Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kids, eReaders, and Book Browsing

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at
The Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition tablet was launched this fall.  With it, kids can navigate to eBooks by topic and interest.   I think this is a great thing, to have digital shelves just for children and for them to decide what they would like to read.

Used books are changing.  I now prefer vintage editions that have excellent illustration, thinking that a large illustrated hardcover might still be the choice of parents when they want to buy shelf copies.  I am staying away from “reading copies” of novels, editions that are not collectible but are affordable for classics.  

How do children become inspired to read?  In my childhood, we had a babysitter who went to her work with a large bag of books.  Dolly was a favorite and we begged for her to come, but were often told that she was too popular to come every time.   She would open up her bag, containing some dolls and toys too, and then she would spread the books out for us to open and pick for reading.

I’ve believed in that method.  In Duluth, I worked at a bookshop that concentrated on children’s books, also a lakeside book store that had a large children’s room, and then I worked at a used books and antiques store where a children’s book dealer had a large and cozy space.  Children like to see displays and they like to look for themselves, especially when it comes to illustrated books.  Sometimes parents walked away from their browsing kids so that the children’s section became a kind of babysitter for shopping moms.  That could become an issue.  But the biggest issue to me was children selecting books and imploring their parent to buy them when the shopping moms were not out to buy books.

Children are used to libraries.  I heard many parents explaining to their child that a store is not a library, and that they couldn't take home anything they wanted. 

I belonged to a Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club long ago.  Books were sent to me and I tried them out.  Now as a used book dealer, I jump when I see one of those books I remember -  Across Five Aprils, The Golden Impala, The Winged Watchman.  Even then, I still browsed in the public library, looking for a book I might like for sure.  Now our libraries have eBooks to download without cost and eReaders that can be checked out.

Traditionally, parents bought hardcover books, if they bought children’s books.  The paperback was less expensive but, because children might not want to read a whole paperback novel, the library or the school was usually the place where they would select one.

Image courtesy of suphakit73 at
“Look Inside” previews are one of the most useful selling tools for books on the internet, I think.  A selling or a decision tool.  For children to be able to explore that way might lead to more satisfying reading experiences.  And the eBook is inexpensive like the paperback.  All books have to compete with free library books because few want libraries shut down.  

Image courtesy of  Patchareeya99 at

At one time, I thought of starting an internet site for children’s writing.   Going to the few sites that had been created, I found out that some kids were spammers.  The children’s sites had to invest in high level internet security.  Even the children’s authors and illustrators site that I visited had the same problem.  Children were coming in and spamming or attempting to leave messages for authors.  That was the reason for the advanced password security at the site.

A child choosing for themselves, outside of school, will lead to another type of education.  That experience will mean much to them.  After all, children are all sent to a desk job for 35 hours a week, and one where they are constantly evaluated.  That has had a negative effect on book reading.  If children can choose books outside of school, then they might want to read more.   Libraries seem like a school environment.  The tablet or eReader with children’s choices, having other capacities too, might give the freedom that stimulates if a child is in a quiet hour, in a car, or prevented from outside play because of weather conditions.  And hopefully, parents, authors, and publishers will find out what young people really want.
Image courtesy of supakitmod at

Monday, November 17, 2014

On the US Post Office besides the whereabouts of The Wide Awake Loons

The Postmaster of the USPS has stepped down.  In September, the post office endured a cyber attack.  Information about employees was breached but the employees didn’t know about that until November.  At a local post office, I was asking about the threatened closure of Duluth, Minnesota’s mail processing  center when I learned about the cyber attack.  Ever since the advent of email, the post office’s financial woes have worsened.

I visit a post office on an average of four times a week.   My ebay score says that I’ve sent out at least 4000 packages but that’s probably half of it since the numbers refer to feedback.   Many of my packages are sent book rate.  

Although it sounds bad for the post office, I want to encourage people to use USPS for packages, especially now at Christmastime.   In all of these years, I have had only one domestic package lost.  That was a small package containing a sulfide marble and it was insured.  The marble was a little treasure however the value of it was returned in full.  I’ve had a few things break but that was early on and my packaging could have been part of the blame – sending a large print with a heavy frame and having the glass break.   I have had books sent media rate eaten by machinery, arriving with grease on the package and damaged.  That’s happened twice, I think.  What was insured was efficiently processed and the money came back.  Of course, media mail is inexpensive and that is the risk.

