pensées pour un samedi pluvieux

1. At a little after 3:00 am this morning, I awoke when I heard the various beeps that accompany a power outage: the CO detector, the power backup for the computer, etc. Frequently, the power comes back on in seconds and all that needs to be done is reset the clock on the microwave. But the power stayed off and the UPS continued to beep. It was annoying, but the UPS is in the office upstairs and I didn’t feel like getting up to deal with it. Plus, I was curious about how long the UPS battery would last. I did get out of bed long enough to get my tablet, and I logged on to the power company’s website to report the outage (fortunately, my modem is powered by the UPS, so I still had WiFi). I learned that about 350 households were affected by the outage. Nothing to do then but try to get back to sleep. Beep. Beep. Beep. (The UPS gave up after about 2 hours.) At 7:00 am, new beeps signaled the restoration of power. I got up to face the day, which promised to be rainy and gloomy.

2. Today is the Royal Wedding, about which I care not. I do like Meghan Markle, however. I have watched the show she’s on, Suits, on Amazon Prime, and I like it very much (mostly because of the law firm setting that brings back memories). She’s talented and beautiful. Also, she went to my alma mater, Northwestern, so there’s that. And she seems to be shaking up the royal family in several ways, which is all to the good. I hope they’re very happy.

3. The title of this blog post is in French because I’ve been doing daily French study in preparation for a five-week stay in France later in the year. I’ve been to France before and spoke very little French, but because this is a longer trip I thought I should make the effort. Also, it’s fun. I’m using Duolingo plus an online flashcard-based vocabulary builder, and I’ve started meeting weekly with a friend to practice speaking. We meet at the French bakery in town and I’m tempted to order in French–Donnez-moi un croissant et un cafe noir, s’il vous plait–but they’d probably think I was nuts.

4. The New York Times is offering tips for decluttering, which are mostly what you’d expect but because they are spaced out over a few weeks, it seems to be really helpful. So far I’ve only decluttered my bathroom, but the bedroom is next. That’s a much larger challenge.

5. I’m reading several books, and I plan to spend part of this rainy day with a couple of them. On the one hand, I feel like I should be cleaning or fixing or cooking or something, but . . . books!

6. Last night I went to the American Shakespeare Center to see Sense and Sensibility again. The play is an adaptation by Emma Whipday of Jane Austen’s novel, performed by the ASC’s touring company, which is in residence for the Spring season. All four of their productions are excellent and this one is especially good. The theater was nearly full–on the first level, anyway–which is a pretty regular occurrence these days.

7. I’m unlikely to get any writing done this weekend, other than this blog post, but I’m about to launch into a revision of a novel that I once thought was done. I recently received some very thoughtful comments from an editor and so I believe I know what needs to be done with this manuscript, which is exciting. I wish I could hide away for a couple of months to really focus on this project, but that isn’t possible. I do hope to stay off social media–during the day, at least–to give myself the best shot at finishing my revisions by the end of the summer.

Book Reviewing

When I talk to writers about being a good literary citizen, one of the things I recommend is writing book reviews. It not only helps to keep one’s critical skills sharp–useful in evaluating your own work–but also it spreads the word about books by other writers, and that’s a good thing for the literary community. Although venues for book reviews in print are disappearing, the online book review world continues to expand, so there are lots of places to publish reviews, and there’s nothing wrong with posting reviews on your own blog if you don’t want to go to the trouble to place it elsewhere.

There is no single formula for “how to write a book review.” In graduate school, I did take a class on book reviewing, and I’ve been more or less following the process I learned there when I write reviews, but I’ve read all kinds of reviews over the years. Trust me. There are lots of ways to skin a book, and I highly recommend reading other reviews to get a sense of the variety.

The real reason I’m writing this post, though, is that I just updated the Publications page on my website and added all (or most–I may have overlooked a few) of the reviews I’ve published over the past few years. I surprised myself at how many there were (and why the heck wasn’t I updating the list all along?). Recent venues include Washington Independent Review of Books, Peace Corps Worldwide, and Best New Fiction.

