Sunday, November 16, 2014

Primary sources = connections

Earlier this month, I participated in a 'local author' event at Elk Lake Elementary. It was organized by the PTO and gave 7 or 8 of us authors a chance to connect with potential readers and others who love stories. Folks who attended the event wandered from table to table, browsing and chatting with the authors. For a couple authors, it was their first public event ever! Exciting, right?

Some of the author tables had only their books on display with the smiling author waiting nearby, ready and eager to discuss their work with anyone. Others had trinkets or manipulatives on display in addition to their books - reasons to engage longer at the table. Now I have no stats to back me up, but I suspect that folks who spend more time interacting with an author's materials are more likely to ask questions about their work, read the jacket back, and possibly buy the book.

Those who stopped at my table typically asked permission to pick up my 1930s camera and then engaged in a Q&A with me about it. The generation who grew up with digital photography is amazed at the mechanics of a camera from that era, the bellows, the hinged back, the spool, advance knob, and counter for the film (film??), and the general bulkiness compared to the cameras they're familiar with. Nothing like holding history in your hands to let you know how totally cool it is.

At other author events, I've also brought a 1938 Sears-Roebuck catalog, copies of photos I got during my research at the March of Dimes, the Library of Congress, and the Stadtarchiv in Munich, photos I took of various Munich settings in the book, and reprints of Nazi propaganda about Hitler Youth and the Tag der deutschen Kunst, the procession at the end of the novel.

Primary sources. Those materials draw people in and invite them to linger and chat. That's the best way I know to open a connection with a reader.

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