Wicked Witch of Publishing Brilliant Idea for Holiday Gifts to Needy: Warm Coats with Hot Books in the Pocket!
The Wicked Witch of Publishing has had a brilliant idea. Yes, a Christmas bulb exploded over her head while she was planning her December visit to the James A. Farley Post Office in midtown Manhattan in New York City to comb through letters to Santa Claus. This holiday season, why can’t book reviewers, authors, literary agents, libraries, publishing companies, bookstores, community service organizations, local associations and individuals—along with a new doll, video game, or warm coat—send great books to needy kids and families?
More than 100,000 letters from around the world are sitting at the James A. Farley branch right now, and millions of Dear Santa letters are being read by caring people at local Human Services Departments, Rotary Clubs, churches and synagogues around the globe.
I am the mother of three (3) beautiful childs of the 5, 13 years old and one of eight month (8)… The most important thing I want is to give my childrens happiness sadly enough I can’t buy the basic thing in life. I would be so grateful if Santa Claus would send things. Luis is 13, pants size 16-18 sneakers 9 coat sweaters = 16-18. Magdalena is 5 years old Pants = 6, sneakers = 13, coat and sweathers = 6 Emiliano is (8) month old pants 18-24 m sneakers = 4-5 Coat and Sweathers = 18-24 m. Thank you, Santa Claus for making dream be come true.
Send the pants, sneakers and coats if you can (and if you know what you are doing buying clothes for kids—count me out), but don’t forget to throw in a few good books—for the kids and mom and dad. And if you can’t afford the clothing, at least send a few books, and toss the letter back into the cardboard box so that someone who can afford the clothing might pick up the letter.
The Wicked Witch of Publishing is going to paw through the cardboard boxes (labeled by geographical area and language) at the mid-Manhattan branch, spread the letters out on the cafeteria-size tables, and select about ten Dear Santa letters. Being an old hand at this, she’ll separate them into two distinct categories:
- Mewling letters from the “too much is never enough” children of privilege whose chauffeurs hand-deliver Santa’s letter to the post office.
- Heartbreaking letters from children and families for whom the simple good fortune of having a Dear Santa letter plucked from thousands would constitute a mini-Christmas miracle.
Then the Wicked Witch is going to ignore the ridiculous requests from Category #1. “I need another Plasma Screen with ATSC Tuner because my 10-year-old sister, Tiffy, won’t share hers.” WW of P will send a Dickens-esque book from Santa Claus and a lump of coal if she sends anything at all. (Oh, how she longs to see the disappointment on their faces! Too bad she can’t be there!)
Category #2 will get a much-coveted gift AND a bonus gift—a really good book, maybe a classic, but something age- and gender-appropriate pulled from her personal library. She’ll add a warm note, wrap and send the gifts out by USPS. The package will have the North Pole return address as the James A Farley Post Office street address. (See Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing below.)
This week as she stood in line at the local general store to buy her daily fix of Pepperidge Farm cookies, the Wicked Witch waited behind an older gentleman buying five Nascar toy cars. He told the cashier that he was buying them to contribute to a local organization donating holiday gifts to needy children. Why not a book with each car? Doesn’t this idea make good sense? As a young girl I used to love getting books for Christmas—especially if they were about horses. I’ve since graduated from horse crazy to just plain book crazy.
Hand Off Your Used, Well-Read, Much-Loved Books.
New is good, but done properly, used books make great gifts, too. A dog-eared book with the appropriate note should let the recipient know how dear the book is to you. “I loved this book as a kid. I’m sending you my personal copy and hope you love it as much as I did.” And what’s a new book anyhow? A book fifty people have already read, but not paid for, while sitting in overstuffed chairs at Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstores. (Don’t get me started!) A well-read book handed off to a friend isn’t considered second class. Check out the National Education Association’s online list of “Teachers Top 100 Books” and the somewhat different “Kids Top 100 Books.” Then ransack your kid’s shelves. You can also look at The American Library Association’s “Notable Books for Adults” (1993-2005) and compare books on those lists with books on your shelves. Or just send a book YOU really loved. Were you really going to reread those books anyway?
Where Do You Find the Names of Needy People? You don’t need permission to send a book to anyone and everyone, you simply have to get the name and address of a family from a letter to Santa Claus or from someone in a position to know who would welcome a gift from Santa.
Brother, Can You Spare a Book?
Book Reviewers: The Wicked Witch of Publishing was frothing at the mouth in an article she wrote for Publishers Weekly last year about all those ARCs (author review copies) that are sent indiscriminately to reviewers. In a recent interview by The Kenyon Review, Frank Wilson, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s book review editor and resident blogger at Booksinq, said that in a “good week” he receives 1000 to review. Book reviewers! There’s a good starting point for donating books to people who really can’t afford to buy books at the bookstore or online.
Librarians: Librarians are constantly culling books. Who knows better than a librarian what kind of books would interest a needy person or family? Give those books away! Wrap them and make them available to needy families who could drop by the library (maybe for the first time!) and pick up gifts for the kids. The kids could drop by and get gifts for their friends and family. Make it a grab bag of sorts and make it FUN. What about it OCLC (a worldwide library cooperative) and ALA (American Library Association)? Good idea?
Authors: You’ve got boxes of your own book sitting in the basement. They’re not going anywhere fast. (Sorry!) You’ve got shelves full of books and bedside tables overflowing with them. Recycle. Write them off as a donation to a good cause. Pick your recipient carefully. You’re not just cleaning out the basement, you know!
Literary Bloggers: Books R’ Us. Start recycling them. You’ll never read them all. Wrap the ones you plan to give to your friends and family for the holidays and then include the names of some needy families in your area, and voila, Santa comes through…and on the cheap.
Barnes & Noble: Thousands and thousands of books are read and discarded by book buyers for the big retail stores and Barnes & Noble’s online store. You can bet Amazon has stacks of perfectly good review copies as well. (Most ARCs are the REAL book, just mailed ahead of official pub date.) They stack up on every floor in the building on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Editors, publishers, secretaries, anyone who works there should grab a bunch of letters from the James A Farley post office and start shipping all those children’s books and adventure stories. Compliments of Barnes & Noble would be okay with me…and them, I’m sure, if they thought about it. What do you think Len Riggio? How about you, Jeff Bezos?
Independent Bookstores: You’ve got books you could send back to the distribution center for a credit or…gift wrap and give to needy families. If there isn’t a library nearby doing it, then perhaps you are the next best thing. You know what is selling and what was selling, but has fizzled. Still great reads, just not marketed anymore. You’ll be reaching out to the community, bringing people into your store… and doing a holiday kindness.
Food Pantries: How about a gift-wrapped book placed carefully into every bag of groceries. Food for the belly and nourishment for the brain.
We, all of us, are the repositories of a treasure trove of books that, if they can’t be coat-pocket stuffers, can be stocking stuffers. Let’s share the wealth with poorer families. Even though they can’t eat ‘em or wear ‘em, a thoughtfully selected novel, compilation of short stories or volume of poetry could turn out to be the most treasured gift of all.
Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing: The deadline at the James A. Farley branch is December 23 rd. Update: December 9th: Tina Fierst just telephoned me from the James A. Farley Post Office. Once you arrive at the post office, you must register. You can take up to six letters with you. However, no matter from where you got the name of a needy child or family, make sure to put Santa’s return address as 421 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10001 if you are in the US, so that if the package goes astray, the post office can recycle the gift.