If you’re interested in a [semi-]complete list of my reviews, with links where available, check out my Publications page and scroll down to Essays and Reviews.

The Writer in Public — May 2018

Writing is usually a solitary occupation, although I do frequently spend time with my laptop and my thoughts at coffeeshops. Still, there are occasions when we can be seen in public and for me a few of those moments are coming up.

First, tonight (May 9) is our community’s monthly open mic night for writers of poetry and prose. SWAG Writers–the Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta Group of Writers, a subchapter of the Virginia Writers Club’s Blue Ridge Chapter–hosts this event on the second Wednesday of every month. We’ve been doing it for many years and for the last few years, our partner and host has been Black Swan Books & Music. It’s always entertaining. Last month we had 18 readers, each of whom signed up for a 5-minute slot to share their work. Free and open to the public. 6:00 pm.

Next, on Saturday I’m leading a half-day seminar at WriterHouse in Charlottesville: Care and Feeding of Compelling Characters. Characters are an important part of any narrative, of course, so we’ll talk in this class about what makes characters interesting and memorable. I hope the students get something out of it; I certainly did as I was preparing for it.

Then, next week, on Thursday, May 17, I’ll be participating in the Augusta County Library’s first Local Author Expo, a casual event where readers can meet a few local authors, chat about their work, and maybe buy a book. I know most of the other writers who will be there, so it should be fun.

I think that’s it for public appearances for this month.

Checking in on my writing goals for the year

I realized this morning that the year is one-third gone already, which led me to consider how I was doing with the ambitious writing goals I’d set for myself.

  1. Novel edits. I have a novel coming out in early 2019, so an important writing goal for the year is to deal with edits I get from the publisher. I haven’t received the edits yet, so that’s still on the list.
  2. Compile Anthology. Done! Ahead of schedule, I finished selecting the twenty stories for Volume III of Everywhere Stories. I also got the editing done and compiled the manuscript, sending it off to the publisher last week. There is more work to be done—proofreading being the most challenging task ahead—before the book comes out in the fall, but this project is under control.
  3. Find a publisher for my novel. Um, no. Change of plans. Although I had some interest in this book from small presses, I decided that what it really needed was a developmental edit. That is underway, with comments due soon. I will then revise the manuscript and then start the process again.
  4. Finish the new story collection. Done! I was fortunate enough to get a short residency in February and used that time to finish a few new stories and compile the collection. It’s now being considered by a publisher and if that doesn’t work out I will send it to some other small presses.
  5. Finish the new novel. I had actually hoped to finish the new novel this summer, but that looks unlikely. Instead, I will aim to finish during a long residency I have scheduled this fall.
  6. Query agents. I still plan to do that this fall, but it won’t be for the new novel as I’d intended. Instead, I’ll query for the earlier novel, if I finish revisions by the end of the summer as I hope to do.

So, a third of the way into the year, I’m doing pretty well, I think. I even added a goal, which was to send out some of the new stories to magazines. I’ve had one acceptance so far, and hope to have others as the year progresses. Stay tuned!

Everywhere Stories–an update

Everywhere Stories Volume I

I’m pleased that we are on track to finalize Volume III of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet for a fall publication date.

The series arose from an idea I presented to Press 53 back in 2013, one that I’d been kicking around in my head for some time. As a world-traveler myself, I am drawn to fiction set outside the United States. An anthology of stories set around the world, I reasoned, would certainly appeal to me. Surely other people would be interested, as well.

We opened submissions for the project that fall and were overwhelmed. I had about 800 short stories to sift through. I selected 20 stories set in 20 countries for the first volume and, optimistically looking toward a possible second volume at some point, held on to another 10. I think it was my idea to put a world map on the cover, but it was the publisher who found the map we eventually used and secured the rights. He added red dots to mark the countries covered by the stories in the book, and Volume I appeared in October of 2014.

