It was a good time for a pair of good causes. Regional authors Jackie Lee Miles, Sallie Ann Robinson and Karen White shared laughs and inspiration with the nearly 200 people gathered Tuesday for The Times and Democrat's fourth annual Page Turner Book and Author Luncheon and Silent Auction at Cornerstone Community Church.

In addition to listening to tales of writing success, attendees also had the opportunity to bid on an array of items donated by local businesses, socialize with friends and enjoy a relaxing lunch.

"I thought it was just as good as it was last year," Joycelyn Redcross of Orangeburg said. "They choose such good authors. I'm looking forward to it next year and to see who the authors will be."

The silent auction added a new dimension to this year's luncheon, offering everything from jewelry and original art to gift cards and gift baskets to the highest bidder.

The Page Turner luncheon is a fundraiser for The T&D's Newspapers in Education program, which provides newspapers to area schools. Also benefitting from a portion of the proceeds is The Healing Species, a local student intervention program that works to overcome violence, bullying and crime with the assistance of rescued dogs.

Emma Williams of Neeses said she was given tickets to the luncheon by a former co-worker as a "going-away present" when Williams quit her job to take care of her mother full-time.

"It was a very, very nice gift," Williams said, adding that the luncheon is a great idea because "it helps promote local businesses ... and helps local charities."

Williams wasn't the only person attending Page Turner for the first time.

Alesia Hill of Orangeburg said after the luncheon that she found the experience "enlightening."

"I'm just happy to have gotten a portrait of what their books are about and meet some new authors I didn't know about," she said.

From listening to their stories, it seems that all of this year's authors sort of fell into writing.

Miles said she was looking for something to do when her children left home. So she signed up for a continuing education course through the University of Georgia titled "Murder and Mayhem for Money."

She said it was the only writing class they had available when she called.

It was there she decided to write what she dubbed the "Kill Her" series. But a newspaper story about a young boy's murder at the hands of his parents gave her another idea.

Miles said she wrote 50 pages of her first book that day.

"Roseflower Creek" tells the story of 10-year-old Lori Jean, who dies as a victim of domestic violence.

Miles took the first 100 pages of her novel to the Harriette Austin Writers Conference to show publishers.

One of those publishers, Ron Pitkin of Cumberland House Publishing, took the bait and requested the completed novel. Miles finished it in less than two weeks, writing 20 pages a day, Monday through Friday.

"It was a miracle," Miles said of her debut novel, which Cumberland published as its lead book. "I was in the right place at the right time."

Robinson said she was born to cook. But she never dreamed she'd be an author.

"We all have stories about things in life we do," she said. "I can't stay out of the kitchen. ... I just love to feed people."

Early on, Robinson said she learned not to ask what she was eating, adding that she can cook pretty much anything - squirrel, rabbit, you name it. But she doesn't care for okra. Which is funny, because she said that's what her mama was cooking the day she was born.

"I smelled it so much that day," Robinson laughed, that she lost a taste for it.

"You learned not to say, ‘I don't eat that,'" she said of the fare she was served growing up. "If you ask some of the questions about what you're eating, you probably wouldn't eat it."

Robinson, the author of two Gullah cookbooks, said growing up on Daufuskie Island was an amazing experience. It was there, she said, that she was taught to love food and people, and learned manners and respect.

"(My family) not only loved to cook, but loved everybody," she said. "If I had it to do all over again, I would say, ‘Take me to Daufuskie.'"

White said she discovered books while hiding from her three brothers.

"I spent most of my time running screaming from them," she said, adding that her nickname growing up was "Blarin' Karen."

She also spent much of her childhood traveling because of her father's job. White said a librarian got her love of books going with "The Secret of the Old Clock," the first volume in the Nancy Drew mystery series.

"I don't think you can be a writer without being an avid reader," she said.

In high school, White said she learned to type 85 words a minute error-free, and it was then she thought she might like to be a writer. But her father insisted she go to school for something else, so she chose a degree in management.

A decade later, after becoming a stay-at-home mother and a more voracious reader, White penned her first book, "In the Shadow of the Moon," in August 2000.

In May, the author of more than a dozen titles found out one of her books had hit number 14 on The New York Times Best Seller list, officially making her a New York Times best-selling author.

"It only took me 14 books, but you've got to start somewhere," White said.

Several lucky attendees were awarded door prizes. Following the luncheon, all were invited to purchase books and have them signed by the authors.

Event sponsors included Chestnut Grill, The Garden Gate Florist, Cornerstone Community Church and Swift Books.

"We were extremely happy with the turnout at this year's event," said Kyla Fraser, T&D advertising director. "The authors were engaging and funny, and had a wonderful reception from the Orangeburg community."

While Magzie Huntley of North didn't attend the inaugural Page Turner luncheon, she hasn't missed one since.

"I have really, really enjoyed them," she said. "I have read books from authors I have never heard of before. I have truly enjoyed listening to them and getting a feel for what it takes to be an author, and a published author."

Huntley said as a former Richland School District One employee, she feels what the luncheon supports is also important.

"I think (newspapers) are probably the only way kids get social studies any more," she said. "I saw how important that was to children, to get their education from the newspaper."

Contact the writer: wjeffcoat@times or 803-533-5546.


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