Give and Get

Today’s guest is Kimberly Brock. We asked Kim to guest with us today to share information about She Reads, a national online book club that advocates women’s literacy. When not at work on her next novel, Kimberly volunteers her time as the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads.
Kim says,

After publishing my first novel I found myself compelled to find ways to give back and specifically became involved with She Reads national online book club. I have worked with our network of book bloggers and publishers to begin a literacy program that provides books each month for a homeless women’s book club out of Denver, CO. I’m very honored to be a part of this effort and others that bring hope to women who may feel they are without a voice. I hope to inspire others to seek out opportunities (or create them) to promote literacy within their own communities.”

Kim is a former actor and special needs educator, and is a Georgia Author of the Year 2013 nominee. Her debut novel, The River Witch, is a southern mystical work which has been featured on numerous reading lists and chosen by two national book clubs. More information about She Reads is available at the end of this post. Follow Kim on Twitter and at her Facebook page.

When I was a kid I gave everything away. Jackets, socks, watches, they all disappeared within weeks of my grandmother or mother bringing them in new, popping the tags off and lecturing me about responsibility. Once, I came home like a clown with a pair of shoes three sizes too large on my feet. My shoes were on the feet of a girl who must have gone through her day with her toes folded under, blissful to be in name-brand sneakers. In middle school, it was jewelry. In high school, it was friendship offered to those on the fringes.

I have a clear memory of a pale girl, the kind who existed in such a state of poverty that she was invisible to us, stumbling and dropping an armload of books on the sidewalk beside the buses. The kids on the bus laughed as she lay sprawled. I was appalled and embarrassed because some of them were my friends. I helped her gather her books. I don’t think we ever spoke. I didn’t know what happened to her after that day or if she graduated with my class. But I remembered her cornflower blue eyes. They really were cornflower blue. I’ve never seen eyes like that since. I wondered about her. I wished I’d had some sense of the life she was leading and the courage to do more than lift her off the ground and go on with my day, slightly uncomfortable in my skin.

So here’s the thing I’m getting at, and I’m not preaching, I promise. It’s just, I’ve published a book. It’s been almost a year since it was released and believe me it’s been dreamy. Anyone who tells you they don’t find satisfaction in having their hard work recognized and earning a place at the author table, is a liar. The support and pride of friends and family is really overwhelming. The readers letting me know their thoughts, blows my mind. Even the occasional negative review is something I’m grateful for. What it all boils down to is that my voice has been heard and honestly, that’s pretty incredible in any day and age. So I’m thankful. And slightly (if I’m honest) guilty.

Because (and maybe this is just who I am) I’m haunted by so many voices that will likely never be heard or recognized or celebrated or respected or even criticized. And I find myself looking at what’s been accomplished this year on my behalf and feeling compelled to do something more than tell a story. I want to give something back. I want to give what I have to someone else, some invisible someone. When I look at the characters in my work I realize it’s what drives me from my core. I want to give the greatest most profound gift of story – a voice. And that seemed such an intangible thing until recently.

I published a novel, but what really happened to me this year is that I became a part of a community and within that community there is a movement. I became aware of a quiet effort going forth from the individual book bloggers I got to know after I took on a small position with the She Reads national online book club as their Blog Network coordinator. In so many anonymous ways, they are promoting literacy within their communities and in particular for women. They donate books and time and they share their love of reading in hospices, shelters, libraries, prisons, day cares and more. They begin a conversation, first about the story and then about the lives of those reading them. And instead of guilt, suddenly I felt inspired and privileged to be a part of publishing!

This year, the publishers of our monthly selection agreed to not only send books to our bloggers, but also ten copies of the book to a homeless women’s book club outside of Denver, Colorado, who call themselves the Homecoming Queens. They meet once a month to discuss a book and support one another in their struggle to get back on their feet. It’s not much, ten books. The publishers don’t even feel it. It’s one email I send out. Certainly no great effort on my part. But here’s the response from their fearless leader and literacy advocate Alyce Urice, following the meeting where they learned what had been coordinated on their behalf:

In one year book club has come to mean more to them than just about anything they do. How they see themselves and one another differently than they did 11 months ago because they have seen themselves through the pages of these books.

