Category Archives: calling on the legions

Art Contest III: The Artening.

Hey there everybody,

If you’ve been hanging around the blog for a while, you know that in June Worldbuilders holds a fundraiser. It’s called Geeks Doing Good, and we put a bunch of cool geekery up on Indigogo for a week so y’all can come over, ooh and ahhh, then hopefully buy some stuff and help us make the world a better place.

Traditionally, we do some T-shirts during the fundraiser. And we have, in the past, occasionally run contests where people can submit designs for t-shirts which we then vote for here on the blog

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Truth is, over the years y’all have made some beautiful art. And since it’s been two years since our last contest, we figured we were overdue. So we’re throwing open the doors again, and inviting y’all to submit designs for new kingkiller shirts.

But that’s not all….

You see, long long ago. Years and miles away. We made a kingkiller onesie:

It was adored by children everywhere.

We even shot a video of Oot describing what exactly was going on in the picture:

(Awwww… Daddy’s little shill.)

But that was a *long* time ago. Maybe seven years? And we never did a second printing, so most people never had a chance to pick one up….

So anyway, in addition to t-shirt designs, I’d love to see some ideas for onesies or baby shirts if y’all have any bright ideas. I’ve been wanting to make another onesie forever, and this seems like a good opportunity.

Here are some general rules:

  • Must be your original art/design.
  • Please submit your entry as a jpeg, png, or pdf.
  • Images should not exceed 5MB. (If you win, we’ll contact you for high res.)
  • Please submit no more than three designs per category.
  • You can submit the same design to both categories.
  • Submissions must be sent via email. (Below.)
  • The submission period ends on Wednesday, May 17th.

This isn’t a rule so much as an important note: remember that fewer colors for a design tends to be simpler and more elegant, not to mention cheaper to produce.

Here’s how you submit your entries:

  • If you want to submit a t-shirt design, email it to tshirt (at) worldbuilders.org
  • If you want to submit a onesie or baby shirt design, email it to onesie (at) worldbuilders.org

After the deadline, we here at Worldbuilders HQ will sift and sort them, then post a blog where everyone can come in and vote on which ones they like best.

*     *     *

While we’re on the topic of art, there’s another project I’ve been wanting to do for ages. It started as a stupid joke years and years ago, I think I was talking with Paul and Storm about selling out, and what sort of really crass merchandising I’d do. I can’t really remember products we discussed, but it was crazy bullshit like Kvothe action figures with Real Sympathy Grip (TM) and Name of the Windbreakers.

Oh. Oh damn. I meant that to be a joke. But we could totally sell a Windbreaker, couldn’t we?

No. No no. I’m not going to do that. One crazy idea at a time.

Anyway, the one idea I do remember from that conversation was when we joked about making a kingkiller lunchbox. Mostly because I pictured it as having “The Name of the Lunch” written on it. I laughed my ass off at the thought. Partly because when I was a kid, I actually did have a lunchbox. It had Benji on it. And a thermos for milk. My mom packed me a lunch in it for years until I got too old for Benji. Then she used brown bag lunches instead.

So over the years, whenever we would talk about product development, I’d always bring up the Name of the Lunchbox as a joke. Then everyone would roll their eyes at me and we’d all move on with our day.

But when I brought it up this year, everyone kinda just looked at each other and said, “Why not?” The Indigogo is the perfect place to do it, because if people *do* want this bizarre thing and we sell 500 of them, that’s great. But if sanity prevails and we only sell 15, we’ll produce as many as we need, move on with our lives, and Worldbuilders won’t get stuck with four pallets of them gathering dust in a warehouse.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this is a strange project. Hell, that’s most of the reason I want to do it. And it may prove too complicated to pull it off this year. But what the hell, right? Let’s at least give it a try…

But to do that, we’ll need art for the lunchbox. So if you’re an arty type, I’d love to see what you’d come up with for something like this.

The rules for the lunchbox designs are a little looser. There are size and shape issues that we’ll have to work out if we pick your design. But for your initial submission, USE THE TEMPLATE HERE as a guide, then email it to (you guessed it) lunchbox (at) worldbuilders.org.

Fair warning. We *might* not be putting the lunchbox design up for a vote. As I said, this project is a bit of an odd thing. As I mentioned earlier, you may not see the final product this year. Or maybe ever. But getting art we like is the first step in making my lunchbox dreams come true.

On a completely unrelated note, if you happen to know anyone in the lunchbox-making business who would be willing to give a charity a break on minimum order quantities, feel-free to send them our way.

*     *     *

Lastly but not leastly, I’d like to say that I’m a big fan of people getting paid for their work. Especially designers and artists, who are all-too-frequently asked to ply their craft for free. And while exposure is lovely, we all know you can’t eat it.

Since Worldbuilders is a charity, we run on donations. Partly because of that, and partly because we began as a shoestring operation running out of my living room, most of the art we’ve used was simply given to us out of the kindness of the artist’s hearts. In doing so, those folks have helped us raise a ton of money to make the world a better place.

