I am so stoked to be part of this project:
Luke Reynolds, ed.'s BREAK THESE RULES, an anthology of first-person accounts from leading authors for teens (including Sara Zarr, Kathryn Erskine, A.S. King and Gary Schmidt, and many others), from which all royalties will be donated to the Children's Defense Fund, to Lisa Reardon at Chicago Review Press, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World).
The Children's Defense Fund is an amazing organization that, in an ideal world, shouldn't have to exist. While we're all arguing this election year, look at candidates' views on children and what they do for them. Look closely at how candidates feel about the poor. While some people are yelling, "Get a job!" they seem to overlook that children can't get jobs. Poor children are a reality. A big reality in this country. In PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, the pagoda mentioned that 47% of children in that town lived under the poverty line. That fictional town was fashioned after my own town, Reading, Pennsylvania, which now tops the nation's poverty list.
This could be you. No. Seriously. It could be. You could lose your job. It happens every day. Your parents could lose their house. That happens every day, too. You might lose your health insurance. You might one day be the person who needs help. Needing help isn't fun. It's embarrassing, depressing and feels hopeless. For children in these situations, how do you think it makes them feel? What do you think it does for their sense of hope? How do you think it feels to be a hungry child who hears, "Get a job!" more than "Hey, let me help you"?
During an awesome Skype session with a Westborough, MA classroom earlier this week, one student came back to the computer and said he liked that PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ talked about how the world is messed up. He said (I'm paraphrasing) "The world is so messed up and nobody seems to be doing anything about it." We discussed how talking about how the world is messed up and actually tackling the issues and getting involved in our communities and our messed up world was the only way to change it.
I think I said something like, "The only way to help make the world less messed up is to do. Talking about it is the first step."
Yelling "Get a job!" isn't really going to help anyone. And it's all fine and good that people don't want to help other people, I guess. It's a free country. Be a selfish dinkus all you want. What isn't fine and good is how quickly their mind will change the minute they lose their job, their house, their health insurance or their bloated feeling of being right about everything. Some people are immune to these risks. Most of us are not.
Compassion is dying on a political battlefield.
The biggest casualties are children.
The piece I wrote for BREAK THESE RULES is about speaking up. The more of us who speak up, the more chance we have to make the world less messed up. Sure, in adult land, this makes me a dreamer--some kind of pseudo teenager with crazy ideals. I say--there's nothing wrong with being any of these things. Adults may scoff. They may tell me to get a job. They may think I'm being immature. But I see it a different way.
If you're an adult and you don't care about how the world is messed up? You're the lazy, entitled brats who are the problem. If you already know how messed up the world is and think that there is nothing that can be done? Then you're just making excuses.
I say: Get a real job. Volunteer.