Friday, March 21, 2014

Not So Fast - It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Not So Fast – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

by Robert J. Daniher

How many times have you tried to write a story, novel, poem, article and given up after a few days because things weren’t going the way you thought they would?  The plot wasn’t working out, the characters didn’t come alive, or maybe you just got…bored.  After all, this writing thing is supposed to happen overnight – right?  I mean, who has time to wait around for an idea to develop on the page?  Didn’t Steinbeck write “The Grapes of Wrath” in just a few months?
Some time ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite short story writers, Robert Lopresti.  A prolific award-winning writer, Mr. Lopresti’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies.  He also reviews short fiction on his weekly blog: .  But most importantly, he began his illustrious career as a page at the Berkeley Heights Public Library.  One of his shining moments while at the library was surviving a nasty run-in with a falling bookcase of Biographies.  There’s a nasty rumor going around that he accidentally pulled it down himself, but you didn’t hear that from me.  In late 2012 Mr. Lopresti was passing through NJ on his way to receive the Black Orchid Novella Award from the Nero Wolfe Society and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine when I met him for the first time. 
“You have such a prolific body of work.  How long does it take you to finish a story?” I asked, expecting him to say a week or a month.
“Oh, sometimes years,” he said.
Years?  Could that be?  I think he was half-joking, but there is some truth to that.  Sometimes, you need to put a draft away for a little while so you can come back to it with fresh eyes to revise.  Junot Diaz spent 7 years on “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Woa”, and that won the Pulitzer.  French poet, Paul Valery said, “A poem’s never finished, only abandoned.”  So, if your idea is taking a little longer than expected to germinate into the novel of your dreams, don’t rush it.  Think of writing as a marathon, not a sprint.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just Do It - the Writing Life

Just Do It

by Robert J. Daniher

I am a procrastinator.  There…I said it.  The secret’s out.  I procrastinate, as my absence from contributing to this blog has proven.  Like most people (especially writers), I allow life to get in the way of things I truly enjoy doing.  And when it comes to writing there are tons of excuses to stay away from that keyboard.  Maybe it’s about the fear of failure, or not knowing how to begin, or even fear of success.  Fill in the blank.  But when you get right down to the nitty gritty, it’s really just about laziness.  And there’s only one way to overcome that.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see author Brad Parks at one of the NJ signings for his latest crime novel, “The Player”.  If you haven’t seen this guy speak, he’s a real cut-up.  A one-man-show, he sings, tells jokes, and acts out scenes from his novels in Oscar-worthy fashion.  We met a year ago at the Deadly Ink Mystery Conference in NJ and became fast friends.  Since then he’s offered some wonderful insight into the world of writing and shared an unlimited amount of zany stories to put the writing life into perspective.  After the crowd thinned out and the event began to wrap up I asked him about his writing schedule and he told me the same thing he always tells me.  “Just sit your butt down in the chair and type!”  It might seem like a minimalist approach to writing but, when you really think about it -- that’s all it takes.  Before you can worry about developing your voice, or style, or schedule, you first have to sit down in that chair and type.  That night I finally took his advice and sat down to write this very post you’re reading right now.  And guess what?  It worked!


Brad Parks links:

 I am happy to welcome back Bob Daniher to our blog. I especially like his observation:
" Like most people (especially writers), I allow life to get in the way of things I truly enjoy doing."
So true, and I hope to follow his lead and get going on some projects of my own. To see more of Bob's posts on the blog, click here 
or type 'Daniher' into the search box at the top right of the blog. Thanks, Bob and welcome back.
- Anne


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How do you call your children home for dinner?

Because I'm leaving for a few days to see my grown children who live out-of-state, I thought I would post a few old blog posts. My children and I talk and text by cell phone, we use 'Facetime' (video by cell phone or computer), we share online calendars, and follow each other on 'Facebook' and 'Twitter', but I just can't remember how I got them to come home for dinner when they were young. Probably a prearranged time and/or the old land-line telephone. But here's how it was when my friends and I were growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Excerpt from an old post about Bill Bryson's books

"My online book group just finished reading and discussing Bryson's latest book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a memoir. Everyone in this group is part of the baby boomer generation, born in the early fifties. His recollections of growing up in the fifties in DesMoines, Iowa rang a bell for all of us. Literally, we had quite a discussion of what kind of bells and whistles our parents used to get us home by dinner after a day of unsupervised outdoor play in the neighborhood.
Here are some of our memories:
" kids [were more] independent and less scheduled. My father had an old US Army gong, probably WWI vintage, God knows where he got it, that he used to clang to get us all home for dinner. It was kind of embarrassing."
"My father (ex-marine) had a bosun's pipe, a form of whistle, that was very distinctive and also very embarassing! By age 10 or 11 my friends and I had a "roaming radius" of about a mile and a half in any direction from our houses, by foot or by bike."
"My mother had a two-tone whistle she did – and she could do it today and we would all come running. Our next door neighbor had a simple whistle which she blew in different codes depending on which kid she wanted. We all knew each others parent calls – and we all knew who needed to go home. "
" in Gladwyne our lunch and dinner call was the firehouse siren at noon and 6 pm. In Ardmore, we had to be home by the time the church bells finished ringing at 6 pm."
"We had an honest to god boater's FOG HORN to bring us home! It looked like a New Year's horn only was made of metal that my mother painted blue and made a much louder noise! One toot - time to come home. Two toots - hurry Three toots all at once - emergency, get home at once. I think my brother has the fog horn but I can't imagine any kid being far enough away to need one now."
That's the problem, no one would need any of these bells, whistles, horns or church bells these days. Kids are scheduled, tracked and on the electronic leash known as a cell

