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LA’s Epic Rock & Roll, Fashion & Art Party: Interview with Author Nora Novak

VIEW THE LOS FELIZ CONFIDENTIAL BOOK TRAILER

Whenever she’s asked why so many Millennials and Generation Z men, women and teens continue flocking to the music and style of the 1960s and 1970s, Los Feliz Confidential author Nora Novak has a ready answer: “I think Millennials are recognizing a sense of excitement and freewheeling attitude of that era by listening to classic rock, and streaming movies and documentaries that portray the ‘good times’ they find appealing in a way not found in today’s device-dependent, stressful and more violent world,” she says. “I think the boomers, the internet and the media have had a hand in this, unlike previous generations.”

Nora, who grew up in and currently lives in Newport Beach, is the author of one of the finest scenester memoirs in years, and winner of a 2017 Southern California Book Festival Award. Los Feliz Confidential takes us right inside the classic home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz where Nora and her boyfriend hosted some of LA’s wildest parties of the 1970s and early 1980s. But their wildness was classed up by the fetching, willowy blonde hostess, whose elegance, glamour, style and love of music turned these parties into something extravagant. With her visual descriptions and deeply honest portrayal of her own feelings, goals and hopes, Nora lures us into a narrative so rhythmic and rich that you can practically hear the songs of the period spinning on her turntable — and the lyrics weaving in and out of the narrator’s heart. If you can’t remember the titles of these memory markers, no worries: she lists them in a back, a clever piece of “soundtracking” the book.

But Los Feliz Confidential is much more than a musical all-nighter put to words. Nora takes us through her rich, complex world that she creates on the fly, as a trendsetting scenester and traveler completely in touch with her native Flemish roots. The fact she was born in Belgium, grew up in the U.S. with her Old World parents but never lost her connection to Flemish culture (but rather dove into and celebrated it), adds to both the perspective and depth of the book. She takes us around the world on her fascinating (and sometimes wild) adventures, one of which she shares in the interview. She also takes us into the crazy all-hours fun of 1970s Los Angeles, and into the glam rock, punk rock, hard rock and early New Wave worlds that she made part of her own. We meet her friends, and again throw ourselves on Sunset Boulevard and into the clubs and scenes that many look back on with deep reverence, while younger generations seek to know more about this time period where freedom, platform shoes, liberation, shoulder pads, creativity, long hair, imagination, art, style, and great music prevailed.

Los Feliz Confidential and Art Damaged Author Nora Novak.

Turning all these experiences and elements into a treasure trove of a memoir was no easy task, but Novak has the chops to pull it off. She’s a fine artist, designer of her fashion line (Noraluxe Loungewear), art gallerist, actress, model, and also the author of the novel Art Damaged. She comes from a very talented family as well. Her mother, Emma Albertina Bogaerts, a lifelong storyteller, is the 105-year-old (not kidding!) newly published author of Emmy: Memoir of a Flemish Immigrant, now available in English and being shopped to publishers in Europe. Nora’s brother, Mark Leysen, is an award-winning art director and fine artist, as well as the author of Klown, his third novel (Traveling Shoes Press) about a late-night talk show host who runs for President. It definitely echoes the present state of the world.

We caught up with Nora recently. To get your Black Friday book shopping chops going, here is what she says about life, L.A., making scenes, and Los Feliz Confidential.

Word Journeys: Los Feliz Confidential is an epic scenester read – the incredible LA music-fashion-art scene and how you and others showcased and helped define it in your travels and daily lives. Could you talk about the amazing chemistry that exists between music, fashion and art, and why it was so definitive of a generation? And still is?

NN: Because that generation (talkin about my ge- generation) experienced an explosive time of cultural change, social mores, pop art and particularly British rock that spawned new looks in fashion as a lifestyle. There was an innovative and artistic energy that changed the way people dressed. The 70’s rock-infused fashion had an element of sensuality and glamour with an edge that I certainly favored and is still being recycled today. Innovative new artists, designers, bands and clubs emerged in L.A. and provided a more artistic expression in fashion. It all played out with the music creating a dazzling decade that many look back on for inspiration today.