But artists have to eat too. So from now on, Worldbuilders is adopting the policy of paying the winners of these contests for the use of their art. It’s not going to be buy-an-island money or anything. But it’s something. And don’t get me wrong, if you decide to waive the fee or re-donate it to the charity, we’re still cool with that, too…

I’m just saying. I admire you art-doers. I respect your cleverness and craft. The designs you create fill me with great joy, and help us produce things. You are important to us. So. From now on, there will be money on the table if we pick your design.

I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with…

pat

Also posted in contests, cool things, fan coolness, Geeks Doing Good | By Pat27 Responses

Calling all Troupers: The Birds and the Bees

Yesterday, the Worldbuilders fundraiser passed $1.8 million.

Support has been pouring in from all sides as people continue to donate and help spread the word. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the help you have given us…

Also, we’ve been adding new items to our prize lottery left and right. We’re currently giving away more than $185,000 dollars worth of geeky swag. So much stuff that if you donate $30, you have a 12% of winning something. We’re giving away thousands of books and games, a gaming table from Geek Chic, a cabin for two on the 2017 Joco Cruise, this beautiful Tak board from Wyrmwood games…

kingkillertakboardpanel(I want it. So. Much.)

You know what else donating $30 dollars does? It buys a family honeybees….

Improving Food Security and Nutrition of Coffee Farm Workers' FaThis is Feliciana Martin, a small-scale coffee farmer. Her one-acre farm barely supported her and her daughter until she received the gift of honeybees from Heifer International in 2012. Since then, Feliciana has seen a noticeable increase in her coffee harvest every year. This isn’t really surprising, as improved pollination can increase crop yields in any farm by as much as 200-300%.

What’s more, Feliciana is now also able to collect and sell honey, providing her with additional income. As a bonus, coffee honey is believed to taste better than regular honey, so she is able to charge about 10 percent more.

Improving Food Security and Nutrition of Coffee Farm Workers' Fa(Additional note: Now I *really* want to try coffee honey.)

She collected 60 pounds of honey in the first six months and doubled the number of hives she owns. Then she trained some neighbors on the proper care of bees and gave them hives to start them on their own road to increased independence. This is called “Passing on the Gift.” All Heifer recipients take part it, and it’s a big piece of what makes Heifer’s work so amazing and long-lasting. The good Heifer does spreads through a community like a shockwave, spreading outward for generations…

Feliciana dreams of a better life for her daughter. Now, with more reliable income she can use for food, medicine, and schooling, that dream is a reality.

That’s what we’re doing here, folks.

That’s what happens when you donate thirty bucks….

*     *     *

Except after I typed that dramatic little asterisky scene break there, I realized I’d just told you a lie….

The truth is, this year that’s not what happens if you donate thirty dollars. This year Worldbuilders has access to matching money. So if you give us $30, we’re going to double it and send $60 on to Heifer International.

So… yeah. This is your big chance, folks. Kick in some cash and know that you’re sending twice the awesome into the world….

*     *     *

And speaking of awesome things, one of my favorite team pages is back this year. Little Charlotte, joined by her sister Maggie, have started an online concert to support Worldbuilders.

Please do me a favor and watch this video.

Seriously. You can spare the time. It will improve your day.

Over the last couple weeks, whenever I started to feel tired, or beat down, I’d watch this video. Watching how excited these girls were at the thought of holding their online concert and raising money for Worldbuilders gave me a boost when I really needed it.

As time went on, I came to realize that I really *really* wanted to help make Charlotte and Maggie’s concert a success. I love that these girls want to change the world.

So I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and I donated to their page.

And *then* I decided to put my mouth where my mouth is, and when my throat recovered from my cold, Sarah and I sang a bunch of songs together on my livestream. And then, using their carefully detailed instructions, we added them to the playlist.

Then we sent out links to some of our our favorite geeky musician friends to see if they’d be willing to participate. And they added songs they’d already recorded to the playlist, and now we’re up to 50 videos in the online concert.

So now, at last, I’m reaching out to you.

I invite you to listen to these songs. I hope they bring you joy.

I invite you to record songs of your own and add them to the list. Don’t worry if your voice is not perfect. That’s not what this is about. (I feel I make that perfectly clear in my videos.)

But more than anything, I would love it if you donated to Charlotte and Maggie’s team page. They worked really hard on this, and they deserve some love.

Spread the word about the concert. Share the videos you like.

Music brings people together in a a way that nothing else does.

So come join us. Sing along.

Donate. Spread the word.

Save the world.

Also posted in music, My Mom Would Like This Blog, Sarah, Worldbuilders 2016 | By Pat10 Responses

Being a Trouper

Hey there everybody,

I’d meant to post a fun blog earlier this week. I had a couple cued up and almost ready. One was full of Kingkiller tattoos I’ve seen over the last year, another was pictures of babies that have been named after characters from my books. The one I *really* wanted to post involved the story of how I snuck some underage chicks into Max Temkin’s hotel room at Gencon.

