Today, Feb. 13, 2012, is the publication date of the paperback of The Story of Beautiful Girl – and the day my book tour officially begins! My first event will be tonight at the famous Tattered Cover, at the Historic LoDo location in Denver.
But I’ve already been in Colorado for a few days. As you might have seen in my last blog post, I arrived on Feb. 9 and went to Boulder, where I did a talk the next day for the stellar organization, Via – Mobility for Life. On 2/11, I returned to Denver to prepare for another talk – for Jewish Disabilities Awareness Day.
Although the event itself was on Sun., 2/12, it began for me the night before. After I dropped my bags at my hotel, two key people on the Committee for the event, Sheryl Goodman and Pam Valvano, picked me up for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Over vegetarian dumplings and crispy tofu, they shared their life stories with me, and at times tears were shed. We also discussed the event the next day. The schedule called for me to do a 20-minute keynote about the Jewish values inherent in having a family member with a disability, then a 45-minute breakout session about The Story of Beautiful Girl. This meant that only a handful of people would be able to see the Powerpoint I’d put together for that talk – a handful wouldn’t include Sheryl or Pam.
So when we finished eating, I suggested we go back to my hotel so I could show them the talk. I just wanted to be sure they had the chance to see it. They sat on my hotel bed, I pulled up the Powerpoint, we turned off the hotel lights, and I gave my talk to an audience of two.
Sheryl and Pam were very taken by the talk. They left lamenting that the set-up for the next day wouldn’t allow me to give the talk as my keynote.
The next morning, Sheryl called. To my surprise and delight, she’d convinced the powers that be to rearrange the day so I could do that talk for my keynote! Certainly, I was prepared to do the other talk, but I knew the one about The Story of Beautiful Girl would be just right for that audience.
I’m happy to report that the crowd of about 200, which included families, people with disabilities, and professionals, was just as caught up in my talk as Sheryl and Pam had been. Fortunately, I was allowed a little extra time, so I didn’t have to compress it too much. People smiled as I spoke, and they wiped their eyes. Ten emails were waiting for me by the time I returned to my hotel.
But before then, I turned my break-out session into a Q&A, as there were many attendees who wanted advice, or had questions about my books. I also hugged many people while I signed their copies of The Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding The Bus With My Sister. A friendly, efficient bookseller from Tattered Cover was on hand, and she was a terrific companion through the afternoon. (So was a staff person, John, who was assigned to be my buddy.) We actually sold all but two copies of the paperback books she brought – and then she bought two copies of the hardback herself.
After the event was over, I visited with a bright young woman, Naomi, who I first met years ago. That time, in 2003 or 2004, her father got in touch during one of my Denver trips for Riding The Bus With My Sister. He told me Naomi, who has a sister like my sister, was an aspiring writer. We spoke for only a few minutes in that long-ago visit. Now Naomi is in college, and her father contacted me again. Would I meet with her a second time? Yes. I had time in my schedule, and a place in my heart. We went over to the nearby Whole Foods, had tea, and talked for a good while.
Now I’m getting ready for my first bookstore appearance on the tour – at Tattered Cover. I’ll post about that tomorrow.
For now I’ll just share some of the Jewish values I didn’t get the opportunity to talk about yesterday. (A list of Jewish values that tie in specifically with The Story of Beautiful Girl can be found in the Discussion Guide for Jewish Disability Awareness Month. You can see a pdf of the guide by clicking here.)
Of course, I think of this as a human, rather than just Jewish, list. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone lived according to these values?
Having a family member with a disability has taught me:
- Love thy neighbor as thyself.
- Do good deeds.
- Maintain justice and do what is right.
- Have benevolence and compassion for the suffering, be kind to the needy, be honest and ethical. Kindness is what life requires of you.
- Make the world a better place to live.
- Save one life and you save the world.