Saturday Short: The Community Bookstore

photograph of two polaroids of bookstores

It used to be, back when your mother and father were young and there were still such things as penny candy and magic, there was a bookstore in every town and every one was different. Some were so small that you would have sworn it could have fit inside a shoebox.

Yet the proprietor always managed to find the exact book you needed, when you needed it, even if you had no idea that particular book was going to make your heart sing.

Others were so large that you could lose whole gaggles of children amongst the stacks. Some did, only to be found at closing time by the store cat, asleep with picture books open in their laps.

Nowadays, when people live next door to each other for years, yet still can’t rightly tell each other’s name, there are fewer bookstores and less magic, too.

But if you’re lucky enough to find one in the town where you hang your coat at the end of the day, go in and say hi. Put your phone in your pocket and gaze around in wonder as you step over the threshold into a place of joy and welcome.

Find that book you’d forgotten, which made you brave when you were young. Pick up a slim tome, on the recommendation of a handwritten sign stuck precariously between the spines, that may just save your soul. Buy the fat novel with a title that tickles like déjà vu at the base of your neck on the advice of the bookseller whose smile crinkles the corner of her eyes when you say yes and who whispers that the book is one of her favorite friends.

There’s still magic in the world, though it’s hidden more often than not. But you can find it wrapped up in the pages found in bookstores owned by people whose veins flow with prose and poetry. Don’t be shy, come on in, and if you listen closely, you’ll hear the books call your name, too.


Dedicated to Renee on the occasion of the Grand Opening of Books on B. Thank you for bringing back magic, warmth, and community into our downtown through your bookstore. May all the pages of your days be blessed.

Why I’m a Hobbit (and not an Elf)

I know, I know. I’m not really a hobbit either, I’m simply a human. But of the two, I’m more of a hobbit than an elf (even if I really, really am enamored of the elvish interpretation of Art Nouveau). Why does this even matter? Well, because I was thinking about how what we believe is a good life, a worthwhile life, a life to strive for influences what we create.

Okay, I know that seems like a bit of a stretch, but I can explain. First, I love Tolkien’s writings and his worlds. I love Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Lord of the Rings (I mean, really, who can hear Sam’s speech near the end of The Two Towers and not get misty eyed?). And I really, really love Hobbiton. I grew up in a small farming town and I love villages. I love the countryside and gardening and tea and community and everything about it. I love the idea of having a simple life, a rooted life. I’m definitely a Baggins though because I love to have an adventure or two, too, but then I want to come home to a place that feels like home.

I sometimes wish I were more like an elf, but I’m not. I’m not graceful all the time and I’m sure not wise (yet) and I definitely can’t walk on snow. But perhaps that’s not the point and that thinking I should be like an elf is a way of perpetuating the idea that a life needs to be extraordinary to be a good life, while research tells us that joy is found in the small moments of what can appear from the outside as an ordinary life. (I highly recommend watching Brene Brown’s talk that touches on this idea, which got me thinking about these intersections between life and writing and meaning more deeply, again as her work usually does. Not to mention, having the courage to be vulnerable and keep sharing what I create and write, even when it’s scary.)

So what does any of this have to do with my writing? My love of Hobbiton and a hobbit’s life shows up in my writing even when I’m not conscious of wanting to put themes such as home and belonging and peace and good tilled earth into it. It shows up in my writing worlds that feature great open spaces and rolling countryside and people on reluctant adventures and the belief that people can create a better world, a just world. Thinking about what is meaningful to me allows me to more fully embrace the stories I’m writing, dig deeper and write what’s true (even when it cuts a little more closely than what seems fully comfortable).

I get to choose what’s a good and meaningful life for me and you do, too. And it’s fine for me to be a hobbit and for you to be an elf or a ranger or whatever else floats your boat and gets you home to where you need to be for your writing and creating. So if you need me, you’ll find me in my hobbit hole and I’ll put the kettle on for tea. Until then, watch your feet…(you know the rest). 🙂

Don’t be evil–read!

It’s no secret that I love reading. I love reading all types of books and, as I’ve said before, while some people binge watch TV shows, I binge read book series. I just finished with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and had to share this quote about reading and people.

And in my experience, well-read people are less likely to be evil." Quigley Quagmire

He of course goes on to say that this doesn’t hold true for all people, but for most. This quote makes me smile, even if it isn’t always true. It makes me think of my books as an antidote to evil, a vaccine to ensure I don’t become too cynical, too negative, and too tired to see good in the world and to do good in the world. Plus, it reminds me that I need to read, too.

As we enter the second half of October, it feels like we are running downhill, picking up steam, so we’ll blast through the last box on the calendar into the craziness of November. And, for my readers who are writers, you know it isn’t crazy just because it is the start of the holiday season–NaNoWriMo will be upon us.

