Bookstore geek: Point Reyes Books

By Midge Raymond,

I have to admit, I walked right past this bookstore (perhaps I was a little obsessed with the Bovine Bakery next door) — the sign is pretty nondescript, and the bakery does have that sugary fragrance going for it. But I was very glad to have stopped in to Point Reyes Books, a little treasure in this tiny Bay Area town.

The bookstore is cozy, its staff friendly, and I found it a great source not only of books but of work by local artists (in fact, in the upper right of this photo is an installation by a local artist of books by authors hosted by the store). And speaking of events, Point Reyes Books has an impressive list of visiting authors — and one of its owners, Kate Levinson, is an author herself. If you’re ever in the area — Point Reyes Station is only an hour or so north of San Francisco — I highly recommend stopping by. And don’t forget about that bakery next door.

Weekly Writing: Life’s necessities

By Midge Raymond,

As my beloved neighbor packs up her apartment in preparation for her next journey, we’ve been chatting a lot about packing, moving, what to take, what to leave behind — in other words, what’s important in life and why. How much of what we need is already with us, and how much of it exists in the things we own? As women who have moved more times than we can count, we have plenty of thoughts on the subject — and I feel as though I learn more each time.

So, with this in mind, here’s this week’s prompt:

If you could only pack up one suitcase to last you the rest of your life, what would be in it?

Virtual Book Tour: Word Love

By Midge Raymond,

I’m delighted to be a guest today at Word Love by Randy Susan Meyers — a fantastic blog about writing and all aspects of the writing life. In addition to hosting this terrific blog, Randy is the internationally bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughters; visit her web site to learn more and to read all the fabulous reviews.

Come join us at Word Love to learn a few tips on how to create a book trailer, to watch a few great ones, and to read the behind-the-scenes story about my own effort, Love in the Time of


Bookstore geek: Eureka Books

By Midge Raymond,

I imagine most writers are bookstore geeks like me — this is probably how it all started for us. I still remember the indie bookstore in the town where I grew up, one of my favorite places ever. Sadly, it closed, and a Barnes & Noble opened up in a mall on the other side of town — but, as we all know (as both readers and writers), a big chain bookstore is never quite the same. Bookstores, for me, need to have creaky hardwood floors, narrow aisles, non-florescent lighting, bookstore cats. It needs to have aisles that end suddenly, aisles that meander until you forget where you are. And of course it’ll have staff members who are fellow book geeks.

I’ve taken my geekiness to a new level by photographing bookstores I find. Below is one in which I recently escaped an icy rain — Eureka Books in Eureka, California.

As you can see, it’s a gorgeous bookstore, housed in a Victorian dating from 1879 (and it’s right off the 101, if you’re ever passing through). The store has a wonderful collection of regional books and literature, and it’s right in the heart of downtown, along with many other lovely shops, not to mention the Lost Coast Brewing Company (which I also highly recommend).


Virtual Book Tour: Savvy Verse & Wit

By Midge Raymond,

Today I’m thrilled to be a guest on the fabulous Savvy Verse & Wit blog, where I share some thoughts about my writing space (complete with before and after photos!). We’re also doing a Forgetting English giveaway, so come visit and enter to win a copy of the book.

Many thanks to Serena for hosting me today — and in addition to her blog, you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Weekly Writing: Inside the writer’s studio

By Midge Raymond,

Today’s Weekly Writing exercise is connected to my guest post over at the fabulous Savvy Verse & Wit blog, where I share some thoughts about my writing space (complete with before and after photos!). Come visit and share your own thoughts — but first, check out the exercise below, which is designed to get you thinking.

We all have our dreams of what a writing space should be, and I hope this three-part exercise gets you a little closer to your dream space:

1. Write a detailed description of your Dream Writing Space. Feel free to add images; make it a collage if you’d like — just be sure to use as many details as you can.

2. Describe your current writing space: the good, the bad, the ugly.

3. Write a page or so about how you can — right now — convert your current space into your Dream Writing Space, at least as much as possible. You may not be able to build yourself a cottage overlooking the ocean, but can you add a photo or painting of the sea instead, and let this be your window? You may not even be able to devote an entire room to writing, but can you clear out a space and arrange it so that it feels as though you have a room of your own? Get creative, have fun — and then get into that space and write.

And, of course, stop by Savvy Verse & Wit and tell us your thoughts. We’re also doing a Forgetting English giveaway!


