by Lou Ellen Watts
Saturday, Dec. 7 was the big author event in Indiana, the Indiana Historical Society’s Author Fair in Indianapolis. I was so excited that my book, Sleeping in Dixie’s Feather Bed: Growing Up White in the Segregated South was accepted to be in the fair. Even though I had been in several author fairs this past year this was the easiest one to participate in but the most difficult one for which to be accepted. There were so many applicants and so many on the waiting list.
At most fairs, authors load up their books, signs, posters, tablecloths, and anything that might add interest to their exhibit and cart them into the venue. At the IHS all we had to do was just show up, smile and talk. Books were already set on the tables for people to peruse then purchase at the exit door. Sales are made through the I HS Basile History Market.
My wonderful husband and I found the parking lot and made our way into the crowded building. This day was especially packed because everyone brought their children to view the Society’s annual Festival of the Trees and to meet Santa Claus. After our luncheon in the basement, we climbed the stairs to the second floor. As I looked around the room, I was amazed at how many books were exhibited. They were all packed with so many words, commas, periods, quotation marks and other dots and dashes, I asked myself again, “How do we authors really decide which words to use? Which ones make the story wake up?”
Exactly at noon people pushed their way to the tables where we sat waiting to tell our story. My book was in the biography and history section along with books on Mary Hamilton, a history of Purdue, a history of suffragettes, and little-known facts about Indiana, and sports. Men were especially interested in the book by a Pacer player.
I was so thrilled to have been able to send my message on equality and diversity through my books.
People told me many stories about events they saw and experienced earlier in life, stories which concerned racism and inequality. Here I was, an 80-year-old trying to listen to these serious stories, but I did have some laughs. The picture on the cover of my book is of my singing in front of a microphone in high school. Several times when I told people that was me at age 16, the men would smile and say, “You haven’t changed a bit.” I laughed but laughed even louder when one man said in a serious voice, “You sure looked better then.” What else could I say but “True.”
Not only did I get a chance to talk with adults, but I talked with teenagers who aspired to be authors and little children who were tagging along with their parents. I could tell who were grandmothers because they carried little picture books to give for Christmas presents. As 4:00 closing time approached, one lady turned to me and said, “I came today and got free entrance and free parking but I spent over $150 in books.” She laughed then continued, “That doesn’t make sense.” I only said, “Good choice.”
Click back to purchase Lou Ellen’s book on her cultural awakening in a south undergoing change. There are interesting stories in every chapter of life amidst the Ku Klux Klan cross-burnings, blatant discrimination against neighbors down the street, and the segregated schools and movie theatres.