People's Stories

I know I've been lax in posting lately. Sometime life gets going and it's hard to slow down and get back to routine.

Last night, Tracy and I went to the local used bookstore in search of a copy of Stephen King's 11/22/63, the title we're reading this month in our book club. We were highly focused. looking in the Horror section, the Fiction section, even the Stephen King section. When we finally figured out that they didn't have any copies, we readjusted our "mission" and just began perusing the shelves. For fun. Like you do.

Tracy wandered off to non-fiction, and I wandered, well, everywhere. Unless I'm looking for a specific title, I like to peruse the shelves and see what grabs my attention. I'm always pulling down books that have clear, protective wrappers on them. I figure, someone cared about this book enough to preserve the cover, the least I can do is look at it.

Last night the book I pulled off the shelf was titled Paper Crown, by Tom Hawkins. It's a slight book, maybe 80 pages, printed in 1989. Short stories. And tucked in the inside cover, between the end sheet and fly leaf, was a typed letter. Typed. On nice paper. Not written on a computer and printed out on a dot matrix (as would have been done in 1989).

It read:

714 XXXXX Street
Raleigh, N.C. 27607
8 October 1989

Mrs. J.E. Nicholls
Canton, N.C. 28716

Dear Mrs. Nicholls,

You do not know me, but I am a student or former student of your son-in-law Fred Chappell.  This weekend I was at a writers gathering where Fred read a wonderful poem about your devotion to reading.

It happens that after many years of trying, I have recently published a collection of short stories some of which were written in 1972 and 1973 when I was a student in Fred's seminar.

Every writer's great hope is that he or she will somehow reach truly interested and dedicated readers. Fred's poem about your was so moving, that I felt compelled to send you a copy of my book. Now, I realize that these stories may or may not be to your taste.  At least they are quite short, so you may sample a few to decide.  But I would be greatly honored if you would accept my book, and I hope that you find at least one or two stories in it that you enjoy.

I hope that you are about to be treated to one of those wonderful fall displays of color in the North Carolina Mountains.

Warmest Regards

Tom Hawkins

[hand written] P.S. My very best to Susan and Fred!

I immediately pulled out my smart phone (like you do) and looked up Mr. Tom Hawkins, author, of Raleigh, North Carolina and found many mentions of "Tom Hawkins" but only one mention of our guy - a poem, titled Describe Your Grief, published in the July 2008 issue of Sun Magazine. The author bio read 

TOM HAWKINS is the author of a short-story collection called Paper Crown (BkMk Press). He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

I was holding, in my hands, the only book he'd published. This writer, who was continuing to write when, it seems, very few were looking. This writer, who, some 20 years after his book of short stories, had a poem published in the Sun. 

I had to buy it. 

I'd like to think that I'll actually read it (it is, after all, only 80 pages), but I can't make any promises. There's a tall stack of books next to my night stand waiting for the right mood to hit me, and I already have the story forming of Tom Hawkins of Raleigh, North Carolina. 

The next step is very risky. To read his stories and not like them would ruin the story I'm currently writing (figuratively speaking). So, his book will sit with the others next to my bed. And someday, maybe I'll feel like taking the risk and either expanding on Mr. Tom Hawkins' story, or allowing it to fade into the woodwork of my own story.

If you're interested, there are copies out there.

Labels: , ,