The Hippo


Nov 19, 2019








Derry Author Fest

Where: Derry Public Library, 64 E. Broadway, Derry
When: Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Contact:, RSVP requested, call 432-6140
10 a.m.: Travel Writing for the Fearless with Dan Szczesny, followed by book signing
11 a.m.: Creating Realistic Characters For Your Fantasy World with Heidi Heilig, followed by book signing
Noon: Lunch break; purchase a sandwich and take part in themed table discussions with moderators, including Dale Phillips (crime writing), Ginger Johnson (setting), Robert Crawford (poetry), Jennifer Morris (picture books), Carol Gordon Ekster (reading picture books)
1 p.m.: Anatomy of a Picture Book with Nicole Tadgell, followed by book signing
2 p.m.: Middle Grade Magic with Paul Durham, followed by book signing
3 p.m.: The Writing Process, panel with Katie Bayerl, Adi Rule, K.R. Conway, Francisco X. Stork and MarcyKate Connolly, moderated by Erin E. Moulton, followed by book signing

Character! Setting! Magic!
Derry Author Fest turns 3

By Kelly Sennott

 If you were sad to miss out on Writers’ Day, which was cancelled April 1 due to a snowstorm, never fear — you can still get your fix at Derry Author Fest Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Derry Public Library.

The event, now in its third year, features many of the gems people like so much about the New Hampshire Writers’ Project’s annual shindig, including workshops, panels and the opportunity to meet with published and unpublished writers. The best part? It’s free.
Erin Robinson, DPL teen librarian who’s also a published author (she goes by her maiden name, Erin E. Moulton, for her books), said the event has seen continued interest among patrons, plus readers and writers outside Derry.
“The news is spreading a little bit. At the end of last year, one lady came up to me and said, ‘This is wonderful! Sometimes, to go to a conference like this, I have to pay a huge amount of money, so I don’t mind putting extra gas in the car to get here,’” Robinson said. 
Library Director Cara Barlow conceptualized the first event in an attempt to create more active programming for library patrons. She has continued on this path, recently initiating the creation of Derry’s first poet laureate position, held by Robert Crawford, who will kick Author Fest off with a poem.
This year’s festival theme is “Character! Setting! Magic!” Most of the day is made up of presentations, including those by (Hippo Associate Publisher) Dan Szczesny (“Travel Writing for the Fearless”), Heidi Heilig (“Creating Realistic Characters For Your Fantasy World”), Nicole Tadgell (“Anatomy of a Picture Book”) and Paul Durham (“Middle Grade Magic”). 
The only panel, “The Writing Process,” is at the end, featuring Katie Bayerl, Adi Rule, K.R. Conway, Francisco X. Stork and MarcyKate Connolly, moderated by Erin E. Moulton. 
“They’re all over the board with the different types of writing they do. It’s interesting to hear their different ways they work through a novel,” Robinson said. “Each session is about the writing process, but the different areas of the process. Some of it is more technical than others. But we’ve definitely had requests for more picture book stuff, and there was also a request for a workshop on developing characters.”
While the workshops aren’t super hands-on — they don’t involve critique — they might have some writing exercises, Robinson said. At lunch, participants can continue their conversations about books and writing at themed moderated tables that tackle topics like crime writing, setting, poetry and picture books. 
Robinson suspects the event’s success has to do with Derry’s rich history, having once been home to one of America’s most famous poets, Robert Frost. The Hyla Brook Poets host regular readings at the Robert Frost Farm and workshops at the library, where Robinson also leads a teen writers’ group that sees a steady crowd every other Wednesday.
“It’s really cool. I’m glad there are teens who, during their free time, come to the library to sit and share stories,” said Robinson, who still finds these kinds of meetings and festivals energizing, even as an organizer. “I always benefit from hearing other writers talk about the craft of writing.”
Most authors presenting are from New England, but Heilig, author of The Girl from Everywhere and The Ship Beyond Time, is driving up from Brooklyn. Her presentation is about creating rich, diverse characters with depth while writing fantasies. 
“When I first started, my biggest problem was actually finishing something. I would get so interested in these little parts of world-building, and I’d go off on tangents. I’d get excited about one character’s whole story and realized I wasn’t writing a book — I was just writing a world,” Heilig said. “The finishing part of it was going through the story and creating a plot with a beginning, middle and end. … I had so much fun shoveling sand into the sandbox, but the hardest part is building something with that sand.”

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