Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Writers are Heroes

A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. (Via

A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability. (Via

A person noted for special achievement in a particular field. (Via

Of course there are people who love books. There are people who love both reading and writing, who love stories and morals and symbolism, but how many people have stopped to consider writers as heroes?
  1. Bravery and Dedication
    For centuries, writers have been publishing truth in the face of controversy and control. They have done this in a journalistic fashion, the way Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis on the church door, and the unforgettable way that reporters today hunker down in battlefields and journalist-hating countries to help bring clarity to unaware readers. As the beloved banned book week many libraries celebrate will tell us, unwanted truths are written into fiction as well. These truths range from the underlying hatred and control that Arthur Miller spent his entire writing live trying to unveil, to the crude truths Holden Caufeild shows us about real people, and how they call prostitutes and use the F word. Writers have had their books banned, and put them selves in physical danger to share their thoughts and grievances. We may have come a long way from tar-and-feathering, but modern prosecution of a writer is still a noteworthy risk.

  1. Facilitating comfort, “Coming to the rescue”
    The biggest reason there is to love reading or writing is the security blanket we find in realizing how universal our problems and feelings are. Taking this fact into focus, have we ever thought about the mental power it takes to demonstrate how all of us, from accountants in Japan to Mounties in Canada to Hemp farmers in California, are all the same in so many deep and emotional ways? Good books have helped dry tears, offer fresh perspective, and have even saved lives. I once knew a girl with severe facial scars from an accident, who said that her self-loathing was unbearable until she found a character in literature with the same affliction, who reflected the same dark questions and brooding fears. She told me if it had not been for books showing her that everyone is as afraid as her, “I know I wouldn't have made it to college.”

  2. Book = Time capsule
    Historians may remember where general So-and-so lead the forces of Where-ever-ville, and anthropologists may remember how many molars the men fighting in the war were thought to have and what gods they prayed to at the bottom of their foxholes, but who remembers the people? Who thinks about what it was like reading expressions of terror on the faces of comrades, or what it feels like to find your ally full of holes, and suffering? It is the imagination and empathy of writers that preserves day-to-day culture. They sift through the historian's journals and the anthropological articles, and then connects that data with human spirit, and folklore. Literature and documents make the difference between re-watching humanity, and reliving it.

This post may be a little fluffy, but I bring all this up because I want writers who are in doubt about their stories, or who are afraid of the things they have to say, to realize where they are. There are many people who fear writing as equally as public speaking, and public speaking as much as death, and for viable reasons.

But in the words of Stephen King, “Do not come lightly to the blank page.” The work we carry on is in good and noble company, and provides something priceless. We are writers: purveyors of humanity, beacons of truth, and heroes.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Good uses for old books

Even when my father found boxes of old, musty books no one reads in storage, it made me sad when he threatened to burn them. Books hold a certain energy and magic to them before we even get to read them, especially when old fonts and elaborate hardcovers are involved, but if the fact of the matter is that your bookshelves are full and these old tomes are going unused, what are some good ways to keep them in our lives, or the lives of others?

  1. Donate them
      Whether to an old library for archives or a theater or portrait photographer for props, there are lots of places that may still value those books exactly as they are. Think about organizations or people in your community that could take the time to preserve them, or who would make use of them in their current condition.
  2. Writing prompts/writing games
      If the chapters inside are doomed to go unread, perhaps there is use to be made of the words. Roll a die and select words from that page to build a new scene. Create censorship poetry by blacking out certain lines/words and leaving others, so the pages say something new. Use them when you need a name or place quickly. Play with the language in them to enhance your own.
  3. Editing practice
      As many writing students may learn the hard way, writing that was considered great for its time is not always to be replicated today. Although ideas from older works were profound and universal, sentences have gotten tighter, and pages have gotten livelier. Perhaps the old fashioned pages in your attic could be a practice field for some good red-penning. How would you develop that character if it were your novel? How would you rewrite a beginning, or and ending, if you could? What can you learn about stronger language based on the wording in those books that may be hard to get through?
  4. Hollow them out
      You know I had to bring this up. How cool are the secret hiding places found in books? If this is the kind of sleuthy storage you've longed for, here are some links that explain the process:

  5. Crafting material
      Since we know that older books often have a more ornamental quality to them, why not reuse their beauty? Cut out old illustrations and paste them for homemade greeting cards, or bookmarks. Snip out words in graceful fonts to spell out your favorite quotes, or to write someone a friendly letter.
      Additionally, there is decoupage to consider. Why not recover old furniture, or any creative surface? It could give your home a more literary feel, or make some great gifts for your bookworm friends!
      Old paper products and candy wrappers have been used for some creative weaving as of late, to create products like handbags, or belts. Could there be a pretty penny to be made on your pretty texts?
      Literary pinatas for bookish parties are also a possibility. For a paper maché recipe, go there:
  6. Sculpture
      This kind of goes along with crafting, but is in a way, more elaborate. Sculpting with old books has been in the news lately due to Edinburgh's Library phantom: but this literary hero is not the first person to turn a work of writing, into visual art. Here are some other examples of this tedious and glorious art form you may enjoy:
  7. Become a Library Phantom
      And as long as you're fighting to keep books used and beautiful, why not make a statement with what you make? The library phantom is leaving presents in Scotland that stand for literature and finding of “words, stories, ideas..” and that simple anonymous drop is inspiring awe around the world. What can you make that will ignite awareness around what you love?
  8. At-home banking
      It was not uncommon in times of financial crisis for people to store their money between book pages, as a back up in case banks didn't pull through, or as a replacement for banks entirely. The hiding place is inconspicuous, and also hard to discover, as searching through every page is hard unless you already know where they are. Put a bill at every page with your favorite number, so you remember where you left your rainy day stash!
  9. Flower pressing
      Stacks of books are a common and even traditional tool for saving flowers you would otherwise see die. Pressed flowers can be used in jewelry, matted and framed, or made into book marks and other gifts. Pressing is also used for preserving/drying herbs for tea and medicine. For more tips, go here:
  10. Aesthetic
      As we've established, there is something about the presence of an old book that has power. If you can't bring yourself to cut up or scribble on them, why not bring them out of storage and let them hand around? Use them as door-stoppers, or a centerpiece, or to fill an otherwise dead/boring corner of your home. I hear they're nice housemates.
  11. Rock-it launcher (Fallout 3)
      For any of you familiar with gaming, specifically the post-apocalyptic Fallout Series, you know that the wasteland is covered in ruined or destroyed books that accomplish nothing. You can not read, sell, or even sculpt with them. You can, however, kick ass with them. The game offers the chance for you to build your own junk-weapons, one which propels junk into the faces of your adversaries. Whenever I build the rock-it launcher, I pick over old teddy bears and toasters, to always fight with literature. To see the famed gun in action, watch here:
  12. Read Them
      If all these solutions seem unacceptable, you may as well get busy reading them. It is, after all, the reason they were printed however many eons ago, and there is always something new to gain from them.

For more ideas on reusing old books, visit: