Friday, October 16, 2009


Sunset Center and the Harrison Memorial Library in Carmel

As a child, I religiously visited the Harrison Memorial Library, Carmel's own public library. My dad would drop me off with 15 cents, and I would invade the stacks, carefully looking for new books to read. The librarians knew what I was before I did: a reader. They knew I had a tendency to be serious, and generally left me alone to browse unless I had a question or wanted a recommendation.

I'd check out the maximum number of books, then carry the stack out to the pay phone, where I would use the 15 cents to call my father and he would come and pick me up. I'd sit outside on the stone wall waiting, the pile of books tucked under my chin, hating the fact that the tourists who walked by would stop and gawk. Even then, I took scrutiny far too seriously.

Over the years, I found new parts of the library. I went through a phase of checking out anything I could find on Nureyev and Fonteyn. I read poetry. I read history. And then I went off to college.

But I was so happy to be able to come home last night; I'd been invited to read some of my novel to an audience to help raise money for the library. How exciting to speak with board members who had read and enjoyed the book. And I was doubly happy to learn that Carmel's new independent bookstore, River House Books, was going to supply copies for sale. It's been a while since Carmel has had its very own bookstore.

I had decided I wanted to do a little bit more than to just read and answer questions. I thought it might be nice for the audience to see a little bit of what went into the writing of Picking Bones from Ash. So I spent a good part of the last two weeks putting together a little presentation with photos of places that I have been in Japan. I included some history and some culture--a packed little lesson plan that seemed to entertain everyone. For those who had finished the book, I think it was fun to see the actual places described. And for those who were just starting, it was fun to see what adventure lay in store.

To give ambience to the room where I read, my dear friends the Kurasakis used their considerable ikebana skill to arrange flowers and bamboo.

So there I was, reading about Satomi's adventures in the bamboo forest, surrounded by vegetation she might well have seen on her own. It made for dramatic reading!

It was quite a successful night--we sold a record number of books and I saw many people from my childhood and adolescence. My high school English teacher--the one who first told me to try to submit something for publication--was there, as was my beloved third grade teacher, and violin teacher. The evening was a blur, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was so happy to be able to share this accomplishment with so many people who helped me reach the place where I am now.

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