What the flock of geese….

Today’s post is a photo story.   One tiny moment caught forever in the trappings of my phone’s camera.  Working farms still hold strong in our current town and while driving past a local corn and dairy farm this morning I had this “what the flock of geese???” moment.  So it’s true – the goose is greener on the other side!   Looking for a title for the picture – leave it in the comments!

Books? Oh books, where are you?….

The little shop front sits sandwiched tightly between a bagel shop and a specialty women’s clothing store.  Broken shelving still remains.   An abandoned roll of packing tape is the sole sentry on the work worn checkout counter. Dust hugging the broad picture window allows enough slivers of filtered light to view the scuff marked floor where not so long past feet stood planted as pages were turned.  Giggles from children discovering new worlds have faded into the now bare walls.  Fare thee well sweet bookstore.

I am a big fan of the written word.   Huge actually.  And I am thrilled to say that this passion has been genetically preprogrammed into my offspring.  Whew – big sigh of relief when they all turned up literate.  One of our best family outings is a trip to the bookstore. Aisles filled with adventures waiting to be embarked upon, information on every subject imaginable and the sound of book bindings cracking open for someone’s private perusal.  Ah, bliss.

Except for one big problem.  Those book stores are becoming harder and harder to come by.  And this is a huge problem for all of us.  (Collective us – meaning YOU!!!)  A few months ago when major book retailer Border’s®  shuttered their windows and hung up the “out of business” signs the reality of how readers consume today’s words hit home.

Go online or go extinct seems to be the new order of writing.  E-books, E-zines, E-everything……if you head over to the Barnes and Noble®  website or the all-consuming Amazon.com®  you will find that books are offered in both physical and electronic form.  What’s becoming more common is to find publications only available via e-book or print on demand.

There are definitely upsides to the written word hitting the open airwaves.  For one, many a forest will breathe easier.  Ease of access from any locale and the lower costs of downloading are big bonuses.  Also on the plus side is the space (or lack of) that devices like the Nook®, Kindle®, e-reader®, etc. take up in the world.

Sounds awesome.  Progress is great.  Any downsides?  Umm, yeah.  The move to electronic everything has opened the doors to a total free for all on the internet.  Anyone can publish anything (yes, even me).  As the traditional gatekeepers to publishing heaven are being nudged aside a new wave of writing and media has emerged.  It’s like Haight-Asbury’s Summer of Love but on a global scale.    How do you weed out the Janis Joplin’s from the fray?

From the wild ride we are on now will ideally emerge a middle ground that calls to both the traditionalist and the techie.  In my family we are  a home of Kindles and laptops AND piles of books towering on every surface.

Where does that leave readers who crave not just the ease of technology, but the physical act of holding a book, turning the pages, and walking the aisles to find just the right read?  Somehow gathering the entire family around the Kindle® is just not the same as the adventure of the tangible book store.

For now, it leaves us in a local Barnes & Noble®  or if we are able to find one, a privately owned book store.  If you need help locating these brick and mortar establishments check out sites like this one by publisher Random House®   that locate local stores carrying their books: http://www.randomhouse.com/bookstores/local.html

Luckily our tactile senses can still be appeased as we creak open the binding on our next story.

I want you

I want a 2012 Audi R8 Spyder.  It’s fast, sleek and gorgeous.  It’s the kind of vehicle that even non car aficionados (that would be me) take notice of and okay, let’s just say it, lust after.  The R8 is that hot.

I really, really want it.  But I don’t need it.  And there is today’s blog point. Succinct and simple.   Want vs. need.

This fairly common topic of conversation has been well-worn out over many a kitchen table as people face a new economy that has put startling clarity on the difference.  The want vs. need comparison can be applied to every aspect of our lives.  Purchases, food intake, vacation plans, cars, and yes, even writing.

Writers are a funny bunch.  Give us an empty room and we will fill it with dastardly villains, high-powered women, and chortling madmen.  (Or unicorns and bouncy balls – depends on the genre).  We WANT to get a story down that takes the reader from point a to point z with lots of cool stuff in between.  What we NEED is to put pen to paper and just go for it while creating a world that others can fall into.

