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The Sanibel Public Library welcomes trio of authors
October 26, 2017

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By MEGHAN McCOY

mmccoy@breezenewspapers.com

Three popular authors, Amor Towles, Christina Baker Kline and Mary Alice Monroe, will be making a stop on Sanibel for the Sanibel Public Library Author Series early next year.

Towles first novel, "Rules of Civility" was a New York Times Bestseller, and translated into 15 languages. In 2012, it was optioned by Lionsgate to be made into a future film. "A Gentleman in Moscow," Towles' second novel, was a New York Times Bestseller for more than 20 weeks.

Baker Kline has written "A Piece of the World," "Orphan Train," "Orphan Trail Girl," "The Way Life Should Be," "Sweet Water," "Bird in Hand," and "Desire Lines." The 2013 "Orphan Train" spent more than two years on the New York Times Bestseller list, including five weeks at No. 1.

The final author, Monroe writes environmental fiction in the "Low Country." Her 2017 "Beach House for Rent" debuted at No. 9 on the combined e-book and print list of the New York Times Bestsellers list. She was named by the South Carolina Academy of Authors as the 2018 inductee of the Literary Hall of Fame.

Sanibel Public Library Executive Director Margaret Mohundro said the Author Series began in 2008 when they thought it would be great to have Joyce Carol Oats come to the library for a talk, which was followed by the thought "how do we support that" because she lived in New Jersey.

The answer, a grant from the Sanibel Public Library Foundation.

"They readily agreed and they were so excited," Mohundro said, which resulted in Joyce Carol Oats being the sole author for the first year. "Because we have the support of the Library Foundation we can do this. We couldn't do it without their support. We couldn't bring in this caliber of author and have this reception if we didn't have the support from the community and the foundation."

Joyce Carol Oates wrote about her Author Series experience, as well as the restorative power of walking on a Sanibel beach, in her 2009 book "Dear Husband."

Since 2008, more than 8,000 patrons have enjoyed the Author Series. Forty authors have made an appearance during the Author Series from 2008 through 2016.

Soon after the first Author Series, Sanibel Public Library Collection Development Duane Shaffer began developing relationships with various publishers, speaking bureaus and publishing houses to keep the momentum of the Author Series going.

"We have a stellar reputation, so we are lucky to get some big authors that might not be thinking about Sanibel," Mohundro said.

Shaffer said they have a formula that is choreographed down to the moment they step in front of the audience.

"From the time we are setting up for the event, to the time one of us is taking the author back to the motel, we have it all timed. We give them this really fabulous experience and then they go back to New York, or they go back to Boston and they share with their agency, or publicist of what we did," he said. "They go back and tell their people what a wonderful experience they had . . . carefree, seamless, everything went right, great food, great people . . . and then they tell their author friends and after a few years we are getting calls from them to come, which is really great."

The great rapport has extended to agencies in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

In terms of selecting the authors, Mohundro said they look at their budget, which authors are available and touring, who has new books and which books are hot and trending. In addition, she said they look at their statistics and try to mix up the genres of interest.

Shaffer said sometimes booking an author can be a long process.

"There are a lot of moving parts to this process. Sometimes it begins as much as a year in advance," he said, or as long as three years for one author because of schedule conflicts.

The Author Series provides an "intimate feeling with whomever, even if there is 250 people in the room" Mohundro said.

The event also provides the attendee with the opportunity to meet the author and have them sign a copy of the book, which is available for sale through one of the local book vendors.

"They are right there. They are shaking their hand, signing their book," Shaffer said.

A benefit of the Author Series is introducing individuals to new authors.

"We are fulfilling our mission as far as introducing literature to people," he said. "Suddenly that is their new favorite author."

Mohundro said that is the exciting part, "discovering."

"Half of the audience says this is one of my favorite authors and the other half is well, I don't know this author, but it's going to be a fun event, so I'm coming," she said. "That, I think, is really rewarding."

At the end of each program, the audience has time to ask the author questions, which Mohundro said always includes asking about their writing process.

Following the presentation a reception, sponsored by Bank of the Islands, is held, complete with a local caterer and champagne.

"We want them to have experiences, good experiences at the library," Mohundro said.

To accommodate everyone, the library began a lottery system ticketing procedure to meet the high demand of interest.

"It gets to capacity immediately, so that is why we put the lottery system in place, so you have a 24-hour period to request the tickets," she said. "It's great when people are clamoring for library events. That's a good thing."

The lottery system opens one month prior to each author evening and remains open for a 24-hour period. Request for the Author Series can be made at www.sanlib.org. The names of the requested tickets will be placed into a lottery and selected at random. Tickets are distributed at no charge to Sanibel Public Library cardholders; one card per person, two tickets per card.

This year due to the Library Reimagined renovation project, Author Series will be held at the Sanibel Community House and the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.

"We are grateful that they are sharing their space with us for these evenings. We will back at the library next year," Mohundro said.

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