We were very pleased with the book, the theme of which was “It’s a dangerous world.” We included stories set on every continent, including Antarctica, and the response was uniformly positive.

Everywhere Stories Volume II

A year went by and we decided to proceed with a second volume. I had the stories I’d reserved from the first submission period, but in the fall of 2015 we reopened to new submissions. Once again we had a great response to the submission call and I was able to assemble a collection of 20 fine stories set in 20 countries. (We decided we would not repeat any countries except the United States, and within the US we would shift the setting to a different state for each volume.) We used the same cover image but tinted the background a different color to differentiate it from the first volume. Our theme for Volume II, which came out in October 2016, was “It’s a mysterious world.”

Both the publisher and I were pleased with the response to both volumes, and so after a year, we made plans for a third. Last fall we reopened submissions and I spent several months sifting through hundreds of stories to select 20. Again, the only country we’ve repeated is the U.S. I’m nearly done with the editing of the 20 stories—it’s been a real pleasure to read the stories again closely—and we’ll soon move into the production phase of the project with a view toward fall publication. Same cover, different tint. Theme? The world is still dangerous and mysterious, but it’s also surprising.

Will there be a fourth volume? We will have covered 58 countries in the first three books, so there are about 150 more countries in the world that we could find stories for. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  Too soon to say.


Report from the Virginia Festival of the Book

Shortly after I moved to this part of Virginia I began to attend the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. I would sit in audiences at the Barnes & Noble or the library or the New Dominion Bookshop and imagine what it would be like to one day be an author on one of the panels, talking about my books. Eventually, after the publication of my first book in 2009, that dream became a reality, and since then I have either been on a panel talking about my own work or have moderated a panel featuring other authors every year. This year I moderated two fiction panels, and I continue to be delighted to be part of the festival.

Fractured Characters Panel featuring me (moderator), Jessie Chaffee, Noley Reid, and Lauren Sanders

We got off to a rocky start this year, though, as weather affected the festival’s first day. Where I live, 40 miles west of Charlottesville, in the Shenandoah Valley, we had between 6-8 inches of snow that day, so I spent the afternoon shoveling my driveway instead of attending book discussions (many of which were canceled, anyway). By Thursday, however, the roads were fine and I had no trouble getting over the mountain and to the Noon session I was moderating. The title of the program was Fractured Characters and featured fine novels by Jessie Chaffee (Florence in Ecstasy), Noley Reid (Pretend We are Lovely), and Lauren Sanders (The Book of Love and Hate). We had good attendance, the authors were prepared and eloquent, and everything went smoothly.

I then went over to Tilman’s, a new restaurant on the Downtown Mall, for a private event with Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers, the first “Carol Troxell Reader”—supported by a fund to which I’d contributed named in honor of the late owner of the New Dominion Bookshop. That was fun and I enjoyed chatting with Ko and hearing her speak about her excellent book (which I had read the previous week in anticipation of meeting her). As if I hadn’t had enough book talk for the day, I hurried home for the monthly gathering of my book club. The book club (a mostly non-fiction club called Reading Liberally) meets in a restaurant that has a habit of screwing up the reservations I make, so I wasn’t surprised when the staff had no record of my reservation for 14 people! We waited while they made up a table and I fumed, but then we went on with our dinner and discussion about a collection of anti-Trump books. (We mostly agreed that we are sick of talking about Trump and so will read other sorts of books in the future.)

I had no Festival duties on Friday, but there were several panels I wanted to attend, starting at noon. That was a panel with Jon Pineda—a versatile writer who has published books of non-fiction, poetry, and fiction—and Wiley Cash. I know Jon, who teaches in the MFA Program at Queens University of Charlotte and had previously met Cash, but it was fun to hear them talk about their new books. I already had Cash’s novel, The Last Ballad, but Jon’s book, Let’s No One Get Hurt, had just been released so I picked up a copy of that. This panel was done in an interview format and the charm of both authors came through. Then there was a panel on International Stories featuring Annabelle Kim (Tiger Pelt), Katia Ulysse (Mouths Don’t Speak), and Adrienne Benson (The Brightest Sun)—books set in Korea, Haiti, and Kenya, respectively. I enjoyed all three of the authors’ remarks and got copies of their books. Although I was tempted to squeeze in another panel at the end of the day, I had made plans to see a play that night at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, so I headed home. (The play, a rarely performed play by John Marston called Antonio’s Revenge, was excellent. And bloody.)

