Author: C. Michele Dorsey

Libraries We Have Loved

Michele:   Since I’ve featured Libraries of a Lifetime, a library love fest all week, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors to share a memory of a library that meant something special to each of them. Here’s what that said. Please join us on Facebook or Twitter to share yours. Thanks to those of you who have shared during the week. Alison:  When I started thinking about this question, it surprised me how clearly I can go back in time to the libraries I love. I’ll defer to Tracee on this, but I think libraries are some pretty amazing architectural spaces: the library at Trinity College in Dublin, the Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania, and, of course, the New York Public Library Main Branch. One of my fondest memories of a library was from the summer I lived in Paris. I was working on my senior thesis and spent every afternoon, just about, at the Centre George Pompidou. I loved everything about going to that library: taking the metro, seeing the performers and mimes outside, finding my books, reading, taking notes, and looking through those crazy windows. Years later I took my kids back (see the below photo […]

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The Library: A Traveler’s Treasure

My writer’s imagination always gets thrown into my luggage wherever I go. I like to get a sense of what it would like to live where I am traveling. I imagine where my house or apartment would be and where I would work. I look at stores where I might shop and other places I consider essential in a community. There are two primary places I find the pulse of a local. They are the grocery story and the library.             At the grocery store, I watch what local people are buying, how high or low are the prices, and whether people buy in quantity or in small amounts. It’s a fascinating way to feed my voyeur proclivities without inviting the attention of local law enforcement.             Tucking into the local library is equally as safe and intriguing. Sometimes the library is actually a tourist highlight. I never fail to gasp when the Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin which I’ve visited several times. Sitting on a bench looking up and down at ancient tomes is a welcome relief and departure from frantic pub hops.             MLXLS​​   Often I will have to work while I travel. It’s the […]

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The Library: A Writer’s Haven

I have yet to meet a writer who isn’t a library lover. How could a writer not be enchanted by an institution dedicated to the very object writers seek to create? My first impression when I enter a library is almost always auditory. The absence of noise is magnetic for me. Oh, there is the gentle din of a whisper followed by a hush now and then. But the silence sends a rush of equanimity throughout my body that is akin to when I am on a yoga mat.             My next sensation is olfactory. I do not know how some people claim they can’t smell books. To those of us who can, the library filled with books is like an abundant spring garden flush with long awaited peonies and roses. It’s one of the many reasons people stick with print editions of books.             LXLMS​​   The library is a writer’s haven. The setting is perfect. There are tables and chairs, some even cushioned. No one will tug on your sleeve and ask if you’ve seen their jeans they put in the laundry. No one will say there’s an important call on line two you have to take. No […]

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The Library as a Refuge

            Many people regard libraries as a place to get something. You go, browse, and get books to borrow. For lots of other folks, a library is a place to do work, often in the form of research. Computers may have replaced card catalogues, yet the function is still the same. People come to libraries seeking information and knowledge. For those doing historical research, there is still the thrill of seeing the penmanship of those long gone on paper.            But for many people, the library is a refuge. No one stands at the door to take your money. The library is free as in free-dom. It doesn’t matter what your religion, race, or political persuasion is, everyone is welcome at the library, including the homeless. Librarians deal with the problems the homeless often present and are even guided by the Librarian’s Guide to, which provides advice about how to deal with common issues. Sleeping/snoring, panhandling, delusions, too many bags, and even body odor are among the topics covered. The guide invites librarians to reduce problems and conflict while still being inclusive.            There are others with less obvious needs than the homeless who seek sanctuary in our libraries. There […]

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My First Love (Libraries of a Lifetime)

This week I will pay homage to libraries and hope you will join me by remembering the libraries of your lifetime and sharing memories of your own. I was inspired by Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, which I’ve been reading. No library lover should miss it.            I’ll begin by honoring my maternal grandmother, Madeline, affectionately known as “Nanna,” with an extra “n” because she was so nice. She and my grandfather retired in the mid-1950’s to Scituate, Massachusetts, along the Atlantic coast where they had summered for years. They learned quickly that the robust summer community, which has been dubbed America’s most Irish town, felt quiet and isolated during the long winter months. My grandmother lamented there were no lights within the houses on her street during off-season and would get “the blues.” When my grandfather died shortly thereafter, leaving her alone with their disabled son, the loneliness drove her straight to the Allen Memorial Library.            The day summer vacation arrived, I descended upon Nanna and her screened front porch where a cushioned chase lounge was reserved for me. The first day, we would drive to the library so I could stock up on books. Nanna would take me by […]

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Read a "Quiet Book" on Black Friday

