Buy Your Audiobooks From Skylark!

We have a lot of conversations with our customers about books of all kinds - including audiobooks. They are becoming increasingly popular as busy people have begun to listen to books while they walk the dog, take their children to school, cook dinner, and so on. (This may also have something to do with the fact that the news on the radio is becoming harder to listen to, but what do we know?)

Anyway - we’re very pleased to announce that our customers can now purchase their audiobooks through Skylark! Thanks to our newly minted partnership with the very excellent company Libro.fm, you can now buy audiobooks online - so you can play them on your usual device - only now each book you purchase will benefit Skylark, and not line the pockets of a certain online gazillionaire.

Libro.fm offers over 100,000 audiobooks, including New York Times bestsellers. If you sign up for a monthly membership, which means you get one heavily discounted audiobook per month, you’ll get your first month absolutely free. (And, if you haven’t tried an audiobook before, but perhaps you’re, um, audio-curious, then this is a perfect, risk-free way to try it out.)

Click here for a list of all the perks of membership. It’s awesome.

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It’s incredibly easy to do. You can either come into the shop and we’ll help you get signed up, or you can click here and follow the super-easy instructions. You’ll get an email confirming everything, then you download the free app, and can start choosing your audiobooks! You can either choose your audiobooks a la carte or do a monthly membership (which is far cheaper.) The site also has excellent bookseller recommendations from people just like us, some interesting curated lists if you’re not sure what to listen to, and all sorts of other cool things. Plus, books purchased through Libro.fm are DRM-free, which means you can listen on multiple devices.

Also, you can give audiobooks as gifts - and you can even give subscriptions, too.

Here’s the link again. Happy listening!

The Customer Is Always... Wonderful

Marsha’s Reading Recommendations

Marsha’s Reading Recommendations

A note from Carrie:

When Alex and I began discussing opening Skylark Bookshop, I immediately began craving the community I knew would develop. My previous bookstore experience nostalgia is firmly rooted in people - the people I worked with and the customers I developed relationships with. The quick friendship that Alex and I formed showed me that Skylark would most certainly satisfy that craving.

What I did not expect was for the relationships to settle so quickly. Within our first weeks, the Skylark crew felt like home. And just as quickly, we had familiar faces at our shelves . . . “regulars.” Bonding over books, talking about everything from life to the escape from it, the relationship with our regulars carries a special magic.

To start the New Year, we wanted to find a way to honor these special people, and came up with the idea of asking them to curate our “gallery shelves” with some of their favorite titles. We are kicking off our customer adoration with Marsha, known for her beautiful heart, open mind, and quick turning pages. Marsha is a former English teacher with a passion for reading and sharing the resulting lessons learned. Her passion extends to daily life, with a bouncy step and ultra-cozy huggage.

We asked Marsha to come up with a list of ten titles she wants to share with the Skylark world (see above). She dug in with enthusiasm and returned with ten impactful books. These books are proudly displayed on our Gallery wall, just as you come in the door. We invite you to come in and pick up her titles, read the backs of the unfamiliar to see what tugs at your soul, or see some familiar covers (Charlotte’s Web) and remember how they impacted you in your own formative years. If one calls to you, make it your purchase of the day and we will pass on to Marsha that her books found a new friend.

Beside these titles, you will also see a selection we pulled together for Marsha (see below). These are recommendations based on her list. If you feel a connection to her choices, this is an opportunity for you to see a few more options. This is also an example of the recommendation work we do on a daily basis. It is one of our favorite things, to pull obvious “if you liked that you will love this” books - alongside “this sounds like a stretch, but try this” titles.

Thank you all for being a part of our Skylark Bookshop community. And thank you, Marsha . . . for being wonderful.

And a few titles that we’re recommending for Marsha

And a few titles that we’re recommending for Marsha

 

Introducing... Skylark's Unbound Book Club!

Most of you probably know that the Unbound Book Festival is coming to Columbia in April this year. We’re excited - we can’t wait to meet the wonderful authors who are coming this year.

The Keynote address by George Saunders is on April 19th, a perfect way to spend your Friday evening. Saturday the 20th will be a flurry of activity, with the remaining authors in conversation in various locations on the Stephens College Campus. The lineup is making us drool.

The collection of festival titles on the shelves in the window stage area of the shop is growing as each author is announced.  It is going to get crowded up there (in the best “read as many of these as you can before you hear the authors speak in person” sort of way)!

