Saturday was the Writing for Charity event, and it went really well–attendance was up from last year, there were a ton of authors, and everyone had a good time. The silent auction was an especially big success, but what gratified me more than anything was the extensive work done behind the scenes to make the charity money stretch as far as it possibly could. The organizers, all of them 100% volunteer, did some pretty amazing stuff.
Here’s the deal: our goal was to give books to each and every student in at least five (ideally more) underprivileged Utah schools. We accomplished this by seeking out huge discounts, remaindered books, and other cheap sources, giving us an average book price of $2. That means that each attendee, all by him or herself, was able to provide books to an entire classroom of kids with their registration fee alone. Add in the silent auction and it gets awesome: lunch with Brandon Mull went for about $70–that’s another full classroom. Letting Shannon Hale brag about you went for $200, which is about three classrooms all by itself. Then factor in the huge amount of corporate and private donations and you really start to see what a community can do when it puts it mind to something. Smashburger donated several gift baskets, each with a $25 value, that typically went for around $16, which provides books for eight kids AND gives you an awesome lunch at a huge discount. It’s like we’re creating money and books out of thin air.
I’m pleased to report that the “Let Dan Wells kill you” auction was the big ticket item of the whole event, going for a final bid of $500 to a handsome young corpse named BC Woods. That’s pretty awesome in itself, but I happen to know that Woods emailed the auction organizers the night before the event and promised, in secret, that even if he got outbid he’d still pay $500 to the charity. That, in my estimation, is the height of class, and I feel truly awed to have people of such high caliber reading my books. BC Woods has earned himself an extra-special death, but the truth is, a man that awesome I would gladly kill for free.
The event itself was a huge success as well. We started with a massive author panel (MC’ed by me) in which we got wide-spectrum writing advice from somewhere between 20 and 30 incredible authors and illustrators. Then we broke into smaller groups based on genre, where aspiring writers could ask for specific advice on whatever questions they needed; I was in the “fantasy and science fiction” group, though I hope there were some fellow horror writers lumped in there, and it went really well. After lunch we broke down even further, which each author from the genre panel taking a few of the attendees into a back corner and
draining their blood critiquing the first page of their novel. The fantasy/SF group was by far the biggest, so my group had, for example, nine people, and we didn’t have much time for everyone, but we still gave good advice and encouragement and I thought it went really well.
We also had an evening event focused more on entertainment and “personality” panels, instead of specifically writing advice, so that people who wanted to support the charity but weren’t themselves writers could still have an opportunity to participate.
It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to making the event even bigger and more amazing next year.