A good example is Stephen Spouse collaborating with Debbie Harry in the 80’s and Jeff Koons collaborating with the new Louis Vuitton line today. Music blasts at every fashion collection. I think music, fashion and art have always had an evolving synergy.

WJ: Take us through your writing process for Los Feliz. How did you pare down your countless experiences into a tightly written 200-page book? What themes and points did you emphasize? And tell us about your decision to basically “soundtrack” the book, with songs listed for each chapter.

NN: First of all, I wrote what I could remember! I could have added many more stories, but I chose to keep it moving like the fast pace I was living at the time. I wanted to emphasize the difference of how immigrating here made me feel and my fearless sense of adventure. I tried to be give my stories a visual sense of the fashion and look of things, the easiness of life at that time. Everything I wrote about had music running through my mind, reflecting the time, so I naturally made many musical references. When I finished I was compelled to write a Playlist for each chapter, which I really enjoyed doing.

WJ: What are three of your favorite tales that you share in the book? And the funniest?

NN: Well (spoiler alert!), I do share an interesting story about my relationship with a Jordanian arms dealer and his Ambassador brother. There’s a tale about my first skiing experience – which also proved to be my last – and a humorous girl/girl story. I think the story about an ENT treatment given by my boyfriend’s surgeon dad is hilarious but for me it all seems humorous now. I’m still laughing!

Nora Novak’s fine collage work includes “The Girl from Antwerp”

Cinema Verite at Cannes? It’s red carpet time.

WJ: You are the daughter of a very take-charge, dominant father and a warm, artistic mother. How did that parent combination shape you as both a person and an artist?

NN: My father, although a stern and unpleasant man, instilled a strong sense of discipline and a somewhat sardonic outlook. However, he was responsible for my love of art and photography, for which I am grateful. My mother, on the other hand, emanated femininity, graciousness, a pleasant demeanor and sense of humor. The combination definitely shaped me as an individual and shows up in my work as an artist, as I generally incorporate female photographic images in my glossy mixed-media collages.

WJ: What struck me about your journey is how you took part in the lifestyle and excesses of the day, yet you always seemed to have a sense of who you were and what you wanted. How did you maintain that compass, if you will, of how to go forward?

NN: I readily enjoyed the excess and decadence of the times; it was a Bacchanalian era for rock ’n’ roll. Everything seemed so glamorous and indulgent, and was completely accepted in the L.A. that I knew. I did have goals though, like a working schedule and a sense of enough discipline that probably prevented me from becoming another Hollywood fatality. Many didn’t make it.

WJ: You write of your affinity for Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. What was it about his voice, music, lyrics, and presence that captivated you? What do you feel musicians today can learn from their predecessors in terms of delivering from heart and soul vs. making a hit?

NN: Bryan Ferry evoked a sultry, seductive kind of singing unique from other rock stars. Not to mention his suave, good looks, elegant style, sophistication and harmonica playing that simply resonated in a big way for me. I thought his music and lyrics quite beautiful and loved his sexy album covers. It seems like everyone can sing today with a huge range and big powerhouse voices, but at the end of the day, it’s generally the more unique voice with soul and a great tune that becomes the hit. The late Amy Winehouse comes to mind.

WJ: You’ve also been creating works of art. Tell us about those.

Nora Novak’s “Nico”, honoring the late New York scenester and Velvet Underground singer. Part of her Femme Fatale collection.

NN: I started a new series, my “Femme Fatale” collection. I just finished three mixed-media collages, that can be seen on my website noranovak.com and will be exhibited soon. I’m thinking about starting another book next year, possibly a sequel to Los Feliz Confidential, picking up where it left off moving into the crazy 80’s.

WJ: Lightning Round: Who are your five favorite authors? Musicians or bands? Artists? Fashion designers?

NN: My favorite authors? When I was young, I would say John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac. I that progressed to Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski, and more recently Irvine Welsh and Edward St. Aubyn. Musicians: It’s still Bryan Ferry, Iggy and the Stones and Amy Winehouse, miss her. Artists: Jan Van Eyck, Kees Van Dongen, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel to name a few. As for designers, Dries Van Noten, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbana, love the vintage Halston — and my own Noraluxe Loungewear line, of course!

