The power of the written word is no joke: Writers have inspired generations of readers to take action, think about the world, or even to become writers themselves. But for these six authors, words aren’t enough. With their finger on the pulse of art, politics, and generational values, they go beyond the page and use their unique influence to actively improve society and the world.
Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, about a teenage girl dealing with the emotional trauma of her rape, was a groundbreaking novel which brought to light several key issues surrounding sexual assault. Since its publication in 1999, Anderson has worked hard to bring a voice to sexual abuse victims: She’s spoken to millions of high school students to spread awareness and provide useful tools to help survivors overcome their experience. This April, she’s teaming up with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) for the second year in a row. #Speak4RAINN15 raises money for the site’s hotline. Fans and supporters can donate money which will be matched by Speak’s publisher Macmillan.
John Green is the king of YA right now. With the adaptation of his novel The Fault in Our Stars hitting theatres this June and his multiple 1-million-subscriber YouTube channels, Green is basically unstoppable. So, what does this superstar writer do with his power? Why, he uses it to make the world a better place. Through Vlogbrothers, his YouTube channel with his brother Hank, Green has created The Foundation to Decrease World Suck, a nonprofit whose sole existence is to give money to other nonprofits. The Foundation’s main event each year is the Project For Awesome, in which people post creative videos nominating their favorite charity. The money raised is then split between the charities whose videos get the most votes. Last year, they raised $869,591.
Aside from revolutionizing children’s books, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are bestsellers the world over. But before Harry, Rowling was a single mother who depended on government subsidies to get by. Now one of the richest women in the UK, Rowling hasn’t forgotten her experiences and now fights for those who aren’t as lucky as she was. Through her Volant Charitable Trust, which has a budget of over £5 million, she aims to end poverty and fight social inequality. She is also president of Gingerbread, a charity which gives aid and support to single-parent families, and Lumos, which aids impoverished and disadvantaged youth.
In support of Comic Relief, Rowling published Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, both existing within the Harry Potter universe. Donating all profits made, Rowling raised over $30 million. Furthermore, all profits raised outside of the UK have gone to International Fund for Children and Young People in Crisis. As she explained in a 2007 interview, “You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”
In 2010, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer joined forces with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to release the book The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, a novella set during the third book, Eclipse. Proceeds from sales of the book were used to make a $1.5 million contribution to the American Red Cross International Response Fund. In 2009, Meyer worked with Hobo Skate Company on a line inspired by The Host; a Host-themed skateboard was subsequently auctioned off for charity, raising $1,500.
Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and, most recently, The Circle, has a well-documented affinity for giving back. In 2002, Eggers co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit that tutors children and encourages them to read and write. They also provide field trips, workshops, in-school programs, and scholarships. 826 National now has eight different chapters across the United States, and has served more than 31,000 students since its inception.
Nora Roberts, perennial bestseller, has a reputation not only as one of the authors who gives the most money to charity, but also as one of the top donors among celebrities in any field. She heads up the Nora Roberts Foundation, which endows the Nora Roberts Center for American Romance at McDaniel College. While her foundation’s mission statement mentions literacy as its main focus, it names children’s programs, humanitarian efforts, and arts organizations among the other causes it supports.