The Quiet Beauty of Library Cards

Beginning with the not-so-quiet command from the Chicago Public Library, DO NOT LOSE THIS CARD, I have to wonder . . . what’ll happen if I lose this card? And did they know way back then that typing in ALL CAPS would some day be considered shouting? I mean, my gosh. Quiet voices people.

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Love the paper airplanes covered with words. Look closely. Made from paper from the card catalogue? No? An index, maybe? Far more interesting than a plain-piece-of-paper paper airplane. I have a scene in my next book about paper airplanes made from the pages of a book. 

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And then there’s this. From a time when familial status followed you everywhere. Wonder why Mrs. English needed goggles. To spy on the family living on the other side of the number 19? And, okay, fine. Maybe it’s technically not a library card. But she did check something out . . . AFTER having to disclose her marital status and the quantity and age of her three children. Although, I’m glad she didn’t give the precise dates of birth for her two dependent children. Because why is that important? They’re just goggles.


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Love that the lawless vandal seeking to destroy public property doodled a girl with the same physical aesthetics of the time. Barbie made her début at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. I’d love to see the dates further down the card because I think Barbie was on the mind of the criminal who committed this senseless act of fashion graffiti against the library filing system. I mean, my gosh. The card clearly had to be cancelled after THAT happened.



What is this world coming to . . . people doodling on an envelope.

I wonder if the woman drawn on the card enjoyed reading Gulliver’s Travels. By the expression on her face, I think not. And I wonder if Barbie was ever issued a library card. She probably was. That chick’s done it all.

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Okay, so this next one’s a bit odd. November 14, 184- something. I can’t make out what that number is. But it’s a good thing no one drew a Barbie face on this Pennsylvania Hospital Medical Library Privilege Certificate. If you read the fine print at the bottom, penalties were stiff back then.

Lessons from the Pennsylvania Hospital? Do what the librarian tells you. Librarians are badass.


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I love this next one. I’d hang it on my wall if I could. The colors, the cascading shapes the date stamps make. There’s a quiet beauty found in simple instructions.


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And what’s this? A librarian in a library made a library card about a library?

How meta.


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But seriously, really. This next one? Not lying: If I were a librarian, I’d spend like ALL DAY trying to figure this one out.

No. 306?

No . . . maybe No. 307 is better.

It’s ruled like No. 306, but with BLUE lines . . . Hm.

Maybe I should go with No. 311. No. 311 doesn’t have lines. But wait. Do I want lines?


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Not much to say about his next one except THANKS, Peabody Visual Aids. I was wondering what the


was trying to tell us.

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So enough about how the system works.

Let’s look at this next one: Camus, Albert. Born 1913.

Errrrrr, ummmm, well. Golly gee. I almost feel bad for the poor chap. Seems someone went in with a blue pen to update the card . . .

Know this: Librarians are thorough.


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This final library card is my favorite. Why? Because Jerome David S. wrote one of my all-time favorite books. Like, EVER. I even named my first son after the main character in the book referenced on this card. (First daughter? She’s named after Jane Austen’s Emma.)

The quiet beauty of this library card?

The brief, blissful moments of happiness I feel every time I look at it. The feeling of urgent importance in the words DO NOT DISCARD. Because this library card, this quiet, beautiful library card – unlike the blue ink on the ill-fated Albert Camus library card – let’s me pretend this great writer is still alive.



Heard about the 85K Writing Challenge?

IMAGE: 85K Writing Challenge ParticipantHeard about the 85K Writing Challenge?

The 85K Writing Challenge began as a small Facebook group, running our first 85K during the first 90 days of 2016. Our goal was simple. Write 85,000 words in 90 days – January through March.

Writing 85,000 words in 90 days requires a commitment to write about 1,000 words (four typed pages), every day, for three months. Of course, many days, writers will write more than 1,000 words, setting themselves solidly on track to complete the challenge in the time allotted. Busy life? Can’t write every day? The 90-day time frame gives writers plenty of time to catch up when distractions and other commitments interrupt.