Virtual Book Tour: Practicing Writing

By Midge Raymond,

Today I’m delighted to be a guest on Erika Dreifus’s popular and invaluable blog, Practicing Writing, to which I’ve been addicted for many years. Erika is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine and Fiction Writers Review and an advisory board member for J Journal: New Writing on Justice. Her beautiful story collection, Quiet Americans, was published earlier this year.

With thanks to Erika for hosting me, today I’m offering Ten Tips for a Writing Life, a few things that I find helpful to keep in mind as a working writer. I’d love to hear your tips as well, so stop by and share!


Virtual Book Tour: Elizabeth Austen

By Midge Raymond,

I’m so happy to be over at Elizabeth’ Austen’s blog today, writing about Thinking Like a Writer (a nice reminder for those of us who can’t manage to sit down to write as often as we’d like).

Elizabeth is a poet, teacher, and performer whose most recent collection, Every Dress a Decision, has just been released by Blue Begonia Press. Check out the trailer here — and listen to Elizabeth chat about poetry with Billy Collins here.

I look forward to seeing you at Elizabeth’s today!

Virtual Book Tour: The Alchemist’s Kitchen

By Midge Raymond,

Today I’d like to thank Susan Rich, author of three beautiful books of poetry (the most recent of which, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, is a finalist for the Poetry Book of the Year award), for hosting me on her blog today. Today’s topic is Writing About Place, and I offer a few tips for how all writers — from poets to novelists — can best write about place.

So join me over at The Alchemist’s Kitchen blog. It’s a place you’ll want to visit over and over again.




Virtual Book Tour: Crab Creek Review

By Midge Raymond,

I’m thrilled today to be blogging at Seattle’s Crab Creek Review, one of my favorite literary magazines, about putting time and space between yourself and a piece of writing (it’s true: absence really does make the heart grow fonder).

Join me at the Crab Creek Review blog — and be sure to check out the magazine and all the latest news here. Thanks so much to editors Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy for hosting me!

Weekly Writing: Quickies

By Midge Raymond,

A great many writers have to work their writing in around day jobs, childcare, housework, yard work, volunteering, and other aspects of Life … today, for example, I am fitting this blog post in even though it is Book Launch Day for the new edition of Forgetting English. There is no rest for the weary, self-promoting writer — but we still must find that writing time, yes?

So today I’d like to honor this notion with a few quick writing exercises that can be done in five minutes or fewer. Whether you’re waiting for your morning coffee to brew or for your train to arrive, this is time you could be writing — so why not use it?

– Write about what you’re wearing on your feet (if anything). Use as many details as time allows.

– Describe your last bad haircut.

– Write about a time you were late.

– Describe what you looked like at the age of five.

– Write about getting caught in the rain.

Book Promo 101: The virtual book tour

By Midge Raymond,

Forgetting English will be reissued next week — on April 11, to be exact! — yet my official “book tour” doesn’t start until this summer, stretching into the fall. Q: So what can an author do when scheduling doesn’t allow travel between the book launch and the book tour? A: She can set up a Virtual Book Tour.

What is a Virtual Book Tour? It’s simply another way to get out there and do what you do — talk about your book, connect with readers, answer questions — only this way, you’re doing it all virtually instead of live and in person. The nice thing about this is that, unlike with a live book tour, on a virtual tour you can wear yoga pants the whole time (unless, of course, you go onto Skype or do any video chats).

For example, here are a few things I’ll be doing on my  Virtual Book Tour:

– I’ll be a guest blogger on several writer/reader blogs (check back next week for directions!)

– I’ll be doing interviews and/or Q&As on reader/writer blogs

– I’m doing several giveaways (among them, this one on Goodreads)

– I hope to do a few taped readings, interviews, and/or podcasts, much like the ones I did for the first edition of Forgetting English (Writers Out Loud and Blog Talk Radio among them)

The nice thing about the virtual tour is that the possibilities are seemingly endless: You can go anywhere. The fact that you can do this also makes it a bit overwhelming. Over the last few weeks that I’ve been planning this tour, I’ve come up with a few tips to share with you…

Just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you must do everything. At least not all at once. Launching a book into the world is a big deal, and it’s tempting to want to do every single thing you can. However, you’ll probably go a little insane if you try this. I suggest a schedule that includes daily events the first week, then tapering it down a bit to 2-3 events per week over the following weeks. This will give you good buzz in the beginning, then allow you to breathe again.

Start developing relationships early. You don’t want to be rushing to get events lined up at the last minute, and you also don’t want to be demanding of your fellow bloggers. Ideally, you’ll have a good writers’ network in place — if not, start networking well before your pub date. And, most important of all, ask not only what your fellow writers can do for you but what you can do for them: Offer them guest spots on your own blog; ask them how you can help them out, too.

