Nevertheless, they persisted. The Kid Lit community, which consistently works to rally support for numerous causes it champions, has set its sights on the midterm elections. The core group of YA authors that recently raised its collective voice—and more than $240,000 to date—to protest the separation of children and families at U.S. borders, and also issued a statement of support for victims of abuse #KidLit4Truth in light of the Kavanaugh hearings for the Supreme Court, launched a #28DaysofAction campaign on October 8 to get out the vote nationwide.
This time around, bestselling author Rainbow Rowell was the catalyst for mobilizing an always evolving group of roughly 20 friends and fellow writers that also includes Margaret Stohl, Melissa de la Cruz, Sabaa Tahir, and Tomi Adeyemi. “At the beginning of October, I was thinking about how close the midterms were, and how important they are, and how much anxiety I was feeling about them,” Rowell recalled about her idea for the new campaign. “I decided that I needed to channel those feelings into action. That I needed to commit to really doing what I could to help get out the vote. And maybe I needed to make that commitment public, to hold myself accountable.”
Rowell admits that she initially had planned not to try to recruit anyone to join her in her game plan. “I find that really difficult,” she said, noting her admiration for Stohl and de la Cruz’s boldness in rallying the author community for Kid Lit Says No Kids in Cages. “But then I thought, this month is all about reaching outside of my comfort zone to do the right thing,” said Rowell. “So I sent an email to authors who had participated in other actions, added a few people, and asked if anyone would want to do this with me.” Not surprisingly, she got a terrific response. “YA and middle grade authors—like people all over the country—have stepped up since the presidential election,” Rowell said. “This is a pretty compassionate, passionate group. Many people I contacted were already doing the work; this just formalized it and made it easier to share.”
De la Cruz noted that sustaining momentum for the Kid Lit activist efforts is not always easy. “Margie [Stohl] and I were really despairing and fatigued, and just felt like we had nothing more to offer,” she said. “And then Rainbow emailed out of the blue and took charge, saying she really wanted to do something for the midterms, which we were so grateful for. It’s nice to know energy moves around, and what we’ve found is someone always takes up the banner when we are flagging. Kid Lit is amazing.”
According to Rowell, the goal of #28DaysofAction is to do one thing each day leading up to November 6 to assist in a race or encourage voting. “It can be something small, like encouraging a friend to vote or researching your local ballot, or something that feels big, like canvassing or phonebanking,” she explained. The parameters of the campaign, Rowell said, are intentionally loose. Each participating author chooses races they care about and “the actions that feel right to them,” she added. “And we’re encouraging our friends and readers to do the same.”
The calendar graphic that accompanies the social media hashtag #28DaysofAction is the creation of Drew Davies at Oxide Design in Omaha, where Rowell noted she used to work.
A week into the effort, Rowell has already made some observations. “One thing I’ve noticed is how quickly this effort pushed me to get involved in new ways,” she said, mentioning that she has signed up with Postcards to Voters and has phonebanked for her local congressional candidate, Kara Eastman.
“None of this comes easily or naturally to me,” Rowell emphasized. “I’m so much more comfortable alone in my office, behind my computer. And I think that normally I let my anxiety and hesitance slow me down. I might spend a month thinking about getting involved before I actually do it—all the while retweeting news stories that make me more anxious.”
But the challenge of having to do something every day has successfully eliminated Rowell’s hesitance. “I’m also learning so much about the political process and about grassroots campaigning,” she said. “Amy Spalding is an author who’s always getting involved in smart ways. Every day I check the #28DaysOfAction tag on Twitter and boost cool posts. And every day, Amy is out there doing something interesting and impactful.”
De la Cruz believes that standing on the sidelines is not an option. “For me, at this time in America, it feels like silence is complicity, and action is the way out of despair,” she said. It feels so much better to do something than just worry about it. I feel really lucky that I am in a group of like-minded people.”
Though it’s difficult to gauge exactly how the campaign is going or its effect (until the November votes are actually counted), Rowell hopes that this push is demonstrating “how easy it is to get involved and how good it feels. Even if people don’t take part every day, but they feel moved to make one donation or go get a yard sign, that’s still a victory, right? I find that all of these actions feel so much more doable after the first time you do them. You’re more likely to pitch in the next time.”