Friday, July 25, 2008

Starting a blog, attempt #234 (This one's going to take; I can feel it!)

I don't often like books written in letter form; they're usually lacking any real substance, and they seem like an easy way for a person with little talent to be able to write a story. However, I wasn't more than a few pages into The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society when I was already telling co-workers that they had to read this new book.

The main character, Juliet, has a love for books and an endearing charm and wit that quickly draws in a reader. The story mostly consists of the post-WWII correspondence between Juliet and a literay society from Guernsey, her publisher, and a few friends. Some of the letters are short and direct; others are more rambling, with the details, description, and dialogue more reminiscient of a novel. All of them are useful in revealing character or driving plot.

Though I can think of a few reasons - laugh-out-loud humor, wonderful characters, great writing, classic book discussion - I can't exactly explain why I liked this book so much. I guess it's just a well-written, light-hearted book, injected with humor , biblophilia, and quirky characters; it's a wonderful lazy-day read, and who doesn't need one of those now and then?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A little red ink, if you please.

I'm an editor. It's a big part of who I am - an obsessive character trait I carry with me in all my travels. I'll edit anything and everything I read - from a bumper sticker on a car to a novel to a research paper. In most cases, I don't even realize I'm doing it until I start reaching for my red pen.

There's one thing I can't edit, though, and that's my own writing... the unfortunate problem with that is I'm not a very good writer. It's odd to me that I can get so hot under the collar when I see someone write "That is it's problem," but I can still come up with a sentence like "I have many favorite author's," without blinking an eye. What the heck is that?!!

Earlier today, someone mentioned to me that they read my blog. Since I haven't posted since September and, therefore, couldn't really remember the contents of my blog, I came to see what they had just read. I was horrified! Elementary grammatical mistakes were littered throughout everything I'd written! Misplaced apostrophes, the simplest words spelled incorrectly, omitted commas, sentences that made absolutely no sense at all - I'd have run out of ink if I'd tried to mark it up with my beloved red pen. I couldn't stand it, and I went through and edited the many mistakes that initially caught my eye, despite the fact that it's 2:30 in the morning.

If I could adequately convey to you the revulsion I feel about my misdeeds, I'd be a fine writer indeed. Hypocrisy is one of the sins I despise the most, so imagine how it feels for me to admit that the editor needs an editor.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Man, what a great day! Every few months, there’s a “book fair” about 2 hours away from me. I went there a few years ago and got some great rare classics, so I thought I’d give it another try. I am so glad I did!

I bought over $300 worth of books for $80!!! Even if I’d bought those books with my discount at work, they would have cost over $210... subtract the $30 dollars I spent on gas and I STILL saved $100!!! Woohoo!

Here’s what I got:

The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson (never even heard of it really, but it sounded kind of interesting, was recommended by another author I like, and was a local writer...)

Great Moments in Architecture by David Macaulay

The Elements of Editing

Dickens by Peter Ackroyd (a $45.00 hardback for $1.99!!!!!!!!!!!)

Illustrated Dracula (very cool artwork with this edition)

Gulliver’s Travels

Heavy Words Lightly Thrown by Chris Roberts (fun little book about the true meaning behind nursery rhymes and such)

Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn

Illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the cutest artwork, great kid’s book)

Boo Who by Rene Gutteridge (the 2nd book in a Christian series - I enjoyed the first one)

T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, Illustrated (again, REALLY nice artwork)

The Novelist by Angela Hunt (Christian novel; someone recommended the author to me)

Tolkien: A Biography by Michael White

Illustrated Shane by Jack Schaefer

Tale of Peter Rabbit

Tale of Benjamin Bunny

Tale of Flopsy Bunnies

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter

As a bookseller at a major chain bookstore, we’ve been gearing up for the 7th, and last, Harry Potter book since January. The last month or so, though, has been the real start of Harry Potter mania at our store. We were planning who would be working, what events we would do, how we would decorate, etc. But, most importantly, we were taking reservations nonstop... the amount of books that’d be coming into our store grew rapidly, and our final count was 1,300 or 1,400 preordered books.

Last week, all the employees were given the rules for dealing with the books once they arrived – it was crazy. They’d come in boxes shrink-wrapped together. We weren’t allowed to open the shrink-wrap, and we certainly weren’t allowed to open a box. We couldn’t take pictures of the boxes, even wrapped up; we couldn’t discuss whether the books had arrived or not. We basically had to act as if the single book that we were focusing all of our attention on didn’t even exist. (Incidentally, the regular books arrived on Tuesday and the audio and deluxe books arrived on Thursday.)

