Writers I’ve Known and Their Books

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William Kamkwamba is probably the best selling author I’ve known. He was a student at African Leadership Academy back when I was the Communications Manager. He made my live very interesting. His memoir, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind became a big hit in 2009, leading him to make appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Good Morning America, appearances with Mitch Albom and Tavis Smiley, and many other news programs. Since he was a student at our school, I managed his time vis-a-vis his publicity and his school work, acting as the gatekeeper, often having to refuse requests (sorry, Sky News. One day you’ll forgive me like CNN did.). I don’t know that I learned a lot about the publishing industry from this experience, but I certainly saw the hustle that an author goes through to promote a book, especially a bestseller.

Back in the 1990s, I was the editor of a small weekly entertainment paper called “Spotlight Magazine.” One of our writers, Michelle McColm, was documenting the process that she went through as an adoptee reuniting with her birth parents. The book is still available on Amazon although I think it’s out of print. Through Michelle, i got to see the author’s journey, specifically the edits and galleys that the publisher sent late in the process for final sign-off. It was invigorating to actually hold those.

More recently I’ve been hanging out (or more often, lurking) in an online community run by Janet Reid, a literary agent. Among the readers of her blog (or ‘Reiders’) are a number published or self-published authors.

The community has recently been very excited because long-time contributor Donna Everhart’s first novel, The Education of Dixie Dupree has just been released. It’s been picked by Amazon as a book of the month, and other reviewers are giving it rave reviews. Donna recently recapped much of her journey on her site.

This isn’t the site’s only published writer. A month earlier, Heidi Wessman Kneale published The White Feather. W.R. Gingell seems prolific. Her book Masque as one of the best covers I’ve seen in a self-published book. Another writer, Anne Belov, writes stories about pandas, and has a few books out. Susan Pogorzelski recently published her second book, The Last Letter.

As much as writing happens alone, writers build communities, share experiences and listen to each others’ challenges.