“What is your writer dream? What would you like to see happen with your book?”
I was fairly new to writing and still working on my first draft of Songs of Tarros: Heartsong when I saw the question on Twitter. Many writers answered with being on best-seller lists, seeing fan art produced by their readers, or seeing their books turned into movies.
Ok — I admit I wasn’t even halfway through writing Heartsong but had already cast Rick Cosnett to play Lincon. He could read the label from a soup can and I would be utterly enthralled. But there was something I wanted even more than the opportunity to embarrass myself in front of that sexy, sexy man.
I wanted to see my book in a public library.
Libraries were always special places for me through my childhood and into adulthood, but my regard for libraries became much more profound around the time I started writing.
We were destitute —maybe a step or two above rock-bottom. We were barely holding on to our house, were desperately afraid of injury or illness since we didn’t have any form of health coverage, and our transportation situation was precarious at best. I sat in the social services office, sobbing with relief when the worker approved my application for food stamps, including an emergency disbursement that would allow us to have dinner that night.
In addition to the physical hardship of covering basic needs, poverty has a devastating effect on mental health.
Social events that cost anything were right out. Our car was (still is) held together with a fascinating combination of duct tape, baling twine, and prayer, so we couldn’t do anything outside of our immediate area. We couldn’t afford to take presents to birthday parties. More adventurous activities were declined as well — sorry, kids, but you’re more likely to get hurt at a trampoline park and we can’t afford a hospital bill. We had no choice but to assume the worst would happen and decide if it was worth the risk. It cast a pall over every decision we had to make.
Social media posts about welfare reform and making the “deadbeats” work for their money rankled. Well-meaning advice on how to sell our possessions felt like we were being told we weren’t allowed to enjoy things we already owned. Other family members were going through hard times as well, and we ached that we were not able to offer more than sympathy.
We were Poor. We were Less-than. We were Second-class. Poverty isolated us — physically, emotionally, and socially.
Through it all, the library was our salvation.
Weekly trips to the library became bright spots in our lives. My kids would stalk the aisle, looking for information on potential careers or instructions on new drawing crafts. Borrowing DVDs allowed us to catch up on all the movies we couldn’t afford to see in theaters. Video games and novels provided a temporary respite from our worries.
But the library is so much more than the data contained in its collection. It was a safe, nonjudgemental place to connect with my community.
The lady trying to read a story to her children but one keeps asking unrelated questions and the other starts wandering off down the military history aisle? Been there, sister! Hang tough — you’re doing a great job!
The older gentleman trying to figure out how to print something from a website? Oh, sir, I had that exact same problem with that page.
The boy playing games on the computer? Dude, you have GOT to check out the third level – it’s insane!
The student looking for a quiet corner to work on a paper? Here — let me move my writing over so you have some room at the table.
We didn’t have to exchange words. We didn’t need to sit down for deep heart-to-heart discussions. Shared glances, polite nods, sympathetic smiles were all that was required to connect.
In the middle of a dark time for my family, the library welcomed us and reminded us that we still mattered.
How could I not want to be a part of this? How could I not want to give back in some small way after all the library gave us?
So three years ago, my answer to the writer dream goal question was that my dream was to see my book on the shelf in a public library. And thanks to the library’s Local Author program, that dream is now a reality!
Now to get to work on that movie/tv deal.