I’m generally early for events and meetings, and yesterday was no exception. I was scheduled to take part in a book signing and selling event at the Tucson Festival of Books at 12:15. I arrived at 8:30 in the morning. From the beginning, I knew it was going to be a good day. And it was near perfect.
Before 9:30 I’d met Maya and Klepto. Maya, a beautiful Golden Retriever who was soft as a new cashmere sweater and sweeter than cotton candy. Her owner, a young man, was obviously in love with her. Klepto owned an older guy who told me she inherited her name because she had stolen his heart eight years ago and had never given it back. I was wearing this funky and playful shirt I’d bought at Goodwill and had at least five people during the day comment on how much they liked it. You have to know, a man as old as me rarely gets compliments about his clothing.
I spent the next two hours wandering around the festival. It is the 3rd. largest book fair in the USA. It is an amazing sight to see and such fun to just do nothing but a lot of looking and watching. Authors dressed like Wyatt Earp, beautiful college coeds, purple-haired grandmothers, and dogs, dogs, dogs. Oh yeah, lots and lots of books, and good food.
At noon, I set up my spot, filled with anticipation of the hordes of people who would be eager to buy my books. It was a perfect location, in the hot Tucson sun, and next to another writing friend. The hordes of people turned out to be a slow trickle, but what fun they were! Two of my dearest friends showed up. We chatted like magpies and gave each other hugs. OK, so I didn’t give Brad a hug, but we gave each other a good amount of ribbing.
I met some wonderful people. Some browsing, just enjoying the day. Old folks, younger folks and even a few kids. My friend Wes had advised that I “engage” the visitors. And he was right. I need to point out a significant difference between Wes and myself. Think of a Titan intercontinental missile and that’s Wes, whereas I’m more of a bottle rocket. He could talk to a rock and get it to talk back to him. But I engaged as instructed. I spoke with writers my age, readers of all ages, an author with the greatest tattoo I’d seen in a long while, two college students who want to write and both smarter than I’ll ever dream of being, and a fifteen-year-old girl whose mother bought both of my books and seemed a perfect role model for a would-be writer.
The best moment occurred only after I had returned home. It started as I was packing up everything to leave the festival. A man came up to me, looked at my books and said he wanted to buy both. He also handed me a children’s book – Squim and the Magical Sunflower Seed. It looked well made with nice illustrations and had been written by his brother.. I thanked him for it, and asked no questions, thinking I’d give it to my neighbor’s young kids. When I got home, I looked through it and noticed the line from the author Aaron Patrick Archer. This is what he wrote – “The unique life lesson I learned growing my own garden, one that I hope to pass along through the adventure in this book, is YOU GET BACK WHAT YOU PUT IN.” Very nice words, then I looked at the last page and read what his brother had written about his Aaron. He told how his brother “Archie” had planned to scatter sunflower seeds along the median of roads and interstate highways in order to grow sunflowers for people passing by to enjoy. Then he went to visit his mother in Indiana to help her revitalize the old farmhouse where his mother lived. As harvest was approaching, Archie was diagnosed with cancer and died two years later in 2019. He was 44. The book and the meeting with his brother took on a new and beautiful meaning for me.
Later, I sat in my living room, petting my little dog, Denni. The afternoon ended just as it had started, with a sweet dog. It was a great day. I even sold some books. But what really made it great was meeting people, seeing dear friends, talking about books, and writing, and finding out again about the beauty of family and love.
Go well, David