Padgett Gerler knew what she wanted: to write.
Gerler, who was born in Conway but now lives in North Carolina, retired early from a career as an accountant to commit to writing full-time.
“That was eight years and four novels ago and I haven’t looked back,” she said.
“I wanted so badly to be a good Southern writer and the day I was in someone’s bonus room at a book club, a woman said, ‘When I read your book, I could just feel the ocean on my body and I could just smell the salt air,’” Gerler said.
I said, “You know, I did a pretty good job.”
Gerler spoke to a room full of people Tuesday at the tenth annual Page Turner book and author luncheon held at the Orangeburg Country Club.
Gerler and South Carolina authors Bren McClain and Kieran Kramer were keynote speakers at the event, which supports The Times and Democrat’s Newspapers in Education initiative.
“I’m so in love with this initiative,” Gerler said. “You’re doing this for a generation of children.”
The Newspapers in Education program provides electronic newspapers to area schools at no cost to the schools. Events such as the Page Turner luncheon and silent auction and The T&D’s Pet Idol contests help fund the NIE program.
After attendees and authors enjoyed a meal, the authors spoke to the crowd about writing and what inspired them to write books.
Gerler joked, “I wanted to be a New York Times best seller. I wanted an Oprah pick and I wanted a Hallmark movie – that’s not too much to ask for.”
“It didn’t take long before I realized I was not writing for Oprah Winfrey, I was writing for the man who said, ‘Would you please stop saying you are writing women’s fiction. I am no woman and I love your writing.’”
“I write for Martha, that 87-year-old woman at my gym who met me as I was getting out of the pool and took my hand and said, ‘Oh my dear, you just wrote my story.’ Then she kissed me on the cheek and said, ‘I love you.’ Every time she sees me, she kisses me on the check and says, ‘I love you.’”
“And I write for all of you. All of you who came out today to listen to us and to support us,” she said.
“I write for me. I really write for me because this is so cathartic and this is just so warming to me,” she said.
Her most recent novel is “What Does Love Sound Like?”
McClain grew up on a 72-acre beef cattle and grain farm in Anderson. She dubs herself a “27-year overnight success.”
Her novel “One Good Mama Bone” is the third novel she wrote, but the only one she’s published.
One of the main characters in the novel is a cow named “Mama Red.”
The novel is based on a real cow and a true family secret told to her by a neighbor when she lived in Georgia.
It is set in the early 1950s in South Carolina and tells of Sarah Creamer’s journey to discover her “mama bone” when she’s left to care for a boy who is the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend.
Creamer faces the challenge of raising the child, despite her own mother telling her at age 6, “You ain’t got one good mama bone in you, girl.”
Kramer, a Charleston author of funny romantic fiction, has published 12 novels to date. She published her first book at age 45.
“My books aren’t just about romance, they’re about community,” she said. Some of her favorite authors are Harper Lee, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
She told how her parents often urged her and her siblings to read books when they were children.
She fondly remembers the Readers’ Digest Condensed Books series.
Her most recent book, “Second Chance at Two Love Lane” is set for publication in August.
Some of those attending the Page Turner luncheon said that they looked forward to hearing from the authors about their works.
Claflin University Library Director Marilyn Drayton said Tuesday’s luncheon was the second Page Turner event she’s attended.
“I enjoy hearing the authors and hearing about the books they have and I’m always excited about the silent auction,” she said.
Gracen Harris, an eighth-grader at Branchville High School, said she enjoyed learning about the different authors.
Harris shows cows and goats and looked forward to hearing McClain.
“I like meeting new people and it’s interesting to try different things,” Harris said.
Dyamond Wannamaker, an Orangeburg native, attended the luncheon for the first time.
“I used to work at the Orangeburg Country Club and looked forward to seeing my former co-workers. I’ve also seen a lot of my former teachers here,” she said as she looked around the room at the attendees.
“I read all the time. I love books,” she said.
She enjoys reading fiction and crime, but is now reading autobiographies.
Xennie Weeks, a professor of early childhood education, said he also enjoys reading.
“Reading relaxes me,” he said. He noted that he mostly enjoys children’s literature and books about South Carolina.
The annual Page Turner luncheon is presented by The Times and Democrat. This year’s platinum sponsor was the SI Group. Orangeburg higher education sponsors included Claflin University, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and South Carolina State University.
Silver sponsors were Orangeburg County and S.C. Farm Bureau.
The charter sponsor was The Garden Gate florist.
Book sales were provided by Swift Books.