Tag Archives: library

Books in an Economic Downturn

Hi, my name is Mary Beth and I’m a bibliophile.
I love books. Love the smell, the fell, the sound of books. I love old books, new books, electronic books, paperbacks, hardbacks, Trade.
It doesn’t matter.
If it’s a book, I love it.
The love affair started almost before my memories start. Maybe it’s because I was a late reader. I don’t know. But for as long as I can remember, trips to the library have made me happy. Bookstores equal hours of fun. And old books…it’s crazy how happy holding an 1880 Shakespeare textbook signed with perfect penmanship by its first owner with paper soft from age, almost to the brittle stage really, makes me. Last year my mom gave me an original copy of The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second of the Oz books. It was the perfect gift.
Unfortunately, my book habit took a hit when it no longer fit in the budget. And the budget rules now that we’re moving toward cash only and debt-free.
I could give up Audible. It’s $15 a month. But I love listening to books on my summer road trips. I could give up the Y, I don’t really go all that often, but it’s $15 a month, and I plan on going. I could give up coffee shipments, but that’s coffee for my whole department, we love it and so many people contribute, it only costs me around $10 a month, so no, that’s not the key. Those are the things that went through my brain when I realized I had to stop signing on to Fictionwise and using the all-powerful Paypal and browsing through the book aisle at Wal-Mart when I bought the weekly groceries.
Enter the Wichita Falls Public Library. A place I used to love, but kind of forgot about for anything other than the monthly writer’s group meetings held upstairs every second Saturday of the month.
WFPL is amazing. They have a fabulous selection. And I can sign up online to hold books already checked out once they’re checked in. Best of all, all it costs is a little of my time. I’ve found so many amazing books at the library the last few months, books I probably never would’ve read if I were just buying instead of browsing. Books like Bujold’s Sharing Knife series (how did I now know about these books?!?) and the YA’s like If I Stay and Looking for Alaska.
This week while snowed in I read the first of The Sharing Knife books. I’ll be getting the second when I return the books from the holiday. Bujold builds an amazing world where magic makes sense and the battle of good verses evil has real consequences. I’ve not been a big fantasy reader, but that’s changing as I find more awesome books in the library.
I also read Barbara Samuel’s Madame Mirabou’s School of Love, a book about the heartbreak of starting over when it wasn’t something you wanted. The books is actually a lot bigger than that, touching on domestic violence, race relations, sex, parenthood, divorce, military wives left home alone, conquering fear, rediscovering lost dreams, life, love, hate, acceptance, moving on. The book packs a big punch. And it helped me realize that I want to write books that ring emotion from you while reading, not just books that provide escape. Actually, several of the books I’ve read the last two months have served to tell me this, but Madame Mirabou really made the case.
I highly recommend both The Sharing Knife and Madame Mirabou. And I recommend checking out (haha) your local library.

One of my Shakespeare textbooks (I have the whole set), The Land of Oz and several library books from this month.

Choosing

Early in my childhood I learned the safety of books. Libraries were places to discover hidden treasure. After I’d finished reading everything I wanted in the children’s section I walked the aisles of the adult area, searching for the perfect story. The librarian steered me toward Grace Livingston Hill and Victoria Holt. I read all she had of both of them and then found others. Books on royalty. Bloody true crime stories. Historical romances with just enough sex to intrigue me but not enough to traumatize my young mind. πŸ™‚
I loved books. I still do. Today I like bookstores better than libraries, but I don’t go on reading scavenger hunts as often either. I rarely take chances the way I did in the past. A part of me wants to, but another thinks there are too many books in my TBR pile to risk time on a bad book.
I’m not sure if that mentality affects what I write or not.
When I first started writing, I chose to target Harlequin Silhouette for a number of reasons. I thought it would be easier to break in…hahahahaha! I thought the shorter word counts would be easier to write. I loved Margot Early and Debbie Macomber and Judy Christenberry and Nora and Judith Arnold and a ton of other H/S writers. Honestly (and so totally wrong!!!!) I thought writing for H/S would be easier because of the “formula.”
I started off writing what I figured was an American and sent it off into that other world of New York publishing and started on another book. When I got a request for full I figured I was months away from being a published author.
I spent hours working but no real thought on any of my stories. I just wrote them. I didn’t really respect the craft. I didn’t think much about it at all.
That changed with time as did my target markets.
This summer I’m experimenting with my writing. I’m still having fun. I’m tossing the idea of formula out the window. I’m trying to find combinations of words that make me happy and still tell my characters’ stories. I’m working on weaving my voice with their voices. I have no idea of market. Some would say that’s unprofessional. I figure it doesn’t much matter.
I’m reading an interesting book right now. When I started reading it I wasn’t sure I liked it. The story captivated me, but the story’s written from the protagonist’s point of view and it’s not easy to read at first. I stuck with it though because the story was so rich, the language and descriptions so full. I’m 2/3’s through now and I’m glad I kept reading. The book is The Shipping News. It’s a Pulitzer winner from a few years back. I don’t know why I picked it up. I guess the whole News angle interested me. I’m not sure what I’m learning as a writer as I read this story. It’s completely different from anything I’ll ever write. But I like it a lot. Somehow I identify with the characters. The author has made the human connection, the emotional tie. It’s set in Newfoundland. I’ve never really thought much about Newfoundland, but I find myself drawn to this barren area and these people. I hope I don’t need a box of Kleenex by the end of the story. But if I do, I trust this author. I trust that she won’t have me crying for no reason other than author manipulation. I HATE reading stories and getting to the end and some horrible tragedy taking place for no other reason than the author wants to make readers cry. I won’t read Nicholas Sparks anymore because of the end of Message in a Bottle. Author manipulation. Sad ending are fine if the story calls for it, if the characters demand them, if the lesson learned requires that end.
Maybe that’s a lesson I’m supposed to learn as I read this story. My new WIP has a lot of opportunity for author manipulated tears.
Don’t get me wrong. Manipulation is part of the author’s job. But there’s a difference in telling a story, crafting something rich and beautiful and enduring, and throwing in a sad ending just to make people cry. It’s the difference between The Notebook (I bawled and loved every minute of that book) and Message (I threw the book across the room and swore I’d never read another Sparks).
Another choice. What to read, how to write, who to send to. Those choices all play a part in molding me, the writer and me, the reader. But the biggest choice I have to make as the writer is to sit down and write and forget all the rest of this. I think now’s as good a time as any.

Weight loss update: I’m still down 51 pounds. I didn’t lose any last week, but I didn’t gain either. I hope this week breaks the never ending plateau. If I can get through the hours of 2-6 without snacking, I’ll be doing good!