Southern Chester County Writers Conference planned for Nov. 16
By Steven Hoffman
Three local libraries—the Avon Grove, Kennett, and Oxford libraries—are collaborating to organize a Southern Chester County Writers Conference that will bring together a talented and diverse group of writers who have connections to the area. The event will take place on Saturday, Nov. 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Technical College High School.
Mark Bowden, the bestselling author of “Black Hawk Down,” is the keynote speaker. The event also includes breakout sessions on the craft of writing as well as a meet-and-greet with selected authors from the area.
“We have a nice mix of writers participating,” explained Lori Schwabenbauer, the director of the Avon Grove Library. “Chester County seems to be a real magnet for artists.”
Carey Bresler, the director of the Oxford Library, added, “We all have author events. We have all of this local talent so we thought it would be nice to have them all together at the same time.”
Megan Walters, the director of the Kennett Library, credited Bresler with coming up with the idea for a writers conference. The three library directors meet regularly to discuss the programs and activities at their respective libraries. The three libraries in southern Chester County are a bit removed from the cluster of libraries in the northern part of the county, but they are close to each other. The proximity lends itself to collaboration, which is something that the three library directors all like. The writers conference could be their largest collaborative event.
Writers in the area have been very enthusiastic about the conference, as evidenced by the number of talented scribes who have agreed to participate.
Bowden has published more than a dozen books during his distinguished career, including “Black Hawk Down,” which was nominated for a National Book Award. He was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1979 to 2003. Serials in the newspaper on “Black Hawk Down” and “Killing Pablo” were published as highly acclaimed books.
One of the presenters at the event will be Dr. Cheryl Gooch, the author of “Hinsonville's Heroes: Black Civil War Soldiers of Chester County, Pennsylvania.” She is known for her meticulous research, and she will talk about the methods of doing research on a book.
Bruce Mowday’s new true crime book “Stealing Wyeth” is about the theft of 15 paintings from the estate of Andrew Wyeth. The book tells the story of local criminals, a master cat burglar, gamblers and murderers and how law enforcement secured the paintings and brought the criminals to justice. Mowday is an award-winning author and newspaper reporter. He has written more than 20 books on a variety of subjects, including history, sports, business and true crime. One of the topics Mowday will talk about is how to get a book published.
“He’s a great speaker,” Bresler said.
Walters said that they extended invitations to eight to ten additional authors who have connections to southern Chester County. She said that she’s constantly surprised by not just the talent of local writers, but how diverse their work is. This is reflected in the lineup of authors taking part in the writers conference.
The lineup includes science writer Oné R. Pagán, whose work has appeared in various scientific journals.
Chester County resident Mariah Stewart has enjoyed a prolific writing career that includes more than 40 published novels and novellas—everything from romantic suspense novels to contemporary romances to women’s fiction. She's currently juggling not one, but two, different book series.
Marcella Peyre-Ferry, an Elk Township resident who has spent the last three decades writing for newspapers and magazines in Chester and Lancaster counties, is also scheduled to take part in the writers conference. She has authored a book on how to handle the challenges that come with watching a loved one battle Alzheimer’s or dementia and a book that offers a practical guide to reading tea leaves.
Other writers that the library directors expect to be able to take part in the event include Jessica Lawson, Iris Dowling, Dianne Salerni, C.H. Williams, Annette Whipple, Mary Lou Meyers, Gene Pisasale, and Allan Andrade. They have written on a wide variety of subjects, and in a wide variety of styles.
Walters described the talented group of participating writers as “pretty incredible.”
“It’s a very diverse group, too,” Bresler added.
On the day of the event, attendees will check in from 9 to 9:30 a.m. Bowden will speak from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. The first break-out session will take place from 10:30 to 11 a.m., and the second one will take place from 11 to 11:30 a.m. There will then be a time for participants to mingle. There is no fee to attend the writers conference.
The authors will have copies of their books for sale.
Walters said that it will be a good opportunity for aspiring writers to talk to published authors in a friendly environment.
It’s also an opportunity to make more people aware of the libraries and their offerings. Libraries today offer much more than books and magazines. Each library hosts dozens of programs each year for children and adults alike. Libraries also offer computers and Internet access for everyone in the community.
“Some people don’t realize how much the library offers,” Schwabenbauer said. “We’re community hubs.”
Schwabenbauer added that the writers conference could become an annual event if the first one is well-received.
Bresler said that the Technical College High School is a good location for the event. It is located in the middle of the three libraries so it is convenient for people in southern Chester County and the surrounding communities.
“We appreciate that they are willing to help us with this,” Bresler said. “They have very nice facilities at the Technical College High School.”
All three of the library directors are looking forward to the writers conference.
“I’m really excited about it, and what it might become,” Walters said.
The Technical College High School Pennock's Bridge Campus is located at 280 Pennock's Bridge Road in West Grove.