Reading local

MARSHALL – Wanting to create a way to get works by regional authors a little more exposure, local author Steve Linstrom, along with the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council, started the Read Local program in Marshall.

The Marshall Area Fine Arts Council is establishing a Read Local program that will “provide commercial access to writing published by regional authors or that has a local significance.”

The goals of the program include: providing the public with a marketplace to buy books by regional authors or with a local focus, providing authors an outlet to market their publications, to enhance the community literary arts environment and to generate income for MAFAC through book sales and increased customer traffic.

Authors have to apply to be part of the Read Local program. The books are then chosen by a selection committee. The authors will also make promotional and educational appearances at MAFAC to promote the book and “enhance the literary environment of the community.” Books that are in the Read Local program will be updated on Oct. 1 and May 1 of each year. Some of the books in the program will be carried over, Linstrom said, while some will be new.

“A book signed by the author is a real neat gift you can’t get anywhere else,” Linstrom said.

The mission of the program is to “provide readers in the Marshall Area access to locally-related, published literature with a high level of reader/author intimacy.”

When his novel came out last year, Linstrom said he spent some time going to art fairs in the north-central part of Minnesota to promote it.

“What I found is there’s a real demand from customers to read books about the region, or they really like it when they meet the author face to face,” Linstrom said. The tough part is that arts fairs are temporary, one-shot deals, he said. “The other factor is we don’t have a bookstore in southwest Minnesota.”

There’s a few books by regional authors available at MAFAC and the Lyon County Museum, Linstrom said.

“People don’t really go there to look for writing by local authors,” Linstrom said. “There’s not enough to make it a destination.”

The idea for the Read Local program is to get a critical mass of books from regional authors in one place so the public could find them, Linstrom said, and to couple that with personal appearances from authors. Another aim of the program is for MAFAC to encourage other area organizations to coordinate author appearances with the presentations at MAFAC. The organizations can include book clubs, libraries, schools, senior centers and other arts organizations, Linstrom said.

“I’m hoping when we bring some of these people to town is to have these ‘shoulder’ events,” Linstrom said.

Jean Replinger, who is helping put the program together for MAFAC, said it is “pretty exciting” because it’s an outlet for local authors, and it will bring in a new group of people to MAFAC.

“So it’s a win-win,” Replinger said.

Some of the authors that are currently featured in the Read Local program include Athena Kildegaard, Forrest Peterson, Joel Quam, Gene Stark, Connie Claire Szarke, Dana Yost, James Zarzana and Marie Zhuikov.

“It’s a nice combination, it’s a total of 20 authors in the program, 25 books,” Linstrom said. “(It’s) everything from children’s books to young adult to poetry to memoir to science fiction, historical fiction, murder mysteries.” Linstrom said one of his goals was to have a wide range of selections and make MAFAC a destination to find a book people may be interested in.

Any project like this needs someone with passion and vision, Replinger said, and it has the enthusiasm, initiative and drive of Linstrom.

As one of the featured authors, Stark said the Read Local program is a good idea -“why not read local?”

“There’s a lot of really good authors in Minnesota writing about us, so we should find out about us,” he said. Stark said it’s good that all these works by Minnesota authors will be together in one place “so people can find books that may be pertinent to their lives.” He added that he’s been encouraging Linstrom in the formation of Read Local.

Szarke, who grew up in Slayton, called the program “phenomenal.”

“I’m really happy to be part of it because my books are so appropriate” for this, she said. Her first novel, “Delicate Armor,”?takes place mainly in southwest Minnesota from 1950 to 1991.

“It’s a coming-of-age family saga,”?she said. She described the book as “semi-autobiographical, with a lot of fiction.” Her second novel, “A Stone for Amer,” is about a man who leaves his farm in Hadley to try homesteading in eastern Montana.

Szarke is also looking foward to her author visit, saying she presents at a lot of book clubs, senior centers and other venues.

“I love doing presentations,” she said.

Linstrom is hoping this program is successful enough to have a number of writers who are trying to get involved. With success, it will be a tougher decision in November for the selection committee to choose books, he added.

“We want to make sure we have fresh things in there so people come back,” Linstrom said.

“I’m really excited for it,”?Szarke said about the Read Local program. “I’m so grateful to the arts council and for Steve for taking this on.”