The two library systems could not be more different. Lower Merion Library System has six branches and is in the midst of completely renovating all of them. Belmar Public Library is located in a tiny building better known for a famous musical address – 10th Avenue and E Street – than its holdings, which were only computerized this past May.
Still, I had a very similar experience recently in each of them.
In Belmar, I was checking out a picture book, AT THE BOARDWALK, by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman, when the librarian mentioned that the author would be appearing on September 29. I looked at the spine and said, “Oh, it’s from Tiger Tales,” a small press I know and admire for titles like HUGLESS DOUGLASS.
The librarian asked, “Oh? Are you a writer?”
I was gobsmacked. How did he know? Some kind of librarian sixth sense? I wasn’t even wearing my official writer sweatpants! I told him I had a middle grade novel, DEADWOOD, coming out in December. He asked if I would come in and do a reading. Meep.
Then last week I was checking out a stack of books from the brand-spanking-new Junior Room at Ludington Library, fresh from its grand re-opening September 8. The librarian, who I knew from another branch, asked me if I wrote fantasy.
Now, I chat with her about books often, especially the fantasy MG and YA I’m addicted to, and she knows I write. Still, I never even told her my book title. She told me they had a gorgeous new event room and wanted to know if I would come in for a reading. Double meep. I didn’t understand at first that she was asking ME – I thought she was asking if I knew other writers who could do it.
Two libraries, one with many resources and one with few, but both are entirely committed to programming for their communities and – what surprised me — to supporting a local small-press author.
I was thrilled because I planned to work up the courage to ask them sooner or later. I was honored because they asked me first so I didn’t have to. I was – and am – scared to bits because I’m not an actor or a teacher. I have little experience with audiences and less with groups of children larger than two. As a writer I’ve faced hundreds of rejections over the years, but those rejections are private. Meeting readers – or facing empty rooms and NOT meeting them — is public and terrifying. But of course I will do it!
As an introspective, sweatpants-wearing writer, I thought that I was paying it forward just in writing a story that I thought kids would want to read. I hoped my local libraries would support me, but part of my responsibility is to support the libraries that have supported me (I certainly couldn’t afford to buy the hundreds of books I check out each year). As scary as it is, I need to reach the community of young readers in person, not just on the page. There comes a time when every writer has to put on her grown-up pants and just do it.
Kell Andrews writes picture books through middle grade. DEADWOOD (Coming December 15, 2012, Pugalicious Press), is her debut book for young readers. Visit her at kellandrews.com or operationawesome6.blogspot.com. You can find her on Twitter as @kellandrewsPA.