41f23fed1b92a824ced03db71d8b4a9c(Like this. You pervert.)

But, as everyone knows, the election happened. Anyone who watched my election-night twitch stream might have an inkling of how I felt about that. And those of you who didn’t watch it can still probably guess.

And I’m guessing a lot of you feel the same way.

Interesting fact for those of you who feel shattered about the results: What you’re feeling now? That’s what a depressive episode feels like. At least it does to me. The pisser about depression is that you can feel desolate hopeless dread of exactly this sort even when nothing bad has happened.

Anyway, as a result, I couldn’t bring myself to finish a fun blog earlier this week. In fact, I’m not in the mood to write a blog now, either. I’ve been writing this thing for TWO HOURS and this is as far as I’ve gotten. It’s like trying to walk with a broken leg.

How the hell am I supposed to feel hopeful right now? How am I supposed to launch this year’s fundraiser and be enthusiastic about the cool news I have to share? I feel like everything is crumbling.

Earlier today, I found myself wondering what Auri would do in this situation. Well… that’s not actually true. Maybe it’s more that I wish I could ask for her advice? I wish she could just… help me. Like maybe she could give me a seashell or something and I would put it in my pocket and then I’d feel a little better.

Hell. You know you’re not doing well when you wish a fictional character would help you out. What the fuck does it even mean that I want help from the person who is arguably the most broken of all my characters? Is this it? Am I finally having a nervous breakdown?

No. I’m not. I’m depressingly sane.

Maybe it’s that Auri never lets it get to her. Not really. Not deep down. She’s a fighter, and despite everything, she always has a tiny flame of joy burning inside her. We’re very different in that regard.

I keep thinking of this picture and I don’t know why….

a-and-e-brazen

One of the things I share with Auri is that we both want to fix the world. Maybe that’s why I wish she could give me some advice. I can’t see a way to fix things right now. I am all unkilter.

Shit. I’m doing an awful job of this. I should just erase everything I’ve written and start over, but that would feel dishonest. I don’t want to lie to y’all. I don’t want to pretend I have my shit together. I don’t. I’m not doing great right now.

But still, I have some news to share. And it can’t wait.

Today I heard someone say, “We have to soldier on” and while I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t think there’s any way I can think of myself as a soldier.

I’ll be a trouper instead. How about that? The show must go on, right?

Okay, I’m taking a mulligan and starting over. Ready?

*     *    *

Hey there everybody,

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that this is the time of year when we do our big annual Worldubuilders fundraiser.

Last year we raised over 1.2 million dollars for Heifer International. We sent little girls to school in Nepal and fed hungry kids in Haiti. We gave people clean water and education. Medicine and self-reliance. The work we do literally brings light into the lives of people all over the world.

And no, I’m not misusing the word “literally” there. One of the many things Heifer does is teache people to make biogas digesters.

biogas-diagram-990x1024This miraculous contraption turns animal waste into fertilizer and methane. Then families can use that methane as a clean, cheap source of light and heat. Cooking over gas is much safer and easier than using a cookfire. That’s a big deal in parts of the world where electricity is expensive or straight-up unavailable.

It’s like real-life alchemy, folks. Heifer teaches people to turn shit into gold.

Over the last 8 years Worldbuilders has raised more than $5,000,000 to make things better all over the world, in Ukraine and Uganda. From Peru to Appalachia.

This year’s fundraiser is launching Monday, and we’ve got some big news. News I’ve been sitting on for months. And despite the fact that I’m a tease of epic proportions, I’m actually going to tell y’all that news today.

1. Story time with Neil Gaiman.

Two years ago, Neil Gaiman red us Green Eggs and Ham. While last year people who donated got to vote on what Gaiman would read. Jabberwocky beat out Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, so he shot a video of himself reciting it from memory to help us spread the word about the fundraiser.

If y’all had any thoughts about what would be fun for him to read this year, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. Personally, I think The Monster at the End of This Book would be great. I’d love to hear him do Grover’s voice.

2. More livestreaming on Twitch.

Last year, I experimented with livestreaming on twitch to help spread the word about the fundraiser and it worked surprisingly well. So this year, not only will I be streaming again, but Worldbuilders is reaching out to the streaming community in general, and providing tools so that you can do fundraising for us on your own stream.

If you’re a streamer and you’d like to help out Worldbuidlers, contact us at twitchteams@worldbuilders.org and we’ll work with you to make that happen.

And now the big one….

3. A Million Dollars of Matching Money

This year, with Heifer’s help, Worldbuilders has access to a million dollars worth of matching money.

That means that if you come in and donate $10 to Worldbuilders, this anonymous benefactor will double that money, turning it into $20. You donate enough for a goat? It becomes two goats…

dollar-panarama-704155

This is a HUGE deal. And it means we have the chance to absolutely destroy last year’s totals.

I mention this to y’all in advance with the hope that you might be are willing to come in swinging in the early days of the fundraiser. If we manage to get some good donations early on, then double them, I’m hoping the total will be impressive enough that we can get some coverage in the media. That means people will find out about worldbuilders who otherwise would never have noticed it.

