April 28, 2012

When in Doubt. Be Bookish.

My Workspace | Infested

So, I had a bad night.  It may be due to the picture to your left where tissues are crowding my mug of raspberry tea and my Downy napkin poetry.  I’ve been sick with a cold for just two short days and yet, I’m a cosmic mess.  At least tissues and napkins are pulling double time: snot and words.  Hopefully the two are not blurring one another.  Due to my lack of composure during creative writing discussions (which was more so the reason for my no good, very bad day) I took a mild trip to the bookstore.  By mild I mean I only purchased one book.   Quailridge isn’t exactly the place to go when you only want to purchase one book, it’s the place to go when you want to become a serial book killer.  It’s an instant mood lifter, it’s like the mood ring of bookstores – you walk in and you’re instantly violet-blue.  See the mood ring manual here.

I did the usual: ran my fingertips along the hardcover spines, through F,G,H,I and then poetry, travel, literary journals.  I looked through the card section, found quotes for friends in other hemispheres.  I cheered myself right up from that crying jag.  I joke with my friends that when I’m pregnant my husband will have to run out and get books, not tacos, or pickles.  Maybe a book on pickles.  Do they have such a thing. Today, I bought a book on birds (typical).

Let me introduce to you, The Conference of the Birds (retold and re-illustrated) by Peter Sis. I have a thing about bird books, or the word bird in titles.  I also have two birdish tattoos, and a nickname of “little bird.  It’s kind of my thing; birds and books.  Any title with “birds” or “birdies” usually lends itself right to the register.  This book spoke to me from clear across the room.  It was face-up towards me, it’s printed on this unbelievable grid paper, and the whole back sleeve is birds.  It didn’t take me long to designate this book, “the one” and marry it right on the spot.  In this case, I’m polygamous. This book is amazing.

If you didn’t already know, I’m obsessed with Shaun Tan books.  If anyone in Australia wants to send me his new sketch journals, I will not be opposed.  I own every single one (The Red Tree is in my nephews room though because I gave it to him for a holiday not even thinking it wasn’t very childish. It’s actually quite depressing).  Since my love affair started with Tan in Australia, I have yet to find illustrations, or illustrated books for adults that measure up to Tan.  I think in color, and oddness, The Conference of Birds matches. Just check out some of the images that Penguin gave as an excerpt to NPR.

I was delighted to find this book.  It only takes one page of something delicious to perk a bookish girl up (boys take note.  Maybe read the little diddy “Date a Girl Who Reads” so you can know the truth about love and devotion). Once I did some research, I found that last year Sis was on NPR “All Things Considered” to introduce his dream world of birds to adults, not children. Anywho, that’s not really why I’m writing. I never wrote a blog about how wonderful my Month of Letters was in March and Claire reminded me to blog about it.  A month of letters was a really lovely way to get to know bloggers out there and realize how your brain works in the stream-of-concious.  I often stream-of-concious for fiction and poetry exercises during my daily writing, but I don’t often enough write about my own life this way.  It’s interesting to decide what you’re going to write to a stranger, or how you’re going to present yourself, or if you’re just going to write about the glass in front of you and the orange eye make-up you’re wearing that day.  I wrote a lot of letters about coffee and food.  I was almost always hungry when I started writing.  I filled every first letter with the same note as well:

It's in my notebook called, "Bad Experiments" based on a post-it note I found.

“For it is said, you know, that a letter will always seek a reader; that sooner or later, like it or not, words have a way of finding the light, of making their secrets known” (Kate Morton, The Distant Hours).

I think there’s something about the honesty in writing letters that you don’t get through an email.  How easy is it to just slide your pinky to the delete key and let everything go blank again, start fresh.  With a letter, unless you feel like digging and scraping your pen across a page (who writes in pencil other than Nikki Finney anymore), it’s a lot more work to delete ink than the georgia font on the screen. I like letters because I always feel like myself when I write them.  I’m never pretending to be someone else because I know if I do, then it’s all fake.  In letters I can scrawl my bad, loopy, half-trying-cursive handwriting, my unknown and aggressive commas.  (The page looks like people are on the comma egg hunt).  My bad spelling and lack of acceptance of the “i before e” rule.  I tend to be the mess that I am when it comes to letters.  Usually, the blog world doesn’t see that mess because I try to focus (sometimes it comes out though, like this blog, it can’t be restrained). It wasn’t just me who celebrated the art of hand-writing, but tons of ladies wrote me back.  Here is what came of that:

My best friend Sars sent a montage of birds, her wedding, and New Zealand. She’s the one doing 365NZ.
She also sent a cat card.
Katie sent me an ugly doll card (totally not knowing I had a keychain). Anna sent me a card on stationary I almost bought two days before I received her card. And Chris drew me a bouquet.

