"Raymond’s eye for telling detail is very fine, as one expects of an accomplished writer, but to this she adds the informing eye of a natural historian of place.”
— John Keeble, author of Nocturnal America
Midge Raymond
Midge's blog about writing . . . reading . . . and everything in between

Category — On Reading

Bookstore Geek: Northshire Bookstore

Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, is a place for which you’ll want to set aside an entire day.

The bookstore is in a beautiful old Victorian, with several levels, including a full-service cafe on the top level and a large reading area for its many visiting authors.

It’s an fabulous place to wander through — even better, to get lost in — and among its treasures are not only books but clothing, jewelry, accessories, and a huge children’s section that includes toys and games.

Another interesting aspect of Northshire is that it’s one of the growing number of bookstores with an Espresso Book Machine, which means that you can order up any book available through the print-on-demand service (such as self-published books, small press titles, or large publishers’ backlist titles) and have it printed while you wait. And for all you indie authors out there, Northshire also has its own imprint, Shires Press, which offers a variety of packages for authors who want to self-publish their books — a very smart idea and likely one of the many reasons this bookstore is celebrating its 35th birthday and going strong.

August 29, 2012   No Comments

Bookstore Geek: The Kiva

What’s not to love about a place where you can buy wine and books all at once? I recently discovered The Kiva in Eugene, Oregon — first drawn in by its sign, which reads “Grocers, Booksellers, Wine Merchants.”

What’s fun about The Kiva is just what the sign indicates: that you can get your grocery and wine shopping done as well as browse for books, gifts, and cards. The grocery prides itself on stocking local and fair-trade foods and beverages, and they have a lot of wonderful wine and beer options, from reasonably priced malbecs to a variety of local microbrews.

I’m not sure what was more fun — to see groceries in a bookstore, or to see books in a grocery store.

The Kiva website highlights everything except the books (books actually comprise a small portion of the store), but the site has a blog that pays a bit more attention to the literary aspect of the place; many of the blog posts focus on books, from summer reading to the books about food, like Forks Over Knives. The bookshelves are stocked primarily with cookbooks, children’s books, and nonfiction — and it’s a fun place to browse. I’d highly recommend stopping in the next time you’re in downtown Eugene, whether you’re there to pick up wine with your books, or books with your wine.

August 16, 2012   No Comments

Notes from the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference

It would be impossible to sum up the amazing first week of this year’s Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, which was, as always, an inspiration. Not only is Port Townsend a gorgeous setting in which to immerse oneself in All Things Writing, the writers it brings together creates such an incredible energy.

In addition to teaching five afternoon workshops on topics from scene to character to dialogue — and the writers who join me in these classes always have something to teach me — I had the opportunity to learn from the craft lectures of such writers as poet Ashley Capps (on empathy in writing) and fiction writer Jennine Capó Crucet (on humor), as well as to enjoy their evening readings and many others, among them Judith Kitchen, Dinah Linney, Sam Ligon, Diane Roberts, Erin Belieu, and Chris Crutcher. It truly feels impossible to sum up the wealth of good writing and conversation of the week, but author Donna Miscolta does a great job over on her blog.

I also fit in a little writing time, which is so much easier to do here than in my regularly scheduled life. For one, the setting is so peaceful; looking out over the water or watching deer walk past relaxes the brain in a way that just doesn’t happen when I’m trying to fit writing in amid all my other work.

The other brilliant thing about being at Fort Worden is that Internet access is available in only a couple of spots — which means that unless you go to these specific places, you’re disconnected. I had many conversations with writers about how well our writing went when we didn’t have web access; we all experienced big breakthroughs in our projects thanks to having time and space uninterrupted by email, news, and social media.

Now that I’m back, I’ve created a few new rules for myself in order to keep my writing momentum going. I have set myself new, limited social media hours, even for work-related posts and tweets (one thing I learned from being mostly offline for a week is that taking some time off isn’t going to make you disappear as a person, an author, or a business), and I’ve created specific writing goals for myself as well. I’ve also realized that being accountable is part of the deal: If you have to answer to someone about why you haven’t met your deadline, or why you got online during your offline writing time, it makes you think twice about procrastinating. So I’ve got weekly check-ins all lined up.

