Chicago’s annual Printers Row Lit Fest is a red-meat feast of books. For two days bibliomaniacs don their Walgreen’s readers and shuffle from table to table in the two-block long chow-down of book delights. Lone readers never look up, never reply to vendors, never talk to authors. They’re intent on finding the books they need to satisfy an obsession that never ends—to be alone with their books.
Then there are the book lovers who hold vendors hostage yakking about their favorite books and authors. And others with their dogs and friends, happy to be outside talking to neighbors, catching glimpses of book titles they may wander back to.
In 2021, my publisher asked me to stand behind the Tortoise Books display to promote my book, In That Number.
“Oh, you’re the author? What’s it about?” strangers asked.
“It’s a memoir about politics.” I answered.
The publisher interjected, “She was a hippie who worked for Bill Clinton. She met Putin.”
I had no idea how to initiate conversations about my book, never mind promote myself. I signed a few copies, but not many words passed between me and the buyers.
At the 2022 Lit Fest, memoir writing teacher, Beth Finke, organized a program, “Unlocking Memories and Uncovering Stories” with two of her students who had published children’s books. Beth moderated the discussion.
I sat in the front row, soaking up the ethereal juice of a room of twenty-five or so people attracted to children’s literature.
The two presenters, Sharon Rosenblatt Kramer, and Bindy Bitterman, sat on either side of Beth Finke at a table covered by a floor-length black cloth. Beth, a published author herself, introduced her student-authors in her usual lighthearted manner, exuding pride in their accomplishments. She asked questions about how they got started and their publishing processes.
Sharon Kramer’s book, A Time for Bubbe, published by Golden Alley Press, blossomed from one of Beth’s memoir writing prompts, “all the time in the world”. It’s the story of her six-year-old grandson visiting his great-grandmother in her high-rise. He punches all the elevator buttons and she responds, “Don’t worry boychik, we have all the time in the world.”
Bindy Bitterman’s Skiddly Diddly Skat is a self-published cat and mouse story written in limericks, accompanied by a QR audio code.
Halfway through the presentation, I noticed two sets of matching shoes sticking out from the tablecloth, under Sharon and Beth. Did Sharon and Beth coordinate their shoes? They looked like soft-souled, black canvas with round grey tips. The feet moved slightly every few minutes, always in unison. For a second I thought they might be mice. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
Then all at once the tablecloth ruffled and a black Labrador stuck her nose out from under the table, flopped her head down and resumed her subservient posture at Beth’s feet. I’d forgotten that Luna, the seeing eye dog, uses those four black feet with grey pads to lead Beth around town.
Hmm. Would the mystery of the matching shoes make a good children’s story?
- Click here to buy A Time for Bubbe by Sharon Kramer on Amazon.
- Purchase Skiddly Diddly Skat by Bindy Bitterman here
- To purchase Beth Finke’s latest book, Writing Out Loud, click here