Prose festival opens a new page for writers

Some writers said they find encouragement and camaraderie at the annual festivals.
EAST PALESTINE -- Darlene Torday writes for the simple joy of writing.
"I haven't been published yet -- I may never be -- but I can't stop writing," she said.
Torday, of Berlin Center, is a regular participant in the East Palestine Memorial Public Library's annual prose writing festival. The library's sixth annual prose festival will be 6:30 p.m. March 27.
Torday said she enjoyed writing in high school but didn't pursue it after graduation because of marriage and family obligations. Now she has been writing steadily for about four years, and has four novels circulating to publishers.
"You write and you think you have something, but you don't know for certain," Torday said. "At the library, I first saw what other people think. Those first stories weren't very good."
Torday said she reads constantly and always has several books in various parts of the house she is reading simultaneously.
"My husband doesn't understand that," she said. "He's always asking how I can read that way, but I never know when I'm going to have a break, and there's always a book there somewhere."
She enjoys writing romance, mystery, short stories and children's stories.
Lisa Rohrbaugh, library director, strives to make the library a community gathering place. She said the prose and poetry festivals give people a venue to share their work.
Why it matters: Such a venue is important, she said, particularly for adults, because, "unless you're a student, there's not a lot of opportunity to do something like this," she said. "This gives people a chance to get a professional opinion about their work."
Rohrbaugh said Dr. Karen Boyle, who teaches English at Kent State University East Liverpool campus, will read the entries and offer suggestions. During part of the March 27 program, writers will have a chance for a one-on-one session with Boyle.
Rohrbaugh said she usually receives about 50 entries each for the prose and poetry events, from schoolchildren to retirees. Last year entries came from not only the East Palestine area, but Youngstown and many of its suburbs, Sebring, Beloit and Berlin Center, and also from West Virginia and western Pennsylvania, including Ambridge and Pittsburgh suburbs such as Sewickley.
Loretta Griffin of Monaca, Pa., submitted an essay on the trials and tribulations of having her husband constantly underfoot after his retirement.
Griffin has been writing for more than 20 years. She is a free-lance writer [Among her works is a book titled "Grow Your Own Dope, Plant a Man."] and retired columnist of the Aliquippa News and the Beaver Falls News-Tribune.
She and her husband,, John, retired at the same time two years ago, and they are doing well, she said.
She thinks the library writing festivals are a good idea because "there are so many frustrated writers out there and no outlet for them."
What to do: Griffin said her advice to anyone wanting to have their work published is to keep writing and sending things to publishers. Exposure is key to being published, she said. Even if submissions are being rejected, someone is reading them, she said.
Agnes Martinko resides on the North Side of Youngstown, but she said the library's prose and poetry programs are worth the drive. Some of her poems and essays have been published locally, but she can't seem to find a niche with national publishers.
She has traveled extensively and lived in Europe in the 1960s. Now back in the Mahoning Valley, she has time to write about her experiences. Last year she submitted an essay about growing up in Youngstown in the 1930s and '40s.
Martinko said her writing doesn't fit "the cutting edge of modern writing" that is the subject at most area poetry readings and writers' club meetings. She has submitted both poetry and prose at the library's events.
"There are so many things I feel deeply about, and that's what I write," she said. "The people who come to the library appreciate that type of writing. I write about special events of the heart."
UThe library is accepting entries through March 15 from writers of all ages. Prose entries can be fiction or nonfiction, essays, memoirs, short stories or a chapter from a novel, limited to three to 10 typed pages. Mail or hand-deliver entries to the library, 309 N. Market St., East Palestine, Ohio 44413. For more information, call the library at (330) 426-3778.

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