Book Fair Magic: Casting a reading spell

Scholastic Book Fair posterAs a child, I loved the Scholastic Book Fair. My elementary school’s library was too small to house the Fair books, so we would walk into a classroom full of tables with books stacked as far as my young eyes could see.

Magic awaited me there.

Filling out my list of books, coming back with the money, leaving with an armful of new adventures…one of the most exciting times of the year.

Now I am helping with my daughter’s Scholastic Book Fair, and the magic still lives. Most of the kids take choosing their books very seriously. My daughter did just as I expected and chose about 25 books for her Wish List. Her list, by far, was the longest I have seen. Just like me, she would choose ALL the books if she could. Her face shone with joy as she perused the shelves.

Scholastic Book Fair shelvesSome kids, though, are the polar opposites. Like the young boy who wandered aimlessly around and wrote down only one book in a lackluster manner. He asked me, “Do you have any sports books?” I didn’t think we did, but I went to look.

I found Basketball Superstars 2016. I found the boy and said, “I don’t know if you like basketball, but this is all we have.” He took it from me and very slowly said, “Basketball is my sport.” As he leafed through the book, he got more and more excited. He exclaimed and yelled out names I presume are basketball stars. His buddies came over and got so into passing the book around and turning the pages that I had to warn them to be careful with it because they hadn’t bought it yet!

The Book Fair has changed since I was a kid—the book prices are definitely higher. But the way the Book Fair makes me feel hasn’t changed. Seeing that boy go from zero to sixty once I found just the right book for him?


Scholastic Book Fair table

Book Fair!

Library at the De La Salle College of Saint Be...

Library at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You already know that I believe libraries are magical places. The sense of awe and wonder I felt as a child has never left me, and entering any library—even one I’ve never been in before—feels like coming home.

Book fairs give me that same giddy feeling.

My daughter had her first book fair this week. Until I walked in and saw the stacks of books, I had forgotten all about book fairs. But the moment I entered the library at her school, it all came rushing back. The books—sleek, shiny, new. The covers calling out, “Pick me! Pick me!” The overwhelming desire to plop down on the floor and read forever.


I picked the books for my daughter this year—largely because she, like me, would want EVERY BOOK THERE. Next year I will let her pick her own. By then I hope to have taught her how to read the book jacket and the first page to see if she would really want it. This year, I told her to write down the books she was interested in, and we would get them out of the library to read.

Aside from the sheer magic of the book fair, all the money raised goes to support the school library. It is a major part of their budget, so when you buy a little magic, you enable the library to buy some more magic for their permanent shelves. Buy books to buy more books! It’s like a magic spell all of its own.

Libraries are magic.

Book fairs are magic.

Words are magic.

Go make some magic.


Where I Write

A little while ago, my writing buddy J. Thomas Ross wrote a post asking authors where they wrote. I didn’t have much to say on the topic at the time. After all, I wrote almost exclusively in my “writing office”—which is a fancy name for one corner of the sofa with the detritus of a three-year-old’s play spread around me in the family room.

Not so anymore. In fact, I am writing this in my car while I wait for the library to open. It is gray and rainy, the sound of the rain on the roof threatening to put me to sleep. Cars are good writing spaces, for short times. I wouldn’t want to spend hours writing in the car, but the hour while waiting for the library is comfortable enough.

But my main writing venue these days is the library. I get a fantastic amount of work done in the 6 hours a week my daughter is in preschool. I made the decision before she even began that I would go to the library to work while she was at school, rather than go home and work.

Why? Because by not going home, I could avoid the distractions that come with home: the laundry waiting to be done, the bathrooms needing washed, the rugs needing vacuumed, etc. Even though I work from home often (and have for 5 years), I cannot FULLY focus—those niggling things nibble at the edges of my mind, taking up energy as I push them away.

So I gained focus by not going home. I also gained more time. Instead of driving an extra half-hour round trip to get home and back to pick up my daughter, I drive a 6-minute round trip to the library and back to her school. That’s a lot of time saved!

More than that, I simply like the atmosphere of the library for writing. Since I write YA and middle grade, I head for the YA & Children’s section and park myself in the lone desk at the very back of the section. The stacks behind me are full of wonderful children’s books and I can practically feel the inspiration wafting from them. Perhaps I’m also hoping that I will gain proficiency and skill by osmosis!

“My” desk sits in front of a large window, so I can enjoy an outside view while inside. It is also for some reason always chilly there, but I don’t mind—it keeps me awake! My desk is far enough away from the children’s area that when they have group activities like Story Time, the noise of the children doesn’t bother me at all. Indeed, the sounds of children enjoying books is like soothing background music.

I know many writers work in coffeehouses or Wegman’s. I could not do that on a regular basis (although I have done it every once in a while). While I don’t need silence to write, I have sharp hearing, so I get distracted by people’s conversations nearby, or as they walk by, or any sudden change in the ambient noise level. I also have anxiety issues, which means that my brain is constantly on alert for danger and tends to see it even when there is none. So a place full of people is a drain on my energy and thus my creativity, because I am constantly having to tell my brain to stop it and focus on the writing.

So the library is perfect for me—quiet but not silent, people there but not on top of me, and no household chores weighing on my mind. I am eager to get to “my” desk every day, and always amaze myself with how much I accomplish.

What about you? Where do you usually write—and where’s the strangest place you have ever written?

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