Community Novel 2013 – SpeakEasy

It’s a chick-lit mystery with some history, written collaboratively by more than 20 local authors as part of the community novel project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. In modern-day Kansas, Ronni Long interviews 108-year-old Julia, who doubts all the adventures of her long life should be revisited. As the mystery unfolds, Julia’s secrets and Ronni’s lies put both women in danger.

The novel was serialized at from April to August 2013 and is now available in a complete edition. One of the most popular features of this year’s Community Novel Project is the Author Interviews, which are included at the end of the book. Meet the Contributors to the 2013 Community Novel – SpeakEasy.

The authors signed books at the Book Launch on Sunday, September 8, 2013 from 3-5 pm in the Marvin Auditorium.

SpeakEasy Book CoverBuy the print edition of SpeakEasy:

  • While supplies last, purchase a copy of SpeakEasy for $6 in the library’s Booktique or buy a print edition online at

Download the free ebook to read in the format of your choice:

Instructions for downloading and transferring these files to your Kindle, nook, iPad or other ereader.

Listen up! The SpeakEasy audiobook is narrated by Sandi Sauvage.

Listen now or download SpeakEasy Part 1

Listen now, download SpeakEasy Part 2

A community novel is one that is collaboratively conceptualized, written, illustrated, narrated, edited and published by members of your community. The library invited writers to each contribute a chapter to advance the group’s story.

Learn more about the Community Novel Project or contact Project Organizer Lissa Staley

Serialized online April through August 2013

A group of interested writers brainstormed the premise for the 2013 community novel project: SpeakEasy features a young cultural anthropologist interviewing older Kansans about women, alcohol and Prohibition. It’s a chick-lit mystery with some history — we hope you enjoy it!

SpeakEasy Original Premise

Grad student Ronni Long wants the past to come alive, but her centenarian source Julia doubts all the adventures of her long life should be revisited. Aren’t some things better left buried?

Veronica “Ronni” Long is a cultural anthropologist. Almost. She’s all-but-dissertation for her doctorate at KU and she’s in Topeka to do fieldwork. In a colossal stroke of luck, she has discovered a primary source better than any she could imagine: a woman who lived through Kansas’ Prohibition era and remembers it vividly. Who better to interview regarding the cultural history of women and alcohol in the state? Ronni is on the path to academic immortality and nothing is going to stop her!

After 108 years of living life, what remains in your memory and your heart? Julia Stanford has achieved this rare longevity milestone, having survived the Depression and both World Wars before she turned forty. When Ronni mines the riches of Julia’s mind and heart, just what will she unearth? At first, Ronni can’t see many similarities between herself and the older woman, despite the fact that both worked in bars to pay the rent while balancing complicated romances and pursuing their dreams. Are Julia’s stories truly extraordinary, or will Ronni discover a past that mirrors the struggles of her own modern life? As Ronni digs deeper to reach her goal, Julia seems to be hiding something about the past…

Ronni’s journey creates a compelling present-day plotline while Julia’s stories paint an intriguing historical backdrop. A new chapter by a different author each week reveals a new layer to Speak-Easy.

We can’t tell you more yet, because we don’t know what is coming next. Each author will have a week to add their chapter to the developing story before passing the manuscript forward to the next author. Writers can include details as breadcrumbs, so that the authors who write later chapters can use features from earlier chapters to advance the story. Although many chapters will be episodic, or maybe even told in flashbacks through the interviews, each author will set things up for future authors to take the story in new directions, challenge the characters and strengthen the emerging plot. It’s going to be a wild and creative ride, and you can read each chapter as it is published!