Muzette's Tiger and my favorite drawings by Claire's two children.

Emerson Graduate School - Red Letter from Katie B. that turns into an envelope. All stuck into my 2012 Book.

Whitney is not only a darling human-being with passion, she sent me a magazine creation. It was lovely.

These are assorted letters. One is my to-do list with letter writing on it. One post card of a famous tiger. One fashion card. Two child drawings that are both hilarious, and wonderful. Pink trees in the upper right. Thank you to Claire, Muzette, and Chris(tina) for these.

Two out of Three from Claire. We're going strong.

Thank you to Claire, Jen, Whit, Muzette, Lauren, MyMeanderingMind, Riki, TraceyChrissy, Ever, Kate, Katie, Kristine, Cindy, Chris, Sars and Anna.  I got more cards than this.  Haley sent me this rad owl card that I unfortunately have misplaced.  I think my dad moved it from the kitchen counter where I last saw it.  It was very hippie Harry Potter, as she is.  In fact, I think I just described her in three words.  Thank you to everyone who participated with me, or helped me to create a global community of letter writing/penpal-dom. It’s a revolution, get on the bus.

46 comments so far.

46 responses to “When in Doubt. Be Bookish.”

  1. maedez says:

    How about just “be bookish”? 🙂 That’s my motto. Seriously, though, this is a wonderful post.

  2. Sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather. I totally understand your lifting up your spirits at the bookstore. Some gals go to the lingerie or makeup department, others head to the bookstore. I’m with YOU. Hope you’re feeling better.

    • Cassie says:

      Thank you dear. I am feeling MUCH better. Only a three-day cold. I worked out this morning and everything so I’m back to my normal routine. I think the bookish gals are the best ones. 😉

  3. nothing makes me feel better than a new book, too. buying only one book is showing remarkable restraint. i looove peter sis. i have this great picture book he did called “the wall” about his life growing up in communist czechoslovakia.(not many birds in that one, i’m afraid.)

  4. zettew says:

    Hey Cassie!!! I have to confess that your last letter has been staring at me from my coffee table for the last two and a half weeks – sadly, so have a lot of other things – I’ve been deep into my genealogy research, and have let some things slide. BUT, We have two weeks off (non-traditional school schedule), so my lil heart and I will be doing tons of fun things, and finding cool stationary is on our list. I can’t wait to write you back! 🙂

    Hope you feel better soon!


    • Cassie says:

      Totally fine, Muzette! I’m sure I will be slow at times if we keep up with each other. 🙂 How interesting – genealogy research. I remember you writing about that – you’ll have to let me know how it’s going. You should write a book about it! Are you related to anyone really interesting? I bet you are, everyone is right? Six degrees of separation.

  5. Bea says:

    I am so pleased you found recovery in a new “bird” book, and I just love all the penpal pictures. Great blog.

  6. Great post! Hope you’re feeling better. 🙂
    As for the new Shaun Tan sketch journals, sure, I’ll just buy it with that money I don’t have and then send it with my homing pigeon 😛 Are these only available down here in Australia or something?

    • Cassie says:

      I can’t seem to find either of the two in America. The only book America has of his is The Arrival anyhow.

      I wish I had a homing pigeon. Atleast you’re cool and poor…not just poor like me. I’ll have to attach wings to my cat.

      • Oh wow, how odd?! Wonder if you can get it online? There’s a few aussie websites that might have it? Goodness only knows how they’d send it though, we are a bit backwards in this country from time to time… 😛
        Haha, how fun is being poor? 😛 But seriously, I haven’t been poor like this since my uni days (so like…2010…), and I forgot how easy it is to live off practically no money once you adapt yourself to it. Once I am earning decently again I am going to start using the money to build up savings and finally get off this pris-sorry, island, and see the rest of the world 😀 In the meantime I’ll just have to attach a camera to ye olde homing pigeon. Poor thing’s going to fall out of the sky soon…

        • Cassie says:

          I’ve looked online and Amazon UK won’t deliver US I don’t think. It’s all very strange. I have friends in Australia – I will just have to send them money and get them to buy it and ship it to me – shipping is the worst part – you’re right! BAH! I will have to look at Aussie bookstores and see if they carry it. The only store I saw it in in Aus was in Cronulla on the beach strip – there’s this cute stationary store surrounded by markets that I loved.

          You’re right about poorness. You remember right away how to manage money on that budget as soon as you go back to it. Where would you like to go when you leave Australia?

          Your homing pigeon sounds like an extra strength one – I’m sure he/she can handle it. 🙂

      • Oh how annoying? You’d think considering Amazon is in both countries…it’s not like they’re stealing competition from each other? How weird. I know there are a few aussie bookstore sites, such as Booktopia and Fishpond (I think their websites are just that, with the .com.au bit on the end…google probably knows better than me though), those sites might have something. That store in Cronulla sounds cute, though. I have only been to Cronulla once and I can’t remember why (I live on the other side of Sydney, up north a little bit).

