I’ve been writing poetry, or something resembling that, consistently since I was eleven years old. I’ve always liked words, the energy, the power, and the meanings that all vary. Unlike prose writing, poetry offers up a canvas of possibility in its negative space. I found I was always attracted to its delicacy and ebullience, and how the cadence was always especially important. In college, I completed the creative writing poetry track, which doesn’t mean much at all except that I can tell you that I am a poet. I more or less know what my voice sounds like when I write. I more or less know how to get a poem out of myself. And these are just some of the many steps it takes to attempt to think of yourself as a poet ... continued
National Poetry Month rolls around every April, and every April I think to myself, “I should read more poetry.” Books are lined up on my bookshelf, some on recommendations from others, bought so that maybe this year I will start to read poetry regularly. My battered Norton Anthology of Poetry sits stuffed with post-its and college notations. A used copy of Poetic Meter and Form. A complete Emily Dickinson. Works of T.S. Eliot. Rilke’s Book of Hours. Seamus Heaney’s Opened Ground, a gift from a friend. Wendell Berry, David Whyte, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, all just waiting to be opened and read.
My relationship with poetry has been a winding one. I’m sure as a child my ear for rhythm was awakened through many fine children’s books that use a rhyming structure for their story. But I believe it was L. M. Montgomery, in her Anne and Emily books, that introduced the concept of poetry as a created thing. Who can forget Anne’s obsession with Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott, that led her into the leaky dory and stranded her under the bridge, where Gilbert had to rescue her? Montgomery’s lesser known Emily trilogy (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest) features a main character more autobiographical of Montgomery herself. Emily Starr is a deeply sensitive and creative girl who struggles to develop as a writer and stay true to that pursuit. Following Emily’s journey I saw her use poetry to express her emotions and her imagination, finding the right words to convey the beauty seen around her.
Happy National Poetry Month! This month we are chock full of events and activities. There will be poetry offsite with Heidi Seaborn, a letter writing talk with Rabbi Elana Zaiman, Arabic story time with Laila Taji, Seattle Independent Bookstore Day (more on that below), a signing with Mercer Island High School alumna Caroline Fraser, and more... Check out the ways we are celebrating writing in all forms.
Ready, Set, Read! We are 24 days away from the 5th annual Seattle Independent Bookstore Day. Join us on Saturday, April 27th for a daylong celebration of indie bookstores and the people who make them great—that includes you!
Our schedule is jam-packed:
- Free coffee, donut holes and Mimosas for our 8:00am early bird opening
- Nancy Stewart Story Time for kids at 10:00am
- Ask the Authors: Elise Hooper & Mark Holtzen dispense sage wisdom on all subjects from 11:30am to 1:00pm
- Garth Stein will be our featured celebrity bookseller beginning at 3:00pm
- Happy hour beer & Centioli pizza at 4:00pm
- Live music in the afternoon at 5:00pm
- The famous Island Books typewriters will be out and in use for on-the-spot poetry and letter writing on Island Books stationery
- Take a selfie at our Instagram photo booth, pick up some new ink via temporary tattoos in the Tattly corner, or flex your creativity at our kid coloring/craft table
- Custom-made Island Books cookies in the afternoon
- There will also be special offers running all-day, this day only: Win a Blind Date with a Book: purchases over $29.99 entitle you to a tantalizingly mysterious read $2 greeting card sale 20% discount on our stellar collection of books about . . . bookshere, or ask us for suggestions!
Don't forget about the custom merchandise that will be available this day only. In addition to Island Books shirts (we will be giving away a few, as well as selling them), we'll have limited edition book totes, Indie Bookstore Day shirts, a literary map, literary tea towels, signed books and much, much more.
Get your engines revving!
In July of 2018, I read about fifteen Young Adult (YA) books. I consumed them. Whether on audio, from the library, or the advanced copies from the store, I could not get enough. This was a new development. In high school I read some, mostly Cassandra Clare or Libba Bray, but I was too overwhelmed by my school reading, summer reading, and even winter break reading to read for fun. After my English degree, there was a scheduled reading void. No longer was I told what I “should” be reading. Instead, YA opened its arms to me like a big hug. It was an escape into my emotions and away from my brain through accessible characters with vibrant voices.
It’s that time in March when you don’t know if you need a t-shirt or rain boots (or both maybe) and college basketball begins to take over the TV programming. For those of us less enamored with the Final Four, might I offer up a few suggestions for engaging mysteries that will hopefully keep you just as enthralled as those filling out their office-pool brackets.
First up is the newest from Kate Quinn and a March Indie Next Pick, The Huntress. Quinn is the author of the bestseller and Reese Witherspoon book club pick The Alice Network. Although The Huntress is not a sequel, keep your eye out for a cameo of a main character from The Alice Network. Quinn weaves together the stories of a former British war correspondent turned Nazi hunter, a female Russian bomber pilot, and an aspiring American photo-journalist, whose lives have all been impacted by a Nazi murderer they know only as the Huntress. Quinn delves into the obscure history of Russian squadrons of female bombers, known as the Night Witches, while also taking us on a journey through post-war Europe. This is a fast-paced thriller that kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next, waiting to see when the Huntress would be unveiled.
