Before my first novel, Tatia’s Tattoo, became a file in my computer, I knew sex trafficking existed. But in my narrow perspective, this unspeakable crime was limited to the back alleys of foreign countries or a few mega-cities in the U.S. Orphans were snatched from a hopeless existence and forced into something even worse.
Then, one Sunday evening, a couple visited our church from a town about fifty miles away from my home. They had founded an organization whose mission statement reads, in part: to bring hope to teens silenced by sex trafficking and exploitation in the United States. Talk about a wake-up call! Not only was sex trafficking not limited to faraway places, it was not limited to nameless, faceless children who lived in another reality. It was happening to girls – and sometimes boys – just like the children and grandchildren of my friends and neighbors, the children I saw every week at church or in the grocery store – or at camp.
Not long before that Sunday evening, my husband David and I had spent a week as counselors at a camp for foster children. The experience was heart wrenching and life changing. To this day, one little girl tugs at my heart. “Lara” was twelve going on twenty-two. She wore heavy make-up and tight, revealing clothes that were just barely within camp rules, and one day I heard her confide in another camper that she was dating an older man. We were there to simply love the kids and see that they had a good time, so we were limited in what kind of input we could have. Still, the thought of what might have happened to her after camp still haunts me.
One of the stories the couple told at our church was about a thirteen-year-old girl named Tanya who was targeted by a pimp. He played on her insecurities and used her vulnerability to trap her into a life that many of us cannot imagine. Tatia’s Tattoo is a story about sex trafficking in small-town America – it’s Tanya’s story and maybe it’s Lara’s story – and it’s a story that needs to be told.
It was a hard story to tell. It involved several months of research and emotional preparation and a year writing and editing. Then, I asked several friends to read and critique the manuscript, and when they responded enthusiastically, I placed it in the hands of an agent. My goal was to have my book picked up by a traditional publisher, but that can be a long, involved process, even if yours is one of the few stories to be chosen. I considered self-publishing, but I was not confident that I could present the quality book Tatia deserves without the assistance of a professional designer and a professional editor. In addition, there are not enough undesignated funds in my budget to cover publishing expenses. Even the bare necessities of producing a book are expensive.
Then, I found Crowdscribed. First, Crowdscribed is a company that offers authors a way to find readers who are interested in what they have to say before a word is printed. It also offers a way for readers to discover new books and support titles they believe in. Finally, it offers a platform for authors to crowdfund a project that includes, not just a basic printing service but a multi-service professional publishing package that will create the kind of book both reader and author will treasure.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that it exists. Too many people, like me, think that sex trafficking is not part of their world. Tatia’s Tattoo is about the mark of shame on Tatia’s forearm that represents the evil in her life – the war and grief that took her parents and the lust and greed that took her childhood innocence. It is also about the courage, love, and grace that helped her rise above it all. My goal is to place this powerful tool in the hands of readers who may be motivated to take steps toward becoming part of the solution to this horror.
Next Thursday I will launch a crowdfunding campaign that is the next step toward reaching that goal. I will outline how you can be involved and how you can choose the level of support and reward that best fits you. During the course of the campaign, I will share some of what I’ve learned through my research, and I will share progress updates.
In the meantime, if you would like to know more about Tatia’s Tattoo, visit my Crowdscribed book page here to read a brief synopsis of the story. Under the empty space that will eventually display the book cover, you will also find a link to the preface and first two chapters.
I hope you will join me in this project. Together I believe we can make a difference.