One day at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., last fall, author Patti Brooks was setting up a display for the independent Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. As she worked, she soon realized there were several authors offering horse-themed books. She had known some of the women for more than 40 years.
"I thought it would be nice to get together and promote our books as a group," said Brooks. "Most of our books appeal to all people, not just people who love horses. But we wanted to do something for horse lovers too."
The Equine Authors and Artists of Connecticut (EAAC) formed late last year, made up of seven writers and one visual artist, Carol Watson of Bozrah, who often designs the flyers for the group's displays.
"I love horses but I don't ride. I've been on the back of a horse and it's okay, but I love the view of the horse from the ground," she says.
Coming from areas all over Connecticut, the members — some own horses, some don't — conduct book signings and presentations in tack shops and equestrian venues. They have shared their passion for the equine world in magazine features, newspaper columns, newsletters and books.
Nancy DiFabbio of Sherman says she was inspired by the "exploits" of her five horses. She writes a column called "Tales from the NEIGH-borhood" for her local newspaper and is compiling them into what will be her third book.
"Many people will never have a horse but many more love them," she says.
With a passion for horses since she was 10 years old, Eleanor Sullo of Colchester remembers few opportunities for riding growing up in the city of Hartford. Her writing career began with romance and suspense novels. Now she writes mysteries, but notes, "these are not your mother's 'Cabot Cove' mysteries." Her novel "Hot Pursuit," the last in the "Menopause Murders" series, was released this spring. Sullo wrote her first book when she was 60 years old and now has 10 books to her name.
Maggie Dana grew up in England and learned to ride at age 5. At 11 she was given her first pony. She became a writer while working for Weekly Reader in her late 30s. When her boss was out sick he told her to just keep busy, so she wrote her first book and Weekly Reader published it. Seven more followed and she is currently working on her "Timber Ridge Riders" series for tweens. For more than 10 years, she published the Nutmeg Horse Bulletin, a guide to horse events.
"The challenge in this kind of storytelling is to do it in a way that works for people who know nothing about horses," says Dana.
Mary Jean Vasiloff might agree. She got her first pony in 1934 and has bred 350 registered Morgans since. Her first article was published in Morgan Horse Magazine in 1949 and many followed. In 1978, she published her first book. She has written 15 coming-of-age novels and was inducted into the American Morgan Horse Association's Breeder's Hall of Fame.
Vasiloff's McCulloch Farm in East Lyme is a familiar name in equine circles. At age 81, Vasiloff has not let two broken backs diminish her love or dedication to her Whippoorwill Morgans.
Freelancer Ann Jamieson describes her relationship with writing as "a lifelong passion." A former columnist for the Litchfield County Times, she published her first book in 2005. "For the Love of the Horse" is a collection of true stories about bonds that form between people and their horses. Two more volumes in the series followed and she is working on a fourth.
"A horse-crazy elementary school girl," is the way Toni Leland describes herself growing up in Oregon. As a young woman, she traveled the world with her military husband and thought she would write about these experiences when they returned home. Instead she has written nine books on equestrian and other themes. She describes her work as "women's fiction with a kick."
Patti Brooks' love of horses goes way back to when she was nine years old and earned 10 cents for a ride on her pony up in the Adirondacks. She sold her first article to The Chronicle of the Horse when she was 16 years old for $4 and has since published more than 500 articles. In 2010 she published "Fame & Deceit," the first novel in a mystery series about a horse trainer. She and her husband Bob have raised Morgan horses on her farm in East Lyme for 40 years and have been inducted into both the American Morgan Horse Association and Northamption Horseman's Halls of Fame.
The Equine Authors and Artists are also involved in fundraising, selling their work at equestrian-themed events, with a portion of the proceeds donated to good causes.
Brooks has been in talks with Ray Connor, supervisor of the Second Chance Large Animal Rehabilitation Facility at York Correctional Institution. The program is a collaborative effort between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Corrections, and Connor's goal is to raise money for a new barn for rescued horses.
Vasiloff was involved with High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. in Old Lyme during its inception in the mid 1970's. She remembers donating the use of her indoor riding ring, and giving friend Katharine Hepburn a call when money was being raised to get the organization off the ground. On Wednesday, July 18, EAAC is partnering with the newly renovated Old Lyme Inn, 85 Lyme Street, for an afternoon party (5:30-7:30 p.m.) to benefit High Hopes.
EAAC members are also meeting with Greener Pastures Rescue in Salem to help plan a 10th anniversary celebration. They will be on hand for a roundtable discussion at the Sprague Public Library on Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m. On Aug. 11, members will help staff the Beech Brook Farm Equine Rescue booth at the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival in downtown Mystic. A portion of book sales proceeds from that day will go to the rescue.
For more information about the Equine Authors and Artists of Connecticut and details on upcoming events, contact Patti Brooks at 860.442.4237 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.