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The Hockessin Art & Book Fair

Nov 26, 2017 10:14AM ● Published by J. Chambless

Authors Ed Charlton, James DiLuzio, and Maryellen Winkler at the Hockessin Art & Book Fair.

By Steven Hoffman
Staff Writer

The fourth annual Hockessin Art & Book Fair attracted a large crowd to the Hockessin Community Recreation Center on Saturday, Nov. 4 as the work of approximately 70 talented writers and artists was showcased.

“It's amazing to see how many local artists and authors there are,” said Carol Dougherty, a coordinator from the New Castle County Art Studio who helped organize the fair. “This is a really fun event.”

Raymond Sikes, a writer who also teaches English at the Delaware Technical Community College, also remarked about the number of writers and artists in attendance.

“Any time you can get artists and writers together, that's a good thing,” Sikes said. “It’s a nice event.”

James DiLuzio, a New Garden Township resident, agreed with that sentiment. DiLuzio was selling copies of his book, “Passion Tide,” and it was his first time at the fair.

“It’s a well-run event,” DiLuzio said. “The volunteers are outstanding. The vendors are of the highest quality, and the food here is exceptional.”

Standing nearby, Maryellen Winkler, the author of three cozy mysteries, including her most recent release, “Cruising to Death,” said that the fair was a wondeful event.

The Hockessin Art & Book Fair is a collaboration between many different organizations in the community―the New Castle County Art Studio, the Hockessin Library, the Hockessin Community Recreation Center, the Hockessin Book Shelf, Written Remains Writers Guild, Center for the Creative Arts and All Out Monster Revolt, and county executive Matthew Meyer.

Places like the New Castle County Art Studio and the Center for the Creative Arts help the art community thrive locally. The Hockessin Book Shelf, an independent bookstore, plays an important role in fostering a good environment for local writers, scheduling book release parties, signings, and other author events on a regular basis.

“The Hockessin Book Shelf has been amazing. They are so supportive of authors,” said Sharon Huss Roat, the writer of two highly regarded young adult books, “Between the Notes” and “How to Disappear.” The latter work, published earlier this year, explores the story of a girl with social anxiety who creates an alternate identity online, and how the real-life personality blends with the online persona. Roat served as the Honorary Author Chair of the event, while Lee Zimmerman was the honorary artist chair.

Rebecca Dowling, the owner of the Hockessin Book Shelf, was delighted to have Roat and Zimmerman serve as the honorary chairs this year. Both are extremely talented and creative. Dowling was also pleased with the move this year to the Police Athletic League’s Community Recreation Center on Lancaster Pike. The new and larger site allowed all the vendors to have good visibility. The additional space also allowed for the inclusion, for the first time, of a main stage and a children’s stage where authors could read from or talk about their work.

Zimmerman, “The Puppet Guy,” attracted a large crowd at the children’s stage when he did his rock and roll puppet show that featured some of the greatest names in the history of music. He has a Jimi Hendrix puppet that he made when he was 15 years old that he still uses in some of his shows. Zimmerman grew up in the Hockessin area, and has enjoyed a nice career in Los Angeles where he appeared in dozens of TV shows and films and was a regular performer in places like The Improv in Hollywood. He has now moved back to his home state of Delaware, and was pleased to be selected as an honorary chair of the Hockessin Art & Book Fair.

“I love this event,” Zimmerman said. “This is rare to get more than 20 artists under one roof. Everyone is very supportive. The dynamic here is great.”

The fair brought together a diverse group of artists and writers with a wide variety of offerings.

Jenny Caldwell, a student at the Center for the Creative Arts, was at the table selling pottery that was made by some of the adult students at the Hockessin arts center specifically for the purpose of selling the pieces at the fair. Caldwell, a resident of Pike Creek who takes a wheel throwing class at the Center for the Creative Arts, said that the work of six or seven different students was on display, including a mug and vase that she had made for the sale.

Another student at the center, Manisha Antani, said that all the money that is raised from the sale is used to buy materials or support the programs.

