Columns

Dangerous creatures, Marie Kondo and books

Author Lisa Kleypas famously wrote, “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.”

If that’s true then there were at least a dozen dangerous creatures at Lilac City Law on Friday night. No, we weren’t seeking legal representation. Our only crime was loving books maybe a little too much.

I blame Marie Kondo. My friend Sarah, fell under the organizing guru’s sway and launched an epic tidy-up, de-clutter spree.

I’m all for jettisoning clothes no longer worn, dated household decor and duplicates of kitchen items. As a newlywed, I was given a piece of advice that has served me well while rearing four sons in a cramped house. My friend told me to follow the “something in, something out” rule. Buy a new blouse? Get rid of an old one. Your kid gets a new toy? Donate one he no longer plays with.

While it’s kept our clutter at a minimum I draw the line at books.

There’s no way the “something in, something out” rule could ever apply to books. Why, choosing which volumes to jettison would be like choosing which kid you no longer love. It seems positively immoral.

It’s not even that I buy a lot of books. I don’t. I’m a devoted library groupie and every month I check out a new stack of books. But sometimes I fall in love with a novel and I simply must possess it, so I can read it again.

And as an author, I’m a huge believer in supporting other local authors. I love to line my bookshelves with titles by Inland Northwest authors. Every book purchase says, “Good job! I believe in you! Write another one!”

Of course, friends and family know I’m a bibliophile, and delight in feeding my addiction on my birthday, or Christmas, or sometimes just because they spot something they think I’d enjoy.

I don’t keep every book I buy or that’s given to me. If it’s by an author I didn’t enjoy or something I don’t want to read again, I stick it in the “donate” bag in my closet. But to be honest, few books make it to the bag.

Then Sarah started Kondo-sizing her library by posting photos of her books on Facebook and offering them free to a good home.

Such a great idea! It took the guesswork out of trying to figure out which friends would like which book, it was more personal than a thrift store drop, plus she got to experience the joy of re-homing a volume with someone she knows.

Then her friend Randi Johnson saw the posts and offered to expand the idea to a wider audience by hosting a book swap at her downtown law office and the Well-Read Women Book Swap was born.

The idea was simple. Bring in whatever books you’re willing to part with and maybe discover some you’d like to take home. Whatever books were left would be donated to the Friends of Spokane Public Library.

Friday night we gathered at Lilac City Law. Randi provided light snacks, wine and soda, and well-read women met, mingled and browsed the book table set up in a conference room.

A delightful variety of novels, nonfiction, children’s books, bestsellers and old-favorites spilled across the table.

Though I promised myself I wouldn’t bring anything home, I spotted “The Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz. It’s been on my to-read list since it came out. I had to have it.

Then I picked up “George and Lizzie” a novel by librarian/author Nancy Pearl, who just happens to be coming to Spokane to appear with local author Sharma Shields at the Bing Crosby Theater on March 13.

Finally, I saw “The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath.” I discovered Plath my freshman year of college and her dark, brooding, confessional poetry perfectly resonated with the dark, brooding persona I was trying on at the time.

Sarah, noting the Plath collection in my hand, asked, “Does that spark joy?”

One of Kondo’s most well-known tenets is “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”

I held the book and remembered my earnest 19-year-old self.

“Yes” I said. “Yes, it does.”

The inaugural “Well-Read Women Book Swap” turned out to be a fabulous event – one I hope dangerous creatures all over the city will replicate.

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War Bonds

Slinging Books and Shopping Small

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Take a group of authors. Give them name badges. Turn them loose in a bookstore. That’s the recipe for Indies First held each year on Small Business Saturday.

The event brings together authors, readers, and publishers in support of independent bookstores. Authors and local celebrities volunteer at events across the country, and publishers offer special terms on books and exclusives.

I had a blast as usual at Auntie’s Bookstore. Chatting with readers, helping them find great gift ideas and catching up with these great authors is always fun.

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Sam Ligon, Kate Lebo, Cindy Hval, Jack Nisbet

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Stephanie Oakes, Cindy Hval, Sharma Shields

One Spokesman Review reader said she came in just to see Jack Nisbet and me, but she walked out with Shop Small shopping bag filled with books. That’s the danger and delight of hanging out in a bookstore!
Another reader stopped by to make sure I was alright. My Thanksgiving column about sometimes finding it hard to be grateful, prompted her concern.

At the end of my shift I rewarded myself with a copy of the delightful anthology Pie & Whiskey: Writers under the Influence of Butter & Booze. My husband and I are reading it aloud every night before bed. It’s a hoot. Honestly, Sam Ligon’s whiskey cocktail recipes are my favorite part. Some drink recipes call for things like a soul, a pistol, a Bible and a sword, but you can still make the drinks without them.

