Sorry, I know this is a community for venting, but I just have to share.
I'm a shelver in a public library district. I was working on a project in our teen section to try and create more shelf space (it's packed) and found...a book written by the librarian from my elementary school. Which I graduated from...20ish years ago now?
NGL, I put that on the "staff recommends" shelf without even reading what it's about. That just made my day happy.
One of the things that Neil Gaiman said when I saw him in June was that (like many writers), writing is how he processes difficult things. How he keeps himself afloat when grief and depression happens.
As I think about it, I realize that I'm not that way. I think for a long time I thought I should be that way, that that was how Real Writers (tm) should react to difficulty. But for me, writing is less a reaction or a coping mechanism and more a barometer. If I'm okay, if I'm at least turning things over in m head, I can write. Writing is just a thing that happens, not something I have to try hard for. But when I'm depressed and stuck and stagnating, my ability to write just dries up. I can't be creative and depressed at the same time. Just can't.
There's a scene in To Kill A Mockingbird where Scout's teacher tells her that she has to stop reading with her father every night. She has never thought one way or another about reading with her dad, it was simply a thing they did. An automatic thing. It's the threatened loss of that thing that suddenly makes it precious. "Until I feared that I would lose it, I did not love breathing," is the line. That's kind of how I feel about writing.
(If you know me from a customers-suck forum, you can skip this, because it's a post I put onto one of those forums about a month ago. I'm reposting it in my own journal so I can find it again.)
At the beginning of July I attended a Quaker conference (not my usual Quaker conference). It was the fulfilment of a volunteer position I took on over a year ago. I (and about a half dozen other people on my committee) planned seven field trips, and were generally points of "local expertise" for out of towners who need to find a doctor (for a nonemergency reason), or a pharmacy, or shoes for their kid because the airline lost their luggage, or whatever. People come from all over the country for this conference, so when it came to my state I was really excited to be able to show people around and bring them to the mountains and just be really excited about all the lovely things there are here.
I am amused enough by this passage in a short story I'm reading to retype it:
"People who change, change into all sorts of things. And every folk knows best the kind that most interests it. We've got an English and Central European tradition, so we know mostly about werewolves. But take Scandinavia and you'll hear chiefly about werebears, only they call em berserkers. And orientals, now, they're apt to know about weretigers. Trouble is, we're thought so much about werewolves that that's all we know the signs for; I wouldn't know how to spot a weretiger just by looking."
"Then there's no telling what might happen if I taught her The Word?"
"Not the least. Of course, there's some werethings that just aren't much use being. Take like being a wereant. You change and somebody steps on you and that's that. Or like a fella I knew once in Madagascar. Taught him The Word, and know what? Hanged if he wasn't a werediplodocus. Shattered the whole house into little pieces when he hanged and damned near trampled me under hoof before I could say Absarka! He decided not to make a career of it."
On June 25th, I worked for four hours in the morning, and then I rode my bike--in record time--from Thornton to Lodo for a Neil Gaiman signing. His last signing tour. And (and!) the only stop on the tour that's in an actual bookstore, and not in a theater or event space. My favorite bookstore and my favorite author. Happy sigh. I sat on the floor in line for about four hours, and then in a hard folding chair for another two hours, then two more hours waiting in line, spending way more time reading books and checking email and talking to people around me than I actually did listening to Neil Gaiman speak. The event space was warm, much warmer than the rest of the bookstore, thanks to malfunctioning air conditioning (and I realized how much time I spend on my bike, because I really didn't find it that hot), but everyone seemed in really good spirits (except for one person who left a nasty note on the TC's Facebook page the next morning; I replied in what I hoped was as reasonable a tone as possible that I thought the person was incorrect in his assessment of the situation). And really, there's way worse ways to spend the day than sitting in a bookstore and reading. I ran into a bunch of people I used to know, from when I used to work there, and it felt nice and familiar and homey. (But then, I suppose the TC has always felt homey with me.) It makes me want to work there again. Maybe someday.
I had him sign American Gods, partly because it's the first book of his that I read, so it always has a special place for me. And partly because (and I'm totally shameless here), it's torn and water stained and coffee stained and I know he likes to see those books come through his line. And he signed Ocean at the End of the Lane, of course, but really only because he had to (I don't personally need multiple signatures of famous people for anyone except maybe Bosstones). I bought Make Good Art, but didn't have him sign it, because that speech--while wonderful--hasn't worked its way into my heart like some of his other stuff has. And of course, I bought all these things even though I forgot that I have a gift certificate to the Tattered Cover at home, so at some point TC will get even more of my money.
He read a bit from Ocean, of course, and renewed my desire to acquire all of the audiobooks performed by Neil Gaiman. Even when he's reading scary things, he sounds calm and comforting. I'm so jealous of his kids, that they got to listen to that every nice of their childhoods (though, of course, my own mom's reading was quite nice). He also answered some questions off of index cards, which the staff had passed out to us before the event started. (There were 1000 people there, and an unknown number of cards, but he only answered like four questions.)
What he said to me, when he saw my copy of American Gods, was, "Any book that looks like it's been read and loved makes me happy." So I basked in the aura of that for a few days (not the thought that I'd made him happy, I know he forgot me six seconds after I left the table. But just that he sounded so nice and pleased and tried to say anything special to me at all, instead of just signing and smiling like he could've done).
So yeah. Met Neil Gaiman. Feel quite happy about it. Other random quotes from the evening:
Neil: I've been keeping track of the number of licensed Doctor Who shirts I've seen on this tour. And it's two.
Neil: Amanda [his wife] likes feelings and stuff. And me being English…and male…umm…
Neil: When someone tells you something [that you've written] doesn't work, they're almost always right. When they tell you why something doesn't work, they're almost always wrong.
Question: What's the best thing about keeping bees? Neil: Having a hobby that can kill you.
Kid One. Looks maybe 15 years old, in a sideways baseball cap and basketball shorts. Skin the color of black coffee, but accompanied by two adults who were more along the lines of milky almond shavings. I'm not sure your relationship with them (foster parents? Adoptive? Aunt and uncle? Grandparents?), but you were all comfortable with each other, scouring the books, suggesting this one or that one, gently teasing each other.
You asked me where the "documentary books" were, already holding a pile of DVDs. I was hesitant about just turning you loose in the nonfiction section, as it's fairly large and not intuitively organized, but when I asked you what subjects you were interested in, all I got was a teenage shrug and, "I dunno. Stuff." So I took you over to our reference librarian. When next I saw you (and I suspect she just did what I'd been hesitant to do, and just threw you straight into deep water in the nonfiction section, because she didn't spend a lot of time picking your brain), you and your parental figures were roaming around, pulling down an impressive number of books off the shelves in all kinds of subjects. When you left, all three of you had stacks of books that took both arms to hold. I tried to recommend specific books, but none of the ones that crossed my mind were on the shelf.
I hope you learn to navigate Dewey. I hope you do not incur late fees on all those books. I hope I see you again.
Kid Two, also a teenager.. Flagged me down and asked me where to find a specific title. Told me this was your first time in the library. You just got your first library card! Welcome! And hooray! I showed you how to search for things on the catalog kiosk. How to tell if the book you were looking for is on the shelf at the branch you're at. It wasn't, so I walked you through how to put in a request. You didn't even know what a call number was, but you were so excited to have a library card. I showed you where your book would have been if we had it on the shelf, so you could maybe find a different book on the same subject. When I saw you later, you were sitting on a couch, trying to get your dad's attention to tell him about your book, while he talked indifferently on a cell phone.
I hope your dad brings you back. I hope your book comes in soon. I hope I see you again. I hope your excitement at having a library card never goes away.