Filled to capacity with connections
It was the hottest day of the year, so far. Anyone with foresight knew this and was either in a floaty on the lake or home watching Hallmark Christmas movies (this would not be me).
I’d practiced my writer talk to Eddie the cat a couple of times, picturing a small crowd — perhaps 10 or 15 supporters, but my heart wasn’t in it. I’m not sure why.
Came the Saturday of my meet and greet at the Medford Barnes & Noble. I asked God to bring the right people.
Katie arranged everything, including nifty posters with my antiquated but flattering photo and cover of “Stone Revival,” my post-World War II novel. They set the scene at the front of the store. I thought the traffic flow would be good. Props consisted of a table, an “author’s chair” and five folding chairs in close proximity.
They were expecting an intimate group. They were right.
Despite a couple of halfhearted attempts to promote the event, my audience would be limited to these five chairs. The space filled to capacity is another way of looking at it.
First came my supportive companion, Lane. Taking the pole position in chair one, he’d taken time off work to be there for me and help carry books.
A woman appeared and chose chair three. She had the loveliest British accent, and I mentioned my book was set in Northern England. Her name was Cynthia, and I learned she was an enthusiastic fan of my column. It was a good beginning.
Cynthia had been an evacuee at the age of 15 during World War II in England and immigrated to America in her 20s to teach school. She had lived through the time of trial I attempted to write about.
As we visited, we learned we’d met 30-plus years ago when I’d worked for the Caldwells as secretary on the Gavel Ranch. She is 92 and still ranching. She began naming people I’d forgotten, and when I named a couple, there they were, fresh in her memory — sharp as the proverbial tack.
Another woman chose chair number five and joined the conversation. This forum, though not what I’d rehearsed, had become a layered lesson for me. I put my notes away.
I wish I could recall her name, but number five’s face shone open and sincere as she announced her age as 96, not to be outdone by the 92-year-old whippersnapper. I nearly fell off my author’s chair.
She shared how others had suggested she write her story, as she intimated hers had been a rugged road. I urged her to do it — to write now.
Friend Lynn arrived to show her support somewhere between ladies three and five, though she had an important event to attend. She took chair number two next to Lane.
Jackie occupied seat number four. It was as if each seat had been assigned. No one else showed up. Jackie had read “Stone Revival” on Kindle and wanted to buy the book for her — get this — 95-year-old father, who loved reading.
She shared her take on my story and how Glory, the main character, had overcome personal obstacles. She described it with such zeal that she reminded me to believe in my craft again.
Her father, Jack, had served during World War II and was browsing around the store. I asked her to please bring him by, so she did. I told him Dad had been a radio operator on Guam. Jack said he’d likely talked to him because he was a radio man on ships, and Guam was a regular communication hub for him. I’m telling you . . .
About then, I started checking for wings on these folks.
I sensed I should start work on the next book, but also that I might have more time to write than I’d imagined. These three nonagenarians were mentally alert and enjoyed sharing valuable insights and memories. Though I’d perceived my launch into the writing world as delayed, it might be the perfect time.
I sold four books that day, but that’s not the point. Numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at email@example.com.