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A Novel Affair

Media guide Sandra Rafalik ensures visiting authors have what they need—like socks.

By Stacey Wilson May 19, 2009 Published in the June 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Chris Gash

LAS VEGAS isn’t the only city where escort services are legal; Portland’s got a few of its own. Like Sandra Rafalik: media escort.

For the past 13 years, Rafalik, a Philly native and former advertising executive, has been a city guide for visiting authors plugging their latest titles around P-town. Publishing houses like Random House pay her to collect writers from PDX; check them into, say, the Heathman Hotel; shuttle them to TV, radio, and print interviews; ensure they’re hydrated and fed; and, in the case of Garrison Keillor, even make an emergency run to procure the author’s trademark size-13 red socks moments before he took the stage.

“At the end of the day, I guess I’m really a concierge-on-wheels,” muses Rafalik, who spends roughly 200 days a year shepherding writers around town.

An energetic baby boomer, Rafalik became an author handler (though don’t let her hear you call it that) in 1994, when she moved to Portland and read about media escort Halle Sadle in the Portland Business Journal. Rafalik had lunch with Sadle, and soon the two women began working together. Two years ago, Rafalik took over Sadle’s company.

Today, Rafalik’s little black book (OK, it’s an Excel spreadsheet) boasts no fewer than 1,000 digits for publishing flaks. “Authors can hit 24 cities in a single tour,” Rafalik says. “It’s my job to remember they are regular people who are tired, hungry, and just want to go to sleep.”

Sometimes that’s as simple as picking up something from Nutshell for a visiting vegan like Alice Walker. Other times, it means giving up the clothes she’s wearing: She once surrendered her favorite leather sandals to an author whose flight caused her feet to swell out of her shoes. And on rare occasions, it means calming the frayed nerves of a panicked, shrieking charge when her Volvo dies in the middle lane of I-5 in the driving rain, 30 minutes before a speaking engagement, as happened with Generation X author Douglas Coupland.

The occasional pratfall aside, Rafalik revels in her post as Portland’s literary den mother—but when it comes to revealing just what the going rate is for an all-day date with her, the seasoned escort remains mum.

After all, a lady never tells.

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