But . . .  we don’t really feel like waiting until April to get Columbia talking about these great books, so Skylark is launching a Wednesday Evening Unbound Book Discussion Series (WEUBDS? OK maybe not). For eight Wednesdays leading up to the Festival, our staff will lead book club style discussions on a selection of eight Unbound Book Festival titles. There is something for everyone at Unbound, and we hope our selection of titles provides the same breadth.

Of course, we hope that participants purchase their books at our shop in preparation for the discussions, but that is not a requirement. Those who do will enjoy our Skylark Book club discount of 10%. Simply leave your name and contact information at the front counter when you purchase any of the eight titles to reserve your spot and we will send you a reminder a few days before the appropriate discussion.

We’ll be announcing a full line-up of the books shortly, but wanted to let you know that we’ll be starting with the astonishing, Booker Prize-winning novel by George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo. We’ll be discussing the book on Wednesday, February 20, at 6:00 p.m. See you there?

(And while we’re on the topic of Mr. Saunders, don’t forget that FREE TICKETS to his keynote address in the Missouri Theatre will be available online tomorrow morning, Thursday January 17, at 7:00 a.m. Snag yours early - they go fast! The link to tickets will be posted on the festival website tomorrow.)

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Are You a Local Writer? Would you Like to Read at Skylark?

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We had so much fun on our inaugural Local Author Night that we can’t wait to do it all again on Thursday, February 21! As before, we’ll have a mixture of readings and interactive Q and A with our chosen writers.

If you would like to participate, please drop us a line to mail@skylarkbookshop.com. If we don’t already stock your book, please tell us a little bit about the title that you will be reading from.

We’ll announce the participants as soon as we have filled all the spots - but in the meantime, mark your calendars for another great evening to enjoy some of our local writing talents!

Dear Diary...

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Do you keep a journal? Beth has some thoughts about the practice…

As we transition into the new year, I have noticed people deciding to keep a journal:  A gratitude journal, a bullet journal, a reading bullet journal, a daily diary - the list goes on.  These resolutions make me a little nervous, because I always feel as though writing in a journal is one of those things that I should do but actually don’t really want to do.

I have limited--and fairly unsuccessful--experience in keeping a diary or a journal.  In third grade I received a small leather-bound, one-year diary.  While I did lock the diary to hold my secrets close, I merely hid the key right under the diary itself, storing both in the original gift box.  And the drudgery of daily writing ("Tonight we ate some chicken, mashed potatoes, and peas for dinner.") turned me off. 

In adolescence, armed with a battered dark-blue spiral notebook, I tried again, scrawling angsty tirades.  Later on, I also chronicled some fears during the long process of a medical diagnosis, in yet another spiral notebook.

But the journals we carry at the shop are intriguing enough that I might consider writing in one.  Physically beautiful, they excite me about documenting some of my thoughts.  The starkly elegant Blackwing notebooks provoke no feelings of stress; their soft white, grey, and black covers are wonderfully tactile and allow for any possibilities.  "Among Trees: A Guided Journal for Forest Bathing," containing beautiful color images, invites me to communicate in words my already existing love of trees.  Pages for excursion logs ask open-ended prompts such as "changes I noticed in my body during the walk." 

As someone with synesthesia, I am also interested in "My Life in Color." Beautiful blank, colored pages are interspersed with thought-provoking questions, designed to draw out creativity and self-reflection.  For example, "Shakespeare called jealousy "the green-eyed monster.' What makes you feel envious, and how do you bolster your self-esteem against it?"  

I still don’t plan to even keep a Goodreads account to rigidly document my reading habits.  But these gorgeous alternatives do tempt me to write in a journal again. 

Columbia Writers' Guild Quarterly Reading on January 9!

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One of the reasons why it’s so much fun to work in an independent bookshop in Columbia is that we have an incredibly vibrant community of writers living and working in our town. If you haven’t done so yet, come by and check out the Local Authors section at the shop. You’ll be astonished at the range and quality of the work that our local writers produce. And if you attended our first Local Author Night back in November, you’ll have heard some of that work for yourself.

Skylark is committed to supporting our local writers, and so we’re very pleased to host a session of the Columbia Writers’ Guild Quarterly Reading Series on Wednesday, January 9 at 6:00 p.m. Come and listen to new work by the following authors:

Aaron Fox, Children’s Author, member of the Tom Bradley morning radio show. He will be releasing a children's book about Truman the Tiger this spring. His first children's book, The Secret Life of Sloan the Sloth came out last March.

