A Red-Letter Day!

Hi Friends! ๐Ÿ’— A very warm welcome to all of our new friends, too!

(Be sure to read the Words of Wisdom post first!)

Wednesday truly was a Red-Letter Day! Susan Branch was coming to visit in celebration of her newest book, Distilled Genius! Excitement filled the air, as I arrived extra-early at Prairie Path Books to help out with any last minute details. Sandy, the delightful bookstore owner, and her talented assistant, Kate, had been working for weeks to prepare for a very large gathering of Girlfriends (Susan Branch’s devoted fans).

Knowing the crowd would be very large, I intentionally wore my mask both indoors and outside, only removing it for quick photos. I also spent lots of time outside. Susan and Joe wore their masks, as well. Such a little thing to do, that helps to keep everyone safe!๐Ÿ’—

By late afternoon, Girlfriends began arriving. It was such fun to sit on the shady patio in front of the bookstore, chatting with Girlfriends as they walked up. It was lovely to see Jo, Ginnie, and her mom again! We have been meeting at Susan Branch gatherings since 2013. When Cynde arrived, we exchanged happy hugs, as blog friends meeting for the very first time! We warmly welcomed Doreen and Greg. It was fun meeting them in person for the first time, too. As we laughed and chatted on the shady patio, the line of Girlfriends waiting at the door grew longer and longer. Our very special evening was about to begin. I had no idea that there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me!!

Kate found me in line and asked me to come inside to help her. Of course, I was eager to help. After picking up my name tag and my copy of Distilled Genius, Kate led me to a table filled with homemade cookies, baked with love from recipes in several of Susan Branch’s cookbooks. She asked me to fill two plates with cookies for Susan and Joe. As I carefully balanced the cookies, Kate led me through the back of the bookstore, out the back door, and in through the back door of the large gathering space next door. I followed Kate, as she led me to a private, cozy space set up like a living room. Susan was sitting on the couch and Joe was sitting nearby.

Oh my goodness!! I introduced myself as I placed the cookies on the coffee table. Kate disappeared, as Susan and Joe invited me to stay for a visit. There were big hugs! (This was my fourth time to talk with Susan and Joe at her book signings. We enjoy one anotherโ€™s blogs and keep in touch.) Susan told me which cookies were from her grandmother’s recipe and named all of the other cookies, too. They talked about their cross country trip so far, as they make their way to California. Susan asked about my family and shared very thoughtful, heartfelt words.๐Ÿ’• As we talked, Joe took lots of photos. I told Susan about some of the ways her books, her artwork, and her blog have inspired my life over the past 35 years! I shared the story of my white, picket fence Herb & Tea garden, inspired by her Summer book. I shared how so many recipes from her Autumn book have become a part of our family traditions. (My brothers, Johnny and Jeff, would often comment, โ€œMmmmm, This is really good! Is this a Susan Branch recipe?โ€) I also shared that I began buying her books long ago as gifts for my sweet mom, Darlene, who was a wonderful cook!

It felt almost like a little visit with Susan and Joe, in their living room, on Marthaโ€™s Vineyard! ๐Ÿ˜‰ This once-in-a-lifetime-dream-come-true visit lasted about thirty minutes. It felt like old friends just catching up on one anotherโ€™s lives. ( Oh, how I wish I had thanked Susan for introducing me to The Artistโ€™s Way by Julia Cameron. Such a life-changing book on creativity!) I knew I must end our special visit so that Susan would have time to prepare for her big Book Talk. We parted company with more hugs!๐Ÿ’—


When I walked out into the gathering space, a large crowd of 145 guests was seated, eagerly awaiting Susanโ€™s Book Talk. There were Girlfriends of all ages, from 16-weeks-old to their 90s. Several had even traveled from out-of-state to meet Susan. Such a happy group, filling the room with joyful chatter!

Sandy, the owner of Prairie Path Books, gave a lively introduction. ๐Ÿ˜ŠThen she asked Susan to read aloud two special quotations from Distilled Genius. So delightful!

Words from vintage prints (Author Unknown)

The moment we were all waiting for had arrived!!

Susan captured our hearts with her wonderful Book Talk. She shared stories of their crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2, in May, with 90 Girlfriends, and some of the special delights of traveling in England. Susan spoke of some of her heroes, whose quotations she hand lettered and beautifully illustrated in Distilled Genius. She explained how her curiosity led her to learn more about these inspiring people ~ reading their biographies, visiting their home museums and gardens, and walking in the places where they had walked!

Throughout Susanโ€™s inspiring Book Talk, a theme of ‘connection’ wove through her stories like a lovely ribbon ~ connecting family & friends, connecting to the wisdom of those who inspire us to learn and grow, connecting to historic places, and connecting to nature. Such important reminders for this time in our lives!

Susan closed with her wish that after reading and savoring the words of wisdom in her new book, readers might consider donating their copy to a school library or a public library!๐Ÿ’•

Susan also answered lots of burning questions from her Girlfriends!๐Ÿ˜Š

Then part of our group lined up to meet Susan and have our books signed.

