Things that are Priceless

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Two weekends ago, my son and I attended the Maastricht Antiquarian Book & Print Fair. In a holy place of three-piece suits and German pocket watches, copies of James Joyce novels selling for 20,000 Euros, and a floor paved by seventeenth-century tombs, no one expected a stroller.

One man asked me if my son could read yet, elbowing the carrier. Never too soon to start collecting, commented another. People bent and peered in and smiled. The security guard graciously helped me lift the buggy up and down the grand entrance stairwell. How’s Mom? he asked on our way out. My only regret is that we should have stayed longer.

No purchases. No particularly educational moments. Otto fell asleep before we got to the Royal Family’s partial encyclopedia collection, so he couldn’t put on the white gloves and leaf through. I didn’t even crouch to get his photo next to it.

The moral? I don’t know. I’m not saying the place would have been better with more buggies—I liked that we were the anomaly. Nor am I saying that you should let your toddler careen down aisles of unguarded treasures. (I found one unassuming book that looked interesting—no glass case, no plastic wrap—and, upon paging through, also found its price tag: 750 Euros. Step one: set book down gently. Step two: slowly back away smiling.) I guess I’m just saying I’m glad we went.

 

 

*If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll find a woman with the unenviable job of delivering lunch—soup!—to the vendors. I watched her navigate stalls of maps, some of which date back to the 1100s. I also watched person after wandering person—hands behind back, scarf loosely-draped just so—step out in front of her.

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Barrio de las Letras

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A couple weekends ago, there I was minding my own business. Wandering through the Barrio de las Letras in Madrid, past this beautiful brick Trinitarian convent when I got a feeling. And just as I got this feeling, who beside me on the other side of that big brick wall but Miguel de Cervantes.

Trinitarians, according to Wikipedia, are a Christian order established in the twelfth century to pay the ransoms for other Christians kidnapped worldwide. And so, in 1580, this particular convent paid 500 gold coins to ensure Cervantes’s safe return from the hands of Turkish pirates (especially fortunate given that Don Quixote wasn’t published until 1605).

So I stood and I stared and I thought there he is: through that door, past the chapel, down the stairs to a rented-out old storage room owned by a publishing company, behind some books, a few unbound manuscripts, and probably a rejection letter or two, on just the other side of the wall.

Read the full story in The Independent.  If you just want to flip through photos, go here.

 

Oh, and then we bumped into Federico Garcia Lorca.

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Pregnant Writer’s Advantage #2: Distraction, Art for my Son

 

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Happy Friday.

Here’s to finding a remote-controlled racecar on every public park bench this weekend.

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Museum of Four in the Morning

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I don’t usually post links to other people’s things. There’s enough of that going around. This is a beautiful exception: http://www.ted.com/talks/rives_a_museum_of_4_o_clock_in_the_morning.

Maybe it’s because I have a fondness for poets. Maybe this particular one ranks high on charisma and humor. Or maybe it’s because it hit me the way you wish everything in life would, always.

It’s a fourteen-minute TED Talk by Rives about collections, about searching, repetition, pattern, social media. It’s about coincidence. But for me, as a writer, it’s all, every second, about writing. It’s about having a weird dream of the lady you met at the super market that afternoon. Taking that dream and making it a story, and then taking that story with you back to the super market and trying to find the lady.

I promise not to bombard you with future links to other people’s things. A lot falls into my internet B bucket, but A–it just doesn’t happen often.

These Quick Bright Things

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It’s spring, so seek them out.

Find them in your backyard.

Sketch them. Photograph them. Touch them with your fingertips. Squat down and stare.

Think about what they’re doing: what their wind feels like, how their sun shines.

They’re not friends. They won’t advance plot.

They’re details. Micro-environments. Codes.

Beautiful, awkward, leafy, and out of focus. Seemingly unimportant. Let them stand somewhere in your story.

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Holiday Cheer: Believing in Someone’s Vision

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There are a number of things someone could say when you tell them you spent $150 of hard-earned cash on a five-inch-thick dictionary for your living room. There are plenty of questions they could ask. Plenty of sidelong glances. Or they could spend days in the basement and build you an Oak stand on which to display it. One that fits together without any nails or screws, and so it easily collapses to transport across The Atlantic.

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Booked Abroad

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Just remember, in Amsterdam, we collect books in kilometres. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum library. I’m not expecting anything measured by odometer, but I’ll tuck in to some good reading this near-Halloween weekend. Count Bram Stoker (Post by ChristinePSS) and Edgar Allan Poe at the top of the list.

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Poem promotion update: Over three-quarters sold! Only 22 left! Get your twenty-five-cent custom poem here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/165156186/custom-poem-for-25-cents-free-shipping?ref=shop_home_feat.

Frame Story

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Not too long ago, I purchased this 3’x4′ frame at our local consignment store, which happens to be across town. On this sunny day, I walked and I stopped. I walked and I stopped. Last summer we carried a couch from that same store. While the couch was better for breaks, the frame was better for photos. Both were great for thumbs up from some strangers and awkward stares from others. But what the frame was best at was forming stories in my mind about the impromptu paintings I was creating.

Poem promotion countdown: 36 purchased! Only 41 remain. Get yours here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/165156186/custom-poem-for-25-cents-free-shipping?ref=shop_home_feat.

Three Rules of an Artsy Polish Hotel Room

Castle Inn, Warsaw

Castle Inn, Warsaw

1. No trumpeting.

2. No bananas.

3. And for goodness sake everyone, no books in the toilet. Something to live by. Thank you, Castle Inn.

For those keeping track, that’s 33 poems sold, only 44 left!

The Bright Side of your Common Cold

Graffiti in Warsaw

Graffiti in Warsaw

I used to think that getting a cold was a drag, and, don’t get me wrong, my throat’s sore and my head is bumping to my heartbeat. But, it’s raining this wonderful pitter patter, and I’m sitting in bed writing. Bundled up to my chin with my arms out the sides of my comforter poncho. (No, I will not be including a photo.) And I’m not feeling guilty that the dishes aren’t done or that dinner won’t be made. It’s not bothering me in the slightest that the dryer just beeped, and I’m not going to fold anything for days. The common cold: a great excuse to do nothing but write.

Writing Abroad

A couple recent trips made me realize the value of experience. More from Poland & the Amsterdam houseboat to come…

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Just when I thought summer was over…

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I meet this guy. This morning. Under my desk light because the sun is not yet up on my apparently very dirty keyboard.

Our Weirdly Wonderful World: Days One & Two

DAY 1

 

My internet company delivers a bag of microwave popcorn.

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DAY 2

A stranger at the garden center gives me a bagful of books.

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The Languages of Printing

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Printer setup: Step one toward opening my online store.

And though I read the English version, I had 23 Start Up Guide languages to choose from.

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