I was planning to post about my new favorite picture book—Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Anderson—but Kelly Fineman beat me to it. And I must say: Well done, Kelly! Excellent post. Independent Dames is one of those must-own titles for lovers of American history, women’s history, and young readers everywhere! My kids and I have gone through it numerous times already, continually finding new and fascinating things to shout about.
So now I will share with you a dream moment in any nonfiction writer’s life (or so I’m assuming). Suffice it to say, it was a dream moment for me. And that I have the best job in the world.
Picture this: You have a new book out. There is a launch event planned at your local bookstore—which in this case happens to be the fabulous Flying Pig Bookstore, this year’s recipient of the Lucile Micheels Pannell Award, which celebrates bookstores “that excel at inspiring the interest of young people in books and reading.”
Everything is going swimmingly. You have a lovely crowd, including some local teachers who have been kind enough to come out and support you, some wonderful writers who have done the same, and a healthy number of kids. There are brownies and cookies and juice.
You are well prepared to share some interesting before and after images from the book, talk about writing and working with illustrators, and read your story to the kiddos. It has also been said how nice it was for Hilary Clinton to be so on top of things as to still be running for president during the first few weeks of your book’s debut, which is all about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women’s right to vote.
So, I ask you, what could be better?
How about this: A gentleman and his wife approach you a few minutes before your event is to begin. They definitely look like they have something to say, and I definitely don’t know them. The man is looking at me with a small smile and a twinkle in his eye. The woman says: We heard about your book on the radio (further evidence of the Flying Pig’s Awesomeness!) and had to come. She motions to the man still quietly standing by her side. My husband here is...are you ready for it...Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s...wait for it...GREAT-GREAT GRANDSON.
Now picture me speechless. Hand to my heart. Jaw open.
Me: Seriously? You’re Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s great-great-grandson? Eloquent, no?
He gives me a kind smile, likely wondering how someone who claims to have a relationship with the English language could be so utterly at a loss for words.
Him: Yes, I am.
Me: How?…where?…wow! Nice going, writer-girl!
I do manage to then pull myself together and speak somewhat intelligently to him, saying what an honor it is to meet him and that I am so glad he came (at least I think that’s what I said). We are both tickled pink. Who knew? Meanwhile, Flying Pig co-owner Josie Leavitt beams and giggles mischievously. “I’ve been keeping this secret for a week!” (And I was even in the store buying a book from her two days earlier. Now that’s willpower.)
Ok, so now it’s time for the event to begin, and the pressure’s on, right? I had better make it good. Better know my stuff with Stanton’s family member sitting two feet in front of me. So I do my thing and when I get to an appropriate part of the presentation in which I talk about how the discoveries we make while researching and writing nonfiction continue all throughout the production process and even after the book is published, I look over at him, and say quietly “is it okay?” He nods. I share his identity with the rest of the crowd. They give him a whopping round of applause. There is much kvelling in the room.
Afterward, he approaches with a book for me to sign. I ask, “So, did I pass muster?” There are tears in his eyes. And then in mine.
Nonfiction. The adventure never ends.
Note: For anyone attending ALA, please join us on Monday, June 30, 8-10 am for a session called Research Fuels the Author’s Fire with Tanya Lee Stone, Carole Gorman, and Jacqueline Briggs Martin.