Tuesday, May 31, 2011

21st Century Books and Publishing

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I have been sending my latest novel to publishers and agents. Initially I started with UK agents, since it is very much a British book (despite being set on some mysterious other world) and I was keen to finally have a book published on these blessed shores. My ambition is one day to see someone on the Tube reading my book, and that's never going to happen if it's not available outside Utah.

So I bought the latest copy of "The Writers Handbook" which lists all the publishers, agents, journals and newspapers in the UK, along with their submission guidelines and what genres they specialise in. And I hunted through it for agents specialising in fantasy/sci-fi who were accepting unsolicited approaches.

What they wanted varied enormously. One wanted the first three chapters plus a synopsis and a brief covering letter. Another wanted a long covering letter outlining my hopes for the book and explaining where it fitted into the market, plus my biography and the first fifty pages. But they all wanted it printed on A4 paper, single side, double spaced and sent by post. Almost every agent and publisher in the book said they did not accept email submissions. Some didn't have websites.

After a couple of months (and one rejection) I started to wonder whether I should also consider the American market, where all my other books have been published. After all, Harry Potter and James Bond are as English as it's possible to be, and they go down fine in the US. So I started looking into American agents.

The difference was astonishing. American agents, for the most part, don't accept postal submissions. Good thing too - I couldn't afford the postage. They all have glossy websites explaining exactly what they are looking for and how to approach them, and frequently listing the individuals at the company and what they like to read. So despite my initial reluctance to present my British book to the US market, I have sent off a couple of queries simply because it was so much easier, and because they made themselves seem so much more enthusiastic and approachable. It seems that the UK publishing industry hasn't quite discovered the 21st Century yet.

But it's the same with books. I read recently that ebooks are now outselling printed books on Amazon.com, but on Amazon.co.uk they are only outselling hardcover books. Not only that, but I've only ever seen one person with a Kindle, whereas it seems that all my American friends have one. (Price may have a lot to do with it. There is no VAT [sales tax] on print books in the UK, but there is on ebooks, making a paperback print book a cheaper option.)

When I lived in Wales there used to be a saying which our family would recite as we crossed the border from England on our way home after visiting friends. "Set your watch back 50 years, now entering Wales." Well, sad to say, in matters of publishing and the future of books, it seems the UK is several years behind the US, and that's why my British book is now in the hands of an American publisher.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Diet Coke Run

Typically when most people envision a Diet Coke run, they think of jaunting to a local convenience store to fill their mugs, or perhaps to a local favorite eatery to grab a refreshing drink. Some may think this is a new type of marathon race, considering how many of those are in existence. For me, a Diet Coke run was something I shared with a dear friend whenever we could work it into our crazy schedules. For several years, this good friend and I shared many things in common. Both Type 1 diabetics, we fought the same daily battle. Teaming up in diabetic rebellion, we faced doctor appointments together, and even ran the local county diabetic support group for many years. We always went for a Diet Coke run afterwards to touch base and toast our continuing war against a dreaded disease.

Today, I purchased two Diet Cokes from a local store, and headed up a lonely road. Stopping near a recent mound of earth, I pulled out a cheery bouquet of sunflowers, and both Diet Cokes. I placed the bouquet of sunflowers near the other flowers that were set there over the weekend, and placed one bottle of Diet Coke near the sunflowers. Then I pulled out the second bottle, removed its lid, and drank a toast to my friend. It was my way of showing respect and honor to Denise, letting her and her family know this valiant woman is not forgotten.

It is the traditionally celebrated Memorial Day today. Numerous tributes have been taking place all weekend. We've been decorating graves since Saturday, reminiscing about ancestors and close family members and friends who have passed from this mortal existence. Last night, we watched a tribute on TV for veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Tonight, I'll be helping my husband take down all of the American flags that were set in place on veterans' graves last Thursday night in the local cemetery. Since Kennon is the head of the Bennington Cemetery Board, it's one of his responsibilities to make sure those flags are only in place for the allotted time during this commemorative holiday.

There are many ways to remember those who are no longer in mortal mode. Each year, a close friend and I make the rounds of several cemeteries in our valley, leaving behind small tokens of love on the graves of six special people who were taken in an instant from our lives in a fatal car accident. It's something we have done now for 14 years--our way of letting their families know we're thinking of them on this tender day. We will continue to do so until we are no longer in mortal mode ourselves.

