My Time in Billerica
by Rob Watts
As me, Jason Harris and Stacey Longo entered the doors of a tiny little church on a quiet side street in Billerica, MA; we were slightly confused as to where we were having our NEHW book signing. The address was correct, our GPS’s sent us to the same place, yet this wasn’t our usual style of venue to promote ourselves and our work. We called out “hello?” a couple of times but our calls went unanswered. Finally we saw a door to our right which read “No shoes allowed in the studio.” Of course, it only felt right to walk right through the door, shoes on and all. Upon entering the room, the three of us stood with our mouths hanging open, completely dumbfounded by what had laid before us. It was a room full of chairs, Halloween decorations, candles, a podium and a table full of food. A few seconds later, we were happily greeted by Alan Kessler and his wonderful family who were lovingly setting up the room for our arrival. ‘This is too nice for the likes of us’ I thought.
Alan Kessler, a NEHW member mentioned back in August during his first NEHW event in Middletown, Connecticut, that he’d like to contribute to the organization in some way, shape or form. He didn’t want to just be a stagnant member in good standing. He wanted to organize a different type of event for us to participate in; one that would cater more towards us as authors rather than exhibitors at trade shows. It was a nice gesture on Alan’s part, but although his intentions sounded sincere, it was unsure if such an event would take place. Three weeks later, sure enough, Alan had sent word that his event was a go and invited any NEHW member to participate. I am not lying when I say; Alan and his family went above and beyond what we might have expected. In addition to the above mentioned ambiance, Alan invited many of his neighboring book lovers, as well as a reporter from a local Billerica newspaper to cover the event. Every seat in the converted old church (and Alan’s current karate school) was filled with bodies. It was nice that people had come to see us, rather than just stumble upon us.
The event began with the participating author’s conducting a live reading from their books in front of the audience. I read a short story of mine called “Carman.” Tracy Carbone read from her latest book Restitution, followed by Stacey Longo reading from her children’s book Pookie and the Lost and Found Friend. We had a newcomer to the event that day as well. Author Rob Smales joined us for his first event and read a short story of his which is featured in The Ghost is the Machine. Alan, who very well could have shed a little spotlight on himself by reading from his own book A Satan Carol, graciously declined, as the event was about us, not him. We all thought that was a thoughtful and unselfish gesture.
After the readings, the audience was encouraged to visit our table at the back of the room to browse our book selections. It was an overwhelming rush of people at one time, who kindly purchased books and spoke to the authors. Food and beverages were available to the visitors which allowed for more interaction before the day drew to a close. I must really give Alan big thanks for what he and his family did for us that day. He opened up his place of business to us and his friends and gave us a beautiful venue to present our work. We’ll never forget that day.