Dear Neighbor Please Vote

Last fall, my picture book COME WITH ME, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre, came out—my publisher also printed postcards, carrying the message of the book: Because as small as it might seem, your part matters to the world. I gave away a lot of postcards, and they were used in a variety of ways by teachers and librarians and students. The picture below is from Patrick Andrus, an amazing 4th grade teacher in Minnesota who used the cards for Unity Day at his school. He asked each of his students to write a postcard to someone who had made a difference in their lives; Patrick told me it was an incredibly moving experience, and if you’d like to read more about it, you can do that on his blog.

 

Through watching teachers like Patrick, I also wanted to do something to make the world a better place, more than just writing the book itself . . . the opportunity came last June, when my friend Julie Burstein asked me if I wanted to partner with her to create raisingourvoices.today. I am both a writer and a literary agent, and our agency represents some of the most distinguished artists working today—Julie and I wanted to use art to bring attention to the asylum-seeking families in detention camps. What better way than to ask the artists I knew to create powerful images that would immediately communicate our message? So Julie created the site, and I reached out to many of my artist friends—their images came in fast and loud and beautiful, and from these graphics, anybody can download and print posters, like the ones below. Julie’s and my mission has just two rules: no money  passes through our site (all of our images are donated by our artists and free to download). As well, all of our campaigns focus on bettering the lives of children. Our first campaign, the Families Belong Together campaign, went better than we possibly could have hoped for, and people carried our posters around the world on the day of the #familiesbelongtogether marches, June 26. We are still offering these images on the site, as the terrible problem of children being separated from their families continues to grow.

 

So I thought I’d let everybody know about our new campaign, which is called Dear Neighbor Please Vote. We are offering lawn signs and postcards, all with beautiful, gentle images by children’s illustrators, to encourage everybody who is eligible to vote in the mid-term elections on November 6. Inspired by the Come with Me postcards, we are hoping that children will hand-deliver these postcards to their neighbors and remind them to go out and cast their ballot. The lawn signs take about two weeks to arrive, so if you would like one,  you should order soon. Below are some of the images that are available, with many more on the site. You could even have a postcard party within your community or at your school. In fact, Julie and I are hosting one in collaboration with the Maplewood Memorial Library in New Jersey on Wednesday, September 26, at 4pm.

 

 

I hope these beautiful non-partisan images inspire you as they have inspired me—if you’d like to hear a little more about us, you can listen to this podcast that aired last night on Publishers Weekly Insider.

And if you want to help spread the word, please use these hashtags: #votenov6 #dearneighborpleasevote #raisingourvoices

Biggest thank you of all to the extraordinary artists who created images with such enthusiasm and love. You can read about them here.

Layers, this One’s for You, Oldest

Our oldest left for college last fall . . . and her sister, whose room was designed as a baby nursery attached to the master bedroom, moved into her room. We’d allowed Oldest to write on her walls throughout her childhood; her pen of choice was Sharpie. I loved reading her poems and quotations and learning about who she was and what was important to her.

But now it is Younger Sister’s room (apparently they had agreed to the swap a few years back over email, and Oldest felt obliged to honor the agreement). And the very day Oldest went to college her sister cleaned out that room, with a vacuum and 409 and rags . . . when she finished she said she also wanted to paint the walls.

I felt sad at first, because these walls filled me with a sense of awe. Sometimes I would go in Oldest’s room when she wasn’t around and marvel at the breadth and depth of her mind; she was so young but so old too—she’d lost a great deal of her childhood to a devastating illness, but had come out strong.

After I had photographed every word on those walls and filed the images in a google drive, I was able to say “okay” to painting. I had preserved them, yes, but I also knew in my heart that every word Oldest had ever written on those walls would be there for always, right beneath the surface. And I understood that Younger Sister needed space to spread her wings.

It took five coats of primer to cover that Sharpie . . .
with every coat, I wondered what other layers were beneath Oldest’s, layers I couldn’t see but nevertheless were there, like the layers in all of us.

The walls are now Diamond White, the choice of Younger Sister, and I don’t think she plans to write on them. My loss. But also my gift, because the act of painting over these words gave me space to reflect on Oldest, how much hope I have for the world because people like her are out there in it now, ready to make it better with their gifts.