Still a grassroots effort, in 2017, we’re growing; expanding our program from a 90-day writing challenge to a comprehensive 12-month writing system.

What a year looks like on the 85K Writing Challenge:

Beginning in January and ending in December, the yearlong 85K Writing Challenge moves through a series of five productivity “cycles.” A 90-Day Write cycle (also called the 85K Writing Challenge), a 60-Day Edit cycle, a 60-Day Prep cycle, a 60-Day Publish cycle, and three strategically scheduled 30-Day Finish cycles.


In 2017, we’re expanding our reach, too, hoping to connect with other writers through the development of social media channels, and a new website, which launched on January 1, 2017. We’ll have our hands full writing 85,000 words in 90 days while also building a community from the ground up. But hey, we’re the 85K. We’re up for the challenge.

Check us out:
Private Fb Group
Twitter @85K90


If I owned a bookstore, I’d . . .

If I owned a bookstore, I’d . . . run a Signed First Edition Collector Night program offering hardcover, hand-signed, first edition print books from established and upcoming authors. For those interested in the Signed First Edition Collector Night program, I’d offer a printed six-month “menu” of book selections, showcasing about six noteworthy book titles per month (36 total titles) from which to choose. Collectors would indicate (pre-order) which books they’d like to collect – buying all, or a few, or just one book per month.

Then, once per month, on the “Signed First Edition Collector Night,” I’d wrap the pre-ordered books in beautiful parchment paper and bookbinder’s twine and invite “Collector Night” patrons to a special wine tasting among the stacks. The collectors’ books would be waiting for them on a beautiful antique monk’s table and to thank them for their patronage, I’d offer an evening of private, after-hours browsing and book buying while the store is closed to the public.

And I know this program sounds a bit snobbish – but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be a celebration of signed, first edition books. Plain and simple. The books don’t have to be rare or “uber literary” or hard to acquire. This is just a focused “type” of book event – sorta like an art opening. The kind of book event Amazon can’t hold. Because, well, you know. It’s hard to drink wine and talk books when the bookstore is a computer screen. And gosh, how much does a hardback book cost? $24.95? This isn’t going to break the bank. Heck, I spend more than that on chicken nuggets when my four kids are in the car.

Types of books I’d offer each month in my Signed First Edition Collector Night program:


Imagine you’re a “Signed First Edition Collector” at my bookstore, which of the above books would you like to collect as a hardcover, hand-signed, first edition print book for your bookshelves? Leave your order in my comment section. It’s fun to pretend.

One more. (Consider yourself spared. My actual “If I owned a bookstore, I’d . . .” list runs quite long.)

If I owned a bookstore, I’d . . . offer the services of a Private Library Curator to assist with building and installing custom libraries in my customers’ homes. Oh, now, settle down. I’m not talking about “fancy” libraries in “fancy” homes (although, I wouldn’t turn anyone away!), I’m talking about helping parents establish a top-notch library for their child’s bedroom. Or helping a geography buff discover new books on the topic.

I curate a couple of small collections in my own home library. Nothing fancy. Just shelves dedicated to a type of book I like to read. I’d love it if my local indie bookstore offered curating services . . .

Book collections don’t need to be big or rare or expensive to establish. They need to be special. That’s all. And who better to help you build your collection than the hand sellers of the trade?

Imagine a curated collection of books for a child’s room or cabin get away.


A curated collection can fit on one bookshelf. This shelf would make a great holding place for books about maps, travel, politics . . . OR! Books organized by state – either the state in which it was set – or the state in which the author lives. Super cool!


If I owned a bookstore, I’d . . . do lots of things. For one, I’d do whatever it takes to make my customers feel cherished and unique. I’d elevate the book-buying experience and I’d foster a world where book lovers feel supported in their never-ending pursuit of the perfect book.

Damn I wished I owned a bookstore.

