Outside Bookstore1Sarasota, downtown Sarasota visitors found new stories to experience and conversations with local authors.
Taking place April 22 and 29, which was Independent Bookstore Day, the Local Author Book Fair spotlighted 28 local authors and was one of two fairs the bookstore holds throughout the year. The second book fair takes place in the fall.
“It was fantastic,” said Andrea O’Brien. “It was very inspiring to talk to authors and to see where they were coming from and what inspired them to write their book. I just learned so much from listening to their experiences.”
Among the authors looking to meet potential readers was Lucy Beebe Tobias, who wrote the 2008 book “50 Great Walks in Florida” as well as the 2015 book “Florida Gardens Gone Wilder.”
Tobias said in selecting the locations of the walks for the former book, which all feature "wild Florida," she wanted to hear from locals throughout the state, rather than selecting locations based on their appeal to tourists.
A former writer and photographer for the New York Times in Florida, she spent a year wandering through Florida, talking to people for ideas on locations and cataloguing her walks through sites such as Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon.
Bryn Durgin, director of programming at the bookstore, said the event allows attendees to get to know the books through their authors instead of the other way around.
“People fall in love with the author before they fall in love with the book, which is a really unique experience,” she said.
Durgin said on both weekends some authors sold out of their book copies. She said even small numbers of purchases, such as four in one week, can land a book on the store's bestseller list.
Author Brian J. Morra said he sold all but one copy of his book “The Able Archers,” a Cold War thriller about one American and one Soviet participant who help prevent a global nuclear war, and had even received speaking engagements.
Durgin also said the event was valuable for allowing authors to network among themselves, as many accomplished writers are not sent on tour by publishers.
“It's such a remarkable opportunity for authors to learn from one another and to connect because writing a book is such a solitary process,” she said.
Wide range of genres
The authors and their books spanned the spectrum of genres, with some authors taking a more fantastical direction in their work, but for Eddie J. Morales, that direction was still tied to his past.
Morales said he has enjoyed writing horror fiction since he was entertaining his high school classmates with writing assignments. Although he worked as a business analyst previously, he began self-publishing five years ago.
His 2022 autobiographical horror novel, “Haunted by Life: A Paranormal Coming of Age Story,” follows a boy named Javier who is followed by a ghost while moving from Puerto Rico to New Jersey while dealing with dark family secrets.
Morales said he lived in both locations when he was younger; in fact, he claimed a ghost haunted his home in New Jersey and helped inspire the story.
Launching a book can be a challenge, he said, especially as he manages the process independently, creating his own covers and using his own photographs. He said book fairs can be “very helpful” for local authors.
For Lakewood Ranch resident Lucille Messina, the book fair was a chance to reach people struggling while caring for a disabled or medically fragile child.
Messina’s daughter, Jacklyn Messina, who was born in 1984 and lived for just over 11 years, had a degenerative neurological disease and could not walk, talk or see. After her death, Lucille Messina wrote the book "Waiting to Hear 'Momma' — A Mother's Memoir.”
She said the title comes from the fact that while all parents wait for the day that their child will say “Momma” or “Daddy,” not all parents get to hear those words.
“If I can help one person, who knows what that one person will go on to do in life?” said Messina. “It’s wonderful because this is what community is about, helping one another survive and struggle.”
Sara Jonas wrote the children’s book “Ham’s Big Adventure” for the benefit of The Tidewell Foundation in honor of her friend, Jamie Meyers, who died of brain cancer in 2016.
The book's main character, Ham, is a young pirate who travels to outer space on a mission to find where love is hidden.
“I think it's great that they put this on for local authors to help support them and get the word out, because it's so hard to get the word out, and as somebody who was born and raised local, this is great for giving back to the local people as well,” she said.
Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.