Writers to present their stories at 'Gathering' at New Kensington library
By Jill Henry Szish
Published: Sunday, April 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Their goal is to inspire you in life, or in the kitchen. To take you on a spiritual journey to Medjugorje, or on a trip around the United States in a boxcar with a hobo. To give you a glimpse into the life of a world-famous pitchman, or a regionally famous, 80-year-old professional clown.
They are writers who have published their work, and they will be sharing their stories at “A Gathering of Authors” at 6:30 p.m. April 18 at Peoples Library in New Kensington.
The event will feature 17 authors, many from the Alle-Kiski Valley and Pittsburgh region, representing a variety of genres, briefly talking about their books, the writing process and answering questions from the audience. The authors will sign their books, which can be purchased that evening.
This is the third “Gathering of Authors,” organized by Bill Davis, author of the The Clive Aliston mystery series, and his wife, Linda Davis of Brackenridge, along with Tom and Francine Costello of Word Association Publishers in Tarentum.
The Davises saw a need to showcase the talent of local writers when bookstores in the area started shutting down, eliminating a common stage for writers to talk about their work.
“Bill used to have book signings at Borders at the Pittsburgh Mills, but then they closed. I asked, ‘Why can't we do something in the community?'” Linda Davis says.
So, they contacted the Costellos and together, began organizing the events.
The first two events were held last year at the Allegheny Valley Library in Harrison, each attracting a standing-room only crowd.
Based on past popularity, more “Gatherings” are being planned, with a different library picked for each event.
With each event, the number of authors has increased — the first featured eight writers.
One of the first-time featured authors is Kimberly McCormick of New Castle.
McCormick was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years ago. As she was going through chemotherapy, she began to reflect on her experiences with the disease.
“I was meeting other people with cancer, and I realized that not everyone was going to get better,” she says. “I had to do something for them.”
So, she wrote “Wrapped in His Arms of Love,” which chronicles her battle and the greatest weapon in her arsenal — her strong Christian faith.
“I was brought up with the adage that you have to turn your mess into your message,” McCormick says. She uses the book to make other women aware of some of the subtle first warning symptoms of ovarian cancer. Only 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases are caught early; the other 80 percent are detected once they've reached stage three or four, she says.
McCormick is doing well physically and spiritually as a cancer survivor.
“I couldn't have gotten through this without my faith,” she says. “Everybody has their own story, but faith can get you through your trials, and you can still enjoy your life at the same time.”
All proceeds from this book are donated to the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the American Cancer Society.
Deborah Sweaney of Carlisle will talk about her book with a different kind of medical focus at the “Gathering of Authors.”
“Unpacking Memories” is a tribute to her late father, who was a country doctor in Missouri in the 1950s.
Dr. Frank Sweaney was the only doctor in his small town of 800 people, and he was an important part of his community. Evening and weekend house calls were the norm, so much so that in order to see his wife and children, he brought them along on calls.
He literally worked himself to death at age 41, suffering from malignant hypertension.
He was so busy taking care of the town, he didn't take care of himself, Sweaney says.
“I was only 8 years old when he died, so he became a mythical figure to me,” she says.
When her mother Iris passed away in 1989, the Sweaney siblings were cleaning out the family home, dividing the possessions.
Deborah had gathered the items she wanted, but realized she would need a few more things to meet the freight rate weight requirements to ship the items to her residence near Washington, D.C. Without much thought, she grabbed a suitcase that had belonged to her grandmother.
She never opened the suitcase to see what was inside, not at her mother's home, not at her own house, or even when she moved in to her home in Carlisle years later.
Then, when she was putting away Christmas decorations, she tripped on the suitcase in her garage. She finally opened it.
“It was full of cards that my father received when he was in the hospital, and sympathy cards from after he died, and letters to my mother from his former patients,” she says. “He became a real person to me again.”
Sweaney traveled back to her hometown to interview her father's former patients — and every one of them had a story to share.
She says her book will bring readers back to simpler, more idealistic times — family life in the 1950s in rural America.
What's more, it shows the impact that one person can have on the lives of others.
“My parents gave so much to other people, I want to give something back in honor of them,” Sweaney says. Proceeds from the sale of the book will fund a scholarship for persons in Holt County, Mo.
For Patti Faloon, her speaking engagement at the “Gathering of Authors” is right up her alley. The octogenarian has been in the spotlight for the past 65 years, beginning as a tap-dancer in the 1940s, then becoming a singer and comedienne.
The Pittsburgh resident appears as Rainbow the Clown, bringing her brand of joy to folks at senior citizen centers and entertaining at children's parties.
Her book, “Pittsburgh Pizzazz: A Life in Showbiz,” is a light-hearted look back at her career and the various entertainers she has worked with over the years.
