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A Community of Readers and Writers

by Yvette Cain
April 5, 2019

What do you get when you put over thirty readers together with two authors, an expert organizer, and a breakfast buffet?  Oh, did I mention it was a rainy Sunday morning in a 19th century home in Holliston?  …You get Betsy Maxwell’s 7th author event, a riveting hour and a half question and answer session with two authors about their books, expertly moderated by Betsy herself. 

Novelist Alyson Richman, author of recently released The Secret of Clouds, has written seven novels.  Lynda Cohen Loigman, former estate lawyer, has just published The Wartime Sisters, following the success of her first novel, The Two Family Home.  Both writers seated themselves in winged back chairs at the front of the room, and the audience of neighbors and friends, teachers and family quickly followed, abandoning the buffet for now.  Betsy provided a short introduction to the authors, but since several in the audience held personal copies of the books, it looked as if I might be the only one unaware of these authors’ talents.

Although unfamiliar with these writers, I found my interest piqued immediately with Betsy’s first question, eliciting a bit about each author’s motivation for writing.  Each spoke about her parents.  Richman’s father was an engineer, her mom an artist.  Her father was always pulling apart and putting together.  Her mom loved the stories behind the paintings.  Together, Richman’s parents provided the basis for her practice:  generating and examining details and creating a story. 

Betsy challenged the two women to discuss both the perspective they used and their writing process.  This was most interesting to me, as finding an interesting perspective in writing is so important to grab and maintain an audience, and the writing process is always, for me, fraught with bumps.  Loigman mentioned that readers love unpredictable characters.  She sometimes uses alternate points of view, a device that has helped her to see what the story may still need. 

Ideas for Loigman’s The Wartime Sisters came from her mom’s stories of a Brooklyn past. Loigman learned of her mom’s past from visits with her mom and aunts, and romanticized this life of “sisters in transition” in her novel. The Wartime Sisters are “exiled from their home and must reinvent themselves as they escape the roles assigned when they were young,” much like her mom moving from Brooklyn to Springfield as a young adult. 

Richman’s novel The Secret of Clouds explores faith, the Chernobyl event of 1986, and a teacher and student relationship.  An event sparking the novel concerned a meeting Richman had with a 3rd grade teacher whose writing assignment required students compose a letter to themselves at age 18.  Ten years after students wrote the letter, the teacher sent each back to its owner.  A little time capsule, if you will, down to the 10-year-old’s handwriting! (Surprisingly, Loigman’s daughter had completed such a letter, and the 20 year old received it upon graduating from high school, two years ago!)

Each author revealed sufficient information about her book to provoke our interest, but not enough to spoil the fun of reading.  A couple of questions from the audience rounded out the morning, and then it was on to the buffet to dive back into breakfast.  Many thanks to Betsy in her gracious hosting of this event to celebrate readers, authors, and books! 


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