Operation Backpack

I am proud to announce that CONVERGENCE will be included in the "Thank You" gift pack of eBooks given to all contestants of this year's speculative fiction writing contest from Bards and Sages Publishing. The contest opens today, March 15 and runs until Oct. 31. A significant portion of the contest's $20 entry fee will be going to support the Operation Backpack program run by Volunteers of America Delaware Valley. Those who submit their stories to Bards and Sages will be rewarded with a collection of titles from KJ Colt, Deirdre Gould, Jeff Bracket, as well as myself and a few others. Entrants will also have a chance to win some audiobooks donated by Red Adept Publishing. For the full-list and details on entering, check out the contest here.

Donations made to Operation Backpack will help provide some of America's homeless children, or children living in foster care, with much-needed school supplies. It will also help fund VoA's after-school and youth mentoring programs.

Now, I say "some of" because, let's face reality here - there are an awful lot of homeless children in the US, kids whose families are poor and struggling, and who don't have the means and options available to them that a number of other luckier, better-off kids have. And, there's a number of reasons for this, all of them well beyond the control of these poor, young kids. It's a sad state of affairs all around. The American Institutes for Research estimates that there are over 1.6 million homeless children in the USA. I would encourage you to read more about this plight here and prepare to be shocked and dismayed, and then, hopefully, use some of that anger, contempt, sadness, or whatever emotions this inspires in you to at least try to help make things right. You can find a list of other Operation Backpack campaigns here.

I know that, sadly, there's quite a bit of cynicism regarding charitable organizations, and the argument that the only people who really benefit are the wealthy elites organizing the campaigns. I'm sure we've all heard about the backlash against Susan G. Komen For the Cure, or remember the criticisms of donation campaigns in the wake of 9/11. Protestations aside, I do believe that acts of kindness, generosity, and charity can go rather far. It's way too easy to brush aside the kindhearted efforts of these organizations by saying it all just goes into the pockets of the rich fat-cat organizers behind these campaigns. To which I say, do your homework, and don't paint all charities with the same wide brush. One bad apple, in fact, does not ruin the whole bunch. It's easy to be cynical, but it's even easier to be lazy and selfish.

Volunteer's of America is an accredited Better Business Bureau charity, and ninety cents of every donated dollars goes to the folks who need it. And 1.6 million homeless children certainly do need it. Kids are our future, and we need to make their lives and our world better for them.

Bards and Sages Publishing has been holding this annual speculative fiction writing contest for a few years now, and in that time they've raised thousands of dollars for charity, including American Red Cross, Children's Literacy Initiative, and Doctors Without Borders. They've done solid work, for a number of solid, worthwhile programs.

In short, I'm more than happy to take a small part in this fund-raising campaign. To all you speculative fictions writer's out there, I encourage you to submit your work. At best, you'll win $500 and a pack of audiobooks, and at worst, you'll be getting your twenty-dollars worth of reading material. And beyond those fine incentives, you also just might give a child the chance to tough out another school year and let them know that somebody out there cares enough about them to help. Seems like a win-win no matter how you look at this.

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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