May 25, 2010 The waters finally receded, but as the news reports got grimmer and grimmer and the photographs got more and more heartbreaking, three Nashville novelists decided to do something about the flood. As thousands of citizens fanned out across the region to help their neighbors drag saturated carpet and drywall to the street, Myra McEntire, Amanda Morgan, and Victoria Schwab tried to think of a way to use their connections as writers to help. Morgan proposed an online auction of books and author services, and Do the Write Thing for Nashville was launched.
The concept was straightforward: the trio asked fellow writers, as well as editors and agents, to donate items they then posted on a blog for book-lovers and aspiring writers to bid on. To make an offer, you simply left a comment containing a dollar figure beneath the item you wanted. The last comment placed before the auction closed was the winner, and money was collected by PayPal. All proceeds go to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s flood relief fund.
Though none of them has a single book in stores yet, these women are total pros: Schwab’s novel, The Near Witch, will be out in August 2011 from Disney*Hyperion; McEntire’s novel, Hourglass, is due next summer from Egmont, and Morgan’s agent is still shopping her novel to publishers. When they put the call for help in publishing circles—”We spread the word via Twitter and through our personal contacts,” says McEntire—donations to Do the Write Thing began to pour in, and some of them were one-of-a-kind treasures:
• Mega-bestselling Hohenwald novelist Sherrilyn Kenyon offered a signed copy of her next book—before it was even published.
• Former Nashvillian Tasha Alexander volunteered to fly to the highest bidder’s hometown and take him or her out to lunch.
• Nashville novelist Susan Gregg Gilmore donated six copies of her soon-to-be-released novel, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove, along with the promise of “a luscious homemade pound cake” and a visit to the bidder’s book club in person or by Skype.
• Graphic novelist Scott Christian Sava offered a signed and personalized sketch from his series, The Dreamland Chronicles.
• Nashville Scene food critic Carrington Fox volunteered to take three guests with her to review a local restaurant.
But by far the most popular items up for bid were the dozens of manuscript critiques and phone (or Skype) consultations by New York editors and agents who had seen the images of desolation and wanted to help. To an aspiring writer, that access to professional guidance can be priceless: “Those are people who are hard to reach if you aren’t on the inside of the industry,” says McEntire.
The auction opened Thursday, May 6, not even a week after the rain started falling, and closed ten days later. In that time, authors and industry insiders donated more than 500 separate items to Do the Write Thing for Nashville. In fact, there were so many donations that McEntire, Morgan, and Schwab had to stop accepting new items by Day 5 because they were drowning in emails and couldn’t process them all. So much money came in so quickly that PayPal temporarily froze their account before the auction was halfway through. By Day 10, writers and readers raised $74,500 for flood relief in Tennessee.
But it’s not over yet. There will be a final auction of unclaimed items—date not yet determined—and McEntire, Morgan, and Schwab are now offering a Do the Write Thing t-shirt for sale through the site, as well. They will accept orders at Do the Write Thing for Nashville for the next two weeks.