YA for the Youth Vote

I blogged about the youth vote in the 2008 Presidential Election. Youth Vote ’08, which is now defunct, appeared on uwire.com, cbsnews.com and washingtonpost.com. Here is an article I pitched and wrote for the series:
By Ashley Trott

Their books have sent millions of American children under the covers, flashlights in hand, evading bedtime to find out how the protagonist deals with her first crush. And while their main characters will be perpetually too young to vote, the authors of some of America’s most beloved children’s books are expanding their lists of life-lessons-taught to include politics.

More than 50 authors of young adult novels, ranging from Judy Blume to Meg Cabot, have signed on to write posts about why they are voting for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on a new politics blog and social networking site called YA for Obama <http://yaforobama.ning.com/>  that launched last Monday.

The site’s inaugural posts can almost pass as excerpts from young adult novels.”In some ways an election is like life – a lot of muck comes your way,” Judy Blume writes in the site’s premiere post. “It’s hard sometimes to slog through it. It’s exhausting. It can be scary. You can feel like you’re drowning in it. You’ve got to work hard to pull yourself up and out of it, then to rise above it. We need a leader who can help us do that. That’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama.”

Maureen Johnson, an author and the creator of the blog, said she hopes the site will encourage readers of all ages to mobilize those around them to vote and will give America’s youth a place to talk politics.Johnson is a member of a group of young adult authors in New York City who spend countless hours together writing potential best sellers. Lately, though, they have spent breaks talking about politics — and the surprising number of e-mails from their readers about politics.

In what Johnson describes as a “2 a.m. idea,” she created a database of authors and sent out an e-mail asking for the giants and the up-and-comers of the young adult literary world to create content for the site. And they responded. Fifty-five of them, so far.

It took six weeks, Johnson said, to organize her content producers (Johnson said having 50 writers is like having 50 cats) and brainstorm what she wanted the site to offer. Johnson said she typically worked from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. to get the site ready and meet a book deadline YA for Obama went live on Monday morning and reached 1,000 members within six days.

One was Katie, who wrote the following in a forum post encouraging users to write haikus:

“I wish I could vote
Instead I will settle for
Bugging my parents”

In a double post on Friday,  New York Times bestselling author Scott Westerfeld provides “a long, hard, number-y look at the two political parties” and Gossip Girl creator Cecily von Ziegesar answers the question many been dying to have answered this election season: “Is Barack Obama a Nate, a Dan, a Chuck, a Serena, or a Blair?”

Spoiler alert: He’s a Blair.

“Barack and Blair are both beautiful, passionate, ambitious dreamers,” von Ziegesar writes. “They won’t stop until they get what they want, which gives them a bitchy, sexy edge–and we like them like that.”

The authors on the site have already begun tackling a wide range of issues, in a style that cannot be described in any other way than children’s book-like — playful, yet serious.

In the world of young adult authors, the economy is a basketball game, evil is a whack-a-mole <http://yaforobama.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2246335%3ABlogPost%3A1541>  and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has a chance to become her generation’s Marie Antoinette.

Westerfeld writes about why he thinks it is not a coincidence that Republicans have been in power during some the country’s largest economic downturns, comparing the economy to a basketball game. And according to him, the Republican team “sucks.”

“Let me put it this way: If my basketball team has played your team sixty times, and my team averages 50% more points than yours (say, the usual score is about 120 to 80) then I think it’s time to stop blaming the refs,” he writes. “You can’t keep saying it’s just bad luck, or the ball was inflated wrong, or your new uniforms were itchy. It’s time to face it: Your team sucks.”

John Green, an author who describes himself as a religious Christian who once toyed with the idea of becoming a minister, writes about the Republican party’s stance on global warming.

“Climate change is the greatest issue of our time, and if we fail to recognize it, we will be remembered by whatever people remain as the prideful gluttons who said to future generations, ‘Let them eat cake,'” his post reads.The site has not been without critics; Johnson said she has received e-mails and read comments saying the authors are exploiting their influence over readers.

Johnson said these critics underestimate her readers.She notes that she has received many e-mails from readers who say the endings of her books were wrong and indicate in detail what should have happened. Johnson said if her readers do not always agree with her books, they will not always agree with content on her site.

“These aren’t posts that say ‘Do what we say, vote for Obama for no reason,'” she said. “(YA readers will) tell you exactly what they think.”The youth of today are exceptionally good at using the Internet, a skill Johnson said is too often dismissed. While some of the site’s members will not be able to vote for a few years, she said users under 18 can rally the members of their households and communities by printing out registration forms and making Youtube videos.”I’m not delusional, I know the world isn’t Scooby-Doo, I know the issues won’t be solved by those meddlin’ kids,” she said.Whether it be Velma, Fred, Daphne and Shaggy or Nate, Dan, Chuck, Serena and Blair who help shape the next generation of American voters — at least one thing seems certain.

As von Ziegesar writes on the site, “it’s going to be a wild and wicked year, I can smell it.”

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3 thoughts on “YA for the Youth Vote

  1. I loved this and I think it would make a fascinating article if you looked into the subject for this election and wrote along the same lines”: covering a unique way promoters of Obama are pitching to the young voter. Using famous YA novelists to introduce youth to politics and current affairs, especially Democratic ideas (I want to say values, but I despair of that) is not, I think, a bad idea. Too many these days are only interested in themselves! But there must be techniques as well to pique youthful interest in Obama. No?

    Anyhow, I am sharing too many opinions of my own. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed reading this piece. Write on!

  2. Sorry, I meant there must be other ways, other techniques to stimulate in the young adult some interest in Obama or at least in politics and current affairs…

  3. Difficult but interesting would be to go back to the authors and ask them for their thoughts now. But there isn’t the hook of an election, only sober reflection. Huh.

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