Local authors gather in Liverpool to tell their stories

Central New York authors kicked off NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this past Saturday at the Liverpool Public Library as they gathered to talk about their different perspectives on writing.

Kay Benedict Sgarlata, memoirist and Syracuse native, finds the process of writing indescribable. 

“We all have been writing all of our lives, but what brings a person to a moment in time when they feel they have something inside of them that someone else might enjoy reading?” Sgarlata asked at the “Celebrate Local Authors” event at the Liverpool Public Library this Saturday.

The biannual event - the first of which took place during April’s National Library Week -  kicked off National Novel Writing Month with authors from the Syracuse area speaking about writing and reading.

“There are a lot of talented people in the community; we hope to be a venue for them,” said Cindy Hibbert, the librarian assistant in charge of contacting the authors. Each author represents a different genre, from poetry and contemporary fiction to ukulele music books and paranormal romance.

Hibbert has organized author events for years; in her office is a bloated file of clippings on local authors. Originally held annually, Liverpool's author celebration grew so large it began to spread 25 authors over consecutive days, Hibbert said. 

“The public really likes the opportunity to support fellow members of the community, and I think they're often surprised by how talented their friends and neighbors are,” said

Jennifer Husenitza, a librarian who orchestrated the event with Hibbert. 

A native of the Central Square area, Brenda Schillo started writing when she was 12 years old. Her first book signing for her book "Inside-Out of Me" took place at the Liverpool library. She took full advantage of the event, networking with other authors’  and engaging them in conversation. 

“There are a lot of authors, and they need as many opportunities as they can get to interact,” Hibbert noted as the authors talked . Authors often advise each other on the best ways to get published, she said. 

Authors in the area typically publish their books in two ways: through independent houses in the central and upstate New York area, or through CreateSpace, the publishing and distribution arm of Amazon.com. When authors sign a contract with CreateSpace, a team is assigned to help them design their cover, edit their book and secure an ISBN number. A second advantage of this, Sgarlata said, is exposure through the book's availability in the Amazon store and on the Kindle e-reader.

Saquan Lewis also used CreateSpace to publish his first novel "Dangerous Hood Dreams," which was inspired by his rough upbringing on the streets of Syracuse.

“Some people in Liverpool don't get to see what goes on in the inner city,” Lewis said. “This [book] will give a good, broad look at what's going on right now: a lot of killing, stealing, a lot of corrupt stuff. I want them to see that it does exist.”

Lewis, who was incarcerated on a drug charge, said a fellow inmate and writer inspired him to turn his experiences into a work of creative fiction. After his release, Lewis moved out of the city proper to Liverpool, looking for a better environment to raise his kids than he had growing up.

“I don't want people to take this book as a negative,” Lewis said. “I came from the negative, and I want to do something positive. There's hope. It's never too late for a person to change.”

For her memoirs, Sgarlata drew upon her love for history and former career as an educator, but she also said authors should “embrace the local culture and history” that they were raised in as inspiration for their work.

“It's every person we've ever encountered that enlightens our life,” she said. “It's those idiosyncrasies, those characteristics which always stay with you.”

While each writer touched on the trials of getting published and read, they all also showed their appreciation to the library for creating a space where they could showcase their work and inspire others to tell their own stories.

“Time is never guaranteed,” Schillo said, quoting one of her poems. “There's no loss if you at least try.”

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