“After the 2016 election I was trying to finish my middle grade novel, but I felt like as I was typing there was a house on fire next to me and I needed to pick up a hose,” said Melissa Walker, who has written 10 novels for young readers. She and other children’s book authors, agents and publishers started a Super PAC dedicated to supporting Democratic candidates in state and local races around the country, raising over $400,000. They have since become part of another PAC with a similar mission, called Future Now Fund. Walker advises Future Now Fund’s “giving circles,” in which people pool their money and donate to help influence local races, “adopting” states where fund-raising is more difficult. “I’ve found the transition from children’s writer to this to be seamless,” she said. “Something really important in politics is storytelling, and it’s missing sometimes. I can go into these circles and say, ‘this action is important,’ and I can tell stories about why.”
L.A. Campbell, who writes middle grade novels, coordinates a Manhattan-based giving circle called Propeller, which focuses on state political races, with a particular interest in Maine. The nature of children’s literature, she noted, lends itself to the notion of an uphill struggle, so a daunting political cause feels like familiar ground. “The main character of a children’s book is going to have to solve a huge problem, and no one is coming to help. The adults aren’t coming. His best friend isn’t coming,” Ms. Campbell said.
Then there are those authors who go all the way with their activism, running for office themselves.
In January, when Saira Rao, a political unknown, decided to challenge an 11-term Democratic incumbent in a Congressional primary in Colorado, her campaign material mentioned her career as a lawyer — briefly. More important, in her view, was her role as an author and children’s book producer: Ms. Rao co-founded In This Together Media, which specializes in children’s and young adult books by diverse authors and with diverse protagonists. Congress, she said, “looks an awful lot like the characters in kids’ books: overwhelmingly white and male,” and she was out to change that.
Ms. Rao lost the race, but she did get 1 in 3 votes in her district against an incumbent candidate with millions in corporate PAC money, while accepting no corporate money herself. “We are delighted by the strong showing,” Ms. Rao said, adding that she plans to start a PAC “to support black and brown women candidates all over the country.”
In Texas, Laura Moser, a journalist who has written about education and a co-author of a YA series that included “The Rise and Fall of a 10th Grade Social Climber,” ran a spirited campaign but ultimately lost in a two-person runoff for the Democratic Congressional primary for Houston’s seventh district.