Author Photos on #BookCovers

I love books. Love bookstores. Love book marketing. Love walking the aisles, looking for trends, studying decisions made in book design.

Like the decision to change a book’s cover when the book is made into a movie.

JoJoCoverThose are fun. Makes me wonder if there should be two lines at the register: one for the book lover who bought the original book design; another for the movie lover who bought the cover with the actors on it. Want to see more like this? Check out Isaac Fitzgerald’s July 16, 2014 Buzzfeed Books article “14 Book Covers Before and After They Were Made Into Movies” for cool side-by-side comparisons.

I also find it interesting when there’s no jacket copy at all. Like Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup. I suppose, technically, there is jacket copy. A four-word question that gets to the heart of the matter. If you like ghost stories, buy this book.



And then there’s this: Sylvia Day’s One with You. A novel by an author whose brand is so huge, it’s just her picture on the back of the book. My first response to a book with no jacket copy is always one of (slight) disappointment. When I pull a book from the shelf, I expect to flip it over and read what it’s about, not see who wrote it. Now I have to hunt for the information.


But on second thought, it’s a probably a good idea to put a certain faces on the product. (Gasp! Did I just call a book a product?! Shame on me! But yes, I did.) Promoting the artist is how the music industry promotes music. Album covers and book covers require similar marketing and design practices. It’s wise to study both industries. And avid readers know what their favorite authors look like. Reading a great book makes you feel something about its author. Makes you feel connected to them. Seeing them in a bookstore provokes a response that’s like saying, “Oh, hey! There she is. Hello, favorite author. Let me buy your book.”

Speaking of hello . . . Hello, David Baldacci! You’re looking handsome on the back of The Last Mile.


While gazing upon his handsomeness, I noticed a second level of marketing decisions at play in book cover design. Sylvia Day and David Baldacci’s poster photos were on hardback editions. I assume this is because hardbacks are targeted to readers who love and follow these authors and will buy early to consume the story, and buy in hardback to collect the work of the author they love. Smart.

Here’s a peek of David Baldacci’s The Guilty in paperback. Lower price than the hardcover, with more information on the jacket, perhaps for the reader who may not “know” him and love him the way a loyal reader would. Photo, story tease, quotes.


Here they are sitting next to each other. Hardback on the left, paperback on the right.


The audiobook version appears to be direct lift of the front cover, with black borders added to conform to the square shape. So, the front cover is the same on all formats. Back cover changes for the hard and paperback.


And then there’s Clive Cussler’s The Pharaoh’s Secret. You can see Clive’s photo from across the room, but when you pick up the book, you’ll notice it’s written by Clive Cussler AND Graham Brown. Poor Graham. Where’s his picture? I mean, my gosh. Have you seen a picture of Graham Brown? Whew! So super cute. If they wrote the book together, why not put both of them on the back cover? If not a side-by-side of separate photos; if not a huge photo of Clive and a smaller photo of Graham near the bar code; then maybe a photo of them sitting together? Laughing. Being chummy. After all, they wrote a book together. Surely, they can sit for a picture.


But on second thought, with yet another nod toward smart decisions in book marketing, I’m thinking Graham’s quite okay with Clive’s image splashed across the back cover (notice the font size of each author’s name on the front cover – one is clearly the headlining author). Because hey, the smartest marketer in this set up might be Graham for landing this business venture. Graham’s first novel released in 2010. Clive Cussler’s been writing and building an audience since 1967. I suspect Graham’s quite happy reaching some of Clive’s readership – which in turn, should build his own.

What do you think? When you browse for books – do you notice these things? Or am I just a whack job with a lot of time on her hands . . .



Find that Perfect Word


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Great news! I’m guest posting on The Eternal Scribbler: Tips, tricks, and tutorials for writers with this nifty article about writing: Find that Perfect Word: Contemplating Word Choice A Checklist by Julie Valerie Some highlights: Writing with clarity and careful attention to … Continue reading