local literature

by anna rabhan
Did you know that there is a thriving community of writers right here in North Florida working hard to write, publish, promote and sell their work for you to read? The Florida Writers Association alone boasts over 900 members, not to mention all of the genre-specific writers groups active in Florida. Read about a few of these local authors to find out more about your writing neighbors.
Jane R. Wood is the author of a series of children’s books that feature the three Johnson kids and their exciting adventures as they discover Northeast Florida. She initially wanted to write a book for kids during her teaching career after she discovered a lack of suitable reading material for seventh-graders who were reading below level.
“The goal was to write a book for kids that was educational as well as entertaining, on a reading level that was a little bit lower but looked like an older kids’ book.” Her efforts to promote literacy have turned into a third career for this Mandarin resident. She has used her education background to develop resources such as vocabulary lists, discussion questions and correlations to Florida Sunshine State Standards. After her first book, she formed her own publishing company, Florida Kids Press, Inc., in order to self-publish her second and third books, Adventures on Amelia Island: A Pirate, A Princess, and Buried Treasure and Trouble on the St. Johns River. Adventures on Amelia Island is one of the selections in the Accelerated Reader program, and both books received the coveted Mom’s Choice Award for 2009. Wood’s books are available on Amazon and at her own website, www.janewoodbooks.com.
Just as Jane Wood wanted to help struggling young readers, creative nonfiction writer Deborah Hansen wanted to help families experiencing difficult times by writing her book Broken Strings: Wisdom for Divorced and Separated Families. The teacher, character educator, court mediator, freelance writer, business owner and single parent says, “This was a way for me to pass along the lessons [I learned] so that other people wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes.” Hansen is owner of JDC Educational Enterprises, Inc. and, among her many tasks, administers Duval County’s character education program, writes curricula and helps clients who are also local writers and artists market their products. She founded and leads a group of freelance writers who meet, says Hansen, “…to help each other, support each other, to nurture each other, along with the more traditional things that writers groups do like critiquing.” Hansen’s book is available on Amazon and at her own website, www.home.comcast.net/~debrhan48. Local artist Nancy Iris says, “I’ve read this book; I’ve been through these things. [This book] needs to be read … it’s wise, it’s real.”
For a bit of summer excitement, check out Victor DiGenti’s fantasy/adventure series, featuring feline protagonist Windrusher. After a long career in broadcasting, DiGenti served as executive director of a nonprofit organization that worked for the welfare of feral, abandoned and homeless cats. During that time, many cats found their way into his home and intrigued him with their intelligence. “And then one day,” DiGenti says, “I read a newspaper article about a cat that’d been lost and found its way home over a long distance and it got me to thinking … about the book that eventually became Windrusher.” His second and third books, Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth and Windrusher and the Trail of Fire, were picked up by Ocean Publishing, a local traditional publishing house that also bought the rights to Windrusher. He got a rare celebrity endorsement from actress and animal advocate Betty White. His books have also won several awards, including the Cat Writers Association’s Cat Litter-ary Award for outstanding novel. The judge for that award said, “The author describes a fire and makes the reader feel it, smell it, see it: Wow! That’s a page-turner.” Like many local authors, DiGenti has chosen to give back to the community. He joined the Florida Writers Association (www.floridawriters.net) in its infancy, looking for advice on issues such as getting an agent, and is now FWA regional director for Northeast Florida. He is also president of the Ponte Vedra Friends of the Library (www.friendspvlibrary.org). His books are available on Amazon, through Ocean Publishing at www.ocean-publishing.com and through his own website, www.windrusher.com.
Visit area libraries and bookstores and ask for selections by local authors. There are also lots of great “author talks” around town. The Friends of the Library frequently invites authors to speak at its programs. Google “Friends of the Library” for your local chapter. The Beaches Museum & History Center (www.bm-hc.com) has tons of author talks scheduled, and don’t forget about festivals such as the Florida Heritage Book Festival (www.fhbookfest.com) in September as opportunities to discover local authors. Might you live next door to a 21st century Hemingway? Better get that autographed copy now, and happy summer reading!

other local writers to check out
Carol O’Dell (Nonfiction/Memoir; caring for aging parent) – www.home.comcast.net/~cdodell
Jon Gordon (Nonfiction/Motivational) – www.jongordon.com
Lucy Bebe Tobias (Nonfiction/Travel) – www.lucytobias.com
Terri Ridgell (Romantic Comedy) – www.taridgell.com
Linn Random (Romantic Suspense) – www.linnrandom.com
June Weltman (Young Adult Mystery) – www.juneweltman.com
Jeannine Auth (Children’s Fiction; based on fact) – www.morningtidepress.com
Frances and Hugh Keiser (Children’s Fiction) – www.sagaponackbooks.com
Shannon Greenland (Teen Action/Adventure; Adult Suspense) – www.shannongreenland.com
Gerald Robison (Christian; offering 20% discount to EU readers) – www.CatandDogBookstore.com
Mary Anna Evans (Mystery) – www.maryannaevans.com
Mary Kohnke (Mystery) – www.marykohnke.com
Steve Berry (International Thriller) – www.steveberry.org
Bonny Barry Sanders (Historical Fiction; Poetry) – www.bonnybarrysanders.com
Teri Youmans Grimm (Poetry) – Find it at www.upf.com or on Amazon
Mary Jo Trenkler (Poetry) – www.rhymecreek.com
Also check out local authors on www.floridawriters.net and www.floridaauthors.wetpaint.com


april, 2022