One of the things I love about local bookstores, such as one of my haunts, Longfellow Books in Portland Maine, is that they highlight local work. So when an author who lives nearby comes out with a new book, I can usually find a decent interview in the local press, a signed copy of the book from any of the local stores, and even, on occasion, a reading at said bookstore. The biggest plus however, is discovering works that otherwise would have gone un-noticed by this generation Amazon-er.
Such is the case with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente, a Peaks Island resident who was interviewed in the Portland Press Herald last week. A quick look around the wonderful world of the internet and I learn that this book is the first to win the Andre Norton award before traditional publication – meaning it was an online book when it won the award. As a fledgling writer in a blogger’s world, this gives me hope. It also gives me something to add to my wish list. Having earned praise from Neil Gaiman, Tamora Pierce and Holly Black this is certainly one to look out for.
Having people around locally who are producing works like this is inspiring for me, but also for the kids that I work to support. Lincoln Peirce, creator of Big Nate, recently visited the middle school where my office is based, to talk to the kids for a couple of hours about what he does. This is something they can really relate to, and it’s great for them to be able to connect with someone who does something like this, but locally. Kudos to him for having an incredibly affordable fee.
There’s a lot going on around us that we can take, and teach inspiration from. From my end of things; Stephen King is a Maine resident who makes a habit of giving back to his community; Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are active in the Mount Desert Island community, and will be speaking at a showing of Bull Durham in July; and then there is Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation) teaching film classes to Maine students at The Waterfall Arts Center and The Saltwater Film Society.
Now don’t get me wrong, I won’t be teaching my son that fame is the key to happiness, but I do hope to show him that the things he wants in life aren’t out of reach. Sometimes it amazes me how willing people are to give back to their community. If you look around you might just find your child’s idol willing to come talk at their school. As to the middle school kids that got to meet Lincoln Peirce? I’ll be looking for at least one name in the funny pages ten years from now.