There are lots of perks to owning a bookstore: galleys, great customers, introducing kids and adults to wonderful books, getting to work doing something I love, etc. There is another perk that I don’t often talk about and that is the friendships I’ve made over the 17 years with some truly amazing authors and illustrators.
The last perk could not have been better illustrated during January. Elizabeth, who owns the store with me, turned 50 yesterday and many of our author/illustrator friends helped her celebrate by contributing a page, or two (they’re writers after all) to her birthday memory album. This project began in December when I hatched the idea for the album. I contemplated getting Elizabeth a “big” present, as significant birthdays tend to warrant. But I knew “things” were not the way to commemorate this one. The album idea struck me and I ran with it.
Organizing a birthday album is a series of small steps that have to be followed by the birthday deadline. I began by emailing all the possible contributors who know Elizabeth well to get their mailing address. I wanted to make this as easy as possible for everyone by mailing everyone a piece of watercolor paper that folks could use just about any medium on and affix photos. Once I had the address, I mailed the paper with a return, pre-paid Priority mail envelope. Covering the postage seemed like the least I could as thanks for everyone’s thoughtful and in some cases, time-consuming contributions. I got 60 addresses back and then mailed the papers out and kept my fingers crossed.
Every day was a bonanza at the post office. Priority envelopes flooded my mail box and it was truly amazing. The art that these talented people took the time to create for her was breathtaking. Originally, I was going to bind everything in an album of sorts, but once I got back the first drawing I didn’t dare risk do anything but leave the papers loose in a box. Plus, most everything will likely get framed. I should have known that the authors and illustrators would be among the first to mail back their birthday pages: they’re used to deadlines. And these folks just adore Elizabeth and were thrilled to contribute.
Last night, surrounded by family, she slowly unwrapped the album and we all just oohed and ahhed over it. It was really stunning. There were silly things, heartfelt remembrances, and some truly breathtaking art. All in all, I’d say it was a great way celebrate turning 50.