There is something you should know about me before I begin. My dad is a musician and a trivia buff. Combined, my childhood was full of rockdocs, VH1 Classic music video shows, and late nights playing vinyl. My earliest memories are band practices, and my fondest ones are concerts. Daisy Jones is the girl I dreamed of being since I was old enough to understand what it took to make it in rock and roll. From the first few paragraphs Taylor Jenkins Reid captured my imagination, and I was lost in Daisy’s story.
February was a month filled with surprises and a winter wonderland for the record books. There were snowmen with lopsided smiles on every block, and children giddy with school cancellation sledding down hills. While many of the small businesses on the island struggled with the disruption in everyday business, we wanted to support those around us and do what we could to help ease the Snowpocalypse strain. Despite the challenges, we were proud to remain open every day of the month. We wanted to be a place members of our community could walk to and feel warm and welcomed, so, as customers shook the snow off their boots, we greeted them with coffee, hot chocolate, cider, and tea. As you all know, our community is deeply important to us, and we were happy we could be there.
One of my favorite authors, Taylor Jenkins Reid, has a new book coming out today that echoes the emotional performance Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper from the 2019 Oscars. The tension couldn't help but remind us of TJR's new book. Daisy Jones and the Six is an oral history about a fictional 70s rock band that will leave you breathless. The characters are vivid and enchanting in a way that haunts you long after you close the final pages. When you finish, re-watch that performance—your heart will ache. Our event with TJR is scheduled for Saturday, March 16th, and we have a memorable night planned. Call and reserve your space or purchase your ticket online. The doors open at 5:30pm for the pre-party with a signature cocktail and light appetizers. The event will begin at 6:15pm. We are excited to have TJR on the island again and hope you will join us.
In other news, the Mercer Island Half Marathon takes place on Sunday, March 24th, and we have a team walking around the island once again. We had a great time last year and expect it to be better than ever. If you want to walk with the Island Books team, reach out, and we’ll tell you how to sign up.
We have author events happening all month long with authors like Robert L. Tsai, Ana Maria Spagna and Heather Uplake, and Lauren Danner, and new titles on the shelves including Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, and The Women's Suffrage Movement edited by Sally Roesch Wagner. We always have a surprise waiting for you somewhere; I'm keeping my fingers crossed that in March the surprises come with sunshine instead of snow.
See you in the store,
Robert L. Tsai, a Professor of Law at American University, graciously took the time last week to answer questions regarding his new book Practical Equality. Between his busy schedule of TV appearances and book talks, I am grateful for the kindness he showed in answering my questions. Before we get to those, I want to tell you a bit about how reading his book made me feel.
Since graduating from college, I have been burying my head in fiction like an ostrich, giving my brain a rest from brain-stretching academia. Reading Practical Equality reminded me not only how much I love to learn but also how important understanding your country’s legal system is. I had so many “so that’s why this happens!” or “so that’s what that was all about!” moments while reading his book.
Doug Walsh and I met up in Convivial Cafe, right next Island Books, to discuss his recently released novel Tailwinds Past Florence. It was the Friday before the Snowpocalypse, so while the temperatures were dropping, we laughed about the impending forecast of snow. Luckily, in the friendly surroundings of Convivial, we were able to discuss his worldwide bike trip, the historical inspirations for his book, and what he is working on next.
Tailwinds Past Florence follows a couple’s decision to cycle around the world as a last ditch attempt to save their disintegrating marriage. Edward, an venture capitalist, and Kara, a visual artist, attempt to forge tighter bonds on the epic journey, but are constantly foiled by the manifesting truths of their past together. Edward, ever concerned about returning to his professional career agrees to a contest with an CEO of a venture capital firm that would cut their trip into a sixth of their planned time for a job back in Seattle. As he hurries Kara through countries, circumstances are made tenser by the appearances of time-traveling men, all set on wooing Kara. The height of the action occurs in Florence, where they both must make a decisions about their loyalty, their hearts, and their fate.
A few years ago James handed me a slim paperback. “Here,” he said, “You might like this.” While fantasy and historical fiction and strong female protagonists are usually my thing, all of that in a Russian setting generally isn’t. Still, I liked the title and the cover (books have been chosen for less) and was quickly caught up in the story of Vasya, in a land that isn’t yet Russia, and peopled by very human characters, alongside figures from Russian folk and fairy tales. In fact I liked The Bear and the Nightingale so much that we made it one of our best of 2017
I couldn’t wait to read the second in the series, The Girl in the Tower to find out what happened next to Vasya, which came out in December 2017. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and happily recommended it to everyone who had loved The Bear and the Nightingale.