A Rocky Mountain High at the PLA

by Drema Hall Berkheimer


Several months ago, Alicia Kasen, Senior Marketing Director at Zondervan, invited me to sign my memoir, RUNNING ON RED DOG ROAD and Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood, published by Zondervan, at the HarperCollins booth at the Public Library Association (PLA) National Conference in Denver, Colorado. I was to sign for an hour on the afternoon of April 6 and return home to Dallas the next afternoon.

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I’d had a charming seatmate for the two-hour flight. He asked if I was visiting family—a perfect segue for me to say that actually I was going to Denver for a book signing. I whipped out one of my hot-off-the-press business cards featuring my book. When we parted ways I told him that if he saw me on Oprah…” He interrupted, “Oh, I’ll say, I know her. That’s Drema.”

A dazzle of sunshine, blue skies, and the graceful snow-capped Rocky Mountains made a memorable first impression of this mile-high city as we drove to my hotel. I checked in, then called Alicia. There was a glitch, she said—my books hadn’t arrived. But she’d ordered books for overnight delivery and changed my signing to 11:00 the next morning. And just in case the books didn’t come, she’d had cards made up to mimic the cover.

Alicia is a problem solver.

When I mentioned the walk to the Convention Center might be a little too far, Alicia soon texted that she had scheduled a “fun cab.” I imagined lots of clowns spilling out of a lime green VW beetle. There were no clowns, but it was great fun—a pedi-cab, with a young man to peddle us to the front door of the Convention Center. Like I said, she’s a problem solver!

We walked through the front doors of the Convention Center into a kalaidescope of people moving in and around booths of books. Hundreds of booths. Thousands of books. Lisa T. Bergren, another Zondervan author, was just finishing her hour of signing Season of Glory, the last of her Remnants trilogy, in the HarperCollins booth. I asked if I could buy Lisa’s book, and Alicia said no, all the books were free. “ Publishers give their books to the librarians to read, to put in their libraries, to spread the word in their communities,” she explained. It made sense. I signed a book for Lisa with my brand new pearl Pilot pen and Lisa signed a book for me.I didn’t read her inscription until I got home:

Drema, you have the gifts that can help change the world! Lisa T. Bergren.

I am lifted up by the encouraging words this amazing woman puts out into the world. Lisa has written forty books of various genres, and sold an aggregate of three million copies. Forty books! Really? It took me six years to write just one little one.

I got to meet Aly, Alicia’s step-daughter, a high school senior. She’s beautiful, and brainy too, not only because she’ll study microbiology in college, but because she read my memoir and wanted to come meet me.

Alicia nudged me to get started.

“Please sign a book for this lady – she’s been here twice already looking for you,” I signed the book, and a steady straggle of people queued up behind her—people who were looking forward to reading my book, who wanted to meet me, who had a story to tell me. They were young and old and tall and short and women and men, many men. I asked each person to write to me after they read my book. I think they will. I hope they do. I was either oxygen-deprived due to the altitude or just euphoric, because the hour went by in both slow motion and fast forward. A natural high. As Alicia walked me out to a taxi, I asked how many books she thought I signed—about one hundred and twenty-five, she guessed.

When I came home I told my husband that I signed one hundred and twenty-five books in an hour and made one hundred twenty-five new friends. Of course, that should have been one hundred twenty-six new friends.

Because of Aly, you know.