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Saturday, April 14, 2012

An Author's Homage to Librarians

You sit down to write a novel, and soon the characters are crowding around demanding attention with the urgency and self-obsession of 3-year-olds.


A few weeks in, you can no longer shake them. In fact, nothing shuts them up until the manuscript is ripped from your hands at deadline, when you go from total control to utter powerlessness with one click of the Send button.
Goodbye! Good luck!
After that comes the weird silence of the empty nest, with its combination of freedom and loneliness. The joy and relief are offset by the fear of a mean and indifferent world mistreating your defenseless characters. You realize how much you love all of them -- even the bullies and brats, and there's nothing you can do but hope the world will understand and love them too.
The first word that they've arrived safely in the outside world comes with the reviews. Then your friends start reporting sightings of your babies all dressed up in their new covers, snug and comfy on bookstore shelves.
If you're a first-timer, you continually check your Amazon rating and duck in and out of bookstores. You ricochet between elation and devastation, relief and panic. But that's largely a financial issue.
You don't really hear from your characters until readers write to tell you they've spent time with them and that they are still alive on the page.
Fan mail is your "Hi, Ma! We're OK!" And it is wonderful. Even the urgent e-mail begging for a plot summary to help some kid with a book report due in the morning is better than nothing.
Then the sad day comes when you get the "R" letter. The one saying, in essence: We're sorry to inform you that sales stink and we have to remainder your book. That is how the publisher announces his intention to stand your characters at the edge of a ditch, blindfold them and have a firing squad of sales execs and bookkeepers gun them down.
The horror of the "R" letter is mitigated by only one thought: Your babies are safe at the library! Were it not for libraries, there would be no safe harbor for characters and stories, nowhere for them to wait out disasters and economic storms. And were it not for librarians, there would be no one to introduce your characters to new children as the older ones grow up and move on.
And for this, I want to thank librarians, for the heroic work they do and for the many, many lives they save.
xo Amy 
P.S. This piece ran a few years back in the LA Times. Am running it again now as my local libraries and probably yours, too, are endangered. 
Join your Friends of the Library group!!!


4 comments:

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Yea! Comments are back! Three cheers for librarians! Hip, hip...

"Shhh...no talking in the library."

Sincerely,
Dewey D.

Susan Patron said...

It's great to read this again--one of my favorites of your essays, Amy. Yes, librarians are crucial friends of authors; they know and value the body of work, not just what is trendy, selling well, or newly published.

Betty Birney said...

I think of librarians as the "pushers" ... in a good way, of course!

Thanks to those librarians "pushing" my books into the hands of kids today and those librarians who fed me a wonderful diet of books so great that my favorites are all still in print, lo these many **** years!!

nora abukar said...

yaya libarians