Brenda Novak and her son ThadBrenda Novak is a world famous NY Times (& USA Today) Bestselling author with a ton of accolades to her name.  But if you were to ask her, she’d say she’s just a mom with a passion to help find a cure for her son.

I had the opportunity to chat with her via e-mail over the weekend, and her down to earth manner really made an impression on me.  I was totally star-struck, which only magnified her humbleness.

Her son, Thad, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five (same age as my diagnosis), and shortly after she started holding an annual online auction to help fund diabetes research.  To date she has raised over $1.3 million.

Before I dive into my chat with Brenda, I’d like to cover the basics of the auction and talk about a special giveaway just for readers of Scott’s Diabetes. There are a ton of details and resources on her webpage, Brenda Novak for the cure of Diabetes, if you’d like more than what I explain here.

The auction starts this morning, May 1, 2012 and runs through the end of the month.  In order to participate, you have to register an account on the auction website.  If you enter ‘SJ2012′ in the promo code box, you’ll get a free autographed book from Brenda!

Once you are registered you can browse all of the cool items that are available.  Some of the items up for bids include having afternoon tea in the English countryside with Crime Novelist Peter James, getting to know NYT Bestseller James Rollins over lunch, drawings for Writers Conferences, chances to win a MacBook Air, Advanced Reader Copies, naming a character in an upcoming book, having a book dedicated to you, and more!  The list goes on and on.

Head on over to register today! Remember to enter ‘SJ2012′ to get your free autographed book.

Chatting With Brenda

SKJ – How and when did you come up with the idea for the online auction?

BNI wanted to do something almost immediately after my youngest son was diagnosed (at five) ten years ago. I was brokenhearted to learn of the difficulty of managing his blood sugars and that he would likely suffer some terrible side effects (as most here will know, those with diabetes have a much greater chance of getting cancer, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, etc.). I was panicked and wanting to do anything possible to help my son, but I was a young mother with five kids and no resources. I was also very busy, was just starting to build a successful career as a writer. My husband kept telling me to relax, that “there is a time and a season for everything.” But I was relentless in my desire. I wanted to do something, and I wanted to do it right away. 

About two years after Thad was diagnosed, I attended a silent auction at his school. I was disappointed by the turn-out. I remember thinking that those who had donated items were not getting the PR they were, no doubt, hoping for, and the school wasn’t getting the kind of money they’d been hoping to raise. I thought, “There has to be an easier way to raise money than to try and get over a hundred people to come to one place at one time and include dinner.” And that was when the idea popped into my head. I realized I had a website with significant traffic. I began to wonder if I could enlist my fans to help me raise money via an online event–and Brenda Novak’s Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research was born in May of 2005.

I knew from the beginning that I would need to give people a reason to shop there–something unique. So I started offering opportunities for aspiring writers to get in front of some of the most powerful people in the business. All the other great items–the trips & stays, the celebrity autographs and meet-and-greets and jewelry and handmade items–help round out the offerings, but the opportunities were what helped it catch on. That first year I raised nearly $35,000. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to tell me the idea had merit. I kept working to build the auction the next year, and the amount raised doubled. It nearly doubled in its third and fourth years, too, so I have kept pushing.

SKJ – Why did you pick the University of Miami’s Diabetes Research Institute? (disclosure – I have a business relationship with the DRIF, the fundraising arm of the institute)

BNI wanted a cure-focused research center. I wanted to strike at the very heart of the disease, to find a cure so that education and money for supplies for the underprivileged would no longer be an issue. After touring the DRI, I became convinced that they had the same goal I did–they wanted to make diabetes a thing of the past. I talked to the scientists there and came away encouraged. I felt, and still feel, as if they have the best chance of delivering a cure and was determined to put the money where it would do the most good.

SKJ- How do you get so many cool things donated each year?

BNThe writing/reading community has been amazing. They have been so supportive, year after year (and they are always the first to get behind a good cause). But I try to make sure that there is something in it for everyone. We had over 20,000 unique visitors last year and over 500,000 page hits. That gives authors a great audience, a chance to put their cover and story hook in front of many people who love books. The authors get the promotion value. The readers get first chance at reading their favorite author’s new book (many times before it even comes out–like in the instance of my new book, WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, which won’t be out until September but someone can get at the auction in May). And the charity gets the money for research. 

The authors and other industry professionals have also been generous in helping me to promote the auction, so it’s growing fast.

SKJ – What does Thad think of your efforts?

