Anger is everywhere. So is judgement. There is a mean-spirited political race going on right now. The Internet is full of people spouting off everything they hate about everything all the time. People are getting offended. And people are getting hurt.
A month ago Facebook introduced the new "reactions" emoji choices that people could use instead of a simple "like" button. This gave people the opportunity to have a sad face when there was sad news. Some people were outraged that there was no "dislike" button, but Mark Zuckerberg came forward and declared that he would not add that button. Even though the outcry was that people didn't want to "like" bad news like when someone is sick, loses a job, or there is a death in the family, etc, he said, “We need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there.” I couldn't agree more. Giving a "dislike" button also gives people the power to say that they dislike your selfie, your daughter's recital video, your book cover, your hair, your joke, your opinion... In other words, it gives people the option to be mean.
And that already exists. Look at YouTube. You can thumbs-down a video and break the heart of the poor girl's video of herself singing in her bathroom. Look at Goodreads or Amazon, where a person has the ability to give bad reviews by posting 1 star and callous words. My heart wonders why anyone would want to go on the Internet and tell the world what they don't like about something, but I suppose people have their reasons for feeling that their poor opinions are of value in some way.
All the anger and sadness was getting me down. I decided I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to bring some light back into the world by sharing quotes by famous people about kindness. I call it the #kindnesscampaign. I'm making these cards myself and having lots of fun with it. Every day I post a new one on my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages. I've even started a Pinterest page of them. In doing this, I've attracted some new followers on my pages, people who also have accounts about positive messages. Now my Instagram and Twitter feeds are full of wonderful, uplifting thoughts. It's so refreshing.
But what does this have to do with writing or children's books? you are wondering. Get on topic, Donna! As a writer, I feel it is my duty to support other writers. Therefore if I don't care for a book I've read, I take a tip from Thumper from Bambi and if I "don't have somthin' nice to say, don't say nothin' at all." Although, I almost always find something kind to say, because I rarely pick up a book I wasn't interested in reading. I only give positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, or I don't leave a review.
As far as the Kindness Campaign relating to children's and YA books? There's a simple reason why I love reading and writing them: they are about kind people. Think about it. The heroes of these books are good, well-meaning kids fighting against horrible, awful people and rising above it all. Think of Matilda dealing with her parents or the kids fighting their evil uncle in A Series of Unfortunate Events. What incredible role models they make.
Sometimes the characters make mistakes or terrible decisions that hurt people along the way, but if it is a good book the main character comes around or learns a valuable lesson about it. Harry Potter's major struggles are obvious, but look at how he befriends the misfits at school instead of going with the obviously popular and powerful group of Slytherins - and this includes people like Luna, Neville and Hagrid. This is a theme seen in many children's books, isn't it? Also, you have Hermione standing up for the house elves who are basically slaves. I could go on and on.
I wrote my own books long before I started the Kindness Campaign, obviously, but if I look at them, I can find the theme of goodness. Juniper Sawfeather, from Cry of the Sea, is a bit of a loner because of her activist parents, but she's true to her one good friend Haley even if Haley desires to be one of the popular kids. It is also her kind heart and sympathy that makes her not only care for the stranded mermaid creatures but to actually begin to understand one of them.
"I'm sorry," I said to the mermaid, touching the glass softly. "We weren't fast enough."The mermaid looked into my eyes. She understood me. Maybe not my words so much, but she recognized the sincerity behind them... Instead of talking with words, the mermaid simply let out a squeaking noise similar to the sound of a dolphin.
"Did she just make a sound?" Dr. Schneider asked.
"Yes, " I said. "I think she was talking to me."
The mermaid made that squeaking noise again, much more urgently this time. She was definitely trying to tell me something.
I turned to Carter. "We should move the dead mermaids out of her sight," I said. "It's upsetting her to see them like that." My dad and Dr. Schneider stared at me like I was crazy. "Would you be okay to look at the dead bodies of your sisters while people poked at them and talked about them?"
My dad scrunched up his face. "Come on, June. I agree she might be aware of her surroundings and trying to reach out to us, but I don't believe she thinks that clearly."
I stared at him hard. "Imagine standing there and having to watch the autopsy of my dead body. How would you feel?"
In my YA romance novella Passing Notes, Mark is also a genuinely kind guy. He's a bit of a misfit and not the brightest, but he takes good care of his grandmother and family. It's his pure adoration for Bethany that gets her to pay attention to him in the first place, before her friends and his poor skills at romance make her think twice.
Lissy and Kat dropped their foreheads a touch and stared at me through their eyebrows like they were challenging me to stand up for myself. I wanted to, but what could I say? I knew I wasn't as smart as Bethany. I wasn't in her circle and probably didn't belong there even one little bit.
I wasn't sure how much, if anything, Bethany had told her best friends about me, but I was certain those snobby girls didn't know what it was like that night after the Christmas party when Bethany and I talked and talked about all kinds of things. I'd put money on it that they didn't know about our long phone calls over vacation. Clearly, Bethany hadn't told them anything (or enough) about me and how I made her smile and feel happy. If she had, wouldn't they be on my side?
So, if you're a writer of children's or YA fiction, think about your main character's motives? Is he or she a good person inside? How do you want to show that or help your character discover it? If you're a reader of children's or YA fiction, take a moment to think about your favorite characters and how being kind people made them win your love and support. If you like the idea of the Kindness Campaign and would like to see these happy quotes in your feed, please follow me. You are welcome to share the posts and use the hashtag. Let's get something positve out there in the world. As always, I welcome your comments (and please be kind).
Learn more about the Juniper Sawfeather Novels Cry of the Sea and Whisper of the Woods, and my YA paranormal romance Passing Notes - reviews, excerpts, and where to get your copy.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.