An Emporia State University alumnus returned to town for the launch of his new poetry book, “Driving Together,” Saturday.

Tyler Robert Sheldon stopped by Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore Saturday afternoon to read several selections from “Driving Together,” talk to old friends and sign books.

“From about 2012 onward, I’ve seen this as a second home,” he said of Emporia.

He got to know and married his wife, Alex, in Peter Pan Park, where the ashes of his twin brother were scattered, he said, and discovered his passion for writing while studying under Kansas Poet Laureate Kevin Rabas, an ESU professor.

“Everything about Emporia coalesced to be the writing environment for this book launch,” Sheldon said.

About two-thirds of the book is about Kansas or about Emporia, many of them having been written before he moved to Louisiana in 2016, where his wife is pursuing a graduate degree from Louisiana State University.

Sheldon chose to publish “Driving Together” through Meadowlark Books, a local press owned by Tracy Million Simmons. The press focuses on Midwestern stories and poetry.

“We want to celebrate our own culture,” she said.

Rabas turned out to the reading Saturday, saying it was “a joy” to see his former student publishing poetry. A member of the board of Meadowlark, he said he was pleased to see the press printing a former Emporian.

“I’m so happy for him,” Rabas said. “He’s been writing diligently for the past few years and it’s wonderful to be a part of his new book launch.”

He said he found Saturday’s event inspiring.

“I always love to come to a poetry reading because I get inspired to write and make art on my own,” Rabas said. “I think that happens to everybody that comes out to this sort of artistic event; by being a part of someone else’s art, you make your own art.”

Sheldon’s former ESU classmate Lindsey Bartlett attended the reading as well.

“I just wanted to hear him read,” she said. “I never had before. I really admire his work.”

Owner of Ellen Plumb’s Marcia Lawrence said she tries to hold events such as this on a regular basis and provide a wide variety of books and experiences for her customers.

“We try to give precedence to local and regional authors and, of course, we’ve known Tyler for a long time, and his father a poet before him,” she said. “We’re always thrilled when we can bring people back who are from the area. It’s so nice to see someone celebrating a place where he spent such a significant portion of his life.”

Sheldon’s books can be purchased at the local store, at 1122 Commercial St. or from Meadowlark Books directly at www.meadowlark-books.com.

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