Tip of the Day: Go to Author Events

I love going to author events. I especially love going with friends, but have no qualms going by myself and often do.

Last year, I took my mom to a reading by an author we both love at a bookstore around the corner from her office. As we settled into our seats, she confessed, “I’ve never been to one of these before.” At a recent book club, where I often harass members by posting local author events on our club’s Facebook page, someone asked, “How do you even know about these?” My mom, the book club, these are all avid readers. I forget that I might be the only book nerd in the group who constantly stalks the four area independent bookstores (we are so blessed in the Triangle area of NC with options) and their listings of readings, launches, and other events. This year alone I have seen Anna Quindlen, Tayari Jones, Sally Hepworth in conversation with Barbara Claypole White, and Christina Baker Kline in conversation with Therese Anne Fowler. And there have been so many more that I had to miss due to scheduling conflicts.

Author events are a wonderful opportunity to listen to writers talk about writing books to people who love reading books. It’s a match made in heaven. You can ask your burning questions about process, research, and that pesky character you became obsessed with, or simply listen to a passage of the book in the voice the author imagined in their heads. You can buy the book (or several) from your independent book seller and have it signed. By the author. For yourself or as a gift. You can say something embarrassing (Sarah Gruen) or pedestrian (Anna Quindlen) or gushing (too many to count) to the writer as they sign your book. They may even tell you an interesting tidbit (Wiley Cash) when you share your own interesting fact related to their research. You can even meet interesting people while waiting in line – like the time I met local cookbook author Brigid Washington (does her book not look AMAZING?!) and ended up having a lovely chat about writing, motherhood, the myth of balance, and our shared love for the author we were seeing.

Yesterday, in my son’s second grade class, they participated in a virtual visit with David A. Kelly, author of the Ballpark Mysteries, the MVP series, and Miracle Mud. He talked process, inspiration, the importance of revision, persistence, practice, and genre. The kids loved it. They asked questions, they were excited, they were engaged. They suddenly had a real life visual of how a book comes to be and the face behind the name on the cover of the book sitting on their nightstands.img_0718.jpg

At first, I thought how wonderful it would be if this interaction inspired them to writing careers. But now, I think how wonderful if it inspires them to support writers by attending author events throughout their lives. All because they had an early experience with a writer in an accessible and fun way. After all, writers are just people. People who love books. Just like you.

So check your local paper, follow your area bookstores on social media, sign-up for your favorite author’s newsletters and see when they will be coming to your area. And go to author events!

I’ll see you there!

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Do For You

I remember when my first was born and someone told me about the airplane model of parenting – attach your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. Seemed like a no brainer in that last month of pregnancy, but it wasn’t until I realized I was dashing out of the shower with barely rinsed out shampoo, trailing water and suds down the hall to his room in response to his smallest whimper on more than one occasion that I realized it was easier said than done.

By the second time around, I had two little people’s needs to balance as well as my own, and after landing in the emergency room when the little guy was only twelve days old, I had no choice but to take care of myself. And it was heartbreaking. Honestly. I felt like I was letting someone down. That the new baby wasn’t getting the best of me. The most of me. But I also learned that I’d be letting everyone else down if I didn’t take care of myself.

As they’ve gotten older, it’s gotten easier. If I know I need a quiet moment or a change of scenery or a drink of water or a nap, I know how to take care of the physical things in order to keep myself the most sane, healthy, taken care of. But it can still be a challenge. When I’m sick and I watch the house fall to ruins around my inability to follow behind setting the world right. Or when they play together nicely while I’m writing but that play includes fire engine noises and loud truck crashes and an inevitable war of words that distract me from the work in progress. Or when I feel like I need to choose between family time and something i want to do. By myself.

This past weekend, it was with great trepidation that I asked to leave our weekend at home in NC for two hours to go to an author’s book launch party 20 minutes away in Hillsborough with an old college friend. We don’t see our families as often as we’d like and fitting in all the necessary family combinations of visits is already a challenge. But we’d added an extra day to the trip and the timing was perfect in the late afternoon, I’d still be home for dinner.

So, after much agonizing, I went. And it was wonderful. The author was witty and funny and honest and real. My friend knew her and introduced us and she offered wonderful advice and a lead on a writer community for me. I caught up with my friend as much as you can in line to get tea and tarts and a book signed. I still made it home for dinner with my parents and sister and niece.

