Everything from mystery and romantic intrigue to delectable stories about cooking French and Southern cuisine will be offered at The Times and Democrat’s sixth annual Page Turner Book and Author Luncheon.
Area book lovers will be introduced to three Southern authors and their works during the Tuesday, March 4, luncheon at The Cinema in Orangeburg.
Black River Chophouse and The Garden Gate Florist are serving as this year’s title sponsors. Black River Chophouse will cater the event, and The Garden Gate Florist will provide the décor. Albemarle Corp. is also serving as signature sponsor of the event for the second consecutive year.
Authors to be featured include Southern fiction writer H.A. Olsen, mystery and romance author Dorothy St. James and award-winning cookbook author Holly Herrick.
Doors will open at 11 a.m. for a silent auction and meet-and-greet session with the authors. Each author will speak and sign copies of their books, which will be provided by Swift Books and available for purchase at the event. Old World Wicker Gallery is also providing the seating arrangements for the authors during the book signing.
T&D Advertising Director Kyla Fraser said she is appreciative of all the sponsorships that have made the luncheon possible.
“We have Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, Claflin University and South Carolina State University together as our higher education sponsors,” Fraser said.
“We are extremely appreciative of all of our sponsors as this luncheon is the largest fundraiser for our Newspapers in Education program, which is the one nonprofit portion of our business that provides free electronic editions of the newspaper to area classrooms,” she said.
Fraser said more than 50 items donated by local businesses will be available for silent auction bidding. She said the luncheon fundraiser will give people an opportunity to spend time with friends, enjoy a delicious meal and meet authors in the same place.
The authors who will be featured at this year’s Page Turner Book and Author Luncheon say they enjoy creating stories, and are glad to have the opportunity to share that love of stories with their readers.
Herrick, a food writer, restaurant critic and the author of six cookbooks, is currently working on her seventh cookbook.
“Right now I’m working on the third book in a series on French cooking. I lived in France for many years, and it’s going to be about French soups and stews,” she said.
Herrick’s six cookbooks include “Southern Farmers Market,” “The Charleston Chef’s Table Cookbook - Extraordinary Recipes from the Heart of The Old South,” “Tart Love - Sassy, Savory and Sweet,” and “Food Lovers’ Charleston and Savannah - A Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets and Local Culinary Offerings.”
Her latest books include those written for The French Cook series.They include: “The French Cook: Sauces,” “The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs,” and “The French Cook: Soupes et Daubes, the third book in the installment and Herrick’s seventh cookbook which is due out this summer.
The Charleston resident said she is also looking to complete a series of culinary romance novels in the future.
“Because I have done so many cookbooks in such a short period of time, I wanted to take a break from that. I’ve had some culinary romance novel ideas that I’ll be working on, but I can’t share them right now,” she said.
Herrick, a native of Huntsville, Ala., earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Boston College and is also a honors graduate of cooking school Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. She said her motivation for writing began early in life.
“I was writing at a very young age, and I always loved cooking with my nana. I gravitated toward writing and studied journalism at Boston College. The early stages of my career after college were in the advertising side of the publishing industry. It wasn’t until after I got married in 1990 that I really had the time and means to focus on writing,” Herrick said.
“I really started with cooking first and decided I wanted to combine my journalism and writing skills with something else. But I wanted it to be less about journalism and more about food,” she said.
She said her first cookbook was based on a newspaper column she had written about shopping at farmer’s markets.
“It really hasn’t stopped since then. It’s been fun. I still love going to farmer’s markets or a beautiful grocery and finding something spectacular. It’s about sharing the knowledge and love of cooking and doing it in such a way that everybody will love and enjoy it,” Herrick said. “The goal is to make it inspirational and fun.”
Herrick said perseverance is a critical to the art of writing.
“You just have to do it. Dreaming doesn’t get it done. The actual art of any kind of writing is to be attuned with what is going on around you all the time. The key is to be very observant and to try to be a good listener. Try to get the undertones as much as possible because that sensitivity will come back through your writing,” she said.
She said food writing is as much an art as novel or poetry writing.
“I think of the myriad of examples of experts in food writing like James Beard and Julia Child. They’re all people who described food and had a poetry of their own. I went to one of the biggest cooking schools in the world, but I learn something new every day even in my own kitchen,” Herrick said.
France, French cooking and her current book series are among the topics which she said she will touch on at the Page Turner Luncheon.
“I’m sort of between two cultures right now, but there are similarities between Southern cooking and French cooking, which most people think of as fancy and impractical. But French cooking actually stemmed from frugality and freshness,” Herrick said, adding, “I promise to make it fun.”
H.A. Olsen, a native of Charleston, is the author of the “Lone Palm” family saga series set in Folly Beach. He said his motivation from writing stemmed from his and his family’s survival of Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
“I witnessed all the devastation. We came really close to losing our life that night. Another big impact on me was just seeing how it changed people’s lives. The aftermath of the hurricane brought out the good in some and the bad in others,” Olsen said.
