5 Fort Wayne writers share their work and perspective on the city's literary culture

What comes to mind when you think about Fort Wayne's arts and culture scene? Maybe it's live music, colorful murals, or vibrant festivals. But one area of the arts you might not be so familiar with is the city's literary culture.

 

Fort Wayne is home to an abundance of talented authors—from novelists to poets and playwrights.

 

We sat down with five writers in Fort Wayne to get to know their work and hopes for the city's literary scene.

 

 

Weston Cutter Weston Cutter

 

How long have you been writing? I had my first stuff published when I was 20. I'm in my 40s now, so about 20 years.

 

Favorite genre to write: Depends on the day, I suppose. I'm equally happy writing poetry, fiction, and critical nonfiction.

 

Favorite genre to read: I honestly don't know. That's another depending-on-the-day thing. The last books I've like *reached* for, like I needed what they offered, were one of each: Morrison's The Source of Self-Regard; Jorie Graham's Never; and Kevin Barry's That Old Country Music (respectively: nonfic, poetry, and fic).

 

All-time favorite book(s): Honestly? Probably the dictionary. My daughter Jo asked yesterday how to spell movement; I pulled out my old American Heritage 3rd to show her how to look stuff up and was almost overwhelmed with nostalgia and love.

 

Words you live by: A mentor wrote—I think off-handedly—"Listen more than you speak. Reflect more than you think." That's pretty useful.

 

What's the most recent book you've written? It's a short book of poems (also known as a chapbook) from Finishing Line Press (in Kentucky) called Careful. I'm not sure how to punchily synopsize it more than to say it's a brief book of domestic-ish poems.

 

Why was this book/subject matter important to you?

The last one? I don't know if I'd say it was or is; it's just what I was writing right then. It's tempting to think writers freight their work with import or whatever; as often as not, at least for me and the writers I'm close enough to to know, we're just like everyone in having our own long-standing questions or concerns about life/devotion/truth/etc., and writing's just a process by which we pick at those questions.

 

How many books have you written?

If you mean actually written: I don't know (at least three unpublished novels; at least two unpublished story collections; probably four full-length poetry collections). If you mean how many I've published: There's a collection of stories, and there's I guess five or six chapbooks of poetry.

 

How long have you lived in Fort Wayne? Since July of 2011.

 

What is the best part about being an author in Fort Wayne?

The stuff I like most about writing+creativity, in general, in Ft Wayne is the extremely low bar for entry. I like that we're in a place with such great art, everywhere, made by so many folks— from friends who make their own electronic music in their basement to teachers who quietly write devastating poetry to guys, like Phresh Laundry, who make this place more interesting to look at.

 

What advice do you have for budding writers in Fort Wayne?

Same advice for writers anywhere: Just write as much and as well as you can.

 

Christy Cabe Christy Cabe

 

How long have you been writing?
I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was a child. I self-published my first curriculum (a children’s adaptation of a Bible curriculum my dad wrote for adults) when I was a senior in college in 2000. I released my first book in 2017, and my second book in 2019.

 

Favorite genre to write: Non-fiction – I enjoy writing personal narratives/memoirs.
 

Favorite genre to read: Non-fiction – I love biographies! I’ll read almost anyone’s story!
 

All-time favorite book(s): The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

 

Words you live by: The Bible – I am a Christian and base my life on God’s Word.

 

What's the most recent book you've written? If Only it Were a Piece of Cake – Slices of hope for life’s difficult moments was released April 30, 2019. For a quick synopsis, in the book, I share openly about my struggles with worry, anxiety, and irrational thoughts, and offer tools and tip that help me deal with them. If you’ve encountered loss, lamenting, and anger, I walk beside you in this book, sharing compassion, faith, and laughter. Then, there are chapters about new seasons, letting go, and moving forward, challenges for us all, but areas where we can grow and adjust.
 

Why was this book/subject matter important to you?

If Only It Were a Piece of Cake is important to me because I’m basically sharing my own struggles in a real and vulnerable manner, and then offering readers what I’ve learned about each issue to help us all work through the difficulty. It is therapeutic for me to process and learn and grow, and I am thankful that I can help others do the same as my words offer camaraderie and hope for common difficult life issues.

 

How many books have you written?

Two books and a Bible curriculum, which is broken down into two Student Books and two Leader’s Guides. See all of my work on my website ChristyCabe.com.

 

How long have you lived in Fort Wayne? 18 years in Fort Wayne, but 34 years in the general area (Huntington/Roanoke).

 

What is the best part about being an author in Fort Wayne?

I love Fort Wayne because it is a relatively large city with a somewhat small city feel. We have great libraries and resources. We have a great community of other writers who are friendly and also enjoy the “Midwest charm” of our hometown.

