and straight on ’til morning . . .


You all know the quote, it’s a piece of the most famous set of directions ever given. It’s how you get to Never Land in J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. Like most folks today, I was introduced to Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbelle and the Lost Boys through the magic of Disney’s adaptation, but I love the whole story. Never Land has morphed from a set of mystical places where Barrie set his books to a place where aging stops, where you go to never grow up, and where the mundane world has little meaning. 

And all that will tie in soon enough, I promise. It will all make sense in the fullness of time, but here’s the real crux of my issue right now. I’m pissed off. Yeah, it happens. I’m usually a pretty easy-going guy. I’d rather laugh than yell, and many of my friends and acquaintances have never seen me mad, or even perturbed. When you’re often the biggest guy in the room, it pays to keep your temper in check, or things get breaky. 

But this week I’m pissed. And the worst part is I don’t have anyone to direct my anger at. You see, cancer pisses me off. No, I don’t have cancer, and neither does anyone in my immediate family. But in the past few weeks I’ve found out about the diagnosis of two old friends, women I went through elementary, middle and high school with. They’ve both been diagnosed with breast cancer. And this year one cousin and one aunt have also battled breast cancer (and won). And now I see on Facebook where a couple of other acquaintances, one of them another genre fiction writer, have been diagnosed. And right after Dragon we lost Ann Crispin, founder of Writer Beware and longtime advocate for writers. 

And it pisses me off. It pisses me off because we live in the 21st century, for crying out loud! We’re supposed to have flying cars and have cured cancer. But all we’ve done is destroyed the concept of reasoned discourse in America, failed to perfect instant replay in football, and come up with better and better ways to kill each other. And that’s not how the future is supposed to work. I have more computing power in my phone than we used to put a man on the moon, and we can’t figure out why some cells go kerflooey and make my friends lives terrible for a while before they manage to beat their bodies back into submission. 

It pisses me off because I’m a creator. I make things. It’s what I do. And there might not always be much of a plan to my creativity, but there’s always at least an idea. So the concept of random destruction is anathema to me. I don’t get it. And I can’t punch it. And it pisses me off. 

So I had an idea last week. Suzy groaned when I mentioned that I had an idea, because I don’t ever have little, reasonable ideas. I have what we in the non-profit management world call BHAGs. Big, Hairy, Aggressive Goals. The kind of ideas that have lots of moving parts, get lots of people involved and kinda eat your life for a while. That’s the kind of ideas I have. I thought about a few times recently when I’ve bought charity anthologies or special editions of books to defray the medical costs of a writer going through chemo, or recovering from a stroke, or whatever. Then I thought about Behind the Scenes, the technical theatre foundation that provides financial assistance for technicians who are injured or sick, or to help cover funeral expenses for their loved ones. 

And thus begins Second Star, a new non-profit organization dedicated to helping creators who have medical expenses due to illness that outstrip their insurance or insurability. 

Yeah, I just announced the creation of a non-profit to give money to writers with cancer, or artists with injuries, or actors with diseases. The goal is to make a place where creative people can go when insurance stops, or never started in the first place, or when it’s something that falls through the coverage cracks. It’s going to take some time to get everything set up and rolling, and eventually it’s going to take a flaming buttload of money, but this is one way that I can change my world, and a way that I can make it a little better for my friends. I get by with a little help from my friends, now I want to help my friends get by. 

You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months. I know a little bit about non-profit management – I’ve created a couple of non-profits and sat on the board of several others, so I’m not worried about that paperwork. What I’m worried about is not getting enough money soon enough, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The money will come, because we’ll get cool autographed books, and we’ll do silent auctions at cons, and we’ll do charity anthologies, and all my friends will get sucked into the vortex of awesome that this will be (you’ve now officially been warned). 

And we’ll change our world a little bit. And we’ll take one thing off the plate of someone who has all they can handle just fighting a disease. And we’ll make life better for people who have improved our lives. And we won’t cure cancer. And we won’t save lives. And that’s okay. Because what we will do is make life livable for artists who need help. Because they are us. 

