What I Did On My Summer Vacation, OR, Getting My Books in the Hands of My Readers

by | Sep 22, 2021

This summer has been one of big changes and adventures for me. Mostly, I’ve been packing and sorting through 25 years of accumulated possessions and memories as we prepare to move permanently to coastal NC to be near my parents-in-law and live on the water. Having lived in our coastal home all through Covid we had no use for most of the furnishings we’d left in Illinois.

We had hired a couple who specializes in garage and estate sales to help us empty our house of all the things we didn’t want any more. They tried to work while we were still living there, but finally, they allowed as how they needed us to be gone so they could do their job.

So, we put what we wanted to keep under a tarp in the garage and headed out for a walkabout, going to several sailing regattas, visiting friends and family, for almost three weeks.

All our worldly possessions 

We started by going to Ephraim, WI, for a sailing event we do every year. We get to stay with our friends, Stacey and Ryan, which is the best part of the event! From there we headed across Indiana, Pennsylvania and upstate New York to Saratoga Springs, NY, and then to southern Vermont and the Boston area. (Note to self: if we ever do this circuit again, bring passport and go through southern Canada).

Conveniently, the lake at Saratoga Springs is just five minutes from the Saratoga Springs racetrack where Rachel Alexandra ran her last — perhaps most famous — race (the Woodward Stakes) of her 2009 season. She beat male horses in their full maturity and twice her age, something no other filly has done before or since.

Just across the street from the racetrack is the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, which has a giftshop and carries my book. I used my trip to Saratoga to deliver some extra copies they requested.

It was satisfying to see ALEXANDRA THE GREAT: THE STORY OF THE RECORD-BREAKING FILLY WHO RULED THE RACETRACK, on the shelf with all the other racing books…I wanted to linger, to meet the gift shop guests, talk to them about Rachel Alexandra, but the vibe was off, and so I left.

There was a young girl there with her parents and I could have sworn she wanted a copy of the book and they said no. I wish I had just thought to give one to her!!

Or planned what I wanted to get out of my visit to the gift shop so I could have made more of an impact. I am not a natural-born marketer… but that is something I can work on.  Visualize those royalty checks!!

But also, and more importantly, get my book in the hands of my readers.

 Row of jockey statues…Stonestreet colors on the one in front.

I think often of a story I heard Kwame Alexander, bestselling author of 21 books and recipient of the Newbery award, tell about how in his early days, when he had to self-publish his books, he just gave away his books from the back of his car every chance he got. His goal? To get his books in the hands of his readers.

I intend to borrow/steal that mantra.

I meant to tour the museum, go to the racetrack, maybe bet on a horse or two. But it was hot. And humid, not a good look for upstate New York. We returned to the lake and put up our tent, instead.

After that regatta we went to my family home in Barnard, Vt., and had a handful of days where we hiked, swam and relaxed. I did no writing! But I did give away five copies of my book to my cousin’s twin/tween daughters and their three friends. … “I got my books in the hands of my readers.”

A foggy morning in rural Vt.

Then the following weekend we drove a few hours to the Boston suburb of Sharon, Mass., for the annual Wife-Husband regatta at Lake Massapoag. This is a national event that moves around every year. Luckily this year it coincided with our travel plans very neatly. I’d always wanted to go to this lake because it is the home lake of one of our most visible and active sailors, Greg and Diane Kampf. Massapoag did not disappoint … though the weather was not ideal.

Ben is pointing to the sign, “Diane Kampf Galley”

The normally two-day event turned into a one-day event because Hurricane Henri was threatening to arrive on Sunday. After racing Saturday we packed our boat and our tent and took refuge with our friends (Ryan and Stacey! From Ephraim!) at Stacey’s aunt and uncle’s house on the lake, where we relaxed and ate and relaxed some more until Henri passed.

Continuing the theme of “get my books in the hands of my readers,” I gave our hosts  (Gary and Annie) a copy of “Alexandra the Great,” as well.

Three regattas in three weekends was the most sailing we’d done since well before COVID. The regattas themselves were fun, together with the chance to see friends and family that we hadn’t seen in a long time. And giving away (or selling my books) in three locations was a big bonus. All in all?  A primo summer vacation!

Now. Time to write!

Ben and me at Seneca Falls, site of the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention hosted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony

Alexandra the Great book cover

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