Olsen, a drummer who had played in several bands, had also been fascinated with song writing. He managed to gel his experience with Hugo with his interest with song writing and soon began working on his first book in the “A Lone Palm Stands” series. There are a total of three books in the series.
“All this stuff just started blending in my head, and I started seeing a story unfold with Hugo as its backdrop. My wife kept drilling me and said, ‘You should write the story. You’re already a storyteller, so just do it.’ I sat down one night and came up with a manuscript with about 200,000 words,” he said.
As Olsen started promoting the book, it gradually began to grab people’s attention.
“People began emailing me, including people who had been through Hugo and said that it helped them get through emotional baggage from the hurricane,” he said.
Olsen said the first book chronicles how the life of main character Angela Jenkins is changed by Hugo, while also describing a tragedy which puts her on the path to becoming discovered as the famous singer-songwriter she is. The second book fast-forwards 16 years and finds Jenkin’s teenage daughter missing along with several other girls.
“It’s a suspense-type novel with both serious and humorous themes,” he said, noting that the third book chronicles Jenkins’ life as a grandmother whose teenage granddaughter begins receiving threatening messages from someone on the Folly Boat. The Folly Boat is a Charleston landmark that was washed ashore near Folly Beach during Hurricane Hugo.
“People paint it with different messages, but the teenage granddaughter’s receipt of threatening messages kicks off a kind of romantic mystery. There will probably one day be a fourth book, but I haven’t gotten there yet,” Olsen said.
Olsen said he considers himself as a storyteller, not a writer.
“I can tell a good story and keep you on the edge of your seat, but don’t expect any poetic prose in my books. I think the best part of it all is when you get feedback from the readers about how they enjoy your book and how it has impacted their life. My first book touches people in different ways, but it’s all about growing up and finding out who your friends really are,” he said.
Olsen, who received a psychology degree from the College of Charleston, said being observant and aware of your surroundings is critical to the art of writing.
“You’re always aware of things no matter what you’re doing because you never know where your next story is going to come from, or what you’re going to hear or see that’s going to give you that spark,” he said.
He said the rich history of his native Charleston will be among what he will speak about with luncheon participants.
“It’s one of the richest places for storytelling that you could imagine. There’s so much history there in that beautiful place and so much to pull from, including beaches and restaurants.”
Dorothy St. James
St. James, a mystery and romance writer, is the author of the “The White House Gardner Mystery” series. The New York native, who resides in Summerville with her husband and 8-month-old daughter, is currently working on a historical romance novel.
St. James has written a total of seven books, including three from “The White House Gardner Mystery” series. She also writes historical romance novel as Dorothy McFalls.
“I like both genres. My romances have a touch of mystery in them, and my mysteries always have a touch of romance of them. I started out writing mystery and then discovered the romance genre,” St. James said.
“That’s where I published first, but then an editor I was working with in romance said, ‘You should write mysteries.’ So it’s come full circle.”
She said “The White House Gardner Mystery” series is about an organic farmer from Charleston who stumbles upon “all sorts of murderous plots” while working in the First Lady’s vegetable garden.
“It’s been a fun series to write, and you get to go to D.C. I love the city and going up there doing research and trying to track people down who will talk to you. That’s the hardest thing becuase the White House doesn’t like to give up its secrets too easily,” she said, laughing.
She said the current historical romance novel she’s working on is about an American heiress who’s over in England looking for a husband. She said her motivation for writing began early in her life.
“It’s been like my earliest memory. I remember writing little books even before going to kindergarten and sharing them with family. I still have a couple of them. They truly awful, but I enjoyed doing it,” said St. James, who went on, however, to earn a degree in wildlife biology from Clemson University and a master’s degree in public administration from the College of Charleston.
“I worked as an environmental urban planner for several years before saying, ‘You know, I remember this writing thing that I wanted to do.’ And I started writing novels during my lunch break, during the evening and on weekends. And then one day my husband and I worked out our budget where I could write full time,” St. James said. “That was in 2001.”
She said having the time to hone her craft has been great, although she makes sure to make time for infant daughter.
“I’m writing in the evenings after she goes to bed,” she said, noting that she is excited about coming to Orangeburg to share her love of writing with readers.
“One of my goals this year was to get out more and share not only with my readers, but with aspiring writers. I feel like I’m finally getting to a point where I know a little bit about being successful at writing, telling a story and getting it on a page where it will capture a reader’s attention,” St. James said. “I feel I’m ready to pass that knowledge on and learn from others, too.”
She said writing is a craft which requires persistence.
“It’s about coming to the page every day and getting your story down. And then once it’s written, you’re coming back and doing the work to revise it and get it to where it’s something that someone else wants to read. The hardest thing that I think trips up a lot of budding writers is not finishing the product,” she said.
St. James said the key is not to give up.
“Get your first book written. It may not be published and your second book may not get published either, but just keep writing. You’ll learn things about yourself as you keep writing.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org and 803-533-5534.