WJ: Final question: If a musician came up to you and said, “Hey girl, I want to play you one song that speaks to who you are,” what would that song be? And who would be playing it?

NN: Well, I would love it if that musician was Bryan Ferry. I’d request his cover version of Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, but wait; can I get one with Iggy on vocals, Mick on harmonica and Keith on guitar, and they can play whatever they want?

WJ: Let us cue it up! Thanks so much, Nora, for a fun and enlightening look into an era so wonderfully captured in Los Feliz Confidential.

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The Power of Group Book Signings — and Birth of a New Literary Series

In this era of extreme tidal changes in the publishing industry, writers, readers and those who love personal author appearances will be happy to know of a great trend: enterprising authors banding together to form group appearances and signings.

The power of the group read, this occurring at Vista Library, site of the North County Literary Cavalcade: Sunset Poets and Hummingbird Review  launch. (L-R) Sunset Poets creator and poet Dick Eiden; "Dances With Wolves" author Michael Blake; poet and musician John Doe, of the legendary group X; Charles Redner, Jr; Hummingbird Review publisher & author Charles Redner; fictionist Alwyn Pinnow; and yours truly

The power of the group read, this occurring at Vista Library, site of the North County Literary Cavalcade: Sunset Poets and Hummingbird Review launch. (L-R) Sunset Poets creator and poet Dick Eiden; “Dances With Wolves” author Michael Blake; poet and musician John Doe, of the legendary group X; Charles Redner, Jr; Hummingbird Review publisher & author Charles Redner; fictionist Alwyn Pinnow; and yours truly

 

AK Patch, the author of "Passage at Delphi," will appear Feb. 23 to launch the North County Literary Cavalcade series at Vista Library.

AK Patch, the author of “Passage at Delphi,” will appear Feb. 23 to launch the North County Literary Cavalcade series at Vista Library.

Not necessarily. Speaking from San Diego County and nearby areas, I can report that a few enterprising authors are working hard to create more group signings. Kaitlin Rother recently hosted an event at the new San Diego City Library that drew a standing room-only crowd. Author Lin Robinson, one of the most innovative and funniest writers around,  is stirring up the waters for a group signing series as well. “My thoughts are to get some local writers together and do something major and newsworthy, maybe in the atrium of the new San Diego library, or across the street in the beautiful Jing Si Café,” Robinson said.

It goes from there. A genre-based group, the Crime Fiction Collective, has been staging group signings for awhile. The La Jolla-based indie bookstore Warwick’s presents not only national authors, but individual and group signings with area authors — in which the author gets a table and signs for several hours on a Sunday afternoon. Very cool.

Group signings are awesome. Several authors appear together, read from their works, perhaps hold a short panel discussion, and then meet, greet and sign. While every author wants (and should have) the stage to themselves, I can tell you that booksellers and libraries love group signings. Why? They put more butts in the seats — and more buyers, or patrons. Readers feel like they’re at an event, and when you attend an event, you want to take the energy and memory of it home with you; hence, buying a book (that’s why motivational speakers and leaders always sell books at the back of the room). Plus, authors receive the dual stimulation of sharing stories from the trenches with other writers, and engaging with their readers.

We will be actively promoting all group signings on this blog, and on the Word Journeys Social Media Network. If you’re an author, band together with a couple other authors, visit your bookstore or library, and set yourself up. It will be much easier than you think — and you will connect eye-to-eye with your audience. Readers and writers, stay tuned.

 Speaking of libraries, I’m pleased to announce something I’ve wanted to create for a long time: a monthly literary series. This one even gives a naming nod to the Golden Age of radio and TV! The North County Literary Cavalcade will be hosted by Vista City Library. Reference librarian Kris Jorgensen and I met earlier this week, and laid out the plan for a combination of author signings, group reads, student presentations, panel discussions, topical workshops, open mics and festival events that will involve national and area authors, educators and poets. Best of all, we’re drawing authors from all fiction and non-fiction genres, plus young adult authors, sci-fi writers, and children’s writers. No matter your reading preference, you’re going to be up close and personal with a prominent author at this series.

