this movement, there are ways to do so, even if you can’t attend.

But afterwards, then what?

The energy, the signs, the chanting, the singing…it will all end, and then what?

Then we get back to work. As I wrote in an earlier post, I’ve committed to at least one act per day until the 2020 presidential election: an act of resistance, an act of activism, an act of gratitude or generosity. Sometimes my act can take a few hours, if I’m researching something for a new organization that’s working on political change. Sometimes my act can take 45 seconds, as I call Senators Warren and Markey and thank them for supporting an issue that matters to me. Sometimes my act is curling up and reading something that will open my mind and help me understand how best to serve.

I will do this Every. Single. Day. Because this is the job of citizen, and it’s one I’ve been phoning in for far too long.

So what do we do next?

STEP ONE: Well, I’d recommend starting by reading this:

IndivisibleGuide_2016-12-31_v1

It’s a guide written by former Congressional staffers who experienced the challenges of a small, well-organized, disruptive group who stood up against a government agenda. The punch line? The small group was the Tea Party, and the agenda was the progressive one that the Democrats hoped to enact. But the learning is there — like it or not, they were successful.

STEP TWO: Next, I would sign up for one or two of the hugely useful action email lists that have come into existence. These are well-vetted and thoughtful actions are easy to do. And because they come to you (in your inbox or Facebook page), it’s easy to keep abreast. It can be overwhelming — the bad news comes in so fast, and it can be hard to know where to start. But these offer a way to take a concrete step.

Here are a few:

 If you are on Facebook, there are some excellent groups doing day-to-day, activist work. Many of them are “secret” groups, meaning you can’t search for them. But if you are unable to link up with any leave a message in the comments and I will try to share some options.
Here’s a hint: don’t try to do everything. But try to do something. And take a little time to figure out what the most effective “something” might be.
  • Got time but no money? Maybe look for a place to volunteer to tutor English to recently arrived refugees, or mentor a kid.
  • Got money but no time? Maybe set up a recurring donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, or another organization that will be greatly needed.
  • Live in a “blue bubble” — a phrase used to describe very liberal enclaves, where Democrats are consistently in office? Keep an eye on Sisterdistrict and flippable and others who will be working to engage voters across districts and states.
  • Hate making phone calls? Tough. Do it anyway, because by all accounts, they really do matter, and honestly, I’m here to tell you it’s not that bad. Even if you mumble and stutter and feel like a fool, it will be over in a minute and you will be heard. Here’s a great link on how to deal with making political phone calls if you have social anxiety: http://echothroughthefog.cordeliadillon.com/post/153393286626/how-to-call-your-reps-when-you-have-social-anxiety
STEP THREE: Take some time to educate yourself, and try to help start a dialogue that will educate others. How do you do this? Well, I know I’m biased, but I’d start by reading (of course).
Congressman John Lewis’s account of the Civil Rights movement, Walking With the Wind, is incredible. So is Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist. Also the incredible young adult novel All-American Boys. Still on my to-read list is White Trash: The 400-Year Untold Story of Class in America. Below are some reading lists with good suggestions.
Suggest some of these in book club, or for a family read. Download the audiobook and make it your commute. See if your local library or adult education program has any events that center on race, class, politics, privilege, or other important subjects. Actually GO to these events, even if you’re uncomfortable — you don’t have to speak up. In fact sometimes it’s better just to listen.
Another critical education task: educate yourself, your kids, your colleagues and your family about how to spot fake news. Both the left-wing media and the right-wing media are guilty of click-bait headlines and false statistics that provoke outrage without the facts.
Do better. Do better by committing to pay for content — journalists need to get paid, and in order for reputable media to pay them, they need subscribers. So consider subscribing to the New York Times, the Washingon Post, The Atlantic, and others. Then, do better by learning about fake news. Believe it or not, some of the best journalism coming out these days is in Teen Vogue. Yes, as in a fashion magazine for teens. But here’s a great article they had on learning to spot fake news. (And yes, I am a paid subscriber!)
Also, this graphic is useful — share it widely. You may disagree with some of her placements; that’s fine. Just consider it a starting point for a research-based conversation, not a screaming match.