Saturday is the Festival’s biggest day. In addition to literary programs in all the usual venues, the Festival’s Crime Day and Publishing Day happen at the Omni Hotel, along with the annual book fair. I did a quick pass through the book fair and then started my day back at the library for a panel on “Epic & Audacious” Fiction, i.e., fat books. This program featured Elizabeth Kostova (best known for her novel The Historian but now out with her new book, The Shadow Land), Martin Seay (who went to the same MFA program I did and has published a novel called The Mirror Thief), and Brendan Mathews (who was my suite-mate when we were Scholars at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in 2006 and has now published his first novel, The World of Tomorrow).  They all gave fascinating talks about their work and, naturally, I bought their books. They’re big ones, though, so I’m not sure when I’ll get around to reading them! I then gave myself some time off for lunch because there is a new Korean restaurant on the Downtown Mall I wanted to try. It’s good. I expect I’ll go back. After lunch, I decided to attend a panel on suspense thrillers. I can’t say it was terribly helpful to me as it is far from what I write or read. I was hoping the authors would talk about the craft of writing suspense, but it was mostly about what it’s like to actually work at the CIA. Interesting, but not terribly helpful. Then I decided to attend the program on the new-ish biography of Elizabeth Bishop by Pulitzer Prize-winner Megan Marshall, Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast. That was fascinating and I was glad to come away with a copy of the book.

Then it was time for one of my favorite events of the Festival—the Authors’ Reception. Good food, wine, and mingling among the Festival authors who were still in town.

On Sunday, I had one more event to attend—the panel I was asked to moderate with Chris Offutt and Janet Peery, both of whom have new novels out–Country Dark by Offutt and The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Peery. Before I got there, while I was strolling around the Downtown Mall, I ran into Peter Ho Davies, a former teacher of mine, so we got to chat a bit. (I’d also seen him at the AWP Conference in Tampa the week before, so there wasn’t much catching up to do.) The program at New Dominion got off to a bit of a rocky start when it turned out Chris had not received my email with my outline of the program. The only email address for him was the one given to me for his publicist at Grove Atlantic, who may not have forwarded my message to him. So he was not prepared to say much or read anything from the novel, as Janet was, having assumed the format would be strictly an interview and conversation. Fortunately, I did have plenty of questions prepared, so Chris improvised for a few minutes, then Janet spoke, and we launched into questions. It actually went rather well, I thought, but I was relieved when it was over.

The books I picked up during the Virginia Festival of the Book

That was the end of the Festival for me. And now I’m ready to get back to my own work! Dates for next year are March 20-24, 2019 (the week before AWP in Portland). (I guess it’s too early to worry about, but the two events will next coincide in 2022 when AWP will be in Philadelphia. How can I be in two places at once?)

Report from AWP18

After the 2017 AWP Conference in Washington D.C. (AWP is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and holds an annual conference in a different city each year), I vowed I would not be attending the 2018 Conference in Tampa. There were several reasons for that decision.

First, I had no interest in visiting Tampa. It’s not particular easy to get to from where I live in rural Virginia, and Florida does nothing for me as a destination (I get enough sunshine at home in the summer). Second, the conference itself is problematic on several levels. It’s expensive (registration, airfare, hotel, meals—it adds up to a hefty sum if you are an independent writer without institutional funding). Presentations are of disparate and unpredictable quality. It has become something of a young-writers’ gathering, and I have felt increasingly out of place in recent years. Plus, efforts to improve the organization’s gender diversity record have resulted in a conference that is dominated by women (a significant majority of presenters are women—nearly two-thirds). There may be good reasons for all of these developments, but it makes the conference feel less relevant to me. And third, I did not have a book come out in the past year, so I had no new publications to sell at the book fair.

