Authors launch auction for Australian bushfire crisis

Authors launch auction for Australian bushfire crisis

Authors including Joanna Harris and Richard Flanagan (pictured) are raising money for firefighters battling bushfires in Australia by offering signed books, illustrations, experiences and writers' services in a Twitter auction.

The auction runs until 11 p.m. Sydney/ Melbourne time on 11th January 2020. Authors have auctioned off prizes under the hashtag #AuthorsForFireys with top bidders asked to donate directly to the Country Fire Authority (CFA), Victoria's rural fire service.

At least 24 people have died in the bushfires, including three volunteer firefighters. On Monday 6th January, according to the Guardian Australia, 31 fires were burning in Victoria with 13 "watch and act warnings" in place.

Scores of, mostly Australian, authors have been getting involved in the auction in aid of the CFA, including Flanagan, who is auctioning off a commemorative signed copy of his Man Booker-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Penguin). Melbourne-based writer Angela Meyer, winner of the first Mslexia Novella Competition, is offering a consultation, as a professional editor and former publisher, and Pachinko author Min Jin Lee is giving away signed copies. In the UK, Harris has offered to read and evaluate the synopsis and first chapter of a winning bidder's manuscript, throwing a one-hour feedback session on Skype into the mix.

The auction was organised by children's author Emily Gale, who spent the first years of her career in the book trade in London, working as an editor for Penguin and Egmont, before moving to Melbourne 11 years ago. She has been involved in a number of fundraisers in the past, including as one of the organisers of an online auction of books and writers’ services to raise $20k after the Queensland Floods in 2011 and fundraising for asylum seekers in 2017 with Zana Fraillon, the author of The Bone Sparrow, reaching $13k in just a few days using Twitter as a platform.

Gale told The Bookseller the initiative had become "an amazing runaway train" since putting out the first tweet for Authors for Fireys on Sunday.

She was prompted to launch Authors for Fireys with a fellow writer, Nova Weetman, when the bushfires in New South Wales had gripped the country and it was "difficult to think about anything else". She explained further the decision to focus on Victoria was made after Celeste Barber's fundraiser for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service managed to raise several million.

"Nova asked if I wanted to get together with her to raise some money for the volunteer firefighters. At that point, two young firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service, both fathers to young children, had died. There were reports that supplies were low, volunteers were exhausted, the conditions they were walking into day after day extremely treacherous – as they continue to be," Gale said.

"There’s a history here – as I think there is in the UK too – of writers from the children’s and young adult community banding together to raise money at times like this ... I got a sense very early on that it was going to be well-supported by the children’s and YA community, but [after putting the first tweet into the world on Sunday] by Monday morning it was clear that this auction was going to be a lot bigger than we ever anticipated. Once a few celebrities put their weight behind it, the auction became an amazing runaway train and we’ve been running after it waving our arms frantically ever since!"

It is believed there are several hundred items currently being bid on under two hashtags, #AuthorsForFireys and #AuthorsForFiries. As well as from high-profile authors, these have come also from commentators and politicians, and people who only joined Twitter because they wanted to be involved in the auction.

Full details, including the rules of the auction, can be found on the website.