The journey thus far
In the fall of 2017, I had the opportunity to attend my first Southern Festival of Books as a featured author. I was provided a room in Nashville’s Downtown Public Library and given one hour to speak about my recent release, Kept in the Dark. The room was not overly large and I was grateful to fill it with the help of several friends. It was an amazing experience.
Five months later I released my second memoir, Songs from an Imperfect Life, which is a continuation of my previous book. I had hoped to be asked to return to the festival but realized that nothing was guaranteed. However, the invitation did come in the way of an offer to be part of a panel discussion. I was curious to know which authors they would pair me with but as it turned out, I ended up with another solo speaking opportunity.
Because of my previous turnout they offered a larger meeting room which my PR Guru turned down. We both felt it would be better to fill a smaller room than to barely fill a larger space. However, when I arrived that morning to speak, I found that I had indeed been given a larger room. I immediately counted the chairs and began to panic thinking that I would not fill the 100 seats lined in two rows. I should have had faith but many of my friends had already sent their regrets with conflicts in their schedules. And in all honesty, I can’t expect my friends to drop what they’re doing to hear me speak one more time about sexual abuse. By the time I was introduced and stepped to the front of the room, I was pleased that there were sixty people scattered about and only a small fraction were ones that I knew.
I felt good with my talk – finally comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. And when I opened it up for discussion, I found that people had actually listened as they asked insightful questions. In fact, although I finished within my given timeframe, several people stayed after to continue asking me questions until we finally needed to vacate the room for the next speaker.
It was one of those absolutely perfect fall days with a clear, bright blue sky filled with sunlight shining down on me as I walked up to the plaza where they had an author’s tent for signing books. Several of the folks from my talk stopped by for my autograph. And as I was packing up to leave, one young man rushed over hoping that he wasn’t too late. He told me that he had been to my previous talk the year before and was anxious to read my newest book. In fact, several of the strangers who attend this year’s event had read my earlier book. For some reason that blew me away to learn that I had followers.
The young man came by my gallery several weeks later which gave me the opportunity to learn more about him. I was fascinated that he worked for the Department of Tennessee Corrections and that one of his jobs is to read the mail that goes in and out of the jail. It was because of this that he was drawn to sitting in on last year’s event as Kept in the Dark is filled with jailhouse correspondence exchanged between my parents during the 1950s in Miami. I have come to realize that there is no way for me to know everyone who has read my books, been touched by my stories or what effect it might have had on them. But I am grateful for their interest.
In closing, I’d like share with you the wonderful news that I have just received. Songs from an Imperfect life has won two awards from the 2018 Beverly Hills Book Awards. One for LGBT non-fiction and the other for memoir – an incredible honor.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
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