While the quarantine has weakened many people’s creativity – bored of TV series or another stroll around the neighborhood – two local writers have offered portals for new areas.
Her latest novels made waves nationally and internationally at the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards this fall.
Marina Brown’s novel “The Orphan of Pitigliano” takes the reader into the Italian landscape. The conspiracy takes place before the outbreak of World War II when three cousins try to hide their Jewish identity. Brown’s novel won the Book of the Year 2020 award as well as a gold medal in historical fiction.
“I like to base a story on something that’s real,” says Brown. “Learning something factual and historical gives me depth and flavor to every action and character. Research is also a fun challenge, and writing these characters can help you feel what they are feeling in these surroundings. You spill your own energy into them in a way that is this reciprocal dynamic. ”
Awards are usually given at the association’s annual conference in Orlando, but this year the ceremony was virtual. The prizes are divided by genre and are awarded to published and unpublished manuscripts. Donna Meredith’s “Buried Seeds” won a gold medal in women’s literature. Their recognition was a great triumph as it was awarded prior to publication.
Meredith says the novel took over a decade to materialize. She originally gave up the manuscript after writing part of the main character’s story. It was only after the teachers’ strike in West Virginia in 2018 that she was inspired to come back and complement her original idea. Then the book spans two timelines – the first is the world of Angie Fisher, president of the local West Virginia teachers’ union, and the second after her great-great-grandmother Rosella’s trip to vote.
Perspective is incredibly important when it comes to novels, and even more so when writers in the midst of a global pandemic. For Meredith, her novels represent an activist point of view on a variety of social issues, from women’s rights to climate change.
“If you move and live somewhere else, you’ll see where you’re from with fresh eyes,” says Meredith. “Moving to Florida helped me do that with my home state of West Virginia. I don’t think that if you stay there all your life, you will see the place you grew up in with the same eyes. When you move away, your perspective changes. ”
The pandemic has made it difficult for both authors to promote the books in traditional ways. Brown was delighted to win the Omega Project Scholarship along with their 2020 award, which provides books to 50 readers who then post reviews online. Midtown Reader is hosting a virtual webinar with Brown on December 9th.
“In the book publishing business, these reviews really add to sales and recognition,” says Brown.
Meredith continues to promote her book virtually and has used her experience as an educator to create discussion questions and share the recipes mentioned in the book on her website. Her books will be on sale for the holiday season and will be in print on Kindle and Amazon by December 25th.
“You do what you can to break isolation, but it’s difficult,” says Meredith, who continues to find new ways to share her work.
Even after Meredith and Brown have celebrated their successes, they have the future and their next novels in mind. Temporarily dependent on travel, Brown looks at her current surroundings and captures Florida’s mystique and exoticism.
Meredith travels the country in a motorhome, waiting for the opportunity to hit the streets again to get her creative juices flowing again. She feels particularly obliged to write stories that are permeated by a moral compass, especially in the face of today’s stormy news cycles and human rights movements.
“There’s nothing like getting feedback that someone likes the story or thinks it makes sense, and that’s what drives me to write,” says Meredith. “My novels all have the idea that women have had to work really hard to overcome obstacles our culture poses, and that they have managed to do a lot of it. But the work continues. ”
Amanda Sieradzki is the author of the Council on Culture & Arts. COCA is the capital’s umbrella agency for art and culture (www.tallahasseearts.org). This article is part of COCA’s Creativity Persists Collection, which highlights how our community is using the arts to stay connected and inspired during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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When you go virtual
Midtown Reader is hosting a book webinar with Marina Brown on “The Orphan of Pitgliano” online on Zoom on Wednesday, December 9th at 7:00 pm. Visit midtownreader.com for details or https://www.facebook.com/events/810487603137565. Registration link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/3116068432534/WN_AsrwEEf0ROylkM1yslXRkQ
To learn more about Donna Meredith, please visit http://www.donnameredith.com.