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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

sherylmeI’m in the “air lock” room, waiting for everyone to get in and fill the elevator-size space. Even in dim light, I know it’s untidy, well used. A fat electrical cord stretches across the black floor.
“When I open the door,” the Director says, “follow me, watch for cords.” The next room was dark, too, but opened to a stage flooded with blue lights. In the ninety-four-year-old theater, constant current activity apparently cloaked the expected smell of antiquity. We followed the director across the stage to the opposite wings.
“You will wait here until time to enter. Remember if you can see the audience, they can see you.”
How did I end up here? My friend Sheryl, a mystery writer, and I came to see Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. Out of my program fell a jury summons? I, along with five other audience members, would spend most of the play on stage as jurors. “These are NOT speaking parts,” the director emphasized with a smile. We would sit in the jury box the rest of the play except for a fade out when the scene would be briefly switched. We had watched the first act from comfy theater seats.
The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Theater is in downtown Sanford, Florida, a small town on Lake Monroe, and north of Orlando. Charming, cozy, comfortable and small-town friendly, it is a jewel in the historic town. We walked by art galleries, quaint shops, cozy restaurants and an open farmer’s market on the way to the theater.
My fellow jurors were great fun, improvising “non-speaking” ways to relate to the audience, but in the end, we followed the rules. We were older except for one young, high school student with a spiked, blond hairstyle. He takes acting classes, so backstage was probably not new to him. He volunteered to run back for the water bottle I left in the lobby during recess and offered me his chair backstage, winning big points for the younger generation.
Another in the young generation was the actor who played court clerk. After the play was over, bows were taken and curtains closed we exited the jury box. The clerk was there to take the hands of ladies and help us down. Perhaps he’s a method actor who really gets into his parts, but I think he was just a well-bred young gentleman.
The actors were lined on both sides as we left the theater, happy to shake our hands and talk.
Did I forget the play? Not intentionally. It’s just that my “role” added such a dimension to the experience. The actors were all local and amazing, so much so that it was easy to forget they weren’t real as they pleaded with the jurors.
The Director asked us after the play if we figured the murderer out. I did. But I missed one clever clue Miss Christie slipped in. He also told us she added to the ending of the play because she thought the murderer got off too lightly in her story.
Some days are absolutely magical. This was one of them.

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  1. Tool Kit
  2. GPS
  3. Computer (most of the time)
  4. Sunshine
  5. Photographs
  6. Open Windows
  7. Cats
  8. Books
  9. Online bill paying
  10. Restaurants with good veggie dishes

This list only scratches the surface, but it’s a start. What can you add?

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Writing Muse

Writing Muse

 

Last year I let September slip by without notice, but not again. This is Anhinga’s second anniversary. The occasion deserves some notice, if nothing else, for the great American novel it kept me from writing, but also for all the wild and crazy bloggers I’ve met. You know who you are. So in this third year I hope to set aside more time for fiction writing, but still keep in touch here.

Other writers I know are beginning to think that once a writer gets her release from writing anything, she is fulfilled enough. Serious writing suffers.   But in grade school I found time to write very bad short stories on a Big Chief pad under a shady bush at recess. While training on the job to be a new mother, I found time to write last lines, 25-word statements and go to contest club meetings. For at least fifteen years, I’ve written fiction to take to my writers’ critique group, though the volume has decreased. Because of this? Probably. So if I don’t post as much this year, you’ll know why. It’s time to send a few things out and see what happens. If this sounds like I’ll be spending less time here, don’t count on it. I’m weak and writing is writing. My muse flutters over this computer and reminds me of the lure and siren call of this keyboard.  Channeling James Mitchner, she says:

“I love writing. I love the swirl & swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”

Now it’s time for BlogsDay cake.

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I get several hits a day from people looking for news of Legible Leftovers since I wrote of our disappointment after my husband and I found the former used bookstore in Longwood, FL closed. If you have stumbled upon my blog in a search for news of its closing, I hope the column below from Chris Dawson, consumer reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, will answer most of your questions.

 

On July 3, I reported the sudden, unexplained closing of the beloved “resale” (used) bookstore in Longwood. One number for owner Linda Mandelbaum was disconnected; the other just rang and rang. A sad final chapter for the venerable literary outpost. Or so it seemed. A reader tip led me to Borders Books where Mandelbaum now works. I left a message, and a few days later received a call from her in Oregon where she was visiting family.

“I spent any number of days crying over this decision,” Mandelbaum said. “The writing has been on the wall since last fall when I learned the rent was going up. It got to the point where I took a part-time job so I was not dipping into my retirement account to keep the store open.”

Mandelbaum sold the bulk of her stock, about 15,000 books, to a Virginia bookstore for $60,000. She put the remaining 5,000 volumes in storage and kept cards with the names of customers holding trade credits from Legible Leftovers. She wanted to send everyone checks for the credits but simply did not have the cash. Customers are advised not to ditch their “Confederate” credits.
“I would like to put Legible Leftovers at least online,” Mandelbaum said. “Maybe a year down the line, I can open a small shop. And if anybody asks, I took the cats home to live with me.”

