★ Reading locally with Frances Ferguson

Frances Ferguson, executive director of the Salem Museum and Historical Society, has teamed up with local authors, including longtime community leader Dan Smith, for a new author/reader event, READ LOCAL: A Celebration of Local Authors 

BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke caught up with the nonprofit leader to find out what to expect at why the event is a great fit for the Salem Museum.

BCR:   The initial response for READ LOCAL has been very positive. What are the your goals for it?
franwebFF: I’ve always loved the Shop Local and Eat Local movements. I’ve also come to realize that we have more published authors in this area than I could ever in my wildest dreams have imagined! Many have been nationally and internationally recognized, but there are many great local writers who are not household names. We want readers to have the delight of discovering new reads right in their own back yards. We want authors to be able to expand their audiences, share their work, and sell books so that they can keep on writing! If it all works out, I hope we can make this an annual event.

BCR: Where did the idea come from?
FF: I’ve got to give credit to Dr. Carolyn Roth, a member of a Roanoke Valley Christian Writers. She came to me with the idea of a group book signing event for her group, but very quickly we decided, the more the merrier, and to go BIG!

BCR: How many authors do you expect?
FF: About two dozen, maybe as many as 30. We’ll keep adding them to salemmuseum.org, with links to the authors’ sites so readers can find out more about them.

BCR: Are you a big reader?

FF: I aspire to be a big reader.

BCR: What are you reading now?
FF: Actually, I’m reading a charming little book about the history of the Indianapolis Children’s Museum published in about 1982. My board president picked it up at the AAUW Book Sale. A total museum geek I am, I guess!

BCR: Do you write?  If so, what?
FF: I write grants!

BCR: That’s a good quality in a nonprofit director! Does the museum sponsor any ongoing book club or have workshops on writing or researching?
FF: We don’t at present, but it’s a great idea. We do have a research library, our Logan Library, open Fridays from 11 AM to 3 PM. We have a wonderful team of volunteers who help writers, researchers, and people working on genealogy. At our website can click on Collections Online, to get access to the 8,000 items in our collections that have been digitized and are available to search.

BCR: That’s a great resource for writers. What are a couple of specific items in the museum’s collection that might be of interest to writers and readers?

FF: There are many personal stories portrayed throughout our exhibits—a lot of characters to learn about and draw from! Writers could find out more about different periods of history to enrich their descriptions (and make it more accurate). Our Middleton Gallery features the work of Walter Biggs, a Salem native who spent much of his career in NYC drawing and painting magazine illustrations. We don’t have the stories themselves, but writers and readers have the imagination to fill in that gap. We stock an amazing array of books in our gift shop, which are all by local authors or connected to this area. You’re not going to be able to find local interest publications as easily anywhere else, certainly not on Amazon!

BCR: Terrific. We’re creating a list of the places to buy books in Roanoke, and I’ve added the museum gift shop. And on May 20th, it looks like the entire building will be filled with that opportunity.

READ LOCAL: A Celebration of Local Authors runs from 10 AM to 3 PM at the Salem Museum and Historical Center. The first 250 guests will receive complimentary book bags from sponsor R.M. Johnson & Sons. The Salem Public Library is also sponsoring the event. See you there. ★

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