If that happens…. well… it means we get to feed a *lot* of hungry kids.

And that’s what I’m really in the mood to do right now.

If you have any suggestions for the upcoming fundraiser, or if you have a clever way of helping us spread the word, please drop those in the comments below, too.

Thanks much.

Take care of each other,

pat

Also posted in Acts of Whimsy, cool news, Uncategorized, Worldbuilders | By Pat108 Responses

So I’m guessing some of you like stories….

Heya Everybody,

There’s a few projects we’ve been working on over here at RothCo. Some of them for years and years. The biggest of these is the website renovation. I’ve wanted a new website for 8 years, and we’ve been working on it for ages.

And now, believe it or not, it looks like we’re going to be able to launch it by the end of the year.

But here’s the thing. One of the big problems with the current website is that it didn’t really show off the blog properly. Because when we created the website, I didn’t know I’d be writing a blog. Or at least I didn’t know I’d be writing a blog as extensive as mine has ended up becoming.

Over the last decade, I’ve written stories I’m proud of. Some funny. Some sad. Some strange. I’d like to show those blogs off to people who swing by the new website, or to people who have only tuned into the blog in the last couple years, and have no way to find those old stories except to troll through

I have a few that I remember that I’m proud of, but to tell you the truth, I wrote a lot of them a long time ago. A lot of times, people say, “I love that blog you wrote about your dog,” and I honestly can’t remember writing it.

So if you have a blog you’re particularly fond of, could you let me know down in the comments below? Preferably with a link?

Thanks,

pat

Also posted in Achievement Unlocked!, blogging | By Pat140 Responses

The Things My Child Has Taught Me

Last Thursday, right before I launched the fundraiser, I took my son to a movie.

This is a rarity. He’s almost six, but over the years I’ve only seen two movies in the theater with him. (Three now.) But I knew this was going to be our last chance to see Shaun the Sheep on the big screen. And he’s been very good lately, patient and kind with his little brother, understanding when I haven’t been able to spend time with him. So. Movie.

As we were walking across the parking lot, he said, “Dad, what do you wish wasn’t real?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Is there anything you wish didn’t exist?” he clarified.

“Ah,” I said. Then, because the Syrian refugees had been on my mind lately, I said. “War.”

He nodded somberly. “I wish global warming didn’t exist,” he said.

I was surprised, but not too surprised. Kids are more aware than we assume, so they soak up more information than we think. And as a result, they worry far more than we ever know. And the worries of a child are huge, horrible fathomless things.

When I was a kid, I worried about nuclear war and running out of oil. The first because I was a child of the 80’s during the cold war, and the second because I learned in school that we only had 25 years of oil left, then we’d run out.

I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in those fears. Enough people were worried about nukes that these days we only have about 20% of what we had back in 1986 (Which is still way too many, but better…) Unfortunately, a bunch of people worried enough about the oil thing in the wrong way, figuring out how to get more oil,  rather than how to make due with less. Now, as a result, my son is worried about global warming.

Anyway, we go watch Shaun the Sheep. It’s great, by the way. You should go watch it with your kids if you get the chance. The DVD shorts are brilliant too, if the movie isn’t playing in your area.

reasons_see_shaun_sheep_movie_3

Then on the way back to the car, Oot asks me, “Can we play a game when we get home?”

“I’d like to,” I say, “but I’m busy tonight.”

“That’s okay,” he says quickly. Almost as if he’s embarrassed that he asked.

This is the part of my life I hate the most: constantly having to refuse my son’s polite, increasingly unhopeful requests for my time. But these days he’s old enough for me to explain why I’m busy. So that’s what I decide to do.

“Off in a different country, there is a bad war going on. There are bombs going off, and people with guns. A lot of people are scared. A lot of moms and dads have been taking their children and running away so they can keep their children safe.”

He just listens. I worry I might be doing nothing more than giving him worries for the future. But I’ve already started down this road, so I keep going.

“But when these people run away, they have to leave their houses behind. They don’t have a place to stay, so right now a lot of those families are just sleeping in tents. They don’t have clothes or food. They don’t have toys. There’s a lot of them, and they need help.”

He’s still tuned in, watching me seriously.

“I’d love to play a game with you, but tonight I’m going to try and help those people. Some of the families have tiny babies, but they had to leave everything behind when they ran away. A lot of them don’t have beds to sleep in or blankets to stay warm.”

Then Oot cocks his head and says: “Why don’t they just move in with somebody?”

This strikes me as a good question.

*     *     *

Over the last handful of days, our fundraiser has raised almost $250,000 to help the Syrian Refugees.

ScreenShot011

This is astounding to me, given the fact that we kinda threw this together. Honestly, I was hoping that we’d manage $100,000, but even that felt like a lot to hope for…

What’s even more impressive to me is *how* the money was raised.

