#AuthorsForFireys - Interview (March 2020)
How did the #AuthorsForFireys initiative come about?
Emily Gale and I have just finished co-writing a middle grade novel together. When we aren’t writing together we spend time talking books, eating chips and dreaming up all sorts of cunning plans. Before Christmas when NSW was burning, and Sydney was covered in smoke haze, down in Melbourne we were strangely removed from the devastation. We started talking about how we needed to organise a small fundraiser to send funds to the volunteer firefighters in NSW. By the time we launched the twitter auction #AuthorsForFireys large parts of Victoria, South Australia, and even Tasmania were burning too, and it was clear that we needed to broaden the donation points for the auction.
How much were you hoping to raise through #AuthorsForFireys?
Our initial intention was to raise about $13,000 using a twitter auction model devised by children’s author Zana Fraillon when she ran #AuthorsForAsylum and raised much-needed funds for asylum seekers. We thought we’d be auctioning signed books from some of our friends in the children’s and YA book community. Within hours of launching the hashtag it was clear that the auction was spreading beyond that small community to the broader book community. When it kept growing to international authors too, teacher/librarian Judith Ridge jumped in and created a spreadsheet so we could begin to itemise all the auction items. Authors Kelly Gardiner and Anna Whateley volunteered to help with the spreadsheet and we began filling in the gaps.
How many people donated to the auction?
We ended up with 1250 separate items - with everything from platypus tours in nearby rivers, to cups of tea and iced vovos with the former Australian Prime Minister.
Can you please share some of the more well-known people who participated in #AuthorsForFireys?
We had international authors like Cheryl Strayed auction leather-bound copies of her book Wild, and illustrators like Elise Hurst auction original paintings from the Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean At The End of The Lane. Many high-profile children’s and YA authors were involved - Andy Griffiths, Sally Rippin, Jessica Townsend, Alison Lester, Jackie French and Amie Kaufman. Adult authors included Hannah Kent, Liane Moriarty, Kathy Lette, R.W.R. McDonald, Helen Garner and Maxine Beneba-Clarke.
How did #AuthorsForFireys compare with other fundraisers you have organised?
I’ve never been involved in anything like this. It was just picked up by so many people. I think so many of us were desperate to do something and we all felt so powerless, that this became a way we could offer something. I think the book community embraced the auction so swiftly and so generously because they could all be involved and it wasn’t about ego or fame, it was just about doing something small that could raise some money. As the auction grew larger and larger, more and more bidders joined twitter, asking for advice on how to use it just so they could bid on items.
Also one of the loveliest parts of the auction has been watching the connections made between auctioneers and bidders. Personally I’ve met so many new people, and I think that’s been the case for so many others too.
What were some of the more unusual items offered for auction?
Some of the more unusual items auctioned included singer/songwriter Nick Cave’s suit which was bought by children’s writer Andy Griffiths for $10,000, the chance to be a love interest character in a new YA novel from author Claire Christian, or to be killed off in a crime book by YA writer Ellie Marney.
What item or service received the highest bid?
Good Weekend’s Konrad Marshall, who raised $40,000 after promising his top two bidders signed copies of his books as well as lunch with Richmond Football Club president Peggy O’Neal.
What was the total raised through #AuthorsForFireys?
The total pledged amount is over $530,000 and the total of confirmed bids with receipts that we’ve ticked off is $495,000. Of this, a total of $430,000 has been donated to fire departments and individual fire stations across Australia, and $65,000 to other organisations like WIRES and Wildlife Victoria.
How can our readers learn more about you both?
We both have websites: