In Praise of the Bookmobile

By Ann Minnett

Janice McCaffrey’s recent post I Love Libraries inspired me to write about my favorite childhood library. The Bookmobile. In the 1950’s, Denver Public Libraries provided olive green, oversized vans lined with books to elementary schools in neighborhoods without branch libraries.

The Bookmobile came to my elementary school every other Friday, parked in the forbidden teacher parking lot, and opened for business one class at a time. Any student with a DPL card could check out up to three books per visit, return them two weeks later, and check out more. I never missed my turn.

I was a hungry reader of Nancy Drew mysteries and Edna Ferber sagas and so many others that I honestly can’t remember now. My iPad holds my personal library now, but I miss the heft of a well-thumbed book, the sometimes grimy pages, and the jacketless books that looked covered in glossy paint.

Sure, those volumes were available at the library, but every other Friday when I climbed the metal steps into the close and comfy world of our Bookmobile, I was transformed. The slightly tilted vehicle swayed when more than a few kids walked the aisles—sometimes I had to grasp a shelf for balance. Most of all, a world of fiction invited me in. I always found more than three books I wanted to read. (Some research today shows we make decisions easier when we have fewer choices.) I’d pare my stack down to three and look forward to the Bookmobile’s next visit.

Happy reading!

Ann Minnett MWW photo Ann

Fascinating Fireweed, or Why I Create Characters who’ve been through Fire

by Karen Wills

I’ve been distracted many times this summer by a bank of fireweed that grows at our front windows. Fireweed’s magenta to pink colors and life-giving nectar attract buzzing bees and thrumming hummingbirds. Various butterflies like to investigate it, too, for personal reasons.

It’s a glorious, unruly weed, never mistaken for a hot house flower. It grows wild where forest fires have decimated trees, where you’d think the earth charred beyond repair, like a person who’s lost loved ones, belongings, home, dreams. But look! Here comes this tall, slender, flexible plant rising out of devastation.

I like to create characters who have been laid waste, who’ve lost everything but strength to accept the challenge of starting over. Such people are in the ranks of the Irish immigrants who arrived in America numbed by starvation, Blacks who walked into the future from the brutality of slavery, Native Americans bearing the grief of lost culture, soldiers who returned home bearing the inner and outer scars of battle. These are the interesting people, especially when they can still summon strength and compassion. My main character in the soon to be released novel River with No Bridge is like that. People wounded by tragedy can become hardened, or lost, or become a source of inspiration and comfort.

Today I watch white, filament-fine hairs bear hundreds of fireweed seeds light as bubbles that sail away on late summer breezes. These seeds are released from protective capsules that cracked open as if from too much living. The seeds remind me of human acts of kindness. They’ll land somewhere and make the earth better, more nurturing, more beautiful.

Some stories lift us up and make us human. It’s those I dream of writing when I watch fireweed bloom and send its gifts into the welcoming air.

I love libraries!

Capture            By Janice McCaffrey

What is the #1 support writers need?  Readers…critique groups, beta readers and book buyers. What came first a desire to write or the love of reading?

Silly questions? Maybe. But lately I’ve been thinking how important reading is to us writers. I bet reading has taken each of us to magical places we’d never imagine for ourselves. We’ve gotten to know characters we won’t meet in our daily lives. Heroes and villains, historic figures and fictional characteristics blended in a way we hadn’t thought of before.

Reading we learn about our planet and our place in it. Where would we be without books in our lives?

I’m afraid we take our reading skills and availability to meaningful books for granted. It’s difficult to imagine kids in this great country who don’t have an adult to support their education or read to them. Kids who don’t have books in their lives.

Without thinking much about it we buy books, use our Kindles, and borrow from public libraries and our friends. What if we didn’t have those resources at our finger tips? We’d suffer. I know I would. Our children and community would suffer. Take a minute and put yourself in that situation. Imagine yourself and your family without books.

Andrew Carnegie knew how important reading is for everyone. He funded grants to 3,000 communities around the world (including 17 in Montana). The Hockaday Museum, Kalispell, is housed in an original Carnegie Library.




Then to honor his mother Todd Bol put up a little free library. Soon Rice Brooks joined him and in 2009 they formed a non-profit organization.

And Little Free Libraries are popping up around the world.

