Meet Helen Wolf. It is usually Helen saying, “Meet…” and going on to fill in the name of an author. She is a champion of writers and is tireless in helping them spread the word about their books and their writing vision. She teaches a “Meet the Author” class in the CLR (Continued Learning in Retirement) program at Delaware Valley College and is part of the team that organized the recent Writers Conference at the Pearl S. Buck House. She is currently in the process of organizing more classes and events at the college and at Ms. Buck’s home. These activities give Helen a unique insight into what makes a novel appeal to readers.
SANDRA CODY: Tell us about your “Meet the Author” class.
HELEN WOLF: I became interested in the Continued Learning in Retirement program at Delaware Valley College several years ago. My husband had been attending since we moved here, and I contacted the person in charge and asked if he thought they would be interested in a class on the World of Quilting and Needle Arts. I received a resounding “yes” and began with an abbreviated class of half a semester, which is six weeks. It went over very well and I jumped in and said I would do a full semester. That also went well, but I exhausted my list of speakers, having had everyone I could think of in the needle art community, some of them twice. I didn’t want to leave the program. I scanned the brochure and noticed they had a program called “Meet the Artists”, which was a huge success. So that gave me the idea of “Meet the Authors”. I am just completing my fourth semester, so have had 48 authors speak. I have been fortunate to be able to combine my love of reading, writing and stitching and share it with others.
CODY: What prompted you to start this class?
WOLF: See above.
CODY: How do you select authors?
WOLF: I am an avid reader of the Bucks County Herald and noticed that they often do interviews with local authors. So, when the class was planned, I began clipping articles and writing to the authors and no one ever said “no”! I noticed who was doing book signings at local book stores, at the library and word of mouth. Often someone in the class will mention hearing of an author. My goal from the beginning was, and still is, to promote local authors, including self-published authors, as it is often hard for them to get promoted. The more I have become involved in the world of authors, the more authors I hear about or, who hear about the class and contact me. I have just been asked to continue this program one day a month during the summer in the college library; it will be open to the public, not just CLR members. Date and time are still being planned.
CODY: What are your class members looking for in an author presentation? Are they most interested in the writing process? The route to publication? The writer’s personal experience?
WOLF: All of the above! Each author has a different story to tell. We are always interested in hearing how they got started, what made them decide to write the book, how long have they been writing and how did they get published. Some in the class have written, some are thinking about doing so, but all like to hear about the process and how do you eventually become a published author.
CODY: What do you find most satisfying about this class?
WOLF: The response from the students and the authors. Everyone seems so interested in each author. Perhaps at times it isn’t a subject of an individual’s interest, but still, hearing the author tell their story gives everyone an insight into another person’s life. The entire CLR program is a volunteer effort, so the class leaders and the speakers do not get paid, yet everyone appears happy to be part of it. The authors may sell their books at the class and always have some sales.
CODY: What, if anything, frustrates you about it?
WOLF: Space! We meet in the yellow house as you enter the campus and there are only three classrooms, mine being the largest. The room can comfortably seat 42 people and sometimes it is a tight squeeze. We are not allowed to advertise the classes. We can only accommodate a certain number each semester. It goes by word of mouth, and only students from the previous semester are mailed a brochure. We are grateful that the college allows us to have this program. Hopefully, some time in the future, we may have a larger venue, but we are happy to have what we have now.
CODY: You played an important role in organizing and administering the recent (very successful) Writers Conference at the Pearl S. Buck House. Tell us a little about that.
WOLF: It was a joy to do, and I loved every minute of it. We are still amazed at the wonderful attendance. Unfortunately, we had to turn some people away due to lack of space. We started off being very ambitious with eight workshops, two back-to-back in each time slot and a panel of five authors at the end of the day. We also had thirty-five book vendors. Every participant filled out an evaluation and asked us to do more. The response was very heartwarming. I work with a great team at Pearl S. Buck Volunteer Association, especially my conference partner, Cindy Louden.
CODY: Will there be future writers’ conference at the Pearl S. Buck House?
WOLF: Yes! We are in the process of planning some workshops during the summer. Memoirs, which will be a four-week event led by Linda Wisniewski. A teen journaling one-day event led by Esther Hughes, and perhaps something on fiction and also poetry. On November 13th we will do another writer’s conference. This one will be on fiction/novel writing and in the spring we will do one on writing for children. We will also have an author reception event from May through November on the first Monday of each month from 7-9 PM. It is free and open to the public. In the new gift shop, one Sunday afternoon a month, the third except for June, which will be the second, we will have an author read their book to an audience of children and do a book signing. Also, on various days during the month, especially on Saturday, we will have authors present to sign their books. Please feel free to contact me if you wish information on any of these events at email@example.com
CODY: Tell us something about the short story contest sponsored by the Pearl S. Buck International Foundation.
WOLF: This is our first venture into the land of contests. It is in three age categories: Middle School, High School, covering ages 12-17, and Adult. There will be two winning levels for each category: The Pearl and 2nd Place. Winners will be announced at International Day and we are hoping to host several readings of the winning stories. We welcome everyone to enter and you may obtain a submission form from the email above.
CODY: I know you are also a quilter and have channeled that interest into a writing project. Can you tell us something about that?
WOLF: The book will be an anthology on the correlation between quilting and writing. The purpose of the book is to show that the pen and the needle have many similarities. There are quilters and there are writers and there are quilters who write and writers who quilt. How both crafts interact–the pen and the needle, the thread and the ink–and what motivates each and combines them. We are actively pursuing essays from quilters and writers. This was the idea of Anne Kaler. Susan Wagner and I are working with her on it.
CODY: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
WOLF: I hope to continue to be part of writing events and reach out into the writing community. It has been a pleasure to meet so many talented people and I look forward to continuing to help promote local authors. Thank you, Birth of a Novel, for giving me this opportunity to talk about my activities.