Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Calling all authors, illustrators, and jacks-of-all-trades: we need your help

On February 5, 2008, a terrible tragedy struck when a tornado swept through central Arkansas. Among those killed by the tornado were a beautiful 10-year-old girl named Emmy Grace Cherry, along with both of her parents, Dana and Jimmy. Emmy was a sweet, caring girl who loved animals and books, and wanted to be either an astronomer or a veterinarian. Her favorite author was Erin Hunter, author of the Warriors series. (Erin Hunter is a pen name for a team of writers who write the Warriors books: Victoria Holmes, Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, and the newest Erin, Tui Sutherland. )

Emmy Cherry

Lynn Wiman, owner of neighborhood bookstore Vintage Books, knew Emmy as a friend and frequent customer in the store. Lynn wanted to do something special to honor Emmy's memory, so she wrote to HarperCollins hoping to be able to get an autographed copy of one of the books for Emmy's school.

Lynn's letter kicked off a chain of events, as person after person who heard the story was touched by it. The Erins donated not only one book, but an entire set of books. I was contacted by Erin Hunter because they know that my online community has many Warriors fans, and they asked if I would consider posting something. I, too, was touched by Emmy's story, and gladly agreed to post something.

When I posted about the tragedy on my fan community, there was an outpouring of grief and condolences. Fans of the Warriors series gave Emmy the Warrior name Brightspirit, and they named Emmy's mother Dana, Shiningheart, and father Jimmy, Braveheart. Erin Hunter announced that she would include Brightspirit, Shiningheart, and Braveheart in a cameo appearance in Long Shadows, a forthcoming book in the Warriors: Power of Three series.

Emmy's surviving family, including grandmothers Elaine and Kay, were touched by this outpouring of love, and wanted to do something to bring some good into the world as a result of the tragedy. Thus, the Brightspirit Relief Fund was born. The Brightspirit Relief Fund will be raising money to help causes that would have been important to Emmy, including tornado relief, animal organizations, and literacy.

The Brightspirit Relief Fund will be holding an online auction to raise money for these causes. The showpiece of the auction is a complete set of the six books in the first Warriors series, signed by all three original "Erins" using their real names. This is the first time that any Warriors book has been autographed by Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, and Victoria Holmes using their real names, and we expect this set to draw a lot of interest. A variety of other items have been donated so far by Erin Hunter and other authors, ranging from autographed books to personal items to signed pictures of the authors cats.

That's where you come in. The fund has some great items for the auction already, but more items would not only raise more money, but would also make the auction more interesting and bring more attention to it, and to the Brightspirit Relief Fund. We're hoping that more authors and illustrators will be willing to donate items for the auction, to help raise the profile of the auction and raise more money. If you are an author or illustrator reading this blog, please consider donating something: signed books, artwork, or anything else that would be of interest to your fans. Unique and interesting items would be especially valued.

If you aren't an author or illustrator, won't you consider donating something to help Emmy's causes as well? Any donation that people would be interested in bidding on would be welcome. Donations don't even have to be tangible items; if you provide specialized services, perhaps you could offer your services to the winning bidder? (I'd bid on someone to help me unclutter my house!) You can specify in your donation description that you will only provide the service within a certain geographic area.

The auction will be launched on September 20, at a special Warriors day in Russellville, Arkansas. Victoria Holmes herself will be the guest of honor at the Warriors day, and we expect this to be a high profile event. If you would like to donate something to the auction, please email me at sruth@wandsandworlds.com

If you don't have anything to donate to the auction, you could also donate new or gently used books to be given out to children at the Warriors day. Lynn Wiman and Emmy's family hope to encourage literacy by giving a book to every child who attends the Warriors day. This is a great opportunity to clear out any extra books you have, or you could buy a new book to donate. Books donated to be given out at Warriors day can be sent to:

Vintage Books
602 E Parkway
Russellville, AR 72801

Finally, I wanted to add a personal note to say how much this means to me. When I first read about Emmy, I cried buckets of tears. I've cried many more tears throughout this whole process, as I've been touched not only by Emmy's story, but by her family and friends, who are all, without exception, wonderful people. I hope that anyone reading this will consider donating something, small or large, to the auction to help literacy, animal organizations, and tornado relief, or sending books to be given out to the children at Warriors Day. Please email me at sruth@wandsandworlds.com with any donations for the auction.

I'd really appreciate it if any bloggers reading this would consider helping me spread the word.

For more information:

Brightspirit Relief Fund web site

My original tribute to Emmy, and the response from the fans


A message from Emmy's family, and one from Erin Hunter

A big thank you to everyone. I'm sorry that this message was so long.
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