LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Journalist, poet, and novelist Sharon Vander Meer is no stranger to putting her work out there, even if she has to do it without the assistance of a publisher. The independently published author and freelance writer is sharing her experiences in the hopes of building a community of writers in her town of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Even though she grew up in Hobbs, Las Vegas has been her home since 1963. When Vander Meer graduated high school, she began writing in a small-town newspaper which kicked off a 30-year career as a journalist. “That’s where I really gained the confidence to write because up to that point I was 19-years-old and I was very shy about exposing my work to people,” Vander Meer said.

Someone from the newspaper encouraged her to put her work out there, regardless of how it’s received. Now, she wants to pass along that advice to anyone who wants to write. She’s heavily involved in putting a new writing group together called the Las Vegas Literary Salon. “We’re trying to encourage young writers, and all writers, because sometimes you don’t start writing until you get older and you look at your life and think, ‘It’s time for me to write that book,'” Vander Meer said.

Her focus on building up a stronger writing community comes from her love of the city. “We have a wonderful small community, and we want to retain that small community atmosphere but still have opportunities for the people who live here so they don’t feel like they have to leave here to get a job,” Vander Meer said.

The mother, grandmother and now great-grandmother is in the early stages of writing a new novel and is constantly writing poetry. Vander Meer also blogs often about whatever topic catches her eye at the time, and even has a category dedicated to “her town,” Las Vegas.

Vander Meer has written contemporary novels, science-fiction and contemporary stories in addition to poetry and essays. Even though she has written in various styles, the one common theme of her writing is hopefulness. “No matter how dire things may seem, there’s something better, something more. We’re better than we think we are, we’re stronger than we think we are, we have more creativity than we think we have,” Vander Meer said. “I hope when readers read the last page and close the cover of the book, they feel like they’ve had a worthwhile experience, and that they have been uplifted.”