I hope the information above will answer some of your questions. We are open to news of other used bookstores in the area. Consider this your personal bulletin board for any information you have for fellow book lovers.

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Quite by accident we ran into Linda, from Legible Leftovers today. She is working at a major bookseller, the job she had taken to keep Legible Leftovers afloat, along with tapping her retirement account. I know many of you are distressed over Legible Leftover’s closing and just wanted to bring you up to date. It’s very difficult to keep a used bookstore afloat today and we should be thankful we had this very special one as long as we did. 

 

Oh, the cats are at Linda’s home and well cared for.

 

Any solutions out there? I would love to have a place where book lovers could bring and take books on the honor system as is done at some offices around town. All that is lacking is a space. Perhaps there is a coffee shop, or lunch or tea room that would draw in customers with just such an innovative use of their extra space. How about it? Any takers out there?

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Something special is disappearing before our eyes—used book stores. Jerry and I rely on Legible Leftovers, a wonderful little bookstore with bibliocats, and mysterious rooms of books. This afternoon we run over for our fix. The door is locked, books shelves are partially empty. It has the look of abandonment. We feel abandoned. How will we feed our habit now? It’s not just the prices; it’s the books you don’t see at Barnes & Nobles. That wonderful book review you read six years ago, but never got the book until you saw it here, the new writer you found along with a stash of her other books, classics you wish you had read, the little book of Haiku found in a tiny poetry room—all in the past.

 

We hop in the car and drive to a strip center where we once see a bookstore sign. It is a bookstore, but for school books. We go on to the adjacent town. We knew of three bookstores there at one time and think one might be still open. It is, with a parking spot right in front. Our luck seems to be changing. There is even the requisite cat, and a dog for good measure, old books in every space. But search as we do, not one book fits our tastes. Frankly my nose burns from the past-due-for-a-change litter box. It is not a pleasant place to browse.

 

We can order online, and do, but it’s not the same as wandering through the aisles till something strikes your fancy and reading a little to be sure. At Legible Leftovers one particular kitty would often help in my search, stopping at the shelf where I’d find the perfect book. My friend says a small, new store will open soon in another adjacent town. Dare we hope?

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Multi-generational epics bore me. Just give me a good read about an important slice in someone’s life and I can be swept away. So I find myself verging on vertigo in my real life. Epics are difficult to avoid when you have lived through a few decades. You can’t say, “No, just highlight this part or that.” The parts string along like toilet paper on your shoe until you find yourself tangled in a true-life multi-generational epic. Well, if not epic then situation.

This is what brought that on. We are planning a few upgrades on the home we have lived in for almost thirty-two years. One son re-roofed for us a few years ago, his friend installed new windows, and another re-habbed the master bath. Our son-in-law (an electrician) upgraded the power box. Strangers installed carpet. How did that happen? Now for a second stage the same friend will tile the other bath, the neighbor kid, now all grown up, will do the plumbing. The son of our son’s best man will do exterior painting.

In that mix of characters are a father fighting for custody of a child, another denying his child until DNA evidence turned him into a real father. That son is being a real father to his new child. A couple of young fathers being fathers with or without marriage, a worker with great promise ending back in jail.

Do you need a scorecard? The point is almost all these very competent workers we knew as children or knew their parents before they were born (except the jailed one). We are aware of many of their most private struggles and successes, many poignant slices of their lives. Those slices now strung together form the ingredients of an epic.

Okay, it’s just a house that needs work and has no other significance. I’ll just curl up with a book of short stories until it is finished. Sometimes I think too much.

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The Jenkins Group released these survey results recently.

-33% of high school graduates never read a book after graduation
-42% of college graduates never read a book after graduation
-80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year
-70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years
-57% of new books are not read to the last page

Yet, 80% of American adults want to write a book.

The math doesn’t add up.

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Current Bedside Books

Hope you noticed the new column on my home page, Current Bedside Books. Let’s face it, we are what we read. Books reinforce and color our thinking, sometimes brightly, sometimes casting gray shadows. Some reads you’ll see here will be meat and potatoes for the critical mind and others, cotton candy for the soul. That would include my mysteries, particularly those involving cats.

Most will not be the latest best sellers because the majority come from that wonderful used book store in Longwood, Florida, Legible Leftovers. Three or four bibliocats loll among the books there and greet cat lovers with raspy yowls. It’s a home away from home. So if a listed book grabs your attention, you’ll probably find it in a used book store or online source.

 Having said that, I am pleased to brag that I will be reading a few books with unbroken spines, still smelling of fresh ink because my son gave me a Borders gift certificate for Mother’s Day. Typically, the first trip yielded only a couple of books, but I’ll be back.

 My first bedside book list contains about seven or so books because that is what is stacked by my bed. I do read them all simutaneously, skipping from one to the other according to mood. Occasionally a book will jealously grab onto my throat and not let go until I have finished it without a side dalliance. That happened most recently with After Life, a first novel by Rhian Ellis. I wait impatiently for her second.

 Obviously I won’t care for all those books that land on my nightstand, so if you have questions about any, please ask.

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Life in Short

bookblog0001.jpgThis  This short piece was printed in the Orlando Sentinel in March 2006. Yes, every word is true.  (Click SnapShot for full view.)

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