Melinda Hemmelgarn, Poet/Activist, registered dietitian, host of Food Sleuth Radio, which airs Thursday evenings at 5:00 p.m. on KOPN. Her poetry has been published in Interpretations. She writes poetry to create empathy for the human condition and promote social and environmental justice.  

Rexanna Ipock-Brown, Novelist, author of fiction and non-fiction.  Her first novel is a paranormal romance that includes a hybrid witch/wolf, smoking hot shifters and vampires, swoon-worthy love scenes, naughty language and a dash of violence to spice things up.  When she is not writing about Rosemary, her friends and family, she runs a successful psychic service which gives her plenty of ideas.

Stephen Paul Sayers, Novelist, is a college professor and bestselling author of supernatural thriller and horror fiction.  His first two novels, A Taker of Morrows and Soul Dweller, were published in 2018 by Hydra Publications, his short fiction has appeared in Unfading Daydream and Well Versed.

Steve Wiegenstein, Novelist, author of three novels set in nineteenth-century Missouri: Slant of Light, This Old World, and The Language of Trees. Slant of Light was the runner-up for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction for 2012, and The Language of Trees received the 2018 Walter Williams Major Work Award from the Missouri Writers Guild. A selection from Slant of Light is forthcoming in The Literature of the Ozarks from the University of Arkansas Press next month. 

New Year, New Books...? Another Top Ten.

Happy 2019 to everyone! If one of your new year’s resolutions was to read more (and if it wasn’t, well, perhaps you need to consider some of your life choices) then to help you decide what titles you might choose, we’re pleased to present another installment of our Top Ten series. This time, Travis shares with us his all-time favorite reads…

“My list does not have a particular order and instead is a simple ramble through the bookstore. There are so many books that could have made this list (namely Albert Camus, Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace) but I took the list to mean all books, not simply fiction or nonfiction. So I spent some time looking at different sections in the shop, some of these are (or were) wildly popular and some are not. Ultimately these are all books that in some way greatly influenced me as a person. Enjoy!

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Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

There is much to be said of Kerouac (he was far from a perfect being) but he greatly influenced me as a teenager and into my twenties. I read most of his works in those years but two always stood out above the rest -- The Dharma Bums and Big Sur. Both weave tales through forest and mountains but it was Dharma Bums that was more akin to my inner dialogue. Filled with existential musings and odes to nature it is a novel of questions and probing for some truth somewhere. His writing on nature and hiking (especially Chapter 33) are among the best and his restless spirit remains relatable across the human experience. As with nearly all Kerouac's writing this restlessness pervades throughout, urging you as the reader to adventure beyond into unknown places in search of something -- anything-- beyond the bleak suburban lifestyle. It is because of this restlessness combined with philosophy, Buddhist thought and wonderfully poetic prose that I chose Dharma Bums for this list.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of The World by Haruki Murakami

Always drawn to the bizarre, sometimes nonsensical (why must everything have an explanation?), I loved this book for its reeling weirdness. This was my first Murakami read and still my favorite. There is really no one like him and his book synopsis read like some strange Seven Degrees of pop culture or something but in Hard-Boiled there is a truly compelling detective story. I think what impressed me most about this book was that it could even exist in the first place. Some of the plot points come from such unexpected angles that it is entirely nonsensical or imaginative (depending on your take) and forces you as a reader to simply accept this world and read on. When looking at all the pieces from afar it doesn't seem like it could work. But it does. Murakami is the only who could make this so.

Collected Stories Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz. What can be said of him? Yes he was influenced by Kafka but to me his stories remain entirely different and more subtly strange. There is an ethereal quality, certainly what we now call magical realism, relevant in these stories but it was not only the strangeness I enjoyed. The writing is completely exceptional. There are some paragraphs in the Cinnamon Shops and the short piece Autumn that I had to reread a number of times because I was so taken in by the musicality of prose that I completely lost the narrative. Perhaps this simply reveals that I'm a geek for well written word. Well probably, but I'm not the only one. A number of my writer friends had this happen as well. Schulz is a writer that deserves more acclaim than he receives.

Red by Terry Tempest Williams

A passionate book on the American Southwest's enduring, hidden beauty. Terry's observations are tender, timeless in their study of a place whose very scarcity and rawness reveal unique ecosystems that depend one upon the other. Her love for this place is told as if the flowering cactus itself, graceful and resilient in the face of human adversity. The rarity of this prose make Red, in my opinion, the quintessential read for contemporary nature lovers and any reader that values nature and poetic prose.