Some people think this is a morbid tradition. I've actually heard some people say that it's a form of worshiping the dead. I beg to differ. I was raised in a family who spent Memorial Weekend decorating the graves of loved ones. In my opinion, it is an important tradition. It was upon these occasions that I learned family stories and legends that are part of our treasured family history. These stories need to be passed onto future generations as we pay tribute to those who paved the way for us, and those who gave their lives for our freedom.

It is up to us to decide how we will honor those who have gone before. I know for many people, this is the weekend that marks the beginning of summer. Lots of camping, boating, and traveling adventures are taking place. There is nothing wrong with that, but I hope that at some point during this holiday, most will pause for a moment to ponder the lives of those who are no longer with us. Though I doubt the deceased  care how many flowers are left near their headstones, I suspect it does matter that they are not forgotten.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To Blog or not to Blog

Blogs seem to come and go. Most begin as a means of interacting with a specific group such as family, followers, those who share a particular interest, or as a means of promoting sales or a certain ideology. Some have taken the place of telephone calls, some are an outlet for frustrated writers, and some merely form a linking bond to keep a specific group together and informed. Some are a means of sharing information with those who are just learning a specific field. There are two types of blogs; those open only to a small closed group and some which are open to anyone who wants to read them.

Many writers have latched onto the blog concept to stay in touch with their fans, to network with other writers, and as a means to share ideas and concepts with like-minded readers. Some blogs are owned and written by a single individual, some belong to a small group and each blogs when the mood strikes or they have something to share, and others are shared by a group with a set calendar for when each member should blog. Blogs reduce the time spent answering individual letters, provide a means of announcing new releases and other industry news simultaneously to many people. A blog also provides a means of getting feedback on ideas and viewpoints in a more personal way than through the larger social networks such as Facebook. Writers also use blogs to maintain their presence before their readers between releases. And not to be overlooked, there are blogs which are written simply to entertain and in some cases the writer actually makes money from the ads attached to the blog.

Most bloggers worry about increasing their readership unless their blog is a closed/by invitation only blog as many family blogs are. A favorite means of increasing readership and encouraging comments is to sponsor a contest. Some bloggers work out a complicated formula for blog contests and others simply have a drawing. Prizes for most writing blogs are books, but some give away gift cards or some item related to the blog. Others use their blogs and build their readership by reviewing what others write, by imparting news, or providing a service to their readers.

I read a limited number of blogs. Some are blogs of a family nature or of close friends. Others keep me informed of the changes and direction of the publishing industry. Many help me stay abreast of the careers of other writers. Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the blogs I follow is the helpful information I glean concerning writing and publishing. On my own blog I love the opportunity to feel like I have a real relationship with the people who read my books. I love hearing what others think and the ideas they share not only about my books, but about life in general.

Almost every blogger I know reaches a plateau where it's hard to think of something original to blog about. This burn out spells the doom of many blogs. Personal circumstances change and committing one's self to a regular blogging schedule often becomes unworkable. The instant interaction of social networks lures both bloggers and readers away as well. Some bloggers take on different interests and are no longer a good fit on shared blogs. Many blogs taper off, then just quietly disappear.

One of the most read and loved group blogs bid their followers farewell last week. Six LDS Writers and a Frog appealed to many people, especially writers because of the diverse group of individuals who blogged about various aspects of writing and personal happenings as they related to their writing and because the members of this group are particularly gifted writers. This group will be missed, but most of the writers have started personal blogs (most of their personal blogs can be accessed from my personal blog if you missed their farewells where they posted their blog adresses).

A few years ago I had no idea what a blog was. I guest blogged for Kerry Blair on the frog blog a few times, then started my own blog. Shortly after, I joined with a group of friends to form the V-formation. I've discovered that sometimes blogging is a chore, sometimes it's a great way to express a viewpoint in a shorter format than a book or magazine article, and it's a great way to stay in touch with the many great friends I've made and continue to meet through my writing. It's also provides a great opportunity to learn more about other writers, other view points, and sometimes to be delighted by another person's clever words, to encourage someone who is at the beginning of his/her writing career---and reading blogs is a marvelous way to put off doing something I really should be doing like working on my WIP.

