This past Sunday, October 25, local literary nonprofit Red Hen Press hosted over 150 authors, supporters, and community members at their 26th Annual Champagne Benefit Luncheon, hosted virtually for the first time since its inception.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the normally in-person event shifted to a virtual platform, utilizing virtual event technology from Zoom, OneCause, 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-six years in the publishing industry.
Headlining the event were readings and words from award-winning poet and editor of Crab Orchard Review Allison Joseph; bestselling author Aimee Liu, whose works have been translated into twelve different languages; and New York Times Editor’s Choice author and Peauxdunque Writer’s Alliance member Maurice Carlos Ruffin. The event also featured readings from students from the WITS program, and speeches from Deputy Director Tobi Harper and press co-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-six years, as well as information on the event’s program, featured authors, and its simultaneous silent auction.
Keeping with the “champagne” theme of the event, guests were sent packages before the event with champagne-flavored jelly beans to enjoy during the event, along with the event’s printed tribute book program, a complimentary 2020 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 and special book bundles before the start of the show.
The program proceeded at 12:30 P.M. Pacific with readings and special videos from featured guests before Red Hen’s first paddle raise commenced.
$185,000 was raised at the event.
Attendees were then broken out into “breakout rooms” for more intimate experiences with one of the nearly twenty featured host authors before guests were welcomed back for a final thank you and goodbye.
Jennifer Risher, author of We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth and supporter of Red Hen Press says of the event, “Everyone at Red Hen did an incredible job. The presentations from authors past and present were wonderful. I loved the applause. . . such a nice touch. It was great to hear from the kids in your program. And the overall pace was perfect. Best of all, the fundraising section was really fun and exciting. It was great to be able to call out people’s names [during the paddle raise] — that’s something that all fundraisers should work on continuing as we go back to an in-person model.”
Kristen Millares Young, author of Subduction and one of over fifteen guest host authors for the event, adds, “In our fragmented and polarized world, Red Hen Press reminds us that literature is handmade and that we as writers, thinkers, and supporters can build the literary community that sustains our work.”
A highlight of the event was the announcement of Red Hen Press’s newest editorial publication award, the Ann Petry Award. In partnership with Peauxdunque Writers Alliance, the Ann Petry Award seeks to publish prose literature by Black authors. The award will also consist of a $3000 prize. The announcement was made by featured author and inaugural judge of the Ann Petry Award, Maurice Carlos Ruffin.
The silent auction closed to bids at 2:00 P.M. Pacific that Sunday. Unsold items from the silent auction are now available for purchase at highly discounted rates here through the end of Cyber Monday on November 30.
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.