I’ve gone through such a range of emotions since hearing about Parkland twelve days ago. After the massacre at Sandy Hook, I was furious that the public support for gun reform wasn’t being translated to the halls of the Statehouse, and I started GunSenseVT, an organization to champion the common ground on the issue of guns and bring balance to the conversation. We have had some successes and built a strong grassroots movement, but it has still been an uphill battle. So, when I learned about Parkland, my first reaction was one of anguish and hopelessness. Not only had young innocent lives been lost, but yet again we were going to witness the slaughter of children — and do nothing.
Then, I watched Emma Gonzales speak and watched her cut right through the rhetoric that has been used again and again to paralyze any progress on this issue.
Soon after, my fellow debut authors, including Sayantani DasGupta, Amelia Brunskill, and Melissa Ostrom began a conversation that led to the hashtag #kidlitforkidslives and the desire to show the students speaking out that we were standing with them. I created a website, and we began collecting open letters of support from the kidlit community.
Here are some excerpts from the letters:
“You are taking your grief and doing something powerful with it. Your forthright way of speaking out, of demanding change, is breaking the mold of all of the other mass shootings. And I want you to know that, even if you don’t see us, don’t hear us, we hear you. We’re listening. We’re watching. And you have more support here than you can imagine. So, ignore the hatred as much as you can. Remember that fear is often the motivation for hate. Carry on through the days when it feels as though nobody is listening. You’re doing something new, something unprecedented.”
— Brian Lies, Author/Illustrator
“So now, inspired by your courage, I not only stand with you and support you, I’m joining you in action. And I’m sorry I’m so late to this fight. I’m pledging today to write letters. To make phone calls. To vote. To march. Always in favor of gun control. Because I hear you here in Colorado. And I’ll spread the word to make your voices heard from shore to shore of our great nation.”
— Jean Reidy, Author
“What I want you to know most, what I want you to hold onto tightly, is that your voices are the authentic ones now. Adults are supposed to be the authorities, right? We are supposed to be the moral compasses, the wisdom that comes with age—but we’re not right now. YOU ARE.”
— Tamara Ellis Smith, Author
“What I remember about being a kid — being a teen — is that grown ups looked down on us. Our voices, our ideas, our passions — they didn’t appear to be worthy in the world. What I want you to know now is that we are looking UP at you. Your voices, ideas and passions are what we need to make room for, to receive, and to act upon.”
— Liz Garton Scanlon, Author
“Dear Parkland Students, thank you–for giving a voice to this tragedy. For brandishing the truth like a sword and riding into battle against opponents no less formidable than the most powerful politicians and special interests on the planet. Your fire reignites my own. It inspires–because you’re right: there is nothing more precious than YOU. Nothing more important to our collective futures.”
— Kristen Pettit, Executive Editor
“Never doubt your gut feeling that something is wrong. Never doubt your ability to fix it.”
— Lori Snyder, Teacher and Author
“You have friends all over the world now, and though I know they can’t fully replace the ones you have lost, know that your heroism and fierceness will mend us.”
— Jeanne Dutton, YA author, College Professor
“You are staring into the eye of the storm and attacking it with a vengeance, no let up.
Stick to your ideals. Use your wonderful voices to go out and change the world.
I am with you.
I believe in you.
You are the future.”
— Kim Turrisi, Young Adult Author
“One thing that impresses me is that you are working so well together, that you share both the limelight and the work, that you are inspiring legions of young people to join you, that you’ve created a big enough tent that people can respond to the call from wherever they are, physically, politically, emotionally. This is how you build a movement — with other people. You’re doing that.”
— Dashka Slater, Author
“You teach us that angels exist in hallways and classrooms
And podiums and behind microphones
And holding doors and speaking truths.
You make us remember to gasp out the wrongs of this world.
You make us remember to say there should be no such thing as ‘being silent’
With our voices
With our votes
With our hearts”
— Carrie Jones, Author
“I will work to be as brave as you are. I will try to risk more and fear less. And if it feels like I’m failing–I’ll keep trying to do what needs to be done anyway. That is what courage is. I see that in you.”
— Kim Sabatini, Author
Your anger gives me hope.
Your readiness to burn it all down; your fiery rage that these tragedies are allowed to happen over and over over again; your quivering, livid faces as you call out the gutless lawmakers that pride money over lives… your fury is my breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Maybe I shouldn’t fan the flames, and maybe I shouldn’t embrace the red hot emotions we’re all feeling right now. Maybe I should encourage you to be diplomatic as you drink hot coffee around large tables, grateful to be invited to the discussion. But also? If you want to fling that cup of coffee into the face of anyone who has chosen cash over your friends’ lives, I wouldn’t scold you. If you want to scream until your voices create the tornado that tears down the status quo sky we’ve all been living under, I won’t cower.
Your anger feeds us.
Your anger fuels us.
Your anger unifies us.
Maintain your rage. Share your sorrow. Keep demanding action. And if they offer only simpering words and patronizing burbles? I know your anger will propel you forward.
You know what happens after fire and fury burns it all down?
A phoenix rises from the ashes.
A new day is born.
— Kari Anne Holt, Author
“By terrible chance, this path has chosen you and it will not be smooth. Some will disparage you and some will mock you. Some will seek to bring you down. Please know that you have all of us behind you and though we can’t stop the arrows we will gladly take them in your place.
You are the Mockingjay. You are Starr. You are Martin, and you are bringing Martin’s dream. We will follow you.
You are the future and the past will fade in the brilliance of your light.”
— Janet Fox, Author
“If you are the arrowhead, then we must be the shaft and the fletching. As you fly into battle, we must be with you—behind you—every step of the way. Lending you strength, carrying your voices, protecting you from those who would stop you from achieving your goals.”
— Victori Jafari, Mother, Teacher, and Writer of Children’s books
“In Eastern traditions, the master knows
the greatest teaching
comes from sitting at the feet of students
and I would tell you
we are sitting at your feet
we do not have time
for pretty metaphors now.
So I will tell you
we are standing
— Sayantani DasGupta, Author
“You are inspiring all of us to try again, no matter the odds. You are giving us hope. It’s not enough to tweet our disapproval, or to post angry Facebook memes. We need to stand up, speak out, and MARCH.”
— Jo Knowles, Author
Read these letters in their entirety and letters from other authors at: https://kidlitforkidslives.org/