Friday, May 20, 2011

10 Profound Thoughts

1. Prayer is not a "spare wheel" that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a "steering wheel" that directs the right path throughout.
2. Why is a car's windshield so large and the rear view mirror so small? Because our past is not as important as our future. So look ahead and move on.
3. Friendship is like a book. It takes a few seconds to burn, but it takes years to write.
4. All things in life are temporary. If going well, enjoy it; they will not last forever. If going wrong, don't worry; they can't last long either.
5. Old friends are Gold! New friends are Diamond! if you get a Diamond, don't forget the Gold! Because to hold a Diamond, you always need a base of Gold!
6. Often when we lose hope and think this is the end, God smiles from above and says, "Relax, sweetheart, it's just a bend, not the end!"
7. When God solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when God doesn't solve your problems, HE has faith in your abilities.
8. A blind person asked St. Anthony: "Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?" He replied: "Yes, losing your vision."
9. When you pray for others, God listens to you and blesses them, and sometimes, when you are safe and happy, remember that someone has prayed for you.
10. Worrying does not take away tomorrow's troubles. It takes away today's peace.

May you know that someone is watching over you, someone is praying for you, and someone loves you always.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


We all have heroes in our lives and I have my fair share: friends who have taken on selfless responsibilities, family who have come through sickness and accidents with courage, nieces and nephews in the military who stand tall to keep this country safe. Today I want to acknowledge my nephew Dale who is a military fellow and also a good man.

Dale just rode in the 2011 Police Unity Tour last week which began in Virginia and ended in Washington DC at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall. There were 1,400 bike riders, each riding in behalf of a fallen police officer. The trek was 250 miles long.

Dale sent us a letter after the experience and I would like to share some of his words with you.

"Although the ride was hard and long, and I pushed my body like it has not been pushed for years, this was nothing compared to what the survivors of fallen officers have given up. It was this part of the week that was the hardest. I will share one story of the honor we had to escort the survivors and seat them while they watched a ceremony that engraved their loved ones name in granite for one last time. There was a 7 year old boy that got off of the bus, you could tell he was now the man of the house and was trying very hard to be strong in this position. As he got off the bus he was handed a teddy bear and his mom was given a rose. Then, on an arm of a police officer escorted to her seat. About 30 seconds after they disappeared from sight the little boy came running back down the walk looking for the bus and crying, 'I want my daddy back. I can't do this.' It is for this reason I will participate in this noble cause next year and every year till I am unable to ride a bike. God bless America, and all the men and women serving in Law Enforcement and in the military protecting our country and its citizens."


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Career Choices

by Anna Jones Buttimore

As unbelievable as this sounds to me, my daughter leaves school next week. It seems only yesterday that I was waiting at the school gate to greet her after her first day in the nursery class, aged 3. But she’s now 15, and from Friday she will be on study leave, returning to school only to take the rest of her GCSEs. She starts at sixth form college in September studying an eclectic variety of A Level subjects - Philosophy, Chemistry, Religious Studies and Geology. (She also has her prom on Friday. I'm very jealous - we didn't have proms when I was at school, or yearbooks, or anything much to mark the end of school.)

Naturally this means she has to start thinking about a career. She originally had her heart set on being an astrophysicist, until a teacher told her (incorrectly as it turns out) that to be accepted to read Astrophysics at any university she would need to get all A grades at GCSE. She was very unhappy to have to abandon her dream, but has quickly come up with an alternative career choice, which she is just as excited about.

I always wanted to be a writer. So when my careers adviser at school asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I didn’t say “I want to work as an administrator for a charity which helps lawyers with problems like stress and alcoholism,” (which is what I actually do for a living now.) But unfortunately writing as a career choice is rarely viable. It's always a good idea to have a second career idea which you are excited about too.

Even for moderately successful writers, there's not a huge amount of money to be made. I've put around 400 hours into my current work in progress which, at my usual rate of pay, would mean that I could expect about £4,500 ($7,250) back, but it's unlikely it will realise that much, even if it is published - and there's no guarantee of that.