Have FUN! Don’t make book promotion a chore, or you’ll grow to hate it. Doing so much writing and talking in a short period of time can get exhausting, so you’ll have to find your own balance to avoid burning out. And while many people will tell you that you have to base all your events around the book launch date, I’m more of the mindset that “every week is book-launch week,” in that, for one, book promotion never really ends; and two, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t fit it all into one week, or even one month. Rather attempt to cram everything into a short period of time, you’ll be better off in the long run if you think about ways to promote your book all year, and all the time.

I look forward to seeing you (virtually) next week! Join me on Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch.

Weekly Writing: Guest prompt by Susan Rich

By Midge Raymond,

Happy April, writers!

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m happy to offer this week’s writing prompt by Seattle poet Susan Rich. Susan is the author of three books of poetry: The Cartographer’s Tongue, Cures Include Travel, and, most recently, The Alchemist’s Kitchen. She has received awards from PEN USA, The Times Literary Supplement, and Peace Corps Writers. Her fellowships include an Artist Trust Fellowship from Washington State and a Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, among them the Antioch Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor, Harvard Review, Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Northwest Review, Poetry International and The Southern Review. Susan teaches at Highline Community College, where she runs the reading series Highline Listens: Writers Read Their Work. Be sure to visit Susan’s blog this month — for National Poetry Month, she’ll be posting a Poetry Giveaway on her blog that will include a copy of The Alchemist’s Kitchen! And do check out her web site as well.


I love that Susan has chosen an exercise on interviewing — one of a writer’s greatest skills, right along with listening. Susan’s exercise is inspired in part by her interviews with new Somali citizens for the Somali Voices project (these poems appear in her second book, Cures Include Travel).

Enjoy — and don’t miss Susan’s lovely poem “Interview,” which appears after the exercise.

Applying Creative Research

Recently I’ve discovered a new love: interviewing. I think the type of deep listening required in the role of interviewer is something many writers – many people crave. StoryCorps is an independent non-profit which has made interviewing a part of the national conversation examining what makes us human.

In my work as a poet, a human rights worker and now as a teacher, asking good questions is key to understanding the woman (or man) who sits right in front of me. I love the feeling when the interviewee makes a discovery about their life prompted by my question. In some cases, I can see the flicker of awareness literally alter my guest’s expression. Isn’t this what we, as writers, want our work to do? Don’t we want to prompt our readers, our listeners into understanding their lives anew?

So here’s your mission should you choose to accept it: Begin by interviewing someone you know. Or someone you would like to know. Draw up a varied set of interview questions. I’m often surprised by which question prompts the best response. Once the conversation is moving, feel free to follow it wherever it goes. I’d suggest taping the interview (with permission) as well as jotting down notes. After you listen to the tape and look over your notes, write out the passages that resonate. Your final piece will be a mix of words directly from the interview as well as words of your own.

In my work, I often use phrases from the original interview, but then pour the words into a different form – a villanelle, a sonnet, or a two-lined call and response in order to take the interview somewhere new. The end goal is not to be a journalist but instead use the interview as a jumping off point for a poem or a story. Here’s a villanelle I wrote based on an interview with a young woman from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just out of high school,  “Lara” had been an ambulance dispatcher at the beginning of the Bosnian war. The facts in the poem are all true – the words are a mix of Lara’s and mine. Fans of the villanelle will notice I broke the form to leave the story unfinished – the final line of the form has been removed.


~ for Lara

In her mind, she needs to cross the boundary
navigate clear water, sleep again, be whole ~
she’ll erase her Muslim name, forget life’s memory.

Why not Bavaria? Why not the travel remedy?
Study without the Sarajevo Rose.*
Her mind a boat; she floats across the boundary.

Everyone said, the conflict? only temporary ~
She’ll call her family often; keep close by telephone;
pour the past away, skip the shit of memory.

But each night she pays, this is not her country.
The thoughts shoot back and forth, a mental palindrome.
Her mind: ocean without boundary.

Other students stare in disbelief as she leaves, quietly~
a homing instinct, streams; she charts the map alone.
Is the past no more than present memory?

For one moment, her return is almost celebratory.
Mortar rounds and shelling, a kind of pleasure dome.
Her mind circles round blue boundaries.


* The Sarajevo Rose is the pattern made by a mortar shell exploding; specifically, it is the imprint left on the tarmac.

Published originally in Harvard Review and republished in The Alchemist’s Kitchen, White Pine Press, 2010.

Photo of the author by Rosanne Olson.