Those of you who follow this blog may notice that my favorite means of selling books is to provide programs to anyone, basically, who is interested in having them. This is a surprise at this stage of life, but I've discovered that preparing programs is not so different from writing columns or blog posts. It may take some time, but it's actually fun to tailor a program to each venue audience.
Recently, I gave three programs in five days. In total, the number attending those venues came to about 300. As a self-published author, those are big numbers because often I’m speaking to a small club with eight to a dozen members or even a handful when it comes to a book club.
While I love giving programs, preparing, traveling to and from, and the time there, when combined with my newspaper job and weekly Monday-night Bible study, church women’s group and other obligations, three different programs in one week kept me on my toes. In fact, on Monday I came home from work and went directly to the couch to crash before I headed to Bible study. Brian said, “You never do that.” That night I did.
I haven't taken time to catch Home Row readers up on that busy week. So before that week fades into full-blown memory, and because the days since them have already piled high, here’s a condensed recap.
Friendship Circle Center, Covington
For several years, Jane Bowers worked for me as a part-time reporter covering school boards and city government. She was efficient and dependable, not to mention pleasant and fun to work with. She even filled in for me when I was off work having Sam.
When Jane dropped off a story (there was no email in the 1980s, folks) and went back out the door, I would look longingly at her walking away while I had to stay and lament, “I want to be Jane Bowers.”
At the time, I had a baby (now age 30) and wanted a break in the action to have a second child.
I loved my career but longed deeply for more home time instead of covering a downtown fire on the Fourth of July and 4-H fairs most nights for two weeks straight in two counties.
The funny thing is, I got to “be Jane Bowers” when I went part-time after Ben was born. By then I was Neighbors Editor at The Courier-TImes in New Castle.
Working part time meant I didn’t make a lot of money (but in small-market journalism, that’s how it goes anyway). I continue to be grateful that I had the opportunity to enjoy what was for me the best of both worlds: being home more, and still having a writing career.
Fast forward to when my novels came out and I reconnected with Jane for the first time since the 1980s. She is now director of the senior center, known as Friendship Circle Center in Covington, her kids are grown with children of their own, and Jane does a beautiful job there.
She had me in as a luncheon speaker in the summer and invited me to address her annual fundraiser at The Beef House almost two weeks ago. There were about 175 people there! It was so well organized that Jane’s event, in content and numbers, would be the envy of event organizers in the big city!
Into the memory bank goes that Sunday-afternoon speaking engagement in The Beef House banquet center – the same place I attended banquets as a reporter and editor in the 1980s. The day provided another example of how these novels have connected me to all eras of life. Thank you again, Jane!
On the way to the event that Sunday morning, I was tooling along ahead of schedule and there on Ind. 32 West, in Jolietville, this cute little building seemed to pop up out of nowhere and the OPEN sign beckoned. The store, a mercantile of sorts with lots of whimsies and uniques, is called Serendipity Sisters 3 and is operated by yes, three sisters: Tammy, Jackie and Sue. The address may be a bit confusing on paper but trust me, it’s in Jolietville on 32 West. The address is 17610 Joliet Road, Suite A, Sheridan, IN 46069. Yet there is a Zionsville city sign just beyond it and you are on 32 deep in the country and near Lebanon as well. Go figure. You can call 317-708-1003.
They do special events for their shoppers and the place is charming and the sister I spoke with is engaging. I left my card and said I'd love to come back and give a program at one of their events. Well, why not?
Spring Valley Quilt Guild, Pendleton
It was an afterthought. Once I had prepared my program and loaded my little red HHR for the presentation three days after the Covington event, I wondered if the Spring Valley Quilt Guild would be interested in seeing my grandmother’s quilt.
My mother gave me the beautiful quilt that was kept folded in our front closet for as long as I can remember with the back facing out. It was never displayed or discussed, even. But it was there, and it was gorgeous. I only know that the quilt, with a floral pattern and puffy petals, came from my grandmother Jobe. I don’t know if she made it, inherited it, or what.
In my house, I kept the quilt high on a closet shelf so as not to tempt Boston terriers, cats, or kids through the years with using it as though it were an ordinary blanket. It is not.
In recent years, I’ve kept it in a separate basket. On the day I was to speak to the quilt guild, I slipped the basket into my car. At the venue, I had two long tables that were mine to fill as I pleased. I placed the basket on one table and decided to open the program telling the quilters that this was my prized quilt and spread it out for decoration before launching into the rest of the program.
Would they yawn at the pattern? Would my quilt be a cliché and even, was I being silly showing it off like that? I was delighted when their reaction included oohs, and ahhs. Then I proceeded with my usual program. What a great group! They were attentive, and had thoughtful and unique answers when asked about their bucket-list dreams.
And it was even show-and-tell night! So I viewed a vintage quilt restored with the use of buttermilk to remove mold. (Who knew?) It was a tip remembered and shared from a grandmother, long ago. Another quilt was made of funeral ribbons, the ribbons on floral arrangements brought to funerals. Again, who knew? I love the waste-not spirit of those who created that quilt and it remains in perfect condition. There was also a display of a cool, contemporary Halloween quilt.
While I signed some books and chatted after the program, I noticed some folks huddled around my grandmother’s quilt, examining the stitches and discussing something. When I went over, to my delight, I was told that the guild is considering using my quilt pattern for their 2017 fundraiser quilt! I am so honored. Guess it was a good thing after all that I brought along the old quilt.
Thank you to my neighbor, Linda Lupton, for inviting me to speak – never having heard me in advance. That was a leap of faith in me, and in my work, and I am grateful.
Henry County Extension Homemakers
The next evening was County Club Night for the Henry County Extension Homemakers. The beautiful Paula Chapman had invited me to be the speaker some months ago. I love these women. They are, what Brian describes as “your people.” I love their values, their humor, their insights and their approach to life and the home.
I was honored to speak to them with a twist on my “Bloom Before You’re Planted” program, telling them that they are already blooming! I shared about my evening with the wonderful Young Moderns Club and how that club is a model of how well a woman’s club can work as it includes lessons and humor and faith and friendship as it has for 53 straight years.
I am grateful to know the Henry County Extension Homemakers, to cover them, to be invited into their world as I have been for all of my 27 years in New Castle, and for their support of my newspaper work and my novels. They are the best.
So there’s a bit of a catch-up of what I’ve been up to lately. My sincere thanks and gratitude to all who made that busy week possible. I am blessed beyond measure.
Here's a tip from the quilt guild. This quilt features fabrics from clothing worn decades ago. There were some mold or mildew stains but guess what took them out? This tip came from the lady in the yellow's memory of a comment by her grandmother. The answer? Buttermilk! BELOW: Left, decorations at Henry County Extension Homemakers County Club Night, Note the flowers made of recycled book pages. At right, Rosalind Richey reads the name of the winner of the fundraiser quilt while Paula Chapman, center, watches. Paula invited me to be the evening speaker and bring my books. Right is Kelsey Meyers, the new Extention Educator, and a Henry County native.