Creativity in Public Spaces and the Importance of Bookshelves

I recently read Kelley Frank’s post (my sister and BFF) on making art in public and why it’s a good idea, and it got me thinking.

Growing up I was exposed to so much creativity. There was knitting, needlepoint, piano, clarinet, cooking, and of course, painting. Besides the piano, which obviously took up a good chunk of the living room, few artistic endeavors were given dedicated space in our house. Clarinet playing happened in the bedroom, painting in the kitchen, but books were given their own room entirely. We had our own home library, with at least four bookshelves, and more stacks of books that wouldn’t fit into the shelves.

Both of my parents collected tons of books, and still do, from biographies to comic books, from advanced calculus textbooks to steamy romances, they had a ton to choose from. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was younger, but books were worth the expense. We would scour bargain bins at department stores and check out the sale racks at Barnes and Nobles. Growing up with access to that many books seemed just normal to me. I would be able to check out a book series my mom had read as a kid, or read adventure novels that my dad collected. I could read books my older sister had read when she was a kid. We had most of the Babysitter’s club, a ton of Stephen King, and at least one encyclopedia set. It was a shock when I visited my friends’ homes and found they didn’t have a library at home, or even a full bookshelf.

“I do it because I think particularly in this country people are so distanced from literature, the way it’s taught in schools, that they think that people who write are magicians on a mountaintop somewhere, […] And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much illiteracy in this country. So by doing it in public, I show people it’s a job … like being a plumber or an electrician.”

Harlan Ellison

In Kelley’s post, she focuses on the importance of seeing art performed in public, and how the act of doing the artwork drew the attention of some kids on a field trip. For me as a child, everybody in my family was creative in some way. I was surrounded by it all the time. While books certainly can’t be written in public (though it has been done before!), the fact that you sacrifice precious space in your home for books is a very telling decision. It speaks to the importance of books without having to see them performed.

But what do you think?

Do you think having a bookshelf at home stuffed with books helps kids realize the importance of them? Or do you think that kind of clutter isn’t necessary? I knew kids growing up that owned only 5 books, but those books had been read 20 times at least. Ebooks add a whole different dimension to the conversation too!

Stuck in a Plot Bind

Much like your characters, you have to be creative and resourceful.

On the drive home today I had a brilliant idea of where to go with my story. I realized how I could make the villain more of a character and less of a stereotype of a character, and I discovered how I could move the plot forward. Although I write some of my best stuff as a “pantser” (read as writing by the seat of your pants), it’s always tough when you hit a road block in the plot. You know where you want to go, but the street signs are blurry, the road is full of fog, and you’re not sure that this road is even in the right cardinal direction.

The only way out of a trap like that is brainstorming. Much like your characters, you have to be creative and resourceful. You have to think about your supporting characters and how they would react, what they might know, and what they don’t know. For this particular plot bind, I thought of where the villain might be at this point in the plot while one of my MC’s was sneaking about. And that lead to not only a fingernail-biting scene, but to a major character development in both the villain and the MC. It’s always nice when things wrap up well like that!

Terry thinks he’s being cautious, but he might as well be walking around with trash can lids tied to his feet. Brakkis terrifies him and then shows him something that completely blows Terry away.

Summary: Leekston is an unassumingly quiet southern town, but it hides many secrets. An unusual government entity that studies the strange supernatural activity in the area is only one of many. Six years after the incident at the Kayak Hills subdivision, Suzie once again must protect her family from the creatures of the night and help to prevent a bloodthirsty werewolf pack from tearing her friends and family apart.

Project: The Secrets of Leekston (Working)
Deadline: April 2012 (Updated Deadline)
New words written: 2,578
Present total word count: 55,970

Total Word Count for 2012: 3,740
Photo by Emily Barney