I Always Cry at THE END


I took this photo a few years ago, but it seemed right for today…

This is one of those mixed up blog posts. I haven’t posted anything for a while, and yesterday I thought I should. I should blog, I said to myself. But I didn’t feel like it, I just didn’t. I dug around for a while (in my mind) to try and figure it out, and here’s what I came up with.

Winter. My next thought was about winter, of course. My next thought is always winter these days. The wind is howling outside. It’s cold and I’m really really grouchy about it. Right now, March 18, it’s 18F degrees. I’ve given up checking, searching the web, to see if we are having normal temperatures. I don’t care anymore. (I know we aren’t, I feel it in my bones.) I just want it to be warmer. I don’t want to wear a fleece jacket in the house anymore. I got an email from an (out of state, WARM state relative) who said he’d heard spring was coming to parts of the east (SOUTHeast, I told him). No. Not Maine. I was grouchy. We haven’t had a spring day since a year ago, last spring. We had snow showers yesterday and we’re getting more this weekend. And next week.

This blog is not about winter. (I think my last five are plenty.)

Reading drought. I love reading. I always love to curl up and read a good book. Sometimes I get so lost in reading that I need to lie on the couch and ignore everything else and finish in a rush. Last year I read a book that I loved so much I slowed it down. I couldn’t stand to read more than a few pages a day because I knew it would end soon. And it was a short book. When I finished reading, I cried. Cried and cried. It was a sad ending, a hard ending to read, but more than that, I loved that book, and it was over. Since then, I haven’t been able to read a book that I really fell in love with. And this year in particular I’ve barely read. I keep telling myself it’s because I’m so focused on writing (more about that later). I keep telling myself it’s the winter. I can’t stand to sit for so long. I’m antsy to get going. I tell myself it’s the books I’m reading. I’m picky. I need the right balance of good, unpredictable story with amazing writing. I like minimalist writing (usually) and sometimes books are overwritten for my taste. Anyway, I’m not sure why, but I can’t really stay engaged with any book. Most recently I’d been looking forward to reading a book (in a big way, I pre-ordered it), and I could barely finish it.

This blog is not about reading (but if you can recommend a book you love, please do!).

Experts. I’m a journalist by training. And one of the things that was drilled into my head when I was in college was the source. Find the right expert. Find the correct information. Be accurate. By training and by nature this is the kind of writer I am. I want to know. I want to know that I’m portraying something accurately. My current WIP (more about that in a minute) has a lot about horses in it. One of the horses gets injured (it’s integral to the story and the arc of the main character). Here’s the thing. I don’t know if I’m being accurate. I have a good friend who is helping make sure all the general horse information (behavior, care, tack, riding, etc.) is accurate, but I need to talk to a veterinarian. I have another good friend who is a vet, but she’s a small animal vet and has recommended I talk to a large animal vet. I haven’t been able to find someone, and it’s frustrating me.

This blog is not about experts (but if you know a large animal vet who might be willing to talk to me, please tell me!).

THE END. Back to that WIP. I just finished a major revision of one of my WIPs—the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo in 2013. Yes, that’s not last year but the year before, so I’ve been living with this story for a long time. In some senses, I’ve been living with this story for even longer because it’s loosely based on a real-life thing that happened to me (you can read about that here), a sad thing. Anyway, I miss those characters. I know I have to move on, but in a way I don’t really want to. Kind of like that book I loved so much. I know I’ll write another story (I’ve started a few), but it’s going to take a little time. As I type the words THE END, I always cry, every WIP I write, but with this book I cry every single time I read and reread the end (and believe me I’ve read it a lot of times). I miss those characters as though they were real-life best friends.

This blog is about mourning. Mourning THE END. I cried. And I always do.

Writing friends, do you cry when you write THE END? Everyone, please recommend books you love, large animal vets I can talk to, and please, please, think spring!



