Kate Gavino is the unofficial chronicler of the New York literary scene. On her blog Last Night’s Reading, Gavino posts portraits of authors coupled with quotes from their events. Gavino is amazingly prolific—on any given week, she posts from two to four illustrations. Recent entries include Chuck Klosterman, Green Girl author Kate Zambreno, and Elizabeth Gilbert. The blog and Instagram account Gavino keeps has also become a de facto social pages of the book world, a way to track which event you should have made it to at Housing Works or Greenlight or WORD Books last month. She chatted with us on the phone about the project, reading etiquette, and why the actual reading parts of readings are the least interesting bits.
What was the inspiration for Last Night’s Reading?
I started doing it when I left my old publishing job for one at a magazine as a way to keep up with the literary community. I was already drawing at readings anyway, and at every reading there would be a quote that stuck with me. I wanted to immortalize it in a way that wasn’t just tweeting it or something. It’s a part of my routine, and it’s an experiment. Plus, it’s broadened my horizons.
How do you choose the quotes? What’s the process like?
I usually do a sketch at the reading, and then do a final drawing off of that. And I record most readings and play them back to see if anything sticks out, quote-wise, that I might have missed. Sometimes I gauge what the audience reacts to, sometimes the quote is just something I find interesting or funny. Anything related to the craft of writing always interests me too. When I first started out, I probably did two or three portraits a week. Now it’s normally four.
Well, it’s just something I enjoy doing. I never go to a reading that I’m not interested in. All the independent bookstores in the city are my second homes. I love Word Books in Greenpoint, Greenlight, and BookCourt. I’m always at the Live at the New York Public Library Series. My calendar is kind of outrageous. It’s a pretty strict schedule.
Do you have any tips for authors at readings?
A lot of authors feel this way, and it’s true: No one is really that interested in hearing you read from your book. The actual book reading is usually the least interesting part of the reading. It’s the conversation at the end that people come for. They want to hear something new from you.
What about reading audiences? Do you have any pet peeves?
If you go to as many readings as I do, you’ll notice that people always ask the same questions. “Where do you get your ideas?” That kind of thing. It’s always better if you ask something that you personally would like to know, not something you’d ask if you were writing a school report. Don’t walk in front of the stage in the middle of the reading. Just basic, common manners.
How have the people you’ve drawn reacted to your work?
It’s been mostly positive. A couple authors have even bought them from me, or I’ve given it to them. I’m always nervous that they’ll be insulted by the way I drew their nose or something. But now people request that I come to their readings. It’s amazing.
Follow Margaret Eby on twitter @margareteby