BEMUS POINT - After spending three years in the creative process, Wendy Lewellen is ready to promote her new book.
This Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Bemus Point Public Library, Lewellen will meet with the public to answer questions and autograph copies of her book, "Chautauqua Hostess: Winnie of the Wensley House." Lewellen expressed how excited she was to finally have the book completed.
"My mother was the hostess at the Wensley House at Chautauqua, which housed many of the famous lecturers and performers at the Institution," said Lewellen. "It was a quaint, nine-room house that had been donated to the Institution in the 1960s. She always intended to write a book about her experiences at the house, but unfortunately never got around to it.
"The qualities that made her so good at being an extroverted, wonderful hostess also kept her from sitting still long enough to write a complete book," continued Lewellen. "As well as the fact that she was still going strong in her mind, she kept working at the house, so she never really reached an 'ending point' where she could definitively start the book."
Lewellen said that, unfortunately, her mother's life was cut short by colon cancer, so she never reached a point in her life where she was retired and could dedicate the entirety of her day towards writing her book. Lewellen did say, however, that her mother had taken plenty of notes about the book she always envisioned writing. These notes helped Lewellen to chronicle her mother's legacy in her new book.
"Though my mother got to meet a multitude of famous people, she did so much more as well," said Lewellen. "She was a really beloved teacher at Bemus Point as well as a hostess at the Wensley House. Because of (both of her positions), she, to me, served as a bridge between the county and the Institution. She had her feet in both worlds, which isn't as easy to accomplish as it sounds. I hope this book serves justice to her experiences, because she was one of those few people who made Chautauqua both inside and outside of the Institution a better place."
Lewellen describes her book as a "coffee table book," because it is filled with photographs and excerpts rather than one linear plot. The book itself is around 150 pages long, and Lewellen says that it can either be read all in one sitting or piecemeal over time. Lewellen says that the book could have been two or even three times longer than it actually is, simply because her mother took care of so many important guests at the Wensley House.
"There was so much more that I didn't even use," said Lewellen. "There were approximately 400 guests that stayed at the (Wensley House) every year, and every single one was very important to their own field, even if their name may not be recognizable to us. Unfortunately, I was often limited by my own (knowledge of my mother's guests). I had to really research some of the guests to understand the nature of their importance, and sometimes even after much research I still couldn't quite grasp what it was they did. I had to judge who to put in the book, where (my mother would have known). I would have liked to have known the relevance of every guest, but I'm still very happy with how the book turned out."
Lewellen says that her book is available at several local books shops and copies will be available at the Bemus Point Library during the signing. The book features a watercolor created by Rita Auerbach as the cover.
"There are so many people to thank now that the book is finished," said Lewellen. "Rita let me use her watercolor as the cover, Bob Plyler contributed greatly, a wonderful young man named Joshua Gardner handled the graphic design of the book and I could not have done it without him, either."
Proceeds from the book will finance the "Winnie Lewellen Memorial Scholarship" at Maple Grove High School. A portion of the book sales at the library will benefit the Bemus Point Library.
"If I had one message for why I wrote this book, it would be that so much gets lost and so many things happen, yet no one records it," said Lewellen. "Even within families we think that we will always have these memories, but they fade. This is a way to make sure I keep my mother's adventures alive."
The signing is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information, please contact the library at 386-2274.