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They've had quite the storied lives: Readers meet the writers at authors fair in Sterling

STERLING – When people read a book, they usually get only part of the story, but on Saturday, they were able to get the rest of it.

Book fans headed to the Sterling Public Library to check out an author fair and meet the wordsmiths who’ve hammered out stories, from the personal to the spiritual, from romance to revelations.

Visitors talked with the 25 authors who came from throughout the Sauk Valley and northern Illinois, and even parts of Iowa, representing genres that included non-fiction, romance, young adult, and more.

Organizer Kay Clark, a member of the Write On Rock Falls Writing Group, said events like the Saturday’s fair help authors connect not only with their audience, but fellow authors. "When you have a passion about writing, and you're out there trying to sell a book, you meet people with similar interests.”

One of Clark's works is "Sebastian & Me: A Rite of Passage and Spiritual Journey," a cat’s tale that details a spiritual journey Clark took with her feline friend, a journey she says is a testament of faith aiding the human soul.

Another Sauk Valley-based author, N. Thomas Padilla, 53, of Sterling, shared the backstory of his collection of fictional works, "Ite, Missa Est: Stories from the Edge of Faith."

"It's short fiction through the perceptions of 21st-century, or lapsed, Catholics. I wrote a story that was a little bit faith-based, and wrote another, and figured I could do more," Padilla said.

So far, Padilla's received a good response. He said everyone seems to have a different story that they like.

John LaBella, 62, and his wife, Teresa LaBella, 61, of Davenport, Iowa, talked about their interconnected projects, in which Teresa's work fed her husband's.

Her trilogy of fiction stories, "Reservations," "Heartland," and "Belonging," trace the tales of two generations of a family from New York to small-town Iowa to Scotland. Those works in turn inspired John's cookbook, "Recipes from New Life in Love," which shares recipes based on dishes in Teresa's books.

"Teresa has always been a writer. If she'd really listened to herself when she was a kid, she'd be Nora Roberts. She started in 2010 or 2011," John said.

Among the younger authors at the fair was Olivia Esther, 18, of Walnut. She wrote a science-fiction novel, "Briobands," set in a dystopian future, and a book of poetry titled "The Things I've Never Said."

"I hated English until about my eighth-grade year. Then, the 'Twilight' series brought me into writing," Esther said.

Esther hasn't picked a specific genre to focus on, but she's already working on her next novel, a teenage high school romance.

Some of the authors gave short presentations during the day. Among them was Joyce Kocinski, 65, of Elgin, who discussed journaling as healing. Her first book is "Letters from Mom: A Daughter's Journal of Healing," is about Kocinski's own experiences with grief after her mother died. She kept a journal for a year afterward, and continued writing after that.

Her second work, "More than a Coincidence: True Stories of Divine Intervention," is a collection of stories that cast a spiritual light on coincidences that border on the miraculous.

"Everybody has a miracle story, but they don't always have the opportunity to tell it," Kocinski said.

A more haunting set of titles was available at Sylvia Shults' table. Shults, 43, of Pekin, focuses on nonfiction stories about real-life hauntings.

"I have always loved true ghost stories. I started off writing about horror and crime, but was contacted by a publisher about a non-fiction book on true ghost stories. You can't write about hauntings without writing about the history," Shults said.

She has a holiday-themed title available, "Spirits of Christmas.” Shults also spent a night at the Lizzie Borden house in Plymouth, Massachusetts doing research.

Princeton author Bartlett Kassabaum, 70, spent years working on his biography, "Becoming Richard Widmark," about the Princeton-born actor who made 72 movies, among them "Kiss of Death."

Kassbaum said he got involved with the book after he was asked to do some artwork for a project involving Widmark. So far, his biography's sold more than 225 copies.


Sessions of the Write On Rock Falls Writing Group are 7 to 9 p.m. the first and third Tuesdays of each month at Harvest Time Bible Church, 1802 Dixon Ave., Rock Falls.

Email Kay Clark at or search for Write On on Facebook for more information.


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