Use Your Writing, Editing, or Reading Skills to Make a Difference in the World

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00007]

E-book is 99 cents today!

By Jodie Renner, Editor, Author, and TKZ Emeritus 

Have you thought about using your skills to help the less fortunate? Here’s a project I decided to try, and an easy way that you can help, too, if you’re interested.

I’ve been a freelance editor since 2007, when I retired early from a career as middle-school teacher and school librarian. Over the nine years since, I’ve continually increased my editing skills, and about a year and a half ago, I started thinking about how I could use those skills to give back, to help victimized people in the world, especially children.

I was doing a Google search when I came across the true story of a young Pakistani slave worker who was murdered for daring to protest against the inhumane conditions of Asian child laborers.

In 1986, when Iqbal Masih was four years old, his father sold him to a carpet weaver for $12. Iqbal became a slave, a bonded worker who could never make enough money to buy his freedom. In that carpet factory in Pakistan, this preschool-age boy began a grueling existence much like that of hundreds of thousands of children in other carpet factories in Pakistan, India, and Nepal. He was set to weaving rugs and tying tiny knots for more than twelve hours a day, seven days a week, with meager food and poor sleeping conditions, while being constantly beaten and verbally abused.

Six years later, at the age of ten, Iqbal managed to escape and was fortunate to be able to attend a school for freed bonded children, where he was a bright and energetic student. Iqbal began to speak out against child labor. His dream for the future was to become a lawyer, so he could continue to fight for freedom on behalf of Pakistan’s seven and a half million illegally enslaved children. One day, while riding his bicycle with his friends, Iqbal was shot and killed. He was twelve years old. It is widely thought he was killed by factory owners for trying to change the system.

Even though Iqbal’s story is over two decades old, conditions haven’t changed much for impoverished children in developing countries since then, as I found out through more research.Even today, throughout Asia and elsewhere, children as young as four or five are routinely forced to work seven days a week, for twelve to sixteen hours each day, in factories, quarries, rice mills, plantations, mines, and other industries, many of them hazardous, often with only two small meals a day. Most are not allowed out, and they often sleep right where they work. When inspectors come, the children are quickly hidden or told to lie about their age.

Not only are these children denied a childhood and schooling, so most are illiterate, but they very often end up with crippling injuries, respiratory disorders, and chronic pain.

I decided to use my background as teacher of children aged 10 to 14 to organize an anthology of stories aimed at that age group, in hopes that librarians, teachers, and students could influence others to take action. All net proceeds would go directly to a charity that works to help these children regain their childhood and a much better future.

As it would be too difficult to find or write true stories about any of these children, I decided that the best approach would be to organize a variety of well-researched, compelling fictional stories that would appeal to readers from age 12 and up.

To find writers, I called for submissions through my blog, Facebook, and emails. I was extremely lucky that one of the first people I contacted was Steve Hooley, whom I’d first met through TKZ, then in person while presenting at a conference organized by Steven James in Nashville. Steve is an active member of the TKZ community, a talented writer, and an all-around awesome guy! He helped get the word out to others, including the ACFW. Steve also researched and wrote three fabulous stories for the anthology, depicting South Asian child workers in different situations – a 9-year-old boy who works in a carpet factory, a 12-year-old welder who comes up with an ingenious plan, and a girl who works in a clothing factory that collapses.

Story ideas came in from writers across North America and also from Europe, Australia, and India. Caroline Sciriha from Malta, an educator for whom I was editing a story, got on board early on and contributed two stories and has helped spread the word to educators in Europe. Both Caroline and Steve also acted as valued beta readers for stories from other contributors, helping me decide which to accept and which needed revisions. Steve also talked The Kill Zone’s Joe Hartlaub into reading and reviewing the anthology. TKZ founder Kathryn Lilley was also kind enough to read the stories and write an endorsement.

I was thrilled by the quality of stories submitted by talented  writers from all over. Other story contributors include Tom Combs, MD, thriller author, also a regular reader/commenter here at TKZ, and award-winning international journalist Peter Eichstaedt, whose contribution is based on true events he encountered. We were also fortunate to entice prolific, talented author Timothy Hallinan to write a powerful Foreword to the book.

