Sunday, December 26, 2004


I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday, and I'm very grateful for all the terrific e-mail and cards. We had a very peaceful Christmas and are looking forward to a better New Year.

Only one thing bothered me over the last couple of days, and that was the whiny tone of some of the industry end-of-the-year articles I've been reading. Such as: Nonreaders are the most rapidly growing demographic in the publishing industry, according to this article, with 40% of the adult population (of America?) averaging not even one book per year. This is, according to AP, what is making publishers and booksellers feel "grateful just to break even."

I'm not grateful, and I don't buy into this. Neither should you. This is what I'm doing about it:

Each year I go to area schools and give talks to children about writing and what it takes to publish a book. Often I am the first author the kids have ever met. I hand out journals for the kids to use, and explain to them why anyone can be a writer. This past year, I read them the letters I've received from soldiers in Iraq who carried my books with them as they went into combat, what I consider the highest honor I will ever receive as an author.

Each Christmas the first items on my shopping list are books. I probably spend 50% of my gift budget in bookstores, but I regard books as the best gift you can give anyone. Every kid I know gets at least two age-appropriate books from me, and my own children generally have to clear off half a shelf. If there is a movie I know the kids liked, such as Ella Enchanted, I buy the book that inspired it and ask them to read it. For adults, I buy novels or nonfiction books, depending on what I think would be enjoyed. Buying books for other people is fun.

I do buy a lot of books for myself; on the order of about $3K - $5K per year. Before we moved this year, I donated over 5,000 books to Friends of the Library. I share books with friends and other writers as well. One of my writer friends who is probably reading this has my copy of Anne Perry's No Graves As Yet and I'll be sending her the excellent but harrowing sequel, Shoulder the Sky (my Christmas gift to myself.)

I give away 98% of my author copies. I keep three copies of each book I write for me and my kids. Of the rest, half go to friends and family, and half I give away to readers and people who for a variety of reasons can't afford my books. Every Valentine's Day I take a bag of signed books to the nearest hospital and give them to my favorite real-life heroes, the ER staff.

I don't write for children, but any child who writes to me can expect a personal response. If they have questions, I answer them. If they are interested in a writing career, I encourage them. At least a dozen kids I have corresponded with are now in high school and plan to make writing their major in college. Eight of the aspiring writers I've mentored are now published authors. I regret that I can't actively mentor now as I have in years past, which is why I started writing this weblog.

That's what I've done to keep the book alive, writers writing, and the industry in black ink. What are you doing, and what more can you do?

1 comment:

  1. I am the manager of a community center in Louisiana. Do you still do talks at area schools? I would love to see someone like you come here and speak. Reading and writing just don't seem to be as important to kids as they once were, and I find that extremely distressing.


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