Before she published her critically acclaimed book of short stories Sap Rising, before she won the $54,000 Sophie Kerr Prize for writing at Washington College, before she even enrolled in her first class at Baltimore City Community College, author Christine Lincoln had to give herself permission to speak.
"Finding my own voice was what made the difference in my writing career," said Lincoln, one of the guest speakers at the Random House Book Fair at Carroll Community College in Westminster on Saturday. Lincoln will give a workshop on the necessity of finding one's voice as a writer, read and sign her short-story collection at the book fair.
Lincoln, a single mother of a son, overcame child sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, abortion and spousal abuse to enroll in Baltimore City Community College at age 29. She graduated from Washington College last year with a perfect grade point average and the winner of the largest undergraduate literary prize in the nation.
The author, who is pursuing a doctorate in African literature at a university in South Africa, was never a teacher or a student at Carroll Community College, which benefits from the book fair. Yet, she is linked to the institution and to others like it.
"To me, the students at a community college are some of the bravest people I know," she said. "Many of them are older students or returning students or students who are searching but don't often know what they are searching for, just knowing that they want so much more out of life and this is the first step in that journey."
The book fair, in its fifth year, benefits the Carroll Community Foundation, which gives scholarships to students and helps support the college's facilities. Last year, the event drew 2,500 people and raised $22,000 for the foundation.
"It's main purpose is to celebrate the literary arts," Jacqueline Harrington, executive director of the Carroll Community Foundation, said of the book fair, which will feature a book sale, poetry readings and story times for children in addition to seven workshops and readings by national and regional authors.
Harrington said she invited Lincoln to speak at the event because of her recent successes, especially in light of her life experiences.
"We're expecting we'll have a lot of men and particularly women in the community who can identify with her pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps background," Harrington said.
Other guest authors this year include Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls and Nobody's Fool, and Mary Pope Osborne, author of the popular "Magic Treehouse" series for children in which a brother and sister climb into a treehouse filled with books that transports them through time.
Harrington said a number of teachers have called the office to express their excitement over Osborne's appearance.
"She's such a well-known children's author," she said, adding that Osborne regularly draws 1,200 people at her appearances.
Past authors featured at the book fair include National Book Award winner Alice McDermott, author of Charming Billy, and horror master Peter Straub, author of Ghost Story.
The book fair runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster. Admission is free.