Courtesy of Vanessa Otero 2016 http://www.facebook.com/vanessa.otero.9619/posts/10155006385626062

STEP FOUR: Remember we are playing the long game. My mantra, when things feel overwhelming, is simple: Help the most vulnerable. Work toward a better future. When I’m spinning my wheels, that’s what I return to. Because at the end of the day, change will happen. It always does. But what form that change takes is up to us.
Onward.
https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3920/15128683288_438013c05c_b.jpg

Photo courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/126015850@N02/15128683288

Dark Times, and Turning Back Toward the Light

It’s the shortest day, today, which always feels important. One of my favorite poems in the world, by Susan Cooper, begins:

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.*

Of course there are twenty-four hours today (duh!), but here in the northern hemisphere we will have the least amount of daylight of the whole year, barely nine hours. The rest of the twenty-four will be dim and dreary and void of sunlight.

It’s a hard day, a hard time of year, and this year, more than ever. Times seem dark indeed, when terror attacks rock Germany, when people are murdered in Turkey, when thousands die in Aleppo, when here at home, our nation has failed to live up to what we hope and dream it will be. Dark times indeed.

The winter solstice is the first official day of winter, something that often feels a little sarcastic in New England, when we’ve been shoveling snow for weeks and watching our hair freeze if we go out with it wet. It can seem like winter has already been here too long, and will last forever.

But here’s the thing: I LOVE the winter solstice. I love the shortest day, the day I wake up over an hour before the sun rises, and practice yoga and get my kids ready for school in the murky dimness.

Because the NEXT day….well. We turn back toward the sun, that’s what happens. Minute by minute, in increments too small to notice right away, the days get longer. They might be frigid, and we might get buffeted with blizzard conditions that chill us to our core, but regardless, the sun is returning.

Tomorrow, we will be turning back toward the light, and what we each choose to do with those hours and minutes of sunlight is up to us.

Welcome to winter, fellow-Northern-Hemisphere-dwellers! And as we move through these dark days, let’s all remember that the light will return. The real question is what we will do with ourselves in the meantime. Personally, I don’t plan to wait. I’ll be doing everything I can think of to bring sunshine into our world. Hope you join me.

Onward!

*This poem is read every year at a wonderful play called Christmas Revels, and in fact you can buy notecards with the poem here

The Stories We Don’t Want to Tell: Aleppo

I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to write about it, or read about it, or learn more. Within the borders of our country I worry about our democracy; within the borders of my home there is snow falling outside the window and the smell of baking within. I don’t want to pay attention to what’s happening across the world, in Syria.

But I have to.

Aleppo is a city in the north of Syria. It used to be one of the country’s largest cities, with 2.3 million people. It was, actually, quite lovely.

Ancient Aleppo from Citadel

By anjci [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

But it has been in the crosshairs of a war for four long years, and it no longer looks like that. It looks like a bombed-out shell.

Umayyad-mosque-aleppo-2013

By Gabriele Fangi, Wissam Wahbeh [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This article from the BBC has photos of the before and after — old markets, historic sites, neighborhoods. The article also talks about who is fighting, and why, but the point, for those of us here, is not why, but who is left.

Recently the United Nations warned that over 100,000 civilians were trapped in the city as government forces pushed to take final control from the rebels who have been fighting them. Hospitals have been bombed. Food is running out. People are trapped and scared and the world is hearing this and not acting.

I don’t want to talk about this.

I don’t want to hear our United Nations ambassador Samantha Power, speaking to the Syrian government, saying “Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin?”

But we have to hear.

There are some incredible and heroic groups working to save people in Aleppo, and their stories move me almost as much as the tragedies of those who are trapped. I’ve donated money, given more donations as gifts in people’s names, and talked them up whenever the subject arises. But it doesn’t feel like enough.

So when my wonderful author-friend Rachael Allen (who writes some of the most hilarious and swoony YA when she’s not being a neuroscientist or SuperMom), contacted me and said she wanted to do SOMETHING  for Aleppo, I was delighted. She wanted to try and rally the children’s writing community to raise more funds, and I was grateful to her for having the idea, and for galvanizing me to action.

Here we go.

Rachael and I decided that we’d try a fast Twitter-based fundraiser, where (hopefully) numerous authors will offer prizes to those who donate to one of the worthy organizations helping in Aleppo. Here’s how it will work:

WHEN: TOMORROW!

WHERE: TWITTER – look for the hashtag #KidlitForAleppo

WHAT: A group of authors will offer these prizes under the hashtag #KidlitForAleppo on Twitter. Prizes will include critiques, signed books, signed advanced reader copies of books not out yet, and more!