Other talented contributing writers not already mentioned above: Lori Duffy Foster, Barbara Hawley, D. Ansing, Kym McNabney, Edward Branley, Fern G.Z. Carr, Eileen Hopkins, Sanjay Deshmukh, Della Barrett, E.M. Eastick, Rayne Kaa Hedberg, Patricia Anne Elford, Hazel Bennett, Sarah Hausman, and myself.

My challenges as organizer and editor included helping with research to make sure the stories depicted real situations in a broad cross-section of labor sectors where children are used as slave workers. And, for the stories to get widely read, I needed to make sure that, although true to life, they weren’t all depressing. The talented writers created characters that came to life and found a variety of realistic ways to insert hope into each story.

The stories needed to be evaluated and edited, with versions going back and forth several times. The contributors, besides having an opportunity to be published in a high-quality anthology, all gained by working with a professional editor and receiving advice that would improve their writing skills in general. Our dedicated, talented beta readers included other contributors and volunteer readers from South Asia.

Surprisingly, one of my most difficult tasks was to find a charity that would allow us to use their name on the book in exchange for donating all net proceeds to their cause. Having a specific, respected charity on board of course increases credibility and sales. Many charities, such as, replied that they just didn’t have the personnel to read the book carefully to make sure the children’s stories were handled appropriately and sensitively. Fortunately, we were finally accepted by SOS Children’s Villages, a highly reputable charity that helps impoverished and disadvantaged children all over the world.

As a writer, submitting to an anthology, besides an opportunity to work with an editor to polish your writing and get a story published, can also broaden the scope of your writing, let you experiment with different voices, and, in the case of an anthology for a good cause, provide you with a great way to make a difference in the world.

A little about this project:

Childhood RegainedStories of Hope for Asian Child Workers aims to bring to life some of the situations children in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh still face today, in 2016. The captivating, touching stories, each told from one child’s point of view, depict situations for children and young teenagers in garment factories, stone quarries, brickyards, jewelry factories, carpet factories, farms, mines, welding, the service industry, hotels, street vending, sifting through garbage, and other situations. The book also includes several appendices, including factual information on each topic and story questions and answers, as well as lists of organizations that help these victimized kids to regain their childhood.

How you can help child laborers in developing countries: Spread the word about this anthology, especially to teachers of 11- to 14-year-olds and school librarians. I’ll be glad to send a free PDF or e-copy of this book to any interested middle-grade or junior high school teachers, other educators, or librarians. I’ll also send out free sample print copies to educators and librarians in North America. Please have them contact me at: We’re in the process of creating a MIDDLE SCHOOL EDITION, so we especially welcome feedback from middle-grade teachers. Thanks for your help!

For more information on Childhood RegainedStories of Hope for Asian Child Workers, go to its page on my website or on Amazon. The e-book is ON SALE for $0.99 today through Monday.

imageJodie Renner, a TKZ alumna, is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources, Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage, and has organized and edited two anthologies for charity: Voices from the Valleys and Childhood Regained – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. You can find Jodie at Facebook and Twitter, and at,, or her blog, Resources for Writers.

34 thoughts on “Use Your Writing, Editing, or Reading Skills to Make a Difference in the World

  1. What a great idea. I work in several middle schools in Southeast Michigan. I’ll going to download the book and suggest it to the various middle school librarians in my area.

    • Thanks so much, Cynthia! I’m in the process of creating a middle school edition, so I’d love feedback and suggestions from middle-grade teachers and school librarians. They can contact me at for a free e-copy or a PDF of excerpts. 🙂

  2. Jodie, congratulations and thanks for organizing this very worthwhile project.

    Charity anthologies are a way to give back. And the work with the editor certainly is an education in itself.

    I wish your project every success. And I hope this blog motivates established writers to consider doing something similar for causes they are passionate about.

    Thanks for the post, Jodie!

    • This project wouldn’t have been brought to fruition without your ongoing encouragement and support, Steve! Not to mention your three wonderful stories! Thank you so much.

  3. Thank you for all you do. Such a blessing. What a great collection of stories for all the right reason.

  4. And thank you Jodie. It was a pleasure and a privilege working with you on this anthology. As you indicated, refining a story under the guidance of an editor helps one grow as a writer. I can certainly vouch for it.

    • Thanks for your two wonderful stories and your ongoing help and support, Caroline! I couldn’t have done it without you and Steve Hooley! 🙂

  5. Thanks, Jodie, for all the great work you did on this. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. My hope is that the book opens the eyes of young readers to the abysmal and often inhumane existence that millions of young people suffer around the world. Too many Americans fail to recognize their privileged existence is sometimes at the expense of others in far-flung corners of our world.

