Bike4Books: Not Just a Doctor’s Appointment

So I’m not a workout fiend. Once or twice a week I will go to the gym, do my thing, low stress. In-season practices are usually my physical activity, but recently one of my teammates and I went to an indoor cycling class. I didn’t fall off the bike and I made it to the end of the class, which was a pretty serious accomplishment, trust me. But at this class they happened to be advertising a charity indoor cycling event called Bike4Books taking place this past weekend. We were super down to participate in this event. All donations went toward Project READ, which provides books to Cambridge Health Alliance facilities to give to the children who receive care and their families. I never really considered connecting medicine and reading, but I realize that they support each other. If a child receives a book when he goes to the doctor, then not only does he have a book, but also he has positive connotations of the doctor’s office. Similarly, being able to read is an integral part of socialization and development, which are both developmental and health concerns.

The event itself was fun! Also challenging because they asked us to bike up several hills. The instructor was excited about 90s music and there was a clear spectrum of participants; some were wearing biking gear and for others it was their first spin class, but everyone was spinning and having a good time.

We were really excited to be able to participate, here’s a photo (post-spin). Go check out the Bike4Books page and donate if you can!


On Fortuitous Location

The number of Wednesdays between this post and the last is far too great. I’ve been working on some other projects. However, on Monday I visited a bookstore in between sweating my way down 9th Ave and climbing the steep steps to the High Line in lower Manhattan.

Posman Books is located near the back of Chelsea Market. The neon ‘BOOKS’ sign appeared like an oasis. I had passed three ice cream shops without indulging because I couldn’t eat another thing after lunch. Books, however, I could do.

To be quite honest, I felt a different kind of character in Posman, one with which I’m not sure I clicked. Although there were some cool posters (of which I wished I could have purchased several) and lots of books, it felt very new. Everything was just beginning its journey. I could almost feel packing and production residue on some of the paperbacks.

What I loved were all of the unique books by unheard of imprints next to the stylized covers of classics like The Wind in the Willows and Frankenstein. It got me thinking about the fortune of a name. If an author has a creative title and a last name like Hemingburg, his or her book will probably get a few more looks than the boring title in the middle of the Ws. It turns out that being in the right place can be as helpful as automatic recognition… at least at the beginning. On Monday I perused a dozen books by authors I’d never heard of simply because I was looking for a copy of Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” (which I did find and purchase).

So like the fortuitous placement of Posman Books at the end of a long stretch of delicious looking food, uncommon authors can make readers stop with an interesting title and the fortune of an alphabetically strategic last name. Of course, this really only applies to readers who go to bookstores to look for their books… but that is an entirely different story.

So what do we do? As readers, how do we find the good stuff that maybe is not alphabetically charmed? Listen for buzz on the internet and spend a lot of time in bookshops.

Read on,

Currently reading: That Book About Harvard by Eric Kester, Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
Just Finished: The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

New Experiences and Slam Poetry

I realize that I have forgotten to share a very unique and cool experience. It happened in November, but it’s okay, I have reached the point of finishing the draft now. Anyway in November (yes, apparently November was a while ago now), two of my friends and I decided to venture into New York to hear slam poetry. I experimented a little with slam this summer and heard it performed, but I had never been to an actual slam competition. So at 7:30 on a Friday night we took a train to the city, found our way all the way downtown to third street and waited outside the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for an hour.

I honestly had no idea what to expect, but what I got was very unique. While we were waiting, we struck up a conversation with the couple waiting in line behind us. In between analyzing the saga of the pizza delivery guy trying to make a delivery at the apartment building next door, we asked them how they came to be at the Nuyorican. Neither of them was affiliated with writing or literature (other than the occasional pleasure read), least of all slam poetry. But one of them had been there before, loved it and so decided to return. It was interesting to see the draw of slam poetry for all kinds of different people. There was a wide variety waiting on line and the diversity of the crowd only became clearer once we got inside. Poet and Nuyorican employee, Mahogany Browne (@mobrowne) opened with a casual monologue. She started off by surveying the room to find out where people were from. It was like she was calling attendance. First, she asked about the boroughs, then California. By the end I think we had covered nearly every state and several countries (including Iran, England, Jamaica and Puerto Rico). When the New Jersians announced their presence, Mahogany said, “Oh please, New Jersey is a borough who are you kidding.” Then they turned all the lights off, concealing the slightly cliché, but nevertheless atmospheric exposed brick walls, and everyone danced around and sang a song, which I was definitely supposed to know the words to and definitely did not. I realize that this sounds very strange, and it was, but it was really fun.