WHO: Anyone who donates to one of the following organizations, or another proven organization doing work on the ground in Aleppo. Just screenshot your donation (keep private info private, of course) and respond to the author’s tweet.

RULES: Only one prize per donation, using the honor system. Don’t be a jerk.

DONATE: Any one of the following organizations are amazing and worth your money:

There are other trustworthy organizations worth donating to, and certainly if people choose to donate that counts toward a prize. Some other groups mentioned here are also doing good work.

AUTHORS: If you want to participate, email me or just jump in tomorrow on Twitter, offering a prize for those who donate, using the hashtag #KidlitForAleppo.

ASPIRING WRITERS/EDUCATORS/READERS/BOOK LOVERS: Please consider getting on Twitter tomorrow and searching the hashtag, and making a donation. Some wonderful authors will be offering prizes, all for a good cause.

So, again, I don’t really want to talk about this, and I don’t know if it will make a difference. The whole “light a candle instead of cursing the darkness thing” — it can feel pointless. After all, one candle doesn’t feel like much. But when everyone lights a candle…

Well. The light gets brighter, that’s all.

Onward.

2007 Virginia Tech massacre candlelight vigil 4

By Anonymous contributor (Anonymous contributor) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On Safety Pins and Stories; On Listening and Speaking Out

How do we start at the beginning?

Do we begin with an election, an election between two flawed human candidates, but also one where one candidate had demonstrated, through decades of actions, her qualifications, and the other had demonstrated (also through decades of actions), his political inexperience, his bullying, and his lack of self-control?

Or do we begin farther back, with President Obama and those who wanted to insist that the election of a black president meant the United States no longer had any race issues?

Or even farther, to the inescapable fact that our nation, our “city on a hill,” was built on twin towers of shame: the eradication of the people who lived here before the first wave of immigrants arrived, and the tradition of slavery that ended not so long ago?

I don’t know. America’s history is in many ways no worse than most other modern nations. And there is much to be proud of here, much that Americans rightly hold up as the beacon they hope to be to the world. This is a complicated, complex issue that many smart people will spend years unraveling. But I am a storyteller, and more specifically, a children’s book writer, so I am trying to make sense of this story.

All stories have heroes and villains, scapegoats and tragic missteps. The best stories make us think…really think…about who is good or bad, and how the events unfold.

Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election to a man who has, for the last year, been a megaphone of fear and anger for this country. His election tells us less about him — a funhouse mirror that warps and distorts what it reflects in America — than it does about our country. People are angry about their loss of the American dream (whether mythical or real), about the fact that they used to know their place in the world and now that place is less clear, about the fact that while President Obama talked about hope and opportunity, they felt stuck and lost and unable to see a path forward. It matters hugely why so many people felt so lost and betrayed, and which policies and politicians truly failed our population. But that’s not the story I’m going to talk about.

I’m going to talk about what comes next.

My heart hurts, actually hurts in my chest, and has since last Tuesday night. I ping-pong back and forth between slowly feeling better, slowly getting back into some parts of my normal life (cleaning the bathroom, figuring out who’s taking care of the cats next week), and feeling incapacitated with sadness and fear over what comes next. In some ways I’m afraid to get back to work, because I’m afraid that I, as a white woman in a small liberal Northeast city, will lose focus. I’ll go back to tutting over the news, and donating money when I have it, and forget that an earthquake just jolted my country. I can’t allow that to happen. We are surrounded by damage, and the long-term consequences are unknowable.

One action that people took right after the election was to put a safety pin on their jacket. This small gesture began in England after that country voted, in a similarly surprising and upsetting vote, to leave the European Union. The vote was largely related to how the British felt about the recent influx of immigrants, and the result was a resounding and angry statement that they are not welcome. The safety pin, there and now here, is supposed to symbolize a welcoming presence; a way to say, without words, “I am on your side. I did not vote to exclude you. I will stand up for you.”

After last Tuesday, the safety pin movement grew quickly. On social media people posted photos of themselves proudly wearing a pin, and a group of children’s book illustrators created beautiful artwork of inclusivity, showing their characters wearing the symbolic safety pin. But then a backlash arrived. People of color, and of other maligned groups, spoke up that those wearing pins were not actually willing to speak their values, and were standing by while vulnerable individuals were being harassed. There were accusations of people wearing pins to feel good, but not to support those who needed it. In response, some white folks felt angry and hurt, like their goodwill was being thrown back in their faces. Understandable, I suppose. Those who are most at risk do not want to see feel-good symbols that don’t translate to action. Those who truly want to create a safe space don’t want to feel accused and defensive, like they are the bad guys.

