Three authors from genres ranging from contemporary fiction to southern literature will share their literary passions, purposes and practices at The Times and Democrat's 10th annual Page Turner Book and Author Luncheon on Tuesday, March 6, at the Orangeburg Country Club.
Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online at TheTandD.com and at the newspaper office at 1010 Broughton St. Deadline for ordering tickets is Feb. 23.
Featured at the event will be romantic fiction writer Kieran Kramer, contemporary fiction author Padgett Gerler and southern literary fiction writer Bren McClain.
Doors will open at 11 a.m. for a silent auction and meet-and-greet session with the authors. Each of them will speak and sign copies of their books, which will be provided by Swift Books and will be available for purchase.
Lunch will be catered by the Orangeburg Country Club, and Daryl Cate of The Garden Gate Florist, which is also a charter sponsor, will again provide the floral decorations.
The luncheon’s higher education sponsors are Claflin University, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and South Carolina State University. The SI Group of Orangeburg is a platinum-level sponsor this year.
T&D Sales Manager Kyla Fraser said she is happy that the event is celebrating its 10th year.
"We are extremely pleased to be holding our 10th anniversary event this year. This is the largest event we hold as a fundraiser for Newspapers in Education, and the support and success of the luncheon has been excellent each year," Fraser said.
The proceeds from the luncheon go toward funding the electronic delivery of The T&D to area teachers free of charge to use as educational tools in the classroom.
Fraser said she appreciates all the sponsors who have helped make the luncheon possible.
"We literally could not hold this event without the sponsors. We truly appreciate their support, as the event supports literacy and education through NIE," she said. "We have several other businesses and individual sponsors as well, and our hats are off to them as well."
Items donated by local businesses will be available for silent auction bidding. The items can be viewed online at TheTandD.com prior to the event.
Fraser said the luncheon will give people an opportunity to spend time with friends and business acquaintances, enjoy a delicious meal and meet published authors in the inviting setting of the Orangeburg Country Club.
"We truly love the elegance of that setting. It has a very inviting atmosphere and is a lovely place to gather. We have some special decor planned for the 10th anniversary," she said.
This year's featured authors say they welcome the opportunity to meet their readers and share their love of reading and writing with them.
Kramer is a "USA Today" best-selling author of funny romantic fiction whose writing brings joy to her readers while enabling her to live in her imagination.
"That's the best part of it. Also, I love to share my stories with other people because I often hear that my books help people get through a stressful day. That's a great feeling," she said.
The writer added, "I hope my books serve as a knot my readers can tie at the end of their ropes. If they've had a difficult day, they can open one of my books and be reminded that love changes everything."
Kramer has written a dozen romance novels for St. Martin's Press, including "Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage" and "When Harry Met Molly." She is currently working on a new novel, "Second Chance at Two Love Lane."
The Johns Island resident describes herself as a fun writer who believes in hope, laughter and love.
"I try not to get overly sentimental, though. That's too easy to write. I do my best to stick to the truth and let the situation speak for itself. ... My world view is such that I believe good ultimately will prevail. So I get satisfaction writing stories in which that happens," Kramer said.
She credits her parents for her love of reading and discovery.
"I credit my amazing parents for always having books available to use at home. There were seven kids, and we were all big readers. It was our favorite hobby. I write because I love to read. Reading allows me to feel what other people are feeling, to enter situations and settings I might not get to on my own," Kramer said.
"Writing is simply an extension of my love for stories, a love I've had since I was a little girl. I wanted to stay in the realm of my imagination, and writing is a great way to do that."
The author earned a bachelor's degree in English from The College of Charleston and is about to graduate with a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the college. She also became certified to teach middle school and high school English along the way.
Kramer said not romanticizing novel writing as an occupation is critical to the art.
"Treat it the way you would any other activity you spend your time on. Too many people believe novel writing is a dazzling job, but it's not. I say that because I want to encourage people to write. Too many of us get scared off by the idea that only a few people are lucky enough to become writers," she said.
"Anyone can become a writer if you're willing to put in the work. Admittedly, it's hard, lonely work and most of the time you won't get the attention you might be looking for. But if you want to write, you don't get into writing to get noticed. You get into it because you love it, and if you love it, you just do it."
Kramer has won several awards for her books. She's a double RITA Award finalist for her novel "When Harry Met Molly." The RITA award is granted by Romance Writers of America for excellence in the romance genre.
"Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage" is also on the "Library Journal" Top 100 Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years List. Her books have received various "top pick" designations from other national book review outlets such as "Book Page" and "Booklist."
Kramer said she is looking forward to talking with readers about her love of reading and writing at the upcoming Page Turner Luncheon.
"I'd most like to share the idea that we can all become readers and writers. We'll also have a much better chance at succeeding at spreading literacy if we reach out and try to help each other. I'm calling on everyone to consider acting as a literary sponsor to someone in their life," she said.
"Share a book with that person, talk about writing, do anything you can to encourage the love of reading and writing in that person," Kramer said.
Gerler works to find a happy ending with her writing, which she said she hopes makes readers think, question, feel and laugh.