When y’all heard about the fundraiser, you stormed in to help. No hesitation. It was like a flood. It made me so proud, and it made me feel less alone. Amanda told me she cried four times that first day of the fundraiser because y’all were so awesome.

Me? I didn’t cry. I spent the whole day laughing. My heart was full of such joy. I laughed more on that day than I had for the whole month previous.

Worldbuilders offered to match the first $25,000 in donations, and I matched the second $25,000. Then, as many of you know, folks started contacting Worldbuilders to offer up money of their own so we could continue to match donations. By the end of our first 36 hours, four donors had given us another $55,000, enough so we could match all donations up to $105,000.

All four donors wanted to remain anonymous. But even if you don’t know their names, you know they’re awesome.

Thank you everyone. Thank you. Thank you. It sounds strange to say, but I really needed this. We’ve done some real good here.

And the fundraiser isn’t over yet.

*    *     *

Our fundraiser is running for a few more days until late Friday night. So if you haven’t donated yet, there’s still time.

What’s more, we’ve had two more anonymous donors come in and offer to help some matching funds for our final days: one for $5,000 dollars, and one for $3,000.

That means all donations up to $151,600 will be matched. And… Ah, what the hell. I’ll kick in enough to bring it up to a nice even number, and we’ll match all donations up to an even $155,000.

[Edit: Hey guys, Amanda here. Just for clarity’s sake, all donations from the $141,600 we were at when this blog was posted this morning until we hit $155,000 will be matched.]

I’m pretty confident we can hit that in the next couple days. And I’m curious to see how much further we can go….

*     *     *

Answers to a few questions:

  • “Why did you decide to raise funds for Mercy Corps?”

Many reasons, but here’s the highlights:

  • 93% of their staff live in and are from the countries where they work – giving them unique insight into the recovery and building long term effects toward resiliency
  • They help when an emergency occurs, but then stay beyond afterwards to help with long term recovery
  • Mercy Corps has earned the highest ratings for efficiency, accountability and transparency from independent charity watchdog groups
  • Over the last five years, 87 percent of Mercy Corps resources have gone directly to help people in need around the world

That said, there are other charities I would have happily thrown in with if Mercy Corps hadn’t been around.

For example, Neil Gaiman’s support for the UNHCR is well deserved. Neil has been out to visit the refugees. He’s been supporting this cause for ages, long before it recently became popular in the media.

Because I live under a heavy rock sometimes, I hadn’t been aware that Patrick Ness apparently got fed up with all of this in much the same way I did, and ran a fundraiser for Save the Children. Tons of YA authors jumped in to help match funds with his fundraiser too. Folks like Hank Green, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Phillip Pullman, Cressida Cowell, Holly Black, and more.

Yeah. Further proof that people are awesome.

  • “So what will this money be doing?”

Many things. Because I think in terms of stories rather than factoids, let me share a couple people’s stories with you.

lebanon-201403-cnelson-0002

Houda, 13, was an excellent student in Syria with lofty dreams for her future. When the conflict became too much to bear, her family fled to Lebanon — where they’ve resorted to using a cowshed as their temporary home.

“I haven’t been to school in over two years,” Houda told us. “I loved my school and I miss going to class and seeing friends.” She attends programs at one of Mercy Corps’ Child Friendly Spaces, which provide play and psychosocial support for children who have endured trauma, but she hopes to return to school one day.

“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I have not lost my dream of becoming a doctor someday…or maybe an artist. I’m not sure yet.”

iraq-201403-cnelson-0141

25-year-old Zeena was a university student with great aspirations until violent clashes erupted around her home in Syria. She studied philosophy and law and planned to become a human rights lawyer, but those dreams were put on hold when her family was forced to flee to Arbat Transit Camp, a tent settlement in northern Iraq.

There, her studying was replaced with daily chores like cleaning the family’s living space, collecting water and taking care of her brothers.

But Zeena has since found a positive outlet for her energy in Mercy Corps’ conflict negotiation program. She underwent training to become an official negotiator in the camp, and now helps settle disputes between its growing number of residents.

jordan-201308-sagha-0011

In Syria, 10-year-old Omran had a fun-loving childhood: He went to school, played with friends and enjoyed helping his dad with his construction work. When the conflict uprooted his family and sent them to Jordan in search of safety — they now reside in Zaatari Refugee Camp — Omran became distraught and angry.

“I miss Syria and my home. I miss school and playing with my friends,” he says. “I miss swimming. I played soccer with my cousins and friends in the field behind our house. I miss my house and the graves of my two brothers the most.”

In Zaatari, Omran plays soccer every day through Mercy Corps’ sports therapy program, which uses sports to give refugee children the opportunity to make friends and cope with stress. “That’s the only thing that relieves me,” he says.

  • “What the hell is happening in Syria anyway?”

To answer this question more effectively than I ever could, I’m going to turn to John Green, who made an excellent video about the history and current implications of the crisis.

  • “Why don’t they just move in with someone?”

This is a good question. But the fact that there are more than 4 million refugees make it hard to answer.

