Heart Stone Feathers

Word Nerd – Feather Finder – Heart Stone Hunter – Synchronicity Searcher Winging It While Lovingly Writing Through Life

Tag: reading

Strunk and White…Meet Klinkenborg

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(If you’re short on time, the condensed version of this post (inspired by Verlyn Klinkenborg) is this: If you’re a writer or know someone who is…Buy. This. Book.)

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As I mentioned in my last post, “focus” is the word I’ve chosen to incorporate into my life this year. So far, a substantial part of that focus has been aimed inwards on my writing. It’s been a process that’s involved a lot of reading about writing.

Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “Several Short Sentences About Writing” was just one book among several that I ordered a few weeks ago. Although the title didn’t impress me (nor the cover, as shown above), the book itself ended up being 204 pages of what I believe could become a classic – much like Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” and Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.”

However, because on the unusual way it’s written – poetically short sentences and a lack of “true” paragraphs – it’s a book people will probably either love or hate. Anyone who’s considering buying it should spend a few minutes reading the available pages for preview on Amazon to decide if it’s something they’d enjoy.

While discussing this book with three of my closest writing friends, I mentioned how the straightforward yet revolutionary ideas Klinkenborg presented completely challenged the way I was taught to write (as I think many people were) and gave me reason to pause, over and over again. It was Paul Gilmore’s Amazon review that actually summarized my thoughts best though. In it, he wrote, “I have a tendency to write in the manner of positively passionate purple prose that is overtly pulchritudinous in written and verbal construct and delivery. This book helped to save my life from choking on my own words.” While I’ve managed to edit several hundred words from this post (I realize how difficult that might be to believe), it’s obvious that I’m still slightly allergic to the use of short sentences.

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This book isn’t just about brevity though. Klinkenborg poetically discusses what he considers to be the harmful writing methods we were taught in school – arguing, demonstrating, drafting, outlining, persuading, reciting, reiterating, transitioning – and how such a focus leads us to get hung up on the concepts of authority, chronology, discipline, flow, genre, inspiration, logic, order, proof, sincerity, style, voice, and the dreaded writer’s block. Instead, he encourages writers to imagine, listen, name, notice, testify, and think and to focus on the importance of clarity, directness, implication, literalness, patience, presence, revision, rhythm, silence, simplicity, space, and variation.

He also eloquently addresses the all-important relationship between the writer and the reader, as well as various writer’s fears including (but not limited to): has “it” been said before; what if I don’t immediately write down every good sentence I create; if I am my story, where do I get another one; and how much do I have to explain to the reader. As if that wasn’t enough, the last 54 pages are filled with sample sentences and passages to practice reviewing and revising, along with more of Klinkenborg’s helpful insight.

While that might be the succinct synopsis, it doesn’t do justice to what Klinkenborg manages to accomplish in this book. Below are just a few examples (with the writing style kept intact) of what awaits you between the covers. I truly hope they entice you to find a spot on your bookshelf for this inspiring work of written art.

“You’re holding an audition.
Many sentences will try out.
One gets the part.
You’ll recognize it less from the character of the
sentence itself
than from the promise it contains – promise for the
sentences to come.”

“Every word is optional until it proves to be essential…
Every sentence is optional until it proves otherwise.”

“Every piece is an ecosystem of words and structures
and rhythms…
Suddenly you’re looking at [your sentences’] bones and muscles,
the way they’re joined and the kinetics of their
movement.”

“Late in the paragraph you prepare for the transition to
the next paragraph –
The great leap over the void, across that yawning
indentation.
You were taught the art of the flying trapeze,
But not how to write.”

“The writer’s world is full of parallel universes.
You discover, word by word, the one you discover.
Ten minutes later – another hour of thought – and you
would have found your way into a different universe.
The piece is permeable to the world around it.
It’s responsive to time itself, to the very hour of its creation.
This is an immensely freeing thing to understand.”

“…remember that your sentences don’t
acquire their final inertia
Until you release them”

“Don’t preconceive the reader’s limitations.
They’ll become your own.”

“And what happens if you trust the reader?
All the devices of distrust fall away,
The pretense of logic, the obsession with transition,
The creeping, incremental movement of sentences,
Sentences stepping on each other’s heels…
You converse, in a sense, with the voice on the other
side of the ink.”

“You be the narrator.
Let us be the readers.
You’ll discover that being the narrator is not the same as being yourself.
It’s a role, and a dramatic one.
Absorb it and inhabit it.”

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No Longer Between Books

Well-loved independent book store unexpectedly closing in Delaware. (Photo taken by Anita Gail)

Well-loved independent book store unexpectedly closing in Delaware. (Photo taken by Anita Gail)

How is it possible to feel such overwhelming guilt for the closing of a bookstore in Claymont, Delaware – one whose shelves I have never even had the privilege of browsing and that is located more than four hours from my home? I actually would have been oblivious to the sad news had my dear friend Anita not posted it on her Facebook page (along with the above photo that she took of the store’s facade and graciously allowed me to use here). Thank you Anita and thank you Facebook….I think.

Between Books, one of the few remaining independently owned bookstores in Delaware, was happily closing in on its thirty-third anniversary. On February 22nd, a few weeks shy of reaching such a milestone, shop owner Greg Schaeur posted what I can only imagine was a very unexpected message on the store’s website. Short – but far from sweet – it simply read, “I have written and rewritten this a million times in my head over the last few days. Words fail me. It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Between Books Going Out of Business sale will begin Saturday, February 23rd. We have lost our lease. More information soon. Please spread the word.” What had been a “closing in” on a joyous event is now a “closing” of the worst kind.

