Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Buy a book, help save a child in war

I've been teasing for a while that I had a big announcement to make. This is it. I'll start with the simplest statement of it:

I'm donating every cent I receive (including the advance) from the sale of copies of the Children No More hardcover to help rehabilitate children in the war. To that end, I'm partnering with Falling Whistles.

Now, a little background.

Back in February, on the first day of TEDActive, during a break in the sessions, I realized 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 pass 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 discussion of some of 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 ( 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 do this. I just had to do it.

Of course, that didn't mean I had to do it stupidly, or on a small scale.

So, I talked with Publisher Toni, who was supportive. Gina and I started researching charities who help child soldiers and other children in war. After a few months of conversations and negotiations, we agreed to partner with the fine folks at Falling Whistles, people who work on this cause every day.

A small group of friends and co-workers agreed to lend their talents to the cause. You'll see the results of their labor over the next two months. The Falling Whistles people are going to be doing a lot of promotional work as well; more on that later.

Some of our activities are already starting to appear:
* A placeholder Web site,, is already up. We'll be turning it into a far richer site over the next few weeks.

* Publisher Toni let us flag the cause on the back of the book, which now includes a nifty graphic and some text about what we're doing.

* A Flash ad for Children No More is running for all of June on the Publishers Weekly Web site. That ad notes the donation.
Many more bits of promotion, including a press release, will follow soon.

My goal is simple: To raise as much money as possible for this great 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, Publisher Toni has made it the cheapest of my hardback novels ever. All you have to do is buy it, have 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 really want to work on this cause, we'd love to have you join our little band. Email me via the form on the Web site and let me know your ideas.

As Sarah said tonight, when we were discussing possible tag lines for this simple process,
Lose yourself in another world,
and help save a child in this one.


mimi said...

My heart is bursting with pride, that I can know a man with such a huge heart, and the generosity to match. Few people have your vision, and even fewer your insight. Thank God for men like you. THANK YOU, for opening my eyes.
P.S. Sarah hit the nail, square on the head.

Mark said...

Thanks for the kind words.

J. Griffin Barber said...

This is, simply, wonderful. An amazing feat, Mark. Truly.

Michelle said...

Wow! What a lovely, magnanimous thing to do. This is quite important and on behalf of all your readers, we are very proud of you.

Mark said...

Thanks for the kind words, Griffin and Michelle.

Anonymous said...

Mark - I'd like to pledge the same amount you helped me raise for Variety, back at WFC. Keep the books, sell them to someone else, but let me know where I can directly send a check to you -

thank you - Rina Weisman

Mark said...

Thanks so much, Rina! I'll email you.

Michele Brenton/aka banana_the_poet said...

Mark, a very long time ago I wrote a song about how children have their childhoods warped like this. If it could be of any help to you in the context of what you are trying to achieve here please feel free to use it .

I will put the lyrics here so you can decide whether you want to listen to the whole song or not - it can be heard online on my blog.

Now I've Grown

My heart won't smile, my soul won't sing.
My dreams and faith have taken wing.
I've learned the lessons I was shown.

I was a child - but now I've grown.

You showed that truths were only lies,
that one who fails is one who tries.
I dried my tears and stood alone.

I was a child - but now I've grown.

All things come to those who take.
If you don't care - then you can't break.
You start and end this life alone.

I was a child - but now I've grown.

I once had hopes.
I once had dreams.
Believed in love
and other things.

You turned my heart into a stone.
I once had hope - but now I've grown.

I can't forgive, my will won't bend.
I'm no-one's love, I'm no-one's friend.
I've taken all that I've been thrown.

I was a child.
But now I've grown.

Link to song and lyrics on my blog:

Mark said...

Thanks so much, Michele. I will think about the best way to share this generous offer.

As someone with a warped childhood, I can say that I refuse to give up any of those beliefs. I'm just way more cautious now than I should be. Well, cautious and a whole lot of other fucked-up things.

Thanks again.


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