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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Routines of Writers

I recently ran across this article The Daily Routines of Famous Writers by Maria Popova. Just about everyone who enjoys reading thinks about writing at some point. Many of us make resolutions, we are going to write so much every day, or every week, or set aside regularly scheduled time, or similar. Many of us don't get around to establishing or keeping the routines that will keep us writing.

It is worth contemplating how accomplished writers accomplish writing. Popova calls our attention to E. B. White who made the critical observation:

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.
Eventually a writer …
… must sit down and get the words on paper, and against great odds. This takes stamina and resolution. Having got them on paper, he must still have the discipline to discard them if they fail to measure up; he must view them with a jaundiced eye and do the whole thing over as many times as is necessary to achieve excellence, or as close to excellence as he can get. This varies from one time to maybe twenty.
Many of the writers Popova quotes have a daily routine that involves physical exercise as well as time spent writing. I got a kick out of Kerouac:
I try to do nine touchdowns a day, that is, I stand on my head in the bathroom, on a slipper, and touch the floor nine times with my toe tips, while balanced. This is incidentally more than yoga, it’s an athletic feat, I mean imagine calling me ‘unbalanced’ after that.
Maya Angelou seems to have found a balance between the solitary work of writing and being more social among other people:

I have kept a hotel room in every town I’ve ever lived in. I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty.

I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop — I’m a serious cook — and pretend to be normal. I play sane — Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I prepare dinner for myself and if I have houseguests, I do the candles and the pretty music and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morning. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cruelest time you know, to really admit that it doesn’t work. And to blue pencil it.

We have a number of books in the library on how to write. One recent classic is Steven King's On Writing. I'm no great fan of King, but On Writing demonstrates how well Stephen King understands his craft.  It makes enjoyable reading, and useful reading for would be writers.


Janet Evanovich has written an excellent and entertaining description of how she puts a story together and gets it written. It is good on lateral thinking and how to put together what you see and hear around you. It is fun to read and specific to her stories, but it could also be used almost as a primer: How I Write.


For poets, and would be poets, I highly recommend The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry, a man of many accomplishments. It is a lilting and passionate guide to poetry and the varieties of poetry. Near the end of the book Fry says a few words about the process of writing under the heading:
Ten Habits of Successful Poets that They Don't Teach You at Harvard Poetry School, or Chicken Verse for the Soul Is from Mars but You Are What You Read in Just Seven Days or Your Money Back
Of poetic vices Fry says:
Laziness is the worst vice a poet can have.

For more on the craft and process of writing see the earlier post on this blog by Annette K. Tools of the Trade.

Nell M.

CATEGORIES: Nell M. , Poetry , Writers , Writing
POSTED: 5:24:00 PM |

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Good Health is More than a New Year's Resolution

Jillian Michaels. Atkins Diet. The Zone. Richard Simmons. Hatha Yoga. Grapefruit Diet. Everyday there’s news about health and wellness, “eat this, not that,” and too much of a good thing may – or may not – really be a good thing. With all this mis/information, how is the discerning inquirer to remain discerning? Fortunately, MCPL provides a portal to several great resources to aid in your quest for tips to lead a healthy lifestyle....year-round!

Before delving into “the fountain of youth” to good health, you should know that you can’t trust everything you read; after all, millions of consumers get health information from magazines, TV or the Internet. Some of the information is reliable and up-to-date; some is not. How can you tell the good from the bad?

Evaluating Health Information is compiled by the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. Links include tutorials on how to search for general health information, information pertaining to a specific condition, related topics (e.g., “health literacy” and “evidence-based medicine”) and links to professional organizations that promote health awareness. There’s also a great link on understanding medical research and how it affects you, Mister or Mrs. Educated Consumer. :-)

Once you have a grasp on what makes a health information resource credible, the next step is to dig deeper into a topic that interests you. This involves searching the professional literature and evaluating the latest research. MCPL’s portal has several links to resources that you can access from home. Some may require you to enter your library card number and PIN; there is no charge to you, the Increasingly Discerning Inquirer, for these services.

Don’t forget to check out our libraries’ books, videos and DVD collections! You’ll find health-related materials between the call numbers 610-618, depending what specifically you’re looking for (e.g., 613 = diet/exercise; 618 = pregnancy).

So delve in – for your health, in 2013 and beyond! :-)

CATEGORIES: Health , Andrea C.
POSTED: 8:00:00 AM |

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Winter is Coming. Books for a Cold, Winter's Day.


Winter is coming and some books are best read on a cold, blustery day or night. The Game of Thrones books that I have recently been devouring have their fair share of snow and ice scenes but I have always thought that any book by Charles Dickens is best read in the winter. There is something about the despair and struggle of his characters to a better life that makes me think of winter.

So here are some books that will make you cozy up to the fire place with something hot to drink.

Picture Books

The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett. A fun story where several animals try to squeeze themselves into a mitten. Will they all fit inside?

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. A delightful book in rhyme describing what snowmen do at night while everyone is asleep.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. What every kid hopes to wake up to. The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. On a cold, winter night many animals gather to party in the cave of a sleeping bear. But what happens if the bear wakes up?

Kid's Chapter Books and Nonfiction

7 Professors of the Far North by John Fardell. Sam finds himself involved in a dangerous adventure when he and his new friends set off for the Arctic to rescue kidnapped professors from a mad scientist.

White Star: A Dog on the Titanic by Marty Crisp. Sam, a passenger on the Titanic, volunteers to help care for the dogs in the ocean liner's kennel and becomes fast friends with the Irish setter of the ship's owner.

I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer by Carole Weatherford. True, dramatic story of Henson's journey with Robert Peary to the North Pole.

Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears Will Never Be Neighbors by Elaine Scott. No penguin has ever lived at the North Pole, nor any polar bear at the South Pole. Find out why in this lively and informative book.


Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn. What is more entertaining than a winter scavenger hunt in New York City? This story is told in the alternating voices of Dash and Lily.

Shackleton's Stowaway by Victoria McKernan. My feet were cold the entire time reading this book. The tragedies and triumphs of a stowaway aboard Shackleton's ship Endurance during his 1914 Antarctic expedition.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.

Trapped by Michael Northrup. Seven high school students are stranded at their New England high school during a blizzard. Will they survive?


Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A snowstorm provides the backdrop for this story of the murder trial of a man accused of killing a local fisherman in December 1954.

Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Love alternate timelines? Try this murder mystery set in the imaginary Alaska Jewish homeland.

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Alaska, 1920. A childless couple builds a child out of snow. The next day the snow child is gone and in its place they see a blonde-haired girl running through the woods. Who is she?

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Love locked-room type mysteries? A journalist in Sweden goes to investigate the disappearance of a girl 40 years ago for her grieving uncle.

Happy winter reading!

CATEGORIES: Books , Winter , Children's Books , Teens , Reading , Susan M.
POSTED: 11:07:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007