Poem: An Empty Bookstore

I know how lucky I am. I get to go into a bookstore every single day. In these coronavirus days, that’s something special. Admittedly, I know this time is a setback. I certainly never imagined I would end up closing down for weeks and possibly months this soon after becoming the owner of a bookstore. But life’s lemons make sweet lemonade if you know the recipe, and for me, that recipe includes a lot of books and time.

Today, I will go back to the bookstore. I will sit behind my desk and do paperwork and hope the phone will ring. I will spend some time dusting and rearranging shelves. And I will spend some time just sitting silently. But I won’t be alone.

An Empty Bookstore

By Michelle Garren Flye

An empty bookstore is still quite full.

Just sit silent and listen for a minute.

You’ll find the characters of another soul

Acting stories for your entertainment.

Look there! It’s Hazel from Watership Down!

He’d best watch out, McGregor’s not picky—

Peter Rabbit escaped and ran into town,

And farmers say all pesky rabbits are tricky.

In a quiet corner, the Little Women gather.

Meg, Jo, Amy, Beth dream dreams of future days.

I wonder what they’d think of today, whether

Marmee would approve of our wayward ways?

Curious George flies a kite with Paddington Bear,

Ignoring Jekyll’s Hyde lurking in the shadows.

Scarlett O’Hara ponders which dress to wear

While Atticus Finch seeks to deal legal blows.

Over yonder lies Dracula’s coffin in state

And don’t forget to check in on Miss Havisham.

Now that you’re ready to flee, just wait—

Anne Shirley is here with green egg’s Sam.

The longer you sit quiet in this empty place

The more peopled you’ll find it is in the end.

You know, you can do the same in your own space?

Books are all you need to make a friend.

Trump Tilts at Windmills

They might be giants…they aren’t, but they might be.

Very seldom these days do the worlds of great literature and American politics coincide, but Donald Trump’s recent attack on windmills cannot help reminding me of the passage in the great novel about an insane man, Don Quixote.

Don Trump says, “They kill birds, they cause cancer, you can’t depend on them to power your television for an entire night because if the wind’s not blowing, there’s no power.”

Don Quixote says, “They’re giants and I shall slay them.”

But where is Trump’s Sancho? Where is the voice of reason to tell him that they aren’t actually giants, but very useful and beneficial machines? If we continue the parallel, Sancho would probably be Trump’s voters. The ones he’s promised will benefit if they follow him. Yet Trump’s Sancho doesn’t seem capable of pointing out that the windmills are not actually giants. So, it would seem, Trump Quixote is destined to break his lance without even a word of warning from his companion.

We might laugh at this. Cervantes certainly intended you to laugh at his misguided knight and even at Sancho. But if we’re stuck in Don Trump, or the Man of Queens, we better hope there’s a Knight of the White Moon out there somewhere who will defeat Trump and make him promise to go home to be cured of his madness.

Otherwise, we may be doomed to subscribe to Quixote’s belief near the end of the first volume that knights errant “are exempt from the application of all laws and statutes, that for them law is their sword, statutes are their spirit, and edicts and proclamations are their will and desire.”

Sounds uncomfortably familiar.

Six Days to Becoming Magic and I feel bad for Laura Ingalls Wilder

In six days my new book Becoming Magic will be unleashed upon the world. I’m calling it “a new kind of romance” because I think it’s time my genre addresses the #metoo movement and accepts that, in the past, our books have been part of the problem—and can now be part of the solution.

Just yesterday, the Association of Library Services to Children played a key role in a cautionary tale for all authors who don’t pay attention to changing times. They removed the name of one of America’s great pioneer women authors from an award. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be known as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because Wilder’s famous Little House series contains a number of racist (by today’s standards) references to Native Americans and black people.

Understand, first and foremost, that I get it. I read these books as a child and never thought twice about “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” or the reference to blackface. I’m reading them again with my daughter and am extremely grateful that she has a good, analytical head on her eleven-year-old shoulders. She knows those statements are wrong. She didn’t understand the blackface and “darkie” reference until I explained them, and then she knew they were wrong, too. We talked about how times and people’s perceptions change and evolve, and while Wilder may not have thought twice about writing those passages, they are considered wrong now.