So my twopenn'orth would be: however much you long to be a writer, don't burn your bridges. Have a backup career (or a wealthy spouse!) and keep your strengths and qualifications varied. You haven't failed as a writer if you take a part-time job, any more than you have failed as a mother if you find you need to work in order to put food on the table.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Birth of a Novel

We've been anxiously awaiting the birth of our first grandson this past week. My daughter-in-law tried to go into labor early a few weeks ago, and thanks to modern medicine, her doctor was able to stifle that process. Now we're close enough to the due date, they've decided it's okay for her to have the baby. However, our grandson seems to have other plans. =) He appears to be somewhat hesitant to make an appearance in mortal mode. And so we wait.

From time to time, I've heard the writing process compared to giving birth. Writers suffer through months of creating a storyline, doing research, and enduring countless revisions until they're convinced their work of art is ready to face the world. And yet, it isn't. We farm out copies of our precious manuscripts to lucky family members or friends for a sneak peak. Sometimes we do this with a writers' group. This is how we learn that our creation still has glitches. So we spend more time polishing and revising until we're certain it's time for a public appearance.

However, when we've reached this point in the writing process, our novel is far from being a finished product. The manuscript is sent to a publishing company, and most times our creative brilliance is handed over to professional readers. These are the people who decide if our tomes deserve a thumbs up or down.

If it's thumbs down, we either tackle this same project again, or scrap it and start over. Writers are usually of one of two mindsets: after living with this novel for numerous months we're sick to death of it and want to try something new, or we love it so much, we're willing to endure a complete overhaul to shape this work into something more appealing to the masses.

Once we receive a hearty thumbs up we begin the editing process in earnest. This can often take months as writers and editors strive to come to a shared vision of what this book can be. Then there's the adventure of selecting a title both can live with, a cover that will draw attention, and last minute tweaking until all are convinced it's time for the book to be released into the world.

And so a new book is born, and we hover over it, trying to make sure it is all it needs to be. We study the cover, caress the pages to make sure they're in order, and cautiously expose it to others, hoping they will treat it with the same loving care we have given it.

Sometimes this entire process is so painful, we need a bit of time before starting the next endeavor. But eventually most of us jump in again, determined to tackle another creation that will go forth into the world, making a bit of difference here and there.

Is it worth the effort? When the countless, sleepless hours are tallied, and the ordeal of editing and revision take their toll, will we look back with fondness? That is up to each individual author to decide. The number of books available in today's world would indicate it is a popular choice.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Random thoughts about Storyteller's conference

I've never been to the conference before. This was my first experience and I have to say, I was totally impressed! I've attended numerous conferences in the years since I began writing seriously, and I've attended even more all day seminars hosted by famous writers or instructors. One very expensive seminar I had to leave because I simply could not abide the presenter's language. Every other word was one of those four letter words that make you cringe. I was in Los Angeles, but I wasn't on the docks!

I was not surprised at the high caliber of presenters. I really had expected they would be well qualified, but I was delighted at the amount of good information I came away with. One presenter was a pacer - that nearly drove me crazy - but his information was so good I eventually was able to just keep my head down writing all his instructions and not watch him. Great suggestions for my current work in progress.

I literally filled half a stenographer's notebook with all the great information to make my newest book really good. Of course, now I have to go in and fill in back story and back in more conflict, motivation and goals on the part of every character! But I'm excited to have so much more expertize now on how to do it.

People all around me were typing furiously capturing every word on their computers. Unfortunately, I walked out of my house without my computer - sitting right by the door - as well as all my conference materials. Fortunately, I was able to buy another copy of Larry Brooks book so I could finish reading it Friday night before my class on Saturday.

Confession here: I don't think I knew how to write a book. I told a good story, but what I learned in Larry Brooks class and from his book is so phenomenal that I can't believe I was ever published without knowing this. That one class (and the book that goes into it in much greater detail) was worth the 800 mile drive from California, the expense of the hotel and conference, and the drive back through hours of blizzard from Meadow to St. George.

I also learned what an editor is for. I really enjoyed Kirk's class because he taught me things that were totally foreign to me in my experience in publishing. Can't wait to submit this book when it is finished and enjoy some of those good experiences.

