On heels of DeMille appearance, Riverhead library targeting more writers

Nelson DeMille at a recent appearance at the Riverhead Free Library. (Credit: Kathy Berezny)
Nelson DeMille at a recent appearance at Riverhead Free Library. (Credit: Matt Karpilovsky)

Nelson DeMille came to the Riverhead Free Library as part of a fairly standard author visit last Saturday. But in doing so, he inspired organizers to set out on a mission: to establish the library as a major hub for both established and burgeoning writers.

“We’ve been looking at ways to ensure that Riverhead continues or begins to have this kind of access to a literary pool for years to come,” said library director Joy Rankin. “He is the start. Nelson DeMille is the beginning of what will clearly be a plethora of literary greats coming into town.”

In an interview, Mr. DeMille said he is happy to see libraries hosting authors more frequently.

“It’s a great idea,” he said. “The library is a great venue. Libraries are a community center now more than the old libraries we used to have … Most writers I know enjoy the venue of a library, and it elevates signing away from the bookstore signing, which is in and of itself commercial.”

Enticed by the taste of last week’s success, Ms. Rankin and others at the library are looking to tap into a new world of literati by hosting regular author visits starting sometime in the fall — perhaps October or November.

“I got a lot of people coming over and asking us ‘who’s next?’” she said. “It’s clearly something that the community has deserved for way too long.”

Ms. Rankin also recognizes another major desire of the library’s patrons: a space for those who want to do as Mr. DeMille has done, but have not yet had their big breakthroughs. To achieve that goal, she explained plans to launch a new space called the “Writer’s Cove,” where locals can attend monthly meetings to share and discuss works they have penned themselves.

The word “cove” is distinctly chosen, she said, as homage to the area’s seafaring history and to the intimate nature of artistic creation.

Both new projects are intertwined: the public launch of the Writer’s Cove will coincide with the next “big book author” visiting in the fall — after all, both were born of Mr. DeMille’s visit.

However, Mr. DeMille would not have visited Riverhead if not for a random phone call one day from BookHampton, a family-owned book store with locations in Southampton and East Hampton and which previously had a store in Mattituck.

BookHampton frequently attracts authors to the East End, and in May owner Charline Spektor called Ms. Rankin to ask if the director would like to host Mr. DeMille at the library.

“Who says no to that?” Ms. Rankin said.

At the time, Ms. Spektor already had Mr. DeMille scheduled to visit both of her locations, and she decided to reach out and collaborate with Ms. Rankin.

“We felt that Riverhead Library is wonderful, and it needs as much energy and encouragement as the community can give it,” Ms. Spektor said.

Later in the process, Ms. Spektor decided to give all of the proceeds from book sales at the event to the library instead of 50 percent as is her custom.

“Whatever we make, we usually give half of that to the library,” she said. “This time, I felt that the library is really getting off the ground with its Writer’s Cove and its commitment to encouraging the community to read. That’s a group effort. It’s not something that just happens in an isolated sense. Everybody needs to be engaged in reading, so I thought I’d match it.”

She was particularly excited by the prospect of the Writer’s Cove and the role it will play in the community.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” she said. “It means that everyone is welcome, and they’re all welcome to have their thoughts and exchange them peacefully and intelligently. Any place that has that is the most wonderful gift.”

Mr. DeMille was also pleased by the effort, but offered what he believes to be key advice: give ascending writers advice not just on how to write well, but how to get published — especially given the region’s proximity to the literary nexus of New York City.

“The prospective writer needs knowledge of the publishing business, and some of them have no knowledge of it,” he said. “You can’t really go anywhere until you’ve figured out the nuts and bolts of the business.”

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