It can be hard to justify taking care of the creative part of myself when the humdrum daily life is pulsing and demanding attention around me. I know that it’s imperative that when these events come up I honor them and give myself the time to indulge, to learn, to absorb. I left the reading with some new thoughts on my own work in progress, things that weren’t strong enough yet, characters that aren’t clearly articulated. But choosing me, choosing the creative part of me specifically, is a constant struggle. Through the years of career and family, I’ve gotten really good at squashing it and putting it on a shelf for later. Since I’ve opened the gates and really committed, however, it’s become harder to ignore. It needles me in the ribs, it whispers in my ear, it swirls my dreams at night and taunts me in the rare moments of silence.

Taking time for yourself, for your true self, the self you aspire to be, not the errands self or the job self or the parent self or the friend self or the daughter self. We all have something we want to be, whether it’s a rock climber or a reader or an entrepreneur or a good cook or a woodworker or a DIY designer or a painter. It can be a big thing that defines your trajectory or simply a hobby that gives you joy a few minutes each day. Whatever that true thing is, it is the thing we can’t afford to ignore.

Writing is my true thing. My oxygen mask. I took two hours out of our family visit to indulge it. Two hours that resulted in a lead, inspiration and a new contact. Today I took 30 minutes to write this blog post. Tomorrow? We’ll see. But I’ll try my best not to ignore it.

What is your oxygen mask? How do you make sure it’s attached? 

The End

I typed the words “The End” in the middle of a page with blank space below it. No new chapters. The words were done. The story complete.

Well, complete for now. Step one, rough draft? Check. Notice I call it a rough draft, not even a first draft yet (not even close). Now the hard part beings. The part where I figure out what the book is really. Friends and family ask how the work is going and what the story is about and I hem and haw and keep it vague. It’s not literary, I say. It’s women’s fiction, I proclaim. It’s about four women at various stages of life, I babble. It’s still a work in progress, I defend. But truly I don’t give a clear answer because I haven’t really been sure. And that’s scary. Really scary. Keeps me up at night sometimes scary. Should I know? Should I have a goal, a meaning, a more defined story arc while writing? Who knows? This is the first time I’ve ever done this and I’m learning as I go. I’m making mistakes and finding what works and what doesn’t. The next step is all about going back. Figuring out the key ideas and making them sing. Cutting those darlings and polishing the real story.

I’m excited about the work ahead. It feels like the real work. What I’ve been doing for the last several months feels more like laying tarp, washing walls and taping off molding when you paint. It’s tedious and takes time and all you want to do is get that new color on the wall to see the completed job and enjoy the difference. But, if you don’t do the preparation work correctly, you end up with a sloppy mess and no one is happy. For the story, now comes more in-depth character study and analysis, setting development that evolved as I was writing and has finally become a clearer picture in my head, continuity checking, additional story fill, and deleting all the overwritten, trite and boring prose and dialogue that I slogged through and might be weighing down the story but helped me springboard into a more productive day of writing at the time.

But I’m trying to take a little space – not a lot, but a little – in an attempt to have some perspective on the story. It’s the last week of school and there are parties and preschool graduations and teacher gifts and other time commitments. I know it will be smart for me to simply take this week for me and the boys. To truly enjoy this time as we wind down into summer. But I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit to the pressure of knowing the next four days boast the only truly free hours I am guaranteed for the next 10 weeks.

And that’s when the fear and anxiety and doubt started to creep in. That doubt, she’s a bitch. She’s sneaky and second guesses everything I do. She laughs when I post on Facebook I finished a book, relishing the moment I’ll have to tell all these wonderfully supportive people in my life that offered their congratulations and words of encouragement that I am really a fraud. That sure, I wrote something that will never sell, never see the light of day, never amount to anything but a giant file on my laptop. She’s the one that is attempting to take up residence, snickering at the dream nearby, teasing it, taunting it, whispering to my logical self that I should start scanning the job boards for PR work now so I can have a “real” job by fall. She makes the dream hide, cowering behind practicality, hoping nobody notices it for a little while.

The thing about doubt, however, is I’m on to her. That’s why I’ve been so public about what I’m doing, the journey I’m on, the lessons I’m learning. By posting about dreams and sharing my tiny accomplishments with my friends both in person and online, I create a chain of believers who believe in me, who speak louder than doubt’s whispers, who hold tight and prop me back up when I attempt to sit down. And those moments have been invaluable on this leap of faith.

