Authors Rhonda Brutt, at left, Rosemary Heim, center, and Amy Hahn shared information about their writing process and their journey to becoming an author. All three authors wrote short stories that were included in the book, “Love in the Land of Lakes,” a compilation of short stories by members of the Midwest Fiction Writers organization.PHOTO BY MELISSA VANDER PLAS/NEWS-RECORD
Authors Rhonda Brutt, at left, Rosemary Heim, center, and Amy Hahn shared information about their writing process and their journey to becoming an author. All three authors wrote short stories that were included in the book, “Love in the Land of Lakes,” a compilation of short stories by members of the Midwest Fiction Writers organization.

Area residents who aspire to become writers or who simply love books were given a rare opportunity to interact with three published authors on Saturday. The Harmony Arts Board hosted a book signing and author talk at the community center and welcomed Harmony native Amy Hahn and fellow authors Rhonda Brutt and Rosemary Heim to share their advice and promote their books.

All three women contributed short love stories to a collection published by the Midwest Fiction Writers called, "Love in the Land of Lakes." The book, which includes 17 stories by numerous other members of the writers group, is a fundraiser to benefit the Midwest Fiction Writers so it can, in turn, provide learning opportunities for writers of all levels.

Amy Hahn

Hahn, who grew up in Harmony and whose parents, Joe and Susan Hahn continue to live here, has been a writer for as long as she can remember. As a matter of fact, in her introduction of Hahn, Harmony Arts Board member Lori Slindee recalled how many would remember seeing Hahn walking around town with her beloved notebooks in tow.

Hahn has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism. She has worked as an editor and writer for magazines, websites and patient education material for Mayo Clinic. She has also worked as a television news producer and college instructor. She is married to Chris Sattler, also a Harmony native, and currently lives in Rochester.

Her previous books include, "Mr. Jack Frost," "The Ice Carousel," "Dr. Anderson's Nanny," "Courting His Royal Highness," and her recent release, "The Knight of the Amulet."

Not only does she love writing, but she is an avid reader and has enjoyed researching her family's genealogy. Other hobbies include horseback riding and, according to her website's biography, "probably too much television and movie viewing."

Hahn explained that she wrote her story in the anthology, "Lira and Gavril," from scratch in two months.

"Most authors would likely have something on their computers that they could have used for this," Hahn told those gathered on Saturday. "But I didn't."

Because the stories in the anthology were to follow certain criteria, such as being set in Minnesota on a lake, Hahn had to get her creative juices flowing, and quickly, as the deadline loomed in front of her. She admitted that the deadline did not intimidate her, however, as she is used to them because of her journalism career.

The resulting short story includes Hahn's love of riverboats, a paranormal element and a love story as a historic preservationist meets a man who once called a dilapidated riverboat his home during the Victorian era.

Rhonda Brutt

Even though Brutt grew up in Florida, she now makes her home in the Minneapolis area. She writes young adult fiction, with her first book, "Voyance," released in 2011 and the sequel, "Redeemed," is currently in the editing process.

Brutt shared she is a lifelong reader and enjoys other young adult novels as well as science fiction and romance. Her hobbies include visiting coffee shops, swimming, going to concerts and the theater. She also noted that she regularly volunteers to help the homeless community and has recorded several stories by some of the individuals she has encountered through those efforts.

Her short story in the anthology is "A Cut Above The Rest" and tells the story of a hairstylist who stays late one night to give a haircut to a homeless man. That act of charity proves to be life changing.

Rosemary Heim

Heim is the author of two romance novels, "Memory Reload" and "Virgin in Disguise." She was originally from the St. Charles area, but now lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two cats.

"Lake Dreams" is her short story included in "Love in the Land of Lakes." In this tale, Olivia has her life all planned out, but the subject of her childhood crush throws a wrench into her plans when they spend a night together. Can he convince her that the love they share is worth the change in her plans?

Because she hadn't written anything in awhile, Heim said the anthology motivated her. "It was a nice exercise and inspired me to get back to writing," she explained.

The writing journey

While each one of the artists agreed that every author's writing journey is unique, there are several common points each made while sharing their stories with the audience on Saturday.

"Read, read, read," said Heim as she talked about how she got started as an author. She decided to get serious about her own writing when she read a book by an author who did not write as well as Heim felt she, herself, could write. She then joined the Midwest Fiction Writers and began networking as she wrote.

"It is normal for writers to hear voices and it is normal for them to tell you stories," she joked.

Heim also noted how writing helped her work through some issues in her own life. Both of her novels have plot components related to memory loss. As she looks back now, those story lines helped her work through the conflicts in her own life associated with her mother suffering from Alzheimer's.

Brutt shared that she never intended to be an author, but she too was motivated when she read a few popular young adult books and knew she could do better. When she said as much to her husband, Brutt said he scoffed at her. Of course, instead of discouraging her it motivated her to prove him wrong.

"I never realized writing could be so much fun," she added.

Her first book, "Voyance," was considered by several networks to become a television series even before it became a book. However, when it was finally returned to her without a contract, she began submitting the manuscript to publishers, starting in alphabetical order. She didn't get too far into the list, however, as Brighton Publishing picked it up.

Brutt admitted, too, that she hears voices in her head and elaborated, "We have voices in our head, but we create those voices out of nothing. And we create characters who talk to each other."

Brutt was the only one of the three who said she still likes to write her stories on paper, with ink. The other two type their stories as they are formed in their minds.

"I just start writing," said Hahn. "I don't edit it until I'm done."

She also noted that because she writes in her "day job," Hahn tends to write chapters at a time, while other authors may tend to write at least something every day. "I may write for longer periods of time, all at once."

On her first book, Brutt said she edited her work as she typed the story into the computer from her hand-written pages, but learned an important lesson in doing so. "The experts are right and I won't do that again," she shared. "At some point, you have to let it go and stop editing."

Heim admitted that she likes to sit on her couch with her laptop. She is motivated to continue writing, at times, simply because she needs to see how the story develops. "I want to see what happens next, so I have to write it," she added.

Each author may have a general idea of the story they are wanting to tell, but none used a strict outline for their novels.

Brutt did share, however, that in her second book, she wrote the last chapter first. "I knew how I wanted it to end and then I wrote a synopsis as to how I was going to get there," she explained.

Each also uses friends, family and other writers to provide feedback on their novels. Their editors are also important to their final product, catching errors and redundancies that the authors may have missed.

All three authors also pointed out that writers need to be persistent and not take rejection too seriously. Because the market is so flooded by manuscripts right now, Heim added that prospective writers need to grab a publisher's attention in the first page. "Because the publishers receive so many manuscripts they can choose to be very selective in what they end up publishing," Heim added.

Finally, each of the women shared some of their favorite authors of books they enjoy reading.

Brutt suggested books by Sara Dessen, Rochelle Mead and Carolyn Sparks. Heim suggested books by Liz Selvig, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Cruise. Hahn's list included Jude Deveraux, Linda Lael Miller and many other historical romances.

The authors all thanked the audience for their interest and their support of their books before continuing on with their book signing and personal conversations with those attending Saturday's event.

The Harmony Library and Harmony Arts Board will welcome another author to Harmony in April when Julie Kramer will be featured as the guest speaker at the finale of the Hot Reads Cold Nights reading program. Harmony is currently in the middle of an "all-community read" of her book, "Shunning Sarah."