Updated: Apr 23
How many times do you try before giving up? Once? Twice? A hundred? A thousand? No matter how many times you have tried and not succeeded, I encourage you to try once more.
In October of 2022, I booked a flight to Germany set for spring break of the following year. Knowing that the German translation of my self-published children's book, Celeste Saves the City, was in the works, I thought it would be a great idea to try and schedule an author visit or storytime reading while in the country. Excited for the potential of this new endeavor, I began tackling this challenge like I had done when trying to book events in the past. I made a list of potential places that might be interested in having an author visit and started contacting them one by one. The targets included museums, libraries, schools, bookstores, organizations - any place I could think of that might give me a chance. As the months went by, countless emails, LinkedIn messages, and direct messages on social media were sent only to not result in anything substantial. Nothing seemed to be working, even after tapping into my network of people with overseas contacts.
No matter how many times you have tried and not succeeded, I encourage you to try once more.
Then one day, as I conversed with a friend about the upcoming trip, we landed on the topic of the military. He is a veteran and discussed his experience in the service and how there are a lot of military-connected families living on or around bases overseas. That's when a light bulb went off! If there are military families living on bases, then surely there would have to be schools for the children of these families. Scouring the DoDEA website, I was happy
to see that there were a number of elementary schools throughout Germany. Excited by what seemed to be a breakthrough, I quickly found myself back at square one as attempts to contact a liaison by phone and email didn't work.
Deciding to give it one more shot, I sent an email to the principal of Stuttgart Elementary School. How I landed on Stuttgart remains a mystery. I was planning to visit the northern areas of the country and Stuttgart was in the south. And while it was going to be my fourth trip to Germany, I had never been to Stuttgart before. In short, it wasn’t at the top of my list when looking at locations. For whatever reason, Stuttgart became the place that would open the door to the unimaginable.
It was the week of Christmas, a mere two and a half months before I was due to leave for the trip. Thinking that I wouldn't receive a reply, I went into the new year proud of myself for having given it a shot, but still disappointed that I wasn't able to pull this off. That all changed when I woke up to an email days later with a simple message asking about what an author visit to Stuttgart Elementary would entail. When I first read it, I thought it wasn't real. Surely, I was dreaming. After a few exchanges, I slowly started to see that dream turn into reality.
The idea was simple - do a storytime reading and activity for students at Stuttgart Elementary for maybe an hour. This simple idea blossomed into a 3-day tour to all three DoDEA elementary schools in Stuttgart. With Robinson Barracks and Patch Elementary Schools brought into the fold, over 1,250 students were able to hear Celeste Saves
the City and participate in an educational hands-on STEM activity. A group of 4th and 5th graders at Patch Elementary also had an opportunity to create their own story through a writing workshop. On top of all of this, thanks to a generous donation from the Harriet Tubman Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Parent Teacher Association, all 550 Stuttgart Elementary students received their own autographed copy of the book!
This entire experience was powerful in many ways. Students were able to ask questions, learn more about careers in construction and civil engineering, and connect the dots through the STEM-based activity and writing workshop. My assistants (A'Bria Jones and Keirsten Kelly) and I were completely blown away by the intelligence and creativity of the kids. From the questions they asked to their ability to apply the lessons learned in the book to their lives and the world around them, it was clear that they have bright futures ahead. It was also amazing to see what's possible through caring and nurturing administrators, teachers, and PTAs that are incomparable and strive to provide a world-class education to each and every child.
At this intersection of their desire to offer a memorable and educational experience for their students and my desire to reach even the smallest of audiences for my book, the power of one email turned into something magical.
While in Stuttgart, a broader picture started to be painted of how all of these seemingly unrelated pieces connected together in a way that I couldn't have planned more perfectly. In speaking with the principal of Stuttgart Elementary, I learned that the email I sent over Christmas had actually gone to spam. It was by chance that she came across it, during Christmas break out of all times, and decided to refer me to their PTA as a potential guest
author. The PTA had actually been wanting someone to come speak at their school but had not been able to land an author. At this intersection of their desire to offer a memorable and educational experience for their students and my desire to reach even the smallest of audiences for my book, the power of one email turned into something magical.
Without determination and the willingness give it one more shot, the first international book tour of Courtney Kelly Books would not have been possible. On the other end, there was a person who took a chance on me and my potential when it would have been easier to dismiss my email. Whatever it is that you are pressing for - that one thing that you keep trying at and seem to be at your wit's end in hopes that it will succeed - I hope this story inspires you to give it one more go. If you are a person in a position to be the who opens the door for another, lease consider taking that chance. Remember that it only takes one!