Considering those issues in 8000 cases, I think the USPS is an excellent service.

I had to complain about UPS.  Recently, I had a very large package ordered, and it weighed almost a hundred pounds.  To my shock, one UPS employee had to deliver that from the truck and up steps in our steep neighborhood.  I actually helped him.  The package had some outer damage by the time we accomplished this.

My recent conversation at the post office was leading to that.  The postal clerk informed that the USPS has a maximum weight of 70 pounds.  The UPS maximum is 150 but I would never have expected one person to deliver a parcel weighing more than 70 pounds.

I’ve long been frustrated with UPS.  That service was originally for businesses and for international package shipping.   UPS employees are not so familiar with particular buildings and houses.  They are not given keys to apartment buildings.  They deliver when people are at work and then they leave a note saying that you should be present to sign for your package.  They come back when you have to be at work.  Sometimes they don’t return during the time frame that they schedule.   I used to have UPS packages delivered to my workplace which solved everything – if it was okay with the workplace.  I even had a computer and monitor delivered there when I wasn’t quite sure that the boss would like that.

In my experience, USPS is totally adequate.  If I want to send something fragile or expensive, I insure it.  If the sender wants to know definitely that the receiver was the one to take the package, they can just fill out a slip to be signed.  I haven’t found much reason to switch to UPS, especially as it is usually more expensive.

Just a heads-up to share that although the USPS is having troubles, they are still very reliable.

The Wide Awake Loons is re-published and with illustration inside.  Silver Knight Publishing endured a crippling phishing attack last April, and since then, they have worked with reduced staff and offered authors a contract reverting rights to them.   I have re-published The Wide Awake Loons with my imprint Couchgrass Books.  The book is the same except for some minor editing.  Now it has illustration inside.

The book is available again in paperback at Amazon.  It is also a Kindle book.  It will be soon be available from Barnes & Noble and at Ingram's by January 15, besides other book sites.

Here are a few illustrations.  More are on the blog page Middle Grade.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Photo posts of autumn color (and free Kindle books!)

*Josiah’s Apple Orchard, MG novel, will be FREE Kindle Oct. 16-21.*

*The House in Windward Leaves, Halloween-time fantasy, will be FREE Kindle from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2*

An enchanted entrance

My one-act play, “The Lawn Auction” is published in Mused Literary Review’s Fall Equinox issue.   The journal is part of BellaOnline, a much-visited site for women and their concerns.  I've read the whole issue and found poems, fiction, and nonfiction that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Wide Awake Loons is being re-published.

The Lake Superior shore region is known for its fall color.  When I was growing up in Southern Minnesota, our next door neighbors took a trip up to Duluth every fall just to see the trees turning color.   We were in school and never could take that in.  Since moving to Duluth, I have marveled at Indian summer here.  I take pictures every year, and admire trees from my windows that are just plain breath-taking.  This year, I’m putting pictures in this blog post. 

Decoration for the evergreen

The boulevard trees arching are scheduled to be removed for blocks due to road & sewer pipe improvement.

Mountain ash
The yellow leaf road

My new banner at Facebook

When I lived in Minneapolis, I wrote this poem.  It was published in Rio Number 14 in 2004, online.

On a day when a maple leaf
is really a flower

Last walk in harpstring hues
tousled by the yellowing
palms of trees.  This day was
borrowed from August.

In other chameleon trees, fire
supplies mood but not the balm.
I gasp too at fall’s rude turmoil,
at petals imploding like dresses
exposing crooked legs.  Some
bloom backwards, stuck on a
perverse carousel around houses,
papery-soft like widows with tissues.
Squashed are most.  Appallingly
their mauves are trampled.
Striped petunias put up a
frilled front, looking less ruined.

I pass a huge sidewalk blossom.
A flamingo flower strung in
pink from the sky.  Billowed
as poppymallow, silky as
tiger lilly - maple leaf?

I picked the leaf, passed
the foundering flowers.  Picked
a laugh bluffing about maples
and meanings.  What’s in flower?
What’s dying flame?  What
isn’t borrowed?

Next day I check the maple flower
between leaves of an unborrowed
book.  It has flared, crinkled
to its capillaries, gauntly as
an octogenarian’s face.  Today
fall fell chill.  This is a leaf
the shape of a sunstorm
the flamboyance of a maple
defying definition to the death.

Clouds can be astonishing too.