“The Bookshop Book” by Jen Campbell

Bookshop

I want to open a bookshop after reading Jen Campbell’s The Bookshop Book, (but I won’t because I know it won’t end well–I can’t very well sell books that never make it to the shelves because I need to read them first. Quality control you know.)

Campbell’s book is filled with tidbits and interesting details about books, bookshops (mainly in Europe, esp. England, but there are a few from other places around the world), readers and writers.

The book itself is divided up into easy sections for reading; but the most difficult part about this book is putting it down.

From Campbell’s website:

Every bookshop has a story.

We’re not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We’re talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I’ve-ever-been-to-bookshops…

The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.

That it is.

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Living a Creative Life without Fear is “Big Magic”

Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity and being creative

interested me in her newest book Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear. What draws me to Gilbert’s theories on creativity and creative living is her willingness to embrace mystery and the unknown in regards to the creative process. Her words are a challenge the status quo regarding creatives in general and writers in particular. I’m not going to list them all, but just a few ideas that caught my attention and made me think deeper about the creative process.

CreativeGilbert writes in a clear and encouraging manner, defining living a creative life as “living a life that is driven more strongly about curiosity than by fear” (9) and then writes about how to allow your curiosity to trump your fear. She writes “creative living is a path for the brave. We all know this…fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun” (13). Fear is a constant companion to those practicing any type of creativity; “This is common knowledge; sometimes we just don’t know what to do about it (13). Gilbert tells you what to do about it, and it isn’t the same tired advice about working through, shoving aside etc. She makes space for her fear; “plenty of space” (24).

It isn’t like a lot of books on creativity I’ve read and that is a good thing. I’ve never bought into the “books are like my children” line of thought; no, my children are far more precious and special than any book I will ever write.

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear. Riverhead Books: New York. 2015. Print.

Guilty pleasures-Amish Quilt shop mystery series

guiltyguilty

Book information here

Every once in a while it is nice just to read something because the books are fun reads; guilty pleasures if you will. I started with Isabella Alan‘s first Amish Quilt Shop mystery Murder, Plain and Simple, because she has set the series in territory not far from my home, and I wanted to see how she fictionalized real places, because it is a technique I am trying to integrate into my own writing and I wanted to see how someone else did it and did it successfully.

Murder, Simply StitchedI was hooked after the first book and ordered the rest of the series. Not because I am enamored of the Amish (I don’t get the fascination to be honest), but because Alan has created likable characters, both Amish and non-Amish; given the heroine a love interest, complicated by the fact his former wife lives in the area; she loves her parents but clashes with her mother; and it is all written with a sense of humor–even though these are cozy mysteries and dead bodies are involved, and the Angela feels compelled to help the sheriff bring to justice the guilty party.

Angela Braddock is a transplanted Texan. She moved from Texas to Rolling Brook, Ohio, after inheriting her Amish aunt’s quilt shop. She is also trying to get back on her feet after her fiance breaks off their engagement. Her French bulldog–who suffers from a bird phobia–moves with her and is unsure of what to make of all the fresh air, grass, and wildlife. He is, after all, an urban dog through and through.

Murder, Served SimplyHer partners in crime solving are Old Order Amish women; members of her late aunt’s quilting circle. Colorful characters in their own right, they are joined by the handsome sheriff and non-Amish citizens of Rolling Brook, including a tea shop owner whose tea concoctions are some of the worst ever foisted upon civilization.

 

 

Murder, HandcraftedMurder, Handcrafted is due out this summer. I’ve already per-ordered mine and am anxious to see what trouble Angela and the residents of Rolling Brook are up to now.

 

 

When is a Polka Like a Ship Deck? On Suzanne Cleary’s Poem “Polka”

by Gabrielle Freeman

I’ll admit it. I’m biased. I love Suzanne Cleary’s poetry. I first heard her read in my second semester in the Converse College Low-residency MFA back in June of 2011. Although it probably didn’t happen exactly this way, in my mind, Suzanne walked up to the miked podium at the front of the crowd in the high ceilinged, many windowed Zimmerli Common Room, smiled, and said, “Sausage Candle.” I just about fell out of my very uncomfortable folding chair. It was the first time I realized that poetry could be damn funny and damn good at the same time. So it was with great anticipation that I went a few weeks ago to hear Suzanne read from her new book Beauty Mark, the winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry published by BkMk Press.

While there is plenty of Suzanne’s distinctive, subtle brand of humor in this collection, it was the poem “Polka” that caught my ear that rainy January night. “Dancing the polka is like walking / on a ship’s deck / during a storm, water flying into the air, / sliding in sheets across the gray / wood” (43). Now, you don’t have to be a polka aficionado to get this. If you’ve heard even one polka played or seen one performed, you understand the image: “Each time the ship / tilts, you take two hop-like / steps in one direction” (43). The poem is accessible, a quality which I admire and for which Suzanne makes no apologies. But this poem also takes risks, something Suzanne encourages in her craft lectures and her critiques of her students’ work, and something that she practices in each and every poem.

The humorous image of people dancing as though trying to regain their balance on the deck of a listing ship becomes something more when “There is someone in your arms, and this is what / makes it a polka, although she or he / does not look into your eyes, and you / do not look either, at your partner,” (43). And more when “to dance the polka is definitely / to think of death, your partner’s shoulder / surprisingly small in your hand” (43). Then there really are two people, not simply dancing, but barely hanging on to some small human contact; two people with a tenuous hold on life but still moving, still keeping in step.

The risk is taken here in “hop-skips.” Once the reader accepts the idea of the polka as keeping balance on a deck at sea, the poem skips to the idea of one’s fleeting connection with other human beings, and the reader must balance. The next skip is to a part of US immigrant history, to learning the polka “from grandparents, whose grandparents / learned it from their grandparents, who left / Petrovavest for Bratislava, Bratislava / for Prague, for ships that took six days / and five nights to cross the ocean. / They never spoke of the crossing, / not even to each other” (43). The reader must again catch her balance.

There is another risk, another hop-skip and rebalance when Suzanne describes the polka this way: “You might as well call the dance / Walking the Ship Deck During a Storm / that Partly –Holy Mother, Forgive Me –/ I Did Not Want to Survive” and then “this dance / that could more succinctly be known as / Long Marriage” (44). This poem that starts off so simply, this poem that hop-skips across the page with its lines alternating between left-justified and tabbed over, maintains its own balance though the “deck” leans more and more until the final line which stops the poem, the reader, and the dance.

“God. You’re beautiful when your hair is wet” (44).

Cleary, Suzanne. Beauty Mark. Kansas-City, MO: BkMk Press, 2013.

Literary Citizen-and why you should be one #litcitizen

Lit Citizen-literary citizen. Loose definition—promoting others’ work over your own.

It’s a concept worth practicing—share others’ work instead of relentlessly promoting your own. But not just anyone’s work; share work you believe in.

*Read books and share the good stories, across all genres. Read, and then promote the work that you believe needs shared with the literary world.

*Support literary magazines through subscriptions if you can; but at the very least track down issues at a library, read, and then share the stories that resonated with you with others.

*Buy books and post reviews of the ones you believe need more readers.

*Support authors you enjoy by sharing their work and sending them a note of encouragement/appreciation.

Read more about literary citizenship at the Literary Citizenship blog.

Cathy Day teaches a class on literary citizenship at Ball State University. Check out their website and follow them on twitter.

Become part of the conversation. #litcitizen.