During this time when America leads the world in COVID-19 cases, our economy has tanked, our postal service has been compromised, our democracy has been assaulted by our own government, and many countries have banned Americans from entering, I am appreciating more than ever the opportunities I have to escape reality.
Prior to this bizarre political pandemic era I’m living in, I enjoyed having the freedom to explore everything this world has to offer. I’ve been fortunate to have a husband who supports all my goals and was willing to take our family on long road trips every summer to explore new parts of the country. We’ve seen every state in the U.S. with our kids, and I was hoping to start exploring new countries. Traveling in parts of America is an option right now, but I have a compromised immune system and don’t want to risk exposure to COVID-19. So that we can get out of the house while minimizing contact with people, my husband and I have started doing mini road trips to explore the nighttime world. We’ve been taking late night trips to new grocery stores; to walk on trails with nobody else but fireflies and frogs; and to visit libraries – Little Free Libraries.
I took my first trip to a Little Free Library last month to donate my When Life Was Still trilogy. I used to think that the word “Free” in Little Free Library meant that you didn’t have to pay anything for the books they contain. But I discovered it also means that I get set free from my sense of pandemic captivity with each trip I take to a Little Library.
As I opened that first Little Free Library door, an abundance of memories from previous trips to libraries came flooding to the front of my mind: getting my first library card so I could frequently visit the local library with my mom; visiting the bookmobile that stopped a couple miles down the road from my childhood home; finding research materials for college term papers; browsing Jefferson’s personal book collection in the Library of Congress with my husband; taking my kids to Story Hour at the local library … Those memories pushed aside my chronic feeling of being in coronavirus confinement. I don’t know if it was the smell of used books in the Little Free Library or the array of titles that were new to me that summoned those memories. It might have been the act of opening the Little Free Library door. When I was a child, my heart would race with excitement as I opened a library door and crossed the threshold. I became giddy because I knew I was about to find a new book to open and enter a new world to explore.
My heart still races with anticipation when I go to a library because I know it’s filled with new ideas and places I’ve yet to discover. And I’m starting to wonder if I have an undiagnosed neurological condition because I always impulsively skip back to my car after placing my trilogy in a Little Free Library. I can’t help it. It’s a happy-skip that my legs spontaneously do. That might be the way my body reacts when my brain floods it with happiness. I’m happy when I’m in the presence of books. I’m happy for the person who will become the new owner of my trilogy that’s tied with a ribbon so that they take the whole set home to enjoy. I’m happy about the idea that, when they’re done reading, they might return the books to a Little Free Library for someone else to enjoy. Either I skip when I’m extremely happy and just haven’t felt skip-level happiness in a long time (probably almost four years)—or maybe the cover of darkness just allows me to be my dorky self.
I do know for a fact that I’m thrilled over the idea of being able to provide new worlds for readers to enter. It’s a dream come true for this nerdy little girl who wanted to eventually read every book in my small town library. The building was tiny, so it seemed like a realistic goal to me at the time. And it was a dream of mine to someday indulge in writing stories and see my books on library shelves. I never wanted to become rich or famous by becoming an author. However, I did want to pay forward the act of kindness that other writers did for me when they created worlds for me to escape to. Because other people’s words shaped how I thought and interacted with the world, I wanted to give people the opportunity to escape to something new through my words. I wanted my words to positively affect the lives of others and be available in a public collection long after I’m gone. That’s my idea of heaven—literally eternal life for something created with my thoughts. I was sure that someday having my words placed in a collection that people can access indefinitely would be a satisfying feeling. I didn’t necessarily think I was a great writer, but I knew I had a good imagination that was strong enough to carry people to other places like my favorite authors did.
Because I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to create worlds for other readers to explore, my heart has been skipping with joy ever since I found out that my books have been accepted onto some of Minnesota’s Public Library shelves. They’re also included in the online Indie Minnesota collection. https://library.biblioboard.com/anthology-collection/b62da41a-594a-49ed-a21e-b0837fc1fcee/c67559d9-e1cd-4e77-82ee-3be80f285ed3
My original plans for marketing my trilogy were curtailed by the pandemic and the economy. I was disappointed that my words probably wouldn’t reach the minds of all the people who would enjoy them—or might need them right now. The protagonists in my historical fiction struggle with a less than ideal American society in the same way that those of us who yearn for social equality for all are struggling with the backward motion that autocratic leadership has brought to our country. So, knowing that my books are free and accessible to anyone who has a Minnesota library card or a Minnesota-based internet provider brings me extreme joy—the Oprah Winfrey free car giveaway to her audience members kind of joy. I can’t give gifts that compete with the Kelly Blue Book value of a car, but I can provide a vehicle for escaping reality with my books. I know that I have a lot of blog followers from around the world who might feel left out as they read this post because they don’t live in Minnesota. If you are unable to afford my trilogy and would like to journey through the worlds I have created, just send me an email at WhenLifeWasStill@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send an e-book copy of the trilogy your way.
If you need an escape from reality right now, I encourage you to visit some kind of library. If you live in Minnesota and take a trip to a Little Free Library, you might find my trilogy waiting to take you away. Even if you don’t see my books in there, feel free to skip after your visit to the library.
© 2020 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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