The Friends of the Gadsden County Library presented their annual Author Dinner, which featured popular writer and New York Times best-selling author Charles Martin. The Sawano Club was packed with supporters.
Martin began an eloquent, amusing recollection of how he got to be a writer. “I started writing at 15. I’m now 43. I had that ‘first perfect storm;’ I had school, grades, athletics, girls, hormones (all happening at once),” said Martin. “At 15, I couldn’t express myself verbally in words,” he said.
Despite being in Quincy to speak after only returning from eight days in Nicaragua a mere 36 hours before, he spoke to a rapt audience for over two hours.
Martin had a dream of professional sports while playing football at Georgia Tech. “I got hurt - they didn’t need me. They went on to the national championship. I went to FSU. Bowden didn’t want anything to do with me. Writing released whatever I was dealing with for a while,” he said.
He described a college writing course in which he wrote a story about his uncle dying. His teacher was known to be quite liberal with red ink in grading papers. His story came back without a grade, without any red ink. Martin thought he’d goofed in some way and began apologizing profusely. His teacher merely said, “You don’t put a grade on this type of story,” said Martin about getting his first encouragement.
Charles Martin and his wife Christy live in Jacksonville. They married in 1993. “If you include dating, I’ve known and loved her for more than half my life. She is and always will be the home for my heart,” he said in the event program. They have three sons.
He said about his early married life: “I sold insurance. I didn’t want to work in insurance. I saw the effect on my two-year old son Charlie and it hurt. Being a writer was a pipe dream,” said Martin, describing how when he told his wife he wanted to go full-time into writing, she balked.
They fought, he said, and considered the good money he was making in insurance. “She ended up fully supporting the decision. ‘We’ did this,” he said. He said he asked himself why God put him on earth, and it wasn’t about how much money he could make. “Christy and I started a journey at that point. I received 86 rejections (of his writing). We were broke. We were done. We were out of money. I felt like a fool. Then I went to a national prayer breakfast,” he said about Mercy Ships Ministry hiring him to write their story about their ships and ministry.
Even though that document was never published, Martin said, “Until that time, I had written. After that time, I became a writer.” He went on to write eight books. The first, 'Chasing Fireflies,' won a Christy Award.
His audience was enthusiastic in their praise after his speech. Many in the room had read all of his books and are eagerly awaiting his latest, 'Unwritten,' that will be published next month. His 'The Mountain Between Us' has been optioned by 20th Century Fox for a movie and is in development.
Director of Library Services Dr. Carolyn Poole gave a county library update at the event. “100,000 people have been through our libraries this past year. We’re working on launching a time capsule and celebrating Viva Florida! In recognition of the 500-year anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s visit,” said Poole.
Poole said the library system is focusing on getting everyone connected online, family literacy, providing local and state information, assisting with lifelong learning, accessing genealogy and supporting businesses and economic development. She thanked the Friends of the Library for donating $8,500 to the library system this past year.
“Our budget was slashed by $100,000. Four staff positions will have to be slashed,” said Poole in asking everyone to become a library advocate.