37 Is Just The Right Amount

Kenny Brechner - June 25, 2015

Goldilocks-bedsThanks to Goldilocks we can all grasp the concept of an amount being just right. But knowing what that right amount might be is harder to figure out in advance than it is to recognize after the fact. Money, love, fame, attendees for author events, the exact right amount is always clear retrospectively.  Success and failure clarify everything wonderfully.
So when Pamela Voelkel and I plotted to do some outreach to book people on behalf of a prolific ninth grade writer whose mother was dying of cancer (read the full story here), we weren’t quite sure of our goal. We knew we wanted to make a difference in Kayla’s life. But we didn’t have a clear idea of how much participation was needed or if what we were asking was impossible. The main thing was that, as Pam put it “right now, she’s out of words. Which is why I think she needs a group hug from her fellow authors and booklovers. We can’t rewrite Kayla’s story, but maybe we can give her strength for what she has to face.”

Efforts for outreach were hampered by a sad irony: Pam’s sister suddenly went into hospice in England and Pam had to drop everything to be with her. Fortunately, however, bookstore event planning prepares you for many things in life and I took up the reins. Not being sure what it would take to make the outreach successful, I simply followed my usual “try and round up 500 people so we can have at least 35” author event strategy.
In the short time that our appeal ran, we received 37 letters and packages for Kayla and I’m happy to report that 37 turned out to be just the right amount. I know this because, by an odd chance, Kayla’s teacher happened to be one of my favorite old employees, someone who had worked at the bookstore while she was in college. I hadn’t been aware of that until I received this note:
“How are you doing? It’s been such a long time, and I am sorry that I have not stopped by the shop… I think of you and everyone in the shop quite often.
I’m writing to thank you for all of the support that you have given to one of my favorite students, Kayla (I know that I’m not supposed to have favorites, but she is an exceptional human being). Ever since she received these numerous letters from authors and poets, she has been glowing. She showed me all of the lovely thoughts and good wishes sent to her from all corners of the state and beyond, and she was so surprised and thankful to receive such support. You have given her tremendous hope in a dark time of her life, and I am grateful that community members like you care so much about our precious students.”
The outreach achieved exactly what Pam and I had envisioned. A scared teenage girl has found out what it means to be part of the writing community and been lifted up by the words of some big-hearted strangers all thanks to 35 authors, one bookseller and one librarian who took the time to send a hug to a kid they’d never met. Goldilocks would have appreciated their efforts and so do  I. Thanks from me, from Pam, and from Kayla’s family to all who participated and helped spread the word.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *