Tag Archives: Cami Ostman

THE HOW I WRITE BLOG TOUR

The Monday book will return next week. My friend Susie Klein http://www.recoveringchurchlady.com/ asked me to participate in an ongoing blog tour called HOW I WRITE. I answer four questions, as she did for the person who asked her, and then I ask two other authors to answer them.

OK, here we go….

1- What am I working on?

A sequel to Little Bookstore.

2- How does my work differ form others of its genre?

Well, most of what I write is either academic work, memoir, or blog. As blogs go, bookstore bloggers are all very different from each other in our senses of humor and senses of purpose, but we tend to revisit similar themes. Save the bookstores. Cherish your local. Shop bricks and mortar. Don’t self-publish with Amazon believing they’re there to help you. Aren’t books great? Aren’t customers cute? Those kinds of things.

In terms of my memoir writing being different, it’s like asking “how is this poem different from that one?” All sonnets have the same strict form, and yet within them you can write about absolutely any subject you want to. So all memoirs are alike in that they’re carved from your perceptions and experiences, and they couldn’t be the same any more than two snowflakes could, because they’re your perceptions and experiences.

3- Why do I write what I do?

Joan Didion and Flannery O’Connor both said more or less that they write to figure out what they think and know. I write because I’d explode if I didn’t. It is the perfect way to order thought, smooth out roughness, reconcile, regroup, even relegate to the dark corners. Once it’s on paper, it’s out, not in, whether anyone ever sees it or not. That’s why I write, but as to writing what I do, well, agents in general and mine in particular are always urging writers to write the story only they can tell. That makes sense to me; we’re all trying to save the world and write something meaningful, but trying to write a story that needs to be told isn’t the same as telling your story. The only story you can tell is yours – fiction, non-fiction, narrative, poem, even photo or mathematics formula. It has to belong to you in some unique way.

4. How does my writing process work?

Despite my best efforts to have a schedule or regimen, I continue to work on whatever laptop is available, in the bookstore, between customers and after hours. We have three laptops available for customers and for special orders, so I try to remember to save the thing on a thumb drive in case I use a different one tomorrow.

I’m tagging two author friends: Dana Trent http://jdanatrent.com/blog/ who wrote The Saffron Cross, and Cami Ostman http://www.camiostman.net/about/ whose first book was Second Wind, and then co-edited Beyond Belief: the secret lives of women in extreme religions.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, publishing, reading, shopsitting, Uncategorized, VA, writing

Wendy, Me, Words and the Road to SIBA

I’ve known Wendy since we were 18 years old (so, in other words, for 10 years… ahem). We met in California, where we both lived for a year. In the intervening years (ok, more than ten, I’ll admit it), I haven’t moved far—just up two states to Washington—while Wendy’s moved all over the world: Tennessee, Canada, Scotland, England, and now, Big Stone Gap, Virginia (where I come to visit her at least once a year at her bookstore/house, shop downstairs, home up).

Each year, one thing I look forward to is seeing how the bookstore has changed. Who are the new creaturely additions to the family? Where has the classic literature section moved to? Is there new porch furniture? But most especially, what new friends will wander in and what will they say? What will they be looking for? What books will they choose?

As a reader and a writer—a lover of words—I’ve spent a lot of time in bookstores throughout my life. And just as much as I love savoring the sound of a well crafted sentence, I love the smell of books, the feel of them in my hands, and the way other people’s eyes light up when they caress covers and flip through pages. New or used, (and yes, paper or electronic) books give me a comfort, a sense of home and community.

When I get to Big Stone Gap, I feel the penultimate sense of home. Wendy oozes words. She facilitates words among the groups that gather in her home/shop (Tuesday night we had “needlework night,” and I can tell you there were far more chatty conversations than needles probing in and out of cloth) but most importantly, she VALUES words. And I mean this literally. She and Jack (her lovely assistant and partner in life) make their living by taking books that are brought to them and placing a monetary value on each one, all the while knowing that the value of a particular book to a particular patron has nothing to do with the penciled in amount on the first page.

It’s precisely because Wendy understands the way a certain book calls forward a different mood or memory in each person who reads it that she is such a keen observer of the way books and the individuals who love them find one another. Her observational skills are the reason she could write her savvy, warm, pithy, soon-to-come-out book about how her little shop changed her life and the lives of those who frequent it.

And it is because of Wendy’s savvy, warm, pithy, soon-to-come-out book that she’s on her way to Florida to attend the Southern Independent Booksellers Association trade show and to sit on a panel there about booksellers who write books.

I’m driving with her through six sticky-warm Southern states to join her at SIBA, and we’re having a blast. With words. We talked for 8 hours yesterday as we drove, chewed the fat with Wendy’s pal Debbie when we arrived at her house to camp out for the night, and we finally drifted off to sleep exhausted, from words—sweet words.

Now we’re on for one more day of driving… and one more day of (you guessed it) WORDS. When I get home to Washington next Monday, I’ll be happily exhausted and ready for a quiet day sitting with my own creatures in my own house with a book and a cup of coffee. And I’ll be planning next year’s trip to Big Stone Gap.

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