Yesterday, I stood before the family, friends, and new readers who would now be friends gathered in the Shallow Well United Church of Christ fellowship building for my book launch. I was ready to end the anticipation and step forward and present the book I’d worked on for the past ten years.
“It’s only fitting that I come back here to my home community to launch my first book,” I said. “This is the place where my faith started and my dreams began.”
With a brief overview of the scope of the book I started the readings with a portion of the preface. I looked out over the group, seated at the round tables, making it like a family reunion– ready to share a meal of fellowship. The woman who introduced me, LaVerne was the one who’d invited me to meet with the Women’s Fellowship group. Those women made the food for the reception and were now sitting in the audience. Seeing their faces reminded me of the solid support of my home community.
I wanted the group to travel with me on that first solo journey to Sedona, to get the feel of being in the car as I drove from the dessert to the plateau to the rocky hills of my destination city. And once there, I wanted them to breathe in the fresh air of freedom when I was released to travel alone. By hearing about the significance of that place, my readers would understand why my book cover by Madrid designer, Rocio Martin Osuna had the right tone for my story.
I’d spent most of Thursday picking out the portions of the book that I’d read; it was harder than I thought. When you know intimately all 213 pages it’s hard to choose what will fit within an hour presentation, how to reveal enough to pique interest but not to give away all of the story, what will resonate with that particular audience. I had been praying for those who would come to the launch. It was so gratifying to look out and see those people I’d prayed for, the ‘people in my path.’
When I was telling about the journey and stopping to read portions of the book, I had to keep focused even though I wanted to acknowledge family who’d just come in. From the corner of my eye, I recognized my Aunt Ann making her way with her walker over to a chair. She is 92 and came with her daughter, my cousin, Laurie. They, along with other Smith family cousins, represented the deep and loving relationships that had been nurtured by my Grandma Smith. While Mama wasn’t able to be there, her family had been and after the reading when I hugged my Aunt Ann, she said, “We’re so proud of you, honey.”
There were also cousins from the Rosser side of my family, providing support over the years and on this day of celebration. Last week when I was attending to the final details of the reception, I practically had my cousin, Sandra on speed dial. She came through with providing table cloths and decorations, putting everything together with an artistic eye. She purchased the first copy of the memoir and encouraged me when my energy was low with her enthusiasm saying, “I just can’t put the book down. I can’t believe how that Tara treated you!”
Besides my family, there were friends from my writing group that surprised me by making the drive to Sanford to be part of the celebration. They have critiqued the story many times and if it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would have completed the book. Bill, Ted, and Jill all fellow writers know the long hours it takes and one day I’ll be attending their book signings. I wish I had a picture of us together but did get this one with Jill.
My friend, Delores was there. She’s in the book– the one I go to the Blue Ridge Mountains with right after starting chemo. We’ve been texting this week about the launch and whether or not she’d be able to come. Her husband is going through chemo now and she has seldom been away from his side. I told her to fix a plate for him, in case he had the appetite for any of those sweet and savory foods.
I don’t want to leave out other folks who came, because each one has a special place in my heart and I’m deeply grateful. But I need to stop now, and get this post out there. I had to rush with this one, so there’s not enough time to go back and polish it up.
My friend, Mary who is a poet and the leader of the Write to Heal Group that I participated in at Waverly Hematology/Oncology, told me when she bought her book, “I feel like I know you now, seeing you in this place.”
And she was right. Surrounded by my friends and family in my childhood community, she was seeing me where I’m most at home. It was fitting that I returned there to launch.
Here are more pictures! Thanks to Everyone for making my day so special!