Indies First offers a great way to get customers into independent bookstores, but it’s even more important to support local businesses and Shop Small all year long.

After all, Santa does!

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War Bonds

Shop Small With Me!

Mark  your calendars for Indies First, November 25 at Auntie’s Bookstore.

Check out the array of amazing authors who will serve as volunteer booksellers!  I’ll be on duty from 1 Pm- 3 PM and would love to help you find literary treasures to fill your Christmas wish lists.

Support a fabulous Indie bookstore, buy great books and chat with the people who write them.
What could be more fun?

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War Bonds

Library Friends are the Best!

I don’t know any authors who are not passionate about public libraries– and I know a lot of authors!

I’ve had a library card since I was six years old. No, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was.

When the opportunity came to serve on the newly formed Friends of the Spokane County Library District board, I jumped at the chance. For two years I’ve worked alongside some wonderful community volunteers, library lovers and fabulous library admin staff.

We drafted a mission statement: Inspiring passionate lifelong learners to invest in their community libraries, hosted two After Hours at the Library events and raised lots of $$ to supplement library programming. Here’s a few of last year’s highlights.

  • Sponsored NaNoWriMo Readiness Conference
  • Provided funds for Mica Peak High School Great Stories Book Club
  • Provided funds for small business owners/employer workshop series
  • Provided funds for Thinking Money Exhibit and related programming
  • Provided funds for Spokane Is Reading

But after two years on the board it’s time for me to move on to a new volunteer project I’m equally passionate about (more on that in another blog).

Perhaps it’s time for one of you to step up and serve? Check out the website. Become a friend. And contact Spokane County Library District at 509.893.8233 to see if serving on the board would be a fit for you.

I may be off the board for now, but I remain passionately committed to supporting our public libraries and the programming they provide.

Here are some photos of our most recent After Hours event. Long live our libraries!

 

War Bonds

A Bookshelf of Our Own

Running my hands along the spines, I can scarcely believe it– 14 books featuring my stories.

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From the first time a writer picks up a pen or pounds out a story on a keyboard we wonder if it will ever be read by more than just a family member, close friend or teacher. Rarely in love with our own words, we weigh, sift, edit and groan over balky transitions and awkward phrases. We look back at our first stories and they sometimes seem like primitive scratches in the sand.

And if we’re really lucky, we find our tribe– a group of supportive readers and writers, who push us to do better and who ask for more

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And we celebrate their publications, adding their books to our shelves, always leaving room for the next volume.

How wonderful to take a moment and realize no matter how arduous the journey from idea to print, it is possible to achieve out what every writer longs for– a shelf of our own.

Columns, War Bonds

That literary glow is tinged with blue

If today’s column seems littered with superlatives and exclamation marks, you’ll have to pardon my excess. I’m still coming off a literary high.

No, I haven’t been sniffing bookbinding glue, but I am basking in the bookish brilliance of Get Lit! 2016.

April 11-17, Spokane was awash in literary events. Poetry, panels, pie and whiskey, and plenty more were served up at venues across the city.

What began in 1998 as a one-day event filled with literary readings is now a weeklong festival. Conceived as a way for residents to engage with writing and working writers, Get Lit! offers aspiring authors, poets and folks who love reading a variety of ways to learn from, and engage with, published authors.

Best of all, most events are free. However, the festival is like a luscious chocolate cake, you’d like to consume it all, but frankly it’s just not possible. So it’s important to grab a guide and map out the “must-dos” on your literary list.

This year’s festival featured everything from “Sexy Beasts” to “My Worst Job” and included dozens of local writers as well as visiting scribes.

One of the highlights for me was the Shawn Vestal/Sam Ligon book launch at the Washington Cracker Building. Vestal read from his debut novel “Daredevils”; Ligon read from his short story collection, “Wonderland,” as well as from his novel, “Among the Dead and Dreaming.”

Jess Walter served as emcee and quipped, “One middle-aged white guy introducing two other middle-aged white guys. Guess that’s why they call this the Cracker Building.”

I had to miss one of the most popular Get Lit! attractions: Pie and Whiskey, which is just what it sounds like – an evening of pie and whiskey featuring short readings by authors whose stories feature, you’ve got it – pie and whiskey.

Fortunately, I got to hear one of those stories when I served on a panel with author Elissa Washuta. Her summary of the Tinder dating site was witty, poignant and razor sharp.

The panel “The Nuts and Bolts of Creative Nonfiction” was at Spokane Community College and also featured author Julie Riddle. Both sessions were filled with a mix of students, faculty and community members.

The audience was engaged, attentive and asked great questions that prompted interesting discussions.

