A Thank You From New York

For those who responded to my plea for books; those who boxed up their favorites and sent them to the libraries affected by Super Storm Sandy, I wanted to share an email. Below you will find a copy of an email I received from the library director. Please know that your contributions mattered and that many were touched by your generosity. While rebuilding is slow and even now, their internet connections are sporadic, I wanted y’all to know that you  made a difference. Thank you for being eager to help those in need and for sharing your love of books with others.

Dear Renea Winchester:

On behalf of the entire Queens Library community – our Board of Trustees, our staff and the 900,000 Queens Library cardholders who count on us to be there for them each and every day – Thank You for your immediate and thoughtful response after Super Storm Sandy.  Whether they were donations of food, blankets, generators, care packages, books, computers, or personally volunteering, your amazing kindness during one of the most devastating weather-related events in recent memory was truly heartwarming, and I am sure it will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of all those who benefited from your generosity.

 Thanks to the support of caring neighbors like you, the Queens Library served as a refuge and relief center in the immediate aftermath of the storm, despite the fact that our own facilities on the Peninsula were without electricity, or worse, destroyed by the flood waters. With your assistance, we helped thousands of people in the critical, first few days after the storm with meals, relief supplies, books, coats, and more.

 Queens Library’s response to the needs of the people of the Rockaways is just beginning. We are committed to rebuilding our damaged libraries and in doing so, helping to rebuild people’s lives. We are in the process of bringing interim library service back in every neighborhood of the peninsula where the library was destroyed. For additional information, to check on the progress of devastated libraries or to offer further assistance, please log on to queenslibrary.org or queenslibraryfoundation.org.

 Again, please accept our most sincere thanks for your invaluable contribution to those in need.

 Best wishes for an enjoyable and peaceful Holiday season,


My Thoughts on Being Thankful…and Sending Books to NJ

I was recovering from surgery when Hurricane Katrina hit the south on August 29, 2005; physically unable to do anything but weep as men like Hardy Jackson from Biloxi, MS suffered devastating losses. You may not remember his name, but I know you remember his face. For those who have wondered what happened to Mr. Jackson, he has stage IV cancer. View his story here.

I remember my heart breaking, my resolve building that I would do something should another tragedy hit. However, when Superstorm Sandy came to shore on the Northeastern Coast I found myself unable to contribute. The Red Cross won’t accept my blood (I’m too short, and a cancer survivor); and, like many American families, struggling financially. Then a thought entered my heart, you can coordinate a book drive.  The one thing I have plenty of is books, not just the one I’ve written, but stacks of books from bestselling authors. For those who haven’t read the original post about the drive, you can find it here.

Since the original post complete strangers have come together. Authors, readers, book reviewers and complete strangers have sent books to libraries that were severely damaged. I was also shocked at the naysayers who said that the books wouldn’t be wanted. I had spoken directly to the COO of the library who was moved to tears that someone…anyone was thinking of them. I understand that insurance will cover some of the costs. However it is the end of the fiscal year and the particular library chosen was already operating on an anorexic budget. They needed books…now.

I should also mention that I have withheld the address from my blog to protect the library from unscrupulous people who have their own best interest at heart. Already someone offered free books but the fine print read that they expected the library to pay shipping. And, I was discouraged when the United Parcel Service who, when I contacted them via FB, would not issue a call slip for the book reviewer who had several boxes of books she was willing to donate. Still, we pressed on and books arrive at the library every day

In the posts that follow I will include images from those who sent me pictures of books. I know I will overlook or forget someone and I apologize in advance. If you didn’t receive the mailing address of the library, kindly send another email to me and I will  send you the address. Your books bring smiles. They bring hope, and for that I am very thankful.

Below are some of the authors and readers who have contributed with more images to follow later.

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Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches will be released soon. Learn more about her at www.reneawinchester.com


Southern Authors Ready to Send Books to Libraries Damaged by Sandy

Images from hurricane Sandy are in and they are heartbreaking. Our Northern brothers and sisters have been hit hard. Homes destroyed. Unimaginable loss. Desperation.  It is during these times that we feel helpless asking, “What can I do?”

Photo credit: Reuters/Adreeslatif

We empathize with those who have lost everything and those working hard to restore the area. We understand that compensation from insurance companies will come, but may not cover all the damage.  That is why many churches and schools are hosting food drives, delivering water, food, batteries and love-filled hugs. The Red Cross is boots-on-the- ground as are our military and regular everyday folk who just want to help. For those who can give financially, please do so either to the Red Crossarchitectureforhumanity.org or Because We Care Ministries who arrived in New Jersey days ago.  I mention these three charities because I personally know people who work there and because there have been reports of people with less than noble intentions are already taking advantage of folk. C’mon now. Let’s work together.

Today I write asking  my fellow authors and readers to participate in a book drive. Realizing that times are tight and some people can not write a check; I urge authors, book reviewers, and readers to give what they already have . . . copies of books. Plenty of helpers will rebuild neighborhoods, but who will help the libraries? Prior to this storm, libraries had already experienced deep cuts; they were doing more than ever with limited resources.  That is why I need your help.

If you are an author, please help me send copies of your work to Sandy victims. If you are a reader or book reviewer and have books in PRISTINE condition, you can help also.  I am one woman on a mission to give books to those in need. This little project is not a quick fix. Yes, I realize that people need homes, but they will also need books. I figure if students can send coats, authors and readers can send books. If we all do what we can then every little bit will help. This book drive is my “little bit.” My hope is that every person reading this post will send at least one book. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

When I mentioned this idea to local booksellers and my NYT author friends, I quickly realized that southern authors and readers were ready to ship tons of books to our friends up North. I have collaborated with George Eberhart, Editor of American Libraries Magazine who kindly helped me locate libraries in need of assistance. If you are inclined to help please send me your information and I will forward the mailing address of the library that is in need. If you’re an author, or library staff, my goal is to build a relationship that benefits readers.

For Librarians and Media Specialists along the coast: North Carolina, New Jersey, Long Island, Delaware.  If  Sandy damaged your library and you would like to add books to your permanent collection, please contact me using the address below.

Authors, readers, and book reviewers: Please follow the instructions and include all information requested  to add your title to the list.

Add your name to the list using the contact information below.

Please email me at: Reneawrites(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE, DO NOT SHIP BOOKS TO ME! Contact me through the above email.

Authors, please include the title, ISBN, CIP, Genre, URL link and, of course, contact information. Readers and reviewers, I just need contact your information.

From my heart to yours, thank you. Remember, every book counts.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes.  In 2012, she was named the Atlanta Pen Women Author of the Year.   She is passionate about literacy. When she isn’t writing, she shelves books at the public library. She is currently seeking representation for her third book In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches, and her first novel currently in progress.  Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com. To learn about Pen Women in your area click here.