I recently had the pleasure of interviewing, Ann Garvin, author of The Dog Year and On Maggie's Watch both published by Berkley Penguin. The Dog Year follows Lucy Peterman on her journey to heal after the car accident, which results in a miscarriage and the death of her husband. Lucy comes to rely on the kindness of strangers and learns how to give back of herself to find a life again.
Garvin is no stranger to giving back either. She works to raise money to for The Girl Effect. The Girl Effect is a movement. It's about leveraging the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families, their communities, their countries and the world. A portion of the profits from The Dog Year is pledged to support The Girl Effect initiatives.
Tell me more about the Girl Effect. What work do they do? How did you get involved?
The Girl Effect is a force for change. It's about making girls visible and changing their social and economic dynamics by providing them with specific, powerful and relevant resources. I was introduced to The Girl Effect in the same way the world is introduced to so many things these days through Youtube. I found this video at just the right time:
My daughter was on the cusp of womanhood at just 12 years old, and the animation in the video spoke to me so acutely that it took several watchings before I could watch it without breaking down crying. I couldn't turn away from this video. My daughter was twelve, my other daughter was 91/2 and I couldn't send them into a world where I didn't do something for girls less lucky to be born to privilege and I do believe lucky is the world. There by the grace of God go all of us.
But, I had two daughters, a full time teaching gig, and a new book what could I reasonably do that would make a difference?
What I realized is that I had an army within my grasp. An army for girls. I created a class around the basic tenant that individual health is not about the individual. The internet and the way the world has come right to our front doors means that our individual health effects the world and the world's policies and practices affect each individual. We can't ignore this.
So, logically, and I'm being facetious here, I created a bake sale assignment for girls. For the last seven years my students at the university of Wisconsin Whitewater have bake sales all year long and have raised $10,000 for girls.
Now this month I'm attending the The Girl Effect Accelerator, which is a wonderful and exciting, and I'm hopping to figure out larger ways to help girls thrive so their voices can be heard.
The Girl Effect is not the only way you are giving back. You also founded the group, the Tall Poppies. Can you explain the tall poppy effect? How does that relate to women in publishing?
When I started publishing fiction, I was a true unknown. I'd been writing science and studying the association between exercise and mental health, teaching health and raising children. I didn't know a soul in the publishing industry, not a single person who wrote fiction. When my first book On Maggie's Watch was released I was clueless. I had no idea how to get my book into the hands of readers and the only networking connections I had were in science and mothers who went to school with my kids. If Berkley Penguin hadn't been so supportive I never would have been able to sell The Dog Year.
As I started meeting authors, I recognized women like myself, who had spent their careers working and raising their families not traveling the world building a fan base. As publishing houses' budgets became more and more diminished I wondered if women's voices would also diminish, especially those that didn't grow-up with a smartphone in their hands. Women who are not used to taking selfies, promoting themselves and posting their lives on Facebook. If you add the time intensive solitary work of producing a book while caring for children and increasingly, their own parents I saw a road littered with women voices, quieted in the storm.
I knew that if I didn't think of something, I was never going to be able to continue to publish traditionally. So, I saw how bands help each other out by having opening acts before the big name comes to the stage and I thought this is what we need for writers. Little by little, I approached the few writers I knew in the Madison, WI area and a whisper became a chat, then a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and soon we are hoping for classes and conferences and contests.
I know I haven't invented the idea of writing co-ops or partnerships that help each other get the word out, so Tall Poppies isn't new in that regard. But, our group is a organized, enthusiastic support for women authors young and old, debut and established. Where everyone is on equal footing with a full understanding that what is good for one Poppy is fantastic for all the Poppies. My greatest hope for the Tall Poppies is that we will create anthologies together where a portion of the proceeds with go to The Girl Effect. My goal is to create a community that through sharing and giving success feels less like self-promotion and more like a way for women to be heard and for at-risk girls to profit.
If log line wasn't Bright Authors, Smart Readers, Good Books it would be Move Forward Reach Back.
What advice do you have for people who feel like they want to make a difference? How should they get started?
You don't have to be "somebody" to throw your hat into the ring. Charities need able bodies and donated time as much as they need money. I was lucky because I could write a service project into my syllabus and have one hundred and forty students giving back. But, there are always ways to make a difference. Reach out to a non-profit that you are excited about and ask if they need help writing thank you notes or someone to organize a fund raising event.
Whatever you decide, find something that is your strength, something you can do in your sleep, and do it. Don't wait until you have time for the grand gesture. Take a small step forward and more steps will follow. For people with small children, maybe just focus on your children and feel fantastic that you are doing good in the world in your own little zip code. Take care of yourself so that later, when you have more time, you will have your health and can make a difference then.
If you want to spend more time getting to know Ann, follow her on Twitter .