Books and Gratitude

Scholastic Lucky Flyer, 1983.

When I was little, books lived mostly at the library and occasionally came home with me by way of treasures ordered from Scholastic flyers we received at school. I loved those days when the teacher distributed the neatly rubberband-bound piles topped with order slips bearing our names. I don’t think I ever verbalized it to my parents, but even then I was consciously building a library.

My family had a few books and a collection of encyclopedias that I adored on shelves on the back porch, but the only people in my extended family who had anything close to what I envisioned as a proper library were my Aunt Natalia and Uncle Wasyl. The shelves in their family room were filled with what looked like ancient and exotic Ukrainian books.

usedbookI loved the places that brought me books, but they were not really gathering spaces for book-loving communities. The tiny chain bookstore at the mall lacked designated seating spaces, so my best friend Cheryl and I would sit on the floor in the metaphysical section reading about dream analysis and palm reading, trying to find ways to predict or control the future.

Somewhere around junior high, I discovered the used bookstore on Addison Street, situated on the end of the block where we lived– past the Superette, past the bakery, but just before you reached the corner bar. It barely had room for customers; its narrow aisles were filled with classics and pulps, dusty shelves and tables overflowing. That’s where I would take my babysitting money and buy science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, sometimes filling a brown paperbag for $2. I still have some of those early purchases, and they are like old friends in my bookcase.

I discovered the Book Cellar not long after it opened in 2004. Serving good coffee AND wine, it was a community hub with excellent books and literary events. After having launched both Conclave: A Journal of Character and The Silence of Trees at the Book Cellar, there was no question in my mind where I wanted to celebrate the Chicago release of Geek Parenting.

Photo by Mary Anne Rooney.

We had a wonderful turnout on April 16th–a beautiful, warm, Chicago Spring afternoon. I was overwhelmed by the number of friends, family, and strangers who came to listen as Stephen and I read from Geek Parenting, answered questions, and signed copies.

Photo by The Book Cellar.

Out of the corner of my eye, I kept seeing passersby stop and peer in the windows to see why such a large crowd had assembled. It’s one of the charms of a neighborhood bookshop–the neighbors come by. Some even came in to listen, joining the lively audience who filled all the seats and stood in between the stacks. We answered a few questions; and then my sister cut the cake while Stephen and I signed books and chatted with people.

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Photo by Ellen Prather.

Sincere thanks to Suzy and her wonderful staff, to everyone who came out to the Book Cellar or has attended events in Seattle or Philadelphia, to everyone who has bought our book, has given it to friends, or has helped to spread the word.

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Photo by Ellen Prather.

Thank you. So much.

It has been a wonderful beginning to our Geek Parenting book tour, and we’re excited about the next few stops on the East Coast in two weeks (click here for dates and more information), as well as those still to come. 

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Delicious cake from Dinkel’s. Photo by Ellen Prather.

Geek Parenting is a celebration of the lessons we learn from some of pop culture’s most famous families, but it’s also a book about the different ways we share and shape our visions for a better future. We do it with stories and imagination, and we do it with friendship and community.

Thank you.



Words and Cake

Tomorrow is my first official novel reading and book signing for The Silence of Trees.

It’s wonderful to be able to write those words, The Silence of Trees has been so long in the making. I began it while still in the MFA in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute, and it has gone through several radical revisions since I first completed it in 1999. It’s been in the hands of three literary agents, and across more than a few editors’ desks. And now it’s here, in my hands, on my bookshelf, and on the nightstands of the folks who have already purchased it from Amazon.

So tomorrow I will bring boxes of books to the Book Cellar in Chicago, and a two-layered cake adorned with the beautiful cover that was illustrated by the talented Madeline Carol Matz.

To date, the facebook event page lists 69 yes’s and 108 maybe’s. I’m not nervous, but I am humbled and touched at the thought of people coming out to show support for this little book of Ukrainian magic realism.

It’s a labor of love, and the one thing I had always hoped was that it would be published while my grandparents are still alive. And they are, which is remarkable. The Silence of Trees is fiction, but inspired by my grandmothers and grandfathers, who made the journey to America from the Displaced Persons camps after WWII.

Feedback so far has been wonderful, and I’m excited about the other cities and bookstores that I’ll visit as part of my tour, but right now, I’m looking forward to tomorrow–where I’ll be surrounded by dear friends and family.

*pinch me*

All I have ever wanted to do is tell stories. I hope to do it in many different ways over my lifetime, taking my inspiration from folks like Neil Gaiman who do not limit themselves by genre or medium. I believe that the story will dictate the form. One novel is finished and in the revision stage, another two started, some short stories barking for my attention, and maybe a play! (Oh, I have *so* many ideas!) So there will be more parties in the future, to celebrate new stories, and I’m excited to share them with you.

For those of you in Chicago this weekend, you are invited to join us at the Book Cellar, a wonderful bookstore in Lincoln Square where we’ve had the release parties for Conclave: A Journal of Character. We’ll have varenyky/pierogies for you to taste, cake to share, and I hear there may be fabulous cookies. Support the Book Cellar by buying some coffee or wine. I’ll do a little reading, and I’ll sign books. If you purchase a book, you can wait to have your cards read by our very own vorozhka.

If you can’t make it, The Silence of Trees is available on Amazon (paperback and hardcover versions), as well as at, and you should soon be able to order it from an independent bookstore near you.

Thank you for reading and being a part of the magic.

(P.S.  Author photo was taken by the amazing Kyle Cassidy.)