“Gathering of Authors” Showcases Mix of Writing Styles

Author Kim Runyan reads an excerpt from her book during last night’s “Gathering of Authors” at West Hills Primary in East Franklin Township. Runyan is also a special education teacher at the school.

by Jonathan Weaver

Nearly a dozen regional authors read excerpts from their latest books, along with some personal background and helpful advice to local teachers and residents last night.

It was the first “Gathering of Authors” the Armstrong Reading Council partnered with Word Association Publishers in Tarentum to host at West Hills Primary in East Franklin Township.

Word Association Publisher Tom Costello has helped more than 5,000 authors publish their books in the last 20 years – with some authors writing as many as 15 books.

“This is our 10th ‘Gathering of Authors,’ and every time we have an event like this – about twice per year – we bring our most current authors. Most of these were ones that published books recently, Costello said.

“If they’re coming back to you with second, third, fourth books, you’re doing something right,” Costello said. “To me, that’s the sincerest form of encouragement.”

Rimersburg Author Amanda Radaker Bliss presented her first novel “When Mommy Grew A 2nd Head” at the event and announced that a sequel to the book inspired by her three children is scheduled to be released in four to six weeks.

It was the first ‘Gathering’ for Armstrong School District Teacher and Author Kim Runyan.

Runyan – who grew up in Kittanning and now lives in Butler – read a sample from her latest horror novel “Viola” – a prequel to her first book “The Veil.”

She said her readers encouraged her to write “Viola” and even a third book that will be released this summer.

“After the first one was released, it found a little, but enthusiastic fan base who urged ‘When’s the next one coming?’ That kind-of prompted me to start ‘Viola’ and the response was some real-positive reviews,” Runyan said.

A Special Education teacher at West Hills Primary, Runyan said writing ideas are still coming.
“I’m a fan of the horror genre – I like anything spooky – but my problem with some of the books I read was, they’d take me so far and then I’d be like ‘Yeah, right.’ I like horror that will make you think ‘Yeah, maybe.’”

It was also the first “Gathering” for Worthington Poet Judy Creel – who compiled her work of get well wishes, birthday poems and life reflections into “Windows to My Heart.”

Inspired by her late mother, Creel’s second book, “Shades of Time,” of poetry and a short mystery story will be released this summer.

“I hope God told my mom in Heaven ‘she wrote the book,’ Creel said.

West Hills Primary invited two of the authors into the classroom earlier this school year.

Dave Hammer, of Pittsburgh and author of the children’s book “Your Time Will Come,” spoke to students at West Hills at the beginning of this month and at Lenape Elementary last week. He said students were very engaging and respectful

Amanda Radaker Bliss, of Rimersburg, also spoke to Paul Treacy’s Kindergarten students earlier this year about her children’s book, “When Mommy Grew a 2nd Head.”

“It is a bit of a confessional – I’m not ashamed to say that as a mom, I lose my cool. It happens, and I let to let other moms know that,” Bliss said.

The book, inspired by her three children -Evelyn, Hudson and Harrison- will lead to the sequel “The First Time Mommy Grew a 2nd Head” – to be released in four to six weeks.

Local residents might remember Bliss also signed copies of her book at the Ford City Library during 2013’s “Fantasy of Lights.”

Ernest Spisak – author of “Pittsburgh’s Forgotten Civil War Regiment,” which included many Armstrong County residents – was unable to attend due to health reasons.

All teachers in Armstrong County were invited to attend.

West Hills Primary Principal Paula Berry won the raffle for a basket of all the books.

Berry, who attended the evening with her daughter, Laini (a seventh-grader at Kittanning Junior High) said she entered the raffle in hopes of winning Runyan’s newest book and “Faith in Avalanches” by Kate Woods.

“(Laini) enjoys writing, and I love to read, so it was great for us both to come – what a great presentation of all the different styles of writing,” Berry said. “It was very nice.”

Armstrong Reading Council President Tammie Rabbitt was encouraged by last night’s attendance and thought the event went well.