Two Rural Maine Schools With One Author Who Cares

Kenny Brechner - October 28, 2014

Few authors make as much of a difference in their communities as does acclaimed Maine children’s author Cynthia Lord. Aside from being a wonderful writer, and the recipient of many notable awards, including the Newbery Honor for her first book, Rules, Cynthia is also one of the hardest working, most professional writers I know. Cynthia does many full-day school visits around the country, and she provides well developed, interactive programming both in the classroom, and in the auditorium. These visits are part of her professional life, and have a business side to them of course, but Cynthia is more than just a total pro. She cares deeply about young readers and, recognizing that there are rural districts in Maine that lack the resources to bring her in for a full day of school visits she has worked with me on special occasions, volunteering her time to bring a dynamic experience to area children who would never be able to experience it otherwise.

Take this last October 16th for example. Cynthia did a whirlwind tour with me of Jay Elementary School and Livermore Falls Elementary School, doing two presentations in each school, one for kindergarten to second grade and one for third to fifth. This is made possible by the broad age range of her work. She has a delightful picture book series featuring Hot Rod Hamster, along with a Hot Rod Hamster I Can Read book, a charming new chapter book series called the Shelter Pet Squad, to go along with her three terrific middle-grade novels, Rules, Touch Blue, and Half a Chance.

Getting the books out for sale. Myself, that is, some of Cindy’s books, and her alter ego, The Lord coffee mug.

Cynthia in the act of demonstrating her surprising and remarkable superpower while I go over the pre-order checklist to make sure everyone got their books..

In short these four presentations were absolutely electrifying with a whole auditorium full of kids with their arms raised to answer questions and give their input from start to finish, from the K-2 set helping Hot Rod Hamster choose his way through race day or having the grade 3-5 students working on developing a story idea and plot structure for a novel whose protagonist is desperate to have a dog but who has the obstacle of an allergic parent standing in the way.

A K-2 presentation gets under way.

Waiting to have a book signed.


Personalizing a book that came in from home with a special note from the family for Cynthia.


District librarian Cheryl Mills wrote to me afterward. “Thank you so much for bringing Cynthia Lord to our school. Her visit generated LOTS of enthusiasm and excitement. The students fell in love with Cynthia and are still talking about her in conversation!!!! Her books are flying off the library shelves. What a great experience for our kids.”
Before we left for the day, special ed teacher Susan Wiles brought in Scholastic paperback copies of Cynthia’s picture books that she sells to raise funds in an in-school bookstore. Susan has been running the bookstore every Friday for the past eight years. All of the books are $1.00 and she collects box tops in order to continue buying books. The students in her classroom help out every Friday by picking up students in the other classrooms, stocking shelves, taking care of sales, and setting up/taking down the books. Cynthia graciously signed all the copies of her book that the bookstore had and then ran out to her car to donate copies of the Hot Rod Hamster picture books Susan didn’t have!

Cynthia with Susan Wiles. Superpowers indeed!

6 thoughts on “Two Rural Maine Schools With One Author Who Cares

  1. Barbara Ehrentreu

    It’s so wonderful to see someone who really cares about the kids for whom she writes. I know Cynthia personally and she is a very giving person. So happy these children were able to have this experience.

  2. Heather Lyon

    What fun! I wish I could have been there. Can you tell us more about the pre-order process, and the book selling at the events? How many books did you sell? Were they at full price? Does a portion of the proceeds go back to the school? Did the author or the author’s publisher need you to guarantee sales at a certain level? I’d love to do events like these in our area but am scared off by fear of not being able to meet the author’s or publisher’s sales expectations.

    1. Kenny Brechner Post author

      Things can vary quite a bit depending on circumstances but in this particular case there were no sales level guarantees. Twenty five books at a school is considered a rule of thumb minimum I would say. I do take take the pre-ordering process very seriously. Great events should be a success for everyone involved, and that includes the author and the publisher. The main thing is to have a partner at the school who will work with you to make sure that the pre-order process is well handled on the school end. I make the forms myself but distribution and promotion within the school is huge, along with in class and in library book talks and read-alouds to build excitement and help the process. We had around 75 pre-orders and sold another 15 books off the table for this event. This is a great number for a rural district which is not the wealthiest in the United States. Some of the envelopes had all change in them. The success was due to a good job on our side and a great job by Suzanne Cole, the District’s Library Media Specialist. In terms of price I trimmed the price a tiny bit and made them nice round numbers. I don’t do proceeds back in these cases as the school is receiving something wonderful in the form of the visit and there is a good deal of work involved on my end. In the end this event was an unqualified hit because everyone involved benefited from it and the kids had a huge experience.

  3. Donna Gephart

    This post makes me smile for so many reasons. I LOVE that booksellers, authors, teachers and librarians who care make an immeasurable difference in the lives of children. The hard work matters. Enriching the lives of children and inspiring them matters. Thank you, Kenny and Cynthia and everyone else involved in this act of giving . . . that keeps on giving.


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