For the past three years, the University Area Write to Publish Meetup group has met the second Sunday afternoon of each month at The Last Word, an eclectic store full of used books, movies, games and disc golf supplies.
Organizer and moderator Catherine Sullivan has coordinated the meetings since she suggested that the Charlotte Write to Publish Meetup start a group in north Charlotte.
The Charlotte writers meetup has several genre-specific groups, including one for Christian writers and meetings for critiquing or goal setting. Overall, it has more than 640 members.
Sullivan writes for Orthodox Church publications. She has written and been an English educator for more than 20 years, including teaching at Gaston College.
Previously, she has invited speakers to talk with the group about finding an agent, self-publishing versus traditional publishing, and blogging as a marketing tool for writers.
Writers are from a mix of genres, with a range of motives.
“This group is self-defining as we go along,” said Sullivan, noting that the focus of meetings depends on who comes and with what interests.
On Jan. 12, the topics revolved around self-publishing technology and the varying experiences of the authors who use it. Marketing also came up.
January’s meeting drew three authors of self-published books, as well as other aspiring writers. Two attendees’ books were on the “local authors” display at The Last Word: Freddie Silva and Pearl Cannon, who publishes as “Bea Cannon.” Both write science fiction and fantasy novels, but Cannon said she also does some horror writing.
The third self-published author in attendance, Martha McKiever of Union County, writes children’s books about therapy dogs. She published her first book with help from an illustrator.
McKiever recently found success marketing her book at a craft fair at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Ballantyne. She is working on a second book about a bullied child who finds solace with her therapy dog.
McKiever’s book inspired her friend, Anne Stewart, to begin writing again; Stewart attended the Jan. 12 meeting with McKiever.
Both Cannon and Silva soon will publish books in their trilogies: Silva, the second in his “Kingdom of Haven” series, and Cannon, the third in her “Boucher’s World” series. Cannon said she has four other books started.
In 2009, when Cannon retired after 39 years as an electronics technician, she finally had time to write. She began self-publishing books in 2012, she said, joking that “it was something to do that was better than playing Farmville.”
She said she started by splitting a 300,000-word piece into three books.
Cannon is in her 60s and saw self-publishing as the best route for her. Her daughter, Paige Morris, accompanied her to the meeting.
“I might be in my 90s by the time I find an agent,” she said. “I decided, ‘You know what? I’m just going to publish.’ … I just wanted to get published before I drop dead.”
Silva said he felt the same way, though he is younger than Cannon.
Silva travels often for his job with a power company. He uses time in hotel rooms to do research for his writing and to market by writing blogs; he even researches when he is experiencing writer’s block.
When it comes to blogging, Silva told the group: “The biggest thing is, you’ve got to do it regularly.” Some of the writers had not experienced much success with blogging, but Silva told them his experience was similar – until he began posting enough to attract readers.
Of writer’s block, Cannon said, “I write when I’m not inspired. I found out how to cure writer’s block: Keep writing.”
Each of the self-published authors has used www.createspace.com to publish for the Amazon Kindle. They discussed formatting and pricing techniques, and agreed that self-publishing has become much easier in the past few years, thanks to such websites.
Amazon.com also has begun allowing authors to “print on demand,” ordering smaller numbers of print copies at a time, instead of requiring them to pay for bulk shipments all at once.