The Soul of A Tree by George Nakashima

I stumbled upon this book several years ago while looking into books about woodworking. I picked up a copy at my local library and was instantly immersed in the story of George. The book does not really look like what it is, which is something of a memoir. The cover appears as though you will be taught the skills of a man at the top of his craft. But this is not the case. George speaks of himself and his past before allowing the reader along on his many walks through his backyard forest. His respect for the trees and woodworking is addictive and falls somewhere between spiritualist and naturalist. It reminds me that everything made of wood has a story - what is it and where will it take us?

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

This book finds itself in an odd place sandwiched between The Soul of A Tree and Turtle Island, two quiet, pensive books. Alan Moore's V For Vendetta is neither quiet nor pensive but instead violent and vengeful. I discovered V one year before the movie was released, specifically because I was searching for anarchist literature - especially ones with undertones of revolution and particularly where the elite and powerful were put in their rightful place. At the time I was reading a lot of philosophy, primarily Russian Anarchists, and so with Anarchy on my mind I opened this fantastic graphic novel. What followed was eye-opening, perhaps as much to me as reading Albert Camus several years earlier, and it gave me as much fodder for revolution as it did for questioning it. While this is a graphic novel, the story and writing is Alan Moore at his strongest and reads very much like something Camus would have written. It is dense with symbology and philosophy which really makes you think about government and revolution. Should it remain restrictive and stagnant or should the people bring forth a violent uprising?

Turtle Island Gary Snyder

Without intention, Snyder is also the principle protagonist in Kerouac's Dharma Bums, so perhaps it is little surprise that he makes my list with a work of his own. Snyder's poetry carries with it a solace that nature will continue to heal our soul. Yet there is also an urgency that we must protect and take care of nature for when the time comes, it will heal us or embrace us. But it is our task as humans to do so.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

I don't remember how I found this book but it was probably by searching for unconventional books. And yet this is an epic poem, one of the most ancient ways of written story-telling. It is only an unconventional book because epic poems are rare in contemporary literature. I found it unconventional because each line is so succinct and pointed and dare I say, perfect? But not only is the word choice fantastic, the love story is poignant and beautiful. If there ever was a poetic novel, this is it.

Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Snow Goons by Bill Watterson

I still have my childhood copy of this book. The cover is half torn from the spine and it looks as well-read as it is. Can you really say that any Calvin and Hobbes compilation is better than another? I don't think so, but to me this is the most memorable and meaningful. The story of the Snow Goons throughout his edition is so imaginative and spirited that it fed into my own imagination allowing me to appreciate that whatever age I am, the innocence and liveliness of allowing the mind to imagine and wander and question is so important.

Just Ride by Grant Petersen

A must read for any cyclist, especially the outliers who are not drawn to the bicycle as a sport, but as a form of transportation or exploration. Grant's views present a philosophy that not everything is as it seems. He takes aim at the bicycle industry for making bikes tailored to racers and not to the everyday rider but at the same time reminds us that riding a bike is just as fun when we were children. Why take that fun away?

A Skylark Thank You - From Becky

Our final blog post before Christmas, and it comes from our senior bookseller, Becky. She has something she’d like to share with you all. Merry Christmas!

Becky reading (rather blurrily) the Polar Express to a roomful of kids in pajamas on Saturday night.

Becky reading (rather blurrily) the Polar Express to a roomful of kids in pajamas on Saturday night.

Everyone always feels slightly sorry for me at Christmas time because I have worked retail for so long. I will admit that retail Christmas is an extreme in the work world. It is a beast that has its own rules. The fatigue and overwhelm that a retail worker feels is akin to a bad cold.

I have three children, so that tends to make it a little harder. They have their own copious set of spirited activities to attend, and my presence is essentially required at each one. Scheduling becomes a challenge.

Usually I just buck up and deal with the holiday intensity in a way that only a mom who works retail can. I put my head down and get the task done that is directly in front of me. I don't even have a minute to look around and appreciate what's going on.

But this year feels a little different. This year I left my big box job and found a wonderful little gem called Skylark Bookshop. I have seen the delight in each of your faces as you walk through the door. I know that feeling, because I had the same one.

The customers who visit Skylark are not just fulfilling their shopping needs, they are actually ENJOYING the experience. What a difference from those who come in already mad that they have to be there. It's a stark change for me.

What a joyful, lovely place we have made. If you have been in, you know.

So, thank you. From a veteran retail worker who kinda forgot that the holidays are also supposed to be about magic. You've reminded me.

Polar Express Story Time!

We are definitely feeling the holiday spirit here at Skylark!

