‘Tale’ author visits 3/9/05

By Ben Beagle, Daily News Lifestyles Editor

Librarians in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties have been so encouraged by response to this year’s “A Tale for Three Counties” book that they anticipate a strong turnout for author Julia Spencer-Fleming’s visits this week.
Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia is even setting up a closed-circuit television in its Gallery Room in case of an overflow crowd.

“We’ve done this for the past two years, but we’ve never had the need to put people in the Gallery Room. We think that’s going to change this year,” said Leslie DeLooze, reference and community services librarian at Richmond.

Since January, readers in the three counties have been reading Spencer-Fleming’s debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter, and discussing the story at library-organized events, in church groups and informally among family and friends.

This year’s program culminates with four talks and book-signings with Spencer-Fleming, who will also meet with a class at Genesee Community College and have lunch with winners of a book review contest.

The first two public programs are on Thursday — 1 p.m. in Room T102 of the Barber Conable Technology Building at Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd., Batavia, followed by a reception and book signing; and 7 p.m. at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia.

Similar programs are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, 620 West Ave., Medina; and 2 p.m. Saturday in the auditorium at Perry Elementary/Middle School, 50 Olin Ave., Perry, an event hosted by the Perry Public Library with assistance from other Wyoming County libraries. Admission to all of the programs is free.

“We’re expecting a fairly big crowd,” said Mary Zangerle, director of Lee-Whedon Library, who noted interest from several groups and readers from outside Medina planning to attend because they are unable to attend one of the other gatherings.

“Every year we say it’s going to be a tough one to beat” next year, Zangerle said, “but readers seem to really be enjoying these books.”

In the Bleak Midwinter introduces readers to the Rev. Clare Fergusson, the new Episcopal priest in a small Adirondack community, who begins a delicate relationship with the town’s police chief after discovering a baby abandoned at the church rectory.

Spencer-Fleming is expected to talk a little about mystery writing and the process of going from amateur writer to published author.

“Talking, as my husband likes to point out, has never been a problem for me,” Spencer-Fleming said jokingly in a recent telephone interview. “I tend to wing it a lot. I try and get a sense of what the audience is there for. If it’s a bunch of enthusiastic readers who want to know more about the books, or the characters, that’s the direction I’ll go.”

She said she anticipates being questioned about Clare’s tendency to get herself into risky situations. Some readers have suggested that Clare’s training as an Army helicopter pilot would give her a more disciplined reaction to circumstances.

“I get called on that one a lot,” Spencer-Fleming said, explaining that if Clare “always thought everything out then there would be very little suspense and action in the book” and that she has found people in high-risk positions often “have a broad streak of impulsiveness, risk taking.”

Spencer-Fleming, who embarks on a national book tour at the end of May, was one of three mystery authors featured in a program organized by the Friends of Saratoga Springs Public Library last November.

“She’s a delightful person, very engaging, very willing to talk about how she got into being a mystery author,” said Janet Linder, a co-chairwoman of the event. “She talked a lot about the important ingredients of a mystery.”

Spencer-Fleming will share those ingredients and talk more about the writing process during a Thursday morning session with a reading class and other students at Genesee Community College.

“When talking to other writers, I talk more of the process and how I go about it and things that have been helpful for me,” Spencer-Fleming said.

“It’s almost like the diet-and-exercise thing. The single, most helpful thing for any author is to put your butt in the chair everyday,” she said. “It really is. It’s boring, but that’s how the work gets done. It’s not waiting for inspiration to strike, but to be there and work every day.”

Twenty libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties organized “A Tale for Three Counties.” Sponsors include The Daily News, the Arts Council for Wyoming County, the Bank of Castile, Wal-Mart and Genesee Community College. Additional contributions were provided by Friends groups at participating libraries, the Nioga Library System, the Pioneer Library System, and the Genesee Valley Board of Cooperative Educational Services School Library System.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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