This past Sunday, October 24, local literary nonprofit Red Hen Press hosted 135 authors, supporters, and community members at their 27th Annual Champagne Benefit Luncheon, hosted virtually for the second time since its inception.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the normally in-person event shifted to a virtual platform once more, utilizing virtual event technology from Zoom, Bolder Events, and The Virtual Gala Team. The fundraiser supported the press’s publishing initiatives, Writing in the Schools (WITS) program, and community outreach, and celebrated twenty-seven years in the publishing industry.
Headlining the event were readings from critically acclaimed poet Kazim Ali, Kingsley Tufts Award-winner Afaa Michael Weaver, and bestselling author of The Archivist Martha Cooley. The event also featured readings from students from the WITS program, and speeches from Deputy Director Tobi Harper and press founder and Managing Editor Kate Gale.
The event kicked off at 12:00 P.M. Pacific with a pre-show slideshow featuring information about the Press, its imprints, and its achievements in the last twenty-seven years, as well as information on the event’s program, featured authors, and its simultaneous live auction.
Keeping with the “champagne” theme, guests were sent packages before the event with rosé champagne-flavored jelly beans to enjoy during the show, along with the event’s printed tribute book program, a complimentary 2021 Red Hen Press title, and other exclusive Red Hen Press gifts. During the pre-show, guests were able to mingle and see each other in the Zoom room, and bid on items in the auction, as well as purchase books before the start of the show.
The program proceeded at 12:30 P.M. Pacific with comments from featured guests, video testimonials from Red Hen authors and friends of the Press, and a reading by a Writing in the Schools student before the program went into a virtual paddle raiser fundraiser, and a feature of the live auction items that were up for bid. Attendees were then broken out into “breakout rooms” for more intimate experiences with one of the nearly twenty featured host authors.
$165,000 was raised at the event with the generous help of two anonymous matching donors.
Highlights of the event included the meaningful stories and testimonials from Red Hen authors and from the featured guests, including Kazim Ali and his story about how the anthology he edited with Red Hen, New Moons: Contemporary Writing by North American Muslims came to be. The Zoom chat was also incredibly active with shoutouts and conversation from guests across the country (and even from Italy) and the short poem read by Writing in the Schools student Moises demonstrated his poetic future.
David Mas Masumoto, organic farmer of peaches, apricots, nectarines, and raisins, winner of the Julia Child Cookbook Award, and forthcoming Red Hen author says the event was “so warming to discover Red Hen’s family of supporters, readers and writers,” and that he was “proud to join in this annual reunion!”
Award-winning poet and recipient of the Dana Gioia Poetry Award Douglas Manuel also noted, “The Red Hen Benefit this year was lovely as usual. What I enjoy most about these events is the way the Red Hen family can maintain community, camaraderie, and connection even during a pandemic. Seeing my fellow pressmates, the Red Hen staff, and board members always brings me great joy and lets me know I’m not alone, which is such an important and crucial thing during these isolating, draining, trash-fire times.”
Red Hen Press, one of the few literary presses in the Los Angeles area, was founded in 1994 by Kate Gale and Mark E. Cull with the intention of keeping creative literature alive. Red Hen Press is committed to publishing works of literary excellence, supporting diversity, and promoting literacy in our local schools. We seek a community of readers and writers who are actively engaged in the essential human practice known as literature.
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