I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t care. To me, whatever consequences I faced were worth being able to stay completely immersed in my book.
In elementary school, recess was my respite. While other kids raced to pick kickball teams, I scrambled to the top of the slide, like a cat seeking the highest perch in a room – my safe, happy place. I’d crack open my book and dissolve into it, looking up only at the very last minute, when classmates had lined up to go back inside.
In seventh grade, I kept a book on the corner of my desk. I would not-so-stealthily open it during class, straining my eyes to read from arm’s length away. I’d become so engrossed in the words, I’d forget to keep glancing up at the teacher to feign attentiveness. Then I’d look up to find her standing beside me, frowning.
At night, I kept a book tucked under my pillow. As soon as it was quiet, I’d open my bedroom door just enough so the one wobbly bathroom light would stream down the hallway and across my pillow – perfectly positioned so I could strain the heck out of my eyes and continue reading.
I was a good kid with a good obsession: reading. I read everything I could and couldn’t wait for my next birthday, because being one year older meant being able to bring home one more library book each visit.
Laura and Mary – oh how I longed to have long braids! Ramona and Beezus – is that what having a little sister would be like? Harriet and her notebook – I could do that! Nancy and her mysteries – why wouldn’t anything interesting happen in our neighborhood?
These were my best friends, and words were like stocking stuffers on Christmas morning. I went everywhere with a book.
And then… life
Over the years, life got in the way and my time spent reading melted into a steady sea of work, sleep, work, sleep. I got married. Had babies. Kept working. Started writing again but without a diet of reading, my words felt weak.
My mom — truly the reason I became such an avid reader — has never waned in her own determination to help children love books. Our home is a veritable library of children’s stories, and her visits are threaded together by sharing her love of books with my children.
But still, I didn’t make the time to read for myself.
Then I had my third baby, who arrived red-faced, screaming and colicky. As I held him around the clock, I rediscovered the escape of a captivating book. Balancing my iPad on a pillow beside me, I again found myself straining to read words in a darkened room so the baby would sleep. I sailed through The Goldfinch like it was a short story.
I’m on Goodreads now. I pore over the morsels of BookBub emails like a scavenger who hasn’t eaten in a week.
An incredible opportunity
Over the summer, I joined Booktrope, a publisher with a decidedly different business model. As a book marketing manager, I’m able to choose the authors whose work I want to promote. I get to read their books and, when I find the ones I adore, my job is to make sure young readers get to read them, too.
Last week, I got to introduce an author to more than 200 students and a steady stream of visitors to a local bookstore.
Chris Minich and his wife, Janelle, live in Snoqualmie, Wa., with their two dogs: Sydney, a cockapoo; and Buddy, a terrier. The dogs’ penchant for mischief inspired Chris’s first book: “Misadventures of Princess Sydney,” launched last year.
Today – Nov. 10, 2015 – is the official launch day of his second book: “Misadventures of Princess Sydney: Have Parentals, Will Travel.”
I’m so proud of how hard Chris has worked on these books, and since we’ve had regular FaceTime and Skype sessions for several months, I thought I knew him pretty well. He’d shared how he struggled in school as a kid. I imagined him sitting somewhere atop a slide, too. Lonely kids tend to recognize one other.
But this weekend, I really got to know Chris, and his story has wedged itself beside the little place in my heart where the Sydney books reside.
Chris was born with vision problems – he even had surgery as a child to correct a lazy eye. He’d never shared that background with me before (and why would he? We weren’t connecting to talk about his vision, after all). But the reality is that this published author still has trouble reading. He takes it all in stride – a character trait of children who grow up with a uniqueness that’s status quo to them.
When you meet Chris, you may notice that his eyes shift back and forth. He explained it so perfectly to the kids he met last week. He said, “It might look like I’m looking back and forth, but really, my eyes are compensating and I see everything exactly the way you do.”
He’s an author whose vision makes it difficult to read. And he writes with such wit and cleverness, I find myself chuckling, snorting and guffawing out loud when I read his stories.
Knowing the obstacles he has overcome to get these stories into print makes me love them even more than I already did – if that’s possible. And I have a newfound understanding of his wife, Janelle’s passion to support him. She knows what he’s capable of producing. She goes to any length to help, including picking up a pencil and illustrating the books herself. They are an amazing team.
Today is special; it’s the release day for the second book in the Princess Sydney series: “Misadventures of Princess Sydney: Have Parentals, Will Travel.”
I’m so proud to introduce you to a beautiful book created by a remarkable team. Happy Release Day!