Novelist Laura Lippman is glad she started early as a teacher at Eckerd College's Writer In Paradise conference in 2006.
"Now I think there's not enough room for everybody who wants to speak," said the author of the successful Tess Monaghan, PI series. "It's like summer camp for novelists. … The students are such good critics."
Lippman spoke last week at the Eckerd College Friends of the Library dinner, the group's annual fundraiser. The library's continued enhancement goes beyond just helping Eckerd students, said event organizer Betty Shamus.
"This is a community effort. What's good for Eckerd is good for the whole Tampa Bay community," echoed Eileen Deegan, another supporter.
Lippman marveled at the growth in the writers' conference as well as St. Petersburg, where many guest teachers stay at the Watergarden Inn, 126 Fourth Ave. NE. "I'm blown away at how much has happened downtown," she said.
Lippman's surging career is pretty mind-blowing, too. During her time as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun covering everything from books to government, she decided she'd try her hand at fiction. She wrote seven novels between 1997 and 2001, rising early to write before working full days at the newspaper.
The first book she wrote outside of the detective series, Every Secret Thing, was bought by actress Frances McDermott.
"My literary agent lived in the same building with her and gave it to her in an elevator," Lippman explained. McDermott produced a 2014 movie of the book starring Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Banks.
Lippman was pleased with how her words translated to film. She's no stranger to such a transition. Her husband, David Simon, who also worked for the Sun created The Wire, the widely praised HBO series.
Like Lippman, Eckerd College president Donald Eastman marveled at the stellar reputation of the Writers in Paradise conference.
"The students are fabulous. The (visiting) teachers are fabulous The camaraderie between them is fabulous," he said. Pulitzer Prize writer Gilbert King, a visiting teacher for the week, told Eastman the conference is "untouchable" in comparison to other writers' seminars.
Eastman also praised the library and the efforts of Friends of the Library, which accepts donations year round.
The Eckerd library is open to anyone in the community who wants to join, not just students and faculty. High schoolers, retirees and students from USF and St. Petersburg College are frequent visitors, according to Jamie Gill, who recently retired as the library's director.