Thursday, August 09, 2007

It's Like Plastic Gold!

You know what’s almost more fun than using a free Barnes & Noble gift card?

Sometimes...not using it.

I recently received one of these cards, which, in my eyes, always looks more attractive than a gold brick or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. I mean...don’t people realize that this thin rectangular card entitles the owner to...*gasp!* books?

Could there be anything better? I think not.

Anyway, the day after I received the card, I had a trip scheduled to Green Bay for a different purpose, so I stowed the card in my wallet to have at the ready in the event that I stopped to browse. Who was I kidding?...I purposely left my entire afternoon free so I’d have several uninterrupted hours.

Those gift cards never last too long in my possession, and during my time at the bookstore, I found a small semi load of books that I’d love to add to my collection.

As I wandered the aisles, though, a thought crossed my mind and the more I pondered it, the smarter it started to sound.

I had another excursion planned the very next day down to Milwaukee, where they build some of the Barneses a little bigger. So I decided to to keep my gift card securely tucked in my back pocket, and would hit the road a couple hours earlier than planned the next day to do some more book browsing.

As I walked out the door of the Green Bay store, I thought to myself, “All that picking and planning over which books to buy, salivating over this one and that...and now I get to do it all again tomorrow, too!”

I was stretching the value of my gift without too much effort. Granted, I didn’t have any new books in my hands, but the idea of new books was still fresh and real.

The next day I walked into my idea of heaven on earth and began my routine all over again...checking the bargain shelves, wandering among the classics, perusing the tables set out specifically for “great summer reads” to see what knowledgeable book people are recommending.

And then, according to plan, I made my way over to the “Writing/Reference” section, and knew that this is where I would surrender my gift card in exchange for books on the writing craft.

Many of my gift cards are spent in this section, and my bookshelves overflow with volumes on creativity and fiction writing and tips on writing memoirs and how to overcome writer’s block.

You know those writers you read about who spend more time reading about writing than they actually do writing? That would be yours truly.

I selected a book dedicated to getting you writing and keeping you writing, another that called itself a writer’s portable therapist (no jokes from the peanut gallery about how I should have opted for the unabridged encyclopedic version instead), a small volume by Ray Bradbury with his thoughts on the writing life, and an entertaining dictionary of sorts called, “Word Nerd.”

As I placed my four books on the counter by the saleslady, she shuffled through them and gave me a smile, saying, “These look like some fun books!”

I quietly remarked about it being one of my favorite subjects.

And as she rang me up and tried to sell me on becoming a book club member (which she did; guess that means I’ll have to spend more time at Barnes!), she commented, “Well, when you’re a famous writer you’ll have to come back here and do a reading for us.”

That line made me laugh, and I said, “It’s a date. I’ll mark it on my calendar.”

So now I’ve got my first gig. All I’ve got to take care of is the “getting famous” part.

Hmm...does anyone know any good books on how to write?

“When you write down your life,
every page should contain something
no one has ever heard about.”
—Elias Canetti


  1. Man, the more I read your blog, the more I wonder why our paths never crossed in my short time living in Manitowoc county... at a minimum somewhere among the shelves of the dearly departed B. Dalton at the nearly dearly departed Edgewater Plaza or at Bookworld downtown or perhaps in the lower catacombs of Harry Leiker's crazy old bookshop.

    I'm assuming the Bradbury tome you walked away with is "Zen in the Art of Writing." In some ways, I feel one needs no other writing ass-kicker than that. It's nearly biblical in its inspiration.

    On top of that, if you can get Stephen King's underrated "On Writing," I think you'll find a ton of valuable shots in the creative arm.

    It's nice to see I'm not the only one poisoned by the need to gobble up all things published on this lunatic practice of writing. My shelves are sagging under the weight of these guides. Finally, only as recently as this year, I've decided to cease this spiral of neediness and just write, peers and learned ones be damned! (It's worse for screenwriters, there's a veritable cottage industry of well-wishers and charletans all with their hands out... it's nice to know I've fed and clothed many an out of work Hollywood scribe)

    Ultimately, they all say the same thing... the best way to write a novel is one word at a time.


  2. One. Small. Painful. Word.
    At a time.


    You're right, Jeff, they do all boil down to the same thing. Just write. But it's fun to read the different twists so many people can put on the same two words.

    That was the Bradbury book I found. I'd heard about it, but never saw it on the shelves until that day. So thin it was almost hiding. But once I got my hands on it, I didn't let it go. I've only skimmed the first couple pages, but that one's high on my list to get through, with highlighter in hand.

    I've already read, "On Writing." After I bought my copy, I found overstocks of it at a freakin' dollar now I've got a couple copies to spare. Great book. Makes me leery about ever using an adverb again.