Great New Books Favorites

2014 GNB Favorite Books copy

One of the best things I’ve done this year was to become a contributor to the Great New Books blog team. When my writer friend (and Great New Books founder) Jennifer Lyn King visited Maine last year, she contacted me and asked me if I had time for a cup of coffee. Instead, Jennifer and I took a tour of my little corner of coastal Maine. Jennifer and I both love photography and the day we went out was absolutely gorgeous…we had an amazing day and both of us posted photos on Instagram before Jennifer headed out for a sunset lobster dinner with her family (who I also had the happy opportunity to meet).

I digress. Before we parted ways, Jennifer asked if I might be interested in joining the Great New Books team—if an opening came up. I quickly said yes, and I was thrilled when just about a month later she emailed and said she was expanding the team and asked if I would like to join.

When I joined Great New Books, I became a part of an amazing group of readers and writers; in addition to founder Jennifer, they’re Hallie Sawyer, Nina Badzin, Jessica Vealitzek, Lindsey Mead, Stacey Loscalzo, Cathleen Holst, and Katie Noah Gibson.

Great New Books is all about weekly sharing of a new book one of us loves:

Our passion is for recommending quality books which keep us turning pages long through the night, great books which have the potential to touch hearts, and lives, and open doors to a better world.

But Great New Books is so much more than that. We’re nine women. All from different backgrounds, at different stages of life, but our lives intersect at a passion for reading and writing. And I can now happily say that I call these eight remarkable women friends. We share our lives through weekly emails, something I count on every week…continuity in my life that’s a little discontinuous of late. For that I’d like to say thank you. To Jennifer for the invitation to join, and to the other women in the group. Thank you for being a part of my life and for allowing me to be a part of yours.

This week’s posting on Great New Books is even more special than usual because we each contributed to it (Jennifer did an amazing job compiling it, too!). Each of us picked the favorite book we read this year, and that’s what this week’s post is all about.

Over the past several weeks, the nine of us on our GNB team — Lindsey Mead, Nina Badzin, Jess Vealitzek, Hallie Sawyer, Stacey Loscalzo, Cathleen Holst, Katie Noah Gibson, Julia Munroe Martin, and Jennifer King — have worked hard to each try and pick our favorite book from 2014. Between the nine of us, we’ve read over 450 books this year. It hasn’t been an easy task to choose just one book apiece. But here, after long deliberation, are our favorite book picks (old and new) we’ve read this year …

So please head over to the Great New Books blog. Read about our favorites, and sign up to receive the weekly posts while you’re there, too. I can promise that every week you’ll read about books that we feel passionately about—and isn’t that what reading is all about?

Happy New Year,





Saturday Six

Here’s what’s happening this week in my world…keep reading for how to enter a giveaway for an ITunes gift card!

1. Fact or Fiction? Today I’m on Writer Unboxed with a post called Gender Bias: Fact or Fiction about three things that got me thinking about whether men have an edge over women in the publishing and writing world. Here’s the beginning:

 Lest you think I’m a ‘man-hating feminist,’ let me assure you I am not. In fact, I like to think that in my day-to-day life mine is a pretty equal world—all things considered. But when I hear things that make me think that women aren’t equal (for whatever reason), I pay attention…

A huge thank you to my wonderful daughter for taking time (on very, extremely short notice) from her busy job to give me her insight and help in editing this piece.

2. Diary of the Fall. This week I also had my first post on the Great New Books blog! I wrote about Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa. It’s about three generations of diarists, and it’s an interesting book on many levels—for me it was most interesting in its structure: nonlinear in nature and very short chapters. I hope you’ll take a look at the post, here’s an excerpt.

Lately I’ve been fascinated with nonlinear stories—in fact I’ve been searching them out. That’s how I stumbled onto Diary of the Fall written by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa.

This story of three generations of men—all diarists—is told through the eyes of a single narrator: a forty-something (unnamed) man, who relives and retells the story of a dangerous prank he and other Jewish thirteen-year-olds at an elite school in Brazil play on their one non-Jewish classmate, João. At João’s thirteenth birthday party, the boys decide as a group to drop João during a ceremonial “13-bumps” tradition, and João is seriously injured in “the fall.”

3. That giveaway. I’m putting together a new play list for the WIP I’ll write during NaNoWriMo. If anyone can guess what I’m writing about based on this playlist, you’ll win a $10 gift card from ITunes. Here’s a screenshot of the songs I’m listening to in repeat while I’m in planning mode.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 6.42.20 AM

click to enlarge

Not that this will necessarily help you with your guess, but my favorite song so far is “Cool Kids” by EchoSmith. (I never was one of the cool kids, by the way, maybe that’s why.) Seriously, leave a comment and if you guess correctly (or even close!), I’ll send you that gift card.

4. It just goes on and on. We’re still in the midst of one of the most prolonged and beautiful falls I can remember. In fact, we’re just about “at peak.” The colors are dazzling and distracting and stunning…I can’t think of enough descriptors, so how about another photo?


This sugar maple next to a neighbor’s house is what I’m talking about…dazzling right?

5. King Tide. I missed the lunar eclipse but caught the “King Tide,” the year’s highest astronomical tide, and it was something. I stood on the tiny piece of remaining shore on Cousins Island Beach and let the water wash over my sandaled feet. Yes, it’s still been that warm here…in Maine…in October. It’s amazing and wonderful.


This is all that was left of the beach during King Tide!

6. Can’t break the habit! MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I gave up cable TV a few years ago—actually right around when I first started blogging. Now, instead, we binge watch TV. (No, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either, except that we no longer have a cable TV bill.) We’ve gone through Rescue Me, The Guardian, The Mentalist, Castle, The Mindy Project, and now we’re about to wind up Chuck. Any suggestions on what we should start next would be greatly appreciated. Clearly we like an eclectic mix but tend to like quirky and shows that have (at least some) humor and a lot of mystery.

How are things in your corner of the world? What are you writing and watching and listening to? Don’t forget to guess what my new WIP is about, and you could win that ITunes gift card.



Time to be bored?


In Perpetuity. My TBR pile, my notebooks, and one of the folders from my current WIP box. And, yes, that’s a Kindle on top of the TBR pile!

I’ve been in a bit of an organizational frenzy for the past two days. My office/study/work room had fallen into a massive disorganized mess. I’m not just saying that because…well, I can’t figure out why I’d just say it if it wasn’t true. Take my word for it, it is was a mess. I quite literally couldn’t find things or even know what things I was trying to find. By the time I walked into the room I’d forget, overwhelmed because my desk was totally covered with papers, my files were out of control, and there were books everywhere.

To be fair to myself, I’ve been on a writing streak with NaNoWriMo, which continued through the month of December. And now—with a full house for Christmas and New Year—my mind is happily in Mom-land.

Still… I know that will end soon, and I’ll be in a bit of a funk after everyone takes off (starting tomorrow when my daughter leaves to go back west). So I decided to get a leg up on the New Year clean up and mind set. Yesterday as I put things away, threw things away, filed things, made stacks, a pattern emerged: I have enough to read and write and do to keep me busy twenty-four hours a day quite possibly for the rest of the year if not forever, eternally, and in perpetuity. (By the way, this sparked a conversation in our family (no, not about redundancy): we all agreed that we can’t imagine anyone ever being bored—there’s just too much exciting stuff to read and do.)

Anyway, along the way, with everything else I found to sort were books “to be read” and books I was in progress of reading. As I sorted and organized, I made one pile of books I want to read (soon). One pile of things-printed-off-the-Internet that I need to read (in reality this is a large expandable folder). And one pile of my current WIP (okay, it’s a box). I also decided to implement a new organization system I’ve been developing for several years. It still needs fine tuning, but it consists of a set of notebooks, each for a different purpose (more about this in a future blog).

The obvious question: is there a resolution in here somewhere? I’m not a huge fan of resolutions (probably because I’ve broken so many over the years), but when I told my daughter I wasn’t making any resolutions this year, she asked, “Why?” There was something in her voice that was at the same time disappointed but also encouraging.

