Tag Archive: Armchair Auction

My Dinner with Audrey Niffenegger

On Wednesday night, I had dinner at Russian Tea Time, sharing a table with Audrey Niffenegger.

Audrey Niffenegger's The Night Bookmobile

Audrey signed my copy of The Night Bookmobile

I’d bid on and won the seat through Evanston Public Library FriendsArmchair Auction. The 11 other lucky bidders came from varied backgrounds, covering an age range from college student to retiree.

Blink and you may not have noticed Audrey’s entrance – because contrary to popular belief, bestselling authors put one foot in front of the other just like the rest of us. They also sit at tables, introduce themselves, and seek fellow guests’ names just like we do. When the introductions reached me, I shook her hand and said my name.

But this wasn’t the first time I’d met Audrey.

In July 2007, Ms. Niffenegger gave an illuminating discussion and Q&A on THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE at the Chicago History Museum. Afterwards, she signed my limited-run first edition, complete with her own jacket illustration: a beautiful sea of flowing red hair. And I got up some sort of gumption. I told her about a short story I planned to develop into a book, and could she take a peek? (I’d like to imagine I was very charming.)

Audrey has a flair for creating real, flawed characters, so I’d probably mentioned that and a few other nervous blubberings. Out of an outsized kindness, she invited me to send her the story. Wow, was I ever excited, and so lucky – the chances of this happening have to be slim, given Audrey’s multiple, established, and busy careers as a writer, artist, and teacher.

I sent her the short story that same night.

Less than two weeks later, I received several paragraphs of questions, comments, and notes from Audrey. Totally unexpected, wonderful food for the mind. She also said I was an “interesting writer” and she’d be glad to see the next stage of the story.

More than three years passed. Audrey’s email and her recommendations to read “The Lottery” and re-read THE HANDMAID’S TALE helped shape the novel-length version of THIRTY DECIBELS. (Back then it was named FIFTEEN, until the Boring Police called.) I outlined, wrote a few chapters, stalled a bit, completed draft one, and hurtled through many months of revisions.

So when Audrey shook my hand on Wednesday night, I expected to be a new face.
Instead, her head tilted the tiniest bit.

“We’ve met.”


“I read your story.”

Oh. My. God.
“I’m so impressed you remember!”

I guess that was the best reply I could come up with. I’d like to imagine I was very charming.

The evening couldn’t have been more engaging. Nearly all of us had fine arts backgrounds. We discussed the merits of rye bread. We laughed about silly things, and reflected on sad things. Technically we were strangers, but for at least that night, we were good friends.

And someone – let alone an incredible writer – remembered reading my story, three years later.

The Armchair Auction for Evanston Public Library Friends was a success in many respects: it raised enough money to keep Evanston’s branch libraries open for an additional six months, reaffirmed my belief that citizens value their libraries, and offered an excellent opportunity to reach out and get some writer friends involved.

All that aside:

I can hardly sit still in my chair right now because tomorrow night – also thanks to the auction – I’m having dinner with Audrey Niffenegger (she of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY, and THE NIGHT BOOKMOBILE)!

Twelve seats were on auction, and I managed to nab one! I still can’t believe it.

Stay tuned here for a full report…….!

Libraries’ Armchair Auction: AMAZING

I want to extend the warmest of thanks to everyone involved with the Evanston, IL Public Library FriendsArmchair Auction.

All I had to do was ask – and my heroes, Adam Selzer, James Kennedy, Claire Zulkey, Jodi MacArthur, Trina Sotira, Cynthea Liu, and Beverly Patt contributed fabulous auction prizes. (Jodi asked Ms. Karen Schindler to donate – pyramid scheming at its finest.) Their items raised $500. And, they just rock.

But even they would agree: the best heroes of the day were the ones clicking, bidding and winning from those armchairs, snatching up 300+ items among 30 categories, from Memorabilia to Health & Fitness… to Author Outings of “hilarity and literarity.

The success astounds.

Organizers have informed me the auction raised over $34,000 for Evanston Libraries.

Taken with their fundraising efforts thus far, the EPLF has raised well over half of their $200,000 goal to keep Evanston’s North and South branches open. (Click here and here for the big-pic sitch.)
Your support is greatly appreciated.

Lori Keenan, VP of Evanston Public Library Friends (and another of my heroes), shared her thoughts with me this morning:

Overall, it was an amazing effort by an incredibly talented and creative team. From development of the auction name and logo, right down to the final bid, they were a model of organization and enthusiasm. We are extremely grateful, and the money raised by the auction will go a long way in supporting our efforts to keep the libraries open. Everyone involved can feel great in knowing they helped to make a real difference.

If you haven’t yet, please consider supporting the EPLF.
Libraries mean so much more than books. And books mean the world!

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