Kate Gavino's self-portrait.

Kate Gavino’s self-portrait.

If you’ve caught readings at Word or the Strand, or if you attended the Downtown Literary Festival last month, you may have seen the young woman at left, sketching whatever illustrious author was holding forth. Since she launched Last Night’s Reading in September of last year, Kate Gavino has posted over 100 portraits of writers dropping words of wisdom. Now she’s a quotable author herself: she just scored a book deal with Penguin.

Gavino had no intention of turning her sketches into a book, but she can see what drew editor Sam Raim to her work: “Authors aren’t usually the people who get drawn or have their photos taken,” she told B+B.

Actually, the project started out as idle doodling. As an editorial type in book publishing (she currently works at an academic publisher), Gavino was already attending a handful of readings a month. After drawing Junot Diaz encouraging a crowd to “find the community or the courage to bear witness to what has happened to you,” she decided to do just that, and now she’s documenting about four or five readings per week.

James McBride by Kate Gavino

James McBride by Kate Gavino

Gavino tends to favor events at Greenlight (near her apartment in Clinton Hill) or at McNally Jackson and Housing Works (near her workplace in Tribeca). But authors and publicists now invite her to things all over the city (“I’ll only go to a reading if I really like the author,” she says), and she’s gotten into hot-ticket events like the National Book Awards. She’s drawn Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates, George Saunders, Paul Auster, Maya Angelou, and James McBride accepting his National Book Award (NYU Journalism’s Distinguished Writer in Residence answered Daily Intel’s 21 Questions today). Not surprisingly, she’s encountered the ubiquitous Gary Shteyngart twice — once at NYU and the other time at St. Joseph’s.


Chuck Palahniuk by Kate Gavino

The most memorable readings? Well, there was the time high-wire artist Philippe Petit (Man on Wire) told a group in the catacombs of the Greenwood Cemetery that “to create is a rebellious act.” And then there was the time Chuck Palahniuk, at the New York Public Library, threw fake severed hands into the crowd and had audience members write their questions on inflatable balls and throw them at him. “It was like being in a McDonald’s PlayPlace ball pit,” she said.

Since the deal happened just a couple of weeks ago, details of the book are still coming together. And it remains to be seen who’ll draw Gavino at her own reading.