All these little rules may sound over-the-top — but as most of us know, it’s all too easy to get distracted and to let the writing slip. So here’s my tip for you: As the summer continues, start defining some guidelines and goals, and find yourself a writing buddy to keep each other on track. And, if you can, find a conference or retreat that will help remind you that your writing is vital and important.

July 18, 2012   4 Comments

Beyond the Margins: 5 tips and prompts for busy writers

A million thanks to Randy Susan Meyers for hosting me on the wonderful Beyond the Margins blog today, where I offer 5 tips and prompts for how to be an Everyday Writer.

Most authors have busy schedules — these days, who doesn’t? — and yet it is possible to keep writing, even if you aren’t able to sit down in the chair. These 5 tips will help you see the ways in which you can think like a writer, which is the next best thing to putting words on the page.

Happy writing!

July 3, 2012   2 Comments

In conversation with Sheila Bender of Writing It Real

I always love chatting with Sheila Bender of Writing It Real — she asks the most thought-provoking questions about all aspects of the writing life. So I was delighted to chat with her about Everyday Writing, which meandered into the realm of publishing, submitting work, and writing in different genres — all followed by writing prompts of varying lengths to fit any busy writer’s schedule.

Check out the article here — and if you’re not already a member, I highly recommend becoming one! Membership offers a wealth of articles, inspiration, classes — and community.

Thanks to Sheila for the opportunity to talk about a few of my favorite things!

June 14, 2012   No Comments

Weekly Writing – Mojo Monday

On this summer Monday, I’m delighted to be featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s amazing Writerhead blog as part of her Mojo Monday series. (Visit Kristin’s blog every Monday, where she offers “a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.”

Today on Mojo Monday, I write about how to be an everyday writer (i.e., how to find time to be a writer every day even if you’re not able to sit down to write every day) and offer three tips with matching prompts – so there’s no excuse not start this week off in a writerly mode.

Thanks to Kristin for hosting me today — and happy writing!

June 11, 2012   No Comments

5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity

I’m happy and grateful to be featured on the StyleSubstanceSoul blog today with “5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity.”

If you’re not familiar with StyleSubstanceSoul, visit today and sign up to receive their e-news, which delivers inspiration, book and film reviews, interviews, and amazing giveaways to your in-box every week. This wonderful site was founded by three best friends (and mothers of daughters) who believe that “female energy has the power to change the world.” They are all about living a life of positive action and compassion — what’s not to love about that?

A million thanks to StyleSubstanceSoul for featuring 5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity (and be sure to click through to a couple of the links, where you’ll find books by a couple of my favorite poets). Hope this all leads you to a weekend of inspiration, good reading, and good writing!

June 8, 2012   No Comments

Bookstore Geek: Pages in Manhattan Beach

There’s a lot to enjoy about Manhattan Beach, from its miles of sandy beach to its boutiques and shops to its amazing Mexican food — and, most of all, Pages: A Bookstore, a fabulous indie in the heart of the neighborhood at 904 Manhattan Avenue.

I discovered Pages thanks to author Cher Fischer, who held her launch party for her novel, Falling Into Green, at Pages in May.

Pages and its three owners — two of them, Patty and Margot, were there for Cher’s party — are warm, generous hosts, and the bookstore itself is a wonderful, inviting space not only for a book event but for wandering and reading.

In addition to comfy chairs for browsing, the bookstore’s shelves are topped with quotes about writing, from William Faulkner to Thomas Jefferson. The layout is spacious but somehow also offers that cozy feeling of being among a great abundance of books.

Like all good bookstores, Pages is active in its community, with events (including author appearances, game nights, workshops, and book clubs), a monthly newsletter, and an expansive children’s section with beanbag reading “chairs.”

Don’t miss this wonderful bookstore the next time you’re in Manhattan Beach — it’s the perfect place to find your beach reading, and a wonderful respite when you’re ready to step out of the sun.

May 30, 2012   No Comments

Books (and inspiration) for writers

I’m very happy today to be featured on the blog of the amazing Jane Friedman, who has posted an excerpt from Everyday Writing, including 10 writing prompts that can be done in 5 minutes or fewer (a.k.a. “Quickies”). A million thanks to Jane for posting this — I hope writers find it helpful and inspiring. The idea behind Everyday Writing is to be a writer every day, even if you don’t have much writing time every day — and these short prompts are meant to offer a way to stay connected to your creativity and your writing.

