1st Person, 2nd Story

L-R Kimberly Marcus, Dawn Tripp, Joan Leegant
Last night, my husband and I attended "1st Person, 2nd Story: An Author Event on the Second Story of Cork." This event benefited New Bedford's AHA! (Art-History-Architecture). AHA! Night is a FREE arts & culture event which takes place the 2nd Thursday of every month in downtown New Bedford, Massachusetts.

During this lovely evening we met local authors Dawn Tripp of Westport, Kimberly Marcus of Dartmouth, and Joan Leegant of Newton. Local public radio personality Naomi Arenberg was the host and my favorite local Indie bookseller, Baker Books, sold books. Cork provided wine and tapas.

This was an event created just for me, it seems. By attending, we supported local authors, a local indie bookstore,  a local restaurant and a local arts and culture event all in one night! I also connected with other locals like Nelson Hockert-Lotz who share my passion for books and local culture. Hearing the authors' stories was icing on the cake for me (really delicious icing, that is!).

Here are a few highlights from the authors.

Dawn focused on how her strong sense of place influences her writing. She summered in Westport, MA as a child. Now she's married to a local man and lives there. Each of her novels is set in Westport. In her novels, Dawn wanted to capture something true to that small town. Even though she compressed geography a bit in one of her novels, long-time locals told her she had accomplished her goal. Many older locals offered to be interviewed as part of her research for her second novel set in Westport during the early 1900s.

Joan also spoke of a strong sense of place in her writing. Joan currently lives half the year in Newton and half the year in Israel, so it makes sense that her novel is set in Israel. She emphasizes sensory details to make a place come alive for readers. I read the first chapter of Wherever You Go when I got home and from the first two sentences I was grounded in that place.

Joan quoted E.L. Doctorow to describe her writing process:
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Like Dawn, Kimberly was drawn to a place her family used to summer. For Kimberly, it was Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. Even though she changed the names of places in Exposed, she was thinking of Falmouth, MA and Martha's Vineyard as she wrote.  For Kimberly, a sense of emotional place is also important. Exposed explores the changing emotional landscape of a teenaged girl as she realizes an important person in her life isn't the person she thought.
When asked about their advice to young writers, all three women agreed that the best way to learn to write is to sit and write. It reminded me of Jane Yolen's famous acronym: BIC (Butt in Chair). In other words, if you want to be a writer, write. They also agreed that writers need to be willing to take risks, both as a writer and in life. Joan paraphrased Samuel Beckett: Fail. Fail again. Then fail better.
(Complete quotation: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.")
Thanks to each of these ladies for sharing their thoughts and processes with us. I encourage you to read their books.

If you live in Southeastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island, please visit Baker Books, Cork and AHA! Night. If you don't, find out what's local to you and support those businesses.  When you travel, support events and businesses local to where you're visiting. There are businesses and events like this everywhere.

What local events have you been to lately?