Book Abandonment

As writers, we all have a collection of books that we rely on to either inspire us or to help direct us along the writing journey. An outstanding critique group member recently shared a few titles from her collection during a stellar program which she conducted. Her collection was, to say the least, impressive. It made me realize a couple of things as I listened to her outline each book.

  • She knew her books well and depended on them.

  • I have a bunch of books, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d REALLY looked at them. Well, except for Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell and Roget’s Thesaurus.

Those two revelations tugged at my mind. I’d invested a small fortune, as we all do, in reference books of one sort or another, yet I was guilty of book abandonment! It caught me off guard and to be quite candid, the more I thought about it the stronger the urge became to race home and pull out every title and hug it—which I did—immediately after dinner and dessert. I got home around nine that night and went to the office.

I stood there surrounded by all those lovely books. Old, new, borrowed, blue…oh, wait that’s something else. Anyway, I sat down in the floor and began pulling my abandoned babies out and looked at them, flipping through their pages (many of which were yellowed) and soaked in the lovely messages they had to tell me. I was there for quite some time and when I finally called it a night I stood and I promised to return the next day and visit with the rest of my collection. But just as a child drags her favorite teddy bear to bed, I had two books cradled in my arms that needed to be held a bit longer. So, I took them with me.

My husband is used to me dragging books to bed with me. I was a librarian. I crawled in bed, lugging my volumes with me and once I had myself tucked in, I pulled the first one to me. It was one a writer friend told me about five years ago. FIVE YEARS AGO, people! Yes, I’d ordered it. Yep, I’d flipped through it. But I’d never really listened to what it had to tell me. Is anybody else out there guilty of this? Here are the two books I’m talking about.

Kirsch’s Guide to the Book Contract by Jonathan Kirsch is probably THE most concise, wonderful book in the world for authors, publishers, editors and agents. It breaks things down into my kind of language. So much so, that when you pull up a copy of an author’s contract, you can go to this book and locate the meaning of every vague term ever dreamed up by any attorney anywhere. It’s priceless. It’s also now out of print, so you need to begin looking online to find your elusive copy. Amazon is a good place to start, and of course eBay. But also try I always go there when I’m looking for hard-to-find books.

The other tubby title I hauled in with me was The New Book of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Information. It’s written by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace. Positively brilliant. Here are a few of the lists you’ll find waiting for you inside:

• 33 Stupid Thieves and 3 Dishonorable Mentions
• Benjamin Franklin’s 8 reasons to Marry an Older Woman
• 14 Librarians Who Became Famous in Other Fields – (I realllly liked that list)
• 4 Places with More Pigs than Humans
• 10 Afflictions and Their Patron Saints
• 10 Celebrated People Who Read their Own Obituaries
• 16 Famous Events that Happened in the Bathtub

… and that’s only a mere smattering, my friends. I’m telling you, the book is full of the kind of quirky information that will ignite every writer’s imagination.

Yes, I am a recovered book abandoner. I know. Abandoner isn’t a real word, but that’s what I was. No more. I’ve learned my lesson. Due in large part to my friend, Rosie Baldwin and her program—Rosie who also bakes a mean coconut cake. The woman has endless talents. She is not, however a book abandoner.

What about you?  Hmmm?  Ever been guilty of this travesty yourself? If so, take a gander at your collection and share with us which jewels have been allowed to gather dust. Which titillating titles have gone too long without having their pages peeked at and preened over? Can’t wait to hear from you!

Debbie Archer
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