RSS Feed

Category Archives: Books

Bricks, Mortar, Paper, Ink


I have this not so secret dream of owning a bookstore someday. When I’m overly stressed or have an idle moment, I often daydream about my bookstore. I stroll around the low, sturdy, dark wooden shelves in my mind. They’re a little battered and they are heavily-laden with well-loved paperbacks. The walls are colorful; each one painted in a different comforting hue: blues, purples, maybe a splash of red here and there. On these walls would be paintings from local artists. I like to support the art community when I can. I imagine worn wooden floors strewn with mismatched oriental rugs and cozy leather armchairs lining the walls. My patrons would lounge with their new adventure in hand. I want more than just a coffee bar in my shop. I want to team up with a baker that would make fresh pastries each morning and I want a liquor license because nothing goes with a comfy chair and a good book like a nice glass of wine. When one enters my shop, they are immediately welcomed with the scent of paper, ink, fresh coffee, and baked goods. It will be a little slice of bookish heaven.

I realize a bricks and mortar bookstore would probably be a poor investment in today’s climate. More bookstores are closing down than opening these days. Online shopping and eReaders are starting to take the place of good, old fashioned browsing. But it’s just not the same. There’s something special about visiting a bookstore, especially when you don’t really know what you’re looking for. You can slowly walk up and down the aisles for hours, letting your fingers caress the colorful paper spines until something calls out to you. Until you find The One. You know the feeling, it’s like a little electrical charge. Something inexplicable draws you to that one book sitting patiently among the other thousands. I have to pick it up and feel it’s weight in my hand. I carefully examine the front cover, then the back. Lastly, I open to the first page and read. If the first page gives me goosebumps, I know that, for better or worse, the lives of these new character and mine will forever be linked. I will know their loves and their vices, their dreams and their failures. I will know them better than I know members of my own family.  I will carry them with me forever in my imagination, long after the last page is turned. Few relationships are as intimate as this.

I have to choose my literary companions wisely. This takes time. I’ve had my process for years. I can’t even remember when it started. When I was little, I used to crave going to the bookstore and the library. My parents would dread these outings because I could never just pick one. The very thought struck me as horrifying. I had to carefully comb the shelves for intriguing titles, I had to approve of the cover art, I needed to read the back cover, I had to know for certain that this story would grab hold of me and hold me under it’s spell until the last sentence. I was always shocked that so few people really understood this. One cannot simply walk up to a bookcase and just pick one. That’s just crazy.

At this young age, I promised myself that I would work in a bookstore someday. It struck me as the most magical kind of job. While most kids were wanting to be doctors and firefighters, I was aspiring to work specialty retail. Story of my life, really. At eighteen I got my first bookstore gig. I had no idea that I would still be a bookseller nearly seven years later. It was much less glamorous than I had imagined. I had only thought of being surrounded by my beloved books and book people. I didn’t realize that I would be spending so much time wrangling the typical array of mixed nuts that a bookstore attracts. Nor did I realize I would be monitoring people as they made their adult movie selections or fetching an alarming amount of used porn out of the restrooms. Yet, the job was still magical in a way. It had to have been to keep me in the business for so long. As much as it aggravated me some days, I miss it terribly now.

The people who work in bookstores are a rare breed. My coworkers consisted of an odd mix of artistic types and academics, all brought together by a shared love of the written word, music, and caffeine. We all tended to have a twisted sense of humor. I’m still not sure if this is purely coincidence or if the environment itself just collectively warped our brains. You can’t scare me, I work in a bookstore. In this group, I never really felt like a nerd. Nerddom was praised and encouraged. The bookstore was a shelter for us. I’m fairly certain that a vast majority of my Facebook friends are bookstore people. I can’t even set foot in a major local bookstore without knowing at least one person. It’s like we’ve got our own little secret society. I guess it’s kind of weird if you think about it. What will happen to the book people if our stores are shut down? I know that I don’t fare well in other retail jobs. I’ve tried. They never lasted.

While online shopping is convenient, there is nothing magical in it. You need to know exactly what you are looking for and the virtual book world is dominated by bestseller lists. I don’t generally like book recommendations. Reading shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Just wander into an actual bookstore someday and open yourself up to the books. Let a small gem quietly introduce itself to you. Give it a chance. You may just find your new best friend. You may also give my imaginary bookstore a chance to come to life.



30 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors

30 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors.

You Don’t See Me

I am currently in the middle of this nifty little book called Imagine by Jonathan Lehrer. It’s all about creativity from a neuroscience perspective. I can’t give a full review right now because I’m only about halfway through it, but let’s just say so far so good. The reason I’m writing this is because I have just stumbled into a part of the book that has struck me profoundly. At this point, the author talks about perception and how creativity needs persistence. He uses graphic designer Milton Glaser as a case study in this particular section.

At sixteen, Glaser decided to draw a portrait of his mother. Sitting down with a pencil and paper, he realized that he really had no idea what his mother looked like. Her image had been set in Glaser’s mind at a young age and hadn’t changed.

