Seeking: Millions of Readers

Ellsworth bookstore
Finding Loring books in Ellsworth, Maine

While researching the life of Emilie Loring, I often run into others who love her books. At the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, the lady who delivered archival materials for me to read asked what I was working on and exclaimed, “Oh, I love Emilie Loring!” I showed her the photos of Emilie that I kept on my computer, the first she had ever seen of the author, and she thanked me with a copy of Clara Endicott Sears’ book, The Power Within. At a used-book store in Ellsworth, Maine, I asked the shopkeeper if he had any Loring books, and a lady who came in behind me interrupted, “Are you talking about Emilie Loring? I love her books! I think I read every one.”

York window sq wpr
Writing spot for To Love and To Honor

It’s so much fun to visit with fellow enthusiasts, to share our favorite books and scenes. It’s almost like sharing an actual place–like people do when they’ve both been to Disneyland or to London–and in a way, that’s just what it is. When we read, we live in our book for awhile. Fortunately, Emilie was fully aware of that and created places to which we’d like to return.

 

“I devote from nine to ten months to a novel and during the major part of each day I exist in the world I am creating. Why spend all that time in a sordid environment? I like charming surroundings.” Emilie Loring

I began the biography of Emilie Loring to satisfy my own curiosity, but increasingly, I’ve come to feel that I’m doing this for a lot of people. I do it for Emilie, of course, as a way to “pay it forward,” and for her grandchildren, who have helped and encouraged me so much. But I am also doing it for these people I’ve run into and those I’ve yet to find, the many people like myself who enjoyed her books, tried to learn more about their author, and came away with little. Now, there will be a biography, and through both that and this blog, we can learn about Emilie Loring and visit the charming, inspiring worlds she created.

How many of us are there? Over five million Emilie Loring books had been sold by 1963, just before a big burst of paperback readers and new, ghostwritten titles. In the last fifty years, how many more have there been?  One of the Bantam paperback copies says “Nearly 37 million copies worldwide.”  I know that my sisters and I counted for fifty-two.

That’s the other thing that has to be considered. How many times has each book been read? My three older sisters read the books just as I did, and since then, we have handed copies to friends and family to get them started, also. Think of families that have vacation homes with bookcases of summer reading. Our 1950s lake house has seen five generations of readers. An Emilie Loring book at a New England cottage since the 1920s or one on the shelf of a bed and breakfast inn may have entertained ten, twenty, maybe more readers.

BlueHill library sq wpr
How many borrowed Emilie Loring’s  books from the library?

Then think of all the copies loaned by libraries through the years. As far away as Australia, librarians reported customers standing in line to check out the latest Emilie Loring releases. When the books were removed from the shelves and sent to auction houses and public sales, they simply changed hands and started on their way from reader to reader in private homes.

A story I especially enjoy is one related by the Christian Science Monitor about a man who went to a bookstore in China and found just one book in the English language—an Emilie Loring novel. I’ve certainly lost Emilie Loring books in eBay auctions to buyers who sat up just a little later, offered just a bit more than I. The demand continues.

I have given myself a year to find as many Emilie Loring fans and new readers as I can.   Happily, I continue to find them wherever I go.

In the blogosphere, I’ve met Kate at Kate’s Bookshelf who loves Emilie as I do, and Ramona DeFelice Long, whose mother is a longtime Emilie Loring reader.  I’ve also seen the many commenters on numerous blogs who confide that their favorite author—their mother’s, their grandmother’s—is Emilie Loring.

Emilie’s fans have found me on Facebook (Emilie Loring, biography by Patti Bender) and Twitter (@patti_bender), too. Please follow my feeds on any of the platforms you use, and invite others to do the same!  Ask your family.  Ask your friends.  Poke around in old bookstores.

I am finishing the biography and seeking an agent/publisher for it. In the dream, there is a coming-out party for the book in Boston, and I come to meet many of you at book signings throughout the country. The movie or mini-series will debut, and all of us will know that we had a hand in it.

But first things first. I have a biography to complete, and together, we have an Emilie Loring audience to locate.  Emilie’s 150th birthday is September 5, 2016. Let’s see how many we can get to celebrate with us.


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