B Is for Blogs & Bookstores

Some letters are friendlier to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge than others. Which is to say I could get through the month on maybe eight letters and never run short of topics. Other letters, however . . . On my brainstorm list I’ve got no shortage of Cs, Fs, and Ss but blanks for K, L, N, O, U, V, X, Y, and Z. Not to worry: one thing you learn and keep relearning as a writer to trust the process and don’t panic. The muses will come through if you let them.

I came to blogging rather late in the game, like early in 2011. My first blog was From the Seasonally Occupied Territories, about being a longtime year-round resident of Martha’s Vineyard. Most widely circulated writing about the Vineyard is done by people who haven’t spent enough time here to know what they don’t know, so I wanted to do my bit to correct the imbalance.

Maybe three years later I started this blog, Write Through It. Since 1997 I’d been an active contributor to online editors’ groups, first Copyediting-L and eventually the Editors’ Association of Earth groups on Facebook. It dawned on me that not only was I learning a lot from these ongoing discussions — they’re great continuing education for freelancers — I’d been editing and writing long enough to have a lot to offer my colleagues. Why not put some of it in a blog?

The cataclysmic U.S. election year of 2016 redirected my energies in a big way. My blogging output is way down, I’m not actively following nearly as many blogs as I used to, and most of the people who’ve subscribed to mine in the last few years have no apparent connection with the subjects. But it’s still a pretty good way to get your words out there and maybe start developing an audience.

As a matter of fact, a little over a month ago I started a new blog: The T-Shirt Chronicles. My more than 190 T-shirts span my life back to 1976, so I’m using them to organize a sort of memoir. Perhaps it’ll eventually turn out to be the rough draft for a book, but for now it’s a work in its own right.


The T-Shirt Chronicles haven’t gotten to Lammas yet, but they will.

During the first half of the 1980s I was the book buyer at Lammas, D.C.’s feminist bookstore. Bookstores testify to the the power of the written word. I had a personal relationship with every book on the shelves. It was there because I’d ordered it, and like as not I’d unpacked it, logged it into inventory, and shelved it. Whether I’d read it or not, I knew enough about it to point customers toward it if they might be interested in the subject or the author.

And almost every day I got to listen to customers talk about how a particular book or story had affected them, or even changed their life

Though I left both the job and D.C. in 1985, and though the store — like so many feminist and other independent bookstores — no longer exists, it’s my experience there that gets me through the times when my faith falters and I’m sure that writing doesn’t matter. If you’re lucky enough to live within reach of a real live bookstore, you probably already know the feeling. Clicking through the options at Mega Online Retailer doesn’t come close.

7 thoughts on “B Is for Blogs & Bookstores

  1. 2011 is still plenty early to have come into blogging, and I think even now there’s a huge demand for it still, despite people comparing it to video and podcasts and all.

    Anyway, I loved the B instalment of your A-Z challenge. Looking forward to the next one!

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    • Thanks, Stuart! I thought about other options for my T-Shirt Chronicles. It’s too visual for a podcast and not visual enough for a video, so I decided that blogging was the way to go. Also I wrote way too long for Instagram or Twitter, so I plan to use them to promote the blog a bit.

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    • It’s really sad. When I was a bookseller in the early 1980s, I got so frustrated with customers who’d come to us for the books that were hard to find but buy the best-sellers at the nearest chain store. That was long before Amazon devoured most of the chain stores, but my frustration hasn’t changed. As Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” and that applies to bookstores.

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      • Well, it is still the same. Most of our customers look for ‘unfoundable’ books. Indipendent bookshops like us still care to try. Big chains just say the book is not available.
        Something’s working in reverse here, in my opinion, but still…

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    • Way back in the late 1970s (or even the ’80s or ’90s) I wasn’t thinking that eventually these T-shirts would offer a roadmap through my personal past, but hey, here they are, and this is what they’re doing. I just loaned 6 T-shirts to the local museum for an exhibit they’re planning. Their usual wording for this loans is something like “from the collection of . . .” I suggested instead “from the wardrobe of . . .” because I bought these shirts to wear, and I still wear them. The curator loved the idea. 😉

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