Well, Saturday was supposed to be the biggest event for A BIRD ON WATER STREET... until the rain came.
In expectation of a large crowd, the Tri-City Business Association, run by Duchess Dailey, set up tents, benches, and a sound system right next to the Blue Line - the state line between Tennessee and Georgia, which runs right through the IGA parking lot. (In the book I call it the parking lot for the Company store.)
It started drizzling as we set up, and just got worse from there. But people showed up anyway in their rain jackets and umbrellas. It's hard to be disappointed when you look out at a crowd of people huddled together, sharing umbrellas, not going anywhere. They were eager to hear the presentation, so I gave them the best I could.
Although, the best part of the presentation wasn't by me at all... Several of the people I interviewed for the book shared a few words about their input. This was the part I was looking forward to the most.
Ken Rush, Director of the Ducktown Basin Museum talked about all the research he helped me with. He also reflected on the fact that the way copper mining was run was cutting-edge for it's time, and how it's perhaps unfair to reflect on old practices with a modern moral sensibility. Ken was a large part of why ABOWS ended up with a more balanced point of view.
Nick Wimberley was the Secretary, Treaurer and Negotiator for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers during the strike in the 1980s, so he talked about the good (and bad) reputation of the union. He also talked about the goals of the union and how it impacted the workers and made their lives better. I met Nick later during the creation of ABOWS, while working on revisions with Little Pickle Press. I had fine-tuned questions that needed answers. Nick was so generous with his time and information, but we'd never met in person until Saturday. I was honored he joined us.
Dale Wagner (Richard Wagner's wife) told the story of "a bird on Water Street" - the true story of when her mother-in-law, Helen McCay, saw that bird on Water Street while bringing lunch to her father at the post office on the day the baby chickens were delivered from Sears/Roebuck catalogue. He wasn't able to come home for lunch because of the peeperly chaos, so she brought it to him. But about half-way down water street, she saw the oddest thing... People came pouring out of their homes and businesses when she yelled "BIRD!" because it had been so long since anybody had seen one. Dale did just as good a job telling the story as her husband did at the Blue Ridge event last Saturday.
Of course, I originally heard the well-known story from Grace Postelle, to whom the book is dedicated. I got chills when she told me the story ten years ago and knew I had my title. Grace is no longer with us, but her sister, Doris Abernathy (to whom the book is also dedicated) has been to almost every launch event. At 87-years-old, she's turned out to be a bigger party animal than I am! (I'm sorry we didn't get a good picture with her at this event.)
Also not pictured is Tom Striker, owner of the Blue Ridge Birdseed Company. (And I'm sorry we didn't get a good shot of him because he was dressed in full bird-watching regalia.) Tom followed Dale's talk with a description of what we think the bird probably was... a Chipping Sparrow. It's an adventurous bird, often first to new territories. Tom even shared a recording of the sparrow's song, which was lovely. How cool is that!?
Jennifer Jabaley, fellow children's book author, also got up and spoke about the writing process and our history together. Jenn's been around since the story's inception, so it's fun to celebrate its publication with her.
Once again Ellen Ward of FoxTale Book Shoppe handled sales, which were not bad considering the size of the audience. Most people bought several copies for friends and family.
But then the rain got really bad, puddles were developing under the speakers, and it seemed like a good time to wrap it up anyhow. I couldn't really feel my fingers to sign books at that point anyhow. We missed the train traffic (two trains were scheduled to come in on the scenic railway that day), but from what we saw, the train traffic seemed to be smaller from the rain too. So, we declared it a wash at that point.
A large group of us headed to lunch (and to get dry and warm) at El Rio - the Mexican restaurant on the corner in downtown Copperhill and our usual gathering spot.
We had enough 'newbies' with us, that afterwards we decided to head up to the Ducktown Basin Museum to learn more about the history behind A BIRD ON WATER STREET. It was fun to see my book in their store and sign a few copies for stock. My cousins who had driven up from Atlanta got to see the reasons I was so fascinated with the area. And even a fellow writing buddy, Janelle Agyeman, an agent from Atlanta, tagged along at the last minute. It ended up being a great time and so fitting. We also got to see the even more improved view of the Burra Burra mine collapse:
All said, and despite the weather, I had a FABULOUS TIME!!!! But the day wasn't over yet...