“Upon retirement she embarked on a new adventure as an author…” This is when I met Kathy Pooler. I met her “after.” After she raised her kids. After she retired from her career in healthcare. I met Kathy when she was 65, when everything was just beginning for her as a writer.
Kathy passed away on Thursday May 5th after a long illness. (Her full obituary is here.)
When I started my company 12 years ago, an amazing community of writers came together around what I was teaching. One of the first was Kathy. She had been working on writing a memoir for years, and upon retirement was doubling down on her new life. Life as an author.
Kathy joined many of my programs, was an incredible supporter of my work, and that of so many other writers. I know she forged lifelong friendships with the writers she met in my programs. She kept showing up, kept writing, kept connecting.
She often shared my work on her Twitter account, including two in April. In the past decade, she shared 27,400 Tweets, each a word of support or a connection to someone. They remain, as did the good will created in how she supported other writers. She shared her life in her blog, including her post from January: “Still Above Ground and Fighting.” There are hundreds of posts here, where she shares her voice and amplifies others.
That this is part of why we write. Part of why we share. The impact of these actions last long beyond what we can imagine.
Last week I shared a photo of my 5 year old watching Mister Rogers for the first time:
It’s the first show we are letting him watch, and I started with the very first episodes in the series. So here we are in 2022, with my son watching a black and white TV show filmed in 1968. He was immediately immersed in it as if it was happening live right now.
Those rudimentary puppets? You know, the ones where the mouths don’t even move, and some of the voices are obviously Mister Rogers himself? They are totally magical to my son. They are alive.
50+ years later, Mister Rogers message resonates as it did the day it first aired. Even if the show looks dated to adult eyes, to someone who has never experienced it before, it is alive. It is vital. It is a gateway to incredible things. This is what writing does as well. What books do. This is why we create. And why we share.
But that isn’t always easy. Success as a writer is not a straight path. In 2016, I interviewed children’s book author Stacy McAnulty. She recently published her 29th book. I mean, can you imagine that? Just look at some of them:
Her most popular book has more than 2,000 reviews. Many others have hundreds of reviews. In releasing her newest book, she decided to hold a local event:
Sounds amazing right? She prepared to get a crowed: “I was determined to make it work. I sent 160 letters to local educators—every science and English middle school teacher in the county. (Not the cheapest way to communicate. Stamps are $$$)”
Well, the result was what authors have nightmares about. This is the crowd 10 minutes after the event started:
She described her preparation for the event: “This wasn’t just a reading. It was fun trivia that I spent hours creating. I also had prizes and snacks.”
A reader showed up!
“But then, at about 4:15, a young reader came in with his mom and sister. He was clutching a worn copy of THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL. He said that he loved my books. His mom bought him the new book as a birthday gift. The three of them played trivia with me. They got all the prizes and snacks. We had a BLAST! His mom told me he begged to come. She was late because she had to drive carpool and she also had a meeting later in the evening. She almost said no, but her son begged. After it was over, the bookseller said that I made that reader’s day. Maybe but he certainly made mine. To show my appreciation, I bought him a copy of MILLIONAIRES, as a birthday present.“
How did this moment happen? Well, remember all those letters that Stacy sent out? She says, “I asked the young reader how he knew about this event. (The family didn’t come to downtown WS often, and I think it was his first time at the store.) He said his Language Arts teacher told him. He had the letter and swag I’d sent to educators. The teacher connected us.”
So I ask you: was this worth it? Worth it for Stacy to impact the life of one reader with all this effort?
Each of us may answer that differently. But it’s what I think about when I see my son watch a 50+ year old episode of Mister Rogers. And it is what I think about when I consider Kathy Pooler’s books. The work not only remains, but it grows inside of people.
This is why we write. This is why we share.