I know. (I’m a writer and a stranger just did it for me.)
I’m such a big fan of libraries that I once tried to start a hashtag. #LibraryKid felt like something that every adult who had ever been called quirky would jump onto, telling stories about being bullied or too small or too rich or too big or too brown or too weird or (like me) too proudly Lithuanian for anyone in their hometown to truly befriend them; finding succor and strength in the stories on the shelves of their school or town library. Books offered escape, they offered alternate horizons, they offered acceptance and truth.
I grew up in Texas. Most of the locally born adults couldn’t even pronounce the name of my parents’ country — they thought it was a religion: Lutheranian. I hid in the library because the shelves held proof that somewhere (though maybe not in Texas) there were people who knew all about geography and who cared to spell words correctly. Many of the books that I enjoyed had elaborate maps in the front pages, with place names even more arcane than Lithuania.
I grew up to be a writer. The path was winding and strange — much like the feeling when you try to read books in alphabetical order by author’s surname rather than by subject or tone. I did that for a while, trying to snake my way through the science-fiction shelves. Asimov, Atwood, Banks, Bradbury, Cherryh, Clarke, Dahl, Donaldson, Ellison…
I did it again with “regular” fiction (which was what the Texas librarian called it): Andrews, Blume, Christie. And then I tried sci-fi again, starting from Zelazny. This self-identified bookworm wanted to eat the whole library.
My first fiction collection came out this year (2023) from a tiny publisher in Santa Barbara. Borda Books was a delight to work with in editorial, going over the book many times and bringing me writer-pleasing questions like “Are you sure you want that many semi-colons? Perhaps you prefer an M-dash here?”
But as a small press, their distribution is pretty much the bookstores in their town. They had told me this before I signed with them; I thought I was prepared. I had been warned that any readings would likely be drummed up by me, a book in hand, meeting a bookstore owner. It had been explained to me that I would bring the book and…