The township’s library held its first local authors picnic on Nov. 5, an opportunity for connection in the community.
Ashley Hoffman, youth services librarian, spearheaded the event to bring people together.
“There are so many local authors and illustrators and artists in the community already,” she said. “So it kind of seemed like a natural fit to kind of have one (picnic) now that everything is opening up again and we’re able to have all these big programs with lots of people connecting together.”
Featured authors included educator Dr. Andrew Vassall, who was inspired by his students to write “The Black Crayon” and “Family Means Love.”
“As a reader, you always want to make a connection with the characters, so that’s what I try to do in my books, to make sure that the reader is making a connection with the characters,” he noted.
Vassall shared advice he would give others.
“It doesn’t matter about where you’ve been, who you are, your learning style – you can overcome anything if you put your mind to it,” Vassall continued. ”I tell students now, ‘Listen, if I was able to get my master’s degree, get my doctorate degree and write a children’s book, what’s your excuse?”
Another featured author was Tony DiGerolamo, whose comedy and horror book series “The Pineys” follows the story of a family of hunters who hunt the kin of the Jersey Devil.
“When I was a kid, I had to do a book report, so I was looking for the shortest book in the library,” DiGerolamo said. “That was ‘The Jersey Devil’ book, the little red book they used to publish, and so I got that and did a report on it and ever since, I’ve always been interested.”
DiGerolamo produced a 10-part series.
“I wanted them to be short and punch-y,” he said. “I don’t like super-long books; they’re too much of a commitment. This way, you read short ones and if you like them, you could read more.”
Children’s author Margery Cuyler said the best ideas for stories come from the bed, the bus and the bathroom.
“When you’re on a bus or a bicycle or walking, doing something very methodical with your body, it kind of releases energy into your imagination, because it gives your imagination permission to actually get your attention,” she explained.
“That’s also true in bed: If you’ve been asleep and you wake up in the middle of the night, you often get your best ideas,” Cuyler added. ”When you’re in the shower, you will often find that you get ideas or solve problems, so it’s interesting.”
A highlight for Hoffman was seeing authors bond over their passion for writing.
“That was something that was on our list of things we wanted to accomplish with the program, was bringing the authors together to support each other.”