Amy Patricia Meade was in her own writing bubble, cranking away to make a daily word count in order to deliver five new mystery novels over the next two years.
And then Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, an unprovoked act of military aggression against a sovereign country.
Meade could not turn away from televised coverage of the relentless bombing of apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods and the desperate flight of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian women and children made refugees by war.
“I was sickened watching these atrocities committed against peaceful people and felt very helpless. I had to do something to help the people of Ukraine who had to leave everything behind,” said Meade, 49, who has published a dozen mystery novels in the past 15 years.
She previously worked in marketing and as a freelance copywriter who wrote ads for the Vermont Country Store catalog.
Meade knows quite a few mystery writers through her membership in Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and thought about enlisting a small number of them to join a fundraiser for Ukrainians displaced by the war.
“I figured I’d get 20 writer friends to donate some books and maybe raise $500,” Meade said. A couple of days after Russia’s invasion, Meade posted an appeal to fellow writers on Facebook and Instagram with a proposal for an online book auction for Ukrainian refugee relief.
“Nothing but crickets for several days,” she said. She wondered if it was a foolish idea. Eventually, someone shared her post, it was re-shared and started bouncing around social media platforms. Excitement built online. Pledges of support poured in. Mystery writers began emailing and calling her. Writers in many genres wanted to help.
“A few of the writers had Ukrainian heritage, but we all shared a sense of helplessness. This project offers a way to feel connected to Ukrainian refugees and to offer some relief beyond just writing a check,” she said.
The Authors for Ukraine project spread by word of mouth and online in the weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Meade ended up with 170 authors from across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. who will participate in the online silent auction. The group includes mystery writers, children’s authors, horror and suspense writers and romance novelists.
The authors will sign and personalize more than 200 books and promotional items, mailing out the books at their own expense to the winning bidders. There are several rare and valuable first editions in the auction, as well as multiple-book sets from acclaimed mystery writers. The online book auction will be held March 29 through April 12.
The goal is to raise $50,000. All proceeds will be sent to Ukraine Crisis Fund, established by the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, or CARE, to provide food, water, hygiene kits, cash assistance and other services to Ukrainian refugees.
Meade chose CARE because it is a highly rated charity with a long history. Founded in 1945 to deliver CARE food packages to survivors of World War II, it has become a global leader in fighting poverty. Meade interacted with each of the 170 participating authors, who emailed her their book cover art, jacket blurbs and biographical information.
Meade uploaded all that information to the 32auctions website, an online silent auction platform that specializes in charitable auctions.
Meade adapted the Authors for Ukraine idea from her involvement with an auction of signed books by authors in the U.K. She and her husband, Donald Knaack, a percussionist and composer who plays on recycled materials and performs as “The Junk Man,” lived in England for five years.
He performed in schools and toured as an arts education goodwill ambassador for UNESCO. She wrote mysteries. They lived in the English cities of Devon and Bristol.
“Authors came together and donated books for the BBC Children in Need Campaign,” she said. “It was very successful. I was hoping I could do something like that here.” Authors for Ukraine will kick off with a public event and media opportunity Thursday at noon at The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza. Meade will discuss the project and answer questions about the online auction. Opening bids start at $7 for paperbacks and $20 for hardcovers.
Meade is excited that several bestselling authors have joined the effort, including Catherine Bruns, of Colonie, author of the bestselling “Cookies & Chance Mysteries” series, who will join Meade at the Book House event. Other notable authors include Terrie Farley Moran, co-author with Jessica Fletcher of the long-running “Murder, She Wrote” series, along with Susan Wittig Albert, Peg Cochran, Denise Swanson, Kate Collins, Kelli Stanley, Jess Lourey, Edith Maxwell, Miranda James, Stacy Green and Mariah Stewart.
“These women are amazing writers and I was so excited they wanted to be part of this,” said Meade, who is donating several of her own books. “I’m pleasantly surprised by how well it’s been received and how much it’s grown.“
Meade is buoyed by the enthusiasm of her fellow writers. “Writers are essentially introverts who work alone,” Meade said.
“In this case, we’re all enjoying a sense of camaraderie and working together for a common goal.” In between overseeing Authors for Ukraine and keeping the auction site updated, Meade is at work on forthcoming novels in her Tish Tarragon and the Vermont Country Living mystery series.
“I have deadlines coming up, but this a very important cause and a true grass-roots effort,” she said. “This is as an opportunity for people to make a donation to Ukrainian refugee relief, while adding to their signed book collection.”
Visit Authors for Ukraine charity auction, which runs March 29 through April 12.