The Magic Book Party by Larry Smith
We had organized a "book celebration" for the release of my novel of home place, The Long River Home. Our local writing center was sponsoring the event at Mr. Smith's Coffeehouse (no relation) in Sandusky. Though I was anxious to have the book "out there" where it can at last be read and experienced, I was also nervous about what people would think. I saw it as "my story...my book...my life." It's a family saga set in Ohio's Appalachia with my own Smith family stories as the "back story" for the four generations of the McCalls. My daughter Suzanne, who had directed the copyediting of the book-while mothering new baby Alyssa and three year old Maya-said she would drive over for the event. My wife invited my son and other friends, so it would be a ‘family affair.' Little did any of us know how much so.
When Suzanne and the girls arrive on Saturday, Maya comes through the door with something clutched in her hands and a beaming smile across her pretty face. "I brought my book for the party," she announces. And sure enough what she holds is a book of pages, hand taped by her father Joe. "It's a magic book," she explains, her little girl hair bobbing at her neck. On closer look we see a wave of green squiggly lines across each page.
"Each time she reads it," Suzanne explains, "it's a different book." And once Suzanne and Alyssa are safely inside, we hear the first version...a tale of Maya and her sister Alyssa meeting a bear in the woods and returning home safely. As adoring grandparents we are yet amazed. "How old is she? Not yet four-What a marvel!" As an author and publisher I envision for a moment such a magic book winning the National Book Award.
"Grandpa," she says, "you and me are going to a celebration of our books."
I think for a moment how this might work. "Okay," I say, glad to share the stage with such a cute fellow author. And the next step is to take her down to the basement where we secure the binding with a saddle stapler. "Ah," I ask, "what about a picture of you on the back?"
She smiles up at me.
Holding up my book, I say, "See, Grandpa has his picture on the back of his book."
Her nod says yes and we go into the office where I bring up on the computer a series of photos of her and the other grandchildren. It takes only a moment for her to decide on a professional photo of herself, and like most authors, she chooses one when she was younger-at two and a half. I print it to size and she glue-sticks it onto the back. She runs to show her mother, then we set our books beside each other on the mantel.
After lunch she reads it a second time...this time it is about spiders in the woods. When we ask what she will title it, she announces, "The Book My Dad and Grandpa Helped Me Make." Though I think this an especially apt title, though long, within minutes it has changed to "The Spider Book." We leave it at that.
On the day of the event, because I direct the readings and have to pick up a couple friends, I leave in the first car. A microphone and amp are packed in the trunk along with a large poster of the book and myself. If you've been to one of these book launchings, you know the tension of arriving early and waiting to see who-if anyone-shows up. Gradually writer friends join the crowd, and finally my wife Ann and Suzanne show up with Maya and baby Alyssa. To my surprise my son Brian and his partner Dawn walk in with their baby Zoe. It has truly become a ‘family affair.'
I am introduced by my friend and fellow publisher Rob Smith, and begin reading the book's dedication issuing thank you's to all, including my son who had done the family genealogy work and to my wife who endured my long hours and questions. She read the whole thing with her own questions coupled with encouragement. In my head this event is still all about me, and I feel the tension of their listening and watching in my shoulders and neck. As I read, I begin to disappear into the story I have to tell. I close with the tale of young Lee's awakening to his deep love for place and family, and I look out to my own community of family and friends.
"But wait," I say, "there's another young author in our midst." Everyone looks around, and there on Ann's lap sits smiling Maya in her pretty party dress with her first book clutched in her small hands. "Maya Jean Austerman will now read from her magic book." Her applause tops my own as she takes the little stage area...only slightly trembling as I introduce her then kneel down to hold the microphone near her lips. With my hand on her back, I can feel her heart beating.
She gives the title of the book, "The Spider Book," and when I ask, shows the photo of herself on the back. More applause, and my wife whispers, "She wants to read it." Of course, and yes, in a room full of adult strangers and two babies she knows, Maya reads her first book, softly and slowly, turning the pages, letting the story come and crafting a happy ending for spiders and sisters...and for her family all blessed by her talent and bright spirit. Humbled and happy, I give her a grandfather's kiss, and we all eat cake.
Causes Larry Smith Supports
peace and justice, meditation