If you haven’t been in lately, the shop has been pretty much packed from the moment we open our doors each morning to when we close. We’re so thrilled to be part of so many people’s holiday shopping plans, and we’re very grateful to every single person who’s come through the doors in the past few weeks.

(Because, well, books are always pretty fabulous presents, you know.)

Anyway, next Saturday, December 21, we’re going to get even more in the Christmas spirit by hosting a Polar Express party!

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We’ll be reading Chris Van Allsburg’s classic, drinking cocoa, eating cookies, and doing some fun craft activities. Come in your pajamas and board the Polar Express! The fun starts at 7:00 p.m.

This event is completely free for anyone to attend, but we’d appreciate it if you would let us know (super quick email to mail@skylarkbookshop.com will do) if you’re planning to attend so we can get in sufficient supplies. (That magic cocoa doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, you know.) Hope to see you there!

Top Ten.

When we received the rather lovely (and rather huge) 1000 Books To Read Before You Die by James Mustich, we began talking about our favorite books - and whether they were in this book. Carrie asked all of us to make a list of our ten favorite books of all time.

I know. Totally unreasonable.

Anyway, we all did it, because it’s Carrie, and we love her. We all moaned and huffed and puffed (some more than others, ahem) and pretty much agreed it was an impossible task. Beth writes about how she made her choices below:

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“When Carrie asked for our top ten books, I initially overthought the task.  However, once I began jotting down some titles that have influenced me, I realized that I easily could arrange them chronologically to represent different parts of my life.

As a shy and skinny child with jutting buck teeth, I was a precocious reader with books as my refuge.  Stories such as Grimms Fairy Tales and Jane Eyre sparked my life-long love of fiction.  My best friend and I trudged many times to and from the public library, lugging armfuls of titles each way.

In college I declared philosophy as my major, thrilled to be examining the writings of great thinkers, such as Plato’s Republic.  I then worked for several years at The Art Institute of Chicago while enrolled in art classes, where I explored my creativity with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  During that time I resided a few blocks away from an independent bookstore, where I purchased and was influenced by Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.    

My own kids are now young adults in college and graduate school, but I can’t remember being a parent of young sons without recalling the significance that the Harry Potter series played in our family’s life.  Not only did our sons reread each volume multiple times, my husband and I also cherished these books.  We delayed devouring each title until we were sick in bed with a bad cold or the flu, therefore rewarding ourselves with some fun while struggling through illnesses. 

Finally, several more recent nonfiction titles have shaped how I think about the world:  Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years in Power.  All three titles remind me of my aspects of privilege and have taught me to strive to be a conscientious thinker. 

Books have always constituted a large portion of my life story.  What are some titles that should be included in yours?”

If You're Looking for Holiday Gifts, Might We Suggest...?

Buying a book for someone else should be an intensely pleasurable act - after all, what better gift can there be than a whole world, neatly packaged between covers, to give to another? But we recognize that sometimes it can also be fraught with problems, because choosing a book for someone else is such a personal thing. We know this, because sometimes our lovely customers share these worries with us. Some of these concerns are relatively simple - perhaps the person won’t like the book, or they’ve read it before (nb: books can always be exchanged!). Others are decidedly more thorny. What does the choice of book say about the giver? What does the choice of book say about the recipient? What does the choice of book say about the giver’s opinion of the recipient? Or vice versa. And so on.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that hard. Our booksellers are always ready to suggest suitable titles for gifts, based on as much or as little information as you have available. And we also offer two wonderful gift ideas designed specifically to solve this problem.

Our Subscription Package allows you to gift books (you choose whether hard cover or paperback) once a month - for either 3, 6 , or 12 months. Each month a gift-wrapped book, chosen by Skylark staff specially for your reader, will be delivered to their door - wherever they are in the country.

Subscription books about to go out in the mail to lucky readers…

Subscription books about to go out in the mail to lucky readers…

The brilliant thing about these subscriptions (if we do say so ourselves) is that each recipient fills out an online questionnaire, telling us their likes and dislikes, which allows us to choose, quite precisely, appropriate titles for them. What could be better than getting a new book, chosen especially for you, in the mail every month? You can read more about the subscription program here. And yes, this gift would work just as well for young readers as for adults.

An alternative option would be to give someone the gift of a Skylark Reading Spa. This is a truly luxurious treat for the book lover in your life… some time in the store, with a slice of cake (or a doughnut) and cash to spend on books, together with one-on-one advice from a bookseller about what books to choose. Read more about that here.

