Scores of book lovers flocked to Apalachicola Saturday to meet with up-and-coming authors and celebrate the new release of a historical study of antebellum Apalachicola.
On the sunny Saturday, the Fort Coombs Armory was alight with a different kind of radiance, the glow of nimble and creative minds and pens.
About 40 authors gathered to share the fruit of their quills and word processors. Dale Julian, owner of Downtown Books in Apalachicola, facilitated the sale of books for the visiting authors, and called the day a great success.
“You deserve a great big pat on the back for what was by any measure a successful event,” Julian wrote to Apalachicola librarian Caty Greene, who organized the third annual “Authors in Apalach” event. “Despite the usual glitches, it looked pretty seamless from the user end.”
Julian said she sold 150 books, including 52 copies of “Apalachicola Before 1861.” for a total of just over $2,500. Of these sales, she said all but $100 went back out to the authors and to the library.
“These figures do not include books sold by individual authors at their tables,” Julian wrote.
A new edition of “Apalachicola Before 1861,” the 1966 doctoral dissertation by retired Ole Miss history professor Harry P. Owens, has been published by the Apalachicola Municipal Library under the guidance of Greene with help from editor and retired journalist Sue Cronkite.
The highlight of Saturday’s event was a panel discussion about Apalachicola history featuring Owen, Ranger Mike Kinnett, of the Orman House State Historic Site, local historian Mark Curenton, and retired Florida State University history professor William Warren Rogers, author of the beloved “Outposts on the Gulf,” the definitive history of Apalachicola and St. George Island.
Kinnett opened the discussion with a humorous account of his work as a docent at Orman House.
“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said, indicating Rogers and Owens and Curenton who he described as the keeper of the history of Apalachicola.”
Kinnett was followed on the podium by Rogers, who was witty and delightful. “You have to have people and a setting before you can have a civilization,” he said. “The river meant everything here. The river gave birth to the city.”
He said that, in addition to “being notorious as a Sodom and Gomorrah,” Apalachicola is “the prettiest place I’ve ever seen.”
He went on to describe colorful characters from the past and present. “”I never met anybody from Apalachicola who wasn’t a real character. It has the best, funniest, most cantankerous people,” Rogers said.
Owens, a former student of Rogers spoke next. He praised Rogers who he said was “instrumental in me being here today.”
“You fall in love with this place,” he said. “And it’s the only town I’ve ever seen where you can ride your golf cart all over. That’s worth a lot!”
Currenton rounded off the panel with a brief history of the Armory and an overview of upgrades the county commission has planned for the historic structure. Owens received a key to the city in appreciation for his scholarship, and Rogers a framed sunset photograph by Ed Tiley of the Cape St George Lighthouse.
A variety of other panel discussions took place during the authors’ event.
Sharman Burson Ramsey, who has authored several books, most recently “Swimming with Serpents,” led a discussion of research for historical fiction.
Eastpoint author Dawn Radford, and Ron Harris of Apalachicola, who recently released his first book, “The Ruby Sea Glass,” were on a panel discussing creating the landscape as a backdrop for fiction. Charles Farley, author of several locally placed mystery novels, and Dale Cox of Two Egg, who has written extensively on Panhandle history, joined the discussion.
Veteran youth authors Leslee Horner, Susan Womble and Adrian Fogelin were joined by local educator Lydia Countryman in a dialogue on reaching out to young readers.
The authors with works available for sale hailed from a variety of backgrounds.
Ellen Ashdown of St. George Island, author of “Living with the Dead,” a series of stories set in a Tallahassee cemetery, is a retired professor of dance.
Grammy nominated songwriter Lathan Hudson was a Nashville fixture for decades.
Prolific author Rhett DeVane, a dental hygienist, described herself as a “mostly a Southern author.” She has penned works for middle grade students, “Elsbeth and Sim Tales from the Emerald Mountains,” “Evenings on Dark Island,” and the “Hooch” series set in her home town of Chattahoochee.
Leslee Horner, who is fascinated with all things paranormal, is the mom of two and a former teacher. Her first book, “Summer of Stars,” is the beginning of a series about a 15-year old girl who begins remembering past lives.
Susan Womble, also a teacher, authored “The Big Wheel,” a futuristic tale that tackles the touchy subject of human trafficking. She also penned the award-winning middle grade book, “Newt’s World: Beginnings,’ the first in a series about a wheelchair bound hacker named Newt Willis.
Vickie Spray, in addition to being a teacher, is a spiritual counselor. Her novel, “Rose Painted Waters,” deals with a girl who becomes a Weeki Wachee mermaid.
Of course, Apalachicola author Willoughby Marshall is an architect.
Two retired scientists were at the event, wife and husband Diane Hartle and James Hargrove, who reside on St. George Island.
A retired biochemical nutritionist, Hargrove has written a popular new account of the life of early Franklin County entrepreneur William Popham, “The Oyster King.” He has also released an account of his father’s experiences as a World War II pilot, “”Hell’s Angels Bombardier.”
Under the umbrella of Hargrove’s publishing company, Hartle, a retired cardiovascular neuropharmacologist, has released two books on nutrition for consumers, dealing with muscadines and pecans. She said the books are an effort to make detailed nutritional profiles of these local crops available to readers without formal training in nutrition.
Commercial diver, Jeff Bauer writes about cave diving and recently published “Sadie Sapiens,” a parable about canine intelligence.
Jeff Newberry, who grew up in Port St. Joe, was the only writer specializing in poetry. He teaches creative writing at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
“At heart, I am a storyteller and these are storytelling poems,” he said. His first volume of poetry, “Brackish,” is autobiographical with a strong regional and environmental influences.
Several publishers were on hand.
Apalachicola’s own Susan Wolfe, publisher of a new edition of the Alexander Key’s classic, “Island Light,” had a table with selections from her Water Street shop Forgotten Coast Used and Out of Print Books. She said, while she didn’t see a great many sales at the show, the exposure brought a number of new customers to her shop over the weekend.
Terri Gerrell, owner of Southern Yellow Pine Publishing brought along with authors Robert Parke (Staying Safe in an Unsafe World, A Guide for College Women) and Maurice Majszak with his latest book “William Earl Levy, Sr. ‘Dean of the Fire Service’.”
Robert Holladay represented Sentry Press, a boutique firm that publishes “Outposts on the Gulf” and books dealing with history, gardening, religion, architecture and travel. He also provided informal appraisal of collectible books.
Hargrove, author of “the Oyster King,” has also founded a publishing firm, Green Heron Associates.
Madeleine Hirsiger-Carr, president of the Friends of Wakulla Springs State Park was on hand with copies of her latest work, “A New Deal for Wakulla Art and Marble in a Florida Swamp” and rare copies of her first book “Watery Eden,” now out of print.
Ann Harrison represented the Thomas County Historical Society.
Doug Alderson, with multiple publications, described himself as a “hybrid author,” because some of his books are self-published and others are with mainstream publishers. Many of his works have an environmental theme.
Bruce Ballister of Tallahassee offered his new science fiction work, “Dreamland Diary,” a tale of alien contact set in Wakulla and Franklin counties.
Everyone was pleased to welcome former World War II tail gunner Ken Tucker back to Apalachicola. He has visited on many occasions to discuss the adventures described in his book “The Last Roll Call.”
Gill Autrey, of Apalachicola, author of the charming collection of stories “Gone with the Tides,” shared a table with Judy Brown Peacock who wrote “From Solomon’s Porch,” a work of Christian fiction dealing with racial interactions in the Deep South during the 1960s.
This year’s event was larger and more involved than ever before. Kudos to the organizers for a well planned day of literate fun.