Writers often lament how much competition there is in this business. They want to become published, yet they fear doing so will be like diving into a shark tank of rivals. They're looking at it all wrong. Being a writer is more like being adopted into a loving family that will champion and support you, always.
I recently embarked on a small fundraising effort for my church's youth group. Each year they host a dinner to raise money for their summer mission trip, and items are solicited for an auction. As an author and someone who loves to read, I thought it would be cool to assemble a basket of signed books to auction off.
After church one Sunday, I went to my computer, composed a brief email and compiled a list of authors to approach with my request. A few were authors I had met at writers conferences or who I knew personally. Some were people I had "met" only through social media. Quite a few were big-name authors who didn't know me from any other chump asking them for a freebie. I explained that I was reaching out to fellow authors for donations. I described the enthusiasm and generosity of our church youth, where they were going this summer, where and how they had served their community in the past. And I asked for one signed book.
You should know, before I continue, that authors are often asked for free books. Quite often, actually. We'd love to say yes to everyone, but it just isn't possible. We receive a limited number of copies from our publishers, and after that we have to buy our own books just like everyone else does. Heck, even our shipping costs can really add up.
So, I wasn't expecting a huge response. I thought that if I emailed about 35 authors, I might be able to collect 10 or 12 books to fill a nice basket. I thought wrong.
The response was overwhelming. Twenty authors replied enthusiastically. They ran the gamut from debut novelists to New York Times best-selling and award-winning authors, including the American Book Award, Orange Prize and Pulitzer Prize. They were happy to contribute, delighted to have been asked. Several donated multiple titles. Many included personal notes of encouragement and support for our church youth and their mission to help others.
All told, 30 signed books were donated, enough for three auction baskets (children's books, novels and nonfiction/memoirs) with an estimated retail value of more than $500. All proceeds from the auction on March 30 will go toward the Paradise Valley United Methodist Church 2014 youth mission trip to Booneville, Arkansas.
It's difficult to express the full measure of my gratitude. I'm grateful for the book donations, of course. Yet, I'm even more grateful to be part of a community of writers who help one another, without a moment's hesitation. This fundraiser is just one example. I have dozens more stories about ways in which fellow writers have helped me without expecting anything in return -- by featuring me on their blogs, by recommending my novel to friends, by consoling me through countless queries and rejections, by sending an occasional note of encouragement, by emailing feedback on a rough draft or by offering advice for a perplexing research challenge.
Perhaps the best way to express my gratitude is by paying it forward, by championing and supporting other writers when they ask for my help, and even when they don't ask.
Below is an alphabetical list of the authors who contributed to the PVUMC youth mission auction. Please join me in thanking them for their generosity by visiting their websites and perhaps by sending a brief note of gratitude, buying a book or posting a review.
Jon Acuff: Start: Punch Fear in the Face (nonfiction)
Jody Hedlund: The Preacher's Bride (inspirational historical romance)
Beth Hoffman: Looking for Me (fiction)
Charles Krauthammer: Things That Matter (collection of essays and writings)
Mike Lawson: House Blood (spy thriller)
Lee Martin: Such a Life (memoir)
Jenn McKinlay: Read It and Weep, A Library Lover's Mystery
Sarah McCoy: The Baker's Daughter (contemporary/historical fiction)
Laura Munson: This is Not the Story You Think it Is: A season of unlikely happiness (memoir)
Jolina Petersheim: The Outcast (a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter)
Rebecca Rasmussen: The Bird Sisters (fiction)
Jewell Parker Rhodes: Sugar (middle grade novel)
Erika Robuck: Call Me Zelda (historical fiction)
Timothy Schaffert: The Swan Gondola (fiction)
Lisa See: Dreams of Joy (historical fiction)
Rachel Simon: The Story of Beautiful Girl (fiction), Riding the Bus with My Sister (memoir) and Building a Home with My Husband (memoir)
Conrad Storad: 6 desert-themed picture books (including Don't Call Me Pig, Rattlesnake Rules, and Desert Night Shift)
Natalia Sylvester: Chasing the Sun (fiction, special advance copy, releases June 2014)
Barbara Anne Waite: Elsie, Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher 1913-1918 (nonfiction)
Ann Weisgarber: The Promise (historical fiction) and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree
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