Spoke to my largest audience ever — 950 ladies who lunch — at the annual Christamore House Author Luncheon and Benefit in Indianapolis. Christamore House is an agency that supports needy families in the community. We were given a tour of the facility the day before the benefit, and they do marvelous work there. They provide preschool, counseling, food, emergency clothing, senior activities, dental care, you name it, to people in need. A worthy place to send a few extra bucks, if you have them. Every city could use a half-dozen centers just like it. One of the main ways Christamore House raises money is the annual Author Luncheon, which is organized by a Guild of volunteers. This year the Guild hosted me and four other authors, all way more distinguished than myself: Peter Carey, Australia's most celebrated novelist, author of Booker Prize winners Oscar and Lucinda and The True History of the Kelly Gang and, most recently, His Illegal Self; Sue Miller, author of ten acclaimed books including the recent bestseller The Senator's Wife; T. Jefferson Parker, two-time Edgar award winning mystery writer; and journalist Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty, about the undersung women who shaped the birth of our nation. The night before the benefit, all of us authors (with the exception of Cokie, who hadn't yet arrived) hung out late at the hotel over a couple of bottles of wine, swapping tour stories and talking about this crazy, solitary, maddening, wonderful thing that we all feel compelled to do. They were a lovely, funny and generous bunch, and it was truly an honor for me, as a first-time novelist, to be in their company.
At around 5:30 the next morning, I was awakened by a mighty rumbling and shaking, the hotel swaying and groaning around me. It felt a lot like the earthquakes I'd experienced when I used to live in LA. Nah, I thought, they don't have earthquakes in Indiana. Must be a train. Or a dream. Or the wine. And I promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. Turns out they do have earthquakes in Indiana. This one was a 5.4 on the Richter scale. Jeff Parker took credit for bringing it from San Diego. Said it made him feel right at home.
After that, speaking to 950 people was pretty anti-climactic. I was seated with the other authors and the event chairwomen on a dais on a stage overlooking this gigantic room full of ladies. It was odd, eating in front of so many people; I was grateful they hadn't served ribs or spaghetti Bolognese. The best part was that I got to sit next to Cokie Roberts and chat with her a bit. She is exactly as you'd expect: smart, witty, kind, and down-to-earth to boot. A class act in every sense.
Many thanks to the Christamore House Guild for inviting me to participate and to Kim Hardin, my minder, for shepherding me around Indianapolis.