By Dan Guarino
On Saturday, October 1, Rockaway Beach’s Knights of Columbus Monsignor William F. Burke Council # 2672 opened its doors to their first ever Literary Day- Rockaway Associated Authors event. From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., their hall at 333 Beach 90 Street drew a lively crowd as they hosted some 15 local and Rockaway connected authors selling and personally signing their books.
From table to table, these writers were happy to chat about their books with all who came out to the free event. Both traditionally and self-published, their collective genres ran from children’s books to poetry and pictural, comedy/satire, local history, sports, science fiction/fantasy, personal and professional memoirs, self-help and advice, art instruction, essays, short stories, mysteries and thrillers, and historical fiction.
The list of authors and some of their books included Rich Pontieri: “Has anyone seen my Friend?”, Owen Loof: “The Best Dressed Man in Rockaway: The Brooklyn Prep Years”, Steve Bialek: “Concrete Lifeguards”, former Wave editor Howard Schwach: “American 587 Heavy”, “To Die in Jerusalem”, Rockaway Times writers Dan Guarino: “Broad Channel Through Time”, “Images of America: Broad Channel” and Enchantress Shane Kulman: “Dear Enchantress: Letters to an Advice Columnist of the Rockaway Times”, The Wave’s Mark Healey: “Gotham Baseball: New York’s All-Time Team”, Tomasina Decrescenzo: “Two Left Feet”, Jean Maiorino: “Tonio Stories”, “A Symphonic Ritual”, Marty Ingram: “Flood, Fire And A Superstorm”, Bob Sarnoff: “After The Fall- 9/11/11: A Decade @ War”, “Notes From The Crack Between Two Beds”, Glenn Lawson: “It’s Curtains for You”, Dennis Graham: “On an Unknown and Distant Hill: A Citizen Soldiers’ Journey to War and Home,” Lilith Costa: “The Beautiful Defect,” and Dorian Keys: “Morning Star” and “Yesterday’s Tomorrow.”
All together the authors noted they sold 70-plus books, according to Knights of Columbus Financial Secretary Bill Gehlhaus, who worked to organize the event.
Writers had the chance to “schmooze” with fellow authors and enjoy, as writer Shane Kulman noted, and even exchange copies of their work.
Represented by the Monsignor Burke Council here in Rockaway, the Knights of Columbus’, the largest Catholic men’s organization in the world, core principles are “Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.” On the peninsula, they provide free meeting space to groups such as Rockaway Beach Autism Families, American Legion Daniel M. O’Connell Post # 272, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scout, and Community Board 14, to name a few. Along with their sister Columbiettes, they collect non-perishables for Rockaway church food pantries, run charitable fundraisers, help veterans, the Scouts, area civic associations, Rockaway’s Ancient Order of Hibernians Division #21, and their hall has been the site of many local celebrations from wedding receptions to the annual Poseidon Parade Prom.
Gehlhaus notes the idea for the Literary Day authors’ event came about with the realization that a number of Knights were also authors, and there were even more known to them in the community.
“I think this is really amazing that they did this, to acknowledge there are so many of us and make this event,” said multiple book author Jean Maiorino.
Visiting New York, fans of Rich Pontieri, John “JT” and Becky Dietrich of Phoenix, Arizona, said, “We bought Richie’s book (‘Has anyone see my Friend?’) back home and as we flew out thought, ‘What the hell?’ so we came down to get it signed!” JT himself has written a college textbook on professional sales.
Pontieri explained his children’s book, illustrated by niece Victoria Pontieri, came about through his son and “also in the house where someone is always missing a sock” from the laundry. In his tale, a suddenly single sock goes on an uncharted adventure throughout the home, looking for his missing “mate.”
Interviews with authors revealed a wide range of book topics and reasons for writing. Titled “Two Left Feet,” former operating room nurse Tomasina Decrescenzo, noted her book emerged “from a big red box” of mostly fictionalized, sometimes actual and real, sometimes not, sometimes magical stories and characters she had written based on her growing up years. “Once I sat down at my old typewriter, it was like (putting together) a jigsaw puzzle.” Besides editing, the hardest part was getting the Brooklynese dialect just right. She also voiced her own audiobook for the project.
Artist Robert Sarnoff noted he writes “partly for legacy. Mostly to communicate my take on the world. I punctuate my words in terms of drawing, cartoons, and with films.” Writer/director of several short films, Sarnoff notes he has a new project “coming out soon.”
With “The Beautiful Defect,” Lilith Costa, featured in the 2020 PBS documentary “Inheritance”, writes very personally about her “prophylactic surgery after testing positive for hereditary cancer genes. My chances of having cancer went from 65% (pre-surgery) to 99% not having it afterward. I wrote this to help other women who have to have a mastectomy, who have genetic (predispositions) to cancer, so they won’t feel alone. And to help them on their journey.”
“Flood, Fire and A Superstorm,” Marty Ingram said, has been a “tough sell. Because everyone lived through Hurricane Sandy. Nobody wants to live through it again. I think we need to talk about it, not suppress it, not forget, and continue our resiliency efforts. That’s why I wrote it.” Ingram noted The Gift Is Love shop on Beach 116th Street carries his and many other local authors’ books.
Authors were glad to oblige as many visitors happily took the opportunity to get photos with them. Gehlhaus also live streamed the event via his cellphone.
As one Rockaway woman who came with her husband enthused later, “This was a great event. The Knights are outstanding, they support our arts community. We’re really looking forward to seeing more creativity and events like this!”
Photos by Dan Guarino