While visiting schools last week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I asked students why authors have book launches. Their answers varied. “Because they like parties,” they answered, and “Well, why not?” My answer: because creating a book is not easy, and when it finally publishes, authors need to celebrate that milestone. Last week in the North Carolina “triangle” area, I did just that—I celebrated the publication of POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON!
On Monday we held our first celebration at the Richardson B. Harris Library in Raleigh. It was an enthusiastic crowd that set the tone for the week. The highlight of the evening was having a descendant of Poet Horton in attendance.
On Tuesday, I presented to an excited student body at Northside Elementary in Chapel Hill. That evening, I had dinner with the publisher of a future book (written by Eloise Greenfield) and was also joined by Dr. Pauletta Bracy, a national children’s literature dynamo! Dr. Gulla, who runs Alazar Press, presented me with two books written and signed by Ashley Bryan, who also publishes with them. It was a wonderful evening.
Wednesday, I spoke at two schools, Perry Harrison Elementary and Horton Middle School, named after Poet Horton. In the evening, McIntyre’s Books hosted a second launch celebration, which was a standing room only event! McIntyre’s is a charming bookstore in the center of the scenic and celebrated Fearrington Village. My literary agent was present, as well as many family members of Poet Horton. And we sold out of the books—a good problem to have!
On Thursday I was interviewed on the local radio station, WUNC. Bob Anthony, a curator at the North Carolina Collection’s Wilson’s Library, joined me. It was a great interview; I spoke about the process and inspiration behind creating the book, while Bob filled in all the details about Horton and history in North Carolina, as related to the poet and Chapel Hill.
Thursday evening was like a dream come true. When I first conceived to write Horton’s story, I wanted to be able to return to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to launch the book. That happened on Thursday night! And the people in the community turned out too. A highlight was handing a copy of the book to the UNC-Chapel Hill researchers who helped me to write the story, as well as a curator at the Hope Plantation, who offered hours of help. Again, books sold out.
Friday’s school visit was at Alderman Elementary on Greenboro, N.C., where I spoke alongside author Kelly Starling Lyons. After that, I was free for the day, and my wife joined me for afternoon fun! We hung out at that wonderful Fearrington Village hotel. We ride bikes, ate fancy food, and hobnobbed with fancy people.
Saturday’s event at the Chapel Hill Public library was the biggest event of the week by far, and again, we sold out of books. I spoke for an half hour then the youth poetry group, The Sacrificial Poets (who are just amazing) performed their poetry. They spoke about freedom and inspiring children and they were just great. We also launched the poetry guide created by the Sacrificial Poets.
#TatePoetLaunch was an unforgettable week, which happened as a result of my winning the SCBWI Launch Grant!