Feel free to call the shop at (573) 777 6990 or email us at mail@skylarkbookshop.com for more information about either of these packages.

This Thursday - A NATION FORGED BY CRISIS

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This Thursday, Skylark is proud to host the launch party of a new book that has been garnering a lot of interest nationwide and which was recently named as the Best History Book of 2018 by WORLD magazine: A NATION FORGED BY CRISIS, by MU historian Jay Sexton.

In the book, Sexton contends that our national narrative is not one of halting yet inevitable progress, but of repeated disruptions brought about by shifts in the international system. Sexton shows that the American Revolution was a consequence of the increasing integration of the British and American economies; that a necessary precondition for the Civil War was the absence, for the first time in decades, of foreign threats; and that we cannot understand the New Deal without examining the role of European immigrants and their offspring in transforming the Democratic Party.

A necessary corrective to conventional narratives of American history, A NATION FORGED BY CRISIS argues that we can only prepare for our unpredictable future by first acknowledging the contingencies of our collective past.

This will be a fascinating discussion you won’t want to miss! (Food and drink will be provided, courtesy of the Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy.) The event begins at 6:30 and the program will begin at 7:00. Books, of course, will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

Jay Sexton is the Kinder Institute Chair in Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri and emeritus fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University. The author of The Monroe Doctrine and Debtor Diplomacy, Sexton lives in Columbia, Missouri.

NaNoWriMo - guest blog by Art Smith

Some of you may have been fortunate enough to hear Art Smith discuss his most recent book, Uncommon Counsel, last week at Skylark’s inaugural Local Authors Night. We asked him to write a few words about National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November…


NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is done for another year. It’s a glorious bout of insanity I share with 177 other Columbia folks, where we each try to write 50,000 words of new fiction in the month of November. All told we wrote over 4.3 million words this month. Worldwide, roughly 400,000 people participate, writing around 4 billion words. (Yes, better than one out of every thousand words written worldwide come from Columbia writers!) It’s a labor of love and focused creativity dedicated to the notion that everyone has a story to tell, and we just need a little encouragement to get it out.

In order to “win” (i.e., write 50,000 words in 30 days), you have to average over 1,600 words a day, every day. That’s about three full-size pages of text. Speed varies widely, but most of our writers that I’ve seen can produce 500-1,000 words an hour if things are flowing well. That’s sometimes a big if, but like most things, the more you practice, the easier it gets. In reality, life will get in the way and some days you’ll struggle to write anything, so you need to have a number days where you crank out 2,000 or more words to make up for those slow days.

Most of the writers toil away quietly on their own, but some of us enjoy the communal aspect of the month, getting together for “write-ins” in various friendly establishments like the Columbia Library, Coffee Zone, and, of course, Skylark Bookshop. I often get my highest word-counts at these events, because of the shared energy of multiple writers tapping away at their keyboards. I spent one fun and productive evening this month writing in the window at Skylark, and got over 4,000 words written during those four hours. I am profoundly grateful for all the establishments that host our writers, officially or otherwise.

Art Smith at work during one of Skylark’s Friday night NaNoWriMo write-ins

Art Smith at work during one of Skylark’s Friday night NaNoWriMo write-ins

It’s been said that to do anything well one needs to spend around 10,000 hours doing it. I don’t put a lot of stock in that magic number, but I think it’s broadly true for many things, including writing. The fifty to one hundred hours one spends in the actual writing during November isn’t going to get you there, but the reality is that planning beforehand and editing and revising afterward can add substantially to those numbers. Those activities are equally part of writing, even though it’s the productive frenzy of November that gets all the attention.

The obvious question raised by NaNoWriMo is “what happens to all those words?” In most cases, the answer is “little or nothing,” and that’s completely ok. For many writers, it’s the act of writing itself that matters. Letting the story out of our heads, giving it life on paper (or screen), wrestling with our demons, that is sufficient. Others treat NaNoWriMo as an exercise. The ridiculous goal of writing a novel in a month forces us to turn off our inner editor and just get the story out. For many of us, that’s the only path to completion. Too often “perfect is the enemy of good” and we get so bogged down in making every paragraph count that we never make it to The End. You can’t do that and hope to win at NaNoWriMo. Editing is for the other eleven months, in November we just write. And, once in a great while, lightning strikes and something beautiful is produced (albeit in a very rough form) during that exercise.

