If it’s not the money, why do I do this?

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I spoke last week about The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia to my former colleagues at the Free Lance-Star. (Photo by Kristin Davis)

I was on the way to Richmond to speak at the Black History Museum of Virginia recently when I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”

I was travelling 60 miles in the rain. I was not being paid, and the director had said that she wanted the museum, not me, to sell my book. From a financial standpoint, the speech didn’t make any sense. There had to be other reasons I was doing it.

I have struggled with this question before. I spent years doing the research and writing for The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia. During that time, I spent money on everything from gasoline and postage to copy costs and reprint fees. I did the work and spent the money happily, even though I was not reimbursed and had no prospect of a payback. I joked that it was an expensive hobby, like owning a boat or playing golf.

That changed last year when I signed a contract with History Press. The publisher agreed to pay me a percentage of all sales, though the company writes checks only twice a year. My first payday won’t be until next March.

So if money is not the measure, why do I do this? What are the other pleasures in the task? I’ve identified three: I find reward in a job well done. I am motivated that others find the work worthwhile. And I experience the joy that teachers and actors do when they earn the attention of an audience. As Maslow said, we strive to realize our full potential.

Have book, will travel

fibfThat distant date on my calendar finally arrived. My book was published yesterday. Now I have to hit the road and promote it. I’ll be in Fredericksburg, Warrenton, Richmond, Culpeper and Manassas in the coming weeks to sign books and/or talk about The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia. Please stop by if you’re in the area. Here’s my schedule so far.

  1. The Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival, Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Riverfront Park, Sophia Street.
  2. “Great Writers Right Here,” sponsored by Fauquier County Public Library, gw_rh-logo-finalFriday, Sept. 30, 6 to 8 p.m.,  Family Life Center, First Baptist Church, 39 Alexandria Pike, Warrenton.
  3. Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Saturday, Oct. 8, 1 p.m., 122 W. Leigh St., Richmond.
  4. “Fourth Annual Local Author Extravaganza” sponsored by the Culpeper County Library, Saturday, Oct. 29, 1 to 4 p.m., Southgate Shopping Center, Culpeper.
  5. Book Talk, sponsored by the Manassas Museum, Sunday, Nov. 13, 1:30 p.m. 9027 Center St., Manassas.
  6. Mary Washington Elderstudy, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, Stafford campus of University of Mary Washington.