Confession: that was my father who had the Army gong and the bosun's whistle family lived nearby, but we knew the difference and it was only years later that I met the bosun's whistle person and realized we had lived near each other. We must have all been like well-trained dogs, just a-waitin' that sound to call us home. And of course, at the end of dinner, our ears were perked for the sound of the ice-cream truck bell. And school was controlled by bells that told us when to go from class to class. I think some schools have dispensed with the bell system. Why am I feeling like Andy Rooney now? Are my eyebrows growing?

Who Wants Your Old Books - revisited

One of our favorite posts, our statistics tell us, is the one about how to get rid of your old books. This is a common question in most libraries and a question not easily answered. Or at least, not easily answered in the way that people would like to hear. Sadly, most old books are just unwanted, unloved and worth very little, but no one wants to just throw them out. Here is what we wrote:

Disposing of Old Books

Who wants your old books? Have you tried in vain to sell them at a yard sale or give them to your local library, school, college or thrift store only to be sent away not empty-handed? Have you been told that old library books circulate poorly, old encyclopedias and textbooks become obsolete quickly, college book stores pay a pittance for expensive, almost-new textbooks? Are you reluctant to sell books on Ebay because it is a time-consuming activity? Furthermore the cost of shipping books to third world countries is prohibitive. Used and rare book dealers can be very picky about what they will take or even deign to look at. Storing books takes up space and space in libraries and book stores and your house is at a premium.
What can be done with old books? Book lovers just want to feel that their books have found a better place than the recycling bin, but sadly, that's where many books end their lives. Most people seem to think that all books have some intrinsic value but if you examine that common assumption, it isn't true. Since the advent of the paperback, the information and publication explosion, cheaper printing technology, online databases and texts, a culture that generally likes the new and shiny and disposes with the old, books do not have as much actual (monetary) value as they do sentimental value. And if they have been in the attic, cellar or garage for years, they are probably worthless. Not always, but usually.
Nevertheless, here are some possibilities for disposing of old books:

Book Sales in New Jersey

Harvest Books

But you should know that the following rules about what kinds of books are acceptable applies to every library sale, booktrade website, thrift store or other bookish entity that I have ever seen or dealt with:
from the Harvest Books site
"There are some books we cannot use. Since books we cannot use must be recycled at some expense, we do not accept these types of materials even as a donation:
Books that have been wet or are moldy.
Books without covers.
Books that are in poor condition relative to their vintage. Obviously older books will sometimes show their age. This does not mean they are not valuable. But torn, yellowed or creased copies of last year’s romances or thriller novel will not do us any good.
Encyclopedias -- general reference encyclopedias, such as Britannica, are NOT of any use, even to schools --it’s all available on the computer these days.
Readers’ Digest Condensed Books.
Older editions of travel guides or other books that come out with new editions each year.
Textbooks more than two years old.
No newspapers or magazines, please!"

Essentially, if you don't recycle your old books that are unusable, unsalable, unwanted, obsolete; you are passing on the job to someone else who will recycle them.

Learn Languages on Your Smart Phone

Berkeley Heights Public Library Book Blog: Learn Languages on Your Smart Phone:   The Berkeley Heights Public Library offers free online language tutorials from Mango Languages. Patrons with smart phones (iPhones or Android..)

Click here for the rest of the post about our Mango Language Learning online software program - available to Berkeley Heights Public Library patrons.

Original post:

Friday, March 7, 2014

College Guidance Online with Library Databases

The Berkeley Heights Public Library subscribes to Infobase (formerly Facts on File) databases which include history, science, and literature materials for students as well as a  career and college guidance information which can be found in Infobase's  Ferguson's Career Guidance Center.
Ferguson's Career Guidance Center includes a database of more than 4,000 undergraduate institutions and a wealth of valuable new career information.
BHPL patrons may search the database for schools based on a number of factors--such as admissions difficulty, curriculum offerings, housing options, location and setting, student body, and tuition--to identify ones that best match their career aspirations, educational needs, and personal preferences. All schools included have full accreditation or are pre-accredited and grant degrees at the associate's and/or bachelor's level. College data is provided by Peterson's, a leading producer of educational databases and planning information.

All databases should be accessed through the library's "Databases & Articles" link where you will be prompted to enter your library barcode number and pin. Choose Ferguson's or Infobase from the list of databases to find college and career information.

The library also has college guidance books to check out and in the Reference Collection, such as Peterson's, College Board, and Barron's guide books. The Dewey Decimal number is 378.73.

College and Financial Aid searchable database available from the library

Financial Aid resources searchable database available from the library