Monday, July 18, 2011

The Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

Imagine: a school for people who love rare books. Well, it exists, and if I'd known about it during my school days I might have attended! Yesterday, NPR gave listeners just one example of why books will endure the digital age.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Enduring Bill Cosby

Why is it that Bill Cosby’s routines never get old? I watch “Brain Damage” today and laugh harder than I did twenty years ago. (Maybe because I’m a parent now.) Here, blogger Garr Reynolds has compiled a few of Cosby’s classics, along with his recent commencement address to CMU grads, with the purpose of pointing out how enduring the power of personal narrative can be. Reynolds’ bottom line: funny or not everyone has personal stories worth telling.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Tales for Old History

When my family and I took a vacation to southwestern Colorado last month, some of the practiced tour guides were as captivating as the sites. They taught us how to mine for gold with dynamite, showed us the house in which Larry Byrd built (make that blasted) a wine cellar out of granite, and took us on the train responsible for reintroducing big horn sheep to the region. They prevented an hour-and-a-half trek up the mountainside from feeling like the week-long haul that it was before the highway was built. Even my 13-year-old was engaged, educated, and amused.

With this experience fresh in my mind, this story about Scotland’s efforts “to train young tour guides in the art of storytelling” caught my attention. What I loved most were these words:
David Hicks, from the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, said that teenage tour leaders could offer a new perspective on the city’s 900 years of history. He said: ‘In a historic city like Edinburgh guides are telling stories about it on a daily basis, since as far back as the 1840s, so you end up getting a set story. I think the really important thing is it’s got 900 years of history and you don’t have to stick to the standard tales I’m hoping these young people can unearth something or ask a question about something that’s right under our noses. It’s good to look these things with fresh eyes.’”
One of our guides in Colorado was a college student. Rather than talking at us over a microphone, he mingled one-on-one with passengers in our train car. Toward the end of the three-plus-hour journey, he and I talked for a half hour about his life in the area and his local activities as an outdoorsman, student, and photographer. He’s about to embark on a year-long trek to Argentina, where he’s made arrangements to work on a small farm. It was a change of pace from the more traditional memorized stories and canned jokes, better in some ways if lacking in others, but I was glad to have met him and caught a glimpse of his home—from his perspective.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

These Video Storytellers WANT to Be Stranded

Who doesn't like to tell stories of being stuck at an airport? Less than two weeks ago it took me almost twenty-four hours to complete a short flight, and I can’t stop talking about it. So, imagine being confined to an airport for EIGHTY DAYS. Not even Tom Hanks could do it with a smile. And yet, in perhaps one of the most unusual video-storytelling contests I’ve ever seen, residents of British Columbia are being invited to do just that. To celebrate their eightieth anniversary, the YVR airport (Vancouver) will invite the winner to stay at their “island” for two and a half months, documenting airport life through video story. The catch: this storyteller will not be allowed to leave until the eighty days expire. Will it be riveting? Or will it be hell?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Do Online Book Clubs Work?

Do you participate in a social-network reading group? Here are ten of the myriad virtual reading tribes populating the web today. I’ve looked into some of these and even have a profile on Goodreads, but for me, nothing beats my live, once-a-month outing with good friends to talk about the stories we’re reading. It happens that we are all professional editors and writers, so a passion for reading runs deep, as does our friendship. It’s difficult for me to imagine replicating that online, but perhaps it’s possible. Tell me what makes book-based social-network groups work (or not) for you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Not Perfect, Just Persistent

The price of writing for a living is “the price of never really being able to tell where you stand.” That brief statement in this article about novelist Craig Nova (The Good Son, The Informer) caught my eye. In my experience as an editor and novelist, most authors share this insecurity about the worthiness of their efforts. Not all of us are as devoted to exceeding our previous day’s efforts, day in and day out, especially after discovering that our creative choices are “wrong so much of the time.” So, when any author by patience and persistence and commitment to excellence produces “a body of work that will endure,” as a writer I am inspired to keep trying. What inspires you in your craft?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Story Hunting

I first learned about geocaching when Colleen Coble used it as a device in her thriller Abomination. And though I’ve never done it myself (I like my cozy indoor environments, thank you very much), the concept of finding treasures and then leaving behind new treasures for others to find intrigues me. Especially if it’s going to involve sharing story treasures, as this recent geocaching event in the Waterloo region of Canada did, at the Latitudes Storytelling Festival. Would you go treasure hunting for a good story somewhere other than your library?