So it was with added joy that an envelope was waiting in my mailbox for me Saturday afternoon. Enclosed was my very own flower from a dear friend who has offered the kind of moral support I can never begin to thank her for. Her words are always spot on and impeccably timed. She was a coworker of my husband’s. Then we both had boys. Then she moved. Far away. And somehow, this strangely tangential connection fostered between cubicle walls and a third party has strengthened to a bond that I’m not quite sure either of us understand, but I think has been mutually beneficial to both of us as we navigate motherhood and big questions about careers and personal definitions of success. On a day when doubt was threatening to get louder, she sent me a dreamer flower.

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(If you aren’t familiar with Fellow Flowers, get familiar. I’m not a runner. Trust me. But the message this organization imparts to women goes so much deeper than running, so don’t be scared off by the running background.)

The dreamer flower description states:

“Dreamer. To show grace and courage. To embrace the challenge and welcome new beginnings. Putting yourself out there. Doing it scared. I will run through the fear to feel the joy.”

Just what I needed, just when I needed it. My aunt congratulated me for completing the book by saying that “The End” was only the beginning. So true. We are all diamonds in the rough, formed by the pressure of life and challenges and accomplishments and successes and failures, that we now must polish into our best selves. Just like I’ll do with this book. We are all works in progress. Rough drafts.

Now the hard part begins.

And I couldn’t be more excited. I’m putting myself out there. Doing it scared. And that makes it feel even better. Because today? Today is the next beginning. And I can’t wait to get started. Again.

High Heeled Mama Reads: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

I have a habit of adding books to my list to read and promptly forgetting who recommended it or where I heard about it. I believe I stumbled upon Maisie Dobbs through some sort of NPR list somewhere. But who knows. What I do know is that i added it to my to read list and there it was, one day, available at my local library. The best part of reading like this is I typically forget why I’m interested in a book and trust if it made it to my list, I’ll enjoy it. It’s like a surprise when I crack open the book to find out what it’s about.

I am not typically a detective story reader, and this is most certainly a traditional detective story. What makes it different is that it’s a female detective. in England. In the 1920s. Already, I was intrigued. I like when a genre turns things on its head a bit. Our protagonist, Maisie, become a maid in Lady Compton’s home at the age of 14 to help out her father after her mother’s passing. Maisie is a decent maid but an even better scholar and is caught sneaking into the home’s extensive library late at night to study philosophy and languages and a myriad of subjects located on the shelves. Instead of punishing the girl, Lady Compton engages a friend to help Maisie along with her studies. A bit of a Henry Higgins without the condescension and later love. Maisie even makes it to Cambridge. The novel flashes back between Maisie’s past education and later stint as a nurse in World War I complete with mysterious love story and a present case that leads her to a mysterious enclave in the country called the Retreat for post war survivors. It becomes urgent that she solve this mystery before Lady Compton’s, her benefactress, son checks into the Retreat in a few weeks’ time. Through her adventure, she must learn to not only solve the case independently, but also come to terms with her own war experience.

I liked Maisie and following her struggles to prove herself in a man’s world. The love story was intriguing, knowing that in present time her love was not a factor adding to the mystery of what happened. The story’s central mystery at the Retreat was a leap for me. It stemmed from her first investigation and was a tangent to that story. I felt a little bit like the author forced a bit of connection to get to this real mystery and it wasn’t as organic as I think it could have been. I also was frustrated at the end when a large part of the resolution of the mystery was told in long-form dialogue. I am a big fan of show don’t tell and felt no need for this exciting bit of action to be relegated to dialogued recap. But, I mentioned I’m not a huge detective story reader, and so that could be a device used often in this genre and I was put off by something that might be expected, desired or perfectly acceptable to other readers without my particular pet peeves.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the characters. I would most certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys detective stories, particularly series stories as there are, I believe, 11 Maisie Dobbs novels. If you enjoy Downton Abbey and that time period of England. you will probably also enjoy this book. I had an instant visual reference for this novel due to my Downton habit and the upstairs vs. downstairs debate rings through this novel as well.

I give this a solid 3.5 out of 5.

Are you a fan of detective stories? Are there any out there I should consider adding to my list for 2015?

Next up: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Spoiler alert: LOVED IT!

High Heeled Mama Reads: “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies tells the story of three kindergarten moms as we, the reader, try to unravel exactly what happened and to whom at the school trivia night fundraiser. We know from the outset that someone dies. We know that it is highly suspicious. And that’s all. We don’t know who died. We don’t know who did it. We don’t know much beyond the fact that everyone – through the highly effective device of witness statements and police comments – thinks they know everything only for us to realize that no one knows anything.

In actuality, Big Little Lies is a story of three kindergarten moms: Madeline, Celeste and Jane. It’s a story about moms. About women. About female friendships. About marriage. About the politics of school. Because it’s a contemporary novel about women and women’s issues, I’m sure it could fall into the chick lit category. Let me first say, I hate this term. I don’t hate books labeled chick lit – there are some damn fine books and authors that get slapped with this marketing label – I hate the term. The insinuation that a book about women is only for women. That a book that tackles contemporary topics and female relationships somehow needs relegating to its own genre. Contemporary fiction seems classification enough. But I don’t think I’ll be shaking up any marketing departments at the publishing houses with this admonition, so consider that just my own personal gift of thought. In actuality, I can already tell you my own work-in-progress would probably qualify as chick lit (spoiler, it’s about modern women, some of them are mothers, some of them have relationships, ACK!) and if it ever makes it to publication, I’ll be more than happy to have it marketed in any way that sells it. </end rant>

What Ms. Moriarty does so well in this book is make a story about day-to-day events seem compelling and intriguing and rooted in mystery simply by sharing with us up front the periphery of a tragic event in the open and then unraveling the truth of the story from the beginning, six months prior. Similar to The Husband’s Secret, Moriarty deftly switches perspectives between several key female characters. The reader gets a little peak into each of their lives, allowing us to add up as many pieces as we can, but creating a pace that only slowly reveals the actual truth. In addition to the changed perspective, Moriarty employs the use of these witness statements at the end of most chapters using the supporting cast’s perceptions to create doubt, suspicion, misdirection and often a bit of comic relief.

This book was a page turner for me. Just as I’d finish up a chapter and think, I’ll turn off the light after this one, a witness’s absurd observation would propel me straight into the next chapter. I did have one element of the book figured out, but Moriarty does a fine job of keeping us guessing throughout about who died, who did it and why. The end result is never what we expect, but I found the denouement satisfying without being cliche or trite.

If you’re a mom with elementary aged kids, I’d definitely recommend it. I think you’ll recognize a lot of the PTA politics and relate to any number of the moms in the story. If you’re a person who likes a subtle mystery sprinkled with a healthy dose of levity, this is also a book for you.

I’d give this a solid 4 out of 5.

What about you? Did you read Big Little Lies? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. Next up: A review of Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Another mystery, but oh so different from this one.

 

High Heeled Mama Reads: “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler

Welcome to the first installment of High Heeled Mama Reads. I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous about writing a book review. Particularly when I read the book at the start of the year and have read two books since and I was half asleep on the couch the whole time I read it with a horrible head cold the likes of which I have not seen this side of the flu (which it wasn’t, knock wood).

But I will do my best anyway.

I will admit, I love a good memoir. When I read a memoir, I want to get a little insight into the person, what makes them tick, a perspective on an event that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. I am less interested in the nitty gritty details of a person’s history and more interested in who they have become and how they stay true to that person.

My two all time favorite memoirs are Katharine Graham’s A Personal History and Stephen King’s On Writing. Seriously, if you haven’t read these books, do so. Now. I’ll wait. Okay, never mind, A Personal History is a long one. I won’t wait. You should read it carefully, so I won’t rush you. But let me tell you that it’s a side of historical events that they don’t cover in the history books, it’s a story of a grieving wife and mother, a story of a woman who took the reins at a time when the horses weren’t inclined to respond to a woman’s guidance, a story of a city, a story of a newspaper, a story about a story and it is mind blowingly brilliant. Katharine Graham quickly became one of my all time heroes after I finished reading it. On Writing, on the other hand, is a bit different and maybe not your cup of tea if you don’t read Stephen King books or don’t write. But if you have even a passing interest in either, grab this book and read it and read it and read it again until the cover is creased and worn and the pages underlined and dog eared and it’s broken in like your favorite pair of jeans. His words on writing are some of the most simple and profound I’ve ever read. I’m sure you could apply it to your own passion (insert sky diving/fishing/computer programming for writing here). Find out for yourself. Pick it up. Read it. Thank me later. (Then read his 11/22/63 and send me flowers for recommending such a wonderful, not scary, but utterly compelling novel).

Anyway, I digress.

Amy Poehler. Before reading the book, I enjoyed watching her on SNL, but admittedly never really watched Parks & Recreation. Not because I didn’t think it was good, it just never stayed on my radar and then I didn’t want to take the time to add another show into my already procrastination-fueled escapist television watching line-up. But I enjoyed Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants and really enjoyed Liz Winstead’s Lizz Free or Die last winter and thought why not start my year with another strong woman comic’s memoir?