My dear friend, Laura Ashley, is a brand new Susan Branch Girlfriend.
(Laura even has a pet rabbit named Beatrix!๐Ÿ˜Š)

Susan really enjoys spending time with each of her Girlfriends. As we waited in line, we met so many lovely, interesting ladies. It was fun to see a beautiful quilt, made with Susan Branch fabrics, that one Girlfriend brought to show Susan. Susan even signed the back of the quilt for her!๐Ÿ’•

Autographed copies of Distilled Genius are available
at Prairie Path Books, in Wheaton, Illinois! ๐Ÿ’—

Another part of our group browsed through the lovely bookstore, enjoying homemade cookies and ‘bubbly’ while shopping. Other Girlfriends gathered outside on the patio to chat with new friends and old friends.

Our beautiful evening ended very late, beneath the full August moon. We will always treasure this wonderful gathering, stitched together with special memories and warm friendships.๐Ÿ’—

Huge thanks to Susan & Joe and Prairie Path Books!

Perennially yours,

๐Ÿ’— Dawn

P.S. Our next post is coming very soon. ๐ŸŒป Bring your garden gloves!

20 thoughts on “A Red-Letter Day!

  1. Dawn, it was so good to see you, and thank you again for making the connection between Susan and Prairie Path Books for one of the stops on Susan and Joe’s cross country trip. It was a wonderful evening!

    • It was wonderful to see you and your mom again, Ginnie! Thank you for taking photos as Susan signed my books. I’m very sorry that we didnโ€™t have more time to talk and catch up. I tried to spend as much time outside as possible!
      I love our special tradition of meeting each time Susan comes to town! Hope you are enjoying this lovely August weekend! Warm hugs!๐Ÿ’—

  2. What a wonderful picture of you and Susan!! I thought of you all day Wednesday and wondered how it was going. Another SB girlfriend reminded me the day Susan was at The Learned Owl in Hudson Ohio and I realized that after that she would be on her way to Prairie Path Books. Iโ€™m so glad it all went off without a hitch and that you had a chance for lovely personal time. Iโ€™m glad you wore a mask. A word of warning, the new variant of Covid is out there and highly contagious. My best friend is battling it right now. She is vaccinated and boosted and still caught it and has made 2 trips to the ER. Itโ€™s not over and we need to stay safe.
    I owe you a letter, your beautiful correspondence is still sitting out on the hutch in my breakfast room.

    • Oh, Chris! I was thinking of you the whole day, too!๐Ÿ’• I knew you would find a way to be there if this book tour brought Susan & Joe to West Texas. I really wanted this post to share the ‘feel’ of the evening with everyone!

      I really felt concerned about the large crowd in close quarters. It was waaaay beyond my comfort zone to be around so many people who were not wearing masks! Believe me, I wore my mask the entire evening, only removing it for a few quick photos. (I donโ€™t want these photos to give the impression that I wasnโ€™t wearing a mask. It made me nervous each time I took it off!) I think both Susan & Joe also had the same concerns. Fortunately, we had lovely, cool weather that evening. I put chairs out on the patio near the benches and beautiful container gardens before the guests arrived. So, it was delightful to spend lots of time outside!

      My thoughts are with your best friend, dear Chris!๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ I hope that she will fully recover, without any long lasting effects. I know it will take time. Thank you for sharing her story with us.

      It makes my heart so happy to know that my card is sitting on the hutch in your breakfast room. A handmade card is a hug you get to keep! ๐Ÿ’• I hope it reminds you that I think of you both each and every day, Chris. Take extra-good care!๐Ÿ’—

  3. Oh Dawn, how very special your visit was with Susan! I’m thrilled for you to be able to have alone time with them all to yourself. What a great time with all the Girlfriends on that red letter day, my friend!
    Thank you so much for sharing your joyous day! The photos are great of the two of you!
    I’m so glad everyone was careful wearing masks, except for photos. I know you will be reflecting on this special day for a long time to come.
    Take care of yourself and John.
    Love, Martha Ellen xoxo

    • Oh, Martha Ellen, I apologize for this very late reply, I just found it lingering in the Spam folder. That is no place for a dear friend! Iโ€™m so very glad to hear from you!!

      It still feels like a wonderful dream-come-true, Martha Ellen!! I will always treasure the memories of my private time spent talking with Susan and Joe. They were both genuinely interested in my life and our family. So warm and caring! It was a surprise for me, so I didnโ€™t feel nervousโ€ฆ only filled with gratitude!๐Ÿ’–
      Susan & Joe wore masks, but only a handful of the large crowd were were wearing masks. Thankfully, the weather was very nice and several of us visited outside away from the crowd. I thought of you that evening, dear friend, wishing that you were there, too! I met so many Girlfriends. It was such a good feeling to be in the company of so many kindred spirits!
      Letโ€™s meet soon to share a virtual cup of tea, Martha Ellen. Iโ€™d love that!๐Ÿ’—

    • It was truly wonderful, Judy! Susan Branch LOVES her fansโ€ฆ and the feeling is mutual! It is very inspiring to be in such a large group of kindred spirits! It is so easy to talk with everyone because we all enjoy the same things. YOU are most definitely a kindred spirit, too, Judy!
      Waving from my garden to your garden!๐Ÿ’—

  4. Hi Dawn!
    It was nice to meet you at the recent Susan Branch event at Prairie Path books! It was a delightful evening and this post captured it so well! I’m glad you had the foresight to contact Sandy about scheduling Susan’s visit. It was a dream come true for me as I’m sure it was for many in the audience. Susan Branch is just as kind, funny, and sweet in person as I’ve always imagined her to be! Glad I found your blog! Would love to have another ‘girl-friend’ meet up soon to talk about the wonderful world of Susan Branch and other things that float our boats!

