If you've been following my Facebook feed or Reedy Press' Facebook feed or you happened to be anywhere near the Botanical Heights neighborhood in St. Louis yesterday afternoon, you might already know that a huge fire destroyed my publisher's warehouse.
It was a five alarm fire and the photographs are devastating. Thankfully, everyone got out safely, but all of the books were destroyed. I was told that the fire was still burning as of this morning.
Silly, I guess, but the thought of a fire at the warehouse never crossed my mind. It's so unexpected. So random. Over 200,000 books were lost. It's like Fahrenheit 451. Some kind of weird, dystopian scenario.
Obviously, the news of the fire was demoralizing to all of the Reedy authors, but this event impacts no one more than Reedy's owner, Josh. I met Josh in Kaldi's Coffeehouse in my old neighborhood in DeMun in 2011. We had coffee and I did my best to convince him to publish my little children's book, Bubbles the Dwarf Zebu. Some way, some how, Josh took my project on. Six years and five additional books later, here we are.
The thing about Josh is that he's simply tireless. Reedy Press is his baby and he is extremely driven to see it succeed and thrive. As much as I love both, sometimes I get a bit weary of balancing both the book business and my job at the zoo. In this digitalized world it can be hard to sell books! But Josh has seemingly endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm for the book biz, and for the city of St. Louis. He is a constant source of new ideas and creativity and, quite frankly, he works his butt off.
That's why when I heard about the fire, I was heartbroken for a company I've grown to love and work for, but I wasn't completely crushed. Because I know that Reedy isn't going anywhere. Josh would never go quietly into the night. He's worked too long and hard to just throw in the towel. Indeed, already today I received an email about plans to reprint The Missouri Almanac in the next few weeks (unfortunately, probably not in time for the holiday season, but we may work on a solution to that,...). Baby steps.
We all know that when times are hard people tend to band together, and this tragedy is no different. All of the Reedy authors have been messaging and sending love to one another and to Josh all day. One author, Jim Merkel, wrote a blog likening this moment to the final scene in It's a Wonderful Life (one of my top five favorite movies of ALL TIME btw) when George Bailey is saved by the community who loves him. The Reedy Press family will certainly band together and lift up this little press from the ashes. There's no other choice.
Currently I have the following books in stock:
67 Happy Birthday STL
It's funny because I always feel like I have books coming out of my ears, and both John and my dad are always chiding me for keeping too many in the trunk of my car, but now all I can think is I wish I had more. Why didn't I just stuff more into that overly weighted down trunk??
The above list is what I have available for the entire holiday season, including several signings. I do not know yet if all of my books will be reprinted, so if you want one in particular, well, it might be now or never, I suppose.
It's become so cliche, but all I can think is that we just have to "Keep Calm and Carry On." I got up and went to my story time event at The Butterfly House this morning. I signed a few books this afternoon.
There's a joke going around amongst the authors that when all of this is over they'll have to rename Reedy "Phoenix Press." It's funny, but I do truly believe that this little company will rise up stronger and even better than before.
We all know what St. Louis' own Maya Angelou (featured in The Almanac, of course!) wrote those many years ago...
Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.
Because there's no other way to go about it.
PS. Have I taken a long hiatus from the blog? Yes. Honestly, I've been swamped with the Almanac's release and my serial story for Missouri Press. But I am planning a Kenya trip recap on the blog asap, so stay tuned!