The life of an author is often lonely–we work in private, staring at computer screens, occasionally “socializing” by way of electronic media.
And then there are the field trips. Like the one I took last weekend, to Kent County, Delaware (home to Dover, Delaware.)
Let me start at the beginning…
Many months ago, I received email from Hilary Welliver, the Library Director of the Kent County Public Library. She invited me to be the keynote speaker at the library’s bit Authors and Audiences event, the culmination of a week of National Library Week activities. In preparation for my presentation, the Kent County librarians led several weeks of discussion groups, all focused on my first novel, the traditional fantasy The Glasswrights’ Apprentice.
I’ve been looking forward to the big event for ages. I used the occasion to ask (beg, plead) with my publisher for new covers, and they obliged, offering up this streamlined version of Apprentice:
I prepared a speech and practiced it in front of my mirror. I packed up some goodies to give away to the libraries in the system.
And on Friday afternoon, Mark and I hit the road. We relied on the Waze app to find the supposedly fastest route to Dover. Alas, I’m not at all convinced it gave us the speediest directions–suffice to say we stayed on surface streets all the way through DC, including several roads I’ve never been on in all the years I’ve lived here. Fortunately, we didn’t have any programming scheduled for Friday evening!
Once we arrived in Dover (having driven over the Bay Bridge and through various not-yet-planted fields), we checked into our perfectly serviceable room at the Hilton Garden Inn. After a bit of online reconnaissance, we headed downtown to find a cool, local place for dinner.
Alas, downtown Dover has not yet recovered from the 2008 economic crash. The majority of storefronts were boarded up, which made for a very sad several blocks. (We saw a lot of small towns like that when we took “getaway weekends” in 2009 and 2010; most places have recovered better than Dover has.) We did find a branch of the public library, which was being used by a number of patrons. And we saw some beautiful Federalist government buildings.
And we ate an incredible dinner at 33 West. (I had two appetizers–a baked macaroni and cheese enriched with pancetta and pulled pork and roasted Brussels sprouts with sliced almonds, green apple and balsamic glaze. The plate of sprouts was gigantic–and I could eat them every single night!)
The next day, we slept in, had a fun breakfast at the Countrie Eatery (yep, that’s the way they spelled it!) and headed to the library. The event actually served as a Book Festival for the region–there were about two dozen local authors, each with a table and displays of books published in every genre under the sun (memoir, inspirational, mystery, romance, health and fitness…)
The Friends of the Library provided tables full of refreshments (including cake! and fresh strawberries!) The librarians treated me like royalty, ensconcing me in the staff break room in case I needed to rest before the event (!) All the librarians came by to tell me about the discussion groups they’d led, and everyone was full of energy and enthusiasm.
I got a chance to talk with each of the local authors–there were so many wonderful personal stories about how people had come to write! And then, at 2:00, I was finally on stage. I spoke for about 45 minutes, telling the story of how I came to be published and how my career has changed with the development of self-publishing. I took questions for about 20 minutes–some from folks who had read Apprentice in the discussion groups, some from younger writers who are just starting their careers, etc. And then I sat at the lovely table above, signing books and talking to readers for another 45 minutes or so.
Kent County Public certainly knows how to host an event. And like so many libraries in small and depressed communities, it wears a large number of hats, serving children and adults in a variety of ways.
I still have the vase of purple tulips on the counter in the kitchen. And I have memories to make me smile for a very long time!