What a writer hopes to accomplish depends on the type of arena in which it will be showcased.  A science writer may want to tell the reader about a newly discovered star seventeen billion light years away that space explorers have hopes of reaching by your great, great, great, great grandchild’s eighty seventh birthday.   Contrarily a science fiction writer will want you to live with them in a story that takes place on a doomed planet in that same galaxy while battling cyborgs and space junk to save the universe and by the way, getting to that star only takes eighteen pages.

On the want side is, well, you – readers.  But the wants need balancing with the need. The need for the author of any piece, be it fiction, non-fiction, research, blogs, etc. is to convey the information in a format both interesting and digestible to the reader.  How do things taste so far?  BURP.

Wants and needs very often walk a fine line with each other.   I want my story’s hero to learn the tango and fly a jet – but does he need to?  Or am I just fattening up the story with unnecessary words to fill the pages.   If my hero needs to leave the country suddenly and the only way out is relying on his own ingenuity, then he definitely needs to fly that plane.   Learning to cut the extraneous wants out of a piece and keep the leaner needs makes for a cleaner read.

I am going to give you something that is a fairly standard given on any writing site, college essay exam, or self-help book.   It’s a writing prompt, and a pretty basic one at that.   You don’t have to be a writer or a college attendee to participate.  WHAT DO YOU WANT, WHAT DO YOU NEED, AND HOW DO YOU GET FROM POINT A TO Z.  Use it for your story, your blog, or your life.

Personally I know that I physically NEED a way to get from point A to point B.  I WANT it to be in that R8.

Beholder’s eyes

I’d like to see something in a modernistic, architectural, subculture, still life.  Please.  Oh, and it has to be 12.673 x 13.7 x 2.  Thanks.

Art….deep breath…..writing, painting, sculpting, sketching, dancing, singing, cooking, photographing, playing, building, designing, showing, telling, sharing.   Way too much stuff to cram into such a teensy little word, don’t you think?  And yet when we say art, each one of us pulls a different image from our mind’s eye.

I’m a lucky girl (and no, I am not telling you this to let you know how awesome I am, even though I am) because I am surrounded by people who express themselves through art.  Some create for a living, some create in hopes of it becoming a living, and some have whole other careers and then in their spare time, create.  Each time a friend shares something they have done – a new story, a blog, a song, a picture, a painting – it’s like getting a present. Not the tangible rip off the paper and squeal kind (although I am WIDE OPEN for those if anyone wants to send some) but the kind that enriches you as a person.

The gift lies in being shown something that is created from a place tucked somewhere inside of them that only gets seen through the lens of their art.  These are the kinds of gifts where “thanks for sharing” doesn’t seem to be quite enough to say.  How do you thank someone for sharing a part of their soul?  Words seem underwhelming. Okay, well, sure, hanging it in a museum or publishing it or buying the album would be a kind of thanks too.

When we lived in Australia I attended The Sydney Royal Easter Show.  For anyone not familiar with this event it is like a country fair on some serious steroids.  Part of the festival is an art show with judges and prizes.  The artist’s works are hung in aisles for attendees to peruse and admire.  Ranging from simple to incredibly complex there’s no shortage of subjects or mediums.

My favorite item was a painting by Lightning Ridge artist John Murray. This piece was named “The Brewarrina-Goodooga Rd.”   Depicting an outback road heading off into the horizon the painting was full of texture and depth. The road to both nowhere and everywhere was a strong message.  I fell, as the cliché goes, head over heels in love with the piece – it called to my gypsy soul.  Being so in love I of course stalked this piece, even from afar when we moved back to the states, until one day someone else who could afford the asking price of $10,000.00AU also fell in love and stole my boyfriend…errr..I mean painting.

If you are wondering why I’m telling you about my art stalking issues I really do have a point.  I promise.  Art can speak to us at any random time and in any form.  It is one soul speaking to another, saying “Hi, does this resonate with you?  Let’s share a moment.”  Art is individual, both in the creation and the interpretation.

