Literary community development in the works

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Christine Hurley Deriso probably started thinking about becoming a writer from the time she learned how to read.

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Debi Toporoff, the author of Roscoe's Children Book Series, poses for a photo with 5-year-old Kaniah Briscoe, of Salisbury, Md., during a recent book-signing at the Books-A-Million store in Aiken. Toporoff has written more than a dozen children's books.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Debi Toporoff, the author of Roscoe's Children Book Series, poses for a photo with 5-year-old Kaniah Briscoe, of Salisbury, Md., during a recent book-signing at the Books-A-Million store in Aiken. Toporoff has written more than a dozen children's books.

“I always wanted to write, and I’ve loved any kind of writing,” said Deriso, who is the publications director at Georgia Regents University and will release her seventh novel, 30 Sunsets, in summer 2014.

Deriso considers herself a storyteller at heart. Whether she’s writing about breaking research at GRU or spinning a tale of a young woman who gets to know her dead sister through her sister’s diaries, it’s the story Deriso loves most.

“I feel incredibly blessed in making a living doing what I do,” she said.

Augusta has some rich literary history. Author Stephen Vincent Benet, who wrote John Brown’s Body, began writing his first novel while living in Augusta on what is now the Summerville campus of Georgia Regents University. Benet’s father was commandant of the Augusta Arsenal at the time.

Frank Yerby, born in Augusta and a graduate of Paine College, was the author of 33 novels, including The Foxes of Harrow, which was translated into a 1947 Oscar-nominated film.

Augusta native Berry Fleming wrote about corrupt Richmond County politics in the book Colonel Effingham’s Raid, which was also turned into a film in 1946.

Today, there’s a new breed of authors writing stories.

Book Tavern owner David Hutchison said that there are many authors in the area but that there is not a cohesive group as is seen in Augusta’s visual arts community.

“The literary group is less-developed,” said Hutchison, who is working with Cheryl Corbin, of Augusta Writers, in hopes of creating more of a literary hub in the area. “We see a lot of different groups in the visual artist community. Within each group, there seems to be a strong cooperative effort. We don’t see it as much with the literary community.”

Last month, Corbin and Hutchison met with several area authors to talk about writing and promoting their books.

Corbin, a former Army journalist and corporate public relations specialist, has long been interested in writing.

“I’ve always wanted to write The Great American Novel,” said Corbin, who has found success in writing her romantic short stories under the pen name of Olivia Gaines.

She has been working to create a network of authors and provide writing workshops. She also helped with the Augusta Literary Festival in March.

Debi Toporoff, who had a book-signing at the Book Tavern last month, has written more than a dozen children’s books since 2006. Toporoff, who lives on 52 acres in Aiken County, has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years. Writing a book wasn’t something she planned to do or wanted to do initially, but she felt compelled to write it.

Her debut work was Oops! Wrong Family.

“It’s the story of abuse from a kid’s point of view. I am the book,” she said.

Since its publication, she has created a series of book about Roscoe Possum. The books have been translated into Spanish and some are in 3-D. She’s working on a new children’s series about Herbie the Dung Beetle.

“My children’s books have morals and things in them about character-building, but they can have fun with it,” she said.

Lincoln Crisler is another area writer who seemed to grow up with a pen in his hand.

“I’ve always written but only for publication since 2006,” said Crisler, whose has written more than 30 horror short stories. “I deployed to Afghanistan a month after getting married, and she and I wanted to make the time count for something while we were apart. She finished her associate degree, and I started writing stories and getting them published on small, for the love Web sites.

“Now she’s finishing her master’s degree, and I’m putting the finishing touches on my first novel and waiting to hear back on a proposal for a series.”


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