The program is simple: I’m donating every cent I receive (including the advance) from the sale of both hardcover and paperback copies of the Children No More to Falling Whistles to help rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers.
Why I’m doing it is a bit more complicated.
In February 2010, I attended TEDActive. During a break in the first day’s sessions, I decided that I wanted to do more than just participate in conversations about improving the world; I wanted to do something, something potentially large. Though none of the sessions were about child soldiers, Children No More is--and I was deep into the third draft of it at that point. The novel is, I believe, a page-turner of a good story, as it should be, but it is also at another level a meditation on the challenges of rehabilitating and reintegrating child soldiers.
Though I have never been a child in war, this topic is near and dear to my heart. For more on why, let me quote from my own afterword to Children No More.
The use of children as soldiers is one of those topics that few people like to discuss. Depending on what you read and watch, you can go a very long time without bumping into it. Do a Web search on the subject, however, and you’ll find that children are fighting and dying every day. Hard numbers are, as you might expect, difficult to come by, but groups such as The International Rescue Committee (www.theirc.org) estimate about 300,000 boys and girls are involved today in this horrific practice.
I find this deeply disturbing. I think everyone should.
I understand that in the catalog of the world’s woes, a cause with only a few hundred thousand sufferers may seem like a small thing. Numerically, it certainly falls way below hunger, disease, poverty, and many other vital issues humanity must address. But these are children, children whom adults are turning into soldiers, and that is simply wrong.
I must confess to a special connection to this cause because of personal experience—not, I hasten to note, as a child soldier. I have never experienced anything as bad as what these boys and girls undergo.
I did, however, spend three years in a youth group that trained young boys to be soldiers. The group’s intentions were good: To use military conventions and structures to teach discipline, fitness, teamwork, and many other valuable lessons. It certainly accomplished many of those goals with me.
The year I joined, however, was 1965, and war was ramping up in Viet Nam. I was ten years old. On my first day, an active soldier on leave showed up and acted as our drill sergeant. That day, I saw my first—but not my last—necklace of human ears and learned the ethics of collecting them. That afternoon, I stood at attention in the hot Florida sun while this grown man screamed at me and, when I cried, punched me in the stomach so hard that I fell to the ground and threw up. He put his boot on my head and ground the side of my face into my vomit.
That was not the worst day I had in those three years. It wasn’t even close.
My worst days with that group were nothing compared to what the child soldiers endure. Nothing.
That day in Palm Springs, I realized that I didn't need to rely on anyone else--not my publisher, not the bookstores, not anyone--to help those children. I just had to do it.
So, I talked with my publisher, Toni Weisskopf, who was supportive. Some friends and I started researching charities that help child soldiers and other children in war. After a few months of conversations and negotiations, we decided to partner with Falling Whistles, people who work on this cause every day. A small group of friends and co-workers also agreed to lend their talents to the project.
My goal is simple: To raise as much money as possible for this cause by selling as many hardbacks as possible--and keeping none of the proceeds.
I hope to do it by making gift-giving painless--no, not painless, enjoyable. You don't have to pay anything extra to get the book; in fact, my publisher has made it the cheapest of my hardback novels ever. All you have to do is buy it, enjoy a good read, and in the process you'll be doing a good deed.
Of course, if you'd like to do more, tell your friends. Spread the word. If you want to contribute more ideas, email me via the form on the Web site and let me know.
Help spread the word! Here is a 150x400px jpg that you can use on your own website or mail to others. If you use it as a link please direct it to www.childrennomore.com/giveaway.html