Spread the Word

Over the past two months, an sneaky anonymous artist has been leaving small takeaways in the library where I work.  Typically, we’ll find a small plastic bag on the shelves filled with small magnets made from dichroic glass & a printed message inviting whoever finds them to take them & enjoy.  Patrons have found them too & in general, coming across the packets are a nice little unexpected surprise.  A disruption of craft & charitable feeling into a regular routine.

The whole experience has gotten me thinking about some of the more experimental writing prompts we undertook in my last year of Creative Writing at Mary Wash.  We students were encouraged to think of ways to get our stories in front of people: whether it was fliers we posted in the department hall, mini-books with flash fictions, postcards, or blogs.  The anonymous artists has inspired me to spread some found stories around my little town.  There’s even a sort of romantic element to the fact that we have a working rail station running through town & that anyone could come across my words.

But here’s where I trip myself up: thinking about what to write & to send out into the world.  I ask myself what I would want people to come across & the immediate response is, well, not my own words, maybe a bit of poetry or a collection of famous sayings.  Pardon me, self, but that is not the point of the exercise.  Then I think, oh well, I could root through something I’ve already polished, maybe pull out a snippet or two?  Again, self, this is about spontaneity, not a practiced recitation.  I mean, c’mon, you write a blog with entries you give not much though to.  You can’t think of anything?

The truth is, I can, but I’m nervous.  I work in a library in a small town.  I keep envisioning how one of the Libertarian regulars would react to finding my little anonymous work.  Or one of the homeschool moms.  Or what if one of my illiterate patrons came across it, realized there was nothing they understood, & threw it away.  Or or or or. . .

As you can see, dear Reader, this post is really just a way for me to talk myself into both the act of creating & the act of letting go control.  Because really, that’s the crux of any creative act & it is one I struggle with still.  But when the tension is resolved &, as a result, a stranger sees the world anew, something magical has truly happened.


The turn of season between winter & spring.  The sky is bright but the wind is harsh.  Snow flurries appear & then melt while a songbird sings at dusk.  And I think about the wine label I saw last weekend that seemed to depict my thawing feelings.  The picture was a black-and-white static field with hearts scattered through the negative space.  The persistence of life despite the colorless apathy that drifts through my mind.

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Off the Shelf: The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals

The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals (the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 3)The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals by Jordan Stratford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wollstonecraft Detectives are approached by paleontologist Mary Anning looking to rescue her dog from some blackmailers that want the scientist to authenticate a fake skeleton at the new British Museum. But the quartet’s mission is thwarted by Ada’s imperiously strict grandmother, a doctor whose over-eager with his use of leeches, and odd agents with a connection to the mysterious Nora Radel.

Stratford ups the stakes of his series here, splitting the four girls up & throwing obstacles in the way of their reunion. There’s interesting tension as a result & lets the story develop naturally to make sure that all our characters are on the same page. One shining example is the auction scene, where each person knows the group has a specific goal to work toward, but each has to improvise as one by one their party is thwarted. An elegant scene combining drawing-room drama & sleight-of-hand ensues. Unfortunately, due to constraints of the page count (I imagine) some action takes place off-page & leads to more exposition than usual, but Stratford covers this with word games & introductory logic puzzles for his young readers.

As an adult reader, I am still fascinated by the narrative acrobatics the author employs to skate over some of the more scandalous real-life aspects of his characters. Ada’s intractable mother is still a threat to the story & the presence of Allegra is explicitly mentioned as a problem as a result, but Stratford still manages to steer clear of the complication that Claire presents. (Claire is Allegra’s real-life mother, but in the story is still barely a teenager & has never met Lord Byron & also, this is a book for kids so there’s nothing even approaching sex-and-romance.) And I’m very intrigued by the included preview snippet for the next book in the back, which promises the appearance of Medora Leigh. (Really?! REALLY? How are you going to explain that one in your historical notes, sir?) Are you equally intrigued, dear Reader? If so, join me in speculation & try out the series.

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Off the Shelf: Will Save the Galaxy for Food

Will Save the Galaxy for FoodWill Save the Galaxy for Food by Yahtzee Croshaw

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An action-y, sci-fi satire that follows a hapless space pilot whose been monetarily persuaded into impersonating an infamous writer for a spoiled brat’s birthday. Said pilot’s get-rich-quick scheme quickly spirals out-of-control as plenty of characters with personal grudges come out of the woodwork to settle their grievances with the newly-located “writer”.

Pros: a tighter narrative feel than Croshaw’s earlier works, a demented family-road-trip theme that recalls Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby, fun with pulpy genre tropes, good world-building (w. deconstruction of said world-building), & a strong satisfying ending.

Cons: the same three females that are in everything done by Croshaw (the Shrew, the Idealist, the Romantic), a setup telegraphed from a mile away, missing the high-stakes horror of the mundane that Croshaw excels at, leaning so hard on the story’s verbal equivalent to “psycho bitch” that it starts to get uncomfortable.

In short, entertaining if you’re a fan (I read this in one night) but not the place to start if you’re new to Croshaw’s stuff–that would be Jam.

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