2014 enters Kim Kozlowski, a reporter for the Detroit News. Working with Detroit non-profit organizations, city parks and public schools her goal is to have 313 Little Free Libraries in Detroit (313 is their area code). Her latest project is to erect and maintain Little Free Libraries in front of each of Detroit’s 97 public schools.

Detroit’s main library is a product of Carnegie’s grants. There are ten branch libraries throughout the city. None of the branches are opened weekends and most have only one or two weekdays that remain open until 8p. When can hard working families take their kids to the library?

I was born in Detroit and raised just north of its city limit. I spent fun teen years during the birth of Motown and the era of the original muscle cars. I’m very proud and happy to report that the book club I belong to has sponsored a  Little Free Library at a Detroit school. I think all book clubs and writers’ organizations should join the cause of the Little Free Libraries—a fun way to encourage reading while building community interaction.

We don’t have to be as wealthy as Carnegie to help . . . any contribution adds to the movement. Check out these websites and facebook pages.

Website:                                                                     Facebook:                                                 little free libraries                                    Detroit: the little library capitol



August Book News

Where ever you choose to do your summer reading, enjoy!

New release from Lise McClendon
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that every girl wants a few days in Paris with a hot Frenchman.”I’m thrilled to be here with the Montana Women Writers, who live far away from me on the other side of the state! (I live on the upper Madison River near Yellowstone National Park. I call it that hangie-down part of the state:-)) They’ve been gracious enough to include me here so here goes my news.

I have a new novel coming out in August, the third in my Bennett Sisters series. This is women’s suspense fiction about five lawyer sisters, named after the Jane Austen characters but only slightly. The first in the series was published as a stand-alone in 2009: Blackbird Fly. It has remained one of my bestselling books though so in 2014 I wrote a sequel: The Girl in the Empty Dress. Now comes the third book: The Things We Said Today. (There is a novella in between the last two, so technically this is the 4th in the series.)

I find the life choices women make to be endlessly fascinating. That is not to say men’s lives aren’t equally captivating but there is something about women’s choices that make them more complex, don’t you think? I grew up in the middle of three sisters so I made my first book about the middle Bennett sister, Merle (they call her Merdle=Merle+middle). I am not a lawyer myself — nor have I played one on TV — so the books are more about their lives outside work. Women in the hyper-competitive world of law are the stuff of legend. Look at all the politicians and their spouses who went to law school! Whether or not they practice law it gives them a solid background, and plenty of fodder for fiction. things-we-said-web

The first two books are set mostly in rural France, in the Dordogne, which shapes much of the stories as well. In each book I get to focus on, and learn more about, different sisters, and I have to say their personalities are all their own. All different, from the Bohemian who is set to get married in Scotland in The Things We Said Today, to the beauty who loves the law, to the Martha Stewart one and the wild child. In this story we get to see them all interact together, something readers have told me they wanted.

Although this is a series these are still in the ‘linked stand-alone’ category and can be read in any order. If you’re like most you’ll want to start at the beginning though. And I am offering a free e-book of Blackbird Fly to anyone who joins my newsletter mailing list. Check that out over here. The new book is available for pre-order now. Look for The Things We Said Today on August 15 in trade paperback and e-book everywhere.

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: In early August, I’ll be sharing my first Food Lovers’ Village short story, free, with my newsletter subscribers, so if you’re not already a subscriber, join me now! When Wendy the Baker’s family gathers after her grandmother’s funeral, she and Erin discover a decades-old secret that could prove to be still deadly.

On August 6-7, I’ll be at the Bigfork Festival of the Arts, sharing stories and signing books. Join me on the village streets — my booth will be in front of Frame of Reference Gallery on Electric Avenue. (And my hunny, Don Beans, will sing and play guitar at the Festival stage, at 1:00 Saturday!)

Killing Thyme (final)

If you’re a fan of my Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I hope you’ll consider pre-ordering the third book, KILLING THYME, at your favorite indie or online retailer. It will be published October 4, in paperback, e-book, AND audio book. pre-orders are hugely important to authors, and may well determine whether the series continues. Read an excerpt and find out where to buy it on my website.

By the way, both ASSAULT AND PEPPER and GUILTY AS CINNAMON are now available in audio and large print, as well.

Stay cool — read a book!