A Lesson in Empathy

It’s been a busy year. Part of that "busy" involves the release of a book I wrote. Yes, I wrote a book. Not a PR book. I wrote a children’s book. It’s about adoption. David Bizzaro illustrated it and Pennycandy Books published it and the official release date is November 8th. November is National Adoption Month and I have this strong sense of urgency to capitalize on the month to get this book into the hands of anyone it will benefit. I’ve been running around like mad trying to keep up with it in my spare time, while keeping all the other plates spinning. Fortunately, Krystal, Julie and Ryan have things well under control around the Bumbershoot office. (If only the rest of my life included support from those three!)

Anyway, I had a Colorado media and book tour this past weekend, and I blogged about it for my publisher. Here’s an excerpt so you get the idea of how to-the-minute our schedule really was…

“My first reading was at The Bookworm on Friday at 9:15. I had never heard of this place, but Pennycandy Books set it up and I am so glad they did! The Bookworm is a darling little bookstore on the town square with a sweet-as-can-be staff and a robust children's book section.

Now toddler storytime is always...entertaining. And this was no exception. Wiggly little kids really crack me up, and even with all of their kinetic listening, they still remained engaged through the whole story. (Whew!) I read a handful of other Halloween-related tales, too. And I even sold a book to one of the grandmothers in attendance. Hooray! We said goodbye, bought some books and gifts, and hit the road.

Two hours later, we arrived at Coal Creek Canyon elementary, in the hills somewhere between Golden and Boulder. Principal Livingston is a former Peace Corps volunteer, and runs a pretty peaceful student body. I was lucky to get to read to three different groups: K-2nd; 3rd & 4th graders, and the tony sophisticates of the 5th & 6th grade. What an amazing group! Every reading was meaningful and every group had its own set of questions. I hated leaving, but we had an event to attend that night. It was going to be a late night.

The next morning, I was up at dawn to sit down for an interview with CBS Denver. They have a program that helps match kids in foster care with adoptive families for forever homes. (So if you're looking for a reason to support network TV, there you go!) They were so engaged with the book that they didn't even notice how I got ready for the interview in a Starbucks bathroom! The rest of the day was spent hanging out with friends and stealing chocolate from their kids' Halloween stash.

Saturday night, we checked ourselves into the Westin, ordered room service, and caught up on some sleep in preparation for Sunday. My Sunday reading and signing was at a store called Second Star to the Right Books. Man. This place. I read my book to a full house, outdoors, beneath a tent with quilts and cushions on the ground. I had family and friends come to this precious place from as far as Trinidad and Boulder, and I will remember that forever. My 87-year-old aunt was among them. And, not too shabby, we sold out the store's entire stock of books! Then I hugged, said goodbyes, hugged some more, and we made it to DIA in time to catch our flight.”

Why do I share? Because during all of this, I learned something. What did I learn? Empathy. We are a media relations firm, above all. We push our clients to “be here at this time” “say these words” “wear this outfit” “sit up straight” “not too straight”…and I think I might have forgotten how hard this really is. I am now a Bumbershoot client, so I have a new point of view. As I sat there in the dark, media training myself in the very same Starbucks where I had just brushed my teeth, changed my clothes, and put on my “TV makeup,” I thought about this. What can I do about this process to make life better for my clients? I don’t have the answer yet, but I am working on it. But I swear it won't involve getting dressed in a public bathroom.

But really, while I can realize the urgency to capitalize on National Adoption Month is important if I want to get this book into the hands of anyone it can help, I also need to remember that the book isn’t going to self-destruct on December 1st. People will still read books. And people will still need a tool to talk about adoption. So I am going to ease up on myself, calm down, and maybe treat clients with a little more grace when it comes to interviews, as well.

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