"I like for them to see themselves in my writing and to know they are not alone. My readers are my motivation. When a reader stops me in the grocery store and says, 'You're writing gave me permission to be the person I always wanted to be,' I know I was meant to be a writer," she said.
"When a woman at the gym says, 'You have written my story. Thank you,' I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. When entire book clubs show up at my book launches, I'm eager to rush home and write another novel just for them," Gerler said.
A graduate of North Carolina State with a degree in accounting, the author enjoyed a career in that field before turning to writing.
"I love the freedom to create when, where, what and how I want to create - something I wasn't allowed in my career as an accountant. The lack of corporate structure and boundaries lets me create characters who speak their minds, travel to places I love, laugh and cry with abandon and always find a happy ending," Gerler said.
The South Carolina native, who was raised in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and has lived in North Carolina for more than 40 years, considers herself a contemporary fiction writer.
"I called myself a women's fiction writer until a young man wrote to me to say, 'Please stop calling your work women's fiction. I love your writing, and I'm no woman!' So I've taken to calling myself a contemporary fiction writer," Gerler said.
"I write the Southern voice from the mountains to the coast, and it is my goal to make my readers think, question, feel and laugh."
Having a passion for writing is critical to succeeding in it, she said.
"I think it is most important. All the perseverance and determination in the world can't make an author write if he or she doesn't have that fire and drive to create. If the fire is there, the perseverance and determination will follow," the writer said.
Gerler has written four contemporary adult fiction novels: "Getting the Important Things Right," "Lessons I Learned from Nick Nack," "The Gifts of Pelican Isle" and "What Does Love Sound Like?"
She is currently working on a young adult novel, "Invisible Girl", as well as a middle-grade novel titled, "The Summer the Air Changed." In addition, Gerler is in the planning stages of another adult fiction novel, "She's the Same."
She said she fell in love with reading when she discovered there was a community of southern writers who told stories of the people she knew and the places she loved.
"Harper Lee influenced me to southern writing when I was a young girl, and I have loved the southern voice ever since," she said.
Her short story "The Art of Dying" won first place in the Southwest Manuscripters Short Story Writing Contest, while her short story "I Know This Happened 'Cause Somebody Seen It" was chosen as a selection in the anthology titled "Self-Rising Flowers."
Gerler's second novel, "Lessons I Learned from Nick Nack," was awarded indieBrag’s B.R.A.G Medallion, as well as Honorable Mention in the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards of 2014.
She said she is looking forward to attending the Page Turner Luncheon to share her journey from accounting to writing.
“I’d love to share my circuitous journey from accounting to writing and to show the audience that you’re never too old to start over or to realize a dream,” Gerler said.
McClain describes herself as a southern literary fiction writer – with heart.
“That’s what I hear, anyway. At the core of everything I write is heart. I feel that God put me on this earth to write. So I am living out my calling,” she said.
McClain published her debut novel titled “One Good Mama Bone” in 2017 on Valentine’s Day and is currently working on a new novel.
“I am currently writing a novel inspired by an unknown woman in South Carolina’s history, a woman named Eula Bates, who refused to give the federal government the right-of-way to run a four-lane blacktop through the middle of her farm in Jackson, South Carolina,” she said.
“The story is set against the backdrop of the Savannah River Hydrogen Bomb Plant, which displaced 300 people, wiped out seven communities and would become the nation’s largest use of eminent domain in a time of peace,” McClain added.
The native South Carolinian said she had “the most amazing life” growing up on a 72-acre beef cattle and grain farm in Anderson. She now resides on a 100 acres of woods and small creeks outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
She said she was not an overnight success at writing, but most enjoys “the communion I have with my characters in complete solitude.”
“I’m a 27-year overnight success so perseverance is key. If I’d ever given up, that would have sealed my fate. My novel ‘One Good Mama Bone’ is the third novel I wrote – but the first to be published,” said McClain, noting there is a second key that is critical to the art of writing.
“The second key, I think, is withholding all judgment about your characters, creating them with an open heart so they take you where you need to go as a writer. And that’s deep inside them, where their darkness and lightness do battle,” she said.
McClain studied English at Furman University and then went on to Stanford University, where she studied broadcast journalism.
What does she hope her readers get from her books?
“I hope they feel something. I hope their emotions take them somewhere they’ve never been,” she said, adding that she credits her fourth grade teacher for her love of reading and discovery.
“I tend to think of it in terms of unlocking my creativity. And that goes to my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Walters, at Centerville Elementary School. She must have created a certain environment for me that unleashed the place where stories come," McClain said.
“On my own, without assignment, I wrote a play called ‘Taking Care of Birds.’ She loved it and had our class perform it for the entire school. The big thrill was when she came to my book signing in Anderson. I hugged her neck,"
McClain's work has received many awards over the course of her career, including Pulpwood Queen Book of the Year in 2017 and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association Okra Pick. She was also a finalist for the Crook’s Corner Book Prize for a debut novel set in the American South and received the 2016 William Faulkner Prize for Novel-in-Progress for her next book.
McClain said it is an honor to be invited to the Page Turner Luncheon.
“I hope to share how ‘One Good Mama Bone’ became the book it is today,” she said.