Community Spirit

Now that Read Around Sedona is over, I wanted to make some final observations about this incredible experience. For nearly two months, Cha’risa’s Gift has been the center of attention all around town. It has been hands down the best experience I have ever had as an author, and I owe such a debt of gratitude to everyone at the Sedona Public Library for choosing Cha’risa’s Gift as this year’s community read. 

When you put your book out there, you have plenty of hopes and dreams for what will happen next. For me, my greatest hope was that my book would find its way to people for whom the story would have meaning.  Even though Cha’risa’s Gift is a work of fiction, I had wanted the book to highlight those things that had made profound and positive changes in my own life. These were things I had learned from my Reiki and meditation practices, and from my time alone in the quiet beauty of the desert. Ultimately, they became those things that I called Cha’risa’s gifts. We talked a lot during Read Around Sedona about what exactly these gifts were. For me, it was the first time I had tried to boil them all down to their essence. Laying them plainly out on paper, this was what emerged.

  • Generosity of spirit: giving to others is the key to personal happiness
  • Humility is the path to personal growth
  • The more we love, the more we heal
  • Anyone can rise above self-doubt and inner darkness to become a guiding light for others

One of the best parts of having my book be part of the community read was that I got to see how my story affected the people reading it. The response was everything I had hoped for when I first published the book. So many people related strongly to the story’s message. People showed up at the book club meetings and my two presentations with a strong desire to tell me how much the book had touched them. Some people wanted to do more than that. One woman reached out to me, sharing some of her own experiences with the Hopi, and offering to accompany me to the Hopi mesas to introduce me to a woman, a family matriarch, that she had befriended there. One of our community members, who had spent some years practicing medicine among the Hopi, approached the library to help organize a drive for hygiene products that we could then deliver to the clinic out on the reservation to help meet the many health needs there. I met her one afternoon when I was in the library and we immediately felt a strong connection. Since then, we have made plans to meet again so she can share more of her Hopi experiences with me. Many people shared titles of books with me, things they felt I should read given my interests, and as a result, my holds list at the library has become quite full! I sold lots of books, signed lots of books, realized I had actual fans, and through it all an incredible feeling grew within me.  Cha’risa’s Gift had become something of note, at least in my own home town.

During the final week of Read Around Sedona, I had an experience that perhaps explains best what this moment felt like for me. I was working the volunteer desk in the Village library when a woman approached the desk with a stack of books to check out. One of the books was Cha’risa’s Gift. Inside my head I was thinking, “this is a moment, I am checking out my own book to a library patron!” I was wondering whether I should share this information with her, when she points to my book and asks me, “Do you know anything about this book?” I looked up at her, the smile that had been growing inside me was now stretching ear to ear. “I wrote it,” I said. Well, now it was her turn to smile and be delightfully surprised. Just then, our librarian, Cheryl, who had witnessed the whole exchange, ordered us both to stay right where we were so she could run and get her camera.

During Read Around Sedona I didn’t always meet people who loved the book. Especially in the book club meetings, I would always meet a few who had wanted something different or something more from the book. But I came to see these conversations as some of the most valuable in this Read Around Sedona experience.   They gave me an impetus to really dig deep to explain my choices in the writing of the book. They also gave me a lot to think about, things I might do differently next time, which will be especially helpful as I move forward with book two.

My library put a lot of faith in me. The choice for this year’s community read ultimately came down to two books. There was mine, a book written by a local, self-published author, and the other was written by a well-known author from a mainstream publishing house. I am incredibly grateful to the library for taking the path less travelled. I think it turned out well for all concerned. The library had excellent attendance and community participation in all the scheduled events, I was brought into the spot light and had a chance to see my book through the eyes of my readers. It was a priceless gift, one that inspired and encouraged me immensely. As for the community, I think we all had a lot of fun. The community read brought us all much closer together. I now know and feel a fond affection for many more people on the library staff; I became a known quantity at our local bookstore, “The Literate Lizard,” where many of my books were also sold during the community read. I met and befriended other presenters, members of my community, other authors, and some of our distinguished war veterans. I feel a much deeper connection to my community now, and I think the reverse is also true, that they feel that same connection to me.

During Read Around Sedona, Natalie made a beautiful drawing of Cha’risa for me to share in my slide presentation. People liked it so much that they wanted to know if they could buy a copy.  Natalie and I printed out a small run, only 18 signed and numbered copies. We still have a few left and I am going to offer them up to you, my faithful blog readers. If you are interested, they are $15.00 each. Just email me or message me here in the comments section and we’ll get it arranged.