“I like hard work and I don’t like pretending things are perfect.” From Yes Please‘s preface, Writing is Hard. 

That sums it up. Amy Poehler likes hard work, doesn’t pretend things are perfect in reality or in her own life, and that, my friends is her secret to success. The book provides insights on her improv career, what it’s like to be a woman in the comedy business, the importance of working with other women, the importance of working with other funny people (the “love” affair between her and Seth Meyers and Tina Fey is the proof in that pudding). And, speaking of pudding (gotta read it folks), the business of hosting and insanity of being nominated and thoughts on the industry’s hubris about the “importance” of award shows was probably my favorite part of the book. Watching Amy and Tina so deftly handle the Golden Globes last week, was even more enjoyable after reading this book.

I enjoyed learning tidbits about Amy’s past and experience along the way without having it dolled out like a historic timeline. I think she did an excellent job using stories to portray herself, sharing things that might not be the most tantalizing, but instead were the most revealing (her struggle with a joke that went too far and the eventual apology and all that emotional angst in between must have been terrifying to write and share publicly, but cathartic to let go of). Her thoughts on motherhood were completely relatable, her first son’s birth story was fascinating in context with what else was happening in her life. Her refusal to deal in details of her marriage was admirable and the book didn’t lack for not including that information. I did feel that it missed a bit of a narrative arc, but if you take it as a series of essays, it certainly doesn’t hurt the book (and my feelings of lack of continuity could be related to the amount of cold medication I was on and the fact that sometimes the words ran a bit together due to my watery eyes and inability to stay awake for long periods of time).

Now, here’s where I get gushy. The preface on writing alone is worth the price of admission. It was honest and true. Her voice was so strong in this portion of the book I wanted to call her and say “Yes. This. This is true. This is hard. This is horrible. This is wonderful. Wait? What? How can I do this? You did this. Truly, you did. I can do this, too. Except I’m not already fabulously funny and known and with editors. But I, too, have a sleeping child near me at any given moment, a T-ball game to attend and carpool. And I, too, said yes. Want to be friends?” The fact that I’m only 20,000 words into my work in progress (with a mere 70,000, give or take, to go), may have something to do with how much I related to her  occasional crisis of confidence while writing a book and attempting to live the rest of her life. But there it is. Amy Poehler’s preface may be my best friend. You know, until Amy and I meet and hit it off and our boys have play dates together while we drink wine and pretend we don’t hear them fighting over Legos in the other room.

I give this book a 4 out of 5.

Did you read Yes Please? What did you think?

Next up, a review of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.

 

High Heeled Mama Reads

My name is Monica and I am a bibliophile. I love books. L.O.V.E. I hate when my night table is devoid of a book. I feel lonely and unmoored. I get giddy if an author responds to a tweet after I’ve gushed about their work online. They are my rock stars. I take recommending books to people seriously, knowing that books are so personal and so wanting to make the right match between friend and book. I have loved joining the Goodreads community to see what friends are reading, delving into chats about books with old college friends that have been surprising and enlightening, and seeing what folks are loving or leaving behind.

As the year ended and I compiled my list of books read in 2014 and realized what a truly excellent year it was on my bookshelf, I thought, why not share that love with the larger community. I know many of you are avid readers, too, and maybe we can have a space here where we share and discuss and breathe in deeply the boundless options of books at our disposal. Let me be clear, I am not starting an online book club. I will simply share the books I’m reading, perhaps an observation or two, and invite you to share your thoughts and recommendations so we can expand our bookshelves together.

I do love books, but not necessarily book reviews, or more specifically writing reviews. I certainly don’t mind reading others reviews. I read for the sheer pleasure of it and the pressure of writing a well thought out review seems a bit too much like high school English class and sometimes colors my reading. That being said, I would like to get better about voicing what I do like, or not, about a book. After all, as I’m writing one, it’s a necessary analytical exercise to understand what does and doesn’t work. So I will use this space as my trial ground in the book review space. And if it doesn’t work, well, you can find me somewhere reading. No harm done! With this bad head cold keeping me couch bound in the early days of the new year, I’ve already finished two books in 2015 and have started number three. That’s fast even for me! I’ll be posting some thoughts about them soon.

In the meantime, I came across this Reading Challenge list on Popsugar and thought I’d share it for inspiration for your own 2015 booklists. I intend to keep an eye on this list throughout the year to see how I do, but will certainly not use it as my only guide for choosing books this year. After all, there are just so many to choose from!