The US has offered to accept 10,000 in the next year. And the first thing we have to say is that this is good. It’s a good thing. It’s more than we were doing, and it’s a good first step.

But the next thing we should probably admit is that it’s a very small step toward resolving the overall crisis.

It’s a big topic. But once you strip away all the outer layers, it comes down to the fact that there are families with nowhere to stay. People who left everything behind to to keep their children safe. Families that own nothing. Kids with no beds to sleep in.

10000-syrian-refugees-stuck-at-turkish-border

If you were in that situation, you’d want someone to help you. To give you a place to stay. Helping people who have been screwed by circumstance is the humanitarian thing to do. It’s the human thing to do.

But the fact remains that even if everyone did suddenly, magically, have places to go. It would take a long time to sort it all out, and they need help now.

So for now, we’re going to do what we can to help.

If you want to throw in with us, here’s the link to our fundraiser.

Thanks for reading, everyone…

pat

Also posted in Oot | By Pat20 Responses

Doing What We Can

Over the last year, I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie books to my oldest boy. I ended up reading the sixth book, The Long Winter, in the middle of a bitterly cold January at my father’s cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin.

I have to say, I’ve rarely been more caught up in a book. Without going into too much detail, it tells the story of how the Ingalls family lived through a truly horrific winter out on the frontier back in the 1880’s.

So there I am, in a Little Cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. It’s 30 below outside, (-34 Celsius). Then, at 2:00 am, the LP tank runs out of gas.

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For you city dwellers, an LP tank is like a big propane tank for your house if you live out in the country. It provides natural gas for your stove, your water heater, and… well, your furnace.

So the cabin starts getting cold, and my dad and I haul in wood and light a fire in the old cast-iron stove. We feed it all night, and make it til morning without much trouble. The place has modern insulation, after all. The kids stay warm with extra blankets and the water pipes don’t freeze. Still, it’s an eye-opener.

That night I read a few more chapters to my boy about a pioneer family trying to survive in a building that’s not much more than a wooden shack. No insulation. No electricity. Cut off from civilization due to blizzards. They have a stove too, but there’s no coal. No firewood. They keep alive by burning hay. All they have to eat is potatoes. Then even the potatoes run out and they have nothing to eat but grain.

It goes on for months, and while I’m reading, all I can think is: How can people possibly survive like this?

The next morning, I stumble onto an article about the Syrian refugees. Lebanon just had its worst blizzard in a decade. Feet of snow. And most refugees don’t even have a clapboard shack for shelter. They’ve got tents. Tarps. They have nothing. They’re freezing to death. Kids are freezing to death in the snow.

So I call Maria.

*     *     *

As many of you know, I have a charity called Worldbuilders. We raise money from the geek community and use it to make the world a better place. Over the last several years we’ve raised about 3.5 million dollars.

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We work primarily with Heifer International because they offer the biggest bang for our buck. Heifer focuses on providing people with tools, education, and infrastructure so that they can become self-reliant forever. It’s the whole teach-a-person-to-fish thing. Except Heifer is actually better than that, because they also teach people to teach *other* people to fish. Which means the good they do is like an ever-growing avalanche rolling forward into the future.

I used to run Worldbuilders, but not anymore. These days Maria runs it, because she’s roughly 8000 times better at it than I ever was.

So I call Maria up and say, “Syrian Refugees are freezing to death. Can Worldbuilders give them some money to help?”

There’s a pause on the other end of the phone. Maria isn’t surprised. She’s just thinking. I call her like this all the time, saying things like: “I need a map of 18th century Ghent,” or “Why don’t we sell greeting cards in our online store? Can we get than ready by tomorrow?” or “Is it illegal for me to have a laser gun? And if so, how illegal? And also, can you find someone to build me a laser gun?”

It says a lot about Maria that she has never tried to choke me. Not even once.

So Maria is quiet on the phone for about 8 seconds, processing. Then she says, “We’d need to make sure the money goes to the right place.”

“There’s a place called Mercy Corps,” I said. “I haven’t checked them out completely, but they seem solid. Also, right now someone is offering matching funds, so if we hurry, we’ll be able to double up on our donation.”

“Okay,” Maria says. “I think that’s workable.”

Now I hesitate. “I worry that people might be upset if we support another charity,” I say. “We talk a lot about Heifer. I don’t want people to feel like we’re pulling a switch on them.”

“We’ve made donations to First Book,” Maria points out. “No one was bothered by that.”

“True,” I say. “But this isn’t the sort of charity we normally support. It’s not about education or sustainability. But long-term help isn’t appropriate here. These people don’t have anything. They need blankets. They need heaters and fuel.”

“I think we should do it,” Maria says.

“But when people donate or buy something in our store, they’re trusting us to put the money to good use,” I say. “I don’t want to risk that trust by changing charities on them all of a sudden. How about I give some money to Worldbuilders, then Worldbuilders donates it to Mercy Corps? That seems safer.”

“If that’s the way you want to do it,” Maria says. “I’ll look into them and make sure it’s a good charity.”

