An audience of one

While I was recently visiting my mother, she brought out an amazing little book. The worn, cracked leather on the cover displayed just one word: Autographs. It was my great-great-aunt’s keepsake book from her late teen years, dating from the 1860’s.

Opening it, I was amazed. Here were the writings of her friends, scrolled in elegant penmanship. All were in poems, many of them original. Beautiful as they were (though often unreadable in their finery), what really stopped me as I flipped through the book were these pictures.

I’ve shown them here in actual size. Think about it. Two of Miss Kate’s friends thought so much of her, they took the time to carefully, painstakingly create these little gems. Their canvases were the pages of one private book. Never to be duplicated. Seen by only a few. Meant for an audience of one.

I’m frequently approached by people who want to know how to get their children’s book ideas published. Not wanting to dissolve their dream, I’m reluctant to tell them how unlikely it is to have an idea end up in print. Besides, why do so many people think that the only validation of an idea is to see it published?

Instead, I tell them that what matters most is to have an audience. Yes, having a book in print is a great way to generate a wide audience. But it’s not the only way. Telling stories to children, posting tales on a website, or simply writing them down and passing them around among friends all bring others into your creative effort.

Numbers don’t matter. Touching someone with your story does. Delighting a loved one with your expression of beauty matters, even if it is only an audience of one.

And for delicious irony, these two artists – whose tiny pieces of personal art were long unseen and forgotten – now have an audience of thousands. Sweet, isn’t it?

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter