My mother often laughs after she asks me about my weekends.
“It sounds like you live in a Hallmark movie!” she says.
We live in Sonora, a small town in Northern California, a place full of events. In August, as an Odd Fellow, I handed out snow cones at “Magic of the Night,” while a magician performed illusions a mere block away. The Saturday before Halloween, Odd Fellow members handed out candy to trick-or-treaters on our main street downtown. And there's always Second Saturday, where there's live music and organizations and artisans have tables selling their wares. The Sonora Writing Group is often in attendance for that event. Last night, I sat at our table, comfortable in my down jacket, Gryffindor scarf, black cap, and gloves. When I first sat down at the table, I had felt overdressed and took off most of my outerwear, leaving it on the chair next to me. But, a half hour later, I put it all back on, grateful to have it.
At this type of event, you witness people who don't care, who are walking quickly to get out of the cold, and certainly don't want to stop and tell you about the kind of book that they like to read. But then there was the couple who walked by, carrying a pizza box, and one of my fellow members called out, “How about some pizza?” and the couple stopped and handed the box over.
“It's quite good,” the man said, “Dates, prosciutto, arugula. Enjoy.”
My one regret was I turned down a slice. My compatriots asked me twice. And when I came to my senses and reconsidered, the box was empty. It happens.
In the meantime, a young girl took one look at the cat on the cover of The Loudest Meow and said, “I want that” to her mother. Then she flipped the book over and read the back while her mother read over her shoulder. After that, the girl opened my book and started to read. As an author, that is one of the most precious moments ever. I want to witness it. I want to look away. It feels private. It feels sacred.
“I want it,” the girl repeated, lifting her head up from the book, and the mother nodded, and I asked the girl if she would like me to sign it.
A look of astonishment came over her face. I asked her name. She said it quickly, a multitude of syllables that I could not make out.
“Just your first name,” her mother said to her, and she repeated it to me and spelled it.
These are the things to remember when writing feels difficult, when you question why you do it, the fun you can have with your books at a table out in the world, that look of joy when someone finds your book and it calls to them, the look of amazement on someone's face when you say, “Yes, I wrote these three books.” Once it becomes part of your life, it's easy to forget the achievement. It's just something you do. But then you show up out in the world, and you have moments where other people let you feel the wonder again. It's a way to recharge. It made me really happy to be a writer.