This phenomena is actually very common. We walk around barely seeing those around us. Our minds just get used to the everyday people and places and carries with it a set image of how they’re supposed to look. Our brain saves its attention for new places and experiences. As Glaser says, “We are always looking, but we never really see.” It’s a little sad, isn’t it? Just think, we don’t really know what our loved ones look like. We just think we do. This is where drawing comes in. Drawing actually forces the brain to pay extremely close attention to the artist’s subject. One will see the lines around the eye or the quirk of the mouth that you could swear was never there before. Drawing is a form of thinking. I’ve noticed this in my own portrait work. I usually consider myself a relatively observant person when I’m not drifting around daydream land. However, I still feel like I’ve not truly seen a person until I’ve drawn them. Maybe this is why I enjoy doing portraits so much. This is also probably why I also hate self-portraits. I’m my own worst critic.

I hope you’ve found this little tidbit interesting. I couldn’t help sharing. So, my challenge to you is this: Draw somebody. I don’t want to hear any of that BS about how you can’t draw a stick figure either. Just sit down with a pencil and paper and really look at somebody. Study the lines of their face. Trace the shape of their nose and mouth. Really, truly SEE them for the first time.

Creative Kleptomania

1. Steal like an artist.

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.

3. Write the book you want to read.

4. Use your hands.

5. Side projects and hobbies are important.

6. The Secret: Do good work and share it with people.

7. Geography is no longer our master.

8. Be Nice.

9. Be Boring.

10. Creativity is subtraction.

These are the ten rules to creativity that artist Austin Kleon introduces in his book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. The major premise of this book is that nothing is original. Everything there is to be said has been said before. All great creatives study one another and steal from each other. Some may find this depressing, but Kleon points out that this is actually a good thing. He says knowing this frees one from the crippling need to be original. Kleon claims that in order to be original, study several people that you admire, then study those peoples’ influences. Once you’ve studied up, take bits and pieces from these peoples’ work and mix them together into something new. Take a look around art history. This is not a new idea. A lot of people forget this.

Being a slightly burnt-out art school student, this book was a much needed breath of fresh air. All of the advice offered in this book is very different from what I had been given throughout my college career. I am used to being under pressure to come up with something “different”. I also find that we all seem to be living under the artist stereotype. Yes, I am tattooed and have blue hair, but I really don’t lead some crazy lifestyle. This is probably why rule number six, Be Boring, resonated with me. You mean I’m not supposed to be going to wild parties and getting wasted all the time? I can totally handle that! I prefer hanging out at home with my husband and dogs anyway. Read a lot? I suppose you may have to twist my arm a little…

I also really appreciate rule number four, Use your hands. My background is in fine arts. I love to paint and sculpt. I’m slowly but surely making my way into graphic design, but going from fully interacting with analog media to just sitting in front of a computer screen has been difficult for me. I need to make messes. I love to be fully immersed in my media. Weird, I know, but true. Kleon says that art that only comes from the head isn’t any good. You have to try to involve your whole self into your work. Look out world! Behold the messes I shall make!

Steal Like an Artist is a quick fun read. It is filled with a lot of great quotes along with Kleon’s illustrations which help to bring home his points. I would recommend this book to artists and designers, especially students. It also has a lot of good advice for anyone who just wants to boost their creativity. Everyone is creative. Seriously. Don’t give me that “I can’t draw a straight line” garbage. I can’t draw a straight line either. At least, not without a ruler. Creativity’s not just about drawing or painting either. You can be creative in any area of your life.

Check out more from Austin Kleon on his website:

Title: Steal Like an Artist
Author: Austin Kleon
ISBN: 978-0-7611-6925-3

Introvert: You say it like it’s a bad thing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have a confession to make. I am an introvert. Yes, I know, it’s shocking. When teachers find out, they become very concerned for my wellbeing. My introvertedness has lost me job offers and caused me to receive reprimands from management. Over the years, many people have tried to “cure” me of this. I’ve even tried to “fix” myself. It turns out that being an introvert is not something I can change. I’m not even sure that I would want to change it. It turns out that there’s nothing actually wrong with me. It’s the other people that have the problem.

I have just finished reading the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. In it, Cain conducts a thorough study of what it means to be an introvert and the science, psychology, and social significance behind the personality types. According to scientists, introversion is genetic. That’s right folks, genetic. It’s a natural personality trait and is not something that can or even needs to be cured. Not only that, introverts are generally observant, better at being diplomatic, are careful decision-makers and are actually capable of being excellent leaders. Ha! Take that former elementary school teachers!

Ms. Cain is clearly passionate about her subject and her writing style is very informative and engaging. Fans of Mary Roach should appreciate her style. She is never overly formal or academic and writes so that the reader can clearly understand what is a very complex subject. She also shares many case studies as well as studies from her own life to make the content very relatable.

Alongside relating all of her research, Cain also offers advice to fellow introverts in everything from public speaking to how to handle classroom and office situations. There is also a great chapter for parents with advice on how to raise an introverted child in an extroverted world. I highly recommend this book to introverts. I would not necessarily classify Quiet as a self-help book because that would imply that Cain is trying to help you to fix something about yourself. She mostly informs while washing away all of the doubts that have been put in your head by the upholders of what Cain calls the “extrovert ideal.”  I also believe that anyone currently or going into teaching should read this book. In my experience as well as Cain’s, the classroom seems to be the harshest and most difficult part of the day for many introverts to navigate and Cain offers many simple solutions.

All in all I would rate this as an excellent book. Introvert or not, I believe you will enjoy Quiet. Cain has a strong voice and her work is very well-researched and informative. Check it out at  your local bookstore.

Search for:

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
ISBN: 978-0307352149


%d bloggers like this: