Writing about Food, Crime and Every Subject In-between: the South End Library Hosted More Than Fifty (Mostly Local) Authors in Four Seasons, Bringing in Thousands of Patrons Who Love to Read

From left to right: Marleen Nienhuis, founding president of FOSEL; author Margot Livesey ("The Flight of Gemma Hardy"); and novelist Sue Miller ("The Arsonist") After four seasons of organizing authors readings at the South End library, it's a good time to take stock of the literary richness of the South End, the extraordinarily welcoming attitude of the South End library's staff, and the tremendous response to both by you, South End residents and library supporters. Starting next fall, novelist Sue Miller and FOSEL board member Rhys Sevier will take over this program and curate a once-a-month reading for the South End Writes program. In addition, head-librarian Anne Smart and her staff will always be able to book other writers, and those sponsored by the BPL at Copley.

The facts are that since 2011 more than fifty authors who either live in the South End today, or did so in the past, came to our small library branch on Tremont Street to talk about their work with thousands of  local residents. They often read from their recent books, and always answered questions from what they often described afterwards as an extraordinarily engaged group of people. When did you begin to write? How do you start? What do you read? What is your writing day like? How do you get published? What are you working on now? 

What better venue than a local public library to bring together those in our neighborhood who labor to write with people who like to read, think and, perhaps, write one day themselves? The authors who came ranged from culinary lights (Chris Kimball and Joanne Chang) to crime writers (Police Officer John Sacco, Barbara Shapiro, Bill Landay) to literary luminaries (Sue Miller, Leah Hager Cohen, Andre Dubus III, Alice Hoffman, Anita Shreve) to outstanding poets (Steve Birkets, Henri Cole, Pablo Medina, April Bernard, Collin Halloran, Danielle LeGros Georges); we hosted acclaimed journalists and non-fiction authors (Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, Steven Kinzer, Stephen Davis, Phil Gambone) and nationally recognized award-winners like Megan Marshall (Pulitzer-prize winner for her biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life), Edith Pearlman (PEN/Malamud Award for Binocular Vision), Doug Bauer (PEN NewEngland award for What Happens Next: Matters of Life and Death) and Chris Castellani (a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction). Many others we hosted can be found by scrolling through our South End Writes tab.

No doubt, chroniclers of local lore have drawn some of the biggest crowds, even in snow storms, as was the case with Alison Barnet and Richard Vacca. But regardless of weather conditions, other writers about local subjects, like Susan Naimark and Hope Shannon found the same large audiences: South Enders love to hear about the South End. New local writers with debut collections always were warmly received as well (Wendy Wunder, Mari PassanantiSara DiVello and Maryanne O'Hara). No doubt, the beautifully designed posters for each reading created by long-time library volunteer Mary Owens made it even more enticing to check out what's up at the library. And without our fantastic webmaster, P.K. Shiu, very little of our library programming would have been broadcast by means of this web site.

Authors were invited to talk at the library in a number of ways, both formal and informal: through library staff, FOSEL board members, neighbors and friends of neighbors. Occasionally, someone would yell from a car window, "I have a friend who..." and he/she would get a date to read. Nationally acclaimed novelist Sue Miller, a long-time South End resident, generously brought many of her award-winning colleagues to the branch for readings, and conveniently arranged to bring books for sale and signing through a local book store. She will read in September from her upcoming novel, The Arsonist. 

It's been a remarkable ride for authors, library staff and the Friends of the South End Library. We're lucky to live here and have such a great little library within walking distance of our homes, surrounded by so many talented writers and thinkers. With your support, interest and feedback, the authors series will continue to enrich us all.