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Posts tagged ‘Book Collecting’

Thoughts on Reading

I know I’m preaching to the choir here…

We all know the importance, the joy, and benefits of reading. But still there are people who don’t do it. I remember learning (from some source I can’t recall) that most people only read one book a year. My aunt, who is a professor, says that her students don’t read. Not the news, not books, not even magazines.

I guess I am lucky I come from a family of readers. I remember my mom having a tower of books next to her and my father’s bed. My dad was a comic book lover and still has a bunch of Conan comics somewhere in their house. Also, for years my parents were faithful subscribers to the Washington Post. Even now, they will still buy a Sunday paper and read on a lazy afternoon.

My grandmother was also a professor (psychology) and a big reader. After her death, my mother and I combed through her bookshelves taking many of the books she collected over the years. There wasn’t any pattern to her collection, only things she had bought because she liked them. My mom told me my grandmother had a knack for leaving her paperbacks at the bus station after she had read them. She wanted to give books away to anyone who would want them.

During that clean out, I was to lucky recipient of a fabulous gift. My grandmother had gotten Gwendolyn Brooks to sign her chapbook.

My mom: “You should have it.”
Me: “Really?”
My mom: “Yes. You’re the writer. I think it is best that you take it.”

The rest of the family agreed and now it is one of my favorite literature pieces. One day I will have to properly frame it.

Brooks Pic

So you see how weird it is to me that there are some who don’t read.

But I think there is hope. The emergence of cheap (or even free) e-books is a blessing. I don’t buy what those reports say about e-book sales slowing. There are a lot of writers who are putting out books with no ISBN numbers and they don’t get counted. Plus, what about people like me who frequent used bookstores? I don’t buy a lot of new books, preferring instead to read a lot of older books that I missed. I read maybe 5-6 new books a year out of the twenty or so that I read. So far I’ve only read 2 (in the middle of my 3rd right now.)

Plus, I live in a good area for reading. There are lots of indie and chain bookstores, a large literate public who celebrate books, and demand from that community. I’m sure there are other places that aren’t as nice (but they can be).

So cheap books and a good environment do go a long way towards getting more people to read. Sure there are some who will never do it. For them music or movies are what get them excited. I’ve known a few people who see all the indie movies and don’t understand why more people don’t watch those instead of the latest superhero flick. Or that friend who detests the radio and listens to obscure bands with gusto.

But those who are like me, someone who likes movies, TV, and music, but connects best with books, reading will always be important. The stories connects over the decades and the story you love may be a story your kids love too. My aunt (in her sixties) and I love Sanderson and were gushing over Shadow of Self yesterday. These connections are so precious.

I wish more people understood that about reading. It’s not a chore, or punishment to read. Not all books are boring or long winded. Maybe you’ll never love the classics, but hey that latest mystery has got your name all over it.

Here’s my reading pile. I can’t wait to dive in.

Atwood & Galbraith

Some Thoughts on Book Collecting

I woke up this morning thinking about Michael Hurley. If you’ve never heard of him, you are not alone. He was one of the greatest book collectors in the US (He died in the 80’s.) A while back I came across his name and saw a few articles that talked about him. My jaw dropped. Here was a guy who devoted his life to finding books (really amazing books). I can only wonder what they didn’t find and record before his stuff was auctioned off.

Who wouldn’t love to have a first edition Raymond Chandler, or a signed Stoker (!!). Wow!

One of my most popular posts was when I found my 1st edition Atwood book. That was an amazing day and I consider combing thrift stores and rummage sales to be modern day treasure hunting. There is nothing quite like the rush of finding a gem is the most unlikely of places.

Along with books, I have been lucky to finds some cute clothes (like a Maggie London dress for $3.50!) My cousin once found some Prada shoes for $2. And don’t even get me started on my couponing clearance finds…

I guess I had to remind myself that treasure is all around us. Magical, amazing things are out there waiting for you to find. Sure you may not want a Maggie London dress, but maybe you will find that perfect phone case, or stumble on the best ice cream you’ve ever had.

Let’s all go treasure hunting!

One of my best finds.

One of my best finds.

What I Got From the Bookstore – Summer 2014

Since we all agree that my goal not to buy books was a silly, dumb goal, I decided to share a few of the books it picked up this summer. Wit the exception of Long Hidden, I bought all of these at second-hand stores. That is my favorite place to go to look for books. Sure it would be easier to just order from Amazon, but the hunt is part of the fun. Plus, most used stores price all of their books the same. So my Neil Gaiman was only $2.

And I didn’t have to pay for shipping.