There are far too many art forms and artists in the world to give you a link to all of them and I even if I could, I am pretty sure I would lose you around page two.  So I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of cool ones that might help you find something that speaks to you.  Also, because it’s my blog and I can do anything I want on here, I am giving you the links to a couple of the artists that I know.   Maybe their work will say hi to you too……

Snowflakes of knowledge….

Steamy love stories, back rooms, wild adventures….at this point you may have already guessed that today’s post theme is….. the Library!  Oh….that wasn’t your guess?  Huh, not sure why……

The public library is an often unrecognized resource for all things AWESOME.  You don’t have to be a bibliophile to appreciate all that this steady institution has to offer. Sorry – not sure what that word means?  Maybe what you need is a place that can loan you a dictionary.

My love affair with the library dates back to the first summer I could ride my bike to our local branch and fill my basket to the brim.  A few days later I would repeat the process all over again.  Nothing was as sweet as walking up and down the aisles deciding which adventures I would embark upon that day.

Blessed art thou whose childhood neighbor was also a bibliophile. Let’s call her Leanne (because that’s her name).  One summer Leanne and I took our book obsession to THE NEXT LEVEL by “sharing” our love with the other neighborhood children.  We hauled piles of our own tomes out to the backyard table, lovingly wrote up due date papers, and then proceeded to force our friends to check out books.  Those who resisted were tortured until they complied.  I think my sister still has some scars.  We loved books.

Modern libraries offer a treasure of goodies all for (insert mental drum roll)… FREE!!!!   Below is a list of many really cool things you can do at and with the public library:

  • Check out books – an obvious one.  But the library also has magazines, reference guides, and some really fun how to books. Ever want to take up long distance water skiing? I actually don’t think that is a sport, but it should be. Want to know how to disappear and take all your assets with you?  Oh, yeah – there’s a book for that.  Yes, you may be put on a watch list for checking it out, but it is a great read.  I’m on the list too….
  • Rent movies.  Most libraries offer a selection of new releases, documentaries, and old classics.    Star Wars® movie marathon anyone?
  • Children’s activities.  Anyone who has ever tried to keep up with the attention span of a three-year old will fully appreciate the gift of story time at the library.   It’s free, it’s fun, and there are grown-ups.  Enough said.    Older children can participate in summer reading programs.  Each library is unique.  That’s right – they are like snowflakes of knowledge.  To find out what the library can offer your children, call your local branch.
  • Music.  Some libraries have a music lending section which is great when you want to try an album on for size without committing to ownership or are looking for specific tunes for an event.
  • Book clubs.  A great way to meet other readers and really dig into a book selection.  If your library doesn’t have one, starting one can open doors to new friendships and a fun day out.  Plus the librarians will really like you and who doesn’t like to be liked?
  • Book readings by authors.  Have you penned a book? Need a place to promote?  How about your local libraries?  Set up some readings, discussions, or Q & A sessions.  A free book giveaway is a nice add-on to the event.  Remember to have a copy to donate to the library.
  • Need a meeting location?  Most libraries have a community room that can be reserved at the circulation desk.
  • Have a business and want to get the word out?  Host a free seminar at your library.  i.e. How to manage your money.  How to write a winning business plan.  How to write resumes and then include a critique (it would be helpful if you actually know something about one of these subjects). You can even have a book list ready so you can give some love back to the library.  Send your attendees off to the card catalogs in search of their follow-up material (okay, I know it is now a computer screen but card catalog sounds so classic).
  • Looking for a way to do more stuff locally for FREE?  Many libraries have a great hidden gem – FREE passes to local places of interest such as museums, zoos, and historical homes.  Just ask your librarian for the list.

Has it been awhile?  Not even sure how to get to your local library?  Confused as to how to use a library card?  Check out this handy site: http://www.publiclibraries.com for library locations within the United States and US territories.

Not in the U.S.?  This website helps you find books and libraries globally: http://www.worldcat.org/libraries   I can’t attest to the accuracy of the global library locations so if anyone overseas wants to chime in on this one, have at it.   Or if someone would like to sponsor a fact-finding mission I will readily agree to take on the task.

Still stuck on that second paragraph wondering what the heck a bibliophile is?  Well I’m not telling you.  Go ask a librarian.