Jan, Blithe Library Destroyer (+ Writer Unboxed Redirect)

It’s a terrible feeling to believe you’ve damaged something beautiful and sacred, especially when that something is brand new.

A few weeks ago, my city opened a new library about two miles from my house. It’s in a recreational center which houses a swimming pool, two hockey rinks, and a gym. (A coffee shop will open in another month.) Add in the soaring ceilings, the cozy armchairs clustered around a circular fireplace, a quiet study room and modern furnishings, and you can understand why it’s become my go-to place to write when I need to escape the house. Also, why I think of that space with particular reverence, and why I’d be embarrassed and appalled to put a metaphoric chip in its windshield.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what I did on the weekend.


I’d started off so well, too. If you caught last month’s blog post on Writer Unboxed, you’ll know I’m currently fascinated by the concept of Minimalism, or mindful consumption. (Always have been, but I’m experiencing a Renaissance.) One manifestation of my commitment? A reduction in the “treats” which had stealthily migrated to a near-daily expectation: coffee or tea purchased when I’m out doing errands.

So I’d unearthed a double-walled tea jar from a cupboard. I’d filled it with my favorite peppermint tea and taken it to the library. I was scoping out a place to sit, smiling with contentment and the self-respect which comes from living my values, when I managed to tilt my backpack and send the container flying.

One nano-second later, there were jagged glass shards a few feet from playing toddlers. The tea? A portion disappeared into the carpet, but most poured into one of those subterranean wells which house electrical outlets.

Scarlet cheeks aside, it was a valuable learning experience packed mostly with good news, because:

It affirmed how much the Minimalist mindset has seized hold of my thinking.

In the midst of assessing the safety and aesthetic issues, I had the thought, “Damn, my beautiful tea jar.” Within seconds, however, that was followed by, “Yay! One less thing to store.” (For more on Minimalism, resources, and how the philosophy might benefit your writing, please check out Minimalism When Writing Fiction.)

I’m now prepared for best-sellerdom.

Did Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James have to do research on how it feels to be a klutzy, every-woman heroine who manages to attract the attention of a powerful, wounded male? If so, at least with respect to the clumsiness, I am super-prepared, Zesties. (Since the library is adjacent to a rec center, when designing a hero, I’m thinking a hockey superstar would be the way to go. Either that or the sexy custodian who is summoned to mop up my  mess. Naturally, he’s the son of a local mob boss. He’s performing community service for the crimes committed during his initiation and is deeply conflicted over his pending inheritance.)

This is not your mother’s library!

It probably helped that my tea didn’t discolor the carpet, and that we didn’t see a cascading effect of sparks and power outages throughout the library, but boy, in the last ten years librarians have evolved their approach to customer service. They were understanding. They spoke in audible voices. They smiled. They forbade me from picking up the smallest pieces of glass lest I cut myself. To be fair, that might have less about protecting my health and more about preventing a paperwork-generating bleed-out, or  rust-colored carpet stains, but still.

You know another industry which is rethinking how it treats its customers in the maturing age of social media? The publishing one. Yup. If you’d like to read more about it, and how three authors seem to defy readers’ expectations, all while growing their reputations, here’s my latest article on Writer Unboxed: Should You Set Limits with Your Readers?

What about you, Zesties? Do you have any recent, embarrassing stories to tell which can put my peppermint-scented faux pas to shame? What about an alternate hero to my every-woman klutz heroine? Who’d be a natural in this setting?






8 Replies to “Jan, Blithe Library Destroyer (+ Writer Unboxed Redirect)”

  1. I love libraries. They are sanctuaries. I also love librarians. The weirder, the better.

    Embarrassing story? Back in 2001, I quit my job teaching high school English so I’d have time to write, and took on a job where I didn’t need to do lesson plans or grading in the evenings or on weekends. I called this my Stupid Job, and it was lovely. Except my boss was a huge control freak and dumped a lot of stupid stuff on my plate. And he treated me like a peon.

