The writing world is a universe I orbit and admire. Authors, while quite personable and human are still aliens. They carry out their work in obscurity and remain untouchable. Invisible. My discovery of writers conferences was my landing on the moon. Here were beings that made me feel comfortable with the eyeball in the center of my forehead, that orb which preferred to focus on books.
Imagine then the happy day I learned that a couple of authors lived not too far away from my very earthly turf. It was like having a sandbox in my own backyard filled with moon dust. My next move was an easy step rather than a giant leap when I assumed that other book lovers in my realm would be equally enthralled with meeting these creatures who daily touch our lives, change our thoughts and warm our souls with their unseen fingers. So speaking in an earthly tongue, octaves higher than necessary, I invited authors Wanda Dyson and Rita Gerlach to do a book signing at my church in Hagerstown, MD.
Hagerstown is a location close to each of our Maryland homes and is an area that draws a great deal of traffic due to two major interstates converging there. The authors responded in kind, proving their similar fascination with readers. And while I sat there reminding myself that joining author to reader was not really paramount to Michelangelo’s finger of God and finger of man meeting in the middle, my lunching companions expanded the idea from two authors to more living nearby. The final tally reached 17, making the church site not just a new idea, but a necessary one.
I learned in the doing, things which both delighted and disappointed me. Portions of the Christian community were reluctant to participate or support fiction, and major Christian bookstore chains wanted no involvement at all, while the secular community embraced my vision and cheered me on. They were the corner of the world to believe that it was worth doing and that it could be done. The surprising origins of the opposition and support nursed an old frustration; the Christian community should embody all that is excellent and fine and demonstrate courage and vision that is wide and long. When those who have no access to the resources we profess to, outperform our own faithful endeavors it is like beholding a wealthy man living in abject poverty.
When I tired of piping to my own crowd who refused to dance, I took my flute elsewhere.
I linked arms with those who saw what I did: the potential to encourage authors whose occupation is among the loneliest of endeavors and to unite them with admiring readers who value their art and appreciate their work.
The obvious rewards were present the day of the signing in shrieks and signatures and sales. Unseen were additional dividends; the sole radio station to air an interview on the event saw record breaking downloads of the interview for the history of the station, authors were contacted past the event for additional copies of books, interviews and speaking engagements, the non-participating Christian bookstore softened by the success they missed out on, agreed to distribute all the bookmarks and freebies left over from the event, and readers have continued to pester me for another signing in the future.
This amateur effort to sell books outside of the typical arena even with the publishing world fighting to be profitable in its own, proved to be a winning one for generating sales and publicity – news of the event and an interview aired on television, as well as to the nearby mall, and articles appeared in four newspapers from three states.
With my feet firmly planted on terrestrial soil, I say that enthusiasm can accomplish what experience should.
Leah Morgan lives in a small Maryland town in an ancient home that occupies a great deal of her interest even as she occupies it. She and her husband met in high school, attended Bible College together and a few moments shy of a century later married. They share a mutual love for the study of scripture, happen to have the same 3 children, and manage and maintain rental properties as their shared source of income.
Leah has a long time fascination with architecture, art and design, and enjoys writing thank you cards as much as she does her amateur attempts at constructing a novel. Public speaking sets near the top of her list of most enjoyable pursuits. But rumor has it she gets a kick out of speaking privately too. And to herself.