The Toms River library is abuzz with activity and excitement on any day, but this past Saturday the place looked especially festive, when authors from the region and from afar, traditionally published, self-published, and every other kind of published in between, networked with each other, while displaying their creations for the word-hungry public, as part of the 10th annual Toms River Bookfest.
Toms River reference librarian Carol Zsiga was walking outside her library one day when she noticed people sitting on practically every bench outside the building, enjoying beautiful weather with books in their laps. “And I thought, ‘what a neat place,’” Zsiga said. “And wouldn’t it be wonderful to bring authors and readers here to share their love for the written word?”
Today Zsiga’s idea is a well-established late-summer tradition, attracting readers from all around the Jersey Shore, and authors from New Jersey and New York.
Marykate Quinn, author of romantic comedies “Summer Iris,”
“Moonlight and Violet” and “Brookside Daisy,” published with The Wild Rose Press, attended the event for the first time this year. Quinn, who lives in Lakewood, said she enjoyed meeting face to face with fellow authors whose books she had read and whose names she had heard about.
“It’s very nice to put faces to the names,” Quinn said. “There is a lot of talent in New Jersey, and at the Jersey Shore.”
“It’s a great way of getting people into the library and exposed to a variety of different authors, and of course, their books,” said Jennifer Wilck of Randolph, New Jersey, a romance author of “A Heart of Little
Faith,” a romance novel recently released with Whiskey Creek Press.
“I love it,” said J.B. DiNizo, a self-published author of family, loss and survival stories set on the Jersey Shore. “I love the contact with all these people – the ideas. It’s like a kaleidoscope of talents, because
everybody has something different that they bring to their writing.”
“Local authors expose my son to more reading,” said Gina Vasel, a mother of a 9-year-old from Island Heights. “Usually I buy books more for him, but sometimes I do it for me, too. I usually buy books about New Jersey, or based in New Jersey. I think you need to know where you’re from.”
Potential book buyers could find many genres, from romances
set on the shore and mysteries, thrillers and horror to New Jersey guides and other non-fiction. According to Heather Andolsen, the library’s spokeswoman, that was the point.
“People get to meet authors of different genres, which exposes them to books they might nor ordinarily read,” Andolsen said.
Bookfest did something else differently this year. In a move reflecting the changing world of publishing, the Bookfest committee opened the event to not only traditionally published authors, but to others who have published on their own, or turned to print-on-demand companies
to produce their books.
"There are a lot of authors who don’t necessarily get the big book contract, but they are good authors,” said Zsiga, who chairs Bookfest
every year. “Publishing is a tough business these days.”
Other writers and those more familiar with the business might have been able to tell the difference between books produced by print-on-demand, small presses or what’s known as the “Big Six,” the well-known New York-based publishing conglomerates.
But the buyers at the Bookfest weren’t looking on the inside cover for the publishers’ names.
“Honestly, I never think about it,” said Loretta Texter, a resident of Toms River who had attended the bookfest last year as well, and
this year introduced her 12-year-old niece to the event. “I am just here for the books and the authors.”
And maybe that was the beauty of this gathering – a coming
together of the magicians who spin their stories, and those who want to read them, a celebration of the written word, unaffected by profit-and-loss statements.
To find out more about Katia Raina, visit her blog where she reviews books, interviews authors and talks writing at http://katiaraina.wordpress.com