Blockbuster authors to benefit Brandeis

A literary event extraordinaire, the Brandeis National Committee Phoenix Chapter Book and Author Luncheon will take place on March 14. Co-chairs Sara Leopold and Marcy Strauss have joyfully collaborated to produce an affair to remember with blockbuster authors such as Paula McLain, Steve Martini, Linda Hirshman, Ed Tarkington and Barbara (B.A.) Shapiro. Attendees will have a rare opportunity to not only meet some of their favorite authors but also hear them discuss various dynamics of the writing process – motivations, inspiration and lessons learned.

Lunch will be provided, as well as opportunities to purchase books and have them autographed. Shopping time with skilled artisans and vendors will add to the allure as well, from fun and funky to sophisticated and stylish bags, ceramics, glassware, gourmet products and more.

For those who want a more in-depth experience there is also a “Bookmark Donor cocktail reception” with the authors at a private residence the night before. Dinner with the authors, for donors at higher levels, follows the cocktail reception.

“Sara and I are thrilled to be the co-chairs of this wonderful event now in its 26th year,” says Strauss.  “Working with over 100 volunteers, utilizing their special skills and interests and building on the past, we’re hoping this year’s event will be better than ever. Again this year, proceeds will be donated to the Sustaining the Mind Fund at Brandeis University, where they will be used for medical research and scholarships in the areas of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases. All this is possible because long-time member Carol Kern originated the event in 1990 and is currently the event advisor.”

The following is a sampling of the work of several authors who will be speaking at the luncheon.


The author of 17 books, Martini describes The Enemy Inside  as a political thriller with a considerable portion set in scenic Switzerland. A story of international banking, offshore bank accounts and tax scandals, it is based on a story that unfolded in the news about two years ago. “My book involves powerful people who get caught up in this international story,” explains Martini. “It is a tightly written and timely story that teaches the reader a lot about the banking industry.”

After a successful 25-year career as a journalist for the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Martini turned his energy to the legal field, pursuing a law degree. When leaving the paper, he wanted to try his hand at fiction; it took four years to finish his first book, The Simeon Chamber.  His second book, Compelling Evidence was picked up by the New York Times Bestseller List. “I attribute my success to one essential factor; hard work,” he says. “You have to do a lot of research, but I enjoy technical and local research. Writing gives you a certain freedom, but certain risks are involved. You have to not only work hard but stick with it. I’ve been writing full time for over 20 years.”


A lawyer, law professor and retired professor of philosophy and women’s studies at Brandeis University, Hirshman is the author of Sisters-in-Law, How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World. Her fifth non-fiction book is a riveting read of two larger-than-life female legal heroines.  The book chronicles not only the two judge’s similarities and differences, but also their unwavering commitment to women’s rights. “This book,” writes Hirshman, “tells the story of how together, at the pinnacle of legal power, the two made women equal under the law.” Hirshman had always thought of Ginsburg as the“great feminist heroine,” so she was surprised to find out that a lot of decisions were made when O’Connor sat alone on the bench, before Ginsburg came along. Another surprise was finding out how much of a romantic Ginsburg was. “One Valentine’s Day she had a dinner for all her law clerks who had married each other. At the end, they got fortune cookies with love poems in them.”

Writing full time, the author relates it takes her approximately four years to write her books. Law plays a role in all of them, but in her latest book it plays a larger role. “I got the idea for the book from my training, plus watching these two women my whole professional life,” she says. “I thought that it would be an interesting story; I had thought they might be best friends, but they are not. They do have an ‘affectionate alliance’ though.”

According to Hirshman, the biggest thrill she gets from writing is when people say a book changed their lives or helped them. Her advice for aspiring writers: “Be sure you have a gift for it. It’s a hard way to make a living, and so you should genuinely love it and be good at it.”


The author of The New York Times bestseller, The Art Forger, Shapiro will be discussing her latest thriller, The Muralist, a fiction/biography hybrid involving art, historical narrative and romance.  Shapiro thrives on writing literary thrillers intertwined with history and romance, as well as tales of psychological suspense. Her current book is the story of a young woman working in the art division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression. The heroine keeps company with abstract expressionist artists of the time such as Rothko, Pollack, Krasner and de Kooning. She tries desperately to get her family to the United States from Nazi-occupied France, encountering numerous roadblocks.

“I had an uncle who was a Holocaust survivor who escaped,” explains Shapiro. “We traced back his family from Poland to Auschwitz, and it had an incredible effect on me. When I learned more about this period I wanted to write about people like Eleanor Roosevelt and also [Secretary of State Breckenridge] Long, who had a hand in denying the Jewish refugees safety here.”

To hear these riveting tales and more, tickets for both the Book and Author luncheon and the Bookmark Donor cocktail party can be purchased at

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