Writer Wednesday: Rebecca Skloot and a Signed Copy of her Hardcover Bestseller!

I’m behind on my writer updates and giveaways, so I’ve decided to make it a regular Wednesday event for you.

contest the immortal life of henrietta lacks hela cells signed hardcover bestseller HeLa cells
WIN IT! Signed just for readers of this blog, I wish you the best of luck. This book is SO worth winning, or buying!

This week I’m giving away a signed copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by bestselling author, Rebecca Skloot. Win this signed book by seeing the contest details below (VERY EASY TO ENTER).

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is, if you are a writer, or an avid reader who wants to better understand the process of writing, that you need to subscribe to Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures. I get nothing for telling you this (see my personal Ethics page, here). I don’t work for them or get any special treatment.

I’m telling you because listening to writers talk about their process, their research and answer your questions about a particular book or their methods is invaluable. And subscribing gives you the opportunity to attend one or two receptions where you get to actually meet those authors in a semi-private setting, ham a snapshot, and walk away knowing you touched immortality, just a tiny bit.

In the case of Rebecca Skloot, I felt immortality-adjacent in so many ways. Not only does meeting a successful writer inspire you and make you feel part of history, but this book she wrote is important.

HeLa cells are immortal. They were taken from a cancerous tumor in a black woman named Henrietta Lacks at Johns Hopkins hospital. They never die, and they have been studied and been the impetus for revolutionary treatment for AIDS, cancer research, gene mapping and so many scientific pursuits it will make your head spin.

contest the immortal life of henrietta lacks hela cells signed hardcover bestseller HeLa cells
My poor Baxter had to listen to me go on and on about HeLa cells all evening by the fire as I re-read Skloot’s book. You will seriously chew through this book friends. It’s that good.

But this story is more than just the life of those cells. It’s about the fundamental ethics of taking tissue from living humans and large pharmaceutical companies profiting from it in ways that never directly benefit the “donor.” It is about the story of one poor family, their struggle to come to terms with finding out, nearly twenty years after the death of their mother, that her cells, in essence parts of her, were still living, were impacting so many lives through a multi-billion dollar industry while they struggled to make ends meet.

contest the immortal life of henrietta lacks hela cells signed hardcover bestseller HeLa cells
Rebecca Skloot is inspirational for writers and readers as she explains both her process of writing and researching this important work.

Skloot’s journey to tell their story, and the story of HeLa cells, was tenacious to say the least. She is the kind of strong woman many of us hope to be “when we grow up.” Her singular pursuit of an issue so important to a family, and to the ethical debate of tissue research in our nation, rewards us with a story so meaningful and powerful that it should be one of your “must read” books.

Skloot was accompanied by Henrietta’s son, David “Sonny” Lacks at the lecture. He was endearing and charming and lit up the lecture hall with tears and laughter as he shared stories and slideshows from his family and talked about his late mother. They were introduced by Evan Frazier, Senior VP for Community Affairs at Highmark.

contest the immortal life of henrietta lacks hela cells signed hardcover bestseller HeLa cells
Evan Frazier of Highmark delivers a warm introduction for Skloot and Lacks.

One important thing to note about Rebecca Skloot that defines her character as a writer and a human: she donates a portion of her book proceeds to set up and administer the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to “provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without personally benefiting from those contributions, particularly those used in research without their knowledge or consent.”

contest the immortal life of henrietta lacks hela cells signed hardcover bestseller HeLa cells
PA & L’s Jayne Adair moderates Q&A with David Lacks and Rebecca Skloot at the Carnegie Music Hall. Renee Rosensteel, PA&L’s official photographer, is generous enough to allow her photos to be used in exchange for referring back to PA&L.

1) Go to the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Page on Facebook and thank them for bringing Rebecca Skloot to Pittsburgh (you need to make sure you *Like* their page as well!)

2) Go to Rebecca Skloot’s Facebook Page, *Like* it and thank her for coming to Pittsburgh (bonus entry if you tell her Traveling Marla sent you!)

3) Comment below on whether you’ve read this book or if you’ve heard of HeLa cells. Discuss anything you want related to the cells, the writer or the book or even the ethics of tissue “patenting.”

