in*ten*tion: n. a thing intended; an aim or plan.
ser*en*di*pi*ty: n. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
About six weeks ago, I decided to donate my books to Little Free Libraries. So far, I’ve concentrated on the area where I live, but as opportunities arise -- wherever my job or my life happen to find me -- I’ll expand my geographic reach.
As self-published, “unrepresented” author (i.e., someone without a publisher or agent), book sales and exposure range from slow to non-existent (not complaining, just a fact), so I’ve tried to find ways to spread the word (and my words) any way I can.
So, in early September, I hatched plan. I call it “Freebie Friday,” and each week, I deliver one of my books to a Little Free Library (LFL), take a photo of myself, and post it on social media. My intention (see above definition) is to offer my stories – free of charge – to anyone willing to walk, run, bike or drive to these LFLs and take the book.
I enjoy this exercise, and friends and followers have reacted in a positive way, which makes me feel good. It has also achieved, on some level, its intended goal (again, see above definition). The first stop was just around the corner from my home, and two days after I dropped it off, the book was gone.
Several weeks later, I dropped off a book at the LFL at my friends’ home (Jenny, Paul and Quinn), and several days later, Paul texted to tell me someone had taken it. I was, and remain, tickled to death by this.
Last week, on my way to a meeting, I stopped Lake Mills, Wisconsin, which is about an hour from where live. Before leaving home, I searched the Little Free Library website (littlefreelibrary.org) and found several in Lake Mills. I jotted down two addresses and headed out the door, book in hand.
An hour later, I arrived at the first address, intending to place the book in the small, decorated box (most are built to look like houses or old-timey libraries), take a photo and move on with the rest of my day. But as I arrived at the first location, it just wasn’t quite right. I can’t put my finger on why. There was nothing inherently wrong with the location or the LFL itself; it just didn’t feel like the one.
So, I looked at the next address, and made my way across town, about a five-minute drive. At the end of a street, I saw a beautiful, old home with big trees and a well-designed LFL located near the street. It felt right.
Generally, I jump out of the car, place the book in the LFL, and take a photo all within about 60 seconds. I do this for two reasons. First and foremost, I’m a bit squirrelly and impatient, so I generally hurry through activities that don’t require much thinking or skill.
Second, even though I love to talk about my books and my writing, I usually try to get this done before the LFL owner comes out of the house. (Maybe that’s part of my “squirrelly” nature too.) It’s such a clean and easy operation when I can come and go without any additional attention.
Anyway, as I parked the car in preparation for last week’s delivery, I noticed a woman working in the yard of the home that was, well, “home” to the LFL. While it’s usually my intention to stealthily get in and out of these situations, I knew I should notify her as to what I was doing, since it’s not likely an everyday occurrence that a guy shows up at your house and takes a photo of himself posing with your Little Free Library.
As I got out of the car, I approached her, said a friendly “Good morning” and let her know what I was “up to.” I figured her response would take one of two forms: 1) “Good morning. That sounds fine. I love it when people donate books. Have a nice day” or 2) Blank stare, she goes back to her yard work.
Instead, what I experienced was a wonderful bit of serendipity (see above definition), as I told Lahna (her real name) basically the same story I just told you (only not using as many words).
“Tell me about your book,” she said as she approached. So, I did, and she said it sounded interesting, and that maybe she should grab it and read it before putting it in the LFL. Then, more serendipity. “I’m an author too,” she said, in that dismissive way people like “us” (unknown authors like Lahna and me) tend to throw away such comments to let people know we’re not Joan Didion, Stephen King, J.K. Rowlings or David Sedaris, but rather, “just a person who wrote a book.”
I asked Lahna about her book, and she offered to give me a copy. I told her I’d be happy to buy one, but she would have none of that nonsense. “I have about a dozen left, and I don’t know if I’m going to have more printed,” she said.
Next thing I know, I’m standing in her living, with one of her books in my hand – a gift born out of serendipity – and we’re talking about her book, what drove her to write it.
We stood and talked for about 15 minutes, two unknowns who accidentally – serendipitously – had been brought together because at specific points in our lives, we intentionally decided to write books and followed through on our plans.
As I left her to her yard work and the rest of her day, she asked that I give her an honest opinion of her book. I said I would, and I asked the same of her.
And as I drove off, I couldn’t stop smiling, realizing what great things can happen – those magic moments of serendipity – when we follow through on our intentions. That, to me, is worth any income or attention I get from my writing.
And, that experience has inspired me to seek out those moments of serendipity, and to never take them for granted.
By the way, if you’re interested in Lahna’s book, it’s titled Aunt Laura’s Attic: Short Biographies of Famous People You’ve Never Heard Of. Also, I encourage you to visit and support the Little Free Library in your neighborhood. And if you you’re not familiar with this organization, visit them at littlefreelibrary.org. And who knows? Maybe Freebie Friday will visit a Little Free Library near you one of these days.
© 2022 David R. Haznaw