And, speaking of creativity and writing, Brenda Miller‘s wonderful new book, The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (co-authored with Holly Hughes) is for all writers who wish to create physical and mental space for writing. Its abundance of advice for writers includes tips for how to heighten awareness and take risks in your writing, as well as how to write in a community. Best of all, for today only, Brenda’s publisher is offering 20 percent off the book! And be sure to check out Brenda’s blog, The Spa of the Mind, for tips and thoughts on finding respite in a busy world.

 

 

May 29, 2012   No Comments

On Memorial Day: Books for Soldiers

One of the many things I love about Forgetting English‘s publisher, Press 53, is its yearly Memorial Day tradition: For every book you purchase from the Press 53 website from Memorial Day until Flag Day (June 14), Press 53 will send, at no additional cost to you, a book to an active-duty overseas soldier or to a recovering soldier in a military hospital. What better way to celebrate mark Memorial Day?

Buy a book for yourself or a fellow reader, and Press 53 will take care of the rest. And, in celebration of National Short Story Month, why not try a new collection?

Forgetting English isn’t the only Spokane Prize winner among Press 53 titles — Becky Hagenston’s Strange Weather is also a recipient of the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction (and it’s an amazing collection…I highly recommend it).

I also loved reading Tara Masih’s Where the Dog Star Never Glows and Andrew Scott’s Naked Summer.

And here are a few recent Press 53 award-winning story collections:

Anne Leigh Parrish’s short story collection All the Roads That Lead From Home won an Independent Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Best Short Story Collection.

Marjorie Hudson’s short story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas won a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention.

Michael Kardos’s short story collection One Last Good Time won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction.

Click here for details on Books for Soldiers and to start shopping. Happy Memorial Day.

May 28, 2012   No Comments

Bookstore geek: WinterRiver Books

In the heart of Old Town in Bandon, Oregon, you’ll find the lovely WinterRiver Books, a gem of a book and gift shop.

This bookstore its excellent in its devotion to local and regional books — while so many bookstores tend to have the same bestsellers on the front displays, WinterRiver Books offers a bit of everything, and it’s a great place to browse, especially if you’re in the mood for something different but aren’t sure what.

And WinterRiver Books goes beyond being a bookstore in its wonderful selection of gifts, many of which are eco-friendly, which is always great to see. The store also carries fresh bread from a local bakery…

…and this, in addition to the chocolate selection (which includes Theo Chocolate — mmm) basically means one-stop shopping for a bookstore geek.

March 7, 2012   2 Comments

Bookstore geek: Books by the Bay

There are probably few better ways to spend a rainy winter day in the little town of North Bend, Oregon, than in Books by the Bay. (Especially if you’re a bookstore geek, but even if you’re not.)

Books by the Bay has a lovely selection of both new and used books, as well as cards and gifts. Even better, its cafe, The Grounds, offers lunchy items and the usual warm, highly caffeinated cafe drinks (another nice reason to be there on a rainy day).

There are a few cozy chairs — and the bookstore’s wide-open spaces and expansive shelves are great for browsing.

The store’s good light and whitewashed bookshelves remind you that the ocean isn’t too far away…and Books by the Bay is the perfect place to pick up your beach reading.

March 1, 2012   No Comments

Bookstore Geek: Hammond’s Books

Hammond’s Books is one of those amazing discoveries you may make only when wandering the streets. I found this fantastic little bookstore while antiquing in St. Louis’s Cherokee neighborhood.

Part of the Cherokee-Lemp Historic District, Hammond’s Books is brimming with books and antiques — with a wonderful collection of used, rare, collectible, and out-of-print books — and it has the same fabulous stepped-int0-the-past feel as the rest of the neighborhood.

Hammond’s offers three floors of book browsing, and there’s espresso and cappuccino available if you need a little caffeine after winding your way through all the narrow aisles and chandelier-lit nooks.