    One day, after my frustration had been building, I sent my husband an email–while at work–venting about how crummy and control-freaky my boss was. At least I thought I did. Alas, instead of sending the vent-mail to the husband, I sent it directly to the boss. You and I, Jan, are good blushers.


    1. Oh, dear, Sarah. That sends a shiver down my spine. Just this week–and I kid you not–I sent my first note about someone to them. Fortunately, it was flattering and we were able to have a good laugh about it, but I promise I scrutinized my email to see where it was going to bite me 1000 times before I relaxed.

      You can’t leave us there! Did you get fired? Did the Stupid Job convert to the Oppressive Job?

  2. Oh, Jan, that sounds just like something I’d do! (And have done. This summer I had a rare glass of wine at lunch with friends and family. There was a well-known author at the table across from us. I made an expansive hang gesture and the champagne flute went FLYING across the table and shattered on the floor in front of hers. Still living it down with the small fry at my house.)

    It helps to have friends to laugh with, doesn’t it?

    1. Definitely removes the sting to know mistakes come in all forms.

      Ouch for you, though, Liz. Could have happened to anyone, of course, but I get why that would embarrassing. Did it lead to an introduction?

  3. You just made me remember that I need to return a book to the library. I rarely park myself at the library to work, though. Or a coffee place. Well I take that back. When I get my hair done I bring my book. Then I treat myself to lunch alone in a restaurant across the way. And they don’t mind if I sit and read after eating. I triple tip so that they remain amenable. Back to the topic. I’m not generally clumsy but after knee surgery I did have some issues with my natural balance. Last summer, I tripped and fell at Arlington NTL cemetery and a large group of Boy Scouts came to my rescue, raising me up like a barn beam (think Harrison Ford vs Alexander Gudonov in the movie Witness barn raising scene.) The scouts got to be helpful and very courteous as usual (I have an Eagle Scout son so I know how sweet they are) and I got totally disconcerted and minimalized my scrapes but I ached a day or two. Okay, the trash bin I hit first won that round). (it’s so sad that Gudonov died so young, isn’t it. He was the charmer). Now, back to what we were discussing. Oh. Minimalism. Well that movie exemplifies the minimalism, doesn’t it? There’s a beauty to it. When we stop being the flash of color and allow our surroundings and nature to bring color into our lives. Minimalism allows us to just be. And without all that ‘stuff’ we are no longer hidden or burdened. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why Harrison Ford stood out like a telephone pole. Anyhoo, have a nice, safe day being your tart self. I would only suggest some sort of reusable mug from now on. One that bounces and is environmentally safe. Yeah. Good luck with finding that.

    1. Thea, sounds like that incident had the potential for serious injury. I’m glad you’re okay! I’m sure the Eagle Scouts were delighted to be of use. Your aches probably made their day.

      I’d forgotten that scene in Witness but yes, a good visual example of one type of Minimalism.

      Re the tea container: I have a stainless steel mug I use for coffee, but no matter how I scrub, it never allows the tea to taste quite right. I may have to invest in another. Either that or stick with water and keep the tea for home. The library would probably prefer that decision. 🙂

  4. Jan – as usual you had me laughing out loud. Not so much at what happened but the way you told it. I love libraries and almost regret the services they now provide that makes it possible to get what material you want without actually going to one. I find it way easier to browse real shelves and stick a bookmark in a page I want to go back to. I’m no techie and lose my place entirely if I try to do that on my Kindle. Hope you find a suitable new tea jar.

    1. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, Vicki, but I’m renewing my love-fest for paper. (I’m very kinesthetic and do better with physical cues when it comes to learning. I’m fine with fiction in ebooks, though.) Thus, without need of an alternate writing location, I’d be at the library once a week at least. Of course, with locations such as the one above, that’s not a hardship. We are extraordinarily lucky in this city.

      Where you’re living at present, could the same be said?

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