The Weekend in Olustee
Friday was school day. Great weather. Hundreds of kids. School days are an opportunity to get my information to teachers and interest the kids, but I don’t usually sell much. My sales were over the top all three days! But even better than the sales were things that happened.
My earliest customer set the happy tone of the weekend. I knew she was a reader. She walked by, looked at my display and began to gravitate toward my table. She studied the covers, picked up a book, and read the back. Yep. A reader. Her finger rested on my name; she studied every wrinkle in my face. Then, suspiciously, asked, “Is this you?” Yes. “Did you write Cracks in the Ice?” Yes, I did. She threw herself into rapture. “Oh my gosh! That’s my favorite book in all the world. It’s the best book I ever read in my whole entire life!!” (7th grade.) She told me it was in the library of the school she formerly attended. Her new school doesn’t have it; she wished she could find it and read it again. “I couldn’t stop reading it. I couldn’t put it down. Mom said, ‘Riley, it’s time to take your shower,’ and I said, ‘I can’t because I can’t stop reading this book.’ She said I could have an extra 30 minutes if I stopped now, so I did and while I was in the shower she picked it up and started reading then she couldn’t put it down, either, and we had this big pretend fight over the book!” Hidden under the table is the subject of my last blog, the Sample Box. I pulled out Cracks in the Ice, signed it and gave it to her. She was so thrilled. “She loves to read,” her family said. And she recognized my name. What a nice thing.
Here’s the fifth-grade gentleman: “You like to read?” “Oh, yes ma’am.” I launch into my spiel; he listens intently, nodding. At the conclusion I say, “I’m the author of the books and I’d be happy to sign one for you.” His mouth drops open. “You’re an Author?” Yes. “Oh, boy! I always wanted to meet a real author. I never met an author before. My name is Daniel Horowitz and I’m happy to meet you.” (He’s been pumping my hand since the ‘Oh boy!’) “Meeting a real author is on my bucket list! Wait here! I’ll be back with my grandpa.” He took off in a cloud of dust. The author sitting beside me is Dr. Edward Arnoff. He’s 80 years old. He laughs so hard, he nearly falls off his stool. He dries his eyes and says, “Maybe I should get going on a bucket list. You think it might be too late for me?” “Well,” I said, “that probably depends on what you want to put on the list.” He thinks about my answer then starts laughing all over again. Now we’re both out of control. “Get back to work!”
A woman pulled out her wallet and showed me a picture of a sweet little baby. “She’s almost one now,” she said. “Last year we bought an Avery book from you here. You signed it “to Avery.” I told you my daughter was having my first grandchild soon and they were naming her Avery. This is her. My daughter took her Avery book with her into the labor room. It’s special to her.”
Another mom told me her son was 20 now, and in college. Four years ago he bought the Avery books here at Olustee. When she told him he had to get rid of his stuff before he left for college he got rid of piles of books, but he said he needed to keep his Avery and Gunner books. Said he might have kids someday. “They were always his favorite books,” she said.
The customer with the cotton candy stuck in her hair: “Look at her, Mom! She’s a real author!” Many weekends like this one, and I will start to believe that myself.