AROUND NJ

Authors build community through their shared passion

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

Some get lost in it, caught up in the adventure or love story, while others see themselves in the characters. It’s the story that typically captures people’s attention, not the work that the authors put into it.

“Writing a book is hard. I think a book comes when you feel really passionate about something,” said author Elissa Matthews. “You feel passionate about something, you come up with a theme and that all seems really easy. And then you sit to write it and month after month, and draft after draft, and coffee cup after coffee cup, at some point you’re just stepping though it. Sometimes it’s like skiing downhill, it’s great. Sometimes it’s like climbing a rock face.”

It took Matthews about two to three years to complete “Where the River Bends.” She and other authors are sharing what it takes to write a book.

The Raritan Valley Community College Library partnered with the New Jersey Authors’ Network to offer a free event to the public. Most of the panelists are also professors at the school, too.

Like poet Michael Griffith. He began writing love notes to his girlfriend while recovering in a hospital. That eventually turned into two books.

“She said, ‘You know these are actually poetic’ and I said ‘No,’ and she said, ‘Yes it is, so go ahead and do it.’ I tried it, loved it,” Griffith said.

“Dogland” author Jacki Skole began her career as a journalist. She says she wondered why her adopted dog and so many others in the area came from the south. She wrote a book to get the answer.

“For me the reporting is fun; the writing, hard, lonely,” Skole said. “You want it to be perfect. You don’t think about how difficult writing is on a daily basis, but when you’re trying to tell a story you realize that there are so many words out there and most of them are not the word you want to use. So trying to figure out what you want to say and how you want to say to make the words and the sentences sing, it’s not easy.”

Matthews insists getting published isn’t an easy or quick process either. She says authors have to get used to rejection.

“First you send out a query letter that talks about your passion, and your theme and your characters. And then, if you get some bites back from that, they’ll say send me the first three chapters, and you send three chapters out. And you wait six more months and they send you back, OK send me the whole novel, and at which point disaster can still strike,” she said.

Skole remembers when she got the call her book was going to be published.

“You almost don’t believe it because you hear no so many times that someone says yes and you kind of want to go, really?” Skole said. “For me that sort of ‘Oh my gosh’ moment was my publisher sent me a box of books, and it’s that moment — I just got the chills — that moment of opening up the box and there staring at you is your book with your name.”

Writers have many different options when it comes to publishing, says author Brian McKinley, who self-published three vampire thrillers. His message to those in the field?

“Writers have to help each other because there’s not a lot of support out there for us. We work, most of the time, alone,” he said.

Which is why he recommends people join the New Jersey Authors’ Network. Even now knowing what goes into the behind-the-scenes work, Matthews doesn’t expect her readers to now think about that.

“People should pick up a book, they should look at the front cover, the back cover, flip through the pages and say, ‘Well I enjoyed this,’ that’s it,” she said.

It seems like the best way to end this story is to simply say, the end.