In response to Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico on September 20, a number of agents, editors, and authors in the children’s book community and beyond have joined together to hold an online talent auction in support of Puerto Ricans affected by the storm. All proceeds for the #PubforPR auction, which runs through October 5, will go to local charity organizations, Unidos por Puerto Rico and ConPRmetidos.
The cause began to take shape on September 24, when a group of five authors and publishing professionals—Nova Ren Suma, Patrice Caldwell, Mara Delgado, Carrie DiRisio, and Kara Thomas—learned of the devastation caused by the storm. Thomas, a YA author, told PW, “I had been talking privately with friends about how frustrated we were with the lack of government response to the situation in Puerto Rico.” Thomas later connected with fellow members of the children’s book community, in response to DiRisio’s tweet about starting a charity auction. “So many other writers were replying to the thread, asking if they could help,” she said. “We mobilized via email and came up with a plan for approaching agents, editors, and authors for donations. Once we reached out, the response was enormous.”
Over the course of the last week, #PubforPR has grown to include many more authors, editors, and literary agents, including Dahlia Adler, Patrice Caldwell, Mara Delgado, Carrie DiRisio, Sierra Elmore, Dana Alison Levy, Lily Meade, Jim McCarthy, Joy McCullough, Yamile Saied Méndez, Claribel Ortega, Emily X.R. Pan, Elana Roth Parker, Kara Thomas, Nova Ren Suma, Mekisha Telfer, and Marietta B. Zacker.
Author Mara Delgado, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, was eager to lend her support. She took on the role of vetting relief organizations, with author Yamile Saied Méndez. “From the beginning, before #PubforPR was born, I’d been looking into the aid organizations that were popping up,” Delgado said. The group decided to raise money for Unidos por Puerto Rico and ConPRmetidos because, she explained, “All of us at #PubforPR wanted the funds to go directly to the island. Both of these organizations are in Puerto Rico and understand what Puerto Rico needs at this time and in the months, maybe years [ahead].”
Marietta B. Zacker of Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, who is also from Puerto Rico, said that the project has very much been a collaborative effort. “It was immediately evident that anyone would do whatever it took. And we had the skills to do it: reaching out to potential donors, creating the website, organizing and thinking through it all.” Much of the fundraising efforts have taken place through social media and direct outreach to connections in the field. “A lot of us reached out to our own contacts. I was focusing in on creatives with a tie to Puerto Rico; I knew it would be important to them,” she said.
Patrice Caldwell, associate editor at Disney-Hyperion, whose family is from Texas, was inspired by the scope of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Houston; however, she said, “I didn’t see that happening in Puerto Rico at all.” She was part of the initial Twitter thread that got #PubforPR rolling. “I don’t think it could’ve happened without Twitter,” she said. Caldwell cited middle grade author Kate Messner’s KidLit Cares auction for Texas as a model for the effort. She also noted that the initiative “has spread beyond the YA community,” to include adult authors, editors, and booksellers.
Agent Jim McCarthy, v-p at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, came on board when Caldwell invited him and his colleagues to donate items. “She pulled me into this big, wonderful group of women who had already gotten so much accomplished. I’ve been trying to do more: asking editors and agents not already on our list for additional donations,” he said. “The community has turned out hugely for the cause.”
To date, more than 250 editors and authors have donated auction items, including manuscript critiques, books, and artwork. Though the team has had to put a cap on the number of auction items, Zacker encouraged individuals who weren’t able to donate to seek out other charitable causes, and to help spread the word about the auction.
Meanwhile, YA author Sara B. Larson, who recently organized #HelpandHopeforHouston to raise money for Hurricane Harvey victims, has reprised her online charity auction. In this case, all proceeds will go directly to relief in Puerto Rico.
Larson said of the decision to bring back the auction, “As the footage and stories of devastation and lack of help in Puerto Rico started rolling in, I couldn’t stop thinking about needing to do more. The final impetus was when my friend Jessica, who moved from Utah to Puerto Rico with her four children, asked for help raising money and collecting supplies that would go directly to those in need.” The success of her efforts for Houston, which raised more than $23,000, provided a foundation for the new initiative. “After the incredible response for #HelpandHopeforHouston, I just knew we had to try once more to do what we could to help.”
The response, according to Larson, has been inspiring. “I’ve had many authors and donors tell me that the auctions have given them a way to do something.” As in the previous auction, donations included signed books, Skype visits from authors, critiques, having a character named after oneself in a forthcoming book, and more. The auction ran September 29–October 1 on Instagram. To date, the auction has brought in nearly $9,000. Donations are open through Venmo, @islandhurricanehelp, and PayPal, PayPal.me/islandhurricanehelp.
Readers may contact the PubforPR team at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.