Barbara Pollard is the head librarian of the North Central Regional Library branch in my little town in Washington State. The list of things she has done to encourage me as a writer and a person is long indeed. It was at her suggestion, seven years ago, that the library board asked me to join. I’ve learned so much, from how to work in a group to how to speak up for things I believe in to how to plan major events, from working in this position. It’s truly helped me in so many ways.
When I told Barbara that I’d sold my picture book, Bedtime Monster, to Raven Tree Press, she was excited. I shared my progress with the book (it was a long process—here’s part 1 & part 2 if you’re interested), showed her the illustrations as I got them, and brought in the proofs, that she went over thoroughly. She was enthusiastic with every step of the journey. Barbara even went as far as to pull all of the Raven Tree Press books off the shelves and set up a display. When patrons came in she would tell them about me, my publisher, and my forthcoming book—with enthusiasm!
When it was time to celebrate Bedtime Monster’s release, Barbara outlined a fabulous Bedtime Monster party. Even though she was on vacation on the day of the party, she wouldn’t miss it. She cut her vacation short and came back to make monster cupcakes with my kids for the party and to be there to celebrate.
As a part time librarian (I have Barbara to thank for that too), Barbara and I get to go to library trainings from time to time. Barbara likes me to go to the children’s book trainings since she has given me the juvenile section to look after. (Of course, I love that!) We went to see School Library Journal book reviewer, Jonathan Hunt, down at regional headquarters where he talks about his picks for the best children’s books of the year. Needless to say, I was excited. Barbara told me to make sure I brought a copy of Bedtime Monster. Now, bringing my book with me is one thing, but actually telling someone that I’m an author, for me, is a very different thing. I was perfectly happy to carry my little book around in my bag for the day. Obviously, I’m not a very good self-promoter.
Well, Barbara took care of that for me. Before I knew it the head of children’s services had my book in her hand and was reading it in front of me. (Eek!) Then she was telling me how much she loved it. (Squee!) Next she asked if I would get up in front of the rather large group of librarians and Jonathan Hunt and tell them about it. (Gasp!) So, that is how I ended up center stage, doing a terrible job of talking about myself and my book while Jonathan Hunt flipped through the pages of Bedtime Monster, showing everyone the illustrations. Barbara said I did a great job. (She’s very nice.)
Since then, Barbara has encouraged me to do library visits, enabled me to meet and introduce big time children’s book authors like Susan Fletcher and Gordon Korman at the elementary school, has cheered me on through my acquiring an agent and other writing milestones, and always puts the new picture books in my “to checkout” stack.
So today, I’ve had to share the love with Barbara. Thank you, my friend, for everything you’ve done for me!Heather Ayris Burnell is a children’s book author represented by Red Fox Literary. Her book, Bedtime Monster, is published by Raven Tree Press. You can find Heather at her blog, frolickingthoughcyberspace.blogspot.com where she keeps a Monster List of Picture Book Agents, and you can always find her fooling around on Twitter @heatherayris.