You with me? 


22 comments to and straight on ’til morning . . .

  • Ya know, as a writer with one of those wonderful chronic diseases, Crohn’s (and dealing with a resurgence of it right now), I can relate, and when the time comes I’ll spread word, donate some writing, whathaveyou, if you want it. The money sitch is craptacular for the foreseeable future, but if you end up taking subs for some charity antho, I’ll be more than happy to chip in something. I’m still just a new publish, with my novella coming around August 2014, but I’ll lend support. It sounds like a good cause.

    I have a friend (online, but I’d like to think we’d get along in person) who follows a lot of the cancer research because he was one of the researchers a number of years ago. I still see hope in the new breakthroughs and discoveries, but I know what you mean about being pissed and feeling helpless over the fact that we’re still not there.

  • Ken

    Aye, Yes! Because it’s a good cause that might help a lot of good people out. I haven’t been published yet but I’ll support in any way I can. Maybe that could be one of your charity anthologies. Sort of a “Ones to Watch” kind of book filled with stories from folks that just haven’t had the good fortune to be published yet. Of course anyone selected, couldn’t appear in book two 🙂

  • Count me in. Great idea, John!

  • Count me in, friend. Lovely, lovely idea.

  • Nathan Elberg

    Very nice idea. I’ve got lots of cancer survivors and victims in my family. Health is only part of the fight.
    Remember, it’s better to be pissed off than pissed on. The former can do something about it, as you are.

  • Marlie Harris

    Count me in. My mom died of lung cancer last year.

    Big hugs, big guy!

  • Whatever I can do to help within my skill set. Write, account, edit, create website. Count me in.

    Three grandparents, one parent, and uncountable friends have fought the big C and succumbed – never loosing their dignity or their magic. I’ll follow the Second Star to the right cause.

  • What a great idea!!! I’m in!

  • What a wonderful idea. I’ll do what I can to help.

  • Cindy

    What a great and mighty task. It’s wonderful!
    I am willing to set up a booth, silent auction, or anything you think would be helpful at World Con 2015 since it’s so close to me.

  • Razziecat

    You are a wonderful, beautiful man. Cancer has taken three members of my family. Keep us apprised of what’s going on with this. We’re with you!

  • Yes. This I can do. This is something that I can wrap my head around. Like Daniel, I can personally relate. And sometimes I just feel worn out. But this feels right. Count me in, too! <3

  • Melissa Gilbert

    Count me in. I’d love to help.

  • mudepoz

    It’s brilliant. I didn’t realize there wasn’t one for authors. Even dog show people have one called Take the Lead:
    Take The Lead Celebrates 20 Years
    With your help, we can make a difference in people’s lives.
    Take The Lead provides direct services, support and care for people in the sport of purebred dogs who suffer the devastation of life-threatening or terminal illness. Perhaps no one can describe who we are and what we do better than someone we have helped along the way.

    I’d be glad to help, with what I can. Health insurance SUCKS. No one knows what will happen to them in the future.

  • Jo

    I’m with you big time! I’ve got friends battling this as well, and I personally battle a chronic pain disease that, without the help of family, would have sunk my hubby and I.
    My donations may not be large, but they will be heart felt!

  • sagablessed

    AS a writer with the Big C, yes. I’m in. Let us know whowhatwherewhenhow.

  • Fireheart1974


  • quillet

    I’m with you. What a beautiful idea!

  • Megan B.

    First of all, you just did a wonderful job of summing up the state of the modern world. Very well put.

    And your charity sounds like a great idea. I can’t wait to hear more about it as the plan moves forward. Good luck!

  • […] and straight on ’til morning… — John G. Hartness looks to start a nonprofit focused on supporting writers and artists with severe illness. (Thanks to Marta Murvosh.) […]