Fern-Michaels-with-grandson-Jake

The incomparable romance author, Fern Michaels (with grandson, Jake) at OK Florist. Ms. Michaels signed her new release, No Safe Secret, the 143rd book since her first in 1975. THAT’s impressive!

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!)

Book-banners-outside-shop-windows

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.

Author-Author-Town-Promoting-BooksIt 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.

Pattie-Welek-Hall-SGS

“In the Pink,” local author Pattie Welek Hall talks about her memoir, A Mother’s Dance, as well as her role in the local roll-out of Pink magazine.

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…

Terri-Barnes-at-Olive-Oil

Author Terri Barnes (at right) signing, Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life. Terri’s signing location, Olive Oil, offered up amazing olive oil tastings, too – Yummo!

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!

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6 thoughts on “It Takes a Village: Does Your Town Get Behind an Author! Author! Event?

  • June 21, 2016 at 10:16 pm
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    Terrific idea, Shari! Did you help organize? Anything possible for the Charleston suburbs?

    • June 21, 2016 at 11:28 pm
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      I did not, but if you look to comments below Janyce’s email at S’ville Dream is there — Works best to do through local merchant’s association – does West Ashley have such? I’d be happy to help if it does!

  • June 21, 2016 at 3:37 pm
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    Ooh, I can’t wait to be published!! I’ll start scouting locations in West Ashley and James Island–OH! Freshfields Village!!

    • June 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm
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      Freshfields Village is wonderful and Linda at Indigo Books there is even moreso… Reach out to her!

  • June 21, 2016 at 2:15 pm
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    Thank you Sheri for supporting our wonderful event. Author! Author! has really grown, and that is because of the shop owners, the authors and the community! I wonder what we will do for next years event??? Jan Hursey, Executive Director, Summerville DREAM.

    • June 21, 2016 at 2:43 pm
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      We stand ready to help. Working with authors I can tell you this is SUCH a winning template for gathering local support and exposure. Authors need to be encouraged to share widely on social media, take pics during the event (Instagram ’em, put ’em Facebook, Twitter, an event page on FB, Pinterest, etc.) and let their readers know they’re also supporting community projects – Definitely our favorite formula – Win/Win/Win – For the authors, the shops, and the community 🙂

      Thanks for all your hard work on this and providing such a shining example to our author tribe – Brava!

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