Local authors showcase work in festival

Published 5:28 am Thursday, August 24, 2023

Despite the heat and high temperatures, the show must go on. That was the case for the second annual Local Author Festival on Tuesday at Edgewater Bay Pavilion put on by the Albert Lea Public Library.

The event started with a panel discussion with authors introducing themselves and fielding audience questions. Following that, each author had their own table to interact with people and sell books.

“It’s a great opportunity for the authors to showcase their work, talk about their books, as well as attendees to hear about the process [of] the works that have been published by individuals in our community,” said Annice Sevett, director of the library, prior to the event.

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A call for authors went out in the early summer.

“It was fairly easy to find local authors,” she said.

Seven authors were featured: Susan Joyce, Sherrie Hansen, Milt Ost, Quinn Avery, Gail Kittleson, Leonid Skorin Jr. and Tom Schleck.

“They’re excited to participate,” she said.”Looking forward to it and to just kind of talk about their work and meet community members as well as interact with other local authors in the area.”

She described this year’s bunch as a variety, with five fiction authors specializing in different genres and two nonfiction authors.

“One is a historical account and the other has written … medical books,” she said.

Doing an event like this seemed like a logical step.

“There’s a lot of talent in our area, and we’ve seen interest in some of our adult writing workshops that we’ve held over the past couple of years,” she said.

The majority of authors live in Albert Lea or the Freeborn County area, with two living in southern Minnesota and the other in northern Iowa. There’s also a range of publishing experiences between them, with some being self-published, some employing publishing companies and others doing both.

The event was free to attend.

Sherrie Hansen is the author of 20 books, including the “Wildflowers of Scotland” series of romance novels, as well as a cookbook.

“A friend of mine was in it last year,” she said, referring to author Susan Joyce. “… I had hoped maybe I would have an opportunity to be in it this year.”

So she contacted the library two or three months ago about the opportunity.

Her first 12 novels were published by either Second Wind Publishing or Indigo Press, with her last six being self-published.

Hansen — originally from Austin — was also the owner of Blue Belle Inn and Tea House in St. Ansgar, Iowa, where she’d have customers from Albert Lea who would come to cooking seminars, murder mysteries or simply have dinner at the Blue Belle.

She also saw the festival as an opportunity to sell books while getting to meet her readers, and was hopeful more people would attend as there were seven authors.

“Some might come thinking they’re interested in another one of the authors and then decide to give my books a chance,” she said.

And that was her goal: For people to discover new authors to enjoy.

Gail Kittleson, who writes women’s historical fiction, heard about the festival through a fan.

While working on her memoir and working at Eastern Oregon University, she took a weeklong retreat for writers.

“I wrote a memoir first,” she said. “I didn’t start [writing] until my 50s, but I always knew I was supposed to write, and I have had to develop the courage to do that.”

Kittleson described historical fiction as requiring a lot of research, and while characters and places could be made up, what happened historically had to be real.

“It’s my addiction to World War II,” she said. “… There’s no way we can possibly honor them enough, and that’s my goal when I’m writing their stories.”

She’s the author of 17 books, one being her memoir and “a couple” nonfiction stories related to WWII. This was her second book fair, after participating in one in the Des Moines area roughly half a decade ago.

Her hope for the event was to get people inspired.

According to Sevett, planning started back in May, though she noted following the success of last year’s Local Author Festival she knew she wanted to hold another.

She encouraged authors interested in participating to pay attention to their website — alplonline.org — or their Facebook page, and expects next year’s call to happen next May.