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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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(re)discovering the library

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my music partner ALLISON! :-) Please come visit the virtual birthday party this week for Allison and Jodi.

Slinking into Northern District Library yesterday afternoon, I felt like a recalcitrant teenager returning home after running aways years ago.

I used to be in the Library Club back in high school, helped out at Palmerston Public Library after I left my programmer/analyst job at Toronto-Dominion Bank. My dad used to take us kids to the public library every week, and each time we'd each come back with piles of books. Some were good, some were parents never tried to censor anything that we read, nor try to guide our reading interests.

As a result, I viewed -every- section of the library as an exciting territory waiting to be explored, not just the kids' area. I loved browsing up and down the aisles, breathing in the musty smell of books, running my hand lightly over the spines lined up neatly on the shelf, thinking about all the words and ideas waiting to be discovered in each volume. I used to secretly dream about having read Every Single Book in the entire library someday.

In university, libraries were my refuge and social centre. In Robarts Library, my friends and I used to have lunch on the floor outside the cafeteria, playing Hearts and munching on Flakies from the vending machine. We'd do homework and snooze in the cubicles on the basement floor. Though I didn't have much excuse to do research in the stacks, I'd sometimes wander through them anyway, just for the quiet and solitude.

Yesterday, I spent most of my time in the library with my laptop in a cubicle with a power outlet, working on my book. I've found I get more fiction writing done away from home because I'm offline and know I won't be interrupted. Not sure about you other writers, but it always takes me a few minutes to get ramped up into full writing mode, where I'm fully absorbed in the story and characters. And I always hope that I reach that near-mystical state where I'm not so much writing as chanelling, when my fingers can barely keep up with the story unfolding in my head.

I used to give up if I couldn't reach that state during a writing session. Over the years, I've learned to keep going becomes to easy to use as an excuse NOT to write otherwise. Noel Coward summarized this well: "What I adore is supreme professionalism. I'm bored by writers who can write only when it's raining."

What drives me nuts, however, is getting yanked out of that wonderfully creative mode by something trivial like a phonecall or knock on my office door. I get pretty crabby and sometimes snap at the person, but then feel bad about my behaviour later. My solution: work outside of my home office, and to turn off my cellphone. I'll check messages every once in a while, but at least that's under my control. Seems to be working pretty well...I do my fiction writing away from home, my nonfiction at home (don't mind being interrupted as much then, and I usually need the access to the Internet).

After I finished my writing yesterday, I wandered about the library to remind myself of what I had been missing out on these past years. Which is quite a lot! In addition to books, there are books on tape, movies, CDs, video tapes, Internet access terminals (sign up in advance, 1/2 hr limit), courses, concerts, manuscript critiquing by the author-in-residence...all FREE. And most importantly (for me), lots of cubicles and table spaces near power outlets in a quiet environment.

I went to sign out a book on tape (a medical thriller to listen to during my workouts at the gym), and was mortified to discover that not only had my library card expired, but that I was no longer even listed on the library computer system! The nice Library Clerk didn't bat an eye, however, and cheerfully reactivated my card once I showed her a photo id.

So I'm back in the fold; I have a library card. And I definitely plan to make more use of it from now on. :-)

Project Updates:

- Wrote 1500 words for my novel yesterday.

- Got a rejection from one of the column applications I sent (an e-mail "cold call").

- Requested submissions guidelines from a bunch of online markets.

Thanks to,, Valinor, Imladris, and RingZone for mentioning Waiting For Frodo.


(Reuters) TV networks are starting to broach the previously-taboo subject of terrorism.


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(Wired) An author speaks out against "reckless copyright enforcement". (More...)

(Canoe) Creator of Heathcliff cat comic dies. (More...)

Today's Blatherpics:

- This card was in our hotel room near the Vancouver Airport, promoting their main restaurant. I have to question the use of the word "specialize" here. (!)

Today's Poll: (Suggest a question)

Have you visited a public library in the past six months?

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