Today I’m featuring a guest post from author Heather Vogel Frederick, author of the novel series for tweens, The Mother-Daughter Book Club. Here she talks about the pleasure of connecting with her readers.
Guest Blog Post by Heather Vogel Frederick
When I began writing The Mother-Daughter Book Club a couple of years ago, I had no clue what was in store for me. How could I possibly have guessed that the book would soon be bringing me into the homes and hearts of readers around the country?
It all began as a marketing brainstorm – instead of the expense of a full-blown book tour, I’d offer to visit with book clubs by speakerphone or Skype’s free videoconferencing service. This “virtual” tour was meant to last just a month or two, but it quickly took on a life of its own as invitations flowed in from mother-daughter book clubs around the country. In the ensuing months, I’ve simply been having too much fun to stop the ride and get off.
Is it a time commitment? Sure. But how often do writers get the chance to interact with their readers? Aside from a brief flurry of signings after a book’s initial publication, most authors work in a vacuum. Writing is a solitary pursuit, after all. Talking with one’s audience offers a unique opportunity to enrich and extend the conversation that every book begins between author and reader. I genuinely enjoy spending time with the tween age group I write for. I love their enthusiasm and delight and honesty and curiosity. I love answering their questions and offering encouragement and advice. And these virtual visits are also a very real way for me to give back.
Years ago, when my adolescent self was mooning around Concord, Massachusetts, dreaming of being a writer someday like Louisa May Alcott, one of our town’s most illustrious former residents, my mother managed to wangle an invitation to tea with a local author. How she did this I’ll never know, but I imagine it was in much the same way she managed to wangle an original sketch from Barbara Cooney when the artist was visiting our next-door neighbor one day – she simply marched up to her and asked. When it came to anything that might benefit her daughters, my mother was a fearless wangler.
The author’s name was Elizabeth Baker, and although her books for young readers are sadly no longer in print, the memory of our visit endures. On the appointed afternoon, I showed up on her doorstep, uncharacteristically dressed to the nines (thanks, mom!) and clutching a manuscript in my nervous hands. Mrs. Baker ushered me into her living room, and while I started in on the tea and homemade cookies she’d prepared, she patiently read my story. I waited with bated breath for her response (secretly hoping she’d tell me it was brilliant and should immediately be published, of course). While that didn’t turn out to be the case, Mrs. Baker more than made up for any deflated spirits on my part with generous praise and savvy writing tips. I was thrilled.
After our chat, she gave me a tour of her ultra-modern office, which could only be reached via a catwalk suspended high above her living room. This architectural innovation awed me into a state of near muteness, as did the workspace itself. Her secluded aerie was lined with miles of bookshelves and file cabinets (which were orange, as I recall – cutting edge hip for that decade) and flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking her wooded property. Mrs. Baker was the first person I ever met who worked from home, and I decided then and there that’s what I wanted to do someday as well, book-filled office and all.
Today, my cozy office may not be an architectural marvel, and it may overlook a simple backyard bird feeder instead of a broad expanse of woodland, but it is filled with books and light and the view it offers me is something I doubt Mrs. Baker ever could have imagined. Connected to the world via phone and internet, I can sit in my armchair and be transported to living rooms and family rooms from Anchorage to Atlanta, Nebraska to New York. And as I gaze at my laptop screen during these Skype visits, I see reflected in the faces of my readers echoes of myself at their age, poised on the brink of life and bubbling with possibility. In their hands they often clutch questions for me in much the same nervous, excited way I clutched my manuscript oh-so-many years ago, and my hope as I watch them is that I might prove to be their Mrs. Baker, and inspire some of them the way she inspired me.
Now if someone could only invent a technology for teleporting the yummy-looking cupcakes and other treats that are standard fare at book club meetings, I’d really be able to join the party!
For more information or to invite Heather to talk with your book club via speakerphone or Skype, please visit her website (www.heathervogelfrederick.com).