The most well-known example of a book (and later a movie) that got it’s start as a NaNoWriMo novel is the delightful Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. There are plenty of others. Each year a few dozen NaNoWriMo novels get picked up by traditional publishers, and a similar number are self-published. My own Uncommon Counsel was the one book out of eight years of NaNoWriMo participation that made the cut in my own mind (the jury is still out on this year’s attempt), and you can find it at Skylark Bookshop, along with many other wonderful books by local authors.

Columbia is truly blessed to have such a wealth of talent in so many artistic and creative fields. Whether your taste tends towards music, theater, film, visual arts, literary arts, or anything else, there is a vibrant community of creators and supporters to be found here. I truly believe that everyone has an artistic gift to share and am delighted to live in such a nurturing environment. So what’s your gift? Will we see you next November at one of our write-ins?

Saturday is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day!

We are not making this up, we promise. Go here to find out more.

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We’re down with it, of course - although perhaps unsurprisingly we think that every day should be Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

Regardless, we’d love to see you, and your kid(s), tomorrow or any other day of the week. If you haven’t visited our children’s section underneath the stairs, you totally should. So much goodness in one place!

Perfect Holiday Gifts... for Someone

A post from Carrie:

Let’s be honest. If I am getting you a gift this year, chances are I bought it at Skylark. While it would be fun to write about these perfect gifts, most of the intended recipients are reading this, and I am not a fan of spoilers.

Instead, I want to muse about a few of the perfect gifts I have found, but don’t have the people to give them to.

Spectator Sport Fan:

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This is a difficult concept for me to grasp. If you browse our sports section at the bookshop, you might realize our concept of sports in general is not especially spectator-focused. We have a rich supply of Yoga, running, and biking books along with a careful selection of more traditional sport titles. We know much more about the Yoga, running, and biking ones. However, a lovely customer ordered an intriguing title, and we had to add it to our shelves. “A History of American Sports in 100 Objects,” by Cait Murphy, talks about everything from catcher’s mitts and balls, to a Wheaties magnet. Each object is treated with insight and dosed with some spectacular facts.

The Traveler:

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Lonely Planet came out with a thorough beast of a book. “The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World” does exactly as advertised. Sprinkled with little known facts, the best time to travel to a location, and all thoughtful selection of must-do itinerary items, this huge and gorgeous book is designed to impress and inspire.

Itty-Bittys:

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 When my son was little he liked to fall asleep with a book . . . in his mouth. We had an entire collection of board books with a small bite shaped corner missing by the end of his toddler-hood. Had there only been “Indestructibles!” We carry a wide variety of these durable books, and I had to satisfy my curiosity. I took one home, “Baby Animals,” with its bright cover and parent/child cuties from the animal kingdom. Then I tossed it into an entire weekend worth of laundry loads, crumpled it up, tried desperately to tear a page, and eventually resorted to playing tug-of-war with our dog. It shows some love, but the pages are vibrant, there are no tears, and you have to work to find the teeth marks. At only $5.95 these make great gifts or card substitutes!

 Pop in to see any of these titles, or get suggestions for someone on your list (real or imaginary)!

Today is Small Business Saturday!

Today - the day after Black Friday - is Small Business Saturday. After yesterday's big box store madness, today people are encouraged to visit and support locally-owned businesses. We're excited to be participating in this for the first time, and so have concocted a few ways to celebrate the occasion. Come down to the District and join in the fun!

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In no particular order, here's what's going on:

1.   Hardback sale. Yes, you read that right. We'll be offering huge discounts on scores and scores of hardback fiction and nonfiction titles. They'll be on the front table. Grab 'em while stocks last. 

2.   Massive Drawing. We have put together a fantastic collection of brand new books (and a couple of non-book items, too) into one of our fancy Skylark tote bags. There's something for everyone - including a beautiful hardback copy of THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo, the just-announced winner of the National Book Award for Young People's literature. The total value of all these goodies is well over $200.00 - and at the end of the day we'll be giving it away to one lucky customer. Every $50 you spend today will buy you one raffle ticket in the drawing.

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3.   Ice Cream. Because it's November, and snow is forecast for Sunday. We're teaming up with our friends down the road at Yellow Dog Bookshop to present this special offer to our lovely customers for Small Business Saturday: buy a book at Yellow Dog and a book at Skylark, and you'll receive a free token for a scoop of Columbia's best ice cream from Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream. Books and ice cream. What could be better?

All this madness is for one day only - so come and see us today on 9th Street!

Little Virtues.

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Yes, I am beginning by borrowing from the fabulous Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg’s book of essays, who never fails to remind me to relish the small things in life and even remember the challenges fondly.  As we enter the holiday season, I have a lot to be thankful for.

