Last year, our friends Joe and Deb invited Patti and me to join them for the Master’s golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia. We drove over, met them and had a great time. It’s the second time I’ve been to the Masters, which used to have the moniker of the “hardest ticket in sports to get.” I love golf and it’s my favorite place to watch golf. To this day, it is one of the superlative golf courses in the world. Imagine 500+ acres of golf course and not one weed on the course. Just unbelievable.

So, while we were at the tournament, we heard that the Master’s was going to have a drawing for tickets for the 2012 tournament. There would be two drawings — tickets for a practice round and tickets for a regular day of the tournament.

I went online, crossed my fingers and entered. Well, the deadlines for both sets of tickets came and went. I got the obligatory “thank you for entering, but you are not a winner today” email. No practice round tickets and no regular tournament tickets. Oh well. Don’t look back!

One of my other passions is books. There are a few websites I check regularly for the latest about my favorite authors, information about publishing, writing, reading and the ongoing fight between ebooks and regularly printed books. I can tell you when my interest started — when I was a kid and I read Swiss Family Robinson for the first time. While being involved in a shipwreck at sea holds no romance to me, finding an island where I could build this fantastic tree house and have the run of the island could be a dream come true.

I was checking the website for Square Books, one of my favorite book stores in America. It is located on the courthouse square of Oxford, Mississippi, which is also the home of the late writer William Faulkner. It is a very quaint bookstore, with creaky wooden floors, walls loaded with autographed photos of writers, and tables of autographed books. The store routinely has regular author readings and signings. Oxford is also the home of John Grisham, who is featured prominently on posters and whose books adorn the tables.

So, I check their website this time and I see an intriguing ad. The ad read: World Book Night — April 23, 2012 — Apply here.

I clicked on the site and learned the following:

  • Volunteers apply to hand out books to those who admittedly read very little or don’t reach much at all — not everyone is selected
  • If you are selected to be a volunteer, you choose from among 30 books for the one book you want to hand out — free
  • Part of the application process means that you look at these 30 books and decide your first, second and third choices as the book you want to give away
  • You have to write an essay about why you want to do this and, more importantly, where you would hand out your books
  • If selected, you will receive a congratulatory message in early February, telling you a little about next steps
  • Then those selected will receive another email in late February, telling you which book you will be handing out and where to pick up your 20 copies.

By picking up the books in late February, those selected will have time to read the book chosen for them before April 23rd. Cool.

After reading a little further, I found out that this is a mammoth undertaking and takes place each year on the same date in the UK. This is the first year that the US will participate as a country.  The goal is to encourage and turn those who read very little or not at all into more avid readers, and most folks just need “the right book” to get the started and excited.

I was hooked; I applied and had fun writing my essays.

So, in early February when I got the notice that I had been selected, I was really charged. In my essay, I said that if I was chosen to hand out the books, I would likely go down to the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building, a huge tourist landmark here in Dallas, and hand them out to the tourists there who read very little. It just seemed a bit ironic to me to hand these free books out at a schoolbook depository. I also said I would hand some out at a local DART metro station.

So, for now, I’m just jazzed that I know where I will be on April 23rd, but am awaiting word on the book that I will be giving out. Among the many books that individuals could choose from include The Bee, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Book Thief,  The Hunger Games, Because of Winn-Dixie, Zeitoun, A Reliable Wife, Q is for Quarry, The Kite Runner, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Things They Carried, Bel Canto, Housekeeping, The Lovely Bones and Just Kids, among others.

As we get closer to the end of the month, I will let you know whether I got my first choice — The Book Thief — or my second or third choice.

So, maybe I didn’t get tickets to the Masters, but I do get the chance to hand out free books and, perhaps, spur an interest in reading for someone. I suppose I will be all the richer for not getting the tickets, but becoming the volunteer.