 

What writing or literary resources have you found useful in Fort Wayne?

The library is obviously a constant resource of reading material for me. I’ve checked out many biographies over the years and enjoy learning from other people’s stories.

 

What could take Fort Wayne’s literary community to the next level?

Not everyone is looking to connect with other authors, but maybe a social media page could be offered and promoted for local Fort Wayne authors wishing to connect.

 

What advice do you have for budding writers in Fort Wayne?

Write! The best advice I was given was to just start writing and keep writing. They say you can’t edit a blank page. True. You may write some really rough drafts, and that’s okay! In fact, it’s good! Also, don’t be afraid to ask for and then accept feedback. Ask a trusted group or friend to read something you’ve written, and then humbly listen to their feedback. This sometimes hurts, but it will sharpen you in the long term.
 

Join a Writing Group! I am in a group composed of a few friends who write, and we have benefited greatly from sharing, listening, critiquing, and discussing with each other. Ask some friends who you know like to write if they want to gather with the purpose of intentionally reading, critiquing, and discussing something you’ve each a written. It can be intimidating, but also so fun and encouraging! And finally, read! Reading other great writers helps sharpen your writing skills!

 

 

William Bryant Rozier William Bryant Rozier

 

How long have you've been writing?

Since 1997. A published one since 2000. A paid one since 2003.

 

Favorite genre to write: History and Science Fiction.

 

All-time favorite book(s): Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison.

 

Words you live by: Shoot for the moon, but be aware of the fact that you might be riding a bicycle.

 

How long have you lived in Fort Wayne? 37 years.

 

What's the most recent book you've written?

I haven’t written a book yet. I’ve worked as a freelance journalist since 2003. I’ve written (and photographed) for almost everyone in Fort Wayne, including being the first managing editor of Fort Wayne Ink Spot newspaper. My biggest job nationally was for Ebony.com. I graduated from Ball State with an English/Creative Writing degree.

 

Why was this subject matter important to you?

I fell into journalism by accident. My first writing job was as a film reviewer, then it dovetailed from there.

 

What is the best part about being a writer in Fort Wayne?

The array of publications and writing opportunities. But accessibility is really more important than options. Working sometimes comes down to calling an editor when they’re free or sending an email that doesn’t go into junk mail. It’s harder during a pandemic. It’s easier here to reach out and communicate.

 

What could take Fort Wayne’s literary community to the next level?

More opportunities for non-traditional writing jobs, like screenwriting and copywriting. Even using writers at the idea stage for things.

 

What advice do you have for budding writers in Fort Wayne?

Be proactive. As a freelancer, develop and pitch your own stories, especially if it’s for a subject you know well.

 

What’s next for you, as a writer?

Outside of my freelance work, I’m wrapping up a comic book project and starting another, looking for funding for a history project, and writing scripts for an animation pitch.

 

 

 

 

Michael Wilhelm Michael Wilhelm

 

How long have you been writing?

I’m 62, and I’ve been writing most of my life off and on.

 

Favorite genre to write: Comedy

 

Favorite genre to read: Mysteries/Adventure

 

All-time favorite book(s): The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux/Undercover Cat by Gordon and Mildred Gordon.

 

Words you live by: "In all your ways acknowledge The Lord, and He will direct your path."

 

How long have you lived in Fort Wayne? Most of my life off and on.

 

What's the most recent book you've written?

Book: SKUNK-GUY: Skunk on The Run (The third book in the Skunk-Guy trilogy)

Play: The Dreadful Journal of Phoebe Weems.          

 

Why was this book/subject matter important to you?

Book: I grew up loving the superhero genre. To try my hand at spoofing, it was great fun.

Play: Dealing with fear at such a young age is a trial to both child and parent, so I wanted to present an encouraging story to give both hope.

 

How many books have you written?

Three books: Norman & The Stinking Space Goo, The Sensational Slime Saga, and Skunk On The Run. Three plays: Turtle Soup, Bentley, and The Dreadful Journal of Phoebe Weems.

 

What is the best part about being an author in Fort Wayne?

The arts community in Fort Wayne is an enthusiastic group that can really build off of your work as a writer. You really get to see that writing is only a part of the big picture.

 

What writing or literary resources have you found useful in Fort Wayne?

The Allen County Public Library is invaluable for research. There are many local magazines that you can contribute to that will get you some attention. Plus, you can be inspired by the number of local artist performers and writers living around here.

 

What could take Fort Wayne’s literary community to the next level?

Writing is a rather reclusive sport. I would like to see a local chapter of writers who get together regularly to share what they are working on and support each other on a more direct and personal level.