First, I am grateful for the newest member of the Putnam family, who brings a special flair for life with her, a sense of adventure, a great sense of humor and the fantastic ability to write handwritten personal letters (which seems to be a dying art form these days).

Two, I am grateful that we have all of my small, extended family still with us, and even welcome a new, very teeny-tiny four-footed friend in (who is well documented on Facebook).  Welcome to the family, Indy Rose.

Three, I am grateful that I am currently settling into a relatively new job that I love—handling and reading books.  Could there be a better match for me?

Four, I am grateful that I am getting to know a lovely team of co-workers, who all bring different strengths and, most importantly, a great sense of humor and work ethic to helping us get through the challenges of a new business startup.  Thanks especially to Alex and Carrie for their vision, their unending enthusiasm for books and writing, and seemingly limitless amount of patience for the small things that invariably go wrong.  Here’s to wishing for a holiday season without too many Grinches.

Finally, but probably the greatest daily reminder of what I have to be thankful for—thank you to everyone who has stopped by Skylark Bookshop and expressed excitement, wonder and appreciation for the appearance of the shop and all the wonderful book souls contained within.  It never fails to brighten my day when someone walks in and smiles broadly, looks around happily, or compliments the shop—whether it is their first time in, or thirtieth (yes, you folks know who you are).

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and stop in soon!  Carol

Shop Small on November 24 and Win Free Ice Cream!

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Saturday, November 24, is Small Business Saturday, an annual celebration of independent businesses - something of a palate cleanser, if you will, after the madness of Black Friday. We, of course, hope that people will shop small and support the retail businesses in their community year round, but it’s especially important on Small Business Saturday.

To celebrate our first of what we hope will be many such days, we’re teaming up with our friends down the road at the wonderful Yellow Dog Bookshop to make an offer that we don’t think you’ll be able to refuse… if on Saturday November 24 you buy a book from Yellow Dog AND buy a book from us, then we’ll give you a token for a free scoop of ice cream from Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream. And if you think, wait, who would want to eat ice cream in November, then perhaps you haven’t been to Sparky’s for a while. That stuff is good ALL YEAR ROUND, people.

So come on by, get some books, and enjoy the best ice cream in Columbia - for free!

#shopsmall

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Before she began work at Skylark, Beth Shapiro was the librarian at Rock Bridge High School, so she knows her young adult fiction better than just about anyone. Here’s her take on a classic YA title…

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If you haven’t yet heard the big news, author Jacqueline Woodson is coming to Columbia on April 19 as Unbound Book Festival’s “Kids’ Keynote” to speak with all 8th graders at the Missouri Theatre.  In anticipation of Woodson’s visit, I decided to read her young adult book If You Come Softly, which also happens to be the inaugural pick of the brand-new book club “Life’s Library launched by author John Green and vlogger Rosianna Halse Rojas

Written 20 years ago, If You Come Softly remains as poignant and relevant in today’s times as it was then.  The title references the beginning of a poem by Audre Lorde that opens as follows:

If you come softly
as the wind within the trees
you may hear what I hear
see what sorrow sees.

The title and poem hint at what Woodson so lyrically offers to readers: a gentle, natural story that climaxes in tragedy.  Two 15-year-old who meet at their New York private school—Ellie who is white and Jeremiah who is black—fall in love.  Woodson provides beautiful glimpses into each teen’s life, revealing first love’s innocence and purity. As their relationship deepens, the young couple encounters prejudice and police brutality.

Fans of The Hate U Give might find this title appealing due to the several shared themes, however Woodson’s book is a far more delicate read than Angie Thomas’s, which is presented more forcefully.  I strongly recommend both books to readers of all ages for unflinching looks at racism, both now and 20 years ago. 

At Skylark we carry both titles, as well as several others by Jacqueline Woodson and John Green, plus poetry collections by Audre Lorde.  We’ll also happily keep you stocked with John Green and Rosianna Halse Rojas’s future book club selections. 

Missouri's first Poet Laureate will be here on Thursday!

Just a quick reminder that on Thursday, November 15 at 6:00 p.m., Missouri’s first poet laureate, Walter Bargen, will be appearing at Skylark to read from his new collection, MY OTHER MOTHER’S RED MERCEDES. Those of you who have heard Walter read before will know that you’ll be in for a treat. He’s a funny, engaging reader, and his poems are wonderful. But don’t take our word for it. Come on down to 9th Street tomorrow evening and hear for yourself!

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