On 14th June 2017, Grenfell Tower in West London suffered a devastating fire, which has to date claimed the lives of over 80 people. In the aftermath of this tragedy, a wonderful initiative was set up by literary agent Molly Ker Hawn and other volunteers, to raise money for the victims and survivors, many of whom were left with no clothing, food or shelter.
Authors for Grenfell raised over £150,000, all of which went to the Red Cross charity. As part of this, editors, authors, agents and other publishing people auctioned off everything from books to manuscript critiques and more, with big name authors such as Phillip Pullman and David Walliams taking part too. I was very pleased to be able to contribute, offering a manuscript critique (10,000 words) and advice on querying agents and getting published. My bid raised £500 and I had the absolute pleasure of reading a piece by Jennifer Dickinson, an aspiring writer in New York who also runs Chapter One Workshop, an initiative to support female writers. Without the auction, it’s unlikely we would have connected, but we did and I’m very excited about her future career as a writer.
The publishing industry is often criticised for various things, including lack of diversity, low pay, insularity, and more, and I am not saying that these criticisms are not true and real at times. However, it is an industry I am immensely proud to be a part of, and occasions such as the Authors for Grenfell campaign show the kindness, warmth and generosity of the industry when it’s truly at it’s best. The tragedy at Grenfell is something to be mourned and it is part of a much wider social discussion, but if any light can come in these difficult times, I think it is from noticing and being aware of the efforts everyday people will go to to help others, in any way that they can.