I am supposed to tell you that if you are an author you should know that your books make people think and see things differently, feel and believe differently, and “want to try harder.

They are trying harder. They are reaching out to other women in the housing complex. Homeless women, finding they have something to give. Finding a voice. And the little girl inside me, the one giving away her shoes and socks and jackets recognizes something more is at work through our books. Whether we know it or not, a gift is being given, something larger than we imagined, larger than ourselves.

And one last thing if you remain unconvinced, a story for you to take away. That girl I wondered about, the one I lost in the flurry of life’s speed, the one I helped to stand, but felt I’d failed in the long run? On the night of my book launch, when I was full of self-doubt in the midst of a crowd that threatened to overwhelm me, I looked up into a pair of pale, cornflower blue eyes. “I bet you don’t remember me,” she said.

But I did. I do. And without even knowing it, she gave me the gift right back.

If you would like to learn more about She Reads, contact Kim through the She Reads Contact page. Kim says, “We are just getting started and so excited to see where it takes us. We have plans to begin donating some of our blogger’s books a few times a year to shelters, etc, and build women’s fiction libraries for them. We believe putting a book in a woman’s hands empowers her and because of that, it changes families and communities for the better.”  She Reads is a nonprofit organization.

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Comments

  1. says

    Over the last year and a half, I was so burnt out, I pretty much locked myself away and said “DONE!”- I didn’t give but I didn’t take, either – publishing and writing and being so “out there” had become exhausting! And when my father died, I thought, “Nope, not one more thing – I’m done!” I’d spread myself so thin, I couldn’t keep up with every request, every thing and everyone that/who I thought I could help or encourage or etc etc etc – I rarely said No – and in doing so I lost myself – exhausted myself to the limit! The last book reading I did happened to be with you, Kim, and all I could think about, instead of “this is awesome!” as I used to think, was “Omg, I am tired and overwhelmed and why am I here?”

    Losing this joy of being a part of the community, of all the dreams I’d hoped and wished for, of sharing and caring, was awful. But, it also allowed me to step back and see things from a distance. We can’t be all things to everyone, but we can learn to say “no” when we need to, and love and enjoy those “yes!” times even more so. Finding our place in the community and giving of ourselves without losing ourselves – well, that’s what I hope for all of us in this business, and it sounds as if you have found that sweet spot.

    A wonderful and encouraging, heartfelt, post, Kim. *smiling warmly at you fellow BB author!*
    kathryn Magendie´s last blog post ..Work-out Writer: When it’s like sex

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  2. says

    This is a wonderful way to help for those of us who, for personal reasons (CFS – and no energy in my case), can’t go out and DO something to volunteer.

    When I’m done polishing the WIP, I’ll visit She Reads – and see what I can do to contribute to a literary campaign to empower women, a subject dear to my heart.

    Thanks so much for posting.
    ABE´s last blog post ..Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 2, Scene 1.2.1

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  3. says

    I am awed and inspired by your post, Kim. I’ll be visiting She Reads and seeking similar opportunities in my own neck of the woods. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, “Happiness isn’t a goal. It’s a by-product.”

    Cheryl

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  4. `Peggy Foster says

    This is a great post. This is a reminder to all of us who can to take some time and go read to some people who are in a nursing home or to some children in a day care. Or for those who can’t, we can contribute to organizations like Kim’s. Thank you Kim for what you are doing, and I do plan to check out your book.

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    • says

      I hope it really moves people to seek out little ways to reach out to someone else, but I have to be honest, Sheryl. I think it’s the people who’ve been put in my path who are special and teaching me how easy it is to really make a difference just by being aware of more than the end of my own nose – which can be tough for me! lol I’m having a great time and I’m so proud to be a part of She Reads national online book club. They’re fabulous women, picking wonderful books each month and creating a welcoming and powerful community of readers that is growing for all the right reasons. :)
      Kimberly Brock´s last blog post ..Never Past the Reach of Song

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  5. says

    Books are magic and this post proves it. Reading does so much for the soul; it encourages, it inspires, it astounds, and it creates. I’m so proud to be part of She Reads and the wonderful people associated with it. Thanks you Kimberly for sharing this today. What a great example to llve up to! xo
    Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer)´s last blog post ..Can We Ever Read Too Much?