A wonderful by-product of the conference was getting to see old friends and make new ones and meet people I know well on line but have never met face to face. And I even renewed a couple of old acquaintances. All in all, it was a great experience and I'm ready to sign up for next year. I will do things a little differently now that I know how things work, but I'll definitely be back next year. And I'll pass the word that this is one of the best conferences going.

The planning and organization and effort that went into the conference and the Whitney Gala and Wards was evident in how well things ran. My congratulations and standing applause to all involved. It was great!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Winners and Losers

Following the Whitney Gala Saturday night some really great writers were clowning for the camera, eating cheesecake, and calling themselves the losers. I beg to differ. They were all finalists and some of the best writers in the business. I don't mean to take anything away from the winners who collected trophies that night, but the finalists were, almost without exception, Whitney award caliber and could just as easily have been the ones to walk away with the awards. Sometimes the difference between the winner and the "almost winner" is merely a matter of taste. I also strongly suspect that some of these "losers" far outsell some of the "winners."

Over the years since the Whitneys began I've seen winners who were definitely losers in my opinion and I've seen some of the very best writers go without awards year after year. I've seen a couple of winners who did shoddy research and I've seen some of the most meticulous and carefully researched books take a back seat. I'm not saying the judging is unfair because I don't believe there has ever been a completely fair and impartial judging system invented, but this one comes pretty close --- up to the point where the book of the year is chosen. At that point only those who read all thirty-five books were eligible to vote, thus eliminating those would-be voters who did not have time to read the excessively long books, couldn't bring themselves to wade through five or ten books of a genre they don't enjoy, or who found a book so objectionable they couldn't read it. I'd like to see the selection of this award turned over to a panel of judges with professional expertise and require them to read only the one or two top vote getters from each genre instead of all thirty-five novels.

I'd also like to see a maximum length since there is a minimum. For a reader who doesn't care for romance novels, it's not a big deal to read a boring 250 pages, but expecting someone who finds science fiction or historical novels tedious, struggling through 500 to a thousand pages is asking a lot, especially if more than one finalists falls into this category.

I didn't attend the conference, only the gala, but I was impressed by how well organized it was and I loved seeing old friends and meeting people I previously only knew by their names or their work. And I certainly think this gala served the best food of any gala so far.

Early Saturday morning I discovered the rechargable battery in my camera would no longer recharge. I set out to buy new batteries and found that particular battery is no longer available, so I wound up purchasing a new camera. It has lots of features, I've no clue how to use and most of my pictures came out blurred. I'm used to using a view finder and I've got to work on using a preview screen instead.

Though I wasn't a Whitney winner nor even a finalist; in fact, I didn't even have a book released in 2010, I left the gala feeling like a winner. My editor chose to inform me there in person that my historical novel I submitted a few months ago has been accepted for publication!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Look on the Bright Side

It's been a cold dreary winter followed by a cold dreary spring. There have been too many days of overcast sky, and too many days of snow, sleet, slush, or rain. There have been near accidents sliding on icy roads. There have been strained backs from shoveling. Now we have the potential for floods as the snow pack melts and comes racing down the mountainside as an H2O gusher.

Wait! Snow melting? That means it's getting warmer because there's more sunlight! That's a good thing. And I guess I should remember to be grateful because we'll have plenty of H2O to see us through the summer. And April showers bring May flowers. I just love flowers. Maybe all this extra sunlight is taking away my cabin fever. I think I'll go dust off my bicycle and take a spin around the block. Exercising feels great. Isn't life wonderful?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Meanest Mother in the World

When I was growing up. I recall having a cupboard above the phone where we stored our phonebooks, bills, pencils, and other odds and ends.

For some reason I was searching for something in that cupboard one night when I found a newspaper clipping of an article called, “The Meanest Mother in the World”

Being quite young, I read the article with just a bit difficulty and remember thinking, “Wow, my mom does all of this stuff.” when I got to the end, I didn’t appreciate the message of the article but rather thought it was some lame joke.

Still, I have never forgotten that article. For the message of the article has stuck in my mind. Through the years, my view of the ending has changed quite drastically. I get it now. Whether that be a little more maturity, life’s experience, gratitude towards my mother, or that fact that I am a mother myself, I am grateful for the ending… and for the message of the article that has stuck with me.

