Mar 1, 201302:25 PMArts & Entertainment
Fun and Culture in the Mid-State
Literary-ly in Pennsylvania
(top l-r): Barbara Robinson, Debbie Dadey, Donna Jo Napoli, Jerry Spinelli, Eileen Spinelli and Jordan Sonnenblick. (bottom l-r): Judy Schachner, Kay Winters, Lee Harper, Linda Oatman High, Matt Novak, and Sandy Asher.
It seemed fitting that children’s author and playwright Sandy Asher of Lancaster would create and organize an event called Pennsylvania Authors in the Public Library. After all, the Lancaster Public Library is in her neighborhood, she’s a member and enthusiastic supporter of the Lancaster Literary Guild, plus she presents at an annual children’s literature festival in Warrensburg, Mo. When she read a report that her local library was in need of children’s programming, it was as if a literary lightbulb went off in her head.
“I suggested a writing workshop at the library for homeschooled children and the Pennsylvania Authors in the Public Library idea,” Asher recalls. “I knew we didn’t have the staff, space, and financial support for a festival like the one in Warrensburg, but I did have a tiny guest house to share, so I thought a ‘linear festival’ where we could enjoy one author at a time might work.”
It has, it does, and it will during all of 2013. Asher invited the authors and acts as their liaison, taking care of everything from meals to microphones with the help of the Library and the Literary Guild.
The year-long celebration of state-wide authors and illustrators began in January with award-winning authors Jerry and Eileen Spinelli. It will showcase a different author/illustrator each month, except July, with free programs and autographing sessions on Lancaster’s First Fridays and the following Saturday mornings. Other standout children’s authors to be featured include Kay Winters, Debbie Dadey, Jordan Sonnenblick, and Linda Oatman High. Some will do workshops on writing or illustration.
“It’s a given that literacy and creativity are vitally important to everyone concerned, and like teachers and librarians, children’s authors feel particularly obligated – and privileged – to promote literacy and creativity among young people,” Asher says. “From my many school visits and literature festival presentations, I learned long ago that young people respond enthusiastically to meeting ‘real, live authors’ by seeking out and reading those authors’ books, often with a feeling of friendship, even ownership.”
Asher, herself, will be the focus for April where she will do an informal meet-and-greet at the library on Friday, April 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with a book sale and autographing. On Saturday, April 6, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., she’ll do a presentation entitled “A Book from Idea to Publication,” in which she’ll talk about her most bizarre idea-to-published- book story and also give an overview of the process of trade publishing – including the rejections. The program is free and open to the public but registration is required in advance as space is limited. On Saturday, April 6, from 1 p.m.-2:30p.m., Asher will conduct a workshop entitled “Perfecting Your Picture Book Story.”
Pennsylvania Authors in the Public Library has filled a gap for the Lancaster Public Library as many libraries across the state and across the country try to come up with new and innovative programming to promote the literary arts and bring patrons through its doors. But the event doesn’t only benefit children, according to Heather Sharpe, the library’s community relations manager.
“We hope that the audience will not only have the opportunity to meet some of their favorite children’s authors and illustrators,” Sharpe says, “but also that aspiring writers and illustrators will learn valuable information for starting and growing their careers.”
Asher agrees, saying that a literate and creative next generation is the goal and that getting an up-close and personal look at local authors and illustrators makes that goal attainable.
“Story is the way we examine and make sense out of what appears to be chaos all around us,” Asher muses. “Both are survival tools, as vital as they are delightful. Even as a child, I felt there could be nothing more wonderful than writing a story someone would love as much as I loved my favorite books. Now I understand why that level of human communication is, indeed, wonderful.”