So grab your Kindle, library card or keys and drive straight to your local, independent bookstore and let’s get to reading!

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
― Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life (which I just added to my “To Read” list!).

A Love Letter (of Sorts)

Although I sat down at my desk this morning to focus on the work in progress, I found myself browsing Etsy for my father’s Christmas gift and then scrolling through my Facebook feed. Writers are excellent procrastinators (or at least this one is). While scanning Facebook, I came across the Literary Mama journal prompt for today. Since I had actually started a post about books and reading last week, I thought I’d dust it off, finish it up and share it. Finalizing and ordering my impossible to shop for father’s gift and getting some writing done, even if it wasn’t what I intended…that’s some pretty productive procrastination, if I do say so myself.

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I fell in love with books as a kid. I devoured them. I couldn’t get enough. Beverly Cleary, the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, Choose Your Own Adventures, C.S. Lewis, Little Women, E.B. White, Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High, fairy tales, Where the Red Fern Grows…. I had the shelves of our local library memorized, able to hone in on the section or book I wanted within minutes, scanning for new covers, returned titles, old favorites. Stepping into the cramped space of the book mobile in the busy Food Lion parking lot on a Saturday morning was like stepping into another world where I was envious of the driver who got to spend time with so many books and the strangely intoxicating scent of their plastic-wrapped covers. A small, independent bookstore in a nearby shopping center was cozy, dimly lit and full of magical possibilities to a bookworm like me. I wanted to move in and live there. Sleep with the books, wake with them, eat with them, breathe them in at all times. I ate many a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut in my elementary school years thanks to their BookIt! program (by the way, did you know BookIt! was still around!? I didn’t.).

With a more flexible schedule this year, I signed up to help in my son’s elementary school library a few mornings a month. I can’t even express to you how happy I am in that space. I love the books, the covers, the old familiar favorites that are still checked out as eagerly as they were when I was a child. Re-shelving returned books, I can touch and feel new-to-me series, find out about new authors, see stories about magic and powerful girls and strange creatures and mysteries to be solved. Helping the kids check out books, I secretly want to pocket all of their choices. Instead, I exclaim things like “Oh! This looks so good!” Or, “My son loved this, I hope you like it!” Or “I loved this as a kid!” Or “And have you read…?” They kind of look at me sideways, stamp their due dates, smile politely then high tail it back to their classroom. Stocking newly arrived books means I get a front row seat to the classics of tomorrow. Wonder and Sisters and Jacqueline Woodson.

I want to read them all. I want to open each cover and dig in. Perhaps, more honestly, I want my old Pink Panthers pink plastic framed classes. I want a quiet spot on my twin bed, a rainy afternoon and a stack of these books. I want the innocence and wonder of magical worlds and endless time with little responsibility other than to show up at the table when my mother called me down for dinner. I want stiff legs and lost afternoons. I want that feeling of rebirth to the real world by stepping outside into the reality of kids on roller skates and bikes and jump ropes after being immersed in the haze of some other person’s far away fictional reality.

I still experience magic when I read. I still can be immersed in a story. I have cried at the end of a book, not because it was sad or tragic, but because it was over (most recently, Tell the Wolves I’m Home). I have felt lost in the days after a great book, afraid to start a new one that it wouldn’t compare to the greatness I’d just imbibed.

But that initial magic that the titles of my youth still hold over me? That newly minted miracle of words is special and reserved for the younger readers among us. The novices. The rookies. They are in the midst of falling in love, experiencing that mystical, heady time when they are engulfed and obsessed and can’t possibly fathom what life was like before…before they could read, before Harry Potter’s scar, before a wimpy kid’s diary, before a magical tree house or a principal donned underpants. As an adult, I still love books, but it’s like a long relationship – sometimes you take them for granted or are disappointed or simply forget to call.

Then I spend a morning at the elementary school library and remember what it felt like to fall in love with books. I already know which shelves are home to my favorites. I keep a list of ones to recommend to the 8 year old. I hold their weight and remember what it felt like to roam and wander and seek and discover. I breathe in the ease that being surrounded by words provides. I am home in that library. Any library.

I have the unique privilege of watching my boys fall in love one word at a time. The 8 year old comes home every day with five new books from his classroom library or we catch him under the covers well past his bedtime reading by the light of a tiny book lamp. The five year old has started sounding out words, spotting sight words and imitating his favorite characters (Mo Willems’ Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie being favorites).

It’s true that money can’t buy you love. But perhaps, just maybe, a library card can.