Words and drink, for a good cause: books

Peter Megargee Brown, left, of Stonington, signs copies of his new book, "Figure It Out: A Guide to Wisdom," on Sunday as he and his wife, Alexandra Stoddard, also a writer, sold the book outside the Dog Watch Cafe in Stonington in a fundraising event for the Stonington Free Library.
Peter Megargee Brown, left, of Stonington, signs copies of his new book, "Figure It Out: A Guide to Wisdom," on Sunday as he and his wife, Alexandra Stoddard, also a writer, sold the book outside the Dog Watch Cafe in Stonington in a fundraising event for the Stonington Free Library. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

Stonington - Shortly after this spring's flooding caused about $50,000 of damage to the Stonington Free Library's children's section, Peter Brown and his wife, Alexandra Stoddard, were talking to Dog Watch Cafe owner David Eck about how they could help.

Brown, a trial lawyer, decided that he would donate 1,000 copies of his new book, "Figure it Out," to the effort. On Sunday anyone who donated $25 to the library received a signed copy and a free drink at the Dog Watch.

The event was a hit as hundreds made donations to the library during a daylong event at the restaurant, which overlooks Stonington Harbor.

"This has just been a phenomenal success," said Stoddard, an author of books including "Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life."

"It's a party and we're able to give a check to the library after all this," she continued. "It's been a steady, steady stream of people all day. By the end of dinner, our goal is to have no more books."

Margaret Victoria, the head librarian, called the event "an outstanding idea" and showed how much people in the community value the library.

"The library holds a very special place in a lot of people's hearts," Victoria said. "This really shows how much it means to the area."

The money raised on Sunday will go directly to repair and restoration efforts. A total was not immediately available. The flood destroyed the carpeting, drywall, furniture, and approximately 500 books.

Though the library, which reopened the children's area last month, has filed paperwork for federal aid, it needs extra money to complete all the necessary work, Victoria said.

"We had to throw away books, we had to throw away carpet," said Mike Leahy, a member of the library's board of directors. "Everything was affected."

Scott Bates, who heads the library's board, said the fundraiser is another reason why Stonington is a special place.

"In our hour of need the community stepped forward. During the flood, volunteers waded into the waters to save books from our children's room, and today under a clear blue sky, Peter and Alexandra, along with the folks at Dog Watch, gave of their time and talent to help us keep the children's program going strong."

All three organizers have a strong bond to the library. Eck's wife Wendy is a former library president and for years Stoddard and Brown have written at the Stonington Free Library, a sanctuary where they could work diligently on their own projects while conferring with one another on their work.

"In order to carry out this mission - finishing this book - I found that the place to be was in the library. So I would take my bag with all my papers and I would go to a quiet room and sit down to work," Brown said.

Brown's book, published this year, is based on words, phrases and essays he has saved over the years, the basis for ideas that he believes can be helpful when facing the challenges of life. His book is divided into chapters on areas like love, death and writing. "I have always, since the earliest time, been interested in words - that's the key to it," Brown said. "It's words that make the world go 'round. They're the key to expression, to the resolution of issues."

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