As the third publication anniversary of Paddle for a Purpose approaches, my thoughts turn to the difficulties of the past year, which far eclipse any satisfaction we get from reaching a personal benchmark date such as this one. So let me begin by saying that Gene and I send our best to each of you. We hope you and your families are healthy and safe, and that you are weathering this trying time. I’m sure you, as we, have strained to make sense of it all. We pray that you have occasionally been able to see glimmers of empathy, compassion and kindness to sustain your hope. God is at work, even in this, and will use ALL things for the good of those who love him.
When we decided to use the profits from the book to fund the charities we served during our trip, we committed to transparency and communication with you, our readers and friends. With the limitations of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to visit and write about the non-profit organizations I had lined up for Charity Spotlights. I’ll continue those posts as soon as I can. But here are a few book-related thoughts about our third year:
One of the joys of being an author (and a reader) is the chance to attend book festivals. Listening to panels and presentations helps keep the literacy flame alive. One of the things I truly enjoy most is meeting and chatting with other authors and readers who love books as much as I do. This year, both of the festivals I attended were virtual. The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, for which I serve on the Planning Committee, was abbreviated to be a series of Zoom presentations on different dates. Many of the authors who planned to participate were kind enough to postpone their participation until this fall’s festival. This spring was the first year I also attended the Deep Valley Book Festival. It’s held in Minnesota, so the fact that it was virtual this year made it easy for me to join in. I attended many of the presentations and even got a chance to be a participant on a panel about connecting with readers through social media and book clubs. I wouldn’t have missed either virtual festival, but am looking forward to attending in person next time around!
Book clubs are my absolute favorite way to connect! No two conversations are ever the same, as the members of the groups determine the topics and questions. I love that I don’t have to be the center of attention and that I get to meet people with such varied and interesting personalities! (If you are a member of a book club that would enjoy reading Paddle for a Purpose, feel free to get in touch with me.)
Nearly all of my book club meetings this past year were, of course, virtual. But during the summer, Gene and I were invited, by the sister of a past colleague, to stay as a guest in a camper in the driveway of her woodsy home in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Linda and her husband treated us to a socially distanced get-together with friends, berry picking and pontoon boat rides on the lake. The book club met at a local park, where we gave the members and guests a chance to paddle Kupendana afterwards if they wished.
The other notable event of the past year was a chance to do something I’d never been asked to do. I was invited to give the keynote presentation for the annual convention of the Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association. It was originally planned in person, turning virtual out of necessity. Maybe I lucked out, not having to get up in front of an auditorium, but it was actually lots of fun. Together with my writing teacher, Kathie Giorgio and with author Nancy Jorgensen, I also held a breakout session encouraging other teachers to write their own stories. When all was said and done, the convention was well-attended and resulted in new relationships across the state and presentations to smaller, local groups of the WREA.
With all of the virtual presentations, you may think our profits from sales might not have suffered this year. There was a decline, which may have been from the pandemic, or a natural consequence of a book that has turned three. We are thankful, though, to have made a little over $450 this year, which we were able to distribute to the nine organizations that didn’t get a share last year. Our grand total, for the three years so far, is $2,308.40. We really had no idea what to expect when we began this venture. But we have always felt that the meager financial help the book supplies is secondary to the message of kindness and charity that the book offers to those who read its stories. Many of them are YOUR stories. If they are, we thank you for sharing your lives with us as we paddled and for the honor of putting your stories in a memoir to bring encouragement and hope to others.
In closing, I’d like to honor the memory of two very special people, near and dear to us, who have left us this past year to be with Jesus. In March, we lost my mother, Fran, to Alzheimer’s Disease and in November, Gene’s mother, Delores, due to Covid-19. Both were women of strong faith and models of love and kindness. We are forever grateful to have known them and to have had the chance to call them Mom.
Blessings to you, friends,
Barb and Gene