Monday, April 8, 2013

Starting from My Own Beginning

If you planned to go to an author visit at your local library or book store and your two choices were to see:

(a) a local author, discussing her first book about a 20th century woman who spent most of her life in a distant state or 

(b) an author visiting her childhood city, discussing her first book about a 20th century woman who lived in your city, grew up in your state and had family connections throughout your region, 

I think most would choose the latter. With this in mind, I’m focusing my initial marketing efforts in the Cleveland area, with a parallel campaign in the markets near my current home.

Two Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD) columnists I enjoy reading are Connie Schultz and Regina Brett. So they have landed on the top of my target list. Ms. Brett was even nice enough, two years ago, to suggest a Cleveland publisher to me. That publisher is also on my list – I’m always open to allowing second chances! When I crafted my letters to these Clevelanders, I leaned heavily on my Grandpa Joe’s memory, even though I think they will find my grandma’s story compelling purely from their own personal vantage points.

Amazingly enough, the man at the PD who edited my grandma’s obituary and both of my parents’ obituaries knew my grandpa personally. There are still people at the Plain Dealer who were starting out as my grandpa was exiting, who remember him. Columnists for the Plain Dealer should recognize his name. If not, I would highly recommend that they set aside some quality reading time in the PD archives with some of Joseph F. Saunders’ columns, getting to know him and Cleveland in the mid-1900s.

Here is what I hope will pique these Clevelanders’ (and others’) interest:

  • One of the book’s main characters is Joseph F. Saunders who was a reporter, editor and columnist for the PD from 1937-1968.
  • Joe Saunders’ PD columns helped Carl Stokes win his election as the first African-American mayor of a major US city.
  • Esther lived in Cleveland from 1932 to 1969 after escaping a life of near-poverty, moving around rural Ohio as a “Preacher Kid.” Esther married Joe Saunders and moved into the house where he was raised on W 74th Street, the heavily Irish area of Cleveland’s near-West Side.
  • Joe was a graduate of John Carroll University and his father was a Cleveland firefighter who was killed in the line of duty when Joe was 2.
  • Bernice Secrest Pyke (the first woman appointed as a delegate to the DNC – 1920) helped her niece, Esther, land a job in Depression-dimmed Cleveland in 1932. Esther’s job was with the newly-formed Federal Reserve Bank where she was paid in script.
I am hopeful that these writers, as well as the independent bookstores scattered around Cleveland, will be drawn to Esther’s story. My friend, Leslie, made the very true comment that people whose lives are mostly put down as “ordinary” by all accounts, are anything but. I hope others see that in Esther’s story.

One of my personal goals is to interest Rocky River Public Library in an author visit highlighting Preacher Kid. Not only did I spend hundreds of hours in that building in my pre-internet youth, but Esther was a patron as a Rocky River resident, it never stopped being one of my dad’s favorite places to explore, and my mom served on their Board of Trustees for a number of years. If I were given the opportunity to discuss Preacher Kid at the Rocky River Public Library, I would most certainly be visiting in my family’s honor.

The Cleveland area is my starting point. But I’m pulling out my map of Ohio again and charting my course to match my grandma’s journey. And figuring out who I can stay with along the way! Cleveland is all set – thanks Anne!

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