I’ve been on a bit of a recess during the month of July. Right up until the end of June I’d been reading in classrooms,sending out emails, making phone calls, meeting with independent book store managers and gift shops to place A Berkshire Tale into Rhode Island stores. I wasn’t sure of its reception because RI can be a bit parochial and this was a book about the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, two and a half hours away. To clarify: when I first moved from the city of Pawtucket to the two of South Kingstown, my neighbors couldn’t believe I spent forty-five minutes on Rte.95 traveling to my teaching job every day and forty-five minutes returning home in the evening. When I was an administrator of a rural high school in the western part of the state, I was referred to as “The Lady Principal”. There were only two other women high school principals within the thirty-nine separate school districts making up this tiny state. I was an anomaly. And when I served as an administrator in the seaside town of Portsmouth across Narragansett Bay from South Kingstown, people on the island couldn’t believe there was any reason to go off their island for anything. But that was then and this is now. We’ve made strides and have improved a bit, but there is always a residual underpinning about going too far afield coupled with a quaint satisfaction that there’s no place like your own home town. Welcome to Rhode Island!
I had a lovely surprise awaiting me when I showed up, shiny new book in hand because every single RI independent book store was welcoming and supportive. They are listed on my blog page “Where to Buy A Berkshire Tale”. Here’s a shout out to all of them and to the many other shops and independent book sellers who have welcomed me through their doors in the past few months. They are crucial for the success of self-published writers.
In July, I took a short break from running around and tried to figure out my place in the world of tweets and blogs. I enrolled in WordPress Blogging 101 on-line; made tons of mistakes; acquired lots of new friends along the way; and came out with a passable piece of social media to market my book and my ideas to far-distant places. I have an underlying theme throughout most of my posts: early reading with children is the most important investment a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, older sibling, any adult can make in the life of a child.
This month began the next phase of marketing. Charley and I traveled to the Berkshires to replenish supplies of A Berkshire Tale to the gift shops and stores carrying the book and to deliver copies to other stores interested in consigning. Interest is growing. This weekend I have two book signings at RI Book Stores; one with my fellow ARIA (Association of RI Authors)at Barnes and Noble on Saturday from 1-3PM and another in Mystic, Connecticut at Bank Square Books on Sunday from 1-3PM. And so it starts up again.
But the most fun this week was a visit from Katie. I’d never met Katie. She is my friend Mary’s godchild.When Mary gave her a copy of A Berkshire Tale, she was enthralled her godmother actually knew an author. She wanted to be an author and she really wanted to meet me. She even asked her mother if she could buy a new dress for the occasion. I was humbled. This little girl was looking forward to meeting with me, her very first, real-life author. And I so looked forward to meeting with her.
When she arrived today, we chatted and had lemonade and cookies. Roxie showed up to introduce herself and positioned her gray furry body right in front of Katie. She is hoping to charm her new friend into writing a book about her life as “The Other Cat”. We talked about writing for a while. I explained the importance of blogging for a new author and showed her Around ZuZu’s Barn. Then I asked her a few questions of my own.
Me: What types of books do you prefer to read now that you are going into third grade?
Katie: I like mysteries and books with animals in them. Especially if they’re scary animals like bears. (She doesn’t find the bears in picture books very scary.)
Me: How long have you been reading?
Katie: Since Kindergarten. Before that, people like my Mom and my Auntie Mary read to me. Right now I’m doing summer reading for school. They give a gold medal if you’ve read 25 books. I’ve done 12 so far. I’ll get a medal, but not gold,
Me: Do you enjoy reading alone or together with someone else?
Katie: Both. I like to read by myself and imagine what is going on. I like reading long books with my Mom. She reads some and I read some. We take turns.
Me: When you come upon a big word, one you’re not sure of, what do you usually do?
Katie: I ask about words that are confusing. I think big words are important especially if they describe something. Like enormous, blue eyes instead of just eyes.
Me: Do you enjoy picture books?
Katie: Yes, I read them with my brother Jack. He’s four. He likes picture books because he can follow along. I don’t mind if there’s not a lot of pictures in a book, because I like to imagine the words in my head.
Me: Thank you, Katie. I’ll keep your suggestions in mind for the next ZuZu Books.
And then we all took time out to write invitations to people to read with us. Auntie Mary helped as Katie stamped and decorated her cards and put them away to take home. I inscribed her copy of A Berkshire Tale, wishing her many adventures in her life and lots of happy endings. Finally, ZuZu decided to come out for a short visit because she’d heard that cookies were being eaten. ZuZu loves cookies and happy endings!
I enjoy writing children’s books that can be shared with adults. It’s the main reason I write: to get children and keep children excited about reading and storytelling. Good stories, imagination, pictures and enthusiasm will help accomplish this. And sharing our own love of reading and storytelling with our children throughout their lives will only benefit us all in the long run. We need to make the time for them. It’s an investment we all should make in our busy lives.