So right then and there I decided I would in fact resolve something.

To be more organized…which will hopefully give me more time to read the books I want to read and to write more and maybe even have some time left over to be bored.

Are you making any New Year’s resolutions? Are you ever bored?



My Name is Ann, and I’m a Foodie

Ann’s food journal and a few of her HUNDREDS of cookbooks

I am so happy today to welcome my friend Ann as a guest to my blog! I met Ann when I first started blogging two years ago. She had a wonderful cooking blog, and I simply loved all the recipes she posted. We became fast friends. Last year Ann retired from blogging, but we still kept in touch and shared photos and recipes. Recently when I wrote a post about my new Moleskinejournal, I found out, in comments, that Ann keeps a very special kind of journal. I asked her if she would write a guest post about it. Being the generous friend she is, Ann agreed without hesitation, and I couldn’t be happier!
Please enjoy this post by my friend Ann!
About two years ago, I stumbled on Julia’s blog and since then, I’ve made a cozy home here as a devoted reader…and never left. Whodathunk?! A writer, who writes about WRITING who is so…interesting…so captivating?!  I figure that’s the hallmark of a talented writer, and Julia certainly is that!  She is positively MADE of awesome! 

My name is Ann and I am a foodie…

Recently, I came to the realization that canning and bread making are a lost art. I decided to take up the mantle and continue both. Happily, I discovered, both online and in person, that there are pockets of folks who think the same, and I am enjoying the old-fashioned culinary arts.

Speaking of old-fashioned…I have to confess that I adore electronics. I have an e-reader, an iPad, an iPhone, a Macbook, and a regular Mac computer. I keep my calendar, address book and just about everything else online. I haven’t bought a paper book in five years. I have, however, purchased 392 ebooks in that time (I checked…).

There is one exception—and to me, it’s an old-fashioned biggie! When it comes to cooking, I want a paper book. I want to touch it, I want to put tabs on marked pages. I write notes in the margins about the recipe and notate any changes I made. I cook 95% of the time from a cookbook and try 3-5 new recipes each week, so this is helpful to me. Did I mention that I have several HUNDRED cookbooks? 
So, here I am, a foodie chatting with a writer…

….who was gifted a Moleskine journal!

Julia and I started a conversation–via the comments section—about MY journal. The conversation quickly moved onto texts so we could chat more. Since I am a woman of limited interest, my journal is a FOOD journal!

I have a beautiful leather-bound journal where I keep my week’s menu, my grocery list and any party planning I do. When I have a party (or do the occasional catering for a friend), I keep a detailed plan, including the menu, timeline for cooking and setting up…even the table or buffet plate placements.

It’s also a resource when I want to re-make a recipe. Rather than search through all the books—which is it’s own kind of fun. I flip through my journal to the time I made the recipe, and I have the title, the date I made it, and what book and page number it’s on!

Flipping through my journal gives me a tremendous amount of pleasure and a great sense of accomplishment. I cheered Julia on with starting a journal…any journal!  Whatever you’re interested in, keeping a record of your time is never a waste of it. I am a richer person because of my little brown leather bound book, and I know Julia will enjoy her new Moleskine.

I also wanted to share another favorite. I think everyone has their favorite cookbook…here is mine! I love thisbook so much that if I’m stranded on a deserted island, THIS is the book I’d take with me!  This book has it all!  I love, LOVE it!  When it doubt, I run home to this book!  (This is not a paid endorsement—I’m a small fry who adores this book—no one’s paying me or twisting my arm, I promise!)

Julia asked if I was willing to make a recipe for you, and I did from my favorite cookbook. I made the classic (dare I say old-fashioned?) Quiche Lorraine. The classics are called that for a reason. This recipe is deceptively simple, but packs a real flavor punch. Rather than take up a bunch of room with the recipe, here’s the link!

…And here are a couple more iPhone shots (just a small sampling!) of what I’ve been canning lately!