Vista Library is a great venue: We hosted a pair of Hummingbird Review launches there, drawing large crowds in both cases. The secret? Yep — group reads. We had six to eight readers on each occasion.

Our first event takes place Sunday, February 23, from 3 to 5 p.m. Author AK Patch will present the history and backstory of his new historical adventure thriller, Passage at Delphi. This book brings the famous Greek-Persian War (source of the “300” movie series) into modern-day light, as eyewitnessed by time-traveling professors. They are under the influence of the Greek God Apollo, who worries that today’s civilization will go the way of the Ancient Greeks. If you’re a “300” fan, and pacing the floors waiting for the March 7 premiere of 300: Rise of an Empire, this book will not only feed you, but give you a counter-story filled with excitement and depth.

I’ll also be reading, as Dr. Patch’s warm-up act. Kris Jorgensen and I will co-host the event, and we will also present the schedule of Literary Cavalcade events.

Hope to see you there — and at all group signing events.

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Let’s Keep Book Signings Enjoyable

On Saturday, I walked into one of my greatest pet peeves in the book world: a signing at which the customers were treated like second-rate citizens. This happened at Barnes & Noble in Oceanside, where I entered the fray a willing participant and walked out feeling like I was part of a cattle drive.

The occasion was an appearance and signing by Ace Frehley, the lead guitarist of KISS. After seeing a sign advertising the event a few days prior, I called my friend Robert Munger, the webmaster of RockChoice.com and a much more ardent KISS fan than me, and we decided to meet up at the signing.

I haven’t listened to a KISS song in 30 years, but they were a major part of my teenage years. I saw them twice in concert, and I always felt a sort of affinity for “The Spaceman,” Frehley’s costumed alter ego. As a huge music fan and saluter of high achievers in general, I like commiserating with musicians known to be nice, engaging and creative people. I also like taking an occasional ride down memory lane (or reclaiming lost memories, to be more accurate in this case) by reading memoirs from people who helped make those times.

When my lady, her son and I arrived 40 minutes early, the line already queued 100 feet from the table where Ace would sign. Already, my first hope was dashed: that Ace would give a talk about his memoir, “No Regrets,” and then sign. I bought a book for a friend’s Christmas gift, and stood near the front of the line with Robert until the signing started, at which time I moved to the back and prepared to stand for the next 60 to 90 minutes. No problem. The line was filled with excited fans sharing KISS stories and concert memories. Always a fun line to join.

A half-hour after the signing started, I was twenty feet from the signing table. That was fast: I was probably #240 of the 250 or so people on hand. How could Ace sign so many books so quickly, and banter with his fans?

The answer: store management didn’t really let him banter. When I got close to the table, two B & N employees and three security guards were on hand. “Open your book to the page you want him to sign,” one of the employees said. “No, he won’t personalize for anyone.”

With that, the man took my book and planted it on the table, behind two other books. Clearly uncomfortable with the arrangement, Ace made sure to shake everyone’s hand and chat with them for a second, and take in whatever they had to say — usually, favorite KISS concert moments delivered in the 10 or 15 seconds they had before being moved on. As I said, he was very engaging, just as friendly as I would have expected, and clearly delighted to meet long-time fans. I respected and appreciated him not only because of his music, but because of his continuing desire to create new music and his commitment to sober living — which, if you know anything about his past, is quite an achievement. So when I got up there, I shook his hand and said, “Thanks for the music and keeping your creative force alive.”

“Along with the rest of me,” he quipped.

We had a quick exchange, and then I was moved out of there by the book signing posse.

A moment on that. The B & N crew, hell-bent on efficiently running people by the table as quickly as possible, created a countercurrent to Ace’s obvious desire to interact with his fans and readers. As an author who loves to talk with people who read my books, and as one who’s purchased hundreds of books from B & N stores nationwide (and had books on their shelves for years), I couldn’t sit silently and watch this. I turned to one employee and said, “You know, we’ve already purchased our books, and this man might not have been someone you looked up to, but he was that person to a lot of people here. How ironic that the dude who quit KISS because the band became more about profit than music is subject to the way you’re doing this book signing.”