And that’s what we did. It was different for us. Worldbuilders usually tries to work for long-term change, but we knew this donation wouldn’t solve the refugee problem. It won’t give them homes and jobs. But you can’t teach someone to fish when they’re freezing to death. Sometimes all you can do is keep people warm. Sometimes all you can do help a little, and that has to be enough.

*     *     *

Fast forward to now.

Unless you’ve been living under a heavy rock, you’ve been hearing a lot about the Syrian refugees lately. I’ve heard there’s a picture of a little boy that drowned trying to get somewhere safe. I haven’t seen it, and I’m not going to go looking for it either. I don’t want to see it, and I wouldn’t put something like that in my blog.

Instead, here’s a picture of The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

1200px-An_Aerial_View_of_the_Zaatri_Refugee_Camp_July2013

Its population is 79,900. Making it the fourth largest city in the country. There’s a lot of kids there. 

I can’t imagine what it would be like, having to flee my country with my kids. I can’t imagine abandoning everything just hoping to keep my little boys safe. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a tent and just hope desperately that someone helps me.

Actually that’s not true. I can imagine what it’s like. I can imagine *exactly* what it’s like. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I can imagine it and it’s horrifying.

This video touches on the edge of it. It’s a only a minute and a half long. You have the time.

My imagination is much worse than that. It makes it hard for me to sleep at night. 

Every day I see more of this stuff. And every day it makes me feel more helpless. Hopeless. Angry at the world.

Then I saw this:

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This woman is named Petra Laszlo. She’s a journalist. This picture shows her tripping a refugee carrying a child in his arms. (Story here if you like.)

It’s been days since I first saw this. And I am still so angry. I’m so angry I can feel it in my chest. My skin prickles. I’m so angry that I can’t even describe it to you. I have no words for it. Nothing is big enough.

I believe that people are good. I really do. It’s one of the truths I live my life by. It’s one of the things I cling to when I have trouble sleeping at night. I’ve seen such proof of it through the years. From my children. From my readers. From the fact that so many people come together to make Worldbuilders a success.

But this. It’s makes me wonder if maybe I’m wrong. 

I hate that this is the world. And I’m so angry. And I’m tired of feeling like I can’t do anything to help.

So I call Maria.

*     *     *

So. For the next week, Worldbuilders is raising money to help the Syrian refugees.

What’s more, Worldbuilders will be matching donations for the first $25,000 of the fundraiser. So if you kick in 10 bucks, it turns into 20. Donate $50? We’ll turn it into a $100.

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(Like this.)

100% of the money from this fundraiser will be donated to Mercy Corps, because they’re already on the ground, helping out the refugees. They have more than 30 years of experience doing this sort of thing. We’ve checked them out and they’re excellent.

I’m taking a flier on this one, folks. It’s an experiment. We haven’t planned this the way we normally do. We aren’t giving out prizes. There aren’t any stretch goals. We don’t have any media lined up to help us spread the word.

This is just about helping people who are in desperate need of help.

And honestly? It’s kinda ridiculous for us to do this now. Our big end-of-the-year fundraiser in November, we should be focusing on that. That would be the smart thing for us to do.

But the simple truth is this: I can’t just watch this happen any more. I need to do something to help. I’m guessing a lot of you feel the same way, so I thought I’d give us a chance to do it together.

I don’t want to feel angry and hopeless any more. I want to see more pictures like this:

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If this isn’t your kind of charity, I completely understand. Rest assured that Worldbuilders will be doing its regular fundraising extravaganza in a couple months.

But if you want to help, you can do it over here.

Thanks for reading to the end, folks. I appreciate it.

pat

Edit 9:47 am: I posted this blog late last night, not knowing what the reaction might be. Whenever you reach out to people like this, it’s a risk. What’s more, I hadn’t done a lot of planning, and I was worried it might not go over well. Around 4:00 I finally managed to get to sleep.

A few minutes ago I woke up, blearily checked my phone, and saw that we’ve raised over $28,000. I’ve never been so happy to be awake after only 5 hours of sleep. And I’m going to give Worldbuilders another 25,000 dollars so they can keep matching donations. I’d love to see this thing keep rolling.

Edit 1:28 pm: We just hit $50,000 and within minutes, someone dropped us an e-mail, offering to provide us another $25,000 to help us continue matching donations. She would like to remain anonymous. But I salute her generosity, as it means all donations up to $75,000 are going to be doubled. 

I am having the best day ever.

Edit 6:18 pm: We just hit $75,000, and another lovely human being has stepped up with $5000 dollars so we can continue to match donations. I’m not sure if he wants to remain anonymous or not, but until we know, we’ll keep his name private. Named or not, he’s the reason donations are being matched up to $80,000.

Edit 8:05 pm: Just when we were closing in on $80,000 we got an e-mail from someone who offered to match another $20,000 dollars. When I saw the e-mail I actually laughed out loud. I’ve been laughing so much today, and it’s all because of you guys.

