Right now, our world is going through an incredible state of upheaval. From the coronavirus pandemic to the new wave of civil rights, everywhere we look there’s something to make us feel anxious about. As authors, this can impact us in the form of slowing our words or lighting them on fire.
Regardless of which way the events take you, you might still be wondering…
What can I do to make a difference?
I’ve been doing a lot of listening and doing a lot of thinking regarding our society, where we are, where we’re headed, and taking a critical look at the country’s narrative right now. I may not be black, but I do have the power of the pen. I may not be gay, but I do have the power of my voice. I may not be fighting cancer, but I do have the power to raise money for their cause with my books.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
It is the stance of the Lakes Area Writers Alliance, as a 501c3 nonprofit, and my stance as well, that we are all one race – the human race. Discrimination and bigotry has no place in this group. We need to love and support one another and celebrate our differences. Those differences are a thing of beauty and they always have been. As authors, we have an obligation to shine a light on that beauty.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
WRITE & READ DIVERSITY
The first way we can really make a difference is by writing (and truthfully reading) books that are multicultural and diverse. Did you know there’s even an event called Multicultural Children’s Book Day?
LAWA Member (and previous Membership Director) Rebecca Flansburg has been a part of the organization and planning of this event for a number of years and it’s an incredible event. The idea is to provide children with books that celebrate diversity and show them how beautiful the world really is. MCCBD takes place in January, with the next one being January 29, 2021. However, if you’d like to get involved with the actual event, they have a timeline on their site of what they do to get prepared for the day. For example, in July, they’re beginning to look for Author Sponsors. Perhaps you could be one? If you’re a book blogger or have kids, you can also sign up to get free multicultural books to read and review with your kids. I’ve done this in the past and my kids still read their multicultural books over and over. I’m sure Becky would even love it if you’d reach out to her.
Another great resource is the We Need Diverse Books site. The nonprofit has ways to get involved through volunteering, as well as scholarships and grants available for YA and children’s book authors who want to write books that celebrate diversity.
As authors, whether we write children’s books or not, we can also celebrate diversity by writing in characters who are of different ethnicities, colors, sexual orientations, have disabilities, have mental health problems, who struggle with drug addictions, or are poor—everything. Not only does this help to highlight the beauty and “oneness” of our differences, but it opens both the reader and the writer’s perspectives just a little bit more, which, in my opinion, is part of the point. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean you have to always make the main character that person, and this especially true if it would come across as disingenuous. But if you are able to, taking the time to step into someone else’s shoes when they are different from your own can be an enlightening endeavor. It can also give someone who is that person, say a trans black woman or a down syndrome man—a book or character to root for. Everyone deserves at least one book that really resonates with them as a human being.
This doesn’t mean rolling into every online fight and running your mouth off when you don’t have all the facts. Don’t be a troll and definitely don’t say things you don’t mean. We all can make the mistake of speaking before we think. I get it, it happens. As authors, we have a duty to not only ourselves, but our audience, to do what’s right to the best of our ability. As we get more well known, our platform becomes wider and it means people we can reach more people. However, it doesn’t mean that platform is always stable. You can still trip up and upset a lot of people off. Just look at JK Rowling right now on Twitter. It doesn’t matter how big or little your platform is, whenever possible, you still need to stop and think:
- Is it true?
- Is it helpful?
- Is it inspiring?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
The goal here is to speak your truth, but to also know that sometimes our truths can be someone else’s pain or trigger point. Sometimes they’ll misunderstand you. Sometimes, they won’t listen. But as long as you stay true to your heart and say things out of a place of kindness, you will help create a vision for a better future.
DONATE TO CAUSES THAT MATTER
As authors, we can highlight causes that are near and dear to us. This year, I am donating 50% of my royalties from Secret Legacy to the American Cancer Society. This is because cancer has played a big role in my life. I was just five years old when my middle brother, Scott, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He wasn’t meant to live past two years old, but somehow miraculously made it to 35. This cause was chosen early in 2020, so it’s nothing new for me. It wasn’t chosen because of the craziness happening right now in our world. It was chosen because I knew a list-aim title means selling a lot of books and if that was the case, I should do some good with it, too.
For those who are looking for ways to celebrate gender diversity, you should check out the Otherwise Award, formerly the Triptree Award. The organization has been around for a while, and I highly encourage you to go out to their website to check them out. But you can donate, volunteer, and read books recommended by the group, as well as the award-winning pieces. They also stand in solidarity with racial justice and have provided a list of books celebrating black authors who imagine the world…otherwise.
You can also donate to organizations like ours, which are constantly striving to reach out to our community of writers, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, political preference, etc.
Whatever your cause, find one to support that is in alignment with your soul and your journey. This year, it might be the American Cancer Society, next year it might be something totally different. One year, it might be to donate time. The next, it might be money. Wherever you’re at and whatever you can do, let’s go forward into the second half of 2020 striving to make the world a better place. Deal?
Carissa Andrews is an international bestselling indie author from central Minnesota. This year, she is attempting to hit the NYT and USAT Bestseller Lists with her new series, The Windhaven Witches. 50% of the royalties from Secret Legacy (Book 1) is being donated to the American Cancer Society. She is the founder of Author Revolution, an online course platform dedicated to those wanting to embrace the challenge of indie authorship. She is also the board president of the Lakes Area Writers Alliance. To learn more, you can visit her websites at: www.carissaandrews.com and www.authorrevolution.org.