Two years ago at the Ocean State Writers Conference a woman recommended that I read John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil thinking that I’d enjoy it as a northern woman living in the South. Having just read the book I’m ashamed to admit that it’s a recommendation I’d long forgotten until stumbling upon a first edition hard cover in St. Augustine this past March. Once I began reading it was impossible to stop. I was captivated by Berendt’s descriptions of Savannah and it’s inhabitants, he does an incredible job breathing life into a city and a host of characters that are real. Although the book was recommended to me because of my geographic location I wouldn’t let that dictate it’s worthiness, it’s a great everyone book.
While visiting Savannah this past weekend I couldn’t help myself, I had to take a walking tour of Midnight:
The Book Lady, Savannah, GA
The Book Lady on East Liberty Street seems to be the go-to spot in Savannah for used books. The Book Lady has a great set-up; inside the tiny basement shop books not only line the walls but are piled high on every flat surface.
What makes her different? Don’t expect to find huge discounts at The Book Lady; she’s more expensive because she seeks out first editions, signed copies and other rare books. Although it’s unlikely that you’re going to make out like a bandit here it’s worth visiting if you’re looking for something hard to find, the book lady running the show seems to really know her stuff.
Great set-up and location, knowledgeable staff
Very small fiction section
Souvenirs from second hand book sellers
Something my boyfriend has really gotten me into is once loved books (aka “used”). Jeff is a big fan of second hand book stores and we’ve made visiting them a staple on trips. As a book loving couple we’d much rather bring home a gently used hard cover or slightly yellowed paperback in lieu of dust collecting knick-knacks. Souvenir shops are a dime a dozen, but used book stores are always unique and you never know what you’re going to find. We’ve gotten a pile of books from each trip we’ve taken together and in the back of each I’ve scribbled the date, city, and the name of the bookstore so that we’ll always remember where they’re from. Some of my favorite vacation memories have happened on our book buying excursions. In St. Augustine the clerk at Second Read Books stopped us before we left to say what a treat it was to see both halves of a young couple excited about book buying, and in Connecticut at the Book Barn we ended a successful shopping spree with a game of oversized chess.
Although I will never stop buying new books (it’s so important to support author sales), buying a once loved book is always a treat. Usually you can buy five or six used books for the price of one new, but I wouldn’t even say that is my motive for buying them. There is something about picking up a once loved book with slightly dog eared pages and a spine that’s already been cracked, because really what you are doing is breathing new life into a story that already brought magic to someone else. One of my favorite things about used books is the inscriptions you often find scrawled across the backs of title pages by original owners before they were gifted to friends or lovers. I like to imagine where they came from and why they were discarded, I’m sure that whatever I come up with (a jilted lover can’t stand the sight of a book that has a love note scribbled inside) is probably more interesting than what really happened (too many old books on the shelf). Either way, I’m in love with once loved’s and my new tradition—I can’t wait to see what Savannah has in store for us this weekend!
Inscription found inside Close Range by Annie Proulx
Today the Journey from Reader to Writer turns 1!
What’s changed since last year?
- I’ve sent out stories for publication at literary magazines
- Submitted pieces at two contests
- Been rejected once formally, lost one contest
- Studied at one of the best writing programs in New York City
- Lived the writers life in the East Village
- Participated in my first reading
- Met Nicole Krauss, Darin Strauss, Jonathan Dee & Justin Taylor
It’s certainly been a good year.
Fiction writers from the 2011 Summer Writers Colony
New York’s reputation as literary city has been thriving for many years. It is the city that has always been equated with success, in any field really, but the arts especially. For writers the streets of New York are haunted by the greats, and every newcomer wants the opportunity to walk the same streets as those who have inspired us.
Tonight, the last night of the SWC, was a tribute to this. Each section of the colony: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, got together for a reading. Dressed for celebration all twenty-nine students came prepared to read the work that was produced within the past month. We were served hors d’oeuvres and wine while we listened to our peers: the newest additions to New York City’s literary tradition. Each of us share a dream of writing careers and publication, but tonight I couldn’t help but breathe a little sigh of relief. While it’s true that we all have a long way to go, I do think it’s fair to say that yes, we have made it (even if it is on the smallest level). By the sheer fact that we showed up, that we showed the ambition, the courage, and the drive, we have succeeded.
I looked around tonight at the other students and felt a pride that I have never felt before. There’s something wonderful about being in a group of people who have chosen the same path as you, and who understand the struggle, the heartbreak, and the triumph of it all. Even more so, the quality of the work that was generated in this program was fantastic. I do sincerely believe that there will be some great stories of success to come from the writers of the New School SWC 2011.