Thanks a gazillion, bajillion Julia for letting me guest post on one of my favorite blogs, you really do rock, girlfriend! You rock, too, Ann! I love your journal even more now that I’ve seen the photos, and I love quiche and can’t wait to make the Quiche Lorraine! Your canning photos are wonderful, too…
Please let us know in comments: What’s your favorite recipe or cookbook? Do you keep a journal? Ann and I would love to hear all about your cooking, recipes, cookbooks and journals!

Julia & Ann

Dissection of a Book Cover

I was surprised how much I love this cover
(one of my favorites). The mix of bright and
black is both eye catching and evocative. I
also like the diagonal font because it jars me.

Yesterday MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I took a road trip to Barnes & Noble. I know what you’re thinking… a road trip to a bookstore? This is a big deal?

Sad but true, it is a big deal. Maine has only one large bookstore in the entire state—an hour from where we live—and for this particular mission I needed a large volume of books. Lest you get up in arms about me ignoring the indie bookstores in our area, I’ve already been to the two in my neck of the woods.

Anyway, I digress. This trip was not a pleasure trip (although it could hardly be called torture). I was going specifically for one purpose: to check out book covers of mystery novels.

This has been one of my biggest qualms as an aspiring indie author: picking out an appropriate cover for my book. I envy authors who have an agent, editor, publishing house to give opinions—even to force a certain cover. It’s all on me. That little online thumbnail is stress enough. But then I think about having a book launch at my local library or sitting at a table at a book fair. Not only does the cover need to represent the book, but it has to represent me, too, so it has to be something I’m proud of.

And I’m picky about book covers.

MEH kindly agreed to be my wingman. My job was to identify covers I liked and take photos of them, and his job was to measure the books and take notes about who designed what cover. Despite an initial speed bump when MEH realized (as we pulled into a parking space after driving for an hour) that we didn’t have the tape measure with us, fortunately there was a Michaels Craft Store right next door, and we were able to buy one.

There were no more speed bumps. We spent two hours perusing the mysteries. I saw about five covers I loved. And I came away with some very good ideas. I also broke some of the misconceptions I had about what I liked. For instance, I knew without any doubt, before going in, that I wanted a matte cover for my book. But guess what? I liked the glossy covers more. What really surprised me most, however, was that I was drawn more to the brighter colors than to the muted (this has not been the case in the past).

That’s not to say I don’t still have qualms and stresses. I want the book cover to portray the contents of the book—and there are certain secret rules, of this I feel certain: more lighthearted mysteries (like mine) should have these colors, more graphic and heavier mysteries, others. But I’m not totally sure what they are—and believe me, I’ve put in hoursof research. And, let’s be frank here, we all know that to some extent we all judge a book by its cover or at least analyze them.

I like the more traditional feel of this cover
but, I miss the brighter colors (like the
red cover behind).

Writer friend, Melissa Crytzer Fry, recently posted a blog about just this thing from a reader’s and writer’s point of view. Her post, Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, came at a perfect time for me. In it, Melissa poses this question:

Do I put too much stock into cover art? Maybe. Or is it just human nature to (literally) judge a book by its cover? Artwork – colors, photos, drawings, font size, graphic treatment – creates mood, doesn’t it? A cover tells its own story, right? It’s a huge marketing tool for the sale of books…

If you haven’t read her post, I highly recommend it; it provided an excellent analysis of several covers and addressed many of my concerns. The discussion in comments is informative and excellent as well.

Finally, once I decide what I want the cover to look like, I still need to find a designer who can carry out my vision. For this, I’ve again combed the web, asked other indie authors I know, and—yes—have even gotten names off book jackets. But I haven’t settled on anyone or anything yet, so the search is still on.

Stay tuned.

I’m interested in what you think…would you (like me) be stressing over this? Do you have preconceived ideas of which genres should have what kind of covers? Colors? Shiny or matte? Are you self published and were particularly pleased (or disappointed) in your cover? Can you recommend a designer? Or web service? Have you heard of 99designs? Know anyone who’s ever used it?