Naturally, my comments fell on deaf ears. Ten minutes later, just 50 minutes after it began, the signing was over. B & N was happy — in and out in less than an hour. Another item checked off the to-do list. Efficient.

But no way to run a book signing. Part of the reason to get a book signed is to share a moment with the author, connect with the person whose book you’re about to read. I guarantee you, that is what everyone had in mind when they arrived. Thankfully, the author did everything he could to accommodate them, even though he was flanked by a personal assistant on one side (of course) and two security people moving people away from the table (totally unnecessary).

As an author, educator and one who works on behalf of many authors, and has been to much bigger B & N signings (when I saw Tom Robbins in New York in 2004, nearly 1,000 people showed up. The employees couldn’t have been more supportive), I felt perturbed by the scene. What made it more irritating was that the featured author wanted to talk with each of his fans as he signed their books, but they kept moving the line. By my rough count, 250 people stood in line with books they’d just purchased for $26. That’s $6,500 that would not have happened without Ace Frehley’s presence.

One would think the booksellers would be a little more appreciative of that fact. I know one thing: had this signing taken place at an independent bookseller, the result would have been much different.

Let’s start remembering why you’re so massive, Barnes & Noble: Because of we, the readers.

 

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Summer—Summer—Summer!

The prospects of having fun on the first weekend of summer didn’t look too good. With a number of social media projects, a major business writing project underway, four deals to discuss and two books to edit, it looked like surfacing for air would be a big challenge. Going outside? Maybe for a few minutes. I’m not complaining: an active business in this economy is a VERY good development.

Given the long odds of experiencing the weekend first-hand, I decided to revert to what I keep telling writing students: look for the faces and voices of magic, innocence and wonder in everything we see or do — and find the simple pleasures one minute at a time. When an opportunity presents itself, experience it. Later, write about it.

Presto! This weekend transformed from a work-a-thon into a classic Southern California entrée into summer. First, the weather cooperated: after three weeks of June gloom, the clouds parted to sunny, warm skies. Next, the seas delivered a glorious present — a South Swell, large waves from Mexico that brought warmer water, slightly more humid air and the feeling of summer … where body cells dance to the music of a season that celebrates what it means to be fully human. At least for this sun-and-sand worshipper.

It all began with an epic Facebook message, which I re-posted:

“My curfew was the street lights. My mom called my name, not my mobile. I played outside with friends, not online. If I didn’t eat what was cooked, then I didn’t eat. Sanitizer didn’t exist, but you COULD get your mouth washed out with soap. I rode a bike without a helmet, getting dirty was OK, and neighbors CARED as much as your parents did. Re-post if you drank water from a garden hose & survived!!”

That’s capturing a baby boomer’s childhood in less than 100 words! Many school friends and I pounced on the post and recalled some riveting childhood memories, all built around the carefree energy of summer. That alone was magical.

Time for action. On Friday afternoon, I hit “send” and peeled my tired eyes away from the computer to end a day that began at 4 a.m.  We headed to opening night of Jazz in the Park, the City of Carlsbad’s weekly series of free shows. Several thousand people reveled in blues music, dancing, hanging out with friends old and new, and soaking up the golden glow of evening sunshine in the La Costa Hills.

Then came Saturday morning. Take it away, journal:

“The first weekend of summer, and how awesome: sunny, 90 degrees, brown skin, smell of castor beans and gummy sycamores during 5 a.m. energization, dawn peeling away the night over the mountains, reading another T.C. Boyle gem set in California, the ocean calling with a South Swell, 67-degree water and clear skies – Summer! Summer! Summer! This is why people pay the huge bucks to live out here. Work interspersed with plopping in pool, watching U.S. Track & Field Championships on TV, coyote in broad daylight scouring the riverbed overgrowth for rabbits. Self-made dinner of seared ahi, artichoke, corn on the cob, shredded beet-carrot-lettuce slaw, walk to the corner grocery for ice cream, watermelons in a bin outside, baseball game crackling on a car radio…”

Sunday dawned like no other in this cloudy, misty June — sunny. Back to work I went for six or seven hours, broken up by a 6-mile run through orange and grapefruit groves, knowing full well what lay on the other side of this session: a drive to the beach. At 6 a.m., I turned on my favorite nostalgic Internet radio station, Technicolor Web of Sound, and in the magic that seemed to surround this weekend, here were the first six songs I heard: “Hot Summer Days” – The Moody Blues; “Om” – The Royal Guardsmen; “Summer of ‘67” – Family; “Strawberry Fields Forever” – The Beatles; “Fire” – Jimi Hendrix; “Lawdy Mama Version 2” – Cream.

Oh yeah. Gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day. We arrived at the beach at 3:30 p.m. to a constant inflow of waves. For the next two hours, we dismissed spreadsheets, articles, research, conference calls, files and social media platforms, playing in a warm ocean (to me, 67-degree water in June in California is warm), catching waves, getting pummeled a few times, emerging from the sea with swimsuits askew and water dripping from our bodies and nostrils.

Afterwards, we indulged in a wonderful Mexican food dinner with ceviche appetizer (heaven is eating ceviche and Mexican food after bodysurfing for two hours). Then it was back to work — shopping at Barnes & Noble for business titles for our major summer writing project. I found a nice surprise on the shelves — The Pilot: Learning Leadership, by Colleen and Bill Hennessy, on which I’d done some ghostwriting a couple of years ago.

Yes, summer came to visit, and She made sure this would be a memorable weekend. It was so magical that I almost forgot working right through it … the whole point of this season.

Now, onto a very full day of writing and serving clients, with the vibration of sun, surf and deep communion with spirit buzzing through body and mind. Summer—Summer—Summer!

 

 

 

 

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Singing Praises to the Home Library … and All Libraries

In the past week, I’ve been really thinking a lot about libraries, those bastions of knowledge and our love of learning and reading that, many feel, are under siege by the proliferation of e-books. Three things popped into my life concerning libraries:

First, while reading a scene in Roadshow, the outstanding travel memoir of Rush drummer Neil Peart, I was reminded of the time I spent in a couple of Carnegie libraries in New York. As part of his enormous philanthropic work, 19th century American industrialist Andrew Carnegie created 2,500 libraries when there was no library system in the U.S. He launched libraries in this country as we know them today.

Second, I read two conflicting articles, by two newspapers of conflicting political views. One said that libraries were about to die by the sword of electronic publishing and a lack of deep thinking and learning in the U.S. The other said libraries were thriving like never before. As one who taught writing workshops for four years in a small, vibrant rural library (Crittenden County, KY) with a staff that radiated love of reading (and whose head librarian, Regina Merrick, is a novelist), I’m here to say the latter article is more accurate.

Third, I read an article the other day from the Independent, the United Kingdom’s largest online newspaper, entitled, “Will the Home Library Survive the e-Book?”

This article gave me pause: Can the home library truly be endangered? The answer is, yes and no – depending upon the value you place on good old-fashioned book learning, how much you and family members enjoy curling up or stretching out with a good book, and on the worthiness of books as a reflection of who you are. With Amazon selling more e-books on Kindle than physical books, and Barnes & Noble also claiming higher e-book sales, the very satisfying and rewarding experience of going to an independent bookstore, buying a book, reading it and placing it on your home shelf appears to be in some danger.

Appearances can be deceiving. For example, since I now promote books via social media and publish e-books, among other things, I could be considered the enemy … until we start talking about the 3,000 books in my home library. Some of these books were the first I read, or that my mother read to me: Babar the Elephant, Make Way for Ducklings, Burt Dow Deep Water Man. Others serve as literary benchmarks of my school years: Johnny Tremain, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Old Man and the Sea, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Then there’s my rebellious bohemian side, told in a tale of New Journalism titles: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Pump House Gang, In Cold Blood, Trout Fishing in America, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. An entire bookshelf captures my love of poetry as a reader and writer, with works by more than 200 different poets. And the spiritual titles, ranging from Christian works to Autobiography of a Yogi and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Often deep flirtations with the Space Age, movies, sports, nature, ecology, sustainable living, organic gardening, travel, military subjects, running, nutrition, foreign languages, mind-body learning and so much more cover a roomful of shelves, presented as novels, memoirs, topical non-fiction, essays, short stories and travelogues by writers from legendary to one-book wonders, from globally known to regional heroes and heroines.

Then there are the collectibles, the old hardbacks, the books that sit prominently, some behind glass cases, to be seen but not necessarily touched: the transcript of the Apollo 11 moon landing and walk; Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, with pencil illustrations by Picasso; Steve Garvey’s life lessons learned as a Dodger batboy, before he became a star first baseman, with his autograph to me “from your fan, Steve Garvey,” a nod to the years I covered Garvey while a sportswriter; first editions of Mark Twain books; and my priceless treasures, the poetry and children’s books written by my great grandmother and great-great aunt.

I’ve tried many times to downsize my library. I can downsize furniture, clothing, dwelling size, DVD collection and other possessions … but unless I’m passing along books to a public library for safekeeping, I just can’t part with them. That’s because each book on that shelf represents a slice of life, an experience, a moment in time shared by the words on those pages and the inquiring or imaginative mind inside my skull. Furthermore, I put notes, related articles and other slips of paper in these books, further footnoting them for posterity.

Whenever I get around to writing life stories or a memoir, you can bet my library will be a major character. It has accompanied me through thick and thin for 45 years and counting.

My experience is shared by millions of others who have home libraries of all shapes, sizes and designs (and home library design also reflects the style of the owner). As Alice Azania-Jarvis, the writer of The Independent article, noted, “But it’s not just a matter of which books we display that’s interesting – how we choose to do so has become an equal point of fascination. ‘They can almost sculptural in that they offer a physical presence,’ explains (household stylist Abigail) Hall. ‘It’s not just about stacking them on a bookcase, it’s how you stack them. I’ve seen books arranged by color, stacked on top of each other. Once I saw a load of coffee-table books piled up to become a coffee table in themselves.’

Do you think people like this – people who truly love to read, to present their libraries as a statement of taste and love of learning – will let Google come in and scan out their collections? Do you think they’ll buy a bunch of storage drives and relegate covers, paper and all their visceral experiences to electronic files? Will you?

I didn’t think so. To me, the home library is like the public library – an institution running a very close second in sacredness to your place of worship. For many, the library, home library or bookstore is a place of worship. My library is the living, breathing lungs of a life dedicated to writing, learning, and helping others bring their stories to life.

Here’s hoping your bookshelves receive the same love — and reward you with the joy of all those stories, words, and memories of your life at the time you read them. In fact, dust off one of your older books, one you haven’t read in many years, then sit down and re-read it. As you do so, enjoy this present experience and literary adventure, but also recall the events of your life the last time you flipped through these particular pages.

Deeply enriching and revealing, isn’t it?

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Signing at the Book Fair

To order The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life
As an author, one of my favorite activities is to present my works at book fairs, writer’s conferences and book expos. We’ve got a good one coming up Saturday in Evansville, IN, sponsored by the Midwest Writers Guild and hosted by Barnes & Noble.

I’ll be there to sign and promote The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life. I’ll also bring along my other six books and some promotional literature about the many services Word Journeys provides new and established authors.

Book fairs are wonderful. Authors from many states gather to talk about and sell their works, and to commiserate with each other. I thoroughly enjoy these conversations, because we can compare stories about getting published, promoting our works, researching our subjects, the creative process and so much more. While best-selling authors are always present at book fairs, I always seek out the regional authors, because their works keep the spirits, histories and personalities of their areas alive, and commit them to the printed word. Plus, they are very, very dedicated writers, artisans hard at work with their craft.

As a book fair attendee, I would suggest making it a point to seek out and talk with as many authors as you can. This is a rare opportunity to see the faces behind the voices and words, to pick their brains for their sources of motivation and inspiration – and, likely, to pick up a side story or two about how a certain character or plot line came into being.

For those who live in the Midwest and Upper South, the Evansville Book Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. The Barnes & Noble store is located on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Green River Road.

We’ll certainly have plenty of stories from the book fair next week on this blog … and an interview with an author or two. Stay tuned.

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