And after shopping at Hammond’s, as long as you’re on Cherokee, save some time for browsing the other eclectic antique stores, where you’ll find plenty of wonderful, dusty old books. And, if you’re into beer (as my companion happened to be), check out the Lemp brewery — a stunning building that fortunately was preserved after Prohibition put the brewery itself out of business.

January 25, 2012   2 Comments

Bookstore Geek: Longfellow Books

Maine has a treasure in Longfellow Books, which is in the heart of downtown Portland and an amazing place to browse.

The store doesn’t simply host author events; it hosts parties, and it treats each customer like a cherished guest. Wine is served, along with homemade cookies baked and delivered by a local bookstore supporter who tailors each recipe to the event (for Wendy Call‘s recent event for her book No Word for Welcome, centered around the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the cookies were baked with Mexican spices).

And in a lovely gesture, for this year’s Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, Longfellow Books gave every child child a free book up to a $10 value or the same amount off their purchase, donating 356 free books by the day’s end.

So don’t miss Longfellow Books the next time you’re in Portland. The store offers used as well as new books, and will buy yours as well. It also offers, in true indie fashion, “parking, gift wrapping, advice, dog biscuits, and a wealth of knowledge about books.” It’s well worth an extended visit — and try to make it to an event if you can.

December 16, 2011   No Comments

Book Promo 101: The non-reading book tour

When my writing buddy Wendy Call and I began to plan our joint book tour for this past summer and fall, we proposed events from readings to workshops to writing-prompt sessions. And, as this Wall St. Journal article indicates, we are apparently not alone in thinking outside the traditional book tour. In fact, of the nearly dozen events Wendy and I did together, only two of them were straight readings.

We took this approach for several reasons: For one, we are two writers with quite different books that are very similar in theme; our books cover travel, globalization, and characters facing challenges, yet Wendy’s book, No Word for Welcome, is nonfiction, while Forgetting English is a collection of short fiction. So we wanted to bring readers together to offer something for both nonfiction and fiction readers, as well as to give them a chance to participate as an audience.

We also recognized that neither of us is (quite) famous enough to have fans lining up around the block. And when you are an unknown author, it helps to offer a little something beyond the book when you’re meeting your readers, most of whom will be new.

Finally, we planned to visit a variety of venues, from Grub Street  to The Writer’s Center to Boston University, as well as bookstores. And we also recognized that a bookstore event needs to draw crowds and sell books to be a win-win, and it’s up to the author as well as the bookstore to try to make that happen.

We learned a great deal — far more than will fit into a short blog post — but here are a few tips…

- Team up. There are so many advantages to doing a joint book tour — and offering a little something different to participants is only one of them. And, as this WSJ article mentions, sometimes a bookseller will interview an author, which is another great idea.

- Offer a workshop. Wendy and I taught several different workshops on our tour, all geared toward the themes in our books, from narrative writing to travel writing. Though we each chose sections of our books for the other to read, we also offered examples of work other than our own and included handouts and reading lists. You can also, as Wendy did at several of her solo events, offer slide shows with images that relate to your book; many authors use PowerPoint presentations as well. There are really no rules other than making the presentation engaging and relevant.

- Talk about what inspired the book or certain scenes. It’s always fun to learn what’s behind the scenes of an interesting book, and by going this, you offer readers more than what’s between the pages. You’ll want to read enough to give readers a taste of what’s to come — but the idea is that they’ll be buying the book, so you’ll want to offer something they can’t take home with them.

- Make time for audience participation, whether you assign a couple of writing prompts or start the Q&A with you asking the Qs. As novelist Jason Skipper says in this interview, on his recent book tour he took several fun approaches to his readings, from singing Wilco songs to inviting the audience to read with him.

- Structure the event so that reading time is minimal. While Wendy and I both made time to read brief excerpts from our respective works (you definitely want to give people at least a little taste of your book), we spent only a small percentage of our event time on reading, which allowed for us to get to know our audiences and vice versa. We’d often begin with a brief reading and then conclude with one as well — this is a good way to bookend an event — but for the most part, while we were there on behalf of our books, we talked more than read.

In the end, the most important thing is that you have fun — this is something that readers will remember — and often the most fun and surprising events go well beyond the book itself.

December 13, 2011   2 Comments