But even when the days grow short and the word counts grow large, I will still carve out time in my day to read something not work-related and not the news. Books are a solace, a refuge, a place to think and to dream and to refresh so we can come back to our work with new eyes and open hearts. So, as the post title says, Don’t be evil–Read!

I hope you have something wonderful, something hopeful, something amazing that is capturing your reading attention. If you have book suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m always looking for new authors to binge read. 🙂

Meaning to Read

Do you have a stack of books on your nightstand (or cued on your device) that you’ve been meaning to read? Do you keep a list of titles that you want to read, but the list just seems to get longer instead of shorter? If this sounds like you, you’ll empathize with the quote today:

It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read. Lemony Snicket

There always seems to be too many interesting things to read and too little time to read them all in. So I, like Lemony Snicket, will probably found in this state. But, until then, I’ll keep reading everything I can get my hands on–even if it is the crucial, but dreadfully boring, reading of propositions in my state for the general elections.

I’ve rather been on a Lemony Snicket reading kick lately. I’m sure hardly anyone would call A Series of Unfortunate Events light or fluffy reading as they are rather glum books, but they are so wonderfully entertaining that I’ve been devouring over the last few days and had to share today’s quote. (My local, independent bookstore put the quote on one of their bookmarks, which was almost too perfect.) His series, All the Wrong Questions, was creative and ridiculous and entertaining and everything you want in a series for younger readers that it makes me wish some of the supposedly books written for adults would be so clever or make me care about the characters as much.

So I don’t have any profound thoughts about today’s quote, but it was too true not to share. But I do hope, when you have a moment of solitude (or make a moment of solitude as we can all too easily get sucked in by a million and one other things vying for our attention) you take the time to get swept up in a good book. Whether or not that book is about unfortunate events, Bombinating Beasts, or wrong questions is entirely up to you.

Hope you have a lovely day and a lovely read.

P.S. Is anyone else getting excited that we are only a bit over a month away from NaNoWriMo? 🙂

P.P.S Did you know it’s ALA’s Banned Books Week?  Celebrate by reading a banned or challenged book and check to see if your local library or bookstore is hosting events. Long live the freedom to read!

Trust and Books

Our local, independent bookshop gives out bookmarks with quotes whenever you make a purchase at the shop. It really is a lovely treat to see what quote is on the bookmark as we walk back home with our books. This quote was on one of the bookmarks we got from the shop and I think it is just wonderful advice.

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." Lemony Snicket

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” Lemony Snicket

Books say a lot about our tastes and interests, especially if we end up discussing them with someone we meet in a bookshop, on the train, or in the waiting room. I love talking about books with people and hearing about what they’re reading. I also like the advice to always bring a book with you. My bag is usually full of books (a hazard of working in a library) and I always have one or two that I’m studying, or devouring, depending on the subject and genre. And I do wonder what people do when they’ve not brought a book with them. Spend more time staring at their phone, I suppose. (I always hope they’re reading a book on their phone, too, but again that is probably my library work talking.)

So as you go about your day and week, take a moment to ask someone about the book they’re currently reading. We put our trust in books to teach us, to entertain us, to enlighten us, and to amaze us. Why wouldn’t we also trust or not depending on if someone has a book?  Remember, never trust them if they’ve not brought a book. Would Lemony Snicket ever steer you wrong? 😉

Hope you have a lovely day. 🙂

What’s Does This Stack of Books Say? (Part II)

It’s getting to be summertime and summer always makes me want to just take a pile of books, a big glass of lemonade (or cup of tea, depending on the weather), and read all day long. Unfortunately, life seems to intrude so I can’t always do that, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a stack of books always hanging around for just such an occasion. So I thought I’d share what’s been in my stack of books lately.

Photograph of books on my nightstand to read in  May and June 2015

Books, May/June 2015

First up is Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. I’ve read Takaki’s work in the past and picked up this volume at my local bookstore a few weeks ago. I wanted to have it at home for reference for a short story I’m currently writing. Takaki is a great historian and writer.

I just picked up Housewitch by Katie Schickel mainly because the cover was intriguing. Yes, sometimes I do judge a book by its cover. I’m only a chapter in, but am intrigued. I also thought it would be a good read because it is outside of my usual genres of reading. I was also interested in reading a book whose flap specifically labeled it as “women’s fiction” as I want to see if I can see the distinction between it and any other book I’ve read with female protagonists. Genre labels are fascinating to me.

I also picked up The Mourning Bells at the library because the cover art was amazing and I love the typography. It is part of a series and not the first, so I’m thinking that may be the reason I just couldn’t find my way into the story. I’m thinking about reading the first to give the series another go, but if nothing else the designer of the series’ covers is super-talented.

