When I’m not at a writer event somewhere, chatting with fascinating authors, I live and work in a sleepy little picturesque town just outside Charleston, South Carolina. Summerville is a fast-growing community, with a delightful array of shops and restaurants and its landmark annual Flowertown Festival. (No, really, it brings in over 200,000 visitors each year!)
Our office is behind a little gift shop on the idyllic downtown square, which hosts clever holiday-themed events too, such as Scarecrows on the Square (businesses decorate a variety of ’em at Halloween); a tree-lighting ceremony in December; a non-motorized parade for 4th of July, (wagons, bikes, dogs pulling tricycles, horses, you get the idea…).
But I’m now convinced that the coolest event in our cute little town is “Author! Author!” – a creation of Summerville DREAM (the local merchants association)… and you’ll soon think so too:
Held on one of Summerville’s “Third Thursdays” (a day each month when shops stay open later, attracting new residents to explore the area), the merchants association, under the capable leadership of executive director Janyce Hursey, agrees that several shops (really, whichever shops and restaurants wish to participate) will host an author in their location.
It requires nothing more of the merchant/restaurant than the shop being able to stay open, provide a small table and chair/stool for the author, and cashier the books for the author (if needed – some authors prefer to cashier their own). Some locations host multiple authors. At this year’s S’ville event, the historic Timrod Library hosted four, including J.E. Thompson and Ellyn Malphrus.
Some merchants also offer up wine, olive oil samplings, cookies, sweet tea, etc. This creates even more of a festival feeling, and it’s all driven by small business and authors working together.
Best of all, it’s really rather easy to pull off (the organizers might come hunt me down for saying this) but seriously. All they needed to do to attract authors — the “entertainment”– was put out a notice online that they were “calling all local authors” and ta-da, a few days later they had nearly three dozen.
Among them, the legendary romance author Fern Michaels (who makes her home in Summerville and has published… wait for it… over 140 books!), as well as state poet laureate Marjory Wentworth (on hand to discuss her new book, We Are Charleston, about the Mother Emanuel shootings and the aftermath.
Shoppers could pick up maps with a list of the authors to find a new favorite, and each author had their own “space” to chat about their books and meet area residents. I loved meeting new readers as well as a number of new authors, and I enjoyed watching each of them “work” the crowd, making new reader connections.
It was the sort of unique community-building event you can’t help but be proud you were part of… And one we envision expanding to happen anywhere there’s a “downtown” area where readers can meander through a few blocks of fun shops and exciting authors…
Does your town do any sort of community author event? Could it? Gather your fellow local authors and make it happen in a small town near you… and please, tell us all about it!