If it takes a village to raise a child, it took all my remaining family in Missouri to help me launch my recently published children’s book, “Noni’s Little Problem,” in its setting of Springfield, Mo. I had no idea how much time and energy a book signing would take. It would have been even harder without the help of the to-do list my editor/publicist prepared for me well in advance of the event on Sept. 13, at the Springfield Library Center.
In early August I had made all the arrangements with the community relations staff member of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. My book hadn’t even been published yet, but I took the risk that it would appear on Amazon the moment copies became available. The library generously assigned to my family and me a community room where we could make a presentation and a space on its concourse for the display/book signing table.
Advance publicity began when I wrote a feature article about the “author returning to her roots to launch her book in her home town and the setting of ‘Noni’s Little Problem.’” My editor obtained a list of media sources in Springfield and sent the article to them with a “zip file” attached to each copy. She advised me to have large, laminated posters made of the book cover and ordered for me a stack of printed postcards with the book cover’s illustration on one side and the testimonials from the back cover on the reverse.
By then I realized that I needed an acceptable airline-sized, wheeled carry-on to contain books, posters, a large white tablecloth, table-top easels, photos, “authors’” pens, sales receipt pads, reproductions of gifts Noni had received in her Christmas stocking, and a cash box.
Miraculously, I found exactly the right carryon with zippered compartments. Then, to be sure I didn’t forget any of the contents, I made an inventory list of them, as well as a list of “Things to Do Before and After” each event.
E-mails and long-distance phone calls flew back and forth among my niece, great-niece and great-great nephew. To save my voice, my great-niece could read aloud Chapter Two of NLP. Yes, my family would be glad for all of us to check out the Library Center the day before Sept. 13. Yes, one niece had a Christmas stocking I could borrow. Yes, we can buy a pot of chrysanthemums as a centerpiece for the book signing table. No, there isn’t a fee the library charges, but a 20 percent contribution to the Library Foundation is welcome.
Finally, on Sept. 11 I flew from BWI to Atlanta. After a three-hour layover and a little over an hour’s flight to Springfield, I joyously greeted my family. The landscape we passed was totally unrecognizable to me, but they did point out the old airport I had departed from in 1948. It sat isolated in a field of weeds, a relic from Chapter One of my life before I moved permanently to the Washington, D.C./Maryland area.
Sept. 13 was sunny and cool. I wore my new blue “book signing dress.” Even before we reached our destination, I was thrilled to see a huge billboard-size sign announcing “The Library Center.” As a former librarian I thought, “Right on! Now that’s the way to lure people to the library.” The Center has a spectacular glass arch entrance, followed by a wide, indoor concourse where we set up my display and book signing table. When we discovered that Room A was filled with tables and chairs, my great-niece Sally said, “Maybe we’d better go check in,” and we headed for the Information Desk.
I finally met Sarah, my community relations staff member. We had communicated with each other so often that we hugged each other. She called for some help moving the chairs and tables in Room A. After we’d set up a display table, guests began arriving, including three of my former classmates in the Greenwood High School’s Class of 1944, the granddaughter of a character in one of my stories and her son, a guest who wants to write children’s books, and others.
After our presentation, we adjourned to the concourse for book signing. The library had sent publicity to the Springfield News-Leader, which printed a short article about my event. That brought a pleasing number of people who visited our table. Notable among these were the new principal of Greenwood, the distinguished lab school of Missouri State University, my alma mater. A man named Bill Bauer came to buy a copy of ‘Noni’s Little Problem’ and to have me sign it. He then presented me with a print of a watercolor his wife had painted of Half-A-Hill, the restaurant/nightclub where Noni and her parents had lived, and a few years later, where Bill and his family lived, as well. I now use this same print at my book signings.
The most moving part of that Saturday was when a mother, her young daughter and the grandmother stopped by and seemed to look longingly at copies of my book. I summarized the story and asked if they would like to buy it. “We don’t have enough money,” and they reached into their pockets, each pulling out single dollar bills.
“Here,” my great-niece told them, handing the child a copy. “I was saving this for someone special. I think that’s you.”