I don’t pretend to have any idea why – after having been in its current location for more than 25 years – the store has lost its lease. I don’t really want to even speculate on the reason. Regardless if it’s financial, personal, or something else, the end result is that the world has one less option when it comes to connecting “hands on” with books.

“Oh well,” some might say. “One less store – the world will go on without it.” Yes – yes it will. But at what price? Chris Van Trump, an “on and off” employee of Between Books since 1997, clarified the answer to that question so much more eloquently than I ever could in his February 23rd blog post entitled, “Do Not Go Gentle.”

“This place, this sanctuary, is fading from the world, and we are all poorer for its passing. All the more so because it is not alone in this fate.

Places like this used to be common, the small businesses that formed the beating heart of the communities that accumulated around them like layers of pearl, slowly growing year by year into lustrous jewels beyond price.

We’ve lost that. We threw it away, in fact, sacrificing community on the altar of savings, trading knowledge for selection, and now we’re left with the rotting carcasses of the warehouse stores, themselves devoured in turn by a flagging economy and an ascendent internet.”

One doesn’t need to be a past or present employee to feel the loss though. The Delaware Liberal’s commentary about the closing got right to the point with its opening remarks of, “This is depressing. Beyond depressing, really.”

A Google search quickly revealed to me how much of a jewel Between Books has become to its community. Without fail, I always expect to see some form of negative review about every “business” I research, whether it’s a restaurant, a doctor, a bookstore, or a mere book review. Such was definitely NOT the case for Between Books. I literally found NONE.

A mere sample of what I did find includes a Yelp review proclaiming, “This bookshop isn’t a fancy Borders or Barnes and Noble type place with fancy wood floors and cappuccino…it’s the type of place where you can get lost in the stacks and spend a whole day browsing and chatting with others. You feel totally welcome when you’re there.” Praises on the Indie Bound website were just as complimentary “…it’s run by people who aren’t like the creatures you’ll find in a Borders. They *know* things. Arcane things. They’ve met authors you’ve heard rumored to exist in some alternate universe. They celebrate new books with writers by putting their book covers on a cake. They throw a party. And their audience is as diverse as the store itself. From children to old crazies like me. This is the store you go into and come out with much of your well-earned boodle turned alchemically into reading material. The draw is unavoidable.”

Even a cartoon drawn to celebrate Between Books’ thirtieth anniversary pays homage to the fact that it was “the” place to be, as far back as the 1970’s and especially on “new comics Thursday.”

Cartoon created for Between Books' 30th anniversary. (Artwork by Steve Ressel)

Cartoon created for Between Books’ 30th anniversary. (Artwork by Steve Ressel)

Back to my original question though – why do I personally feel guilty, as if I was somehow partly responsible for this store’s demise? For far too long now, I must confess that my annual book budget has been spent at local library sales (which I have justified as helping them out, as well as my own personal expense account) and at online sites, primarily Amazon. Truth be told, my latest Amazon book order JUST arrived yesterday; a writing book for myself and a golf techniques one for my husband.

This past Christmas, I actually chose a book I wanted to share with a dozen new friends I met in an online writing course. Unable to purchase it at a local Barnes and Noble – unless I was willing to pay an inordinate amount for shipping – I got desperate. I not only resorted to buying all the copies I could from an Amazon “dealer,” but I (gulp) ordered the last few copies through Wal-Mart. Not my proudest moment.

I am someone who has loudly bemoaned the rise of ebooks at what I believe is at the expense of “real” books. I am also someone who has chanted the mantra for many years to support local small businesses (including those who grow much of my food). That being the case, I simply can’t fathom WHY those beliefs have translated into my now not being able to remember the last time I set foot in an independently owned local bookstore. And yes – there are a number of great ones to choose from. The fact that I am also a writer as well as a local business owner makes the hypocrisy of my actions that much worse. I truly feel so very shameful.

Chris Van Trump’s blog post was the wake-up call I needed. Even though he feels as if the world has ended, I am grateful that he also has hope. “Hope that the small business will see a resurgence in an age where people have begun to realize what they’ve lost, where that intimate relationship between retailer and consumer means more than a handful of shallow reviews from strangers on the web or a massive box full of things that nobody needs.” Per his call to action, I will indeed “rage, before [I] wake up and realize what [I’ve] lost.”

In what might be described as a haunting precursor to this entire story, Greg Schauer was actually quoted in an August, 2011 article about how Delaware’s independent bookstores were fighting to survive, even as the local Borders was going out of business. He commented how, “I feel bad for the people who are losing their jobs, but I watched so many of my friends lose their businesses. I survived the devastation Borders brought to Delaware bookstores when they moved in to the state and will outlive them.” He did indeed outlive them, but perhaps not as long as he imagined he would.

Will he return after this devastation? Only time will tell. Who knows – it’s possible that the final chapter of this story has yet to be written. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a sequel, as well as hoping for a happy ending.

Feathery Anticipation

Feathers Book         The Feather Room Book

What tickles the fancy of a self-professed word nerd who adores feathers? For this chick (yes – pun intended!), it doesn’t get much better than the purchase of books with titles like “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle” and “The Feather Room.”

Committed this year to “investing” in myself and my somewhat unorthodox interests, I’m happy to report that, as of today, my Amazon Wish List no longer has those two items on it. You can be certain that I’ll now be anxiously monitoring the mailbox for their much-anticipated arrival.

I’ll post a review of each book once I’ve had a chance to read them. If your interest has soared and you simply can’t wait until then, click on the above photos and/or Google (I love that word!) the titles for more details. Both have received high-flying reviews. Of course, based on the subject matter alone, that really doesn’t surprise me…..

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