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Author Erica Bauermeister hopes to inspire others at Nora Roberts Writing Institute

July 20, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Erica Bauermeister will be a keynote speaker at the Nora Roberts Writing Institute at Hagerstown Community College next month.
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As a child, Erica Bauermeister lived in books. 

Even on long car trips, she recalled, she would claim a space in the back of the family station wagon amidst the suitcases, where she would make her own hiding spot and read her way through the miles.

Books took her to far off places, introduced her to fascinating people and created magic.

“They also taught me that you could make your own magic simply by observing the world very carefully and noticing things other people didn’t,” Bauermeister said.

Her love of reading led to an interest in crafting her own stories and at an early age, Bauermeister knew she wanted to be a writer.

“But when I read Tillie Olsen’s ‘I Stand Here Ironing’ in college, I knew what I wanted to write — books that took what many considered to be unimportant bits of life and gave them beauty, shone light upon their meaning,” she reflected.

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It’s been more than 30 years since Bauermeister read Olsen’s book. But it was a moment in time that would influence her destiny.

It gave her the inspiration to pursue her dream of becoming a writer and today, she is an award-winning author with five published books on her resume — two readers’ guides and three novels. She is working on book No. 6.

Bauermeister will share her love of writing when she appears at the Nora Roberts Writing Institute at Hagerstown Community College as a keynote speaker.

Named after Washington County resident and international best-selling author Nora Roberts, the weekend conference will be Friday, Aug. 2, and Saturday, Aug. 3, and will also feature award-winning author Sylvia Day, plus 15 sessions focusing on writing fundamentals.

Aimed at beginning and aspiring writers, Roberts has lent her name to HCC’s writing institute to help provide participants with a solid foundation upon which to build a writing career, regardless of literary genre.

Also included in the two-day event is a Young Writers Institute, with breakout sessions designed for students entering grades 10 through 12.

Although Bauermeister knew she wanted to become a writer, it didn’t happen overnight, she said.

Following graduation from Occidental College in California, she had moved to Seattle, got married, had children and received her Ph.D. at the University of Washington. But she became frustrated by the lack of women authors in the curriculum, which led to co-authoring, with Holly Smith, her first book, “500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide.”

It wasn’t, however, her first attempt at becoming a published author.

“I got that contract because Penguin didn’t buy a memoir I had written about being a young mother — nor did any other publisher, for that matter,” Bauermeister said. “But the editor at Penguin liked my work and asked me if I had any other ideas. So, I always say, you never know what door a rejection will open.”

“Still,” she added, “it took me 15 more years before I had a novel published — two months before my 50th birthday. And while the path to publication was remarkably easy for that book, ‘The School of Essential Ingredients,’ trust me, I know all about rejection.”

Bauermeister writes, what she calls, “interconnected short stories. I love taking a group of characters and letting them each have their own chapter in a book and then bringing them together in ways that make all their stories bigger and more complex. I write from limited third person point of view for each character, which takes you into their minds, but also lets you see what they aren’t seeing. That means the reader gets to sit above the page, understanding things that the characters themselves might never see.”

The author said her inspiration for her books “can come from anywhere — a cooking class, a whitewater rafting trip or, sometimes, it’s just an image that comes into my head from who knows where. It’s like discovering one of those almost-hidden paths that you just want to follow, even if you might get lost.”

Bauermeister said she is almost always writing and currently “I’m doing a switch and working on a memoir about a hoarder house we renovated in an old Victorian seaport in the Pacific Northwest. I like to mix things up occasionally, so I keep learning.”

While she will be appearing at the Nora Roberts Writing Institute, Bauermeister said she had never had the opportunity to meet the iconic author, who has written more than 200 books.

Living on the West Coast, “I’m almost never on the East Coast,” she said. “We share an agent and a publisher and, so, I have always felt that kind of publishing-family connection. It would be fun to meet in person.”

Bauermeister is looking forward to the writing conference and feels she has a lot of share with its participants.

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