Tales of Our Cities 2014
Writer/Actor Stella Pulo & NJCU Professor Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams Headlined Jersey City’s Tales of Our Cities 2014 on Sunday, September 21
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The day was a bit overcast and muggy, yet the Jersey City Free Public Library persevered, and presented the 7th Annual Tales of Our Cities book festival on Sunday, September 21, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Grove Street Plaza in Downtown Jersey City.
The 2014 book festival was held in a different venue other than Van Vorst Park, due to the pending closure of the Main Library for renovations, which definitely demonstrated the comparative beauty and exclusive setting of a park versus the open exposure of a public transportation plaza. (Visions of Van Vorst Park for next year…!) A steady stream of people throughout the day enjoyed the readings and mingled with the authors, as well as enjoyed the live theatrical and musical entertainment.
Each year since 2008, the Tales of Our Cities book festival has been presented in conjunction with the mayor of Jersey City, now Steven Fulop, the Jersey City Municipal Council and the Jersey City Office of Cultural Affairs.
Leading the Tales of Our Cities 2014 author roster were Stella Pulo, a writer and actor who is the first Australian to be made a Lifetime member of The Actors Studio, and author Antoinette Ellis-Williams, Ph.D., professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at New Jersey City University. Ms. Pulo performed an excerpt of her very amusing travel monologue, Shrimp Shells in My Cleavage, in appropriate costume. Dr. Ellis-Williams read from her new book of poetry, Black Gardenias: A Collection of Poems, Stories & Sayings from a Woman’s Heart, possessing a strength that only comes from experiencing life in all its complexities.
Check out the link after this article for all author biographies and book descriptions. Books from each author have been purchased for all branches and the Main Library, so the public can enjoy these original works in their entirety.
“For seven years now, there has been no shortage of writing talent when we have scouted for authors,” said Assistant Library Director Sonia Araujo, who has coordinated the book festival from its inception. “We have appreciated such abundant self-expression, and expect the audience will, too!”
Tales of Our Cities 2014 featured nine poets, eight children’s authors, five storytelling authors for adults, three inspirational authors, three writer/dramatists, two true story-tellers and two singer/songwriters. Of these 32 writers, 10 are Jersey City natives, eight currently live in Jersey City, one is a former resident of Jersey City, nine are New Jersey residents, and one is a former New Jersey native. Two writers are current students at New Jersey City University, while one is a professor. One writer lives in Florida, with two living in New York.
There also is a distinctly international flavor, with the two book festival headliners hailing from Australia (Stella Pulo) and Jamaica (Antoinette Ellis-Williams). The writings of both women reflect their respective heritages. The countries of Panama (communications specialist Eric N. Quinn), Ecuador (poet Jacqueline Hallenbeck) and the combination of Ecuador and Colombia (Early Childhood Education specialist Helen Enriquez) influence their presentations, as well.
Poets lead the way – in life, and at the Jersey City Library’s book festival: Jersey City-native, and well-known to the poetry circuit, Lana Rose Diaz, opened the festival with a clarity in message that rang true. Accompanying NJCU professor/author Antoinette Ellis-Williams, Ph.D. were poets Elliott Fant; Jacqueline Hallenbeck; Bridgette “Mz. BJ Scott” Johnson; Michele M. Mena, Ph.D.; Keith Middleton, Valerie A. Mitchell and Ramon Terry. Unfortunately, Ramon Terry and Michele Mena, Ph.D., were not able to attend, though five short poems were read by producer/promoter and Tales of Our Cities 2014 MC Michele Dupey, whose friendship with Dr. Mena extends over 40 years, since freshman year of college.
Children’s authors hold a special place in the heart of all librarians, too: Children were superbly entertained by Jersey City-natives Cherese Bracey and Belinda Diaz-Perez, Jersey City-residents Helen Enriquez and Hysop Mulero, Elijah M. Brown, and Vanessa Campos, with YA (young adults) authors Kevin Lewis, and perennial favorite, Jane Pedler. (Just a reminder… All books are available throughout the library system.)
Again, this year, there was a separate area for all children’s authors and activities, which include balloons, face painting, sand art and storytelling. You could tell from the smiling painted faces how much fun they were having!
Whether you like your stories told fantastically or true, Tales of Our Cities 2014 grabbed your attention: There were novels about a retired detective dealing with the paranormal (David Allen), army wives’ lives from two different eras (Judith Baller-Fabian), absurdist-macabre (Joe Del Priore), first-contact alien satiric humor (Hank Quense), a crime thriller involving the Catholic Church (Louis Romano), with non-fiction heralding a New Jersey man’s great-grandmother as a possible heir to the German Krupp family (David Stroebel), and a weird and wonderful New Jersey writ real by a New Jersey author who loves history (Maureen Wlodarczyk). Equally unfortunate, Joe Del Priore was unable to attend, and Hank Quense declined presentation at the mic, due to a sore throat.
Inspiration came from three authors, including from two Jersey City natives presenting for a second time: Jessica Baggett, read from her second book, The Keys 2 Life, with Saideh Browne changing her reading from Politics Remixed to Life Remixed, since she perceived the audience was more interested in something positive, rather than negative. The festival-goers missed Panama-native Eric N. Quinn, an authority on Human Behavior and Neo-Ericksonian Hypnosis, who would have discussed communication techniques, in English, from his book, Tu Sentido Común No Es Tan Común (Your Common Sense Is Not Too Common), however, Mr. Quinn had a personal emergency and couldn’t attend.
Stellar performances from writer/actors and singer/songwriters: Jersey City multi-faceted artist and Marion Branch’s Library Assistant Trish Szymanski, gave a dramatic reading of a satirical essay by Washington Irving; writer/actor Yvonne Hernandez, who has performed her original monologues at previous book festivals, did justice to William Shakespeare; singer/songwriter Hollie Guinn, belted her blues, Lover’s Lament and Dance with Me; the aforementioned Aussie travel humorist, Stella Pulo gave an outrageous descriptive monologue with different character voices; and family rap artist (father of Hollie Guinn) Cedric Knight closed the festival, singing his very upbeat brand of music.
Participating Publishers: Raw Thoughtz, Inc., Keith Middleton, publisher; and Semaj Publishing, LaVon Featherstone, publisher.
Participating Vendors: New Jersey Department of Children & Families, Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Marissela Torres and Amanda Bonilla; The WHY Center, Shamina Allen, executive director; and Urban League of Hudson County, ACA Navigator Program, Judy Casiano.
Participating Library Staff (in alphabetical order): Also... A BIG 'Thank You' to Library Director Priscilla Gardner and all 10 library staff members: * Teresa Fairley * Deborah Oriol * Maniben Patel * Dolores Reyes * Ellen Rice * Dominique Rubio * Lena Scott * Patricia Szymanski * Tyara Tucker * Patricia Vega, who worked Sunday, September 21st, at the Tales of Our Cities book festival. A special thank you to Cliff Perkins and Alex Perez of the Jersey City Office of Cultural Affairs. Also, a very special “THANK YOU” to Tyara’s mother Carmen for helping to fold the tables and chairs, then load onto the truck.
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