“One sentence was all it took.”

Five author/friends connected by this very phrase greeted fellow area book lovers from their respective tables Sunday during the inaugural Book Fest at The Thought Lot in Shippensburg, which boasted more than 20 local authors in all.

Natalie Damschroder, Allison B. Hanson, Victoria Smith, Vicky Burkholder and Misty Simon each contributed to an anthology titled “The First Sentence,” consisting of five short stories from which they all wrote, starting with the same sentence.  

There is an assurance among writers, Damschroder said, that it doesn't matter if you take a basic idea or a single sentence, all of the authors will write something different. These five romance authors discussed the concept at a conference and the idea of collaborating became “appealing.”  

After writing the short stories, the authors read each other's stories and critiqued them with feedback. The end product was exactly as they wanted it to be — five completely different stories each with their own focus on on the theme of falling in love, but with their own unique touch, involving their own voice, approach and a little twist in the genre, for example science fiction romance or post-apocalyptic romance.

The festival also included various talks by some of the authors.

Hannah Nawa, owner/impresario of The Thought Lot and coordinator of the Book Fest, said the idea came from her mother who was always interested in having a book festival, and seeing other small towns that had similar events.

“As part of somebody that is doing community development here in Shippensburg, we look at other small towns to see what they are doing and think, ‘Why can't we do that?’ and as soon as you have that thought, the answer is, 'Of course we can have that! We just have to put in the work.'” she said. “And so that is sort of how we threw it together.”

Nawa said Bedford has hosted a similar festival, and last summer, she saw Chambersburg businesses held a First Friday event where they each hosted an author.

Nawa said Sunday also marked the two-year anniversary of her store, Whiskers Vintage and Vinyl, inside The Thought Lot that offers vintage and vintage reproduction clothing, new and old vinyl records and local/handmade gifts.

She hoped that Book Fest would be an “opportunity for the community to see that there are people putting effort into the town.” “And with people putting  effort into the town, all we need is for the town to receive us and show up. The biggest thing in Shippensburg is just show up,” she added.

Her favorite part was seeing “like-minded people interacting with each other.”

She said the Book Fest was an opportunity for people who aren't necessarily readers to engage with authors, which creates a unique perspective to have met the person behind a book and, “knowing the face  behind the name.” She emphasized the event was also geared toward book lovers, or writers who had not had anything published yet as an opportunity to discuss the process.

“The main thing is just for Shippensburg to know that change is coming, engagement is coming. There is a large group of us who are working to bring good things to this town, and we are excited to see the support that we get,” she said.

Michelle Moats of Shippensburg attended the event with her husband, Aaron.

“We are avid readers, and we love to support any type of arts activities,” she said.

Author Crystal Stine recognized that authors are often isolated.

“We get stuck behind our computers, so this is a chance to talk to real people,” she said.

She was inspired to write by a seventh-grade language arts teacher who wrote in one of her journals and invited her to write for the school paper.

Tracey Jones believes books will save the world for the people who have lost the ability to critically think and spend a majority of their time on electronic devices. She added many people will not realize how many authors are right around them in their own communities.

Author Kathryn Lee Martin of Newville loves the interaction of meeting and talking with other authors to discuss the writing process, books, and broaden the horizon on other genres.

Author T.M. Becker, a Big Spring High School graduate noted the joy in meeting other authors. She saw one author she knew from a writer's group and another from a high school English class she had taken. She said finding these showcases can be rather difficult and likes to jump on them when they arise.

Her passion is propagating writing skills in children, and said sometimes public education lacks in this area due to time constraints.

Author Jan Helen McGee wrote a book that focuses on all of the women associated with 12 famous men from history because they are not prevalent in history.

“It's an angle that most people don't pay attention to,” she said.

Linda Lamneck Medwig highlighted a book that she started 42 years ago, entitled, “The Big Sneeze,” which was illustrated by her mother. Her proceeds benefited the Alzheimer's Association because of her mother’s current battle with the disease.

Peschel Press, composed of authors Bill and Teresa Peschel of Frederick, Maryland, spoke with readers about their books and recognized that they all share the love of books in common.

“It gives Shippensburg an identity,” Bill said. “It's not going to be the university, it's going to be the Book Fest.”

The pair added the festival’s timeframe gave them the chance to visit other parts of town and eat at CJ’s American Pub and Grill.

They added the Book Fest is a great way for out-of-towners to appreciate what Shippensburg has to offer, and events like this keep it from being recognized as a dying town.

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