Delmarva storytellers share their own tales and writing advice
Three of Delmarva’s finest chroniclers and storytellers gathered in Easton to share their knowledge from decades spent documenting the people who make the region so unique.
The authors’ panel, sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writer’s Association, was held on Saturday, January 29, 2017, at the Easton Library.
Sharing their experiences were Ed Okonowicz, perhaps best known for his ghost tales and his book Disappearing Delmarva; Gary Crawford, columnist for the Tidewater Times; and Ann Foley, author of articles and books, including Having My Say: Conversations with a Chesapeake Bay Waterman.
Moderated by outgoing ESWA president Mindie Burgoyne, the authors’ discussion was at times poignant, but mostly humorous, as they shared encounters with world famous decoy carvers, muskrat trappers, and old-time watermen.
While they might be “Come Heres” in the Delmarva sense, all three have spent decades writing about the uniquely Delmarva way of life.
“I used to like to sit and listen to the stories people had to tell, even before I was a writer,” Foley said.
Some of their advice to writers when interviewing others included getting a couple of people together so that they start having a conversation and build off each other. All three also make a point of meeting their interview subjects in their homes, or workshops, or boats, where people will be comfortable talking. That interview approach sometimes takes early mornings, long drives, making friends with dogs, and hours of listening.
While these writers check their information carefully with exhaustive research, Crawford said that ultimately writers have to be willing to take that final leap and get their work into print.
“I would recommend that you not be too shy about putting yourself out there to ridicule,” Crawford said.
He said that the hardest writing assignment he gave himself was to write an account of the sinking of the Hay Russ IV in 1979, in which five Tilghman Island men, all of the same family, were lost.
Okonowicz had this bit of tongue-in-cheek advice for writers: “I avoid young people at all costs. You have to go to people who have lived and experienced good stories to get good stories.”
Ed Okonowicz is a Delaware native who currently lives in Elkton. He’s written over 20 books on Delmarva and Maryland folklore, oral history, regional culture, crime and ghost stories including The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories, Disappearing Delmarva and Civil War Ghosts at Fort Delaware.
Ann Foley has lived 20 years on Elliott’s Island in Dorchester County. In that time, she’s published articles in the Washington Post, Stars and Stripes, Chesapeake Bay Magazine and Bay Sailor Magazine. She is also the author of several books on the Eastern Shore’s rural culture including A Dorchester County Scrapbook, Having My Say: Conversations with a Chesapeake Bay Waterman and Elliotts Island: The Land the Time Forgot.
Gary Crawford is a regular contributor to the Tidewater Times and, along with his wife Susan, operates Crawford’s Nautical Books, a unique bookstore on Tilghman Island. Gary has authored numerous publications about the area, including some video presentations, and for five years published the “Island Flyer,” a weekly paper for Tilghman Island.
ESWA Elections – Slate of Officers for 2017
The following Slate of Officers was presented to the ESWA Board of Directors by the appointed nominating committee. This slate has been approved by the ESWA Board and affirmed by the ESWA membership during a vote at the annual meeting in Easton on January 28.
President Elect – Fran Severn (Salisbury)
Secretary – David Healey (Chesapeake City – 1 year )
At Large 1 – Jim Duffy (Cambridge)
At Large 2 – Pat Valdata (Elkton / Crisfield)
At Large 3 – Susan Parker (Salisbury)
The following officers will continue in their current positions or transition.
President, Mindie Burgoyne will transition to Immediate Past President
President Elect, Ron Sauder will transition to President
Charlene Marcum is completing her 2-year term as Treasurer
Rick Barton is completing his 2-year term as Chair of the ESWA Education Fund
Emily Rich is continuing to serve as the Delmarva Review representative
Judy Reveal is continuing to serve as the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference representative
David Healey is continuing as ESWA Communications Chair
All nominees have been contacted by the nominating committee. A vote by ESWA members to approve this slate will be taken at the Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 28th. Members may also email their approval (or disapproval) before that date by emailing email@example.com
Later in the year, an announcement will be made on the ESWA Facebook page and website calling for nominations for 2018.