“We try to use it for cool things, like some different kinds of stains or glazes that we wouldn’t be able to get otherwise,” Antani said. The Landenberg resident has been taking courses at the arts center for the last three years. She works at a stressful desk job during the work week, so she enjoys the chance to be creative in the classes.

“It’s a creative outlet,” she said. “In the studio, I have the opportunity to be creative. Being in the same space as creative people gives you inspiration. Some of my very best friends are from those classes.”

At the Children’s Corner, Nahjee Grant, a resident of Havertown, Pa., read from his book, “Where Did My Dream Go?” It is a story about a little girl who wakes up one day and can’t remember the dream that she had. Grant writes books aimed at children who are in kindergarten through third grade, and the books are often about characters who are pursuing their dreams.

“I want to give them the message that they can do anything that they put their mind to,” Grant said.

Grant himself was inspired to pursue his dream of writing children’s books by the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. After he graduated from high school in 2007, and Obama became the President of the United States a year later, he was inspired to write a book titled, “The Journey of the Cool, Smart Kid.” He has published seven books so far, and has a goal of writing and publishing at least two books per year.

Sikes has managed to write and publish books even though he is very busy with his regular teaching duties at the Delaware Technical Community College. He has written a novel and a collection of short stories, and his most recent work is a spiritual memoir titled, “The Good and Ancient Way.” He described the book as a concise guide to The New Testament beliefs that are shared by Christians.

Freda Camille, a resident of Newark, has written six books, including “The Key is Me.” Her stories tend to promote self-love and anti-bullying messages to youngsters. Like many of the authors at the fair, she fell in love with writing at an early age. Camille said that she wrote her first poem when she was six years old, and has been writing since she was 11 years old.

She has a memoir that has been in the works for about five years.

“I’m pulling back the layers of who I really am, and the true experiences that I have had,” Camille said.

On the main stage, Newark resident Andrea Piscarik read from her book, “Unearthing Christmas.” The book was originally published in 2015, and she has a deal to have it re-published in 2018. “Unearthing Christmas” is part of a five-book “Miriam Chronicles” series that she is working on. She has already written about half of the second book and has started writing portions of both the third and fourth books. Piscarik, who studied acting in New York City, said that she enjoyed the opportunity to read from her book on the main stage. She also found the event to be a good way to connect with other writers and artists.

“We are all here to celebrate art,” she explained. “The main thing is meeting other writers. It’s a way to build community. There will be something that we can learn from each other and grow our art.”

The fair was also a way for groups and organizations to make important connections.

Shelley Stein, who works at the Hockessin Library, was at the fair handing out information about the library and talking to authors. The library wants to showcase the work of the local authors.

“I’m here sharing the love of reading,” Stein explained. “The library got involved with this event to support local published authors.”

Umema Ganijee, a computer aide at the library, was at the fair to promote the Robotics Club that starts meeting in December. She was demonstrating one of the Vex IQ robots that participants in the club might woon be working on.

“A lot of the kids love playing with it,” Ganijee said of the robot, exxplaining that they are very excited about the new club.

Members of the Kennett Square-based The Write Group were on hand to promote the activities of the writers’ group that meets in the Kennett Library on the first Tuesday of every month. Ed Charlton, who helped found the group, said that he was at the fair for the third time. He explained that The Write Group can help writers in a variety of ways―ranging from writing and editing to marketing and publishing. Providing support to local authors is at the heart of The Write Group's mission.

“I know there’s a vibrant, independent author scene in the area. I think indie books should be treated with the same respect as indie films,” Charlton said.

Dougherty credited Dowling and The Written Remains Writers Guild with initially coming up with the idea for the art and book fair as a way to showcase the talent of artists and writers in the area. The fair started out small, and as a summer event, but has grown each year, attracting both larger crowds and more artists and writers as vendors. November works as a good time for the fair because people are starting to look for unique gift ideas for Christmas. A committee handles a lot of the work of planning the event, and Dougherty said that they do a very good job of planning out all the details.

“This is an event that has taken on a life of its own,” said Suzy Casey, an events coordinator with the county. “It’s amazing.”

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.

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