The Convention Center served as the Get Lit! hub. I accidentally wandered into the wrong area where some kind of business conference was concluding. I asked an usher for directions to the Get Lit! panel I was looking for and one of the conference leaders overheard. He said, “Get Lit? That sounds a lot more fun than what we did today.”

“It is!” I said, and promptly invited him and his friends.

Kris Dinnison, Stephanie Oakes, Sharma Shields and I had fun serving on the “Queens of the Page: Debut Authors Tell All” panel. I’m not sure if we really told all, but we told quite a bit.

A scheduling conflict meant I had to miss Garth Stein’s reading at the Fox. This was a disappointment, but in some ways a relief. I really wanted him to autograph my copy of his best-selling book, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” but I didn’t relish explaining why the edges of my copy are bright blue.

I’d borrowed the book from the library awhile ago. It absolutely captivated me, so when I traveled to my writing retreat, I tucked it in my bag. Some cleaning supplies were also in the bag. Somewhere en route, the toilet bowl cleaner tipped over and splashed “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

Did you know toilet bowl cleaner may clean stains off toilets, but leaves stains on books? Neither did I. Neither did the librarian who took the cash I offered as I purchased the now-bluish book.

Thankfully, only the edges were blued and I got to weep my way to the finish of this beautiful novel. I think Stein would have been happy to sign my copy, but unless he returns to next year’s Get Lit!, I’ll never know.

War Bonds

Debut Writers Tell All!

Please join me for this panel during which we will dish about the path to publication.

Admittance is free! Saturday April 16, 2016 1:45pm – 3:00pm
Spokane Convention Center 334 W Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99201

During 2015, six female authors in Spokane launched their debut books, leading to the obvious question, What’s in the water? The group was profiled in the Inlander, each with different perspectives on how their book came to be published. During Get Lit!, they will discuss their rising success in publishing, from getting an agent to editing their manuscripts to promoting their books. Sharma Shields explores the mystical side of the Pacific Northwest as she follows her protagonist’s obsession to find Bigfoot in The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac. In War Bonds, Cindy Hval, a columnist for The Spokesman Review, tells the often overlooked stories of couples and their romances during World War II. Stephanie Oakes, author of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, crafts the poetic tale of a young girl coming to terms with her dark past in the Kevinian cult, which cost not only years of her life but also her hands. S.M. Hulse gives hope to graduate students in her MFA-thesis-turned-novel Black River, a modern-day Western set against past violence in its characters’ lives. In the young adult novel You and Me and Him, Kris Dinnison explores the bonds of friendship as two characters struggle to maintain their relationship while interested in the same guy. This panel will be moderated by Chey Scott, writer and listings editor for the Inlander.

GetLit

War Bonds

Books: Buy Local!

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Local authors rock!

They sit  on my bedside table waiting to be read. The stack topples over and spills to the stacks on the floor below.

I LOVE books and I especially love books by local authors! Here in Spokane our literary community is thriving. It’s so cool to go to a bookstore and find books by people I know– people who live and work in our community!

Stephen King is great. I’m sure John Grisham is a nice guy. But I’d rather spend my dollars supporting local authors.

The only problem? I’m getting ready to pack for a trip and I can’t fit all of these on my carry-on!

I suppose I could get an e-reader. My stacks would diminish and I could take all the beach reads I want. But then I wouldn’t have this colorful stack of books to pick up and pore over.

Plus, these are signed copies!
Support your local authors. Buy books and buy local!

PS: All of these lovely volumes are available at Auntie’s Bookstore– an independent bookstore that keeps Spokane’s literary scene, thriving!

Columns, War Bonds

Celebrate Love & Reading!

So excited for this special Valentine’s Day event!
Join me, Asa Maria Bradley, Kris Dinnison, Sharma Shields and many more authors at Barnes & Noble in Spokane Valley on February 14.

Event starts at 11 AM. I have to scoot out by 1 PM, but the author others will be there until 2.
Pick up a personalized copy of a book or TEN and give the gift of reading to someone you love.
Even better if that someone you love is YOU:-)
See you there!

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War Bonds

Recapping Night at the Library

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Auntie’s Bookstore was on hand with copies of the author’s books.

What a great event! Night at the Library featured readings by six authors. PEN/​Robert W. Bingham Award winner Shawn Vestal read from his soon-to-be-published novel Daredevils. Sharma Shields read from The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac.  Bruce Holbert read from his as yet unpublished 3rd novel. I shared from War Bonds and poets Maya Jewell Zeller and Laura Read, shared some of their work.

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Best of all, new friends were added to the Friends of the Spokane County Library, so we can schedule more fantastic programs like this!

Thanks so much to all who attended and for all who support their local libraries!