CANA, VA — Think of the first “Authors’ Melting Pot” held at Chef T’s restaurant in Cana on recently as that clover blossom from “Horton Hears a Who.”
It’s where three local artists were given a venue for their voices to be heard.
“The authors came up with the name. I didn’t. The first thing they told me was author’s melting pot. It says what it is. It’s a melting pot of artisans,” said Restaurant owner Travis Hiatt. “I really just want to show the community the connection of we have authors here locally. Instead of going half way across the country, let’s show what we have here.”
Hiatt said he tried to include a diverse set of viewpoints with the first such gathering with one author who writes children’s books, one who is a Christian writer and one who writes comic books.
“It’s so the public can get an idea of what’s out there. It’s a chance for that young author to say, ‘Hey, I think I can do this. I have an idea.’ I’m not much of a book reader. I’m a cook and a chef so I’m part of the artisan industry as well. This is a mix and mingle with what we can provide locally,” Hiatt said.
He said he plans on setting up melting pot mixers on fixed dates, such as before Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends to aid in planning and publicity. Hiatt said he is interested in getting more authors. Interested artisans may call the restaurant at (276) 755-2279 or check out Facebook for the next melting pot.
Comic Book writer Roosevelt Pitt Jr. of Amara entertainment in Mount Airy is as much a man on a mission as his characters. The 52-year old writer had an epiphany in the mid-eighties while at college and made the switch from computer science to his passion, comic book writing.
“Back in the 1980s I (formally) decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur but even back in my youth I had that spirit. Back in the early 70s Grit Newspaper was a big thing so I used the slip from the back of a comic book to participate in selling Grit. I sold from door to door. For me that was difficult because I lived in the deep country. The nearest house could have been a couple of miles away,” said Pitt. “But I walked it and sold Grit and I was a farmer’s kid so I grew cucumbers and whatever I could to make money.”
Pitt said this later desire to start his own company became a two-fold mission. Learning how to build his own company and the realization when it came to comic books, there was no black, positive male representation.
“Even to this day, 30 years later, you can walk along the road and ask people to name a black super hero. They can’t do it,” said Pitt. “That tells you the need is still there after all the time I have been doing this and specifically black male representation is pretty much nonexistent. Yet you can name a white superhero easily. So I wanted to create, write and produce comics with black superheros that represent the best black culture can offer.”
He said his character “Purge,” North Carolina’s first super hero, came out of that desire. The story is based in Winston-Salem, which is referred to as “New Salem.”
Christian novelist Lara Giesbers, creator of “Aries,” is early in her journey as an author. The Pizza Hut waitress’ story centers on the Holy Spirit choosing people with supernatural strengths to protect mankind from itself until Christ’s return.
“Travis came to me at Pizza Hut and told me he had opened his own restaurant. He said we could help each other. Have a book signing here,” said Giesbers. “He talked with me about a guy I didn’t know I knew, Roosevelt, who I’d waited on for years. What we are trying to do is when we do this again add more people and eventually get a mini convention here in Cana. Kind of like a Galax Authors on Main kind of thing. Travis wanted to do something for the people here and around.”
She said so far, “being a new author is weird” with people acting as if she’s done something amazing and remindimg herself becoming a published writer is a step many don’t get to.
“I have to remember that even though I fronted the money they have standards and I could have been turned away. There’s talent there. The book’s been on the market for a year so the big numbers aren’t in yet. People are interested because they are asking about when the next book is due,” Giesbers said.
“The story is resonating in different ways I haven’t thought of. People like the idea of good versus evil. They are using the Bible along with the book. They like the Zodiac signs. I hope people will read the book and let me know what they think. Come into Pizza Hut and I’ll sign it, preferably not in a lunch rush. I’ve had that happen before. My manager has been very gracious.”
Children’s book author E. Ann Moore is a sixth grade English teacher who has taught at Millennium Charter Academy for seven years.
“The whole picture books thing came from one of my creative writing classes. The first book was actually the model I use when I was teaching my kids,” said Moore. “My kids were so enamored with the story I then asked my mother (Sophie Norman) if she would illustrate it and that became the first book. I noticed in teaching middle school that many kids that age (9-11 years) just don’t know common courtesies any more. They don’t know the virtues and it’s not they are trying to be rude. They just don’t know.”
Moore said Norman is headquartered in Florida with work hanging in offices from Sparta to the Sunshine State. She also was able to work her bird-watching hobby into her writing. Moore said friends and family love connecting with the birds and virtues represented in the books. The two look forward continuing the series, doing one a year. Moore said they try to have a book come out before “The Autumn Leaves Festival” in Mount Airy.
“So once the first book was finished we decided to make it a 10-book series on 10 different virtues so kids can get it without someone standing over them, berating them. Each of the books feature a different bird variety because I am a bird watcher. Then as my own personal stress relief, I make little wooden puzzles which are the main characters for my books. When I can get my mother to paint those they are beautifully done. If I have to paint them myself, they are a little. more challenged,” laughed Moore. “It’s a lot of fun. Each book not only has a story but each has a glossary. Because I am a teacher, I also have a bit about the birds so the kids can go out and identify the birds in their own back yards.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on [email protected]