        When I leave Australia, hmm, I think I kind of want to go everywhere? UK first, to meet most of my family, find my birthplace, look into my family history etc. Then Europe, as I have a few friends scattered across Europe. Then after that, everywhere else, US, parts of Asia and South America, Canada, all sorts of places. Oh and I guess I should go to NZ considering it’s right there next to Aus and it looks so amazing there. And they have the best accent ever (except for maybe Scottish people).

        So where else have you been apart from Aus? Did you visit many other places when you were here?

        And you’re right, I do often catch my homing pigeon working the treadmill and doing weights like you wouldn’t believe. Crazy pigeon.

        • Cassie says:

          It is really strange about Amazing, not sure why they do that.

          A few of my closest friends live in NZ – it’s beautiful from the pictures I’ve seen. I have an Aunt in North Sydney, she owns a quilting shop there. Definitely been around to your side. 🙂 I can totally understand wanting to discover a bit of family history, I feel like people are always going to the UK to do that. My next spot is the Grand Canyon, then NZ, then South Korea. I have to do a lot of saving though.

          I visited Queensland (Cairns) and I lived half in Sydney, half in Canberra. I really lived in Canberra but all my relations (friends and family) are in Sydney and Cronulla’s my favorite beach so I came “home” a lot.

          I ran on the treadmill this morning at the gym, saw a few pigeons. They’re mighty little things.

      • Yeah, a couple of my high school friends moved to NZ after we finished school oh so many moons ago, and the photos they have sent me look amazing. To be honest I think when I visit NZ I’m going to struggle not to have the LOTR theme song in my head! 😛

        I guess a lot of people’s family histories seem to end up back in the UK eventually (especially here in Australia they do). I have this feeling I will be able to go back a long way with my history – I hope so. I would love to go to the Grand Canyon, that looks amazing. It’s a shame travelling costs so much money, huh?

        I love how everybody who visits Qld from overseas winds up in Cairns. I’ve never been to Cairns to be honest, I think I’ve only been as north as Brisbane (that was warm enough for me). Ahhh good old Canberra…I had a friend that lived there for a few years, so I have spent plenty of time there. But I spent my childhood growing up in Western Sydney, then moved to the Central Coast just north of Sydney in my teens, so Sydney is always going to be my home city, I guess. I love Melbourne too – such a cool city!

        I bet the pigeons were trying to show off to impress you, weren’t they? Walking backwards and all sorts. Maybe doing the moonwalk on the treadmill.

        • Cassie says:

          Haha, they were trying to impress me with their feathers. All the old ladies we’re crooning. 🙂

          Everyone does go to Cairns – it was packed. I went to the rainforest and out on the reef. I feel like tourists seem they need to go the reef or something. I’m not sure what it is exactly! I loved it though, you need to visit there. I realized while I was in Australia how much of my own country I haven’t seen. I really need to push myself to visit more in America than just going to do more overseas.

          Sydney is a nice home, I think your parents chose well. You’ll have to write blogs when you discover the histories of your family. I would love to read that.

      • Sounds like me – I have only been parts of Qld, NSW, ACT and Victoria, and I haven’t touched the other states and territories in Australia, so I still have a lot of my own country to see as well. Having said that, there is a great big desert full of nothing in the middle of Australia so…that cuts out a lot.

        Yeah, I think they chose pretty well on the whole, I am definitely glad I grew up where I did. Glad we moved to the coast when I was a teen, too, because I kind of love the ocean.

        I will definitely write blogs about my family history when I do discover it. I have a distinct feeling there are all kinds of weird and wonderful stories lurking in my family history, just waiting to be rediscovered and told again. I’m just wondering how far back I can track it – I know the Watson family line has a crest and motto (in Latin) that dates back to approximately 1200 years ago. Which kind of boggles the mind.

        • Cassie says:

          I think you definitely have an out with that giant uninhabitable landscape in the middle. 🙂 I love the ocean as well and it’s easy to love the ocean in Australia because it’s everywhere. That’s what Canberra felt so weird because I was like, “Shouldn’t there be water somewhere near here?” And there was only the lake right next to Uni where we would walk to go to Trivia Night.

          Your family crest/history sounds awesome. 1200 is nuts. I wish I could go overseas and track my history as well, but I’m not sure I would even know where to start.

  7. Love the bird book, what a wonderful uplifting antidote to a Spring cold. Sorry to keep recommending, it seems this weekend I must, but just received ‘Sightlines’ by Kathleen Jamie that I ordered yesterday and thinking of writing about birds, you might enjoy this, she is described as “a sorceress of the essay form” birds on the cover, essays entitled ‘The Gannetry’ and ‘The Storm Petrel’ check it out.