But as the deadline for registration (not to mention travel and hotel reservations) grew closer, I felt my resolve slipping. Many friends made plans to go and urged me to come. Press 53, publisher of my two books and two anthologies, expected to have a large presence, including almost 30 of its authors. And I realized that it might be valuable to touch base with some of the small presses in attendance to stir some interest in a completed novel manuscript that needs a publisher. There is nothing like the AWP Bookfair for making those connections—800 exhibitors ranging from tiny magazines to large publishers all in one football-field-sized space.

In the end, I changed my mind and decided to go. This, then, is my report of my AWP experience and a few lessons learned.

  1. Travel/Hotel. Book early. Because I waited too long, my best flight option was to fly from Roanoke VA to Chicago to Tampa. (One blessing is that I used frequent flier miles, so at least it didn’t cost anything.) Because my flight out of ROA left at 6:23 am, I had to leave home at 3:30 am. That was no fun. I have no idea how one gets to Portland OR (site of AWP 2019) from here, but I’ll definitely book the trip earlier than I did for this year. And my hotel was pretty funky. It didn’t bother me much that it was a mile away from the convention center—I love to walk, especially when the temperatures are mild—but being closer is potentially convenient and better. I’ll try to book the main hotel for next year.
  2. Panels. I didn’t attend as many panels as I thought I might, but the ones I did go to were pretty good. Like many writers of literary fiction, I’m torn between plot—which I struggle with—and style. So I attended several panels on structure and plot and one on style, and I think I learned a few things, although I’m still torn. Plot is important—readers expect something to happen—but sentences are just as important. So I got something out of the panels I attended. However, looking at the schedule of panels, I was astounded by the number of panels that were made up entirely of women. And I’m not talking about subjects that are only of interest to women, whatever those might be. I would have thought that AWP would want to see diversity on its panels, but only 31% of panelists this year were male, down from 33% the year before. As noted above, maybe there are good reasons for this imbalance, but if the goal is equality then we’ve taken a wrong turn, in my estimation. Because panelists get some advantages—discounted registration and early access to conference hotel reservations—I have resolved to participate in panel proposals for 2019, against the apparent odds.
  3. Offsite Events. At AWP, there are the regular panels and the sanctioned evening events, like the keynote address (this year delivered by George Saunders). For some people—perhaps the people who didn’t have panel proposals accepted?—the “offsite” events are just as important. I usually stick pretty close to the main events, but this year I ventured out and attended a few things, such as an Authors’ Guild party and a reading at an Irish pub by alums of the Indiana University MFA program. (I didn’t get my MFA there, but I did get an MA in English there, plus one of the readers has contributed a story to the anthology I’m editing and I wanted to meet her.) Another event I wanted to attend resulted in a rather bizarre evening. I made my way in the rain to the venue listed in the program, a wine bar several blocks north of the convention center. It was loud and busy and no one there knew about the reading. Puzzled, I paced on the sidewalk outside wondering what to do. I was sure I had the right place, although the program listing mentioned a second floor space, and this wine bar clearly did not have a second floor. Just as I was about to give up, a manager came out and told me that she didn’t know what the mix up had been, but the reading had moved to another location, and she named a bar. As it happened, I’d seen that bar in my walks between my hotel and the convention center, so I knew where it was. I got there, ordered a drink, and waited. Eventually, the event organizers arrived and started to get things set up with the management, except that it became clear that the bar was not prepared for the event. The organizers reached a conclusion: there would be no reading. Instead, we were invited to a pub across the street for a drink on their dime. So we headed en masse across the street, had a drink, and then disbanded. But a few folks wanted to find dinner, so six of us—people I’d never met before—went to a Vietnamese fusion place not far away—and asked for a table. While we waited outside for the table to be ready, three of our group gave short readings on the sidewalk. So the reading happened after all. And then we had a pleasant dinner together.
  4. Bookfair. For me, the best part of AWP is the bookfair. Some years, when I’ve been actively submitting short stories to journals, I enjoy visiting their tables or booths and talking to editors. This year I was more interested in learning about small presses who might publish a novel manuscript I have available. I had even gone to the trouble of checking out these presses in advance and had made a list of the publishers I wanted to talk to and also the places I’d already submitted the book so I could follow up with them if they were in the fair. I printed the list out, and then forgot to bring it with me! But no matter, having done the work, I remembered most of what I needed to know. As a result, I had several productive discussions. Also I got to spend some time with the folks from Braddock Avenue Books who are bringing out my novel next year (in time for AWP in Portland) as well as my current publisher, Press 53 and visitors to their booth. I also bought a load of books and was also given a few books, making my suitcase way heavier for the trip home.
  5. Friends. AWP is one big reunion. I was able to see old friends from my MFA program, from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, from my publisher’s stable of writers, plus other writers I’ve met over the years. I also got to see several of the authors from my anthology series, including the new one that comes out this fall. I even had drinks with a friend from high school! (That was a long time ago.)