 A tweet from agent Jessica Faust caught my attention recently. “To all my authors writing quiet books. I believe in these books.” It made me think about “quiet books” and how much I love them. They are such a lovely remedy when the external or my internal world is reeling out of control.One definition of a quiet book is a book that has quiet themes based around the characters. The quiet book I read most recently was recommended by Paula. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin provided me with the peaceful pleasure and satisfaction that only a quiet book can deliver. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is another of my favorites.         On Black Friday, I thought the Miss Demeanors would offer our readers the gift of recommendations for quiet books where they can find refuge from the onslaught of frantic commercialism coming their way for the holidays. What do consider a “quiet” book and what are your favorites? I’d love to know what you consider a quiet mystery. Robin:      Funny timing for this question. I just bought a new copy of one of my favorite quiet escapes, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I lost track of how many times […]

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The Empty Chairs at America’s Thanksgiving Table

 To the families and friends of those lost at Parkland, Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks, Santa Fe High, the Capitol Gazette, and at so many more inexplicable moments of mass violence that they have become an  unforgivable blurred memory of terror; To those who lost loved ones or are without homes after the wild fires throughout California; To those who have lost loved ones or are without homes after horrific hurricanes in Florida, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and still Puerto Rico; To those who have lost loved ones to illness and age; To those who are separated from loved ones by their service to our country; To those who have lost or are separated from loved ones by the ravages of opioid addiction; To those who are alone or separated from loved ones for reasons no one seems to understand; I understand the emptiness of “thoughts and prayers” as you sit at a Thanksgiving table with empty chairs today. As you sit at a table in a shelter or with strangers who have made room for you at their tables. As you defy the Norman Rockwell image of the holiday. Thoughts and prayers are only words. But words offer acknowledgement and acknowledgement is the seed of action. Though my words may […]

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In Defense of Parsnips (with recipe)

   I love an underdog, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I love parsnips. You rarely hear, “Please pass the parsnips” at the Thanksgiving table. You are more likely to hear, “What are those?” from a child wearing an expression of fear and dread. What are parsnips? According to Wikipedia, “The parsnip is a root vegetable closely related to the carrot and parsley. It is a biennial plant usually grown as an annual. Its long, tuberous root has cream-colored skin and flesh; and left in the ground to mature, it becomes sweeter in flavor after winter frosts.” Parsnips are oddball vegetables, for sure. I wouldn’t eat one raw and they do have a smell that, shall I say, is unfamiliar to most. But I like oddballs. I gravitate toward people who march to a different drummer. Why should I be different in my choice of vegetables? When I think about who are some of my favorite characters in books, I find they are often the nonconformists, like Ruth in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series. Ruth is a drunken poet who loves a duck. She probably loves parsnips. I’ll bet Agatha Raisin, Doc Martin, and Vera are all parsnip fans.  And don’t forget today’s parsnip […]

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TV Ads: Lessons for a Writer

  My father’s career was in television advertising. I’m sure he’s looking down at me, shaking his head. How did I miss how much I can learn about writing from television commercials? For a person who didn’t get to watch much television for years, I’m making up for lost time. I can’t say I’m sorry to have missed most of the ads on TV over the years, but occasionally I happen upon a gem that delivers a lesson to me as a writer.            A successful commercial reaches the viewer on a human level. It makes the viewer feel something. That’s exactly what I’m looking to do to/for my readers, so I’ve become a student of them. Here are a few of my favorite recent commercials. The Cheese Guy (             This Whole Foods ad features a geeky looking guy with glasses who hesitantly approaches a cheese monger at the counter. “I hear you have a degree in cheese,” he says. The chubby cheese monger in a skull cap replies with a smile, “I do. I went to cheese school.” Our geek shrugs, smiles a toothy grin,  and admits, “I’d like to go to cheese school.” In fifteen seconds, I am in love with […]

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What I Learned from Walter Mosley

   I recently had the honor and privilege of interviewing Walter Mosley, who was the Guest of Honor at the New England Crime Bake, which I co-chaired this year with Edith Maxwell. I thought getting to interview Walter was a reward for my hard work preparing for Crime Bake until I realized the man had written fifty-four books in less than thirty years. Time magazine says Mosley is a “writer whose work transcends category.” I learned he has not only written several fabulously successful crime series, including the beloved Easy Rawlins series, but he has also written sci-fi, literary fiction, erotica, a political monograph, and a writing book. And awards, he’s won them all, even a Grammy. In short time, my excitement over interviewing Mosley bordered on terror.            It shouldn’t have. Walter is a very smart, funny, and warm individual. Here’s a few things I learned from him over the weekend: 1. Why you should write everyday.            When I worked day and night as a lawyer, mediator, and adjunct law professor, this writing “rule” infuriated me. Never mind that I worked twelve hours a day and spend the same amount on weekends writing. It didn’t seem to count. I regarded it as […]

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