Tuesday, January 31, 2017

To Be, Or Not To Be... Political On Social Media. That is the question

Caldecott Award-winning Author/Illustrator Dan Santat posed a version of this much-debated question over the weekend on Facebook, writing:

A question to my fellow authors. I've had discussions with many of you and we've all discussed our dilemma of expressing our view on politics while knowing it can be possibly bad for business. I know most of us don't talk politics and we're actually not even very political until recent current events. There are many others who understand the consequences but have been so distraught by these matters that they've simply said, "To Hell with it. I'm speaking up because this matters and I can't sit idle." My question is where do you vent, and how do you vent? Do you use Twitter? Facebook? I've tried desperately to calm myself but, alas, my New Years Resolution flew out the window within hours of the new year. Peace.

As of this posting, there were 169 comments in response from the famous, the up-and-coming, and the aspiring (for those that don't know, that's a LOT of response.)

If there is any consensus, it's that many of our fellow children's book writers and illustrators are struggling with figuring out their own answer to this question. Here are some of those comments:

Barney Saltzberg I don't think we can separate our politics from our work. Not at this point in the world, given what's going on in our country. To not say anything, as writers and communicators and artists is contrary to what we're doing on the planet.

Eugene Yelchin Holly crap! Use whatever you can. Blow from every hole! The way this administration is moving ahead, there'll be no business for any of us!

Grace Lin Rogue Dan Santat, thanks for this question. I don't know what the answer is but I want to tell you how much I admire you and all authors who boldly state their political opinions. I've found it really difficult; but I think the time has come that we have to take a stand. There are things that matter more than the selling books. I don't know if FB or twitter is where I will go, but I will always support you.

Loni Edwards I am with you Dan. I can't just sit back and be idle while our whole country and the rights of many friends and family are on the line. If it losses potential customers, than those are not the ones that I want buying my stuff anyways. I promote the positive and love in my art, and I will do so as an individual citizen as well. It is our right to protest. It was how our country was founded. If some have their voices silenced, we need to be louder for them.

Lee Sheppard I drew political cartoons under a pseudonym for that reason. It didn't affect my illustration work and I got the chance to vent.

Georgia McBride Author and publisher who has lost many a social media friend, lost business from writers seeking to cancel contracts and even sue who support the new regime and who have been so bold as to admit it.

Tony Abbott I think if you take the position that you’re going to write and illustrate books that only tell the truth to young people, then your work is part of what you “say.” That said, people who work creatively for children and young adults are an incredibly powerful voice against tyranny and illogic and oppression and intolerance. We don’t need or want an audience that would like us to be silent about what we believe. If we alienate by telling the truth, that’s part of being a human these days; I mean, after November 8, 2016. Speak, Dan! We need all voices! FB and Twitter. Everywhere.

Kate Messner I've gone from being mostly not political on social media to speaking up almost daily. It feels morally wrong to me to be quiet in the face of what's happening. But that said, I wouldn't say that I "vent" on facebook or twitter. I try to share things there that are thoughtful and helpful and on the side of good. I vent at home and when I'm in closed groups, both in person and online, with other people I trust.

Donalyn Miller I do not express my political beliefs when I'm working in schools, or presenting at educational conferences (particularly in conservative areas), although much of what is going on has little to do with politics and a lot to do with human decency. I don't see speaking up about civil and human rights as political, so I express these views everywhere. I also don't post anything on my BookWhisperer fan page. On my personal social media accounts, I feel I can say what I want as long as I am civil, do my best to fact check what I post, and maintain professional decorum. Same for my writing. I'm a citizen and I have these rights and the responsibility to speak up.

Dianna Burt I've been typing into a document that is password protected just titled Rant. So I can get it out of my system and it's down somewhere. I figure if I need to I can print it out and set it on fire.

Heidi Stemple Here's the way I see it--our readership is exactly who will be hurt by the insanity. This administration is destroying their--our child readers'--natural world and creating a hostile global environment. I think it's our responsibility to speak out. Will it hurt me professionally? Perhaps. But I cannot live with myself if I don't speak truth to power. I'm trying to find ways to also be positive, but I will not be quiet--silence is what allows evil to multiply.

Liz Garton Scanlon This is not democrat vs republican. This is democracy vs totalitarianism. Humanity vs inhumanity. Good vs. evil. Voice vs. silence. That last part is our role. Writing is, at its heart, a political act in that it is truth-telling, it is giving voice to what might otherwise be unspoken. I think this, now, is where the rubber meets the road. We speak.

Of course, what's missing are the voices of the people who don't feel (for a multitude of reasons) ready or comfortable to speak up, on either side...

Have you considered where you draw the line?

Illustrate and Write On,

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