Our Reading Lives

Books For Tupelo: An Auction For Signed Books For Tornado Relief

Our Reading Lives features stories about how books and reading have shaped who we are and how we live.

The following is a narrative of the events of April 28th in Tupelo, Mississippi, as told through my tweets.

Saw a photo of a tornado chaser tank in front of the bookstore I used to manage, which is a mile from my house. This Monday is the Mondayest.

Tornado headed our way. Stay safe, kids! We have room in the basement if anyone needs it.

We are so incredibly fortunate. Neighbors and friends have lost everything. Just now learning the scope. Everyone is OK.

tupelo tva sign emily gatlinSo yeah, it was kind of the Mondayest of Mondays. I was still wearing my helmet, hiding in my basement, and afraid to open the door (which kept blowing open during the tornado, by the way, and I could SEE THINGS) when messages from my book industry colleagues and fellow Rioters started coming in. I mean, at that point I didn’t know if my friends on the other side of the street were OK. Everyone said the exact same thing. “So glad you’re OK. What can I do to help?”

I thought about it for a few days. I was helping people because I lived in the middle of it. Our natural instinct as humans is to help others (at least it should be), and it’s hard to stand back, watch people suffer and not do SOMETHING.

Then, my New York Times Bestselling author friend Stephanie McAfee came to town. She was so horrified by what she saw that she offered to stand on my street corner and sing for dollars. Something. Anything. “Can I give books? Do people need books?” she asked.

Give books. “I give dollars for books every week,” I thought. PEOPLE WOULD GIVE DOLLARS FOR BOOKS!

10363354_10101189492519316_287794127993094160_nI started reaching out to my author friends who had asked if there was anything they could do. I told them they could give me a signed book, and I’d put them all together on eBay as one big lot and sell ‘em off to the highest bidder. The next day, packages upon packages upon boxes started arriving. Then word started to spread among the publishing community. Celebrities were sending me books. Bookstores were donating near priceless inventory. And publishers sent HEAVY boxes of signed books. The postman gave up at one point and left the whole carrier at my door.

I ended up with over 150 different titles, including a verified signed first edition copy of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy (thank you Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee) and a signed first edition copy of George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. Oh, and there’s a special edition hand numbered copy of Larry McMurtry’s The Last Kind Words Saloon. And even a signed first edition copy of Memories of John Lennon signed by Yoko Ono.

After hundreds of hours of planning, organizing, WordPressing, and eBaying, all 150 titles are now being auctioned off. Every dime I receive will be donated to CREATE Foundation’s Northeast Mississippi Tornado Relief Fund, where the money is distributed to organizations on a need basis.

I hope you’ll take a gander at the books. It’s been fun having them in my really small house that some might consider a glorified U-Haul box with a seriously leaky roof, but I can’t wait to ship them out to happy, generous readers all over the country. The auctions end between August 5th and 6th.

Visit http://www.booksfortupelo.com for auction information and a complete list of books and participating authors.