I’ve been juggling three books this week. Found them all on our vacation to Maine and each one is a gem to read and a great addition to my writing library in their own unique way.
I found the first two when we stopped at the Big Chicken Barn. On the second floor of the building about half a block long, I walked the creaking floorboards to the writing section near the far end. The very first book I reached for was HOME – American Writers Remember Rooms of Their Own. It’s hardcover, with near opaque parchment wrapper with bold black writing was soothing to the eye even before feeling so comforting in the hand. HOME had found its place with me. Each of the contributing eighteen writers shares a story of home, of rooms they lived in and the people found there, where memories were made and woven with dreams and imagination. I love it not only for the stories, but for the opportunity to view in one book the styles and points of view used to express the same theme. No case of writer’s block could stand against the flow of characters, settings and plots found within.
A few creaky steps later, I came across Writing Articles from the Heart – How to write & sell your life experiences, by Marjorie Holmes, waiting for me. Written in 1993, it comes across at times as a bit dated, yet there are sections on ideas, organization and techniques that have classic staying power or can be updated for today. Its tone is conversational and at times feels like Marjorie is your own personal cheerleader. What I love most so far though is the previous owner’s markings. Many of the pages are dog eared and there are notes scribbled in the margins. One part of the book that reviews “Contrast and Comparison” has a line to the margin where it’s written in blue ink “styles of Russian researchers vs. statistical caution of Americans.” In the middle of the table of contents, written in shaky, capital letters is, “DASHING MY DREAM OF SPEECH FOR THE DUMB & DEAF”. Sometimes the most joy in a used book is in imagining it in the hands of a previous owner and what it meant to them.
A few days later, strolling down the sidewalk of a little town on Route 1 we came across a few tables on the lawn in front of a library with boxes for a book sale. It didn’t take long to glide my hands over the book spines as I read them and I got very near to the last of the boxes empty handed. Then, the big red hardcover spine caught my eye. Booknotes – America’s Finest Authors on Reading, Writing and the Power of Ideas, by Brian Lamb. This is a BIG BOOK. Booknotes was a television show that ran on C-Span from 1989 – 2004 and showcased 801 one hour interviews with the author of a recently released non-fiction book. I’m going to plead a mother’s excuse here and point out that I had a newborn distracting me in 1989. How I defend the ignorance of not knowing about this show for the following 23 years until I saw this book in a little box on that sidewalk table a few weeks ago I don’t know. But I know now and this treasure trove of author interviews full of personal history, writing practices, and tips is like Christmas morning each time I open it. I may even treat myself and watch the author interviews (available online) after each author’s section to get the double effect!
So I juggle a little each day on which to pick up and how long to read before moving onto the next one. I didn’t intend to be reading them all at once, and certainly Booknotes will take me the longest, but what a writing smorgasbord! And lucky for me, this is one spread where the goodness never seems to end and I never get my fill.