Local author fest lets writers engage with readers — and each other

New London — As someone who was a teacher for 15 years, Jenna Grodzicki loves meeting young readers, and by going to author fairs, she hopes to get her books where they belong: into the hands of children.

On Saturday, she sat next to Leslie Woods, a fellow author who writes bilingual children's books, inside the Public Library of New London, copies of two books on display. One is about a lemon shark who struggles to make friends because the other sea creatures fear him, and another is about the adventures of an indoor cat who ventures outside.

Grodzicki and Woods, who respectively live in Burlington and Gales Ferry, were among the 45-plus writers present at the fourth annual Local Authors Fest at the library on Saturday.

For many, this was their first time at this event. And for many, such events are a great way not only to sell books, but also to engage with readers and give writing advice.

It's great to "connect with other authors, because writing is a bit of a solitary activity," said Cindy Eastman, author of the humorous memoir "Flip-Flops After 50." Published in 2014, it's Eastman's first book.

"If you don't even sell one book, if you talk to somebody about how much they love reading ... it's really rewarding," Eastman said.

Next to her, Simsbury resident Penny Goetjen showcased her mysteries, in which the setting — whether it's the Caribbean or the coast of Maine — becomes one of the characters, she said.

Across the room, Richard Foye was showcasing "Foye and the Filipinos," his meticulously researched account of the rescue of his father, who went on to serve as New London High School principal for 20 years, in the Philippines during World War II.

David K. Leff has written 11 books of nonfiction, fiction and poetry, on topics ranging from maple sugaring to canoeing in Maine to unusual natural sites in Connecticut.

"I like meeting other writers," he said. "It's kind of a hothouse of ideas in a way, and it's also nice to talk to visitors, potential purchasers."

The event also included speeches from authors Lottie B. Scott, Todd Gipstein, Martha Seif Simpson and Dirk Langeveld (a marketing editor at The Day).

"How can we writers, how can we use our talents to change the world by our pen?" Scott asked.

Gipstein is an author, photographer and filmmaker who has traveled the world for his work with National Geographic. He said he doesn't get writer's block but does get "life block sometimes," when other responsibilities get in the way of writing.

"To me," he said, "writing is really a synthesis of experience, research and imagination."

e.moser@theday.com

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