Libraries, Some Fun, And A Leg Up From @MargaretAtwood

One of the tools I’ve been using to get word out about Romantic Shorts is Twitter.

I started Tweeting because it was fast and easy to use. But it wasn’t until I installed the Twitter App on my iPhone a few months back that I realized the power those little 140 character blurbs punch!

My Twitter feed – the tweets of everyone I follow – comes through my iPhone. I can browse through it while waiting for the end of a football practice, watching the kids in the pool, avoiding my husband’s less comfortable driving practices. Those tiny ‘few minute’ breaks in my day are now – productively – filled with Twitter.

I follow a number of people, mostly writers – so I can learn more about them and how to find them! – and others in the writing world – reviewers, editors, small publishers. Most of them split their tweets about 50/50 between the business of writing, and their personal thoughts about everything from the fall of great book selling giants, to what they’re having for dinner. Some very serious comments, and some that have made me laugh out loud at some inappropriate times. (Yes, there have been a time or two when I have checked my Twitter feed while waiting for a daughter in a public restroom, or in church. But hey, God knows I tweet and why, and NO, I do not ever use my phone in the toiletmostly because the thing costs far too much to accidentally drop it in…)

I’ve learned a tremendous lot from the writers I’m following. They share their ups and downs: publishing days, tour dates, writing schedules, difficulties in naming characters. My biggest revelation is an almost universal obsession with number of words. I’ve seen regret in cutting a part of the story and losing the word count. Uncertainty in the excessive length of the finished manuscript. Constant attention to a running or daily word production. It seems to be a very common theme among writers’ tweets.

As a writer myself, I do believe that word counts and deadlines were tops on my list of reasons not to bother getting published. I so enjoy writing – it is an escape beyond anything I could have imagined. But for me it is a personal activity. The process purges my mind of ideas and obsessions upon which I otherwise would have to continue to think. It is cleansing, liberating, and exciting. I have always said that the only thing better than reading a book is writing one! Why ruin all that with the pressure of word counts, deadlines, and critics?

I’ve wandered somewhat. Back to the post.

So I’m tweeting. Reading what others say. Retweeting – quoting others – when I find something I like, or something I think my followers would like. Or if I find something I think might be helpful – and there’s a LOT of that going on. I’m following people who have information that I need. Or who are insanely funny. Or insightful. It’s fun and it’s work. Slowly but surely I’m getting word out about Romantic Shorts – it’s a daunting task to get a message out to what? –pretty much the whole wide world. But I’m enjoying myself and learning as I go.

Apparently, though, for others, especially others who have already more or less mastered their corner of the Twitterverse, a well-placed tweet here and there can have an enormous affect on the real world. Everyone has heard of this celebrity or that tweeting a certain message that’s gone ‘viral’ and, well, I wouldn’t say, ‘changed the world,’ but we’ve all heard them. But there are those tweets that are a little less saturating that start a ripple in the pond and end up making some pretty impressive waves on the beach.

Currently, Margaret Atwood, one of Canada’s best and most popular authors, is rousing quiet Canadians, Ontarians, and Torontonians to fight for the life of Toronto’s library system. Toronto recently voted in a Mayor who ran on a ‘let’s clean up city hall’ platform, and who is now trying to offload as many municipal services as he possibly can into the private sector to save money. Transparency and accountability have blossomed into a massive garage sale that will leave Toronto with an empty house.

Far be it for me to wain political here…

But one of the municipal services that are threatened right now are the libraries.

And Margaret Atwood is determined to save them. She is rallying her ‘Twiends’ to help. Yesterday, she asked her followers to share stories that expressed their respect, memory, and experience with the public library. She retweeted dozens of them over the day, and having read through them, I am astounded at the effect the library has had on my life as well as my children’s.

I was able to relate to almost every tweeted experience! I recalled times I had taken the children to borrow a book, for storytime, to work on school projects. I love the smell of the library, the quiet. Or the loud attempt that everyone makes at being quiet. I love that there are thousands of different worlds to be explored at the tip of my fingers.

My best advice to my children to find a really good book: you must go to the library and find a book that is absolutely falling apart. Not the fresh new ones. The old crappy ones that are held together by an rubber band. They are worn from use and they’re never around long enough for anyone to be able to repair them!!

I wrote both of my novels, in their entirety, in a study corral on the upper floor of the Terryberry Library in the Hamilton Public Library system. I spent a lot of time there.

Oddly, when @MargaretAtwood put out her call for anecdotes, I was one of the first to weigh in. I quipped that, sadly, despite my best efforts, my kids and their friends only visit the library to use the computers.

I received several responses from writers, readers, and librarians, who insisted that that’s the idea. Better that they’re in the library, with the books, the librarians, each other!! This is a good thing, they chorused.

After some thought on the matter, I had to agree.

When I first heard of Margaret Atwood‘s mission, I thought, well, someone will work that out, and it’ll be fine. Having followed her crusade, I must say that I can now be counted one of her supporters.

I owe Ms. Atwood a debt of thanks on two levels.

One, that she retweeted my tweet and Romantic Shorts had the biggest spike in visitors it’s ever seen! How very incredibly exciting! (And yes, I’ve been going around telling everybody I know that I was retweeted by the great Margaret Atwood. They are very impressed! Even those who don’t know what ‘retweeted’ means!)

And two, or rather, more importantly, for bringing me back to a time and place I had forgotten. A place where dreams are born. And realized. Where young imaginations are ignited. And where people connect in a way that will not happen in any other place on earth.

A visit with my kids to our public library is long, long overdue.

~ ~ Alexandra Brown

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