GROTON -- The Nashoba Valley has long evidenced the presence of a strong literary community in area towns. But actual evidence of it had to wait until last Sunday afternoon, when the Groton Public Library hosted over a dozen local writers at a special "meet the author" event.
The Local Author's Fair was the brainchild of librarian Ann Wilson and writer Dale Phillips, member of the library's Mystery Book Group. Phillips is an author of a number of books and short stories.
"Library Director Vanessa Abraham and I were talking about the possibility of getting all of our local authors together because we wanted to recognize them and give them a chance to meet the public," recounted Wilson. "We've featured individual authors from time to time, but we wanted a venue that would host a large group of them together."
Sunday's event brought together more than 18 authors, many from Groton.
"Dale Phillips is a member of our Mystery Book Group and had experience participating in author signing events," continued Wilson. "So when we brought up the subject of doing one at the library, he was all for it and contacted authors he knew who then fanned out to spread the word."
"Groton is an exciting venue for an authors' event like this," commented Phillips from behind a table featuring a spread of his many books. "The library here is a welcoming place where authors can easily meet readers."
Looking around the crowded function room on the library's second floor, Phillips was pleased not only with the strong showing among area authors but in the number of readers, fans and just plain old curiosity seekers who turned out for the meet-and-greet.
"This is more participation than I expected," observed Phillips. "It shows what an active community Groton is for readers."
"I'm delighted and excited about the attendance at today's event," added Wilson, who went to great pains to organize the fair, including contacting authors, preparing identifying placards and arranging for refreshments from such local eateries as Bliss Bakery, Main Street Cafe and the Blackbird Cafe.
"When I was growing up in Groton," recalled Vlad Vaslyn, author of "Yorick," "it was a very literary community with the school system and the library very strong on reading. It's great coming back to town like this and seeing the changes in the schools and library that continue to influence kids in the value of reading. I remember when I was a kid, the librarian used to always recommend books for me to read."
"I love this kind of an event because I get to see all the local talent," said Groton writer Greg Fishbone, author of "Galaxy Games." "And Groton has such a lot of talent, it should be a source of pride for the community."
Although books featured at the fair represented a wide array of subject matter, many covered the mystery and children's book genres, with a number of those taking advantage of a sea change in the publishing industry that places much of the power of the press directly into the hands of authors themselves.
Publishing On Demand, or PODs, are a relatively new phenomenon of the Internet age by which companies offer all the services of a regular publisher including printing, sales and marketing for an affordable price, allowing any writer to get his or her work in print and for sale with such venues as Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com.
"Events like this are worth doing because they help get the word out about your books," said Quincy resident Richard Feitelberg, author of "Aure the Topaz."
Feitelberg underlined one drawback of the brave new world of self-publishing which is the fact that unless readers know about a book, they are not going to be looking for it. Without a traditional publisher at their backs, with its long established connections in the wider media, individual authors must fend for themselves in finding ways to spread the word about their work. Thus gatherings such as those last Sunday are invaluable for authors trying to launch a career.
"I'm delighted to be at an event like this among people with the same mindset and sharing what I love to do with others," said Groton resident Caroline Poser, columnist and author of "Snakes, Snails and Puppy Dog Tales."
Poser put her finger on another aspect of author fairs besides the opportunity for writers to meet their public: the chance to hobnob with fellow authors and discover new ways to get the word out about their work.
"This is my first public exposure as a writer and it can be a bit overwhelming," admitted Groton resident Nick Roberts, author of "Tyler the Tumbleweed" and "His Family Adventure." "I didn't know what to expect, but if a person's not well known in the publishing business, this is a good way to get your name out there."
" 'The Pinewood Derby' is my first book. It's based on a true story," said Chelmsford author Cindy Reynolds. "Coming to shows like this is good for me because it inspires me to keep writing. And it's nice to see all the different genres showing how much there is to write about."
"There's something here for everyone," agreed Groton writer Christine Lindemer, author of "The Night of Many Lights." "People get to come and not feel pressured to buy anything but just talk with writers about writing."
"Reading will never go out of style," commented Groton resident Betsy Fitzgerald of the competition between books and electronic media. "They all entertain us in different ways with books, whether available in their traditional form or electronically, just doing it at a slower pace.
"So I think it's still possible to drum up interest in books and writing," concluded Fitzgerald, author of "October Run." "But we need to support local authors and I hope the library holds an event like this again next year. It's a lovely idea!"
Other local writers who attended Sunday's fair included Frederick Goodwin, David Brody, Richard Meibers, Marcia Synnott, Stephen O'Connor, Ellen Olsen-Brown and Pierre Comtois.