    Wow, the letters are so creative and imaginative and special, such a great idea and such a wonderful way of communication that we have all but lost, love that you inspired so many to participate and gave of yourself to do it. Books, letters, I’m already an addict 🙂 and your doodles and scrawls clearly have wings and need to take flight now and then. Thanks for sharing how the challenge went! Bonne sante 🙂

    • Cassie says:

      I will totally have to check that out. I’m going to have the world’s most vast library of bird books, and bird titles. It’s kind of insane. The funny part is all of my favorite female short fiction writers have birds in their titles; Lorrie Moore, Lauren Groff, Megan Mayhew Bergman – I think it’s a sign.

      I loved the letters – they were so creative. Even if someone didn’t have something crafty to give, they had wonderful handwriting and/or doodles. It was great. The stationary was my favorite part because it was all so interesting and yet I loved every little card and paper-type. 🙂

      Of course, I made a few long-term penpals along the way, cough cough. We’re both addicts here.

      • Worked as a volunteer in our little English library this weekend and as well as a couple of books I came home with and watched last night ’84 Charing Cross Road’, couldn’t help thinking that this is the film/book that goes with your challenge, I had never seen the film before, but the book definitely and Charing Cross Road, absolutely, it used to be a favourite haunt when I lived in London, sadly many of the bookstores have disappeared today.

        • Cassie says:

          I will have to read/watch this. I wonder where I can get it, or if my local library has it. PS. how cute are you volunteering at the library. I love that. I will google the movie now and see if I can find it.

          • When she received the book of poems it made me cry, couldn’t believe it – such a sop 🙂 Now you have to watch it. I think your Mom will like it too. The book will definitely be in a library, it must be.

          • Cassie says:

            Well if it made you cry, I’m going to be a blubbery mess! BAH! I will have to look right now at the County Library website.

  8. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve heard so much about Quail Ridge Book Store but I’ve never been there. I’ve never been to Raleigh in fact. 🙁 Colds this time of year are the worst. I hope you’re better soon.

    • Cassie says:

      You should visit and stop by. It’s a really lovely bookstore and so well organized. And thank you for the wishes in wellness – just a dry cough and a somewhat stuffy nose now. I’m getting there!

  9. jingersnaps says:

    Man, I love writing and receiving letters. I tried to start a penpal thing with a friend in Colorado after we moved, but it all fell apart rather quickly. I need to get some new people to start it up again!

  10. hannahkarena says:

    I love Shaun Tan too! I was introduced to him at a NYC lecture that featured him and Neil Gaiman (uh, amazing?) three summers ago and he even signed my copy of The Arrival. It was my first real introduction to graphic novels and I totally read the whole thing when I was waiting in the (very long) line to meet him.

    • Cassie says:

      Isn’t he amazing?! I’m so jealous you actually got to meet him. I would have been so awkward, so, so, so awkward. It’s like meeting my illustration idol. Have you read The Rabbits? John Marsden wrote it, but Shaun Tan illustrated – it’s wonderful. I mean they’re all wonderful, but ya know.

      I’ve been reading way more graphic novels thanks to him too!

      • hannahkarena says:

        I didn’t know enough about him, at the time, to be awkward. I was kind of like “I’m sure you’re great, because you’re friends with Neil Gaiman, but you’re a NO NAME compared to him,” so I acted like it was nbd when he chatted with me about the meaning of the stamp he was putting on my book etc. (I’ll have to take a picture and send it to you).

        Haven’t read any of his other stuff…will have to look into it! My favorite graphic novel is Fun Home–the drawing and story is AMAZING. Totally recommend that!

        • Cassie says:

          Oh my gosh, please please please send me the picture! Read The Rabbits, and The Red Tree and Tales from Outer Suburbia, and Lost & Found. They’re all all all amazing. What was the meaning? Do you remember?

          I am going to look up Fun Home right now and see if I can’t get a copy – thanks so much for the recommendation.

          • hannahkarena says:

            I’m going to have to look at the stamp to remember completely, but basically he was explaining why he was signing his signature in another made up language–the language the stamp was decorated with, and the language that was used throughout the book. I talked with him about what I thought his book meant, and he liked my idea–can’t remember it completely now–but said basically he was inspired by the idea that people look a lot like their pets.

          • Cassie says:

            Haha I love that because it’s so much more than what he said and yet he just said that “inspired by the idea that people look like their pets.” He’s wonderful. I super googled him in Australia because I became ridiculously obsessed with his work. I’d love to see the stamp – so jealous. 🙂

  11. What a cool post. Thanks for sharing.

  12. LOVE ‘when in doubt be bookish’ such good advice. hope the cold is short lived!

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Hi, I’m Cass

I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.

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