Why We’re Going to Orlando

On Sunday, we had exciting news to shout about.

That day we confirmed that--through a generous donation--we are able to bring four of our authors to an awards ceremony at the ALA (American Libraries Association) Conference, where three Shout Mouse books are finalists for four Book of the Year Awards in a national competition for independent presses. (!)

That day we were so so proud and psyched for ALL of our authors, who will be represented by these ambassadors at a major book conference, and we couldn’t wait to tell them--and you--the good news.

And then that day something horrible happened, something hate-fueled and monstrous. And beyond that, it happened in the very city where we were getting ready to take these young people, to celebrate.

That day was not a day for shouting. It was a day, once more, so frustratingly again again AGAIN, to grieve for the loss of innocent lives at the hands of hatred.

Since that day, we have been mourning, shaking our fists, shaking our heads, and holding in our hearts the (too) many people whose lives were lost or forever altered by this tragedy.

But in nine days, we’re going to Orlando. And while we thought about omitting the city name in this announcement so we could focus on the excitement for our authors--We’re going to Florida! We’re going to the IndieFab Awards Ceremony!--we decided in fact that it’s important to name that place, because what happened in Orlando is so deeply connected to the purpose of our work, and with this work, we want to remain clear about where we’re going and why.

We’re going to Orlando, because next week that’s the site of a major book conference that will convene tens of thousands of people who believe in the power of literature: to build empathy, to seek understanding, to deepen reflection, to heal pain. We are proud to be part of this community of writers and readers who work each day to open hearts and minds through story.

We’re going to Orlando, because our authors tell stories that combat hate. They are fighters for empathy and dignity and justice and love. They write to dispel prejudice. They write to humanize “others,” and to promote self-pride. Our authors speak on the page to those who may not know them, who may not understand where they are coming from, and through their own vulnerability, creativity, charisma, and grace, they connect. They bridge divides.

We’re going to Orlando, because this important work of our authors is being celebrated. Their stories of dignity and empowerment and overcoming are the messages being touted, being shouted, from the stage. These are the values that drown out all the rest. We’re going to hold up their books as refutations, books that change the story--about who can make a difference, who can be a hero, who can sow love and hope and change against all odds--because changing the story is the first step in changing the heart. We’re going to lift up the necessary voices of our authors, of whom we could not be more proud.   

We’re going to Orlando, because this week it’s Orlando, but it’s been too many places--Charleston, San Bernardino, Laramie, New York City--not just gun violence but HATE violence, all with different particulars, to be sure, but all driven by the same destructive forces of hatred, alienation, and disregard for human life. And we resolve to keep going, straight to the white hot source of of these forces, with words of love. With stories that include and connect. With the message that every life is worthy of dignity and respect.

There is a long arc to this work. We don’t fool ourselves that it is simple. But as have our greatest heroes, we believe in the power of shaping and re-shaping one’s beliefs, person by person, as the only viable path towards change. We fight page by page. We know: the stories we tell -- and hear -- about ourselves and others make all the difference.