Friday, September 28, 2012

Julianna Baggott talks about We are the 47% letters

Julianna Baggott isn't just a sublime novelist (You've read Pure, right? If not, go and get it right now. Trust me on this.) She's also an activist and the originator of the website, We Are the 47%, where writers craft their own open letters to Mitt Romney. I'm thrilled and honored to have Julianna here, again.

What made me you think to do this? 

I'd written my own Open Letter to Romney after watching the leaked video tape and figuring out what he meant by the 47%. That stat included my young family, when we were just starting out and didn't earn enough to trigger federal income tax. Novelist Jon Jefferson goaded me to open it up, make it bigger. And so I reached out to other writers, as a sounding board for the idea. Within 24 hours, I had letters -- from Richard Russo, Jennifer Finney Boylan, you, and many others. We started it up. 

This goes beyond Romney and the election. We strive to Humanize a Statistic, One Voice at a Time.
Why reach out to the writerly community? And as members of the "elite" and "smart" that Romney dislikes so heartily, do you think our message can have an affect on those who favor Romney? Can we change minds?

We started with writers because that's my immediate community -- those I knew who'd write, quickly. But we've opened it up to people from all walks of life. Alongside two Pulitzer Prize-winners, we have a union carpenter, special education teacher, designer, geologist, veterans, medical transcriptionist ... lots of voices in the mix.

What's the response been like? Will you reach out to others? How can people help building this? 

In one week, we've had over 50,000 people come to read the stories. We are open to anyone who wants to represent. We don't publish all of the letters but we read them all and sometimes make editorial suggestions (mostly just to make the stories a bit shorter). You can find out how to submit at the site We Represent the 47 People can build it by sharing the links with friends, family, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Some of these stories are so powerful and moving that some writers have had interest from literary agents. It's truly an honor to offer a place for these voices to gather. 

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