Stories, again, are complicated.

Another common response after last week was a call to get over the animosity of the election, to move forward together, and to give the new administration a chance. These are all reasonable ideas. Or would be, in a reasonable time. But as Maya Angelou famously said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The president-elect has shown us who he is. He has mocked a physically disabled reporter. He has called for his political opponent to be jailed, despite the fact many aggressive FBI-led campaigns against her have turned up no wrongdoing. He has spoken of assaulting women. He has called for a religious group to be rounded up and registered. Again, in a normal time, moving forward and assuming the best of someone is reasonable. In this moment, the calls to do so are really calls to normalize and accept what is not normal.

Online and in real life, I’m surrounded by like-minded people. We are all mourning, trying to make sense of what just happened. Specifically we are trying to both understand how we can be so disconnected from our country, and also to figure out what happens now. This presidency is unprecedented in modern times. Someone running on a platform of autocracy and fear has won the highest office in the land. Will our system of checks and balances be enough to hold him to what I’ll call the ongoing workaday hurtful policies against women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, healthcare, global environment and so on? Or are we in uncharted waters? Will he cut off access to the media? Force a religious registration that echos horribly of Germany at the rise of Hitler? What is going to happen? What can we do?

What can we do?

When writing my books, I sometimes lose my way. I get bogged down in details and write paragraphs, sometimes whole chapters, that do nothing to move the story forward. When this happens I have to regroup, read over my original outline, and try to remember what I’m aiming for. That is where I am now. I cannot get bogged down. I have to remember the story I want to tell, and that is a story of resistance and positive action.

So what can we do?

Here’s what I think:

  • I think that wearing a safety pin, or an “I’m with Her” button, or a Black Lives Matter button, is a great idea. It shows others that you support something and that you’re willing to show it.
  • I think wearing a safety pin and not practicing HOW you are going to intervene, how you will speak up on a subway, in the cafeteria, on the school bus, in the PTO meeting, is a bad idea. It’s scary and hard to stand up. It takes preparation and practice. Here are three great links on how to figure out what to do:
  • I think the biggest risk right now is that people who are angry and want change will walk away from this movement. That people of privilege will get offended or feel unwelcome, or that people who are most vulnerable will get angry or despair. I think we — meaning all of us who oppose the direction of our country — need to stay focused on our common goals, even as we disagree and debate and speak truth to each other. Complacency and cynicism are our enemies. We must fight against them.
  • I think those most at risk have a right to be angry and skeptical that the most privileged among us will keep fighting. I think those of us with privilege have to sit with that, not get defensive, and work to prove that yes, we are going to keep showing up.
  • I think we need to speak up when it is scary to speak, and listen when it is uncomfortable to listen.
  • I think walking away from the fight is a terrible idea.
  • I think that even as we all work together on the big issues, we also each individually need to pay attention to the smaller issues close to home. In the children’s book world, the safety pin artwork is glorious, and hopefully teachers will use them in classrooms to cultivate inclusivity and dialogue. But let’s also look at publishing, and how much work we have to do to bring more diverse voices to children. Again, we need both. We need to stand up to overt hatefulness, and also look at more insidious systems that we ourselves might be complicit in maintaining.
  • I think it is easy to be motivated now, but much harder to remain motivated for the next four years. To that end, I’ve created a challenge for myself, called #SustainedOutrage. I have pledged that every day, since the day after the election and until election day 2020, I will take an action for change. I will not get complacent and slip back into my privilege. I will not lose focus. I will keep on. What will I do for the next 1449 days? Not sure, but here’s a sample of what I’ve done so far:
    • Set up a recurring monthly donation to the American Civil Liberties Union
    • Wrote a letter of support to a dear friend who took weeks off from her job to work on the campaign
    • Donated my books to an LGBT-friendly church in Montana that needed some love
    • Called and wrote my elected officials to oppose the new president’s political appointments
  • I hope you will join me with your own acts of #SustainedOutrage — share with me on Twitter or Facebook if so.

 

Finally, I think this story is far from over, and that we all need to write the next chapter together.

ONWARD.

img_2181