Rather than putting the whole article here, it can be googled if you wish to read it in it‘s entirety. It’s written by Bobbie Pingaro in 1967. See? I told you I was young :) But here is enough of it so you get the idea:

I had the meanest mother in the whole world. While other kids ate
candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs or toast.

My mother insisted upon knowing where we were at all times. You'd
think we were on a chain gang. She had to know who our friends
were and where we were going.

She insisted if we said we'd be gone an hour, that
we be gone one hour or less--not one hour and one minute.
The worst is yet to come.

We had to be in bed by nine each night and up at eight the next morning.
We couldn't sleep till noon like our friends.

So while they slept-my mother actually had the nerve to break
the child-labor law.
She made us work.
We had to wash dishes, make beds, learn to cook
and all sorts of cruel things.
I believe she laid awake at night thinking up mean things to do to us.

She always insisted upon us telling the truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth, even if it killed us- and it nearly did.

By the time we were teen-agers, she was much wiser, and our life
became even more unbearable. None of this tooting the horn of a car
for us to come running.
She embarrassed us to no end by making our dates and friends
come to the door to get us.

Our marks in school had to be up to par.
Our friends' report cards had beautiful colors on them,
black for passing, red for failing.
My mother being as different as she was, would settle for
nothing less than ugly black marks.
As the years rolled by, first one and then the other of us was put
to shame.
We were graduated from high school. With our mother behind
us, talking, hitting and demanding respect, none of us was allowed
the pleasure of being a drop-out.

My mother was a complete failure as a mother. Out of four
children, a couple of us attained some higher education. None of us
have ever been arrested, divorced or beaten his mate. Each of my
brothers served his time in the service of this country.
And whom do we have to blame for the terrible way we turned out?
You're right, our mean mother.

Look at the things we missed. We never got to march in a
protest parade, nor to take part in a riot, burn draft cards, and a
million and one other things that our friends did.
She forced us to grow up into God-fearing, educated, honest adults.

Using this as a background, I am trying to raise my three
children. I stand a little taller and I am filled with pride when my
children call me mean.

Because, you see, I thank God, He gave me the meanest mother in
the whole world.

Last year around this time, I wrote a tribute to my mother in my post for Mother’s Day. I bring up this article now because as Mother’s Day rolls around, I not only think of my dear angel mother and all that she tried so earnestly to teach me, I think of myself being a mother and what I have tried to teach my own children. Have some of my mother’s traits passed from one generation to the next?

Am I the meanest mother in the world? There are certainly days when my children would vigorously nod their heads. Surely I had my days when I felt like I was the meanest mother in the world. We, together as a family have been on a learning curve since day one. However, I did have my mother as a wonderful example and I thank my Father up above that I had her footsteps to follow and to help me on my path.

As I reflect over the years of being a mother, I get teary eyed and my heart swells. My children are my pride and joy. They are truly the miracles in my life. Now I have a daughter and a grandson to add to my mother and grand-motherhood. What more could I ask for?

As the saying goes, (maybe I have tweaked it just a bit) but,

“Some of the greatest blessings in my life call me Mother

I love being a mother (and grandma). There have been times that I have been accused of being the meanest mother in the world, and well, though I don’t cherish the name, ”meanest” because it carries a negative connotation, after this article, maybe it has a positive significance.

If that’s what taught my children to be all that they can possibly be-- and I learned it from a mother who taught me some very valuable life lessons about being the best that I can be, maybe the lessons and the teacher aren’t so mean after all.

May we all be the meanest mother in the world with the most honorable actions and intentions.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pride and Patriotism

by Anna Jones Buttimore

What a wonderful weekend it has been!

On Thursday I went to my children's school to watch the May Day celebrations (even though it was still only April) and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the children dance round a maypole and perform other traditional dances before the crowning of the May King and Queen. Sadly I didn't have the common sense to take photographs (the picture opposite is from the internet) but it was a lovely event. I can remember doing "country dancing" at school so it is lovely to connect the generations through this long-standing tradition.

Friday was a national public holiday to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton (now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and it was a wonderful day. The whole country, it seemed, was decked out in bunting. We went to watch the wedding at a friend's house, and left home a little late - just after Kate Middleton left her hotel to head for the abbey. As we drove to the gathering, it was eerie to see the streets so empty. We didn't pass any other cars, and the shops were all closed. The entire population, I think, was glued to the television. At least, all those who weren't lining the streets of London.

