Writers@Work: Writing about Social Justice for Young People
May 4, 2021
Note From Rochelle
In preparation for the release of my new book, I’ve joined an author’s debut group. So now I’m helping with social media for a whole new group of people! It’s reminded me how much easier it is to be active on social media when you have a plan. I wrote one of my most comprehensive articles about this for Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog. If you struggle with social media, check out “Building a Social Media Plan.”
Today, I’m delighted to welcome author Aileen Weintraub to the blog. I loved her book, Never Too Young!: 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference. So when I saw that she had a new anthology coming out this spring, I knew I wanted to interview her. Her book We Got Game! 35 Female Athletes Who Changed the World comes out today!
Writing about Social Justice for Young People
An Interview with Aileen Weintraub
Aileen, congratulations on your new book. Can you tell the readers about We Got Game!
Thank you so much! I am so excited about We Got Game! 35 Female Athletes Who Changed the World. This middle grade social justice book is about female athletes who are using their fame to advocate for change in the world, focusing on issues including gender equality, disability rights, climate change, body positivity, cyberbullying, and more. Of course, it also includes a lot of stats and facts about the athletes’ amazing careers.
What inspired you to write this book and your previous anthology, Never Too Young?
Social justice books are so important, especially for kids because they help explain and bring awareness to current issues. I love learning about inspiring people who advocate for change in the world, and I hope middle-grade readers will read my books and feel empowered to learn more about the causes they care about. I wrote Never Too Young! 50 unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference to shine a light on kids around the world who have done extraordinary things. The book won a Parents’ Choice award and became a bestseller. After that, I knew my own work wasn’t done. I came up with the idea of writing about female athletes because not only are they role models in sports, they have a big platform to advocate for change. For example, snow boarder Gretchen Bleiler works with organizations to slow climate change. Gymnast Gabby Douglas has taken a stand against cyberbullying, and Megan Rapinoe is an LGBTQ advocate.
Can you talk about your research process for these books? What process or tools helped you to take in all of that information and whittle it down to the most exciting parts for the book?
I read a lot! That’s the first step in writing a book. I spend a lot of time in the library researching books, articles, and reading interviews. Each athlete’s website also provided a wealth of information. Olympic.org and the Women’s Sport Foundation were very helpful, as were the individual organizations that the athletes team up with for social change. I don’t have a set system for writing, but I do look for key points, focus on those and then expand from there.
You write for both children and adults—and I noticed that you’re also writing a memoir. Many of our readers struggle to market their books to one set of readers, let alone two! Can you talk about juggling two very different sets of readers and how you manage that?
I’ve written quite a few children’s books, and now I have a book coming out in Spring 2022 called Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir. My work has also been featured in The Washington Post, Glamour, Huff Post, and AARP among others. While my audience for children’s books is obviously very different, the themes of my work remain similar because it centers around empowerment. My “grown up” work focuses on women’s issues around health, such as pregnancy, postpartum depression, anxiety, and perimenopause.
Knocked Down is a laugh-out-loud story about a Brooklyn girl who moves to the country, has a whirlwind romance and ends up on pregnancy-related bedrest in an old farmhouse. Everything starts falling down around her, including the house, and now she has to come to terms with who she is and what she really wants, all while trying to save her marriage and keep her baby alive. I’m hopeful that many parents who have bought my children’s books will pick up my memoir as a treat for themselves. It’s a quick fun read that also addresses serious themes many women can relate to.
What are you reading now?
Right now, I am reading Sue Williams Silverman’s book of essays How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences. Her prose is both heart wrenching and beautiful. I’m also listening to my all-time favorite book The Count of Monte Cristo, which I reread every few years. I love the book so much, I’ve named my dog Monte.
About the author. Aileen Weintraub is an award-winning author and editor. She has written more than fifty books for children and young adults for publishers including Hachette, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. Her best-selling book, Never Too Young! 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference, won a 2018 Parents’ Choice Award. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Glamour, Huff Post, AARP, and many other publications. Her next book, Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir is forthcoming in Spring 2022. She lives in New York with her family and her dog Monte, who keeps her company while she writes. You can find out more about her at www.aileenweintraub.com