By Lindsay Andarakis
Sheila Rogers, the President of the Board of the East Hampton Library and Authors Night Committee Co-Chair helped create this popular event 13 years ago. Rogers has helped oversee the transformation of Authors Night into the premier literary event of the season, attracting favorite famous authors in fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, lifestyle and children’s book authors. Rogers sat down with The Express to discuss some attendees she is looking forward to speaking with at this year’s Authors Night.
What makes Authors Night for the East Hampton Library so special and different from a typical book gathering and signing?
Well, a book signing is usually one author. We have 100 authors. That is a huge difference. Most book signings take place either in bookshops or libraries, but it’s very rare that one can gather 100 prominent authors to meet the public and sign their books. The other thing is that the publishers donate all the books, so the library receives 100 percent of all of the funds raised in selling the books. This is just really fabulous for us; we sell the books and we get to keep the money for programs in the future.
What is your involvement with Authors Night?
I’ve been a board member since 2007, but I’ve been involved at the library in one way or another since 1991. I started as a volunteer, I worked for the library, I was a consultant to the library and now I’m a volunteer again.
Have you had a love of books your whole life?
I have. When I was growing up, the library was a very important part of the lives of most of the kids, and we all spent lots of time in the library. I was really lucky because I lived near the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system, so I was exposed to a fabulous library with great books, in a wonderful place. So for me, I have always felt comfortable. No matter where I go, I always wind up at the library. When I first came out here, I was in school studying for my Bachelor’s degree at Pace University and I would use the East Hampton Library as my refuge, away from my guests.
Do you have a favorite memory of a past Authors Night?
You know, each and every one is different and fabulous. We love the surprises, we love the activity and it’s just a really thrilling event. I can’t tell you that one in particular is my favorite. That’s like asking which one of my children is a favorite child. They are all different and I love them all equally.
I read that Authors Night is “celebrity-studded,” and attracts more than just authors. Who are you looking forward to seeing or speaking with this year?
Well there are many authors who are celebrities and many celebrities who write books. In fact, this year we’re really thrilled that we have Alan Alda and Hilaria Baldwin. There are many, many celebrities that write, which is fun for us. A lot of these books are actually written in the library itself. It’s quite often that you’ll walk through and you’ll see somebody that you recognize, with a hat on, who is writing their book…We have a couple of other really special guests including Stephen Kennedy Smith, the nephew of JFK, with a book in commemoration of 100 years of JFK’s hundredth birthday year. We were also able to get Jean Kennedy Smith, JFK’s remaining sister. She has a book called “The Nine of Us.” The two of them will be under our tent signing books. It was really a fantastic coup for the library to get them, we are just thrilled.
Reading has changed so much with the advent of e-readers and reading apps. Do you feel real, live paper books are still the future of literature?
I think that all media is the future of reading. If anything, reading has become more front and center in people’s lives, not taking a back seat. I think what really spurred that was at the beginning of the recession, we started to see a lot more people using the library and we invested a lot of money in our technology to make e-readers available. In the beginning, we were thinking, “are books going to go away?” but they’re not, people are just using them differently. People may not be buying as much fiction, but they may be buying more non-fiction. Every year at Authors Night, we sell more books than we ever did before.
Tickets are $100 include two and a half hours of meeting favorite authors with a raw bar, appetizers, sushi and drinks. The $300 ticket includes a dinner party, with about 40 authors in total hosting different dinner parties, some with multiple author hosts that donate everything for the events. The 13th annual Authors Night at the East Hampton Library is on August 12 at 5 p.m. and will be hosted at the field at 4 Maidstone Lane in East Hampton village, across from the Maidstone Tennis Club. For more information, visit authorsnight.org.