First up is Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. I have never read this one, so this was a nice find.

Books Summer 2014 006

Next is an anthology, The Norton Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery. This anthology has a selection of short stories from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I feel like this is a textbook I would’ve gotten in a class (if I had a science fiction class). Still it’s a nice shelf book that I can dip into every now and then.

Books Summer 2014 004

The next book As She Climbed Across the Table is from one of my favorite writers — Jonathan Lethem. I remember a friend mentioning this story to me years ago, but I never got around to reading it. So glad I finally found a copy. I’ve read many of his short stories, but I haven’t gotten to his novels. Looking forward to reading this one.

Books Summer 2014 002

This next one, I can’t read right away. Why? Because it is Book 2 of a trilogy. Still, I wanted to get something by David Anthony Durham, since I collect minority scifi. I might have to hit up Amazon for the first one.

Books Summer 2014 001

And finally, this last one, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, I had to order from Amazon. It was published earlier this year and when it popped up on my Amazon recommended list, I jumped on it. I remembered the call for submissions, but I didn’t have anything available to submit. I hope there are more in the future.

Books Summer 2014 003

So far this fall is looking quiet. Margaret Atwood has a new book coming out in a week or so. I will be getting that (of course), but nothing else is grabbing me. However, I glanced at Locus magazines forthcoming list and let’s just say February 2015 is very exciting.

Short Story September is going well. Writing like crazy. Also stay tuned because I have some very exciting news coming down the pike.


Book Festivals 2013

I finally have a moment to gather my thoughts.  After a too quick break between the summer and fall semester, I found myself right back in the grind of work and school.  So far this new class is going well, but it is very different from the last two classes I have had.  In my previous workshops, the focus was on character development, verb usage, and a lot of your typical examinations of a story (plot, pacing, structure, imagery, etc.).  This new class is more about atmosphere, language, and tracking the emotional arch of a character.  The hard stuff! I fully admit, there are a few moments when I am lost.  Not because I don’t think about those things when I write, but because I don’t think about those things when I read.  At least, I don’t think about those things on a conscious level. This is all under the surface for me.  I’m aware of the reaction I get from the story, but sometimes I don’t register how the writer got me there.  That is what I need to work on this semester.  How does a writer manipulate a reader (for better or worse) and do it well.

September had a nice moment for me and my book collection.  Margaret Atwood came to the National Book Festival (She is promoting her new book Maddaddam, which is awesome!). I stood in line for 2 hours and was rewarded with a signature on my 1st edition Handmaid’s Tale.  I wish I could’ve gotten more signatures, but I understand.  The line was long and she wanted to get everyone a chance to have their book signed.  I was so nervous when she was signing my book, I blurted out, “You’re my favorite writer, I just wanted to say.”  She smiled at me and said, “Oh thank you.”  Yes it was a nice little literary geek moment for me.

Oddly enough, the line for Linda Ronstadt was pretty long too!

Margaret Atwood Signed Copy

Margaret Atwood Signed Copy

The literary stories don’t stop yet.  Last weekend, I attended the Washington DC Science Fiction Writers Association annual conference called Capclave.  Guest of honor was George R.R. Martin.  I heard him read from two of his forthcoming works (one of which is the next book in the Song of Fire and Ice saga). He was funny and engaging and it was a pleasure to hear him read.

Not the best pic of George R.R. Martin, but you get the idea.

Not the best pic of George R.R. Martin, but you get the idea.

There were also some other great panels as well.  I heard Sharyn November speak about publishing, YA books, and her editorial career.  I also went to a couple of panels on diversity in SF and Fantasy literature, a really great panel on faery tales, and one on the short fiction market (always good to squeeze in the industry info panels too).  I also met author (and JHU alumn) Alma Katsu.  She was kind enough to sign my book and chat with me a little.  Her book was great.  It reminded me of old school Anne Rice with their gothic, sexy, mood.  Her stories aren’t about vampires or witches.  I have read The Taker and can’t wait to start the next one and get the third when it comes out next year.

Speaking of books, I held myself back at the dealer’s room and only bought one book.  Yes, I am on a tight budget so one splurge was enough.  It was Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops: Control Point.  I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, so I treated myself.  (I think it might be signed, but honestly the signature is so odd, I’m not sure.)  Next year, I will save up ahead of time and then Christmas will come early for me!

A Signature or No?  Still not sure.

A Signature or No? Still not sure.

Capclave was fun.  I look forward to next year.