 

What advice do you have for budding writers in Fort Wayne?

Regardless of where you are, just write. Observe around you wherever you may be, make it a practice to look around and study, and write it all down.
 

Also, don’t compromise your values to be successful.  You can be successful without losing what you stand for morally, spiritually, or emotionally.  All of art comes out of these three elements; don’t surrender them display them.

 

What’s next for you, as a writer?

I am currently writing a situation comedy for radio called The TEMP.  It’s a podcast that I both write and perform in. I have always loved radio drama so this is a dream come true for me. It’s available free on Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, TunedIn.
 

If you listen I would appreciate you giving it a rating maybe even a mini-review.

 

 

Sharon Tubbs Sharon Tubbs

 

How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl. I’ve been writing professionally for more than 25 years, beginning as a newspaper reporter. I published my first book in 2006.

 

Favorite genre to write: Faith-based fiction and nonfiction. (I can’t choose.)

 

Favorite genre to read: Narrative nonfiction and fiction.

 

All-time favorite book(s): My favorite book is usually the one I’m reading at the time. But for various reasons, I would highlight Native Son by Richard Wright, Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson, and the Bible.

 

Words you live by: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

 

What's the most recent book you've written? My most recent published work is The Healing Place. It is about spiritual sage and mentor, Sister Pinky, who encounters her toughest assignment in the likes of Esther Goutté, a brash young woman who stretches life's boundaries in order to cope. Esther used to be soft-spoken and innocent, but the rejection she endured because of her awkward Haitian surname, large size, and dark skin has left her hardened. A tragic, but life-transforming, journey begins at a popular nightclub and a motel where Esther becomes forever linked to Robert Earl Washington. By night’s end, she finds herself under arrest and alone—until Sister Pinky settles into her world. Together they endure a tumultuous ordeal and court case that uncovers old wounds for all involved. Through it all, Pinky knows she must guide Esther toward what she needs most: Inner healing. Yet no one can anticipate the route they are destined to take.

 

Why was this book/subject matter important to you?

The book explores meaningful themes, especially from a faith perspective. It touches on issues surrounding poverty, sexual abuse, Black women and self-image, church legalism, and the need for mentorship.

 

How many books have you written? Five. See all of my work on my website GoMoveForward.com.

 

How long have you lived in Fort Wayne? I was born and raised in Fort Wayne, then left for about 20 years and returned in late 2015.

 

How would you rate Fort Wayne’s literary community compared to other cities you’ve experienced?

I would rate Fort Wayne’s literary community as a 7 out of 10. In recent years, there have been efforts to galvanize, educate, and nurture writers through the Allen County Public Library system. The library has sponsored a regional book fair, including local authors, and has combined some educational workshops. I’ve also heard of a few local small writers groups.
 

But the area lags behind my old stomping grounds, the Tampa Bay community in Florida. There, aspiring authors had multiple opportunities to connect with experienced writers. There were regional and national writers’ conferences, college programs that specialized in writing, and a nationally known book festival sponsored by one of the local newspapers. (There is a similar festival in Indianapolis.) I think the decreasing profile of traditional literary venues and agencies, such as bookstores, newspapers, and print magazines, make it difficult for the literary community to thrive. Yet, I don’t believe that stories (real or make-believe) will ever die, so writers and storytellers will survive. We must.

 

What is the best part about being an author in Fort Wayne?

I grew up in Fort Wayne. Since my return, I’ve written articles and essays that touched on the city’s history and on issues that affect the community. As a native, it’s a special feeling to be a product of the community about which I’m writing.
 

What I treasure most about writing is the ability to touch people’s lives in ways that I never imagined. It’s a humbling experience when readers say they learned something, gained a new idea, felt inspired, motivated or even angered by my work. I can’t control the feelings my words stir in others, but I know better than to take the power of writing them lightly.

 

What writing or literary resources have you found useful in Fort Wayne?

My latest project is narrative nonfiction and involves a lot of history and research. The ACPL’s expansive genealogy department was extremely useful.

 

What could take Fort Wayne’s literary community to the next level?

More annual writers conferences. Also, a speakers series, featuring a diversity of acclaimed authors.

 

What advice do you have for budding writers in Fort Wayne?

Resist the urge to write your story quickly and without any editorial help or advice. Investigate writing classes, workshops, or groups where others can offer feedback. Don’t accept every critique, but openly listen for good ideas. This will help your story to reach its full potential.

 

What’s next for you, as a writer?

I’m preparing for my book that is in the publication process. It is narrative nonfiction, a relatively new genre for me in book form, and it explores issues of systemic racism and faith. I am excited about the impact it will have as readers relate to the content.

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