Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1999, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak introduced a teenage heroine who, retreating into isolation and silence after she is raped, finds solace only in her art. A National Book Award finalist for Young People’s Literature, the novel enjoyed notable critical and commercial success, and was released in paperback by Puffin in 2001. When that license reverted to Macmillan Children’s Publishing a decade later, the company had its own paperback imprint in place, and Square Fish published a trade paperback edition of Speak in 2011. To acknowledge the house’s consolidation of rights to the novel, Macmillan is partnering the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) in a campaign to raise awareness of and funds for that organization during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
The campaign and its Web site launches April 2 – the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Day of Action – and will run through the month. Macmillan will match up to $10,000 in donations to RAINN and will cosponsor several incentive programs. These include a “How Speak Spoke to Me” contest, to be judged by Anderson and representatives of Macmillan and RAINN, in which fans of the novel submit a piece of writing, art, or a film addressing Speak’s impact on them. The first-place finisher will win a Skype interview with the author.
Other components of the campaign include an online auction for a manuscript critique by Anderson, an author visit to the school that raises the most money for RAINN during the month, and giveaways of signed copies of Speak to those who make a $75 donation.
Recalling Speak’s origins, Anderson notes that several factors inspired the novel. “I started writing Speak in 1996,” she says. “I have a journalism background, and had covered a rape trial for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and that ripped something out of my soul. It was a horrific crime – of course rape always is – but this man was also charged with kidnapping, since he held the woman for a long time. He got off, and shortly after that I saw him at a mall, and it triggered an explosion somewhere in my soul. That, combined with the fact that my oldest daughter was in sixth grade and adolescence was beginning to rear its head, was the genesis of Speak.”
The author explains that she was “stunned” by readers’ response to Speak, which has sold more than three million copies domestically in hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions. “I didn’t even think it would be published, since this is one of those books that you kind of write for yourself,” she says. “I had been sexually assaulted myself, and though this is not a memoir, it is about an emotional journey that I am very familiar with. I’d hoped it would be appreciated, but the reception to the book still takes my breath away. Speak started a conversation, and I know it helped survivors of rape to speak out about their own experiences and to get help and heal. To me this is a staggering gift.”
When Anderson and Macmillan staffers began brainstorming about how to commemorate the house’s multi-imprint publication of Speak, the author immediately thought of RAINN. “I talked about the fact that I always travel with RAINN contact info, since I am always meeting rape survivors,” she explains. “RAINN is a resource I point people to, since they are professional, secure, and safe – they save and change lives. When the people at Macmillan heard what they do, they were very excited to partner with them.”
Joy Peskin, editorial director of Farrar, Straus & Giroux Books for Young Readers, calls the Speak–inspired fundraising partnership with RAINN “a scenario where everything came together perfectly.” Referring to Speak as “a jewel in the FSG crown,” she said they wanted to do something special to mark the company’s publication of the book in paperback, “and this is the ideal way to do that.”
Noting that Anderson is always looking for ways to spread awareness of RAINN and support the organization, as well as to encourage readers’ creativity, Peskin says, “With this fundraiser, Laurie didn’t want only students with the greatest financial resources to win prizes, so the idea of the ‘How Speak Spoke to Me’ contest came up as an way to inspire aspiring writers and artists. Speak has inspired many people do a lot of positive things, including tell their own stories. We’re very excited to see what contestants will share.”