This weekend, Hockessin Book Shelf owner Rebecca Dowling is opening up her store to what she hopes will be a whole new generation of avid readers and book buyers when she hosts novelist Cindy Callaghan for "An Afternoon with the Author."
Normally Dowling's author events are geared towards adults who have a passion for writers with a local connection. This time, she's hoping to spread her enthusiasm tweens.
"We're so excited about Cindy's visit," Dowling said. "It will be the first time we've ever engaged with middle grades readers and just the beginning of events we'd like to do with several age groups."
With adult events, Dowling typically hires a caterer for hors d'oeuvres and charges a budget-friendly $10 fee to cover the overhead expenses. For this event, she is waiving any sort of admission cost and only requiring that participants purchase a copy of the author's latest book, which she is selling at a discount for $5.59 (20 percent off the list price of $6.99).
"So far we have about 15 kids who have been brought in by their parents to R.S.V.P., for the event," Dowling said at the beginning of the week, adding that the feedback she's hearing from those parents makes her even more excited about Sunday afternoon. "Many of the parents who are bringing their children have called me to tell me that their girls went home and finished the book in record time. They're all so excited to meet Cindy [Callaghan]."
The feeling is mutual. Callaghan seems to love engaging with her young fans almost as much as loves writing for them. She regularly visits schools, discussing her books, reading and the writing process.
Sunday's visit to the Hockessin Book Shelf celebrates her second book "Lost in London." Like many of the tweens reading the book, its main character, Jordan, is from Delaware. She's a jet-set girl, though, who heads to London and quickly finds herself embroiled in adventure and mystery.
"I love to read mysteries so the books I write for young readers almost always also have an adventure/thriller/mystery aspect to them," Callaghan explained while traveling to meet family for Thanksgiving.
Her first book geared towards tweens, "Just Add Magic" stayed true to that concept as well. However, the plot is mystery that Callaghan is happy to spill the beans about.
"Several years ago, my oldest daughter had friends over to bake," Callaghan recalled, laughing over her own worries about a colossal kitchen mess. "They had the best time and my first thought was 'wouldn't it be great if they had a club or something so they could do this more often.'"
Page 2 of 2 - Her imagination took over and the ideas started rolling out as quickly as a professional baker rolls out dough for donuts. What if the club was a secret? What if there was a lost cookbook with mysterious recipes?
The oldest daughter who inspired the book is now a full-fledged teen now but she, her younger brother and her younger sister still help mom brainstorm and offer up solid critiques about whatever project she is working on.
"They're so great with ideas when I'm stuck," she said. "My son—he's 14 years old now—he's wonderful with specific advice about what words to use or not to use because he thinks they might be too advanced. All three [of her kids] want to make whatever project I'm working on as good as it can be."
She likes getting help from readers, too. For "Lost in London" she turned to fans of her social media sites to help her name two characters, offering people the chance to submit names. After two weeks, a little girl in northern New Jersey won with "Skye Summers" while a mom in southern New Jersey combined her two sons' names and submitted "Cole Miles," which also won. Skye and Cole are now official characters.
On December 4, Callaghan will be seeking names for two unnamed girl characters through her website and her social media accounts for her 2014 release "Lucky Me". Two weeks later, she'll pick a name out of a hat.
"Almost anything will work but it will have to be within reason, of course," Callaghan explained. "Megan is the name of the main character so we can't have another Megan. Also, some names, like the President or a celebrity won't work. And, it can't be offensive. But, anything else is fair game."
More questions about the contest or her books' plot lines and characters can be directed to Callaghan on Sunday.
"I'm excited about the event," she said. "I'm going to mingle with the readers and I'm going to do a dramatic reading in these wonderful black glasses that give kids the giggles whenever I wear them. We're all going to have a blast."