The future (?) of Significant Objects (Part Two)

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Yesterday I said we had an idea for Significant Objects Volume 2 — or at least the start of an idea. In a nutshell: What if we had writers invent Significance for a new set of objects, this time with the cumulative proceeds going to charity? I like to think of this as the “selling crap for a cause” strategy.

On the practical side, we still have a number of yard-sale and thrift-store objects that we obtained for the original S.O., but that were not chosen by anyone in that group of writers.

More important: We did not anticipate writers volunteering to participate in our project, but a few dozen did! This would give us all a chance to read their stories.

And believe me, we also did not anticipate, when we started our initial experiment, that we would find so many enthusiastic readers (whether they chose to bid or not).

So for instance we might pick a set number of objects, or set time frame, and all the auction proceeds from that batch/period would go to a single charity (to be named). That way, even though our initial experiment has ended, and the S.O. 100 remains intact, the stories could keep coming — and it would all be for a good cause!

What do you think? Should we give it a shot? How might the S.O. evolve as we go?

Yes, your opinion really matters. If you want this project to continue — chime in.


Rob Walker is the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, and writes the Consumed column for The New York Times Magazine.

17 thoughts on “The future (?) of Significant Objects (Part Two)

  1. I think giving the proceeds to charity is a fantastic idea. I also like the thoughts other commentors had about more contests and themes to groups of items (i.e. all of the items in a particular week have to be involved in a crime, or used to belong to a child or something).

  2. Could Significant Objects represent an accessible ‘business model’ to rival traditional literary journals, one that presents stories and poems to be accessed by larger audiences, with proceeds going to the authors, who, arguably need the money, payment for their efforts. Perhaps the significance of Significant Objects is not that created by stories attached to tchotchkes, but the form itself, stories sold on eBay, with proceeds going to writers directly.

  3. Sounds like a great idea, aligning a literary endeavor with a charity. Personally, I would be more inclined to purchase said object if the money was going to charity–and, I would imagine there are many writers out there who would be willing to get on board with something like this. Which charity?…

  4. We so have some ideas about which charity — how to decide? We might let our participating authors vote on the charity, or we might leave the decision up to a friend we have here in Boston who’s offered to do all the grunt work should we decide to launch a for-charity version of SO. Or Rob and I might just decide, like we’ve decided everything else so far…

    S. — a few bloggers and journalists have made a similar point about the “new business model” we’ve supposedly developed here at SO for literary publishing. Neither of us are fiction writers, so we’re naive — are you saying that authors who get published in literary journals aren’t paid anything at all? So even the $10 or $20 or $30 we’re “paying” (via eBay auctions) our writers is more than normal?

  5. I think the charity connection is a good idea too- you could ultimately produce a “coffee table” book with pictures and stories shown. Check out for their self-publishing stuff.note: if the book didn’t sell, could become an SO object itself???

  6. Hey guys — awesome project! I do something sort of similar – It’s an experiment in trading for art and odd objects called bARTer Sauce. Whatever I get — I trade for something else and everyone I trade with has to tell me a story. We should talk.

    You rule.

  7. Reason number 99 why I love Significant Objects – it just brought me bARTer Sauce. Thanks, Rosalie! And thanks Rob and Joshua for all the work you’ve put into this fantastic project! Can’t wait to see what’s next.

  8. yes i defintely really want significant objects to continue. i have never bidded but i love reading the story and i love that there is a physical object out there that connects someone to the story they love. its awesome. i think if the money went to charity it would be brillian. Meg Cabot is already matching the amount her significant object makes and donating it to charity.

  9. Pingback: Thanks… | Significant Objects

  10. I like the idea of the money going to charity, but whatever you decide, I hope Significant Objects continues. Someone made the point above that the stories are the real value here.

  11. I’m in favor of the charity concept. In fact, when I submitted my vegetarianism-themed entry to your contest, my intention all along was to encourage like-minded people around the nation to bid on the object, should my story be the one chosen as the winner. My plan was to donate the entire proceeds to one of my three favorite vegetarian charities– and let the highest bidder choose which one of the three he or she liked best. That way, no matter which charity was chosen, I would feel comfortable with the end result.

  12. Perhaps I’m not the savviest to offer a response; my comment was intuited rather than researched, rather than well-versed–as journalists and bloggers who’ve made the same suggestion may be. But it seems to me that Significant Objects does what no literary journal (I know of) accomplishes: Significant Objects presents authors with the -possibility- of earning a sum larger than usually paid by literary journals (perhaps, too, a percentage could be assigned to charity) and Significant Objects, conceivably, connects authors, their efforts with a larger audience, a large constituency in contemporary society, eBay bidders.

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