Saturday, March 18, 2017, I drove through dense fog and low visibility on I-271 for something I just saw in an email a few days before. I went to a Writer’s Group Mix and Mingle Networking Social at Baxter’s Bar in Downtown Akron Ohio. While it wasn’t “a social networking evening with local authors, artists, art lovers, writers, publishers and business professionals,” the email implied (for example, local mystery writer Les Roberts was nowhere in sight), it was in many ways better than that.
The brainchild of Akron native Kora Sadler, the group came together because a few years ago she wanted to write a family memoir. From the way she talked, I can tell that writing and the group has become her passion. Apparently, there was a need in the Akron area for aspiring writers to find a place to share their work and people kept joining. I learned from her that they have had people not only from Canton but as far away as Alliance and Youngstown join them. They even self publish their own book; an anthology of stories and poems that group members contributed to the project.
The format seems similar to the one that Dave Van Horne has up here in Cleveland, except that they have theirs once a month on a Saturday morning at a local library and it’s free.
While I couldn’t talk to everybody, I did manage to chat with a few around me, including Kora. Bob, who sat next to her, has already self-published three books. A resident of Goodyear Heights, he explained to me how Lulu was very helpful, and easy, to use. Apparently, Bob prefers Lulu over Amazon which has its’ own Create Space software for self publishers as well. There was also a man named Peter Schmotzer came into the place and asked the group for feedback for his new book which he had copies of. In a subsequent email Peter wrote that it was for him a journey to be a better writer and these groups are a great way to meet new writers and get their perspectives on the art.
While there seems to be a big debate over the merits of self-publishing, the industry seems to be growing. According to a Financial Times article from 2013, “self-published works accounted for 40 percent of author royalties generated by ebooks at Amazon.“ Since then the self-publishing market has continued to grow, with Bowker stating more than 725,000 works were published this way in 2015. However, is self-publishing more for creative writing than say non-fiction or pieces of journalism? After all, this blog is essentially me self-publishing articles posing as posts for the public to read. What about book reviews like you see writers do for The New York Review of Books? How can you make the leap from being an ‘emerging’ writer to a professional one that editors of, let’s say Crain’s Cleveland Business or Atlantic Cities, would take seriously? There are different shades of what you want to do on any endeavor and that applies to writing.
As for the bar itself, it reminds me a bit of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library on Waterloo Rd. in Cleveland; except a longer bar and more people on a Saturday afternoon. Considering I arrived at 3:30 PM, it was already happy hour and naturally people were drinking the specials. In my case, an Ernest Hemingway Mojito for five dollars. I don’t know what made it different from any other mojito (more rum?) but it had plenty of mint and hit the spot. They all got a laugh out of me when I told them how I didn’t know that Lock 3 was their Minor League Baseball stadium until I saw it as I drove down the street trying to find the place. As a matter of fact, Canal Park, home of the RubberDucks, is one fine looking baseball field from what I saw on the street.
It just goes to show you that there are a lot of creative people here in NE Ohio.
Photographs taken by James Valentino