For independent authors, finishing a work of fiction, nonfiction or poetry is just the first part of the process. Then there’s the goal of getting it read by others.
That’s the idea behind Writers of the Wheat, a literary festival that will feature 14 authors reading and discussing their work. It takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday at Sunflower Plaza, 417 E. Gilbert.
“I’m hoping it will provoke interest in the writing community in Wichita, which is fairly large but nobody seems to know about it,” said Diane Wahto, who will read her poetry at the event.
In addition to poetry, science fiction, romance, fantasy, adolescent fiction, alternative history and mystery are some of the genres that will be represented at the festival. The authors will each have 15 minutes to read from their works and take questions. They’ll also sell autographed copies of their books. Plans call for the event to be held outdoors, in front of the plaza’s giant sunflower mural. Light refreshments will be served.
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The event was organized by Tracy Edingfield Dunn, who turned to fiction writing after a career as a divorce lawyer. Dunn said the two pursuits share some similarities.
“The writing I did as a lawyer, it requires a different set of tools, but you still have to have the logical thinking involved,” she said. “You have to be able to advance an argument and advance a plot.”
Dunn has written three books for middle-schoolers and three for adults. The children’s books comprise a trilogy called “Alex & the Immortals” that mixes elements of science fiction, Greek mythology and young heroes.
“I love the research,” she said. “You’re talking to a liberal arts major who has very little background in science. I had to go learn the physics of being in outer space and how a wormhole would work.”
Dunn has written two romance novels for adult readers. Only one of her books is based on her old career: “The Law Firm of Psycho & Satan,” a legal thriller with a female lawyer as the lead character.
“That’s definitely an adult book,” she said. “Nothing in there appropriate for children whatsoever.”
Dunn said she knows most of the authors she recruited for Friday’s event from writers organizations, critique groups or appearances at events such as the Midwest Renaissance Festival.
“We need to be heard, we need to be seen, we need to have an audience,” she said. “This is not just bubblegum fictions we’re doing here, these are meaningful works.”
Also appearing at the event will be novelists Reaona Hemmingway, Conrad Jestmore, Anita C. Young, Joe Combs, C.A. McJack, Lyn Perry, T.M. Hunter and Candace Gilmer, poet Kelly Johnston and memoirist Ann Fell.
James Young lives in Topeka and works as a civilian developing training scenarios for the U.S. Army. His specialties are history, alternative historical fiction and military science fiction. He has written six books, with a seventh due in December.
Young said events like this festival are important because it’s difficult for independent writers to get their books into bookstore chains, although local stores such as Book-A-Holic carry his titles.
“Just seeing something in print, seeing sales, that’s very rewarding,” he said.
Women’s fiction writer Bonnie Tharp makes time for her craft when not working in the telecom industry. She’s written two novels – “Feisty Family Values” and “Patchwork Family” – that follow the adventures of an extended family based in the Riverside neighborhood.
“I write about families, family relationships, and the feistier the better,” she said.
Unlike most of the writers at the event, who are self-published, Tharp goes through a traditional publisher. Getting her first book into print took 10 years.
“It doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, you have to do your own marketing,” she said.
Tharp and Dunn said the demise of the Kansas Arts Commission under Gov. Sam Brownback had been a big blow to the state’s authors.
“With the lack of state support, we don’t have those kind of events like we used to have,” Tharp said. “It’s very difficult for authors to get known. If (readers) don’t know about you, they can’t buy your books.”
Added Dunn: “If something’s going to happen, it’s because we made it happen.”
The payoff comes when readers connect with a work. Wahto, a retired teacher, still remembers winning $150 for a poem that her instructor at Wichita State University entered into a poetry contest without her knowledge. Wahto had whipped out the poem, “Somebody Is Already Watching,” in about 20 minutes, after reading a story in the WSU student newspaper.
“When I came to the office, I thought he was going to tell me I flunked my orals, and he handed me a check.”
If you go
Writers of the Wheat
When: 6-10 p.m. Friday
Where: Sunflower Plaza, 417 E. Gilbert