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History was a purchase from my local bookstore (they are awesome at special orders) since I wanted to see the types of stories that made the cut for this anthology. I’m always interested in reading stories that have diverse protagonists and interesting takes on weaving historical events or people into their narratives. Also, I’m still trying to wrap my head around writing short stories so reading more always seems like a good idea.

I checked out The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston for the second time from the library since the first time I didn’t have time to finish it before it was due. Fast-paced, fun read that leaves you thinking about AI for a long time afterwards.

Queen of the Dark Things is C. Robert Cargill’s sequel to Dreams and Shadows. Both are lovely books. The first took me a few chapters to really get lost in the story, but then I enjoyed both very much. I look forward to reading his next book, whenever it comes out.

What books are on your nightstand or e-reader that are waiting to be read? Any suggested summer reading?

I hope you have a lovely rest of your week and a wonderful, magical story to get lost in when you have some time to read. 🙂

What Does This Stack of Books Say?

So what books do you have on your nightstand? Do you have books on your nightstand? I suppose you could have them on the digital device of your choosing on your nightstand. But as for me, I have books, stacks of books around the house and I thought I’d do something different and share some of what I’m reading lately. So this is a stack that has been lately on my nightstand.

photograph of books in April 2015

Books, April 2015

Yeah, I like books a lot. I just read Show Your Work by Austin Kleon a couple of weeks ago and he suggests that people share not just their finished works, but also their inspiration and processes. So I thought I’d share this stack of books and why they inspire me or I hope to be inspired by them. So we’ll go bottom to top on this stack, just because that’s how I’m thinking of them.

On the bottom of the stack, not really a book (yet) is my notebook and part of a draft of my writing that I’m revising. I did NaNoWriMo last year and am in my second major round of revision. I’m going to finish it up in the next month and send it out to some friends to read, so that’s what I’m working on now.

My husband had a copy of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comesand I’ve never read it so I started to read it. I’m liking it so far, though I have gotten swept away by reading some other library books. I’m going to come back to this next month and finish it up. I can see parts where I’d expect Stephen King got inspired for Revival, so it is kind of weird to have read that first and now read Bradbury’s work. But a carnival/circus, who could resist?

I picked up The Devil’s Details at our local bookstore, the Hayward Bookshop, a few weeks ago. What can I say? I’m a geek and a book about footnotes sounded fun and interesting so I picked it up. There are footnotes throughout. I’ve not started it yet, but I think it will be going in my bag soon to read while waiting for meetings to start and shuttles to arrive.

I recently finished The Bookseller and it made me cry. It was good and had an interesting twist and I couldn’t resist a pair of friends running a bookshop. I like reading books that are structured in different ways to see what works and what doesn’t, at least for me as a reader and perhaps as a writer.

I’m re-reading a number of books to learn more about plotting, so that’s where Neverwhere comes in. I love this book. It is wonderful and has such a great twist that I didn’t see coming. Neil Gaiman’s writing is so lovely and his characters are unique and memorable. I love the idea of a London Below. It also makes me want to visit London, again, and soon.

I don’t read a lot of young adult novels. I’m not drawn to them, but I do love a lot of the ones I’ve read that I’ve been given by friends or read on the recommendation of other friends. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a fun read that I re-read early this year, again, for breaking down plot. Also, as someone who is fond of photography and photographic archives, I loved the inclusion of found photos in the book and how they supported the text.

One of my friends, the wonderful romance novel reviewer and librarian emerita, Kris Ramsdell, introduced me to the writing of Sarah Addison Allen a couple of months ago when were were discussing books to read over lunch. I immediately devoured all of her books and bought a copy of The Peach Keeper to re-read as I love her blend of magic, family, and mystery. I agree with one of the women at the Hayward Bookshop who said that sometimes it’s just nice to read a sweet story.

Also, for fun reading and because I think he is a master of storytelling and creating realistic characters, I recently re-read Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole. I loved the Dark Tower series and this book is such a wonderful addition. The weaving of three stories together is amazing and they fit together so organically that I got to the end and wished it just kept going, but again was happy and satisfied that it all ended so well. It’s one of my favorites that I’m hoping I can get my husband to read soon.

The top of the stack has another one of my notebooks. This is the one where I’ve been keeping notes on places to send short stories, bits of dialog that come into my head, quotes from books that inspire me, and other such stuff. I like it because it fits easily in a small bag and my fountain pen inks don’t bleed through the pages.

So that’s what’s been hanging around for reading materials for me and providing some inspiration as I write and write (calligraphy) and revise and think and dream. What books inspire you? What’s on your reading list now?