At the end of last year, the federal government announced changes that meant that Australia would no longer have a department with a major focus on the arts. So much for artists’ contribution to our culture, our economy and our wellbeing.
If anyone doubted artists’ commitment to a better country and their willingness to take community action towards that goal, they should take a look at our wonderful writers, who together with publishers, agents and booksellers have raised nearly $500,000 for bushfire relief.
The #AuthorsForFireys campaign on Twitter was started a month ago by two writers, Emily Gale and Nova Weetman, and it took off like … well, wildfire. More than 500 authors, illustrators and book industry people have taken part. Some were celebrities, local and international, such as Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas, Mark Haddon, Min Jin Lee, Alexander Chee and Cheryl Strayed. Others were debut or not-yet-published writers. They all found a way to help.
The preferred method of donation was bidding at auction, and you could see the authors’ creative ingenuity in the way they came up with tempting prizes. Apart from winning packages of signed books, top bidders could get their names used for a character in an author’s next novel. Someone committed $3000 to be named in Jessica Townsend’s next Nevermoor book. For just $5, you could go into a draw to win a character name in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s forthcoming novel, Aurora Burning.