She got it.

With all that said, I feel for Wilder. Her writing accurately reflected the social attitudes of her time. And now it is a victim of today’s more evolved social sensibility. Wilder even apologized for some of her writing during her lifetime and lived to see one passage changed from saying “no people, only Indians” to “no settlers, only Indians”, which shows she actually at least partially got it, too. I’m glad to know that.

I hope the removal of Wilder’s name from the award does not mean her books will someday be removed from library shelves. Read with the correct context, these books are invaluable to understanding and remembering our history and the history of our literature. Along with Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, these books form a map to remind us of where we’ve been so we don’t go back there.

And, Laura Ingalls Wilder, rest assured I get it, too. Writing of any genre may reflect the current time and sensibility, but eventually those times and sensibilities—and sensitivities—will change.

Speaking of best laid plans: The winners of my book giveaway are…

I have every excuse in the book for not getting back on here to let you guys know who the winners of my book/proof giveaway are, but I’m not going to get into that. Suffice it to say I’ve been using my energy up wisely over the past couple of days. 🙂 To make it up to you, I’ve decided to make you ALL winners! If you left me a comment and would like a book, I’m going to give you one. They’ll all be either Proof 2s or 3s, so the only thing different in each one will be the bio and a couple pages of review blurbs.

Problem here. I “know” everybody who left a comment, and I’ll be getting in touch with you electronically, but unless you live in my town (and I think only one of you does!), you’re gonna have to send me a mailing address to get the book. Email is great, but I haven’t figured out how to squish my book into an electronic pulse that’ll travel to your computer and reconfigure itself. 🙂 At any rate, if you read this, email me at michellegflye@gmail.com, and I’ll get the book in the mail! I wouldn’t leave my mailing address in the comments section here, though. Judging by the spam comments I sometimes get, there is the possibility that not everyone who stops by is a friendly!

Love you guys! Thanks for making my Print Birthday a happy one!

What would it be like to be a dead author?

I’ve been needing to update my blog for a while now, but I like to have something to say before I start out and recently my head has been too full of other things to come up with a decent blog post. My mother would say I’ve got too many irons in the fire. The truth is, I bounce from one project to the next and rarely have a moment to come up with something real to say. For instance, this week I’ve been rewriting a submission at the request of a publisher, cataloging library books, updating a Facebook page and trying to keep up with all my other regularly scheduled activities. Add to that my new quest to actually SELL the books I already have published and you end up with a whirling head and no time to BREATHE (pun intended).

Today I stopped for a second while I was working on the library books. I stopped because I had come across a nice little paperback of Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. I’ve never read this novel, but I love books in general, and this one had obviously been read. Plus, I’m fascinated by dead authors. What must it be like to die knowing your books are read the world over and will be read for years to come as Conrad did? Hemingway is another one like that. Did he die knowing he was a legend? I’m pretty sure Samuel Clemens did, although he probably figured the joke was on us. And what about authors like Poe who died penniless? Would he feel better about his life knowing his work has lived on as long as it has?

Libraries are full of dead authors, and they’re much more fascinating than the live ones, if you get right down to it. My friend Ellen Meister has a book coming out in a couple of weeks called Farewell, Dorothy Parker that I absolutely can’t wait for. Leading up to it, Ellen has maintained a Facebook page for Dorothy Parker, and it has been fascinating reading. I was never a huge Dorothy Parker fan (and can’t swear I am now, either), but I definitely include her among the ranks of dead authors I’d love to meet. And since I can’t, I’ll just have to read Ellen’s book, a novel about a woman who meets Dorothy Parker’s ghost.

I hope there’s a literary heaven somewhere and I hope Poe is treated with as much respect there as Papa Hemingway. I like to think they all know when their books are read by someone who loves them…or even a high school student who reads it because he has to.