I’m a writer, podcaster, and bookseller whose ultimate goal (besides being a roadie for the E Street Band) is to make reading, writing, and books in general as popular in Texas as high school football. It may take a while.
Writer’s Block and Elephant Gods
It started with a simple case of writer’s block. Maybe not simple, exactly, since this period of blockage had lasted longer than the wait in line at the DMV. I was dealing with it like any writer does: by scrolling through cat videos on YouTube, certain that a feline playing the accordion would be the key to unlock the next Great American Novel.
When Do You Give Up on a Book?
It’s a simple fact that there are more books in print today than any of us will ever be able to read in one lifetime, and this doesn't even begin to take into account the new books that will come out during our lives. Faced with a finite amount of time in which to read, one question that must be asked is at what point is it acceptable to give up on a book and move on to another?
The night is clear and pleasantly cool. Sal and Julia walk through the travelling carnival that has arisen overnight in the parking lot of a shuttered Sears store. Lights flash, music blares and rides thunder. Pre-school aged children squeal with terror and delight on the mini-rollercoaster with cars in the shape of a long Chinese dragon, older kids munch popcorn and cotton candy as their parents wolf down giant corn dogs and turkey legs, and teen boys try to win huge stuffed animals for their dates. It is a controlled chaos, and Sal loves it. It isn’t Coney Island, where his dad took him a few times as a kid, or even Asbury Park, but it will have to do.
Why I Write
The most common question people ask me when they learn that I am a writer is not where I get my ideas, or if my characters are actually me, or what I think about the print vs. e-book issue. No, the most common question is “why?” As in “WHY do you write?”
Books on Writing by Writers
There is no shortage of books on writing out there, just as there is no shortage of aspiring writers. Most of these books are written by people you’ve never heard of, which isn’t bad in itself - great players don’t always make great coaches, after all - but there is something reassuring in the advice you get from someone who’s actually successful in the area they presume to give advice about. What follows is a list of six books by well-known authors that can help you on your literary journey.
Booked to Die
Readers are always on the lookout for the next great book, the one that will grab their attention and not let go. Yet even though we’re looking for it, every so often a book catches us by surprise; even more rarely that book becomes part of the very world it seeks to chronicle. Both were the case with John Dunning's “Booked to Die,” the first in the remarkable Cliff Janeway "Bookman" series.
What Makes Harry Potter So Magical
I did not receive a letter from Hogwarts when I was 11 years old; sadly, I ended up in the normal Muggle 5th-grade class of Sister Bernice, a nun who in her youth may have been a Golden Gloves boxing champ and who could certainly have given Voldemort a run for his money. I also didn’t read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” as a preteen, having turned 30 the year before it was published. But I have read all of the books multiple times now, and want to share some thoughts about Harry and his creator J.K. Rowling.
84, Charing Cross Road
This year marks the 51st anniversary of the publication of what may be the most unlikely New York Times bestseller ever: Helene Hanff's “84, Charing Cross Road.” It is not even a book in the conventional sense, but rather a collection of letters exchanged by Ms. Hanff and London bookseller Frank Doel (and other staff members) between 1949 and 1969. The fact that it is such a slim volume (only 96 pages) makes its runaway success in 1970 even more amazing.
Jake Donovan walks into the waiting room of Dr. Jenret’s office, and is surprised to see someone he recognizes sitting there reading a months-old copy of Sports Illustrated. The man lives in Jake’s neighborhood and works at the resale shop not far from his loft. He can’t remember his name, though, and he must have been staring at him without realizing it.
Starting a Book Club
Book clubs are a great way to both discover new writers and develop new friendships. Unfortunately, many readers do not have a book club they can easily join, and are unsure how to start one themselves. However, starting a book club is far easier than most would imagine, and as we begin to see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel let’s look at how.
Four Myths About Pirates
It is undeniable that the vast majority of us have gotten our so-called facts about pirates from three main sources: Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 classic “Treasure Island,” the 1950 Disney movie adaptation of Stephenson's book, and Johnny Depp's “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series. All are exciting stories, and all get almost every fact wrong. So let’s dispel some of those cherished myths and finally get some history right about those most romantic of maritime marauders.