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"On The Road"

What’s the point of creating a book if no one gets to read it? Or if only a few folks see it? And what if those who would like to read it can’t afford to buy it and the library doesn’t carry it? (Neither Hennepin County Library nor my home town library wanted my book.) ((My hometown library has since graciously taken a copy. Thank you!))

One possible solution, as mentioned in my previous blog, is searching for Little Free Libraries and distributing books throughout the Twin Cities. But what if you still have several boxes of books waiting at the back of your garage, unopened, unread, longing to find a good home? (Sounds a little like an ad the Humane Society might run for adoptable dogs and cats!)

I need to digress briefly. Many years ago, during the first years of my marriage (56 years in August), we seldom had any what is affectionately called “disposable” income, but we did have ingenuity and skill. Stephen did, anyway. He could fix any car ever built and make the impossible ones run. These skills included buying old vans and transforming them into campers. He’d add a bed board in the back, add a small chest with drawers for storing food items, make storage for a camping stove, cookware, lanterns, add sleeping bags, pillows, and we’d be ready to roll. This was by far the cheapest way to travel. We’d stop at grocery stores as needed, buy the cheapest items we could find, and make all of our own meals. (Corned beef aka bully beef was actually rather tasty if cooked with potatoes.)

Throughout our years together, we have taken many camping trips in a variety of vehicles under various conditions – a canvas tent in a box towed behind the Harley, heavy canvas tents to be assembled on site, the newest, then, lightweight tents whose poles went together with a flip of the wrist (they were bungeed together)—and eventually graduated to an actual motor home we named Ffinn.

Each of these adventures whetted our appetites for more! Skip ahead now to 2023, to two vastly older people, unwilling to sleep on the ground (unable, actually) and still thirsting for adventure. Stephen found a great RV we’ve named Potter (for a sailboat he once yearned for) and we are still traveling.

Summer 2023. Although fall travel is our favorite, we noticed an open space in the summer calendar and hit the road. We have no schedule except to be in New York’s Adirondacks by July 17. Each day we meander, enjoying the scenery, enjoying the people we meet, and keeping an eye out for a campground for the night. This open-ended-let-the-road-take-you-where-it-will is what we both enjoy the most.

(Don’t worry. I’m getting to the salient part of this story.) Throughout our travels, wherever we go, one of our favorite stops is the local library. Small town libraries are wonderful. Often they are the only place in town with a free WiFi signal, although this is changing. We buy used books, and enjoy talking with the librarians, and I especially love seeing how the children’s section is arranged.

This summer’s travels are the same, but this year I have copies of my book, The Key of Idelisia, with us and want to donate it to these libraries. So far Oelsa has a new home in the Marathon, Ontario, Canada library. Each day when we drive into a new town, we keep a sharp eye out for their library in hopes of finding even more places for Oelsa to rest.

As enjoyable as these stops at local libraries are, I have discovered an even more delightful pursuit: finding young readers to give a copy of my book. Free.

Since leaving home June 26, this magical meeting with readers has happened twice. Two girls about 10-years-old have shown up serendipitously, out of the blue to whom I have given a copy of my book. Ontario and Michigan, so far. These opportunities have included delightful conversations with each girl about reading and writing.

As I mentioned earlier, having books sitting in a box in my garage is not a good way for Oelsa’s adventure to end up. When we decided to give my books away, my heart grew. While making money, as many writers will agree (unless you’re J. K. Rowling maybe), is not what propels us to our computers or notebooks. This isn’t what keeps us there hour after hour, alone, struggling to create a story worth having someone else read. Finding the right audience in hopes of entertaining, even enlightening or amusing them is what keeps me, and others, writing.

(Self-publishing is expensive the way I did it. I don’t regret this at all. Any income that still might happen to come my way from it is always welcome.)

What propelled me to begin writing, or more accurately WHO propelled me to create stories were the wonderful, creative, enthusiastic middle grade students I was teaching at the time. The joy of writing stories for middle grade readers, a joy that nearly overwhelms me every time I share ideas and books we love and their writing, well, THIS is where I find constant inspiration and happiness. I love handing my book to any interested child.

We’ll be on the road another 3 weeks,* and we’ll continue to look for libraries, and I will stay open for those chance meetings with young readers. Yesterday we met an incredible girl in a laundromat/drive-thru diner. I met another girl through a chance encounter with her grandmother at a local discount store. We discovered we were staying at the same campground. Although time didn’t allow for as long of a talk as I wished, this shortened conversation helped me realize how important and wonderful it is to grab every such opportunity when it shows up.

These are exactly the children for whom I am writing these stories!

How lucky can a person be to meet her perfect audience and spend time listening to and engaging with them. I am such a lucky duck!

*We are back in MN. During those three weeks, we left THE KEY OF IDELISIA in several more libraries and with several young people across Canada, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and back in MN.

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