Reclaiming My Orphan

Yesterday, I left a copy of my book, Mother Mining, in a Little Free Library, along with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and another book, the title of which I forgot while I was reading it, it was that foggy and unremarkable.

It seems a strange thing to do. Not only am I giving away my book but I feel better giving it away to strangers than to people I know. Make that strangers I won’t ever meet. You see, crowds don’t gather around Little Free Libraries. It’s kind of surreptitious shopping actually. One always feels like one should be broke to be lifting books from people’s yards. But thinking that way defeats the whole community purpose of Little Free Libraries. Take one, leave one. Still I never ‘shop’ for books when I’m driving my Thunderbird. Too many assumptions might be made.

“Can’t that lady afford to buy her books?” Indeed. Bookstores would welcome me. But it’s so much harder to leave my own book in a bookstore. A salesperson might run after me, “Ma’am! Did you forget something? Here’s your book. I saw you come in with it. You should take it with you.”

No, it’s okay, I would say. I have a stack of them.

Just now, I fetched a copy and leafed through it. I love these essays, I thought. These are some of the best things I’ve written. There’s a lot of heartache in there, a little triumph, some humor. It’s honest and some of it is beautiful. I could do worse than having my name on this little book.

And yet when I sold copies to raise money for the local chapter of NAMI, I did it while partly cringing. When a friend invited me to speak to her book club, I took it as her doing a favor for me. After all, ten book club members meant $100 more to donate. Signing copies seemed preposterous, a joke. I couldn’t figure out anything right to say, my signature too small or too large, looping on the page like I was a star.

I couldn’t bring myself to promote the book for its own sake, to try to sell it just as a book and not a fundraising tool. That seemed like asking for a lot of judgement. It was one thing for a person to give me $10 for a charity and get a book in return. It was another for someone to hand me $10 simply for the book. Was it worth $10? Was it worth any dollars? I looked it up just now on Amazon where it’s listed for $6.99 with free shipping if you have Amazon Prime. It’s a really short book. 67 pages. So that’s a little over a dime a page. Is that a little or a lot?

It strikes me that this isn’t a good way of thinking. It strikes me that maybe I should have finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s book so I could have really absorbed the “creative living beyond fear” part. But, alas, I decided her book spoke to someone else, not me.

Good grief.

So that’s first on my list, after making sure I’ve got two oars. (You will have to read yesterday’s post to understand that reference.) I am going to lay claim to my own writing. I am going to make a big dinner and not pretend it was dropped off by neighbors, that it was an accident. My writing’s not an accident. I do it on purpose. It’s mine to own and mine to orphan. I am no longer going to disown my own self. If that makes any sense. Which it does. To me.


5 Comments on “Reclaiming My Orphan

  1. So many things in this that I identify with! I always have to justify it when someone buys a book or compliments writing. Because they’re friends, or family, or just being kind, or whatever I struggle to come up with. I found one of my books at the thrift store once. I wasn’t sure if I should be horrified (it’s so terrible they got rid of it!) or proud (they liked it enough to share!). Like you, I need to figure out a way to own my writing. I’ll watch here for lessons from you as you figure it out!

  2. I edited a book written by men and women who’ve known homelessness. I took copies to every small lending library I could locate in Memphis (some on the map weren’t actually there.) it was an adventure. I did NOT, however, take copies of my own book, for exactly the reason you note. So I very much identified with this post. Thanks for making me focus on this ….again.

    • Is the book you edited available? I do a lot of work with agencies serving people who are homeless. I’d be interested in reading it. About your book – good to know I’m not the only one!

      • Yes. It’s Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness. It was an outgrowth of the weekly writing group I led for 8 years. It’s on Amazon. Kind of a group memoir with 15 authors. Thanks for asking.

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