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Charlestown authors discover their words get sweeter with age

Charlestown authors discover their words get sweeter with age

Created date

October 27th, 2009

American writer and literary critic Alfred Kazin once said, When a writer talks about his work, he s talking about a love affair. For accomplished writer Eugena Collier, that love affair is a lifetime of short stories, essays, and poems in a collection titled Breeder and Other Stories, which was featured at the second annual Charlestown Writers Festival. Included in Breeder is one of Collier s best-known short stories, Marigolds, which won the Gwendolyn Brooks Prize for Fiction and is one of the most widely anthologized short stories in secondary school English textbooks. [caption id="attachment_6310" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Eugenia Collier talks about her work during the second annual Charlestown Writers Festival. (Photo by Jim Thompson)"][/caption] Marigolds has always been one of my favorites, says Collier, but really whatever I m working on at the time is my favorite. Throughout her adolescence, Collier says she wrote poetry because that s what her father read to her. As a child, I had a vague idea that I wanted to be a writer, but it didn t occur to me that you had to eat, she jokes. In 1955, she began teaching English at colleges and universities in the Baltimore-Washington area, which helped pay the bills while she satisfied her creative urges through writing. Over the years, Collier s work has appeared in The New York Times, TV Guide, Negro Digest, Black World, Phylon, and College Language Association Journal.

Open book

Since moving to Charlestown three years ago, Collier has been busy putting the final touches on her latest work, still untitled, due out in December from Three Sisters Press. It s a book based on a woman that I knew here in Baltimore, says Collier. She escaped after being held as a slave a whole generation after slavery was over. It s a part of American history we don t hear about too often. Collier says the inspiration for her stories comes from the people she meets. Everybody has a story. If you just sit on a bench and stop the first person going by and say, Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your life. What are your interests? You re going to get stories.

Write on track

Seven authors including Collier participated in the second annual Writer s Festival, which allowed Charlestown writers to discuss, showcase, and sell their published works. Melvin Trimble sold out of his book, Sites Insight, at the festival. A collection of firsthand accounts from his career as a railroad real estate field agent with the B & O railroad, Sites Insight presents a clear picture of the responsibilities Trimble held day in and day out. Anytime land was needed for rail improvements, new tracks, yards, replacement of antiquated bridges, enlargement of tunnels, or industrial plants, I traveled to each site and called on property owners to secure contracts to purchase the required land, he writes in his book. According to Trimble, some of the acquisitions were so unusual or the negotiations so difficult, sad, or humorous that the memories remained with him, so he began recording those memories in the Retired Administrators of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (RABO) newsletter, News & Notes. During the RABO luncheon meetings, I often found myself telling others about some of the encounters I had, says Trimble. Then someone said to me, Why don t you share these experiences? In his book, Trimble does just that, recalling his most memorable real estate transactions from the 1950s up until his retirement in 1982. The pages bring to life the different personalities of the people he encountered. All property acquisitions had similar traits, but no two were ever alike! says Trimble.

Many and varied

Other writers at the festival included Anne Horn Ballard, Regina Service, Stacy Tuthill, Charlotte Valentine, and Martin McKibbin. Laura Schreiber, who illustrated the book Astonishment by Jan Slepian, made a guest appearance. We re surrounded by such an incredibly diverse group of people living here, says Charlestown Public Relations Manager Jeff Getek, who attended the event. This is just another fine example of the many gifts this generation has to share.