4) Sign up to receive my daily blog post by email. You’ll probably get an email to confirm – it might go to your SPAM folder, so watch for it!) I only post once a day and I never spam, so I hope you’ll get your Traveling Marla delivered daily. (And yes, if you already get me by email, message me with your email address so I can double-check it in the list, and you’ll get an entry: kmdruzgal at gmail dot com OR marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com. I was told that I actually do have to remind people that when I write “at” use “@” and when I write “dot” use “.” (You know…like an email address 😉 .)

5) Donate to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. I need proof, but you can block out any personal info when you send me your receipt. Email it to: marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com or to kmdruzgal at gmail dot com

It’s necessary to write them out longhand to avoid those crazy autobot email snatchers. 😉

DEADLINE: NEXT TUESDAY, MARCH 5TH BY 5PM (So I can announce the winner on next Wednesday’s Writer Blog!)


Did you enjoy today’s writer blog and book giveaway? You might enjoy others I’ve written and given away recently:

Neil Gaiman                Erik Larson                 Maureen McHugh            Candice Millard                  Jeffrey Toobin

Love, Marla

contest the immortal life of henrietta lacks hela cells signed hardcover bestseller HeLa cells
Meeting Rebecca Skloot: definitely one of the high points of my PA&L subscription!

24 thoughts on “Writer Wednesday: Rebecca Skloot and a Signed Copy of her Hardcover Bestseller!

  1. I already get your blog via email at juart2296@comcast.net and I would LOVE to win this book. By the way , does it come with the time needed to read it? Lately the only reading I’ve been able to do is when I should be sleeping 🙂

  2. I also found this very interesting. I had never heard of HeLa cells. I find out all the time how little I know for having lived 70 years on this earth. This was the first time that I visited the PA&L page although I think I remember your mentioning it before, maybe when you invited us to a lecture or reading you did when at Chatham. I’ll check it out further when I am in PA this summer. I liked Rebecca Skloot’s fb page and told her I hoped to win her book from you. Oh and I said thanks too. There’s my comment. 4 out of 5 ain’t bad, right. If I win the book, it may make me want to send a donation. If I don’t win it, I’ll see if I can borrow it at the library. Carry on, Miss Marla!

    1. I would tell you (a) read more books; and (b) you would be so happy to have read this awesomeness that you’d proudly be telling me about #4. 😉
      Hey…shouldn’t you be at b-ball by now?

      1. Okay I signed up for you dang email. Now I’ll get notified form like 6 different sources when you have a new blog! LOL

        I hate reading books, ugh.

        B-Ball is late tonight, 8:30 game. Hooray for no sleep!

  3. So cool! There was an event in our library a few months ago which I missed, then I heard a broadcast on NPR, I think, with recaps and comments from the children of Henrietta Lacks – their reaction when they first found out and how life has been since. Amazing and incredible mind-opener. I haven’t read Skloot’s book yet. Getting teary-eyed thinking about the heartwarming and heroic act of storytelling down to the cells.
    xo – Pierr

    1. It really is so heartwarming and heroic, isn’t it? You’re entered in the drawing, Pierr. Thanks for sharing your comments on it, and good luck!

  4. I totally loved that book!!!! Being a bio-organic chemistry, it was a wonderful read. There are so many topics in bioethics today with this being such a hot one.

    1. That’s right. I keep forgetting you’re a chem teacher, right? Yeah, this is hands down one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. You’re entered in the drawing for the signed copy. Good luck! 🙂

  5. I haven’t read it yet, but want to! And I haven’t heard of HeLa cells before, but would like to learn more…

  6. Very very interesting stuff!! I can’t wait to read the book!! I have read about HeLa cells many times over the past few decades, specifically on all the different research done on and with them. Not many people know they were among some of the first biological samples taken into space for zero grav research…really really interesting stuff!! I will admit, though, that I never knew the backstory of how they got the original cells other than that they were taken from a cancer patient.
    The book sounds terrific, and I will definitely grab a copy to read.
    great post sis!

    1. Yeah, she talks about those things in the book. You will seriously crap yourself over how good this book is. Even on my second read I just chewed through it. Tight writing and compelling story. You’re entered in the contest for both your email subscription to the blog and your comment here, so at least wait to buy a copy until after I draw the winner next week (unless you are opting out).

      1. Oh no, don’t opt me out…I’m sure there are more worthy people out there who should win, and I have no problem purchasing a copy; just the “coolness” factor at maybe getting the author inscription says stay the path. 😉

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