On Thursday, the day before the party and subsequent midnight sale, 4 out of every 5 calls was a customer asking about reserving a book (“sorry, too late”), confirming their order (“yes, you’ll get your book; we promise”), or asking about details for the party and how to pick up the book (“you need to get a wristband”). Employees stayed late that night in order to turn the bookstore into Hogwarts and train stations and other Potter locales. They worked on getting crafts ready and moved every chair and table off the main floor.

On Friday, the first person arrived at 5 in the morning! By the time we opened at 9, a line had formed halfway down the sidewalk. Cheers went up as people got their wristbands, and some of them literally danced out the store, discussing which letter they’d received and what time they were coming back. Our festivities started at 7 PM, but I arrived for work at 6 in order to attend the pre-party meeting and get debriefed. At that point, the store was just starting to get more crowded than normal; it wasn’t too bad, though. The break room was full of my coworkers and managers, as well as about a dozen volunteers, most in varying degrees of costume. A few of us, myself included, didn’t have a costume and we were promptly given a Hogwarts hat and pin to wear for the evening, as well as a wand, if we so desired. I figured the wand could make a good weapon against unruly children, so I selected a nice, green, woodsy wand with a rope handle. I gotta admit, I felt a bit cool walking around the store with my wand. Because of the black button-up shirt I was wearing, along with the hat and wand, I had many people tell me I looked like a cop, so I found myself dubbed a Hogwarts MP. I was assigned to work with another coworker at the cash register for the evening.

By the time I left the meeting, the store was getting very crowded and costumes were becoming more abundant. The registers were pretty quiet, so I was allowed to wander and check out the events for a little while. We had a greeter in full wizard costume who had a sorting cauldron (since we couldn’t find a sorting hat); each person through the door could pick a piece of paper and be sorted into their proper “class.” We had a costume contest, a wand-making station (in the religion section for those who like irony), a wizard hat-making station, face painting, trivia games, picture frame decorating, and a cardboard Harry that people could have a Polaroid taken with. There were colored arrows taped all over the floor to direct people to each station.

After about half an hour, I was sent to CVS to buy every bit of Polaroid film they had. When I returned, the party had definitely hit its stride. There were children, adults, and teens everywhere. Adults were mostly sitting in the aisles and loitering in the open spaces created by the lack of chairs and tables; some had even brought in lawn chairs. The kids and teens were going from event to event, collecting their souvenirs and leaving a trail of glitter and feathers everywhere they went. Probably 3/4ths of the people were in a costume of some sort.

Back at the register, I had very few customers. A few people with deer-in-the-headlight expressions came though, claiming they had no idea all this was going on or they never would have come that night. I kept quiet, wondering what rock they’d been hiding under for the last few days. Occasionally, a customer would come buy a book to read while they waited, but most people didn’t bother to pay for their diversions.

Sometime around 8:30 or 9, we hit our maximum capacity; sometime around 10:30, we decided to enforce our maximum capacity. At that point, a line began forming outside, and no one was allowed in until someone else came out. We began lining people up at the registers around 11:30 and by 11:40 all 8 of our front registers were manned and boxes of books were being brought up. The cheers were so loud we couldn’t even hear the mangers, who were talking o the intercom, trying to keep the lines orderly. A reporter from the Washington Post was taking pictures and interviewing people as we announced the winners of the costume contest and gave them their prizes. A cheer went up at 10 ‘til 12, 5 ‘til 12, and, of course, 12 o’clock. A moan went up when they were told we couldn’t actually open the boxes until 12:01, so it would be after midnight, but at 12:01, when the boxes were ripped open, the noise was deafening.

We had a manager directing people to specific registers, and from 12:01 until 1:30, I don’t remember slowing down once. I was grabbing books, sliding credit cards, and counting money so fast, I felt like I had 4 arms. Volunteers behind us were constantly carrying stacks of books to each of us or running to fetch the occasional audio or deluxe version so that we never had to miss a beat. Fortunately, we received a lot of compliments about how fast and efficient we were. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m estimating we served about 700 customers in an hour and a half.

It was after we closed that I began hating the party. The amount of stray books strewn across the store gave the impression that a tornado had hit. Our information desk had stacks so tall you could barely see over them. To put things in perspective, on a typical night we have 2 or 3 people responsible for collecting and putting away all stray books and magazines, walking every single aisle to straighten every single shelf, doing the trash, and bringing out carts for shelving the next morning. We’re usually done 30 to 40 minutes after closing time. Last night we had about 12 people working, we skipped the shelf maintenance, and it still took us an hour.

Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’m not a Harry Potter fan, and I don’t claim to understand the hysteria this book caused, but I decided to just have a positive attitude for the day and allowed myself to be caught up in the excitement. Towards the end, when the clock was ticking toward midnight, I was actually having fun. I’m glad I was there and had a part in the whole event. That said, I’m also really glad this is the last book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Judging a book by it's cover

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We’ve all heard it before – in reference to books, people, music, most anything. It’s a simple philosophy, really: sometimes things look better than they are, and sometimes things are better than they look. The thing is, though, do you know how many books are in just the one bookstore in which I work? Me neither, but I can tell you it’s a lot. With so many options to choose from, I feel the cover can make a significant impact.