Thanks to our newest citizen philanthropist, we’re now matching all donations up to $100,000 dollars.

(If anyone else cares to drop us a line, our e-mail is refugees@worldbuilders.org.)

Also posted in Worldbuilders | By Pat77 Responses

Cool News: A Dresden Files T-Shirt

Fair warning here: Spoilers. If you haven’t read the Dresden files…

Well… first off. If you haven’t read the Dresden Files, you’re missing one of the best fantasy series in existence and you really should consider checking it out. Really really. Seriously.

Secondly, if you haven’t read the series, this blog isn’t for you. Partly because I’m going to be talking about stuff that won’t make any sense if you don’t know anything about the books. But *mostly* because some of the stuff I’m going to say here has really significant spoilers for the series.

Specifically, I’m going to be talking about stuff that happens in the most recent book: Skin Game. Big stuff that happens at the end of Skin Game.

So… yeah. If you read this it’s going to ruin big character and plot arcs that progress over the course of (does a quick count) nine books.

So stop reading if you don’t want that ruined.

As an alternate, you can go check out this video of me doing an interview with Jim Butcher a couple years ago.

Or you can go vote on which Kingkiller t-shirt designs we’ll end up using in the fundraiser next week.

Last Warning: I’m not going to be coy. Real spoilers for Skin Game below…

*     *     *

Over the years, I’ve been pretty clear about my love of Jim Butcher’s work, especially the Harry Dresden series.

As evidence, I submit for your perusal my embarrassingly gushy Goodreads review of Skin Game.

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I first read this book more about two years ago. Yeah. Before it even came out. I’m enough of a rabid fan that I sweet-talked my way into getting an advance reading copy.

Since then, I’ve read/listened to the book at least two more times.

And every time it gets to the end of the book… at the very end outside the carpenter’s house where everything is at its most bleak…. I laugh my ass off with pure joy and delight when Butters takes up the sword.

Because of this, for years now, I’ve wanted a t-shirt that shows a hand holding up a katana hilt with a lightsaber blade. Underneath it the words: “Polka will never die!”

My desire for this t-shirt has come and gone over the years, but it’s never gone entirely away. And recently, when I re-listened to Skin Game, it came back full force.

So I told my assistant Amanda about it (she’s a big Dresden fan as well) and her face lit up. “I want one too!” she said immediately.

Then she said, “We should make them for Worldbuilders.

This shows she’s a better person than I am. I just wanted one for me.

At this point in my career, I’m lucky enough to know Jim Butcher a little bit. We’ve met at conventions a couple times. Had a few dinners together. He’s really a delightful guy. A proper geek, funny and smart. If you ever get the chance to catch him at a signing or hear him speak at a convention, it’s well worth your time.

What’s more, he’s helped out Worldbuilders a couple times in the past. So I plucked up my courage and dropped him a line, asking how he’d feel about letting Worldbuilders do a t-shirt as part of our upcoming fundraiser.

And he said yes.

It’s hard to squee when you’re a baritone, but I gave it my best shot. (Have I mentioned that Jim is a really delightful guy?)

That e-mail exchange was just last week, and we *just* managed to get the paperwork tied up. So now all we really need is a graphic for the shirts.

Here’s the thing: we could design this in house. But neither of the two artists I work with the most, Brett and Nate, have read the Dresden books. (Shameful, I know. I gave both of them a stern talking-to.)

I could hire someone to do it too…. but honestly, when I do a project like this, I firmly believe there’s no substitute for the passion and enthusiasm of the fans. Whenever I reach out to y’all creatively, you come back with things so much better than I ever could have imagined.

So I’m reaching out to the artistic geeks among you to see if any of you would like to take a shot and making this t-shirt design.

I won’t lie, our timeline is a little ridiculous. The fundraiser starts on June 1st, so we only have a couple of days.

But if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, and you have the ability to art, and you’re interested in putting your skills to use for a good cause…. Well… that would be pretty awesome of you. You’d make a lot of geeks happy, and you’d be helping feed hungry kids, too.

A few notes:

  • Keep in mind that this design is for a t-shirt.
  • I asked Jim to confirm the color of the blade, and he said: “In the books, the blade is white edged in gold, like bright sunlight.”
  • Submissions go to: tshirt (at) worldbuilders.org
  • We need the entries by 12:00pm Central Time on Saturday, May 30.

I know. It’s not much time. But we can’t wait any longer because we’ll need to sort through submissions, e-mail back and forth with artists, fine-tune the design, and still launch it with the rest of the fundraiser on Monday, June 1st.

So there you go. I’m kinda silly excited about this. It’s like an early birthday present for me.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them down in the comments.

If you haven’t voted on the kingkiller t-shirt designs yet, you should check them out over here.

Lastly, I’m trying to think of something nice I can do for the artists who have been submitting designs for us. So if you are one of those artists (or if you’re just a clever person) I’d welcome any suggestions down in the comments.

Thanks for being awesome everyone,

pat

Also posted in contests, Jim Butcher | By Pat41 Responses
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