As noted above, I have some concerns about AWP and wonder if the conference is still relevant to me. I’ve committed to attending next year in conjunction with the launch of my novel, but if it weren’t for that, I doubt that I would go.

No, I did not “retire.”

When people learn that I used to practice law, they often ask “So, you’re retired?” I can’t blame them for using the ‘R’ word. After all, I’m not as young as I used to be, and that’s what many people do when they’ve had long and successful careers. But, unfailingly, I correct them: “That’s not the word I use,” I say. “I changed careers.”

Although I continued for several years to do some legal consulting with my former employer, I left my last full-time job in 2001, when I was just 47. It was my intention to change course in a fairly dramatic way: I would become a writer and that would be my new career. I prepared to become a lawyer by going to law school, so it made sense to prepare to become a writer by going to school, and so I entered a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, which I completed in 2003.

Since then, I have been a self-employed writer, not a retired lawyer. (Admittedly, it took me a long time to shake my identity as a lawyer. How do you reply to the question “What do you do?” when you meet someone at a cocktail party? “I’m a lawyer,” I used to say. After some years, I was finally able to say, “I’m a writer.”)

I sometimes wish I had had the discipline to write fiction while working fulltime—I actually enjoyed my last legal job, which was in the legal department of the World Bank—but I knew I did not. The job was draining, with lots of international travel, and I just wasn’t good at using my off time for a creative purpose. I tried. I took writing classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, just outside Washington to learn some basics. I worked to edit a manuscript I had managed to write before I started work at the World Bank when I was in a less-demanding consulting job. But I concluded that I needed to really focus on writing if I were going to be successful at it.

Now, many years later, I have had, by some measures, success at being a writer. I haven’t published a bestseller or even a book with a large press. But I treat the writing as a job, although one with flexible hours, and I set goals for myself. I’m trying to be the best writer I can be, and I can’t imagine that I will ever retire.

Happy New Year! (Year of the Dog)

Happy New Year! It’s the year of the dog, which probably has some significance for someone, but I can’t say I know what it might be. Like the Western Zodiac, the Chinese version is derived from myth and superstition, without any basis in science. I do like the idea of celebrating the new lunar year, though, and in modern China, the holiday is known as the Spring Festival. Given the warm temperatures around here this week, that’s completely appropriate!

In Asia, this is a big week for travel. Last year, the holiday was in late January and happened to occur during my research trip to Singapore. Although that was disruptive—some businesses close for the holiday and a day or two on either side—it was also fun to be part of the celebrations. I was staying in a hotel near Singapore’s “Chinatown” (an ironic name, given that the majority of the population of the country is of Chinese descent) and enjoyed walking the streets packed with vendors spelling special foods and traditional items for the holiday. It’s big business in Singapore.