We arrived just as the bride was getting out of the car, and watched for the next two hours, our little Union Jack flags clasped in our hands, loving the pomp and ceremony and pageantry, and marvelling at the wonderful atmosphere as all sixty-three million Brits, and presumably much of the rest of the world, joined in wishing happiness to a Prince and his new Princess, and celebrating love and hope and all that's right with the monarchy. Afterwards our party (a barbecue in a garden festooned with flags and bunting) went on for several hours.

Apparently it has been calculated that the monarchy costs every man, woman and child in Britain a total of 62p a year from their taxes - that's about a dollar. And the wedding cost us 20p. Absolute bargain. Another one soon, please! My eldest daughter is available and only ten years younger than Prince Harry.

Monday was a public holiday too - May Day, always observed on the first Monday in May - and although the temperature barely reached 15 degrees (60 farenheit) we marked the arrival of warmer weather by getting a new paddling pool and making the children play in it all afternoon and I tried to make the badly neglected garden look presentable. All in all, a wonderful weekend to be British.

And then Sunday! How wonderful to awake to the new that Osama Bin Laden was finally dead. I know there are cynics out there (apparently some people didn't like the royal wedding either!) and I know it's wrong to rejoice in the death of another, but I can't get the tune of "Ding dong, the witch is dead" out of my head. Thank you, dear Americans, for setting the seal on my perfect celebratory weekend, by ridding the world of a serious threat. I hope you are also enjoying the pride and patriotism we have rejoiced in over the last few days.

Monday, May 2, 2011

To Have and To Hold . . .

The other day my husband made the following comment: "So, if I bought you one of those Kindle/Nook things, does that mean we can get rid of your collection of books?" I'm sure the look on my face helped him discern that he had misspoken. ;)

To me, books are a treasure. I've savored books since before I could read. In fact, that was my big complaint following my first day of kindergarten: "I STILL CAN'T READ!!!" I was fortunate in that my parents read to me while I was growing up. When I was about ten years old, my father read "The Hobbit," to my siblings and me for several weeks. When he finished, he held up the trilogy that followed and said, "It's up to you to find out what happens next." I spent the summer reading "The Lord of the Rings" series, and loved every minute of it.

Through the years, I've been given books as gifts by grandparents, parents, sons, and even my husband . . . who considers reading to be a complete waste of time. In his defense, he was raised on a farm where they spent their family vacations hauling rock from the fields. There was no time to read books, and he has a difficult time sitting still long enough to do so now.

So to his way of thinking, buying me a Kindle or a Nook, would be a great way of getting rid of something he doesn't appreciate: my computer room full of books. (I suspect he has plans for that room, like turning it into a man-cave, but I digress.)

While I might enjoy using one of these new-fangled gadgets, I will always want books around. As stated earlier, these are treasured friends. I love my books, and the only time I get rid of anything that contains the printed word, is if the book offends me.

My collection includes classic novels, autographed books, fun favorites, mysteries, historical fiction, biographies, and even a selection of books I've kept since my youth. Among those books are items like the beautifully illustrated version of "The Little Mermaid," my father gave me for Christmas one year. That is a book that will more than likely end up with my oldest granddaughter, when she's old enough to appreciate it. I also still have the copy of "Mama's Bank Account," that my paternal grandmother gave me for my birthday one summer. I've lost track of how many times I've read that favorite tome. So on and so forth.

No matter how advanced computer technology may become, I will always want my books. I will want to caress them fondly, explore their pages, and savor reading favorite paragraphs. This collection will be my legacy to my sons, who all enjoy reading. In fact, this year for a combination, Mother's Day\Birthday gift, my sons are building me new bookcases for my collection of books. I can hardly wait to sort through and organize these treasured friends into their new home when this project is finished.

Am I alone in my love of books? Am I the only one who is mourning the loss of a favorite bookstore that closed its doors in recent weeks because the demand for "real" books is diminishing? I think not. I suspect there are many of you out there who enjoy holding a good book in your hands. We are the diehards who will always enjoy having "real" books in our possession, knowing they are the true wonders of the written word.