It’s been a little more than a month since my most recent book, Schools of Yesteryear, Volume II, has been published, and what a whirlwind it’s been! Schools of Yesteryear is a coffee table book, complete with the history of 14 one- and two-room schoolhouses that once served the students of Bingham, Paris, & Sheridan Townships in Huron County. I’ve spent the past month marketing my latest creation at book signings hosted by local libraries as well as area farmers’ markets, and I’ve so enjoyed meeting the people – both students and teachers – who once spent their days at these schools!
Marketing is a necessary and important part of the self-publishing process, but for me, it’s also a little unnerving. It’s that self-doubt that most writers seem to possess that rises to the surface, doubt that’s unstoppable and more than a little aggravating. Despite the hours of exhaustive and intense research, despite the grammar and resource books consulted, despite the memorabilia and old photographs resurrected from dusty attics, despite carefully crafted sentences, despite knowing this isn’t the first book I’ve created, still anxiety worms its way into my psyche.
Is this book good enough? Did I miss anything important? Who would even want it? These questions and many more give me pause and make me question why I even do what I do.
On Memorial Day weekend, I was reminded of exactly why it is I do what I do, why preserving history is important to me, and why I will continue in this writer’s life, digging deep to resurrect the history and the memories associated with Huron County’s one-room schoolhouses. My book designer, Julie Purdy, and I made our way to the Port Austin Farmers’ Market well before the crack of dawn to get in line with a multitude of other vendors ready and anxious for a profitable day with the perfect venue to sell our wares. It was a picture-perfect day; the sun was shining, and there was no wind threatening to topple my book displays. I was also joined by my daughters, and time spent with them is always priceless, so it didn’t matter what the day might bring in terms of sales.
By mid-morning, I had sold more books than I had anticipated and had already deemed the day a success. Shortly after, a woman and her daughter approached, and the woman began to flip through the pages of my new schoolhouse book, all the while making small talk and inquiring whether her mother might be in the book since she had attended one of the schoolhouses featured. I assisted her in finding the index, and while we noted that her mother wasn’t in the picture on the page referencing the surname we sought, there was a school photo featured that included many of her aunts and uncles. As the pair exclaimed over this relative and that one, she wondered aloud if her mother had been sick on that particular picture day; it seemed the only plausible reason.
As she rifled through her purse in search of her checkbook, she made an offhand comment, wondering about her father’s school. She couldn’t remember the name of it, but she gave me the approximate location of where the school would have been. From my schoolhouse map included in the book, we were able to determine the name of the school he must have attended: Paris Township’s McMillan School. In retrospect, it would have been quicker to consult the index, and it was then that I did just that, asking her first to share with me her father’s name. To her surprise, not only was his name in the index, there her father was, pictured on page 131.
Since I was internally congratulating myself on clinching the sale, I didn’t initially realize that the woman had grown quiet. It was then that a saw a trail of tears snaking their way down her cheek and escaping the cover of her sunglasses. She was in a mild panic then, saying she didn’t know which one her dad was in the picture. Both her daughter and I again pointed to his name in the caption of the photo. She took her glasses off, and I could see she was in a state of distress. This woman then explained that her tears were hampering her vision. Together, her daughter and I counted the fifth child over in the second row. There he was; there was her dad. As she touched his face, the tears came faster, and in between, she explained he’d just passed away and pictures of him as a child were all but non-existent.
No longer did I care so much about marketing or making a sale. No longer did I antagonize over whether or not my sentences were carefully crafted. No longer did I wonder whether this book was good enough. I knew my writing and my work had touched someone’s life. And that is why I do so enjoy this writer’s life.