On Lawn Mowing and Book Titles

This isn’t my neighbor’s lawn mower, it’s just what it sounds like in my head

In a crazy twist, today my concentration is interrupted by a neighbor mowing her lawn….apparently endlessly. Why a crazy twist? Because my last posting was about snow (less than a week ago!), and now we’re into lawn mowing season.

So, instead of revising the last 1000 or so words of my WIP, I find myself nursing a headache, looking desperately for noise-canceling headphones, and thinking up a new title for my book (my working title, soon to be a querying title, is…well… not working).

As I was contemplating and making lists of alternative titles, I came across a very cool website that analyzes a book’s title. In fact it claims to be able to tell you the likelihood a title “has what it takes for bestseller success.”

The program, developed by a statistician, looked at 50 years of New York Times Bestseller novel titles and compared them to less successful titles by the same authors. According to the website, the program is successful in 70% of cases they tried.

Here’s one of the best things about the “LuluTitlescorer”: you need to enter grammar and parts-of-sentence information about your title. Thus you get two things in one: a fun grammar refresher AND a title scorer.

Once you enter the title and all the requested variables, you click on “Analyze My Title,” and voila it tells you the chance between 9% and 83% that your book’s title will fit bestseller success!!

For me, the four I tried were 10%, 26%, 44% and 69%. Pretty decent odds… just one more piece of information as I zero-in on a title. And something for me to think about while I finish the revisions, because—hallelujah—the mowing just stopped!

Here’s the link to the LuluTitlescorer! If you try it, I’d love to know how your title(s) fare… so come back and tell me!



The Book Barn

The Book Barn

In our small town, residents have the option of contracting with a curb-side trash service for pickup or taking trash, recycling, and the like, to the Town “Transfer and Recycling Station.”

The Transfer and Recycling Station is what most people might think of as the classic landfill or “dump.” That’s what it would’ve been called in the old days. Our Town “dump”  is anything but.

For one thing, it’s beautiful to look at—and also quite the social scene! You see all your friends and neighbors there, and it’s a place to catch up on local news!

Plus 75% of everything brought into the Transfer and Recycling Station is recycled or reused. Yard waste is composted in giant piles and bins (residents can help themselves to compost, and they can also take a home composting class), discarded lumber is brought in and then is often taken out by others who will reuse it, and the “free wall” offers household items that one family no longer needs and anyone is free to take. Of course there are also recycling bins and a Goodwill drop off box. 

But my personal favorite is the Book Barn.
The Book Barn is a small brown shed where residents can drop off and pick up books, free of charge! A few years ago when I tried my hand at used-book selling on Amazon, I found many books in the barn that I eventually resold. It’s a wonderful place that children (and adults) can take as many books as they can carry. I love the way it encourages reading in kids (and adults, too), but I also love that it gives books another chance to be read!

And this seems especially important now, as Borders closes its doors and we have only a couple of small bookstores anywhere nearby.

Last Saturday when we took our trash and recycling to the Transfer Station, I took some photos of the Book Barn. And I also had an opportunity to talk to Phil, the superintendent of the whole operation. Phil was quick to apologize for the state of the Book Barn, which—as you can see from the photos—was packed to the brim. He explained that a local book sale had just dropped off leftovers.

How the Book Barn looked on Saturday

(Understand, I had no problem with how the Book Barn looked; I was simply amazed there were so many books to choose from!)
“In a few days we’ll clean it out,” Phil said. “We do this four times a year. But nothing goes to waste.”

Phil explained all paperback books and magazines could be recycled; all hardcover books went into the trash (vinyl covers and press board can’t be recycled—Phil said a lot of obsolete encyclopedias end up here). All trash (the 25% of the Transfer Station’s refuse that is not recycled) is sent to a company that burns the trash and creates electricity.

