Autoren Helfen – Writers Lending a Helping Hand

Combining creative forces and working for humanitarian and social causes – that was the idea that prompted five writers to launched the initiative Autoren helfen last autumn.

von Theresa Schmidt

Authors give away signed books, one of many actions of Autoren helfen. Photo: Marc O. Perino
Authors give away signed books, one of many projects of Autoren helfen. Photo: Marc O. Perino

Autoren helfen defines itself as a platform for German-language writers but it wants to do more than just show presence on the internet. “We soon agreed that we want to be active in ‘real life’ too,” explains co-founder Kathrin Lange. “Of course we want to collect donations with the initiative, but it was more about supporting writers’ activities and making a platform for creative people’s good ideas. We also see ourselves as a collection point for opinions and contributions on varying topics.“

The topic right now is supporting refugees. Under the motto Writers Support Refugees, many projects are currently forming through which writers are standing up against racism and for a pluralist society. The contributions the individuals make are as varied as the German-language literary scene and the writers themselves.

“Some authors have offered to read in people’s homes in exchange for donations, we’ve auctioned off writing coaching sessions and our book boxes are going very well too,” says Kathrin Lange. Supporting refugees with books? Yes, it is possible. “For our surprise book boxes, readers donate a fixed amount and tell us their favourite genre. Then we inform the appropriate writers and they send copies of their books to the readers with a personal dedication,” explains Lange. For the “Books Not Boats” campaign, Autoren helfen has got together with the organization Flüchtlingspaten Syrien e.V. and given every refugee sponsor an annual book subscription for their favourite genre. As well as that, the initiative has established “partner readings” in school classes, held by one children’s or young adults’ writer and one newcomer. The idea behind the events is to break down prejudices through direct personal encounters. And 8 September sees the launch of the “Writers Run” campaign: authors will meet up simultaneously at sports grounds in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Hannover and Vienna and will get financial sponsorship from their publishing houses per circuit run.

The five-person core team behind many of the campaigns consists of Kathrin Lange and her fellow writers Lisa-Marie Dickreiter, Antje Wagner, Ursula Poznanski and Andreas Wilhelm. They keep the project’s Facebook channel and website up to date. For the current Writers Support Refugees campaign, they have collected 127 “voices for tolerance” on their blog and more than 16,000 euro in donations. All the money goes to the initiative’s partner projects.

But Autoren helfen has a bigger goal in mind – supporting refugees is planned as only one of many projects. “In the medium term, we want to use the platform for other subjects, like helping Greece or supporting children from educationally deprived backgrounds,“ says Lange. One thing is important to the initiators, something not usually popular among writers: “Other people are very welcome to copy every project we present on our site. Just go ahead and plagiarize!”

Translation: Katy Derbyshire