By Andrew D. Brosig
Killeen Daily Herald
Jazmine Swanson of Killeen has been writing and keeping a journal for years.
Rhea Brown of Harker Heights has been making art almost since she was old enough to hold a crayon.
What do the two women have in common? They'll both be on the program Saturday for the first-ever Summer in the Park Book Signing and Art Festival, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Killeen's Conder Park.
The event is sponsored by The Writers' Group of Killeen, a local organization dedicated to the arts and the written word. Group member and event co-organizer Sonia Simmons Wren said the festival is designed as a celebration of the arts in Central Texas.
"We don't celebrate the arts enough," Wren said. "We put something together with Arts in the Park to let people come and enjoy the arts."
Swanson, a 17-year-old Ellison High School senior, began writing her first book, titled "Avalon," when she was about 13. At first, she was writing just for herself. But her mother, Vera, and several friends convinced her the project needed to see the light of day.
"Avalon" tells the story of Angela, a 15-year-old girl who is visited by a mentor in her dreams. She is taken to a parallel universe, where she embarks on a quest to eliminate the darkness, Jazmine said.
She started the story by drawing the characters, who quickly took on a life of their own, Jazmine said. From there, she worked out their individual personalities and the story grew. Her original character drawings became the illustrations for her book.
Jazmine at first shied away from the idea of publishing. She didn't think anyone would be interested in the story she had to tell, Vera said. That's a common misconception among writers of any age.
"Young people think their writing is not important," Vera said. "That no one would care what they had to say."
Rather than follow the "traditional" publishing route, Jazmine chose a path that is growing in popularity - self-publishing. The World Wide Web is rife with companies that will help budding authors, poets and artists of any age realize the dream of seeing their work in print.
One of the features of Saturday's Summer in the Park festival will be a seminar on just that topic. Members of the Writers' Group will discuss a variety of topics in an open-air round-table, scheduled for 10:45 a.m. The discussion will include how to publish your work yourself and, perhaps more important, how to promote your work once it's published, Wren said. Also on the program are several local dance groups, arts and crafts events for children, story telling and poetry readings.
The festival is a benefit for the Christ On The Move Evangelists Women and Children's Shelter in Kempner.
And the day will feature the work of several local artists, including Brown. She plans to display prints from a recently completed series of paintings based on stories and testimonies of faith experiences she collected from individuals around the area, she said.
"The series is based on people's stories of miracles in their lives," Brown said.
A professional artist and art educator with the Cordovan Art School in Harker Heights, Brown said drawing and painting were just hobbies when she was growing up. She was more focused on the sciences in school, with her eye set on becoming a medical doctor, she said.
"I always drew," Brown said. "I drew on everything. But I didn't think I would do anything with it."
Then, when she was about 19, people started commissioning Brown to paint portraits or murals. Over time, her art developed and she now operates Phoenix Art Studio from her home near Stillhouse Hollow Lake.
Brown and the Swansons all said the festival and workshops Saturday will be a good opportunity for the community. Whether someone is a budding artist or has little talent but an interest in the arts, there should be something there for everyone, they said.
"Bringing art here is beneficial to the community," Brown said.
The festival also will serve as a showcase for different arts groups in the community, she said. People probably don't realize the variety of arts available in the area, Brown said.
And Jazmine said she wishes there had been a seminar available on self-publishing and promotion before she embarked on her first book project. The process was more difficult than she would have imagined going in, she said.
"Avalon" was published in 2008. Jazmine is currently putting the final touches on her second book, "Angel Whisper," which she hopes will be released by the end of the year. She will be talking about her experiences as a first-time, self-published author during the seminar on Saturday, she said.
And, despite the challenges and difficulties getting her work published, she still would encourage others to make the attempt.
"If it's something you really want to do, put your work out there and follow your dream," Jazmine said. "It's a gift the world should see."
Contact Andrew D. Brosig at email@example.com or (254) 501-7469.
If you go
What: Summer in the Park art festival
When: Saturday, Aug. 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Conder Park, East Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Killeen