The first poet we heard was Shira E. Her work was humorous; mostly poignant anecdotes about life, her relationships and conversations she has had. She read with clarity and with a very distinct personality. We then heard from three slam poets. Interestingly, the first two poets both performed poems with candy metaphors. I am not kidding. If you think of the name of a candy it was in these two poems. It was a bit unfortunate for the second performer, because although his poem was very interesting, it could not seem as original given that the first performer presented something nearly identical. It was cool to see the difference in the uses of the metaphors however. The common aspect of all of the poems was that they were all very personal, very passionate and had a purpose. They were communicating something, it seemed with the intent to evoke change, or an emotion. And in true slam fashion, the audience chimed in throughout.

It was new, unique and every single person there was just having so much fun. It was around poetry, it was about social change, it was about passion. The only requirement of being there was to be passionate about something and to have an appreciation for performance. If you ever have the chance, go to a poetry cafe, or a slam competition, a poetry reading, anything. Anywhere that artists are presenting their work is bound to inspire thought and passion. Enjoy it.

Read on,

Let’s Revisit 2013

Dear readers, as 2013 fades into 2014 I think it is important that we all reflect on what this year has taught us and on what the New Year can bring. 2013 has been interesting, but pretty good. I have certainly learned a lot. I’ve had some amazing adventures–I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Scotland to study writing, I have visited lots of bookstores, and I have been on a number of fictional journeys as well. We have said goodbye to some iconic voices including Ned Vizzini, Doris Lessing and Seamus Heaney; We have been introduced to new debut authors and have received new work from beloved writers like JK Rowling. I have compiled several lists that make up my literary 2013, as well as a list of resolutions for the new year, but first I want to thank you all for reading my posts and staying with me. Happy new year to you and yours!

Top Posts

1. Happy New Year from This Side of Paradise— January 1, 2013. In which I have a New Year’s crown, talk about F. Scott Fitzgerald and make an attempt at video editing.
2. Matt Smith Reads a Poem…Need I say More?--January 6, 2013. In which I fangirl about Matt Smith and Michelle Dockery while they read poems.
3. Curiosity is the Greatest Human Quality–October 20, 2013. In which Hank Green says some amazing things.
4. “Certainly Goodnight” Writing Portfolio— 2013. Thank you for reading!
5. Books Are my Weakness–July 20, 2013. In which I buy too many books at various bookstores in St. Andrews.
6. Happy Thanksgiving— November 28, 2013. In which I am thankful for literary things.
7. Plot Twist: I found a bookstore— August 24, 2013. In which I find a bookstore in D.C.
8. Shipping, Stars and Maureen Johnson--February 28, 2013. In which I meet Maureen Johnson and discuss Rainbow Rowell and Katherine Boo.
9. Bookstore Meta–September 8, 2013. In which I discuss books about bookstores.
10. Alaska Young Day— January 10, 2013. In which it’s Alaska Young Day and I experimented with a new theme…

Bookstores I Visited

Books of Wonder, New York, NY
The Strand, New York, NY

Three Lives & Co., New York, NY


Book Man, Book Woman, Nashville, TN
Bouquiniste, St. Andrews, UK

The Old Towne Bookshop, St. Andrews, UK
Bridge Street Books, Washington, DC


(Some of the) Books I’ve Read (in no particular order)

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
Creation, E.O. Wilson
Bodas de Sangre, Federico Garcia Lorca
Cronica de una Muerte Anunciada, Gabriel García Marquez
Nine Stories, JD Salinger
The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson
The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Paper Towns, John Green
A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
13 Little Blue Envelopes, Maureen Johnson
Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wilde, Junot Diaz

And now I leave you with some resolutions and New Year’s cheer :)

1. Read at least 40 books
2. Post every Wednesday!!
3. Do a free write every night
4. Drink more water