Nothing much else to report.  I’m still writing, writing, writing.  Still submitting like a fiend, but so far just rejection letters.  We’ll see if my New Year’s Resolution comes true. (The one where I wanted to sell something this year.)

Cross fingers for me!

The Bradbury Effect

In my last post, I wrote how much I wished I could be as productive as Ray Bradbury.  For some reason, I just didn’t think that I could work like that, churning out a story every week. This past May proved me wrong.

I decided I would try and so far I have finished a piece every week.  I start on Monday and by Sunday, I try and finish something, whether it is a short story, flash fiction, blog post, or the end of a longer piece.  The sense of accomplishment feels very good.  I feel productive.  It spurs me on to get to the next story.  I still have a ton to rewrite and a million other writing ideas to get down into cohesive stories, but for now I am happy to be stacking up the work.  After all, the more you write the better you get.  Not all of these stories are going to be good, but some of them have the potential to be good.  I’m a believer of this idea now.

Good thing too, because I signed up for a summer session at JHU.  Spring classes ended around the first week of May and
now, four short weeks later, I am gearing up for another workshop class.  That means, more writing and critiquing
are in my future.  Last semester was a good group of writers.  I learned a lot about myself (my confusing pronoun usage, my tendency for groups of three, needing deeper character development, etc.).  I’m sure this next class will help me along too.

In other news, I got into a car accident last week.  The insult was that it happened five minutes from my house! Thank God no one was hurt.  The accident was very minor and the only thing damaged were the cars.  For the past few days, while my car is being repaired I’ve been driving a rental.  A 2013 Altima.  It has a push start, something I have never driven.  It’s not my style of car, but I’m marveling at all the bells and whistles.  There is even a feature on the dash that tells you what song you are listening to on the radio.  Modern technology!  I’m used to my older car where you have to work for everything. LOL!

I also came across another gem of a book.  A signed copy of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.  The best part?  I bought it from the thrift store when they had a 50% Memorial Day sale.  I love the spring/summer season.  People give away the best stuff now.  Along with the Franzen book, I got a copy of If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace.  I’ll get to them soon, but right now I’m reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  Interesting so far.  It’s one of those Big books many people read, and since I never read it, I thought I should join the club.

And yes, I did get around to reading 50 Shades of Grey.

All I will say about that book, is that I didn’t like it, don’t understand the people who do, and will go back to reading Harold Robbins the next time I feel the urge to read something trashy.  Now that man could tell a story and write some great sex scenes!

I did like Karen Russell, though.  Her stories were inventive, sometimes fun, sometimes heartbreaking, original, and ambitious.  I have Swamplandia! on my “to be read shelf” too.

There are so many great stories to be read.  So many yet to be written (hopefully one or two by yours truly).  I haven’t forgotten my New Year’s resolution.  You know the one where I wanted to be published.  So along with writing, I’ve got to start submitting again.

I just have to start one story at a time.

Four Years with the Unlucky and Lucky Girl

In some ways, I am a very lucky girl.   I have great family, great friends, a cool home, a job, and my health.  The basics are covered and I know that I’m not struggling like a lot of folks out there.  But sometimes I find myself bummed that I can’t have everything that I want.  Those wants sneak up on me and, suddenly, all I want is what I want.

When those moments hit me, I have to take a breath and count what is good in my life.

I’ve been feeling bummed, because ever since I found that Margaret Atwood book last fall, I haven’t found another great book when I go searching.  I know.  I know.  It was such a high to find it and I’ve been chasing that high ever since.  Now I realize I may never get it back.  So instead, I am going to chase the other high I get.

Writing more stories.

This is a bit of a secret, but I actually feel good when I finish writing a piece.  I can’t sit still.  I get giddy…yes I used the word “giddy”!  I feel so proud that I finished what I started.  I just can’t wait to finish something else.

This year I had a goal to get published.  But I also want to get stuff done.  I have so many half-finished pieces.  Things that need a rewrite that sit on my desk.  I stare at it and wonder why I am not chasing this high.  In the long run it is better for me (and my wallet).

I started this blog about four years ago, because I wanted to put my work up for my family and friends.  So far I haven’t put anything up.  I know.  I flaked.  But I want to do better.  Last post alluded to some secret projects that I am working on.  They are still not done, but hopefully by March 1, I can make some announcements.  There, I have given myself a deadline.  Let’s see if I hold to it.

I also want to thank everyone who takes the time to read this blog.  I actually have people who aren’t related to me, or that I don’t know reading my thoughts.  Thanks for sticking with me.

I may have hit upon an unlucky streak with books, but I can feel my luck changing with my writing.

I really am a very lucky girl.