By Lori Szepelak
SPRINGFIELD – Gerry Garner had a dream – literally – of bringing authors together and soon Authors Selling Books of Western Massachusetts - Chapter 1 will be marking its first year as a driving force in the region.
Garner recalled her 1960 dream that she turned into a poem titled "This Was A Dream" during a recent interview with Reminder Publications in her spacious home in the Sixteen Acres section of Springfield. The poem is found in her first book, "My Friends Connect Me to the World."
It was an "aha moment" during a writers workshop in 2011 at the Hampden Library that Garner realized her dream of 51 years ago could finally take shape.
"I asked the workshop facilitator how can an author sell more books and she responded that authors have to get together," Garner said. "Her words made me remember a night-time dream I had."
Energized from those few words, Garner asked those present at the workshop if they were interested in forming a group and Authors Selling Books (ASB) was born this past Jan. 7.
ASB currently has 18 members and meets each month in a member's home to discuss sales tips and venues in the region. Members have participated in several events this year, including the Mattoon Street Arts Festival in Springfield, Massachusetts Day at the Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, Westfield Harvest Day, Granville Harvest Celebration, the Arts/Crafts Market Place at One Financial Plaza in Springfield, and several holiday craft shows.
As area residents put the finishing touches on purchasing gifts for their friends and loved ones during the holiday season, a signed copy of a book by a local author can be a thoughtful gift and can help the local economy, Garner noted.
ASB members also participated in Melha Shrine Center's 'Fez'tival of Trees through Dec. 2, and the Ware High School Craft Fair on Dec. 1.
"It has been eye opening to work with such a highly talented group of authors who are sharing their knowledge of technology and other book-selling experiences," Garner said.
David K. Weiner of Springfield, author of "History Makers . In Their Own Words," echoed those sentiments.
"ASB is important to me because it fulfills my desire to get input from people who know how to determine the best local venues to publicize and sell books," he said. "And I know it works for it has been a surprisingly good outlet for my first book."
Albert Y. Garner, also of Springfield, author of "Analytical Phonics: An Aid and Guide to Teaching Reading" and "The Adventures of Dimi," also encourages local authors to join the organization.
"ASB gives wider appreciation of the successful methods used by others to market and sell their books," he said. "ASB also affords encouragement and puts the proper emphasis on the author being the one to market and sell his or her books."
Sparkie Allison of Chicopee, author of "Moon's Embrace," appreciates the diversity among the authors in ASB.
"The ASB is a group of diverse authors who meet to network and sell books in a way that is not traditionally mainstream retail publishing," she said. "I appreciate the sharing of information and time selling books at the venues as well as networking at venues for potential new members and more venue opportunities."
Sandra J. Howell of Hampden, author of "Spirit of a Rare Breed," added that ASB has opened the door to different types of venues for book sales.
"Working together has proven more productive than working alone," said Howell. "Ideas are shared, and by combining forces, our ingenuity has improved exposure and sales."
Pooling resources and helping each other with promotion and book sales is a common theme among the ASB members.
Durham Caldwell of Springfield, a former longtime news director at WGGB-TV now abc40 FOX6 in Springfield, enjoys the camaraderie among his fellow writers.
"ASB provides a fine opportunity to compare notes with other writers on a variety of subjects, and, of course, it provides members the opportunity to join together and share expenses at numerous sales venues," he said.
Northampton resident Lucy Mueller Young aka Lucy Mueller White, author of "Pink Bear," also feels the "Buy Local" movement is important.
"Getting to meet and talk with the person who wrote the story or illustrated the book makes a purchase meaningful and not just a part of the anonymous commercialism that has overwhelmed our country and our consciousness," she said. "I would encourage other authors and illustrators to join ASB to develop a year 'round farmers' market of book selling. We want to support our local farmers, so why not support local merchants, authors and illustrators?"
For 2013, ASB is in the planning stages of sponsoring a major Springfield Book Festival, as well as participating in the Boston Book Festival and once again marketing books during the Eastern States Exposition.
Any author interested in joining ASB can contact Garner at email@example.com or any member. Annual membership dues is $25.
"This organization is important to the area because ASB members will be happy to share their books with large or small local groups that do not need to worry about paying travel expenses for talented guest speakers," Garner said.
Martha Johnson of Holyoke, author of "Why Not Do What You Love?" noted in a world where publishing and selling books is both challenging and changing, ASB allows members to gather and share their ideas for getting their books into the hands of people who would appreciate them.
"ASB is important for individuals with similar goals," she said.