Zeta Phi Beta Sorority — Chi Pi Zeta Chapter welcomed the public to Bradwell Institute during the second annual Literary Festival on Saturday as a way to introduce residents to local and national authors, including New York Times best-selling author Mary Monroe.
Sorority members said they wanted to host a free event for the public to get local authors excited and involved in sharing their works, as well as offering advice from writers who have been published. About 15 vendors sold products such as make-up and books, and authors signed books and spoke with readers about their works. Attendees could also enter free raffles for gift baskets and other items throughout the six and a half hour event.
“There are way more people (here) than last year,” A’ndrea Wilson, festival chairwoman, said. “(My favorite part) has been meeting the different authors and to see them all communicating. And hanging out with Mary Monroe has been really cool.”
Monroe, who traveled from California, said she was excited to meet with her readers. She said one of the many ways she gets inspired is through the information she gets from her fans. She said she also loves the South and although she enjoys doing shows in big cities, she also likes to reach out to people in the smaller ones.
For struggling writers, she encourages them to never give up and to read a variety of genres from different authors.
“Everybody told me I would never get published,” the writer said. “If you believe in your work, you’ll persevere. You can’t give up.
“It’s important to read as much as you can. You’ll need some reading nourishment.”
The festival also gave schools an opportunity to allow students to participate in an essay contest for cash awards and to read their essays to the audience at the festival.
Midway Middle School student Diamond Richardson won first place for the middle school category and based her essay on the late baseball player Jackie Robinson.
“It’s one of my hobbies. I enjoy sports more than anything,” the 13-year-old said of writing. “It was a surprise (that I won). I was very excited. I just enjoy expressing myself through words.”
Richardson won $75 for her essay and said her English teacher, Yvonne Swinson, encouraged her to participate.
Zeta Phi Beta president Alisha Johnson said she was impressed with the turnout and excited by the participation of both local and nationally-acclaimed authors.
“We are just so shocked that authors have come from California and from Texas—we’re just so excited that we can give back (to the community) like this,” Johnson said. “We’re just excited from one year it has grown.”