“I would tell show business stories to my neighbor, who had told me for years that I should write a book,” she says. “I finally did, and it took me three years.”
There were so many stories to tell that even after being edited down, the book boasts around 400 pages.
“I told Tom Costello that I didn't want that teeny-tiny print, so he obliged,” Faloon says.
She'll share anecdotes Thursday evening, and hopes that the audience walks away with something she's learned over the years.
“If there is something you love to do and you do it well, don't ever stop. Just keep doing it,” she says.
Jill Henry Szish is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Meet the Authors
Chip Bell, The Jake Sullivan series (“Come Monday,” “Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season,” “Havana Daydreamin'” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty”): Jake Sullivan loves all things tropical, especially the Margaritaville lifestyle. But he's also passionate about the law and he can't seem to stay away from political intrigue and scandal that leads to the highest levels.
Pat Condelli, “Royal Recipes From the Castle of the Cookie Queen,” “Hassle-Free Holidays,” “Never Clean Another Toilet Again”: Condelli shares her favorite recipes, entertaining, cleaning and gardening tips and advice, along with stories and photos.
Bob Tatrn, “Bob Tatrn's Sports Minutes”: Tatrn has been broadcasting Alle-Kiski Valley and Western Pennsylvania sports nearly all of his life. His book, like his broadcasts, is written in 60-second reads about sports and colorful sports characters.
J.M. Dietz, “The Braska Boys”: Dietz's collection of short stories paints a warm and colorful picture of boys growing up in a small town in Northwestern Pennsylvania in the days before computers and video games.
Tiffany Cloud Olson, “Sleeping With Dog Tags”: This real-life story brings readers into the unlikely circumstances of a couple who meet later in life. During their first year of marriage, the groom is stationed in Afghanistan. In spite of the ever-present specter of death and the missteps of an independent woman treading the uncharted path of a military spouse, humor and passion elevate the narrative.
Dave Hammer, “Your Time Will Come” (illustrated by Alex M. Clark): In his book, Hammer speaks to young people who lose hope of making it. The story introduces Chad, who just can't seem to catch a break. It doesn't matter whether it's baseball, biology or bowling, kids need to know that, if they keep trying, their time will come.
Joseph Szalanski, “Boarding the Westbound”: Szalanski never met his father, but through his late father's journals he has re-created the world of the Depression-era hobo.
Deborah Sweaney, “Unpacking Memories”: Sweaney was just 8-years-old when her father, a doctor, died from overwork in 1960. An old, forgotten suitcase, filled with letters, cards and photos, opened decades after her father's passing, brought clarity and insight into the life of the revered Doc Sweaney and the patients who loved him.
George Boyle, “You Ought'a Write a Book … By George”: Harmar Township photographer-filmmaker offers a world tour of news events, sports spectaculars, insider details about photography and filmography and his thrilling avocation in water safety and water sports.
Kimberly McCormick, “Wrapped in His Arms of Love”: The author shares how she made her way through her battle with ovarian cancer. McCormick has an arsenal of spiritual weapons: her faith, her family, her friends, her gratitude and all that she has allowed the cancer to teach her.
Dennis Marsili, “Excessive Forces: A Pittsburgh Police Thriller”: Marsili, a retired police detective, created his fictional characters from his real-life experiences. This story is filled with action, suspense and real-life tragedies.
Lou Vitti, “Ghosts of Bars and Christmas Past”: A high-flying Pittsburgh lawyer becomes embroiled in a violent murder case.
George Guido, “Alle-Kiski Sports History”: Sports writer and broadcaster Guido takes on the unlikely and spectacular sports accomplishments of 47 blue-collar towns that make up the Alle-Kiski Valley.
Patti Faloon, “Pittsburgh Pizzazz: A Life in Showbiz”: Beginning in the Big Band era of the 1940s, Faloon occupied the spotlight — first as a dancer then a singer-comedienne— just as she does to this day, as Rainbow the Clown. She lives out the adage that the show must go on.
Bill Mays Sr., “My Son, Billy: A Father Remembers the Greatest Pitchman Ever”: The father of Billy Mays, whose exuberant style and thumbs-up gesture made OxiClean and Kaboom household names, tells the life story of his millionaire son.
Wayne J. Decroo, “Medjugorje, A Hesitant Husband's Journey”: When he agreed to accompany his wife to the tiny Eastern European village of Medjugorje, where the faithful believe the Blessed Mother appeared to a group of children, Decroo had a life-changing experience.
C. William Davis III, The Clive Aliston mystery series (“The Forever Man,” “Tail of the Scorpion,” “The Ticket Master: Return of the Forever Man”): The series features veteran, Southwestern Pennsylvania Sheriff Clive Aliston, a tough, by-the-book, no nonsense lawman. When it comes to fighting crime he is relentless, but he also has a softer side. In the most recent installment, Clive chases a phantom.
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