    • Welcome, Valerie! Iโ€™m so delighted that you came to visit my blog and joined in the conversation! ๐Ÿ’•It was really nice to meet you, too! Itโ€™s hard to believe that it has been a whole week since our special gathering.

      Sandy was a perfect hostess! This was the largest gathering Prairie Path Books has hosted. I’m so happy that it worked out so well. The beautiful weather helped, too. I let Sandy know in advance that the book signing line would be very long because Susan loves to chat and feel a connection with each Girlfriend. Over the years, I have made long lasting friendships with women that I met in the book signing lines!

      I’m so happy that you found my blog, too, Valerie! Just type ‘Susan Branch’ into the search bar in the blog archives. It will pull up all of the posts inspired by Susan! You can always email me through the ‘Say Hello’ page. It really would be lovely to have another Girlfriends gathering!
      Heartfelt thanks for visiting today, Valerie! The comments people leave are my very favorite part of blogging.
      Hope you will visit often!๐Ÿ’—

  5. Dawn, you are a wonderful soul. Your kindness shines through in everything you do. You helped create a wonderful day for many: Susan, the bookshop owner and staff, and all the girlfriends including you. ๐Ÿ’–

    • Oh, thank you, dear Alys! Just thinking about our celebration with Susan Branch makes my whole heart smile! Susan is just as sweet as her beautiful artwork. At the end of the evening as we said โ€œGood night,โ€ Susan and Joe were full of happy memories, too! We were very fortunate that the weather cooperated. People could spend time inside, or outside away from the crowd, depending on their comfort level.

      During her wonderful Book Talk, Susan shared the news that she has already begun working on second book of inspiring book of quotations. There were just too many words of wisdom for one beautiful book to hold! ๐Ÿ˜Š My parting words to Susan and Joe were, โ€œPlease come visit us again!โ€ Sometimes dreams do come true!๐Ÿ’•
      I think of you so often, Alys! Sending many blessings from my heart to yours! ๐Ÿ’—

      • Susan’s art is so uplifiting. It appealed to me from the beginning. She’s such a talent, as a writer and an illustrator, and she clearly has a dedicated following which is the ultimate compliment.

      • So true, Alys! Susan sends more kindness and joy into the world in so many ways. Her book talk charmed and delighted us all! She is heading to California now, where she has a few more book signings planned.
        Sending love and hugs, dear heart!๐Ÿ’—

  6. My copy came a couple of weeks ago and it’s just beautiful. I keep it right next to my bed since I do a lot of my writing there. That’s the kind of evening I would enjoy the most. Many years ago I was able to drive myself to book signings from favorite authors. Best days ever. I love all the work Susan Branch does. It feels so good. How Wonderful that you were able to see her in person.

    • Yay! I am so happy that you are enjoying Distilled Genius! It is truly a feast for the head, heart, and eyes! I’m still savoring my copy. I’m intentionally reading it slowly and when I finish, I know I will begin reading it again!

      Oh, Marlene! You would really enjoy a book signing with Susan Branch! She gives the most delightful book talks. Over the Winter months, she is hoping to partner with small, independent bookstores to do some Zoom book talks from her home. I will keep you posted! The past two years, I enjoyed several of Susan’s Zoom gatherings. It was so nice to spend time virtually in her kitchen or sitting by the fireplace in their living room on Martha’s Vineyard!๐Ÿ’• Last week, Susan told us that she has already begun working on a second book of quotations. There were just too many for one book!! Happy reading, Marlene! ๐Ÿ’—

      • Susan mentioned that she would LOVE to do some Zoom gatherings this Winter! She would love to have small, independent bookstores or libraries invite her to Zoom from her home on Marthaโ€™s Vineyard. I will keep you posted, Marlene! Happy reading, my friend!๐Ÿ’—

      • Just so you know, there are no any kind of bookstores where I live. It’s my own private form of hell. It’s part of why I was so happy to leave here the first time. It’s 2 1/2 hours to Flagstaff and 3 + to Phoenix to my favorite bookstore. Changing Hands in Mesa. I spent a week there many years ago going to book signings.

      • It’s so hard for an avid reader, like you, to be far away from a good bookstore. Thank goodness for Amazon!
        Marlene, I remember visiting Changing Hands bookstore once. Such a great bookstore!
        Sending you cool breezes and big hugs!!๐Ÿ’—

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