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  6. Monica says

    This post was a great inspiration in reminding me about the power of the story. As readers, we all identify ourselves with the characters in stories. It’s amazing to see how powerful and profound can be to those people whose connections to others are limited. She Reads is a fantastic organization!

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  7. says

    I have been writing for a number of years and the beat I march to is “The Little Drummer Boy.” I am working on memoir and a collection of essays and know the magic you speak of. I dream of being able to share my perspectives and experience, but I am a single parent that has to work everything around those demands. Congratulations on your accomplishments and the perspective you bring to the value of it.
    Ceejae Devine´s last blog post ..Speaking Up, Knowing the Rules & Other Shit Women Deal With

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  8. says

    More accolades from this place, Kim. You heard the whisper, and you listened. How often we fail to do that. I hear what Kathryn says, because sometimes we do get worn down with well-doing. I know I have. And yet when we stop and look and listen to the whisper in our heart that points–as yours has–to the good, how many, many blessings we reap.

    I love this idea of sending books to empower homeless women. Our church hosts women and children as part of a community program of churches that give space on a rotating basis. I think I’ll ask if they’d like to participate in something like this. And I know just the book to start them off–yours.
    Normandie Fischer´s last blog post ..An Irish Blessing

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    • says

      Normandie,
      You always inspire me with your grace. Thank you so much for these kind words. I can’t say how much it means to me to be involved with the Homecoming Queens. Honestly, it’s so easy. Authors have so much at their disposal and it takes so little time to really make a difference in someone’s day with a book. :)
      Kimberly Brock´s last blog post ..Never Past the Reach of Song

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  9. says

    It’s thanks to you, Kim, that She Reads is up and running and along with the reviewers it’s been a great ride and a great success. So many books that can take you place you’d never imagine being able to go to. Some of us are literal “armchair travellers” and with the top-notch writing of authors today, you already feel physically there through the pages of the books we read.

    It’s been an absolute joy for me to be part of SheReads and I wish all of us much continued success!!
    Louise Jolly´s last blog post ..IF YOU FIND ME (EMILY MURDOCH)

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  10. says

    The story of the girl with cornflower eyes made tears come to my blue eyes.

    Alyce is a very special woman, with a heart as big as Jupiter, and I’m honored to know her.
    Barbara O’Neal´s last blog post ..VOICE CLASS

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  11. says

    Alyse Urice has taught us A LOT about giving back and we hope to share the brilliant ideas she’s been offering up on one of our Pinterest Boards here: http://pinterest.com/shereadsbkclb/literacy-every-day-by-alyse-urice/

    We’re also currently collecting links and contacts for anyone out there who is looking for ways THEY can give back! We hope to be good advocates and provide examples for ways authors and readers can give back in their own creative ways!
    Kimberly Brock´s last blog post ..Never Past the Reach of Song

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  12. says

    Kim, I knew you were a special woman the day we first met, and after reading your novel I knew you were a gifted author as well. Thank you for all that you do for others, you are richly blessed by for it. I’m so excited and grateful to be a small part of the SheReads blogging team!

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  13. says

    Love this! And please don’t hold back… what happened to the girl with the cornflower blue eyes???? I’m dying for her backstory. And I have chills about the Homecoming Queens. What a great post, Kim!
    Lori P´s last blog post ..When Things Get Quiet

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  14. says

    Kimberly, I’ve had to take a break from the ‘net for a while. I’ve mostly been avoiding blogs and social media. But this post was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you. The world needs more people who are unafraid of appearing sentimental or corny whilst getting good things done.
    Jan O’Hara´s last blog post ..Ongoing Brain Wars (Plus Writer Unboxed Redirect)

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  15. says

    Kim,

    I love being a part of the She Reads Books Club for so many reasons we would be here all day if I was to expound. But you have just providced another by sharing this post. It just takes one person to make a difference and clearly you know this from the heart and those cornflower blue eyes.

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