Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reflections on "A Coach's Life"

One year ago this month, A Coach's Life was launched at a book party in my hometown, Marion, Iowa.

I should have kept a journal.

Now the book is poised for a new launch, dressed up in a new cover and ready to seek a wider audience through a cooperative marketing program with the publisher. Inside it will be essentially the same, although I've been able to fix some minor factual and stylistic errors and to add (and subtract) a few words here and there.

But before pushing ahead, let's look back at what the book has meant to me and to others since it was published.

Friendships.

New friendships. Rekindled friendships. Deepened friendships.

The reaction has been so genuinely friendly and accepting that I can hardly believe it.

We had a terrific launch party, held in an art gallery in old uptown Marion.  The building had held a hardware store in my youth.  I signed about 80 books, and some folks who hadn't seen each other in years sat at tiny tables, catching up and reminiscing.

A few weeks later, my wife and I rode in a red convertible in the Swamp Fox Festival Parade, laughing and waving at all the kids and dogs that lined the parade route. It was good that some dogs came out, because the grand marshal of the parade was a recently retired drug-sniffing dog, being honored for its long service to the town.

We had great turnouts for talks at the Marion Public Library and the Old Settlers' brunch. There were a lot of Hipplemen at both events, and they were laughing at my gags before I could deliver the punchlines. (Book talks in Tipton and Des Moines were less well attended, but no matter, the folks there enjoyed it.)

But the truly wonderful thing was how welcoming people were, how willing to tell me how much they enjoyed the book, and even thanking me for writing it.

I wrote the book out of my love for the times and town of my childhood, and I guess it showed, for I received love in return. Who says you can't go home again? Not me.

Some of the stories I heard about the book and its role in people's lives were heartwarming and heart wrenching--and completely unexpected.

  • Family members took turns reading the book to a dying man in his hospice bed. 
  • A man who bore lifelong anger at the Coach Hipple read the book reluctantly and discovered in it something that led him to forgive the coach and to rid himself of the burden of his resentment.
  • A man with failing eyesight, a hero of my youth, enjoyed hearing the book read to him by his daughters on his birthday.
  • A daughter was moved to seek (and, I believe achieve) a reconciliation with her father.
Many people took the time to write notes of appreciation. "It feels as if you have reached into my head and stolen my memories," wrote one reader.

No book can be called finished just because it is written and published. Readers complete the book by what they bring to it. This book has been blessed with great readers.

-- Dan Kellams

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