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INTERVIEW: Sheila Rogers And Dennis Fabiszak Dish About East Hampton Library's "Authors Night"

Nicole Barylski

You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) author Alec Baldwin and The Living Clearly Method: 5 Principles for a Fit Body, Healthy Mind & Joyful Life author Hilaria Baldwin at the 2018 Authors Night. (Photo: Rob Rich/www.societyallure.com)

The Hamptons literary highlight of the year will take place on Saturday, August 10 when the East Hampton Library hosts its annual Authors Night benefit, which will bring out Alec Baldwin, Douglas Brinkley, Candace Bushnell, Robert A. Caro, Rosanne Cash, Garrard Conley, Bridget Moynahan and Amanda Benchley, Dan Rizzie, Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, Jessica Yellin, and many others.

We caught up with Sheila Rogers, Authors Night Committee Chair and Chair of the Library's Board of Managers, and Dennis Fabiszak, Library Director, to learn more about this year's Book Signing Cocktail Reception and Dinner Receptions.

Which authors will be taking part in dinners this year?

SR: We have a lot of dinners this year. One of my favorites is Rosanne Cash and Dan Rizzie, what a great combination. Rosanne Cash, the country singer, and Dan Rizzie, the artist. They did this book together and it's very different for us, but I'm really looking forward to it. Bob Caro, who has been getting the most amazing amount of press all over the country. He has been interviewed just about everywhere. We always love when Bob comes because I tell him he's our writing rock star. He's a great person.

We have some new people this year. We have a man from Gaza, a Palestinian, Yousef Bashir with a memoir that he wrote and I'm very much looking forward to meeting him and getting his book. Then we have Andrew Blauner, who wrote this really fun book. It's a Peanuts book and what he did was he asked people what important things did they learn from Peanuts. He put this together in a book and I think that that's going to be really great to have - the meaning of life. It's about the meaning of life. It's funny what you can get out of the meaning of life, isn't it?

Another dinner that we have is Vicky Ward; she's new for us. Vicky wrote a book about the Kushners and she's an investigative reporter. She has done some work on Jeffrey Epstein. That should be a very, very interesting dinner. Another one that is going to be great is Robert Clark. Robert is a photographer, and he did an absolutely beautiful book about evolution, and kind of like the bridging into extinction. So, I think that that dinner party is going to have very spirited and important conversations. Then we have another new person, Tony Perrottet, and he wrote a book about Cuba. That one is a very popular party, and there too, I expect that it's going to be some spirited conversation. Another one is Garrard Conley, who wrote the book, Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family. This was a very, very well regarded film last year. It was at the Film Festival. So, he is going to be at a dinner party. Another one who I'm very excited about is Dani Shapiro, who wrote a book called Inheritance. It's a very moving memoir and it focused on her finding out through a DNA test that her father was not really her father, and what she goes through, and how her relationship changes. Another wonderful writer who'll be there is Jim Shepard, who teaches creative writing and film at Williams College, and whose short story, The World to Come is being made into a film this fall. He and Dani run a wonderful writing program together each spring in Positano, Italy called "Sirenland."

We have a lot of really interesting parties. We have Douglas Brinkley, who's been with us before. If you put on Channel 13, and they're interviewing people about something in history, you'll find Douglas Brinkley. We have Amanda Benchley and Bridget Moynahan, and they wrote a book about shoes and interviewed women about what a certain pair of shoes in their closet meant to them, and how it makes them feel. Jessica Yellin, she has written a novel, and she's also a journalist. So, it should be very interesting. Kristy Woodson Harvey is another one who's a novelist. We have Michael Shnayerson, who's written a very popular book called Boom, about the art market.

It's really interesting to see what people choose, to see where their tastes lie about who they would like to have dinner with. It's very varied. I think that our demographics have changed and with our people who attend the Authors Night dinners, we are getting a lot of new people. I think it's because of the kinds of books and authors that we're presenting for them.

Is there still availability for the dinners?

SR: Yes, there are. There's some availability, some are sold out. I'm always available to talk to people and they can reach me in my office at 631-907-0106 or my cell phone, 631-764-3440, or they can send me an email at sheilazrogers@gmail.com.

Now, you have an exciting group of honorary co-chairs this year. Could you please speak a bit about them?

SR: Douglas Brinkley is one that we're very honored that he accepted. Another one who has been an honorary co-chair for just about every year is Robert Caro. I can't tell you what it means to me to have him be excited about our event and want to be a part of it. He is in demand all over the world and for him to have this connection with the East Hampton Library is really something very, very important to me personally, and for the Library as well. Candace Bushnell, who came out with a new book, and we love Candace, she's been with us before. We're very excited that she's going to come back this year. Rosanne Cash, who I think is another rock star, literally. Bridget Moynahan, who everybody loves on Blue Bloods and Dr. Ruth. We love Dr. Ruth, we're so excited. Dr. Ruth is so prolific; we can always count on her for a new book. She is just absolutely fantastic and she is just a powerhouse in her own right. You know, they threw away the mold. That's all I can tell you. She makes everybody smile, everyone loves her. She's just a pleasure to have.

