CANTON — During a tour of the Canton Palace Theatre, Ron Luikart imagined what it would have been like to watch a performance in the storied confines in 1926.
Edward Klink stood outside the historic J.D. Define building in Navarre, pondering life in the village and along the former canal more than 100 years prior.
Jean Trent traveled back in time through research and family stories in recounting an industrial disaster in which seven boilers exploded, killing more than a dozen people in 1910 at the American Sheet & Tin Plate Co. in Canton.
Klink, Trent and Luikart are among the eight authors of “Stark Tales,” a 21-chapter anthology interwoven with four central characters, blending fiction with authentic local places, sites and historic events.
The mosaic novel is a project of the Greater Canton Writers’ Guild, founded in 1964. About a dozen members are active, including published poets, award-winning writers of fiction and previously unpublished writers.
On June 16, the Stark County District Library is hosting a virtual event at 2 p.m. so the public can meet the authors and learn more about the literary endeavor.
To register, visit https://events.starklibrary.org/event/5133470.
Copies of the book can be reserved online through the library. “Stark Tales” is also available to purchase online in paperback for $12 through Amazon at www.amazon.com, and BookBaby at https://store.bookbaby.com.
Other authors who contributed to “Stark Tales” are William Alford, Eleni Byrnes, Benjamin Dine, Caroline Totten and Mela Saylor.
‘Time travel adventure’
Sprinkled throughout the 175-page work are references to Canal Fulton, Jackson Township, Lake Cable and other areas in Stark County. Specific locations include the former Meyers Lake Ballroom, Everhard Road, Fulton Road and an old diner on Tuscarawas Street W near downtown Canton.
“‘Stark Tales’ has something for everyone,” said Saylor, president of the Greater Canton Writers’ Guild. “There is a blend of local history, American history, speculative fiction, science fiction, humor, and fantasy/paranormal wrapped up in one story.
“Readers will be able to experience this time travel adventure with the characters as they leap from 1921 Jackson Township to 1961 Norway and back to Stark County and Canton when it was known as ‘Little Chicago.'”
Fun, somber, upbeat
Saylor was inspired to incorporate time travel in the book project when she walked into the Eight-Twenty Clock Shop in 2017 in Jackson Township.
“I was entranced,” she wrote in an email. “The sight and sound of all those clocks captured my imagination. I was already discussing the possibility of writing another anthology (with Byrnes, the guild’s previous vice president), and it took about a week for those things to come together inside my mind how exactly we could do this without having another mishmash of unrelated stories, and not tell my writers what to write about.”
Byrnes came up with the book title as well as the four characters who link the entries; she also served as assistant editor.
Playing off the phrase ‘time flies,’ Saylor uses insects as the vehicle for moving characters back and forth through time, spanning the 1800s and Jackson Township in 2027.
A character tries to stop the assassination of President William McKinley. Another character gains a new perspective on life after stepping out of 2015 and through the door of the Canton diner, where it’s the 1940s and a hamburger costs 15 cents.
“I would say it’s a wide range,” Trent said of the book’s themes and storylines. “There’s some funny anecdotes and then there’s some serious (subjects) and then some are kind of somber, but all and all it’s a pretty upbeat (anthology).
“I think it’s a fun work and it’s a good read,” added Trent, current vice president of the Greater Canton Writers’ Guild.
Trent almost began to cry as she described one of her own short stories, “Boilers.”
“Some of my mom’s family history was in there and she’s deceased, and I know she would have been so proud and so excited to see (the short story), so that was kind of exciting and emotional with me.
“My grandpa’s brother was killed in the boiler explosion in 1910,” said Trent, a Canton paramedic and firefighter.
‘Words just flow onto paper’
Working together, including receiving guidance and lead editing from Saylor, enhanced her own storytelling, Trent said.
“Individual learning is great, but the creativity that’s inspired meeting with a group of just really intelligent, creative individuals is unbelievable,” she said. “… I come home from every meeting with a million ideas going through my head.
“It’s just the creative passages are opened and the words just flow onto paper.”
Klink, an 81-year-old retiree from the storm door business, penned two short stories for the book — “Apple Jack” and “Buggers.”
“I never wrote anything like that, but it was fun doing something different,” the history buff said of “Stark Tales.”
“Everyone can be proud of Canton and Stark County can be proud of who we are, and where we live, and I think all who get to read ‘Stark Tales,’ they know or have been to all the places we use for our stories,” Klink said.
Wanting to be somebody else
Luikart, 77, a retired teacher for Jackson Local Schools, contributed four pieces to the anthology.
Settings include the Canton Palace Theatre in 1926, the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War and a ship on the waters of Lake Erie in 1913.
Details lent authenticity to the story set at the Palace Theatre, including organist Banks Kennedy and the film shown at the venue’s opening night, “Tin Hats” starring Conrad Nagel.
“Time is a place, and I think as a writer, we try to take readers to those places and try to see what kind of experience those characters would have, but also what kind of experience the reader would have if they were that character,” said Luikart, who has garnered awards for previous short stories.
“I think deep down, most people at one time or another would like to be somebody else, whoever that somebody else is,” he said.
‘Original piece of work’
Luikart encourages both current and former Stark County residents to read “Stark Tales.”
“I hope they get some enjoyment out of the stories,” he said. “… That would certainly be a great sense of support for the writers of the Writers’ Guild.”
“I think it is an original piece of work,” Luikart added. “You go out to Books-A-Million, and some of these other places and you don’t see stories like this.”
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected]
On Twitter @ebalintREP
About the Greater Canton Writers’ Guild
The Greater Canton Writers’ Guild was founded in 1964 by Gail Golloday Schneider, a painter and poet.
The Guild was established as an all-volunteer, non-profit organization and formed to provide beginning and professional writers a venue for learning, exchanging ideas, critiquing manuscripts and gathering market information.
Members share a “common commitment to the art of writing,” the group’s website says.
For more information about the guild, including meeting times, memberships and writing activities, visit https://greatercantonwritersguild.com/ and www.facebook.com/The-Greater-Canton-Writers-Guild-Inc-133671586651576.
The Writers’ Guild can be emailed at [email protected]