The Year of the Book began as an idea from Demi Stevens. As the library director at Paul Smith Library of Southern York County, Stevens planned the yearlong program — in which local writers form groups to explore different aspects of the writing and self-publishing process — because she herself wanted to write a book.
But at the first meeting in September, Stevens realized she’d tapped a nerve.
“So many people have stories in them, and they want to share,” Stevens said in October. “They just want a little bit of help, a little bit of a nudge, a little bit of a cheerleader, maybe even a little bit of a disciplinarian.”
Last week, I checked in with Stevens again to see — four months into the Year of the Book — how things were going.
For one, her numbers have grown: Fifty-four interested writers attended the first meeting in September, but Stevens said the group is now up to about 150. Writers are split into four groups depending on how far along each person is — some have completed a first draft, others are still writing. Large-group meetings address bigger topics that apply to everyone, Stevens said.
“Overall, our demographic is folks who are retirement age or older, who always wanted to write but didn’t feel like they had a set of tools,” Stevens said, adding that a large number of participants have had “something in a drawer” for 5, 10 or even 20 years.
Stevens said the group skews largely toward southern York County residents, too. But she’s eager to see the program grow, and new writers join the Year of the Book on a weekly basis.
“They’re most welcome, all throughout the program,” Stevens said. “We benefit from an increased network.”
To that end, Stevens has relied on published authors from the area, including Windsor Township author Laura Rudacille (“Invisible Woman”) and Norristown children’s author Jessica Dimuzio. The groups have covered topics ranging from marketing or filing for copyright to trimming down or tightening prose and building tension through writing.
Up next, Stevens said they plan to interview some of the writers who are finished — or very close to finished — with their works for a segment on community access television. The videos will highlight an upcoming Kickstarter campaign that Stevens hopes will offset the authors’ marketing needs. Part of the program is a thirty-day tour focused on works completed through the Year of the Book, with plenty of library visits on the schedule. Dates are still to be determined.
In the end, it’s a program that Stevens has found to be rewarding both professionally and personally.
“I envisioned the program as something that would make connections between people,” Stevens said. “I never thought about how it would bring about friendships for me. They’ve surprised me in wonderful ways.”
To get involved
Year of the Book participants can choose to be part of smaller interest-groups, meeting regularly to share draft pages and information in person or online for group feedback, or simply to celebrate when each milestone is achieved. You choose the level of involvement that’s right for you. Seasoned writers and publishing professionals are also invited to join the community and share expertise. Find upcoming events here, contact Demi Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 717-235-4313 for details, or visit www.yearofthebook.wordpress.com.