Julia Weiss is a University at Albany junior. With an English major and a political science minor, she aspires to be a corporate lawyer. At the University, Julia is both a peer assistant with Middle Earth and a sexual health peer educator through Project SHAPE. She also writes for the Albany Student Press, is a peer tutor, and is on the mock trial team. Her favorite books include Educated by Tara Westover and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
Discovering new authors
By Julia Weiss
The Albany Book Festival hosted by the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany featured a multitude of events including author signings, writing workshops, and children’s events. The headliners were Joyce Carol Oates, Jamaica Kincaid, and Sylvia Day; three strong women with impressive careers as renowned authors. In addition, the jam-packed event also had exhibitors including publishing and press companies as well as local authors.
Authors representing all types of genres chatted with students and community members interested in their work. I spoke to a few of these authors who had some powerful insights into the writing world.
Eric Devine is a local author, UAlbany alumni and a high school English teacher. His books are about the untold stories of the outcast kids. Devine said that he’s “drawn to outcast characters… kids just don't fit in, it’s not their damn fault.” Especially in high school, students who don’t fit in oftentimes don’t get their voices heard. When I asked Mr. Devine if his stories are based on real people, he responded, “it’s fiction, we steal from people.” That would be correct, but at least his stories grab the attention of those who may not otherwise be reading.
Another local author, Greg Veitch, recently published his first book, All the Law in the World Won't Stop Them. Veitch, who recently retired as the police chief in Saratoga Springs, hadn't thought about becoming a writer. “I failed tenth grade English," he said. What prompted Veitch to write his non-fiction book was an incident from his family history. His grandfather had been shot in a drive-by in a Mafia revenge hit.
The final author I spoke to was romance writer Rebecca Grace Allen. She only started publishing novels in 2014 because she said she “hated 50 Shades and felt I could do better.” Her main concern being that just because someone is submissive in bed doesn’t mean that she should be submissive in every other part of her life.
Allen spoke of the challenge facing romance writers: they’re not always taken seriously due to the content on their pages even though they have a very wide range of readers. She said that it “really develops character” since the reader already knows that the story will have a happy ending so they’re only going to continue reading based off of the characters.
I didn’t cover the headliners of the festival, I did discover some new authors at the book festival. Something valuable I took out of the event was that each author has their own story behind their characters and storyline. Of course, the authors don’t live the lives of their characters, but it does give a wider perspective to the reader to see how the author thinks separate from the page.