In any case, it’s another chance at renewal. Happy Spring Festival! Happy New Year! Happy Year of the Dog! Gong Xi Fa Cai! 恭喜发财!

Library Liberation

I’m a book hoarder. I couldn’t tell you how many I have, but it numbers in the thousands. I still own a few books I picked up in high school and many from college and grad school days. Despite frequent moves (including two moves to and from Singapore), virtually all of my books have stayed with me over the years. Until recently.

I’ve been in my current house since 2001. Before I moved in, I had bookshelves built in the living room/den and in the third bedroom/office. I also brought with me a few freestanding bookshelves that I’d had in my last home. Those shelves were adequate for a while, but eventually, my library grew beyond capacity. Now, besides the built-ins, I have bookshelves in the guest room, the hallway outside the guest room, and in my bedroom. Not to mention piles on the floor of my office. And also not to mention the boxes of literary magazines that came off shelves to accommodate books that were previously on the floor. I’m swimming in them.

I generally subscribe to the belief that one cannot have too many books, but that assumes that space is expandable infinitely, as if all of the universe were available to me for book storage. There simply comes a time when you run out of room, and I’ve reached that time. (Books aren’t the only problem, I have to say. Where did all those clothes come from? And do I really need all those wine glasses? Plus, what’s with all those coffee mugs?)

If I don’t do something about the books now, someone—who that someone is remains unclear—will have to deal with them when (not if, obviously) I die. (You’ve probably heard about the Swedish Death Cleaning rage; I’m giving it a lot of thought.) So here’s what I’m doing about my book problem.

  1. eBooks/Audiobooks. I own a Kindle. When possible, I buy eBooks. I also listen to books in the car that I get on Audible. I guess those books will “die” with me, as no one else can access them easily, but at least they don’t take up space. (Yes, I feel guilty about feeding the Amazon beast with these purchases, but these are options that fit into my lifestyle neatly.)
  2. Libraries. I’ve rediscovered the library! One book I wanted recently was only available in electronic form from the library, which I thought was ironic, and generally I’m checking out books that I can consult as I’m listening to the audio version, but definitely, the libraries can help relieve my book-acquiring problem. Also, they can be repositories for some books as they come off the shelf at home and look for new homes, although my library only wants books (for its fundraising sales) published within the last two years. That eliminates a lot of the books I would part with willingly.
  3. Selling Books. We have a great used bookstore in my town. They won’t take just any book, but they will take most hardcovers and will pay me for them with store credit. It isn’t much, but it’s something, which is more than nothing. Yes, that means I’ll end up bringing home more books, but it works out to about six books out for one book in, a ratio I can live with that will relieve pressure on the shelving crisis.
  4. BookCrossing. This is the most entertaining option. Take a book from your shelf. Register it at the website to get the book’s particular ID number (not its ISBN). Print a label and add the number. Stick the label inside the cover of the book. Then leave the book somewhere. A finder can then pick up the book and keep it. Ideally, they’ll log onto the website, as instructed by the label, and you can follow the path of the book as it moves from one hand to the next as long as the temporary owners keep the website updated. I released one book several years ago and nothing happened—I have no idea what became of it because whoever picked it up didn’t update the website—but I’m going to do several more in the coming week, so maybe I can stir up some interest. If you find a BookCrossing book, be sure and long on to let the liberator know. I was at a coffee shop today and left a book on a table when I left. A helpful gentleman saw that I’d exited without picking up the book and ran after me with it. I explained what was up and showed him the label I’d put inside. He seemed to have heard of the idea and took the back inside. Perhaps he’ll take the book home. I hope so.
  5. Giveaways. Because I have a growing pile of books that the bookstore won’t buy and the library won’t take, I’ll end up giving them away. Many will end up donated to various organizations, or I’ll give them to individuals, including readers of my blog.
  6. Trash. Sadly, some books in my collection will end up in the trash (or, ideally, in the recycling bin). I’m trying to avoid that, but I fear it’s inevitable.