BNThad has been enthusiastic about it all. When the auction is running, he always comes home after school and checks right away, “What are we at today?” We celebrate every new success. He also helps a great deal in loading items on the auction and helping me get items boxed up and shipped when it’s all over. He helps pass out flyers to promote, too. When I had a local event to coincide with the auction last year, a brunch, he was a huge part of it. I’ll never forget him running around selling raffle tickets. He’d come and report how much he’d raised about every fifteen minutes. LOL


Brenda, thank you for being so generous with your time, for the auction, the giveaway, and this great dialogue.  I really enjoyed it!  And maybe I’m a bit silly, but I have to say it was so freaking cool to chat with you.  Who ever would have thought that my rambling would have me crossing paths with such a famous author?

9 Responses to Brenda Novak’s 8th Annual Auction for Diabetes Research

  1. Steve says:

    This a great opportunity for everyone! Raise money and get lots of cool stuff.

    In an effort to shamelessly plug my own auction item, the release of my debut novel, A Lovely, Indecent Departure, you can bid it on here. http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2553478.

    Thanks Scott for sharing!

  2. Brenda Novak says:

    Thanks for your support, Scott!! I’m excited that the auction is open and running great so far. Everyone, please join the fun.

  3. Mike Hoskins says:

    Scott, first of all: this is a great contest with so much coolness and parental passion attached. But on your post and interview itself… NICELY DONE! Seriously, I had a good time reading this in large part because of your simple openness, honesty, and casual down-to-earth/humble attitude about it. Great job, bro.

  4. Danita Moon says:

    Thank you so much for helping us to spread the word about the auction and the wonderful interview. We appreciate your participation and generosity. My name is Danita and I’m a volunteer on the auction and your help in getting the word out generates more shoppers and visits to the auction website. We have added two new features to this year’s auction. We know that there are some shoppers who are unable to bid on items but do want to contribute to the cause so we have added a store which will allow them to purchase items and the proceeds go towards the auction the link is Brenda Novak’s Diabetes Auction Store. We have also added a blog which will have updates of the auction, items that are currently being spotlighted, live chats, and much more. The link to visit is http://bnauctionblog.tumblr.com/. Thank you again for helping us to make a difference.

  5. Fedora says:

    Lovely interview, Scott and Brenda! I’ve been a bidding fool for the last four or five years now, and love how Brenda has done such an amazing job getting so many of us involved in this important fundraising effort!

  6. Danita Moon says:

    Fedora thank you for being a devoted shopper to the auction. I’m a volunteer on the auction which is my first year and I’m amazed at all the fabulous items we have. Hope you are the high bidder on some of the items you are bidding on. We have added a couple of new features this year. We have a store for those who are unable to bid but still wish to contribute to the cause and we also now have a blog which I update about the auction, announce the one day auction item and I also have live chat sessions. So if you ever wish to join in on a chat just jump on over to our blog http://bnauctionblog.tumblr.com/. Thank you again for your continuous support Fedora.

  7. Danita Moon says:

    May 27, 2012-It’s A Twitter Party!!!!

    Brenda Novak’s Online Auction For Diabetes Research will be having a final Twitter Party on May 27, 2012 at 1:00 PM PST hosted by Julie Rowe from Carina Press and will last until 2:00 PM PST. One lucky tweeter who uses the hashtag #bnda during the hour will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Be sure to follow @bnovakauction to be part of the Twitter Party. More details to follow.

  8. Danita Moon says:

    I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. Since being a volunteer on the auction and seeing all the fantastic items that have been donated for writers I’ve made up an imaginary wish list of items if I were to live out my dream as a writer. I thought I’d share that with you: The Complete Author Package Book Collection from COOL GUS PUBLISHING (Bob Mayer & Jen Tatly) (Current Bid: $34), Contract Review from Agent Marisa A. Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency (A) (Current Bid: $67), Submissions Workshop (3 Weeks Online) POLISH YOUR PARTIAL SUBMISSION from Document Driven (Current Bid: $30), NEW!!! Lawson Writer’s Academy: Ten Online Classes! Donated by Margie Lawson ($350-$400 Value!), (Current Bid: $130), First Three Chapters of Your Novel Edited by Document Driven ($420 value!) (Current Bid: $42), Up to 20 HOURS of Consultation Time with Forensic Expert Tom Adair!! ($3500 value!) (Current Bid: $140), “MICROSOFT WORD FOR WRITERS” Workshop Lesson by Catherine Chant, (Current Bid: $35), YOUR BIO (Short!), Written by Donna Erickson of AFLAIRFORWRITING.com (Current Bid: $12). These are all the items I believe I would need to start my career as a writer.

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