Who is Wesley McNair? I now knew that the distinguished, bespectacled man with the closely clipped white goatee staring from the newspaper page was the Poet Laureate of Maine, and I had already decided I disliked him.
Each year, the “Let’s Talk Books” group at the New Vineyard Library sponsors a local author’s night. This was to be its fifth year. To date we had a local lawyer who writes crime novels; a young man from the university who had written his first young adult fantasy novel; our tired local game warden who has written numerous books based on his adventures as game warden; and a Maine Guide who writes informational books on outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. But this year the Poet Laureate of Maine was coming to this rural town of 750 residents. It is a real honor and would require a little more work to ensure success.
None of this would have come to fruition if a local resident wasn’t friends with his wife and made the initial contact. Not to worry she assured me it’s free. I went ahead and contacted Mr. McNair to set a time and date for his presentation. The state requires me to charge a fee he tells me. Will that be a problem? Oh, no, I tell him (what happened to free I thought) we have funds set aside for such things. What is the fee? Two hundred and fifty dollars he replies. Really? With a more than slight shudder I tell him it’s no problem, but I’m silently thinking I may be paying for this one myself.
Well, the fee issue was eventually worked out thanks to pressure from an influential couple in town, but the publicity issue was something else all together. A write up in the paper, posters saturating the area, and a blog on all the event calendars. This had to be done right. As luck would have it, however, Wesley himself came to our rescue. He provided all the publicity as he wished it to be worded. Well, that saved a lot of work. Maybe I’ll change my opinion after all. Wrong. Well before the event I raced to a local printer and had professional posters made, at no small cost to the library. Then several of us ran around the area making sure all the posters were up in plenty of time. The article went to the paper and we were pleased with the results.
Email number one arrives. Mr. McNair has decided to change his focus and attached is the revised publicity. Are you kidding me? I call my co-chair. I am not going around and confiscating all those posters and going to the expense of making more. Not to worry she says. I’ll make up a word burst with the new information and we’ll glue them to the original posters. Great! We spend an afternoon making up the word bursts, cutting them out, and running around gluing them on to the originals. I contact the newspaper and get a reprint to run. No harm, no foul, just a little extra foot work. Email number two arrives.
Mr. McNair has decided to revamp his presentation to cover more of his journey as a poet. Are you kidding me? Tell him we’re canceling I scream into the phone. My co-chair, a little calmer than myself, says not to worry. She’s used to working with divas. We’ll put up new posters but they’ll be from my computer on 8 x 11 paper. Period. And she did. I’ll be forever grateful for her calm, cool, demeanor. My excitable self was ready to throw Mr. McNair to the curb. I was not looking forward to greeting him. But greet him I did.
A tall, distinguished man, he filled a room. He greeted me, and anyone he spoke with, warmly and humbly. I was questioning my own judgment call. And then he spoke. How can a man speak so softly yet so powerfully. I was mesmerized. I hung on every word. I was a fan.
Afterwards he couldn’t have been more complimentary of the refreshments, the attendance (we actually got 45 residents to show up), and the attention given to detail. He even followed up with a thank you note. I now have decided I misjudged a very talented man who can be a diva if he wants, he’s earned it!!
Diane Johnson is a retired academic advisor and basic skills instructor. She volunteers at her local library where she also hosts a book discussion and a writing for fun group. She has published in several magazines and had a regular column in a local paper for over ten years. Presently she resides in New Vineyard, Maine and Lake Montezuma, Arizona with her husband, cocker spaniel and two Maine coon cats.