FORT MADISON â Those attending the âMeet the Authorsâ event Saturday at the FMAAA Art Center found a variety of genres represented â and were able to chat with the writers and have copies of the books autographed. It was a meet-and-greet/book signing combo.
The event was held last year but this year it more than doubled in size, occupying both front rooms of the art center and featuring eight authors and an illustrator: Bree Moore, Bruce Carlson, Cassandra Sembach, Curt Swarm, P.E. Pence, Jessica Neff, Tracee Guzman, Tyler Mills and Carlene Dingman Atwater.
Variety seemed to be the theme of the day with the nonfiction of Swarm and Mills, the fantasy novels of Moore, and Sembach, children°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± books illustrated by Guzman and Atwater, and everything in-between.
In addition to buying books and have them signed by the authors, it was also a chance for aspiring writers and fans to glean the writer°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± secrets and tips â and for some, finding time to write seems to be quite the challenge.
For example, Bree Moore of Keokuk has 11 published novels to her name. Some part of four different series and others stand-alone works, but the fact that she has six children, ages 2 to 11, and is expecting her seventh child in January left many, including this reporter, in awe.
âI donât write every day, but I have a very supportive husband and Iâve learned to work it in. When I have a newborn I write on my phone one-handed while nursing. It may not be ideal, but I wrote my last one that way,â Moore said.
She said her oldest child is an avid reader but has yet to read one of his mother°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± fantasy books.
âHe thinks it°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± cool that Iâm a writer, but he hasnât read any of mine yet. Iâd say mine are more for older readers, starting at 14 or 15 years old.â
Curt Swarm of the Mount Pleasant area is no stranger to readers of books and newspapers. His Empty Nest column is published in numerous newspapers, including the one you are reading now. With an English degree from Iowa State University, he also has taught creative writing classes.
When asked whether he makes a point of writing every day, as some authors advise, Swarm said he does, but not always on a book.
âI do keep a journal. It°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± an exercise journal really, when I finish exercising, I write about what is going on. What I put down is more likely to make it into my columns than in the books,â he said.
Swarm°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± wife Ginnie was also in attendance Saturday, and he refers to her as âhis editor.â.
âShe°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± ruthless. Be sure to underline that,â he joked.
Ginnie admitted she does often tell him âI know Iâm being picky, butâ¦â when reading his writing.
Bruce Carlson is another familiar face in among authors and readers alike. He and his wife, Marilyn, own and operate Ouixote Press out of Wever that also helps writers get their work published and has published more 300 books.
Most °ÄÃÅ¿ª½±, Carlson said he has finished a book, âCaboose Cooking,â which is historically grounded with recipes used by railroad crews and cooked in the caboose.
âIt contains a lot trivia about trains as well, like when the train couldnât stop at a station, but would grab the water on its way,â Marilyn explained. âBruce, what did they call that?â
âThe verb is âjerkingâ but the places were called âjerk water towers,â he replied. âThe crew would grab the water as they went by.â
At Carlson°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± table, readers found a spread of some of his books, such as âGhosts of Lee County,â âThe Best of the Mississippi River Ghosts and âGhosts of Des Moines Countyâ as well as unique cookbooks like âIowa°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± Roadkill Cookbook,â âIndian Cooking Cookbook.â
Marilyn has written a few mini books of her own, including the most popular sellers with crockpot and holiday recipes.
âI wrote one on Kentucky cooking. My dad, he never forgot his roots and I used those recipes, meat and bread. He always said it wasnât a meal without bread.â
The fantasy genre was well represented at Saturday°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± event.
Fort Madison author Jessica Neff, who publishes under the pen name of Jessi Lyn, focuses on fantasy and the supernatural. She has four published works on Amazon and a fifth one in the works â a sequel to âAscension: Rise of the Phoenix.â
âMost are young adult, and the other two a bit more risque, maybe better fitted for older readers,â she said. âReally, though, all ages enjoy them. Weâve all had our guilty pleasure with The Hunger Games, the Twlight series.â
Denmark author Cassandra Sembach says she caters a bit more to older readers with her âThe Black Rose Killer,â which was followed by a sequel,â The Black Rose Killer°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± Revenge.â
âThere°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± a third one coming,â is all Sembach would say about her murder/mystery series.
Keokuk writer Tyler Mills focuses his writing and much of his conversation on nonfiction, and politics in particular. He was there Saturday with his first book, âDeath of the Blue Dogs: How the Demise of the Blue Dogs Harmed the Country.â
âI wrote about how 30 to 40 members of what used to be the Blue Dog Coalition were replaced between 2006 and 2012 and what it has done to this country,â Mills said. âWhat were centralist Southern Democrats were replaced with extreme conservatives.â
Mills works at the call center in Keokuk and says his background is more in Human Resources Management.
âIâve had people ask me if I wanted to run for office. Iâve worked on some campaigns, but human resources is more my area. I like helping people find jobs that suit them.â
Representing children°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± books were Nauvoo, Ill. authors P.E. Pence, or Phil and Elaine Pence, who moved to the area in 2021. Since marrying in 1979, they have both worked full-time, operated an ice cream parlor, run a community theater, and raised eight children. They say that their storytelling career began at the bedside of the children.
From those stories came âFrostbite Little Spark,â. âEye of the Nagual,â âChristmas Coal,â ââDay of the Leprechaun,â âHeart of the Naguel,â and âBecoming Mother Christmas.â
Also in the children°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± book genre was Fort Madison illustrator Tracee Guzman. Her first book, âDaisyâ came out in August of 2022 â the first book she wrote and illustrated herself.
Her book featuring her illustrations, âThe Witches Ballâ came out in September of 2021 and was written by Lori Ries of Arizona. Almost immediately after âThe Witches Ballâ made its debut, Guzman landed a contract to illustrate âChester the (Almost) Pirate,â written by Ann P. Borrmann.
Guzman is a teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic High School and before that taught K-12 at Notre Dame.
Well known local artist Carlene Atwater was also on hand with copies of âLittle Truck Without A Load,â written by Andrea R. Cross and illustrated by Atwater, as well as copies of other children°ÄÃÅ¿ª½± books, such as âThe Little Red Sled, written by Crooks and illustrated by Darian Puga.