How it usually looks
The day we went in, MEH (My Engineer Husband) brought home an Aristotle book on politics and I brought home How to Write the Modern Mystery. We had a huge variety of other books to choose from, and I could have taken many more. I never worry about not liking a book or what to do with it when I’m done because I can always re-donate it to the Book Barn!

I didn’t spend much time looking on our Saturday visit, but often there are very recent releases—one woman I know takes joy in leaving new books she’s just finished reading, just knowing that someone else will enjoy reading them, too!

Just as my friend considers her book donations as a gift to an anonymous receiver, I see the Book Barn as a gift from the Town to ourselves.

Is there a place where you live that you can donate and receive free books? 


Wednesday’s Word is Iterate, Then Again


(verb) to say or do again or again or again

– Merriam Webster online

A writer’s life. Wake up. Make coffee. Drink coffee. Check Email. Check Twitter. Respond to email. Start writing blog. Take break. Drink coffee. Check email. Check Twitter. Go back to writing blog.

Alone. Most of the time.

Get in car. Drive to coffee house. Friend arrives. Talk. About her looking for work. My blog. Her dysfunctional family. My dysfunctional family. Laugh. A lot. Get in car. Go home. Write.

Alone. Again.

Go to store. Buy butter, milk, bread, tortillas, beans, avocado, tomato. Go home. Write.

Alone. Again.

Sit at computer. Dog nudges. Needs walk. Stand up. Put on jacket. Walk outside in the sun. Even for a just few minutes it feels really good. Cold but warm. Go back inside. Take off jacket. Sit down. Dog goes to her bed. Sit at computer. Write.

Alone. Again.

Get in car. Go to library. Check out books that someone else wrote. In her house. Somewhere. A writer’s life. Alone. She writes. I read.

Alone. Again.

Tomorrow. Iterate.



p.s. What’s the pattern of your life? Do you ever feel like you’re in the movie Groundhog Day?

Goodbye Books Etcetera

For the last time, yesterday I went to my local independent bookstore. In its heyday, Books Etc. had two locations—the original in Portland, Maine, and a second store in a shopping center near where I live.

The Portland store, opened in 1973, closed its doors in 2009. Tomorrow the one nearer my house will close, too.

Books Etc. was the ideal place to shop—not only for books but also for the perfect gift. I could get there in fifteen minutes, it was full of wonderful books, and it also had the Etceteras. More importantly, everyone who worked in the store was helpful, they all loved books, and one woman who worked there always knew the perfect book for everyone, even the pickiest of readers. She really knows books; sometimes it felt like she could even read my mind.

In 2009, after the Portland store closed, the store near me seriously downsized. It carried fewer and fewer books and even less Etcetera. Finally it seemed to become primarily a reseller of used books. It was hard to visit what was once a busy, bright, crammed-full store. The store could still special order books for you—but as the owner was quoted in the local paper as saying: the customer would often go out without asking.

I admit that I was guilty of that myself. We live in an immediate gratification society, and if I want something now, I just want it. With Borders’ huge selection just another fifteen minutes away, it was no problem to hop back in the car and zip there to find the same book or the Etcetera. And there, too, I know a woman who really knows books…

But now, with the Borders bankruptcy, I don’t know the fate of our local Borders store, either. Will I only be able to buy books online? That really means the end of instant gratification (I don’t own a kindle).

Beyond the problem of instant gratification, if I shop online I won’t have anyone to give me advice. It won’t be the same, going on amazon.com and signing in to get “their” personal recommendations. I mean who are they? No friendly face that I know—with the perfect idea of what to buy for everyone on my list or to chat to about their opinions of what’s happening in the book world—or even just another real human person to talk to instead of typing into my computer.

It gives me pause to wonder….are we heading in the right direction? Or an even bigger question: what direction are we heading in? Most of the time I can feel excited and curious about this new journey, with all its possibilities. But today I just feel sad. Sad that I can’t get in the car, drive to Books Etc., and take it all in: the shiny new books, the smell of the ink, the weight of a heavy new book in my hands, and the voice of a trusted friend. Never again.