November 2015

The Writers of Hilton Head Island

Author: Kent Thune

Do you enjoy writing? Is there an idea in your mind for a novel, a memoir, or an inspirational book that you’ve always wanted to transform into a published work but were never quite sure how to do it? Do you appreciate reading a good book? If you answered affirmatively to any of these questions, you’ll want to learn more about a diverse group of writers on Hilton Head Island.

Like most human beings, writers are not commonly adept at critiquing their own work, nor are they generally gifted at marketing themselves. What do writers do to resolve this challenge? They write!

Fortunately, for local writers and for fans of the arts in the Lowcountry, a Hilton Head Island resident and writer, Jo Williams, wrote a small ad that she ran in The Island Packet in 1999, seeking out other writers interested in establishing a critique group. Eighteen people responded, and a group that would name themselves Island Writers Network (IWN) was formed.

As the membership grew, IWN helped launch the careers of several founding members who gained contracts with commercial publishing houses. Notable alumnae of IWN are Kathryn Wall, the author of 11 Bay Tanner mysteries; Vicky Hunnings, who has three mysteries published by Avalon Press; and Jo Williams, whose novel The Song My Soul Remembers, was published by Coastal Villages Press.

Today, there are approximately 50 members of IWN and the group is still expanding its work in helping writers of all kinds and levels of experience. Current IWN secretary Sansing McPherson said, “IWN aims to support, inspire, and mentor writers in both the business and the craft of writing. Its members write in all genres, including fiction, nonfiction, memoir, children’s literature, and poetry. They range in experience from the multi-published author to the aspiring writer just beginning to put pen to paper.”

A recent IWN success story is Natasha Boyd, who demonstrates the real possibility for unknown authors to publish and promote their own written works. Boyd successfully launched her career as an author without a major publisher by combining the key elements of quality writing and savvy word-of-mouth promotion on the Internet. Her first book, Eversea, earned her the 2014 Digital Book Award for Adult Fiction. She’s also published Forever, Jack, which is part two of Eversea. And as reported by Publishers Weekly, Boyd landed a six-figure deal for German translation rights of her books and has also closed on a big deal in the UK.

In the modern era of Internet marketing, IWN member Norm Levy’s following of 8,000 on his Twitter feed, @Rhymes4OurTimes, ranks in the top one percent of accounts on the social media site. Kent Thune’s blog The Financial Philosopher has been viewed over 700,000 times and has been shared on websites by The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

Many of the writers in IWN could have books written about their own lives. Will Anderson earned a doctorate from MIT, served as an army captain, and spent 29 years with NASA as an engineer and senior executive. James Edward Alexander, Esq., was raised in Valdosta, Georgia, and writes about lessons he learned as an uneducated Southern colored boy during the Jim Crow era. He overcame hardship, eventually joined the U.S. Air Force and later passed the bar exam on his first try. Today Alexander lives in Bluffton and is an attorney, writer and lecturer.

Long-time IWN member, Tom Crawford, a native of Whitinsville, Massachusetts, started work in 1953 as an office boy for The Evening Gazette in Worcester, Massachusetts. He then launched his writing career as a news reporter with The Worcester Telegram. He later graduated from a 48-week course in the Ukrainian language at the Army Language School (Now Defense Language Institute) in Monterey, California. After separating from the Army, Crawford enrolled at the University of Munich, where he studied history and Slavic languages. And when he came back to the United States, he joined United Press International (UPI) in Boston.

His UPI gig took him to the London and Belgrade bureaus of the news agency. In reflection on his time in London, Crawford said, “In 1964, I was assigned to cover the premier of ‘A Hard Days Night’ by The Beatles. Princess Margaret was there. Girls from the British Isles and Midlands mobbed the town. More than 130 of the girls were hospitalized because they didn’t eat or drink. All they wanted was to catch a glimpse of The Beatles.”
After a long and storied career, Crawford retired in 1996. And after spending several winters on Hilton Head Island, he permanently relocated here in 2007. He has since published Foibles, a collection of humorous vignettes, Goli Otok (Naked Island), a novel giving an account of the effects of World War II on a Ukrainian family, and Resurrections…of an Obituary Writer, a collection of essays about the most influential and memorable personalities of his lifetime.

Many additional members of IWN have experienced the satisfaction of seeing their work in print through various print-on-demand and self-publishing venues. Some also write in local publications, such as the one you are reading now!

Perhaps the best way to get a sampling of the diverse talent of IWN members is to read their anthologies. Hilton Head Island: Unpacked & Staying was IWN’s first venture into anthology publication. Their second anthology was Hilton Headings. In review of this book, the famed Lowcountry author Pat Conroy, said, “The English language is alive and well on Hilton Head Island. This book proves it.” The third anthology, published in 2013, is Hilton Head Island: Living the Dream.

The fourth IWN anthology, Hilton Head Island: Time and Tide, is scheduled to be published this November. Paperback copies of the anthologies can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Other than the group’s anthologies and the published works of its individual members, residents and visitors of Hilton Head Island and surrounding Beaufort county area can also catch IWN members at various community gatherings and events. Through the years, IWN has hosted several workshops; members have served as volunteers in local schools and community literacy projects, taught workshops, participated in book festivals, and been guest speakers at events such as BRAVO, Beaufort County’s month-long celebration of the arts.

Recently, IWN sponsored the 2nd Annual Poetry Month Reading at the Hilton Head Library. The event, which was well attended and received, featured IWN members Bill Newby, Elizabeth Robin, Art Cornell and Marilyn Lorenz.
IWN meets on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Heritage Library, second floor, on Hilton Head Island. Guests are welcome, and writers of all levels of experience are encouraged to join the group. For more information about IWN or how to order one of their anthologies, visit iwn-hhi.org. 

Kent Thune is a proud member of IWN and is currently working on a book to be published in 2016. Thune is also a money manager and the owner of a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. You can follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com or follow him on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.

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