The Library partnered with Charitybuzz for an online auction. What will be up for auction?

SR: We have Saturday Night Live tickets on Charitybuzz and that always is a very, very popular item. We are thrilled to have it again.

Which authors are you most looking forward to chatting with?

SR: Rosanne Cash and Dan Rizzie. I'm very excited that I'm going to their party. I'm very, very excited about Robert Clark. I'm really looking forward to meeting him. He's the photojournalist. Michael Shnayerson - he's just wonderful. And Andrew Blauner - I'm really interested in meeting him. He's a publisher as well as a writer. So those are some of the people that are on my list.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

SR: We appreciate the support of everybody in this community to help us put on a wonderful event. And we rely on Authors Night to provide the funding that allows us to do everything at the Library free for everybody.

How many authors will the Library welcome this year?

DF: We're at over 100. It's a great turnout.

Who are some of the Authors Night first-timers?

DF: One of the big ones that we have for the first time is Rosanne Cash. We also have, it's not her first time, she's been once before, but Candace Bushnell is one of the more popular authors this year - as far as dinner tickets. Somebody that I'm looking forward to meeting personally is Gianni Russo, who was in the film The Godfather, among others. He's been in a bunch of other films.

Half of the authors, at least, are first time Authors Night authors. We have an authors selection committee now that started a few years ago. They work really hard at trying to handpick authors that they want to invite. So, there's an interesting mix of books, but also a mix of authors that have been here before and first time authors.

Who are some of the returning favorites?

DF: Definitely the top two are Bob Caro, who has a new book this year, which is about writing and about being an author, and Dr. Ruth. They've been here many years before, and are definitely favorites among the guests, and among the other authors who want to talk to them and meet them.

And Alec Baldwin is always a big one too.

DF: He's our founding chair for the event. He's a great supporter, and we're thrilled he's going to be here again.

What genres will be featured this year?

DF: Really, pretty much everything. I mean, there's definitely more nonfiction books than novels. But they, the nonfiction books, run the gamut, from cooking to politics to history to science to memoir. There's really something for everyone.

Which authors are you most looking forward to chatting with?

DF: Definitely Rosanne Cash and Gianni Russo. Also, I don't get to speak to Bob Caro often, but any chance I have I take. He's a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He is one of the most successful nonfiction authors in America. It's just amazing that he lives in our community and is willing to come to the event every year.

How has funding from Authors Night impacted the Library?

DF: In one day, we raise more than 10 percent of our operating budget. That really helps us to provide free programming all year long at the Library. All of the programs we host at the Library are free, none of them we have a fee. Last year, we had over 1,000 programs That's in all subject areas, for all age groups. We couldn't do it without the money we generate at Authors Night.

Is the Library introducing any new programs soon?

DF: We are continually introducing new programs. Lately, what we've been doing is partnering with other institutions. Most recently, we partnered with the Montauk Observatory. It's a great group of people with a lot of experience, but they don't have a facility. We've started co-hosting programs with them. We're hoping to do more of that with them, as well as with other organizations around the town.

What upcoming programming does the Library have?

DF: We're in the middle of the summer reading clubs, so there are big events that we have planned for children and performances. We're also in the middle of the Tom Twomey Lecture Series. So coming up, in that we have a program on little tiny houses, which includes a tour of some tiny houses around the village. We have a program all about oysters - from growing them, harvesting them, eating them. We're going to have a program about Charles Addams, and the foundation and his artwork. We're showing some films, and we're really doing a lot of programming.

We also enlarged our gallery space. We have a show running right now with a group called the Wednesday Group. It's a group of local artists who meet every Wednesday and paint in different areas around the town. They have 36 pieces of artwork up right now in the gallery. Then we're going to have a group of local glass artists that are going to display their work. They'll be gallery displays running from now through at least the end of October, continuously. We're excited about that.

Is there anything else you'd want to add?

DF: Part of the money that we raise at Authors Night goes to supporting the free children's fair. The next day is the largest children's fair on the East End of Long Island and it's completely free. Free food, rides, games, entertainers. It's at the same site as Authors Night, which is a beautiful giant field in Amagansett. It's really safe. The children are far from the street. Parents can park right on site. In an area where everything is so expensive, this is a big give back that we do for families where you can bring your child out and they can do all kinds of crafts, play on, we have seven different bounce houses, ARF will be there. It's really a great day and that's free. It'll take place from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

The Authors Night Book Signing Cocktail Reception will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. and dinners begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $100 for the Authors Reception only, and begin at $300 for the dinners.

Authors Night will take place at 555 Montauk Highway in Amagansett. For more information, visit authorsnight.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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