Talking About Books With Strangers On The Street

The Joy (And Importance) Of Book TalkAnother weekend, another show. I hauled my Palimpsestic wares to Old Town Fort Collins again yesterday for a Freedom Market.

Today’s a recovery day. It seems like it always takes a day to return to myself after time spent out in the world interacting with people, especially after something like the Freedom Market, which literally involved spending the day in a tent set up on a downtown street. I’m not shy,—I’m more than willing to chat with my customers, and I enjoy doing so—but I am an introvert, so I’m always grateful to return to my quiet house, my books, and my laptop.

One of my favorite things to do when I am out interacting with customers, though, is to ask about the books they love. Talking about books with any of my customers is fun, but the younger ones are my absolute favorites. This weekend, I met a seven-year-old who liked to read Junie B. Jones books and “some things by Judy Blume.” I talked to a gaggle of tween girls who adored Divergent, but also have been reading Tom Sawyer and thinking about Treasure Island. I chatted with college students whose favorites included both Sherlock Holmes and Ray Bradbury.

It makes me ridiculously happy to know that the love of books is alive and well out there.

Talking with my customers about their current favorites and their fond memories of stories from their childhood made me think. One of the reasons I make the things I do is to remind people of the role books have played in their lives. I hope that people who bring home an Agatha Christie wreath or a Little Women garland will look at it and remember the joy those books brought them the first time they read them. Then, maybe, they’ll pick up something new, something they haven’t read before. Maybe they’ll fall in love all over again. And if someone visits and sees that wreath hanging on their wall? If they start a discussion about it? It’s a chain reaction.

That’s what talking about books is all about. I’m realizing I don’t do it often enough. What’s the best discussion you’ve had about a book recently?


Writer vs. Maker

IMG_3028I went to the Old Town Book Fair in Fort Collins this past weekend, not as a reader or as a writer, but as an artist/maker.

Of course, I am a maker. I wholeheartedly embrace that identity at art and craft shows, and amongst my friends and acquaintances in the Etsy crowd. I love being a maker and I certainly earn more income from selling the things I make than I do from writing. I don’t expect either of those things to change anytime soon.

Still, it felt strange to represent myself as anything other than a writer at an event conceived to celebrate books. I’ve been a writer for decades longer than I’ve been a maker. My degree is in writing, not art. Writing is as central to my identity as my first name. Despite not getting paid for it, writing was never my hobby.

Blogger Jason Cantrell wrote about this very idea last week. This is how summarized his feelings on Twitter:

My hobbies include etymology, carpentry, and video games. Writing isn’t a hobby.

I agree. Writing is a job that requires months or years of spec work before getting paid. It’s a job I’ve put thousands of hours into, both in formal education and in practice. It’s work that I could very well do my whole life without seeing any financial success. If that happened, I still wouldn’t consider it a hobby.

And yet, with no book to promote, there I was, at the book fair as a maker. As strange as it felt, it wasn’t bad. In my little maker booth, I got to meet several of the women behind Northern Colorado Writers. I had a chance to meet and talk with writer, Jamie Raintree, before her workshop on social media. I was able to chat with book lovers about the stories they loved and the books that shaped them. I watched shoppers roll my Unblockers dice and saw new stories blossoming inside them.

As much as I feel compelled to choose between being a writer and being a maker sometimes, the location of my booth doesn’t really matter. I’m living with a foot in each world, and that’s okay.  As Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” I can be more than one thing at a time. Right now, my choice is to be both.