Local Authors Share Stories, Secrets at Book Fair
Village-sponsored event brings five writers from all over Chicagoland to talk about their books, craft of writing, process of publishing.
If you have a story to tell, get down to work and tell it.
The opportunities are there for writers to connect with publishers, and with audiences, and all it takes is hard work and the ability to market yourself.
In a nutshell, those were the lessons imparted to about 25 fans of good stories—some of them prospective writers themselves—who came out to Village Hall Tuesday morning to meet five locals living the dream.
And as all five authors told their stories, they also talked about the craft of writing, and the process of finding a publisher. That process was different for each of them, as it is for every writer, they said.
For Auroran Jo Fredell Higgins, it was a matter of finding a company that publishes the type of books she enjoys writing. Arcadia Publishing is one of the country’s premier purveyors of historic photo books, and Higgins has written five of them, counting Montgomery, her book on the village, which will be published next month.
Higgins, a Montgomery Patch contributor, said she will never forget getting that first contract to compile her Naperville book for Arcadia. She’s been writing these books for 10 years—she spoke to roughly 100 village residents for Montgomery—and has just published her first novel, A Song for Cecilia, the story of an orphan who takes a train from New York to Peoria in the 1920s.
Higgins’ fellow Auroran, Pamela L. Reid, is also a writer of historical fiction. Her book, The Weaver’s Loom, is the story of a betrayal-filled friendship between two women, but also tells the story of her own Hungarian Jewish roots, a family secret she discovered.
“I was afraid to have my father read my book,” she said. “It tells a lot of the history of my family.”
One of Tuesday’s lessons was to pitch your story to the right kind of publisher. Higgins’ novel was released by Tate Publishing, a small, family-owned Christian company that will reject manuscripts that have sex, violence and vulgar language, Higgins said.
Chicago author David J. Walker admitted thathis own 10 books, crime fiction set in Chicago, would not make it under Tate’s rules. But he draws on his own life as a lawyer and as a former employee of the Chicago Police Department, to make them ring true. Many of Walker’s books, including the new Too Many Clients, feature Chicago private detectives.
Walker, who quit his full-time law practice to write, described the appeal of popular fiction as “watching people we care about do things we’d never dare do.”
Helen Osterman of Oak Park also is a mystery writer, having written three books starring “accidental sleuth” Emma Winberry. She writes “cozy mysteries,” she said, meaning those without blood and gore.
It was a meeting with a publisher at a convention called ''Love is Murder,' held in a hotel by the O’Hare Airport, that led to her contract, she said. Two of her novels have been picked up by Harlequin’s mystery line, and she has been paid well for them, she said.
Her secret? Market yourself. And, she added, join a writer’s group—you can find them at bookstores and at your local library.
Lombard writer Elizabeth “E.B.” Loan suggested joining a group online as well, such as Women On Writing. Loan, unlike most of the other authors in the room Tuesday, leapfrogs genres—her first book, Killer on the Key, was a suspense thriller, and her second, Opals and Rubies, supernatural horror.
Her third, Confessions of a PTA Mafia Mom, is comedic and was written under a pseudonym, Elsie Love.
Loan said having a website is incredibly important when it comes to promoting your own work. And, she said, they’re very easy to build now.
But it was Higgins who provided what may have been the most resonant piece of advice Tuesday morning: don’t throw in the towel.
“You can write the best story in the world, and send out 30 or 40 query letters, and get an automatic [rejection],” she said. “But you cannot give up. If you feel that what you’ve written counts, you have to keep going.”