… and ten thousand more to go-oh-oh. (If you’re of a certain age, you can thank me for putting James Taylor into your brain for the rest of the day. If you aren’t, or if lyrics just aren’t your forte, that’s a line from Sweet Baby James.)
It’s tax time, and I’m doing what authors love least. Counting. Counting royalties. Counting dollars spent on postage and airport food. And counting miles.
In 2018, I drove almost 8,000 miles for author-related events.
I wasn’t terribly surprised by that number. It feels like I spend a lot of time in my car. I’ve got a long list of “FINISHED” audiobooks to prove it.
Entering my 2018 journeys into a spreadsheet was like a trip down memory. Each one started in the same place. My driveway. But every destination was different.
Some trips took me to schools, where little readers and learning-to-be-readers greeted me with hugs and excitement.
Some trips took me to airports, which took me to farther-away schools, art museums, conferences, and book stores where I met new people who share a love of reading and writing and books and art.
Some trips took me on research adventures, where archives and ephemera and diaries and newspapers held the answers to my questions and sometimes to questions I hadn’t known to ask.
Sometimes the road was hard to see. Sometimes it rained and I wished I had changed my wiper blades.
Sometimes there were bridges to cross. What was waiting on the other side, I could only guess.
I look back on the miles behind me and smile. Those miles represent people. People whose paths I wouldn’t have crossed if I had chosen a different road.
I sometimes sign my WHEN GRANDMA GATEWOOD TOOK A HIKE picture book with the words “Enjoy the journey.” We all have places we must go. The destination is the reason we leave in the first place. But, I hope, along the way you do enjoy the journey. If you’re like me, and you end up counting the miles, you’ll find that the journey there and back is a significant part of the experience.
As I write this, I am feeling profound gratitude for the miles traveled. Perhaps, dear reader, my road will soon lead me to wherever it is you are. I hope so.
Michelle Houts is the author of 11 books for young readers, including the Lucy’s Lab STEM-based chapter book series and the biographies of baseball great Dottie Kamenshek, artist Charley Harper, and legendary hike Emma “Grandma” Gatewood. 2019 will see the release of two new picture books: SEA GLASS SUMMER and SILENT SWOOP: AN OWL, AN EGG, AND A WARM SHIRT POCKET. Michelle writes from a restored one-room schoolhouse in rural Ohio. Find her on Facebook as Michelle Houts and as @mhoutswrites on Twitter and Instagram.