    • “Too many Americans fail to recognize their privileged existence is sometimes at the expense of others in far-flung corners of our world.” — so true, Peter! Thanks for expressing that so well.

      We can all make a difference through consumer choices, something that is briefly discussed in the book.

      Thanks for your excellent story, “Intahari – Confessions of a Suicide Bomber,” based on a young suicide bomber you met, who managed to escape and stay alive! We’re honored to have an award-winning journalist on board!

  6. Done–shared it with our middle school’s librarian–I was the principal there 11 years. Our nation’s children need more of this type of exploration–unfortunately, the impact of test-mania tends to gobble up every minute of educators’ time. Ugh. But there are still some creative and justice-minded educators who find ways to squeeze this type of learning into their children’s days. Thank you for all the work you did to bring this anthology to print, Jodie.

    P.S.–I like your other books, too!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing with your librarian, Rick! I was a teacher for many years and a teacher-librarian for a few years, so I know all about pressures to teach to the government tests! But this book will provide a fresh, exciting resource for librarians and middle-grade teachers. They can contact me at for a free PDF that includes 9 complete stories as well as story questions, factual info, and more.

    And glad you find my writing guides helpful! 🙂

  8. Sustained media attention, the work of government and charitable organizations, and publications such as these have all contributed towards reducing the incidence of child labor in the high-risk areas of firecrackers and matchsticks manufacturing in India. Thank you Jodie for letting me throw light on this specific area, and as you’ve rightly said, it was a wonderful education to work with a super editor like you.

    • Sanjay, I’m so glad to have you aboard! I absolutely love your story, “Funny Dance,” which sheds light on the dangers of children working in firecracker factories while providing some much-needed levity and entertainment! 🙂

  9. Jodie –
    The statistics are staggering yet often do not compel.
    Stories of individual children – blameless, brave, and terribly vulnerable – grabs one by the heart. For me to imagine one of my young grandsons experiencing anything ugly is overwhelming. Your project puts a face on the millions of children who have so little.

    Thanks for nudging me into participating. Every set of eyes that “Childhood Regains” opens has the potential to help countless children someday experience the freedom and opportunity that so many of us take for granted.
    I know that you dedicated/donated many hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and unmeasurable caring effort to this project. Truly a selfless and noble undertaking. Your storehouse of grace and good Karma is overflowing 🙂
    Thank you!

    • Thank you so much for your support and encouragement, Tom — and your eye-opening, moving story for the anthology, “Dreams Are for Sleep”! So happy you decided to contribute a story!

  10. This was such a work of love, Jodie and I am thrilled to have played a small part in it. Kudos to you and the other authors who contributed to this anthology. As the anthology makes it out into the readership of the world, a little bit more can be done to protect those children caught up in an adult world of abuse and neglect. I am so excited to hear about the middle school interest and hope that other teachers and librarians give this book a chance.

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful story, “Seeds of Slavery,” Eileen, and for your ongoing support with the anthology! Much appreciated! Together we can make a difference!

  11. Thanks, Jodie, for your generous contributions of time and talent! It is unimaginable that one of our own children or grandchildren fall victim to the atrocity of child slavery. I pray “Childhood Regained” personalize the appalling statistics so far removed from many of us. And compel those of us who can, to open our eyes, heart, and storehouse of resources. May this project inspire compassion and action. God bless the little ones, who are at this moment, suffering.

      • And thanks, Debra (D. Ansing) for your wonderful story, “Treasure of the Mind,” and also for your valuable insights and suggestions as beta reader/editor!

  12. Such an important topic addressed through these stories of hope! Thank you, Jodie, for pulling together this collection of stories on behalf of children in need.

  13. Thank you, Kathryn, for inviting me to talk about this topic and anthology here at TKZ! I really appreciate it and hope my post helps raise awareness about this global problem that often seems to get swept under the rug!

    Each of the stories is unique and powerful, so I know readers will find them touching and inspirational. Kudos to the writers who worked so hard, researching and writing them!

  14. Very touching stories.. hope you are all blessed and supported on this good cause.. I will also be sharing come of this on my fb wall. great write-up.

Comments are closed.