Archive for February, 2008

World's most beautiful bookstores

Posted: February 26, 2008 in Bookselling

Think your local Borders can top these?

If so, I’m moving to your neighborhood.


Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands



It’s darn tough going back to grad school in your 40s, more so when you also work (albeit part-time) and have three children also in school, also with needs (drat them). If you also think you can dare have any sort of life outside of that, add on the additional impossibility of it all.


I was the one who had the bright idea I could take three courses this semester (two videoconference, for which I drive an hour each way twice a week to Rockford, plus two hours/class of actual lecture time, and one online course). I can’t blame anyone but myself. Friends and family told me, “You’re nuts.” But did I listen?

Apparently not.

I’m taking a course on reference, a course on information sources (still not really sure what that one’s about, but it comes with a lot of obscure acronyms) and, the jewel of the semester, a course in Reader’s Advisory/adult reading.

One course has no tests, no long papers, just short assignments. One course has short papers and a mediumish term paper. The last course has one big, honkin’ cumulative assignment (design an RA department for your library – no problem!) based on a semester’s worth of learning and study online.

Still, that all adds up.

Add in 30 hours of part-time work at my library, a weekly column on things literary, keeping my hand in book reviewing, attending various writing workshops and running an online group for one of them, attending various cultural events in and around the city, trips on retreat, a vague attempt at a social life (mostly with other writers), a course in spirituality, the care and feeding of children and husband AND the other misc. “stuff” that makes up so much of our lives and you have my semester.

Am I begging for pity? Well, kind of. I guess I am.


I did just want you to know I hadn’t died. So now you know. I haven’t died. I’m just dead tired.

How Do You Become a Writer?
By Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Forgive Me

I remember going to hear Joyce Carol Oates read when I was in college. I wanted desperately to be a writer, and I hung on her every word. When she mentioned that she wrote by a window, I noted write by a window. When she said she drank tea, I wrote tea. Whenever I met a real writer, I asked them where they wrote, how they wrote, and when. I wanted to know the rules, how to organize my life in order to succeed.

I know now that every writer makes his or her own rules. The advice I give to beginning writers is to have faith, love the process, and to value writing, to put it in the center of their lives.

Having faith is hard as rejection letters and bills come regularly in the mail. But of my friends and colleagues who studied fiction writing with me at the University of Montana a decade ago, the only ones who have not published yet are the ones who gave up. The rest of us make a living now by writing. (Or writing and teaching.)

Valuing writing is the fun part. Set aside a desk for writing, set aside a day. Spend some money on your favorite tea, an important pen, a book you want to read. Play music, and feel proud when you’ve written a page. Take a walk if you need to. Get a sitter. Surround yourself with objects that inspire you. The rest of the writing life is difficult, and can be heartbreaking. This is what you get: a solitary morning, a cup of coffee, the luxury of bringing words into the world, the joy of a perfect sentence.

Putting writing in the center of your life is also challenging, when so many other important things beckon. Oprah and everyone else tells me I can make time for an exercise routine, but I can’t seem to do it. But living as a writer doesn’t always mean being alone. You can take care of children, or a job, or a spouse while you think about writing. When you see a movie, ask yourself why it is working or not. If you lose interest in a friend’s story, ask yourself what she could have done to hold you. What magazines are you reading, and why? What could be going on with the bank teller and her strange expression? Living your life as a writer is a way of participating fully, but also taking notes as an observer. It’s something that takes practice, but I have found it to be essential. I have been completely stuck in a novel, left it for the day, and then found my answer on the playground or at the library. I am always thinking about my novels.

And, thanks to Joyce Carol Oates, I always sit by the window.


Amanda Eyre Ward is the award-winning author of How to Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

For more information, please visit