“Pardon me,” said the well-dressed older man. “But could you tell me when this festival got so big? Last time I was here, there were only a few tents. And today,” he paused, his smile wide, “this is huge, and so many people.”

imageSo began a conversation with a visitor from the East Coast last Saturday at the Printers Row Book Fest, the Midwest’s largest outdoor literary fest. His surprise and enthusiasm is one reason I’ve gone for several years and then displayed my nursing memoir, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self, for the past two.

I get excited already when I approach the street where it starts. There are several blocks full of tents with tables lined up on the sides of the streets. You hardly know where to start. Plus there are large outdoor tents and indoor venues for author presentations. When I’m not there with my book, I attend both days and hop from author to author, grab a pizza lunch, and roam the streets peering at everyone’s table.

For the second year in a row, I rented space from Blake Hausladen of Rook Creek Books. Blake is famous for his “Harry Potter for adults” series that grabs buyers in by the dozens. Besides being a prolific and imaginative author, he’s a genuinely nice guy.

I left home about nine on Saturday morning and walked down to Printers Row, dragging my suitcase of books and promotional supplies and clutching a poster. By 9:45, I was ready for the early birds who arrived before the Lit Fest’s official ten o’clock start.

The second and main reason I take Caring Lessons here is that I love to see people’s reactions to a book written by a nurse. They can see I’m a nurse immediately by the display of my graduation photo from 1962 and a replica of our nurse’s cap made by a classmate as a table favor at our fiftieth reunion. Here’s a sample of comments:

Untitled“Oh my. My mother had a cap just like that. When did you graduate?…I want to buy a book for her. She will just love it.”

“You’re a nurse?…I want to tell you nurses are the most wonderful people. You do not get enough credit for what you do. I’ve been hospitalized a few times and I would not have made it without the nurses. You are wonderful people. I just want you to know that.”

“I have a niece going into nursing. I want to buy it for her. I’ve not seen any book like this about being a nurse.”

And that’s a problem, folks. Too few nurses write their stories. Too few books by nurses get shelved in the few bookstores left today. Of the few books out there, I know of none that describes one nurse’s entire career. Caring Lessons does. And I think we as nurses have a responsibility to educate our public about how we make our career decisions and what it is we do in our various roles: caregiver, teacher, administrator, researcher, care coordinator to name a few.

Addressing my forty-year career, Caring Lessons intertwines my personal and professional life…going from being a sandbox mom to jumping through the hoops from diploma grad to a PhD in nursing science and climbing a career ladder from nurse’s aide to professor emerita.

I don’t sell many books at Printers Row. But that’s not the point. I get a chance to give nursing a public face. I get a chance to educate about who we are and what we do. I get a chance to learn from the recipients of our care. All ingredients for a perfect day!

Think about it. Know a nurse, or wanna-be nurse, or want to learn about being a nurse yourself? Consider getting Caring Lessons, available at Amazon. All proceeds go to TANA, the Trinity (Christian College) Alumni Nursing Association, at the baccalaureate nursing program I helped start in the eighties.

And, next year, first weekend in June, come to Chicago and get your own heady dose of literary medicine.