“The world is divided between those who stay and those who leave.” Bharati Mukherjee

“The world is divided between those who stay and those who leave.” Bharati Mukherjee

The books that visited me from the public library were mostly ephemeral events in my life; they came, were devoured, were discarded and were ultimately forgotten. Their effects, however, still linger. The hours spent with them — propped open while I ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, walked down the school hallway (I could still see where I was going!), and sprawled on the couch — constantly strengthened my love of reading, not to mention my ability to read. It’s because of those all-too-easily forgotten library books that my apartment is now vanishing beneath the contents of Strand and Barnes & Noble bags. Rarely am I sufficiently grateful for the gifts that the library bestowed on me as a kid, or properly aware of how different my childhood would have been without such a stately, well-stocked public library 10 minutes from home.
Authors and publishers can also teach readers about intellectual property and copyright. ‘We should be educating teens and adults on the impact of their theft on writers’ livelihoods, and we should be talking about valuing creative work,’ says author Melissa Marr, who has sent more than 2,000 takedown notices, most of them for her Wicked Lovely series, in the past two years. ‘And let’s call it what it is. We live in a culture where pirates are romanticized. No Jack Sparrow here. They are thieves. They steal digital goods, and if we stole their digital paychecks, they’d be pissed off. So the argument that it’s not ‘real theft’ because it’s digital is absurd.’
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For writers, this is all such a useful reminder. Yes, move around in a structure. But also float out of that structure. ‘Goodnight nobody’ is an author’s inspired moment that is inexplicable and moving and creates an unknown that lingers. How wonderful that this oddly compassionate moment, where even nobody gets a good night, shows up in the picture book that is the most popular! There is no template, ever. When writing, how do we allow those moments of impulse, of surprise? How do we not censor that kind of leap? (I’d argue for following tangents — for not feeling bound to the topic at hand.) And when to end a story or poem or novel or essay? It’s one of the most common questions at readings: ‘How do you know when it’s done?’

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” Zelda Fitzgerald

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” Zelda Fitzgerald