I read book blogs and talk to a lot of people who read books, so I actually have a little notebook where I write down recommended books I’d like to read. However, thanks to my impulsive nature and bookstore addiction, I often finding myself wandering through the aisles without my book of books. So, in that situation, I have to admit I very often judge a book by its cover. Obviously I take the genre, plot, author, etc. into consideration, but, when there’s a tie, it honestly just comes down to the cover.

Working in a bookstore, there’s no way I can read the write-up on every book I see. For the most part, I just look at the genre and the author’s last name so I know where to shelve the book, but every now and then, I take a moment to open it up and read the blurb on the book jacket. And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, the one thing that causes me to do that is an interesting cover.

So, I have two questions. First, is it really all that wrong to judge a book by its cover? Second, since most of us do at least have an initial reaction to a book based on its cover, what covers do you find most interesting? For myself, I like classic-looking covers. Covers that replicate antique books always jump off the shelf at me. I like unique, but not over-the-top weird. I don’t like bright colors; I don’t like photos of people (as opposed to drawings or paintings). I won’t even consider a book that has a raunchy or disgusting cover.

To sum up, I just think there are too many books out there to not judge a book by its cover, so authors beware... choose a good cover.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Random Thoughts on Drink and Food (a weird one)

Part 1 - Drink:
I was at a restaurant today, standing in front of the soda dispenser, trying to decide what to drink when I noticed that it had orange soda. I haven't seen orange soda as an option lately, and it made me a bit nostalgic. I remember a time when orange soda was the only soda I ever drank - I was very young and not allowed to drink soda very often, but whenever I could, orange soda is what I wanted - I thought it was the best stuff. What's odd is I don't like orange soda anymore, not even just a glass for "old times' sake." As I got older, root beer was my soda of choice. I remember lamenting the fact that restaurants rarely had root beer, and I was forced to have Dr. Pepper instead. Now, I prefer Dr. Pepper; on the rare occasion I do have root beer, it's too sweet for me.

All this brought me to one conclusion: I drink too much soda.

Part 2 - Food:
Have you noticed lately that candy bars are changing, trying to be the next new thing? Kit Kats come in white chocolate or dark chocolate. Crunch bars come in a cylinder wafer form. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups come in crunch, caramel, or reverse. I once read somewhere that people have smaller attention spans now and constantly need new and exciting things. Could that be what the new candy is all about? Is the sugar high really not enough? As far back as I can remember, if you wanted caramel, you got a Twix or a Milky Way; if you wanted peanut butter, you got Reese's; if you wanted wafers, you got Kit Kat. It was always the same... and it was always good.

Going for nostalgia again - I remember when I was a kid there was a 7-11 about a block away from school. Before basketball games, my friends and I would beg some change off our parents (most of us were teachers' kids so a parent was there), head off to the 7-11, and come back with our favorite candy bar or Slurpee. On lucky, rare excursions, one or two of us would come back with candy AND a Slurpee. How cool we felt then! Anyway, I remember being so excited by a plain, regular bar of Hershey’s chocolate. I never needed mini M&Ms mixed in it. (Unrelated note – it’s been a really long time since I’ve had a Slurpee, but I guess that’s another blog.)

I think I'm turning into an old fogey. "Back in my day, chocolate was just chocolate; we didn't have this newfangled candy you whippersnappers have these days," she said in the unmistakable lisp of a women whose dentures were slipping...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

A Good Friend

I haven't blogged much - obviously - but to be honest I haven't wanted to. Normally I love to write - about anything - but lately, everthing I write comes out sounding somber and depressed. Though I write it out sometimes, I haven't posted - I just didn't feel that the world would care to read about my woes.

My troubles haven't changed any, but today I'm in a wonderful mood. I drove a couple of hours to meet up with a dear friend today, and it's amazing what a truly caring person can do for one's spirits. Right now, I have few friends interested enough to talk with me (see, there's that depressing stuff I mentioned), but this particular friend always lets me open up and babble about everything. It's good for the soul, I think, to get things out and discuss them. I left her today not having any of my problems resolved, but I felt encouraged, uplifted, cared for - things I haven't experienced in a long time. I knew I had a real friend, and I hadn't felt like that in a long time.

Here's the point of my blog - do you have a friend you haven't talked to in a while? A friend going through a trying time? A friend who just means a lot to you? Call them, email them, visit them - just saying a little word to let them know they're important to you can make such a difference in their outlook. Even if your friends are close and are all doing well, who doesn't want to feel a little better about themselves?