“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

21 February 2011

Books aren't dead.

I've been reading so many essays on the downfalls of Borders (downfalls, plural, as there were many). It makes me sad and angry, and I suppose a little petty. I've ridden two sinking ships into the surf so far--Ethel's Chocolate Lounge and Borders Bookstore--and both times I've ended up in a lifeboat while my friends and comrades struggled to float. I'm not sure why that is. I'm no expert in grief, or in job-hunting, or even in books, but I keep coming back to this quote:

"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it." (John Ruskin)

This sentiment could not be more true when it comes to working with books.
When I started at Borders Bookstore a year and a half ago, I was elated. I'd really pushed to get that job, and I knew that working with books was where I belonged. Yes, I took a pay-cut... Because Borders paid legitimate experts in the field of books like they were high school drop-outs taking orders at McDonald's. Not that there's anything wrong with working for McDonald's... You see the pettiness cropping up? It does that a lot nowadays. But I've never really measured success and failure in dollars and cents.

I wish Borders would have pulled through the recession. I wish people, loosely referred to as "customers," had remembered that if you stop purchasing from a local store, that local store will die. If you buy a coffee while you browse the racks at Borders or Barnes and Noble or even your local independent, and then order what you want off of Amazon from your iPhone, that's not the same as patronizing the business. We weren't there to sell you coffee. I quit my job at Borders due to loss of hours--that was perhaps three weeks before the shit really hit the fan. I'm not a corporate mind-reader or anything; I just knew the business was dying. There are a lot of places available to lay the blame, but I know intimately how it looks and feels when a business is on its last legs... I think I could recognize that feeling with my eyes closed. And it feels a whole lot like "browsing."

I'll tell you something important, something that trumps all of the above self-indulgence:

Books aren't the problem. People still want books. Some may want them on their Kindle or Nook or iPad, but they still want them. And they still want people to help them find books. That's the irony, actually-- customers would come into Borders, accept our help locating a title or offering recommendations, and then tell us to our faces that they wanted to "check the price on Amazon." And we were supposed to smile and say "all right, no problem" when we wanted to say "next time find our own damn book, you lazy jerk!" We were not librarians, but most of our customers--even the nice ones--treated us like a library. It costs nothing for Amazon to let you browse all day long. It's costing the brick and mortar stores everything. "Browsing" is killing the bookstore; and I know nobody wants to hear that.

I found myself while working at Borders. That sounds really stupid. Ugh. Well, it's basically true. I went into that job a nervous actress-singer-painter-writer-poet with an unfinished manuscript and a chip on my shoulder. I didn't really know who or what I wanted to be when I grew up, or when I was going to grow up, or how. Working for that bookstore, surrounded by people who love the arts and love literature, made me happy every day. I loved my job in a way that I had never really loved acting, or even singing. I finished my book while working there. I started another. I worked through my screenplays and made decisions about grad school. I got married while working there. I became a grown-up while working for Borders, and I appreciate that so much. I am thankful to the staff I got to work with, who are, for the most part, incredibly giving human beings. They love books, and they loved their jobs, and they're really hurting now (even if they won't admit it). I know, because I'm really hurting too.

So, just know that you are in my prayers. You were my comrades-in-arms for eighteen wonderful months and I thank you for that. I hope you're proud of what you've become, because you are beautiful examples of humanity. Now go out into the world and find something better.


Two more excellent essays on the closing of 200 Borders stores:
The JQT Plan
Chicago Ex-Patriate

14 February 2011

Feminism and YA lit.

"Bitch Magazine posted their list of 100 must-read feminist YA titles. Then they removed some. Lots of debate ensued." Join the discussion here:

The YA Subscription

Amazing idea. I'm going to contribute a few reviews. Check it out!

Blessings y'all!

09 February 2011

R.I.P. Brian Jacques.

"Brian Jacques’ first Redwall book was published in 1986, introducing a world of talking mice, badgers, voles, and the like who were tasked with protecting their peaceful woodland home from invading rats and weasels, as well as various “monsters” such as snakes and eels. Over the course of 21 official Redwall novels (a 22nd is due in May) and many ancillary collections filled with maps and trivia, Jacques unfolded an epic tale of heroism told in especially vivid language—owing to their origin as stories for children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind, where Jacques had spent time as a milk deliveryman—that captured the imagination of even the very young, many of whom became lifelong devotees."

Lifelong devotees. Like me.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Bless you, Mr. Jacques. Rest in peace.

07 February 2011

Book two, chapter five.

       “So, this is normal?” She asked. “This… Seeing that I can do?”
      “Normal?” Master Hatim repeated. He was rubbing his hands together thoughtfully. “No. But then, what is normal for you anyway?”
      They stood up and moved toward his desk. The classroom where Enaya had first begun to learn mage-craft was virtually unchanged, the rows of worn tabletops and creaking floorboards exactly as she remembered them. His desk was a large flat table with rickety-looking legs. Hatim dropped into an over-sized chair behind it as Enaya perched on the top of the first row of tables, her feet swinging.
      “You are not normal, my Lady. No, don’t scowl at me,” Master Hatim went on. “You never have been! However ‘normal’ you thought you were before you entered the Goddess’s service, you can have no illusions about yourself now.” He leaned forward, bracing his arms on his desktop. The smooth brown skin covering his bald head caught the glare of the afternoon sun streaming in through open windows.
      “You were born unique, Enaya Sawyer. You are a uniquely stubborn young woman with a uniquely bad temper. You have a unique way of speaking and of holding your head, cocked to one side like a little bird, just as you’re doing now—” Enaya straightened her head quickly and frowned. When Master Hatim smiled, he flashed a friendly gap between his two front teeth. It lessened the sting of his lecture. “And you are, of course, uniquely Talented. I don’t expect I’ll ever meet another mage with your ability.”
      “So this Searching I’m doing,” said Enaya, “it’s just because I’m odd?”
      “In a way, yes. It’s because you’re special.” Master Hatim seemed to brace himself for something before he continued. “It’s because— well Enaya, it’s because you’re an Oracle.”
      Enaya’s eyebrows shot up toward the ceiling. Her rump slid a little off the desk, and she caught herself with one foot on the floor before she toppled. She could not respond to such an absurd statement and so she merely stared at him, waiting for the joke to finish.
      “Oh, Enaya,” Master Hatim went on sympathetically, “you had to know. You’ve been around mages long enough to know how Powerful you are. What other explanation could there be?”
      Enaya took several deep breaths and braced both hands on the desk behind her. “It’s one thing to wonder, Master, and another to be told.”

03 February 2011

Look! We're famous!

Okay, not really. But my husband and I are on a big-deal, popular wedding blog. And I do consider that being "semi-published" since the entry is really more about what I wrote than how pretty we are... at least, I hope so.

Anyway, I really debated posting this here. I'm proud of what I wrote, and of those involved, and I'm proud of the decisions Casey and I made about our wedding day. It is very personal but then again what is this blog for if not to "get personal?"

I suppose I feel that if I can share this part of who Casey and I are with total strangers from all over the country, I ought to be able to share it with all of you. After all, you're pretty cool folks. So, without further ado:

Much love, everyone. And blessings galore.