Sunday, September 27, 2020

Saving Our Bookstores by Buying Gifts as Well as Books

In-person shopping isn't as big this fall as last, but that doesn't mean we can't buy books and other gifts at independent bookstores or Barnes and Noble. Shop at a store or on line. Put a note on the refrigerator to remind yourself.

You say not all your friends and family want books? You can buy games, puzzles, toys, notecards and a lot more. Many stores will ship products. 

I have begun publishing my paperbacks (as well as Nook Books) through Barnes and Noble Press, to make it easier for readers to order them in the stores. They do a lot for authors, so I'm happy to see them make money when I do.

Are you familiar with  It's an online platform through which independent bookstores can present their books to the public. This is especially important at a time when so many have been unable to deal with customers face-to-face. The site has helped independent bookstores make $6.9 million. That's a lot of tea and cookies.

Each bookstore has its own sales page. For example, Our Town Books in Jacksonville, Illinois (near me) has

Another option is a list, by state and Canadian province, maintained by New Pages. Some of the bookstores are open for in-person sales and some are currently doing only online sales. I went through several states that I know relatively well and found the list quite comprehensive.

I got a kick out of the website of Solid State Bookstore (on the H Street Corridor in DC), which proclaims "October is the New December." In other words, shop early.

Why is it important to give books as gifts? I substitute teach, largely in a middle school. I love to see the books the language arts teachers pick, and see how they sometimes work with teachers in other disciplines so, for example, lessons in language arts and history cover similar subjects.

But there is one sad thing. When kids finish a test early or tell me in study hall that they have "nothing to do," I tell them to select a book from the shelves or read their own. Some do, and a few always have personal fiction to read. At least 100 kids have said, "I don't read." Period. They say it proudly.

If you know kids with similar perspectives, give them a book that deals with something they do like. If they watch football, give them a history of the Super Bowl. Try an audiobook that deals with a popular TV series. Anything to get them away from the television and video games. Either one is fine in moderation, but most low readers are mesmerized by watching rather than interaction -- which you have to do with a book.

As someone who shops rarely, you may never hear these words from me again: "Grab a credit card and go shopping."

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Writers and Their Cats

 Our current cats, Stella and Phoebe, are  rarely far from us. They especially like hanging with me, but I think that's largely because I stay quiet a lot -- in the chair in front of my desk, or a recliner fitted with a lap desk.

Mostly I'm ok with their presence, at least until they sit in the laser printer's exit tray or under my feet. Lately that's where Phoebe sleeps. It makes no sense. She could be on a towel on the sofa or by the window. But she rolls herself into such a tight knot you can barely distinguish between her head and tail.

Having a cat at your feet (especially when she has snuck into that position) can be frustrating. (So can working with the newest version of Blogger, which won't let me wrap text around a photo.)

Now check out Stella. She likes to be higher. I walked into the bathroom a few days ago and found her on a towel by the sink. I had just left the room and she appeared to be waiting for my return.

I think the closeness reflects their uncertainty about why the humans are home so much during the pandemic. Normally they rule the roost for many hours each day while I'm writing at the library and my husband is at work. He is back at work, but I'm still working at home.

I'm also struggling to write, so they may believe they are comforting me rather than trying to send me to the hospital. 

After weeks of writing less than a page a day, I began working on a new online class and revising an extensive book of family history. I had to make myself do something productive. It feels very self-centered when there are so many people in dire circumstances. 

Serious point here. If writers (or anyone) find themselves unable to do routine things, recognize why that's so. It may not be possible to change the circumstances, but perhaps you can do something to distract yourself. If nothing else, many authors are giving away copies of  their books. If you want a couple of mine, send a note and I'll send you a Smashwords coupon.

We are all in  this together.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to or sign up for her newsletter