Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 9, 2015

A New Sarah Bird Book

Filed under: Reading,Writing — Janice @ 11:26 pm

I know I have written here before about my deep love for Sarah Bird and her writing. I won’t go into the whole history again, but I learned about in her in 1988, I think. My best friend Beth had told me to read The Boyfriend School. She had discovered it and thought it was great. I was traveling for my living in those days and I went into a phenomenal book store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, right by the campus. That was a beautiful city and a great store with the old fashioned ladders going up to the top shelves. I was hunting around and decided to look for Bird and I found one paperback book called Alamo House. It was her first novel, before the Boyfriend School, so I got it and finished it on the plane home. I couldn’t put it down.

Side note:  A writing teacher later said I wrote a bit like Sarah Bird. She said that without knowing if I even knew Sarah Bird’s work, much less knowing how big a fan I was. That was a huge HUGE boost to my fragile ego.

So since in 1988 I have been most faithful and have gone to a bookstore each and every time Sarah wrote a new book. I had a paperback of the Boyfriend School and eventually was able to replace it with a hardback copy. But in all these almost 30 years, I have never had Alamo House in hard cover. Everything I read said that it was just completely unavailable. Now that the Internet let’s us know at the click of a mouse where things are available, I can find it on the web for about $35 now. Tonight I was at Half-Price Books and found Alamo House, hard cover, FIRST EDITION MIND YOU! just sitting there on the shelf priced like a normal book. AMAZING. Did I mention it has the original dust jacket, too?  I didn’t have to look twice, that’s for sure.

Alamo House is now joining everything from the Boyfriend School to Above the East China Sea on my Sarah Bird shelf and I’m thinking of rereading the whole stack of them, starting over at with book one.


December 3, 2014

Recommended Reading

Filed under: At home,Reading — Janice @ 11:11 pm

I resisted getting a Kindle for a long time. It wasn’t that I was against technology, I just didn’t think I needed one. When I did finally get one, the first book I read was a super long book by Stephen King’s 11/22/63. When I tell people I read a Stephen King book, I always feel compelled to add, “I don’t read everything he writes, just the non-scary stuff.” I don’t want people to think I like horror books, because I don’t. I read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot in college and it scared the bejeesus out of me.

But the Kindle was a terrific way to read such a huge, cumbersome book and I also got a great deal on the purchase and I was pretty sold on the Kindle right there.

Last month, Kindle offered their Kindle Unlimited plan where you can pay 9.99 a month and get all the books– no, scratch that, all the Kindle-Unlimited books — you want (there’s a big difference – you’re not going to find MOST of the books you want to read on the Kindle-Unlimited list I’m discovering). They offered me a free month of the service so I took them up on it and started hunting for a book.

I found the book Wool by Hugh C. Howey fast and snatched it up, thinking this would be an easy way to read a few chapters and see if I liked it.

Wool had been recommended to my be my 27-year-old nephew a few months ago. He told me he had read this book and it was great. But he said it was about a post-apocalyptic world and THAT didn’t sound good to me. I liked science fiction when I was a kid, but I haven’t been a fan in a long time, so I ignored the suggestion (even though he said it wasn’t that kind of a post-apocalyptic-world book) and forgot about it.

A few weeks ago I was at his birthday lunch and his wife mentioned the book Wool and said it was so good. She is a voracious reader and has her Kindle in her hand when she is brushing her teeth. That made me think of Wool again so when I saw it on the Kindle Unlimited site I thought I would at least give it a go.

I read one chapter and already could not put the book down. The second chapter ended with a cliffhanger even more intriguing than the first. And on and on… I couldn’t stop reading. I breezed through 500 pages before I knew it. I got up early in the morning to read. I stayed up extra late to read (no falling asleep with it in my hand), and I took the Kindle with me so I could squeeze some in if I could. I finished it last night. It even ended on a cliffhanger, so I hope there is a sequel.

There may already BE a sequel. I haven’t read enough about the author to find out or find out what other books he has that I should read. In fact, I’m not sure if I read ONE book in the last week or if I read FIVE. That’s one little issue I have with a Kindle. I forget the title of the book I’m reading because I’m not seeing the cover every time I pick up the book and it is harder to figure out things like whether it is five books or one. It appears that Wool is just the first of a five-book series called “The Silo Series.”

Basically, what I am saying is that Wool and/or The Silo Series is really good reading. Like my nephew tried to tell me, it isn’t “all that” post-apocalyptic. It is still about real characters in a real world, but the parallels and allegories are very eye-opening. And I love those books that you can’t put down. Read it if that sounds good to you. I still don’t think I’m going to jump off and start reading a lot of sci-fi (or Stephen King), but the joy in reading a really good GOOD book is a great feeling.

December 2, 2014

The Beginnings of My Blogging

Filed under: Reading,Writing — Janice @ 11:10 pm


This is what my computer looked like when I moved to Austin in 1999. Packard Bell. Does it even exist anymore?

I read an entry last night on the Holidalies as I try to keep up and write every day in December (and read some new blogs, too). I read one that made me remember my earliest days of blogging so I thought I should share.

When we lived in Dallas I worked at ABC Radio and we had a computer in the control room. We weren’t supposed to USE it for anything (seriously, we didn’t have email for us on it and they didn’t want us doing any show prep or looking up news while we were on the air…. it was the EARLY days of Internet in the control room). But, like all the jocks on the air, I was using it and exploring the Internet because it was very new to us all.

Somewhere along in there, I discovered blogs. They weren’t called that then, they were online journals or online diaries mostly, I think. Somehow or another, I started reading several on a regular basis. I went back to the beginnings of their blogs and read every entry. I loved the feeling of eavesdropping on someone’s life. It truly was like a slow moving soap opera with some laughs and some interesting stories. I particularly liked Astrofish by a guy named Kramer and Anhedonia by a girl named Jette. I guess it later became Celluloid Eyes. Part of what I liked was that they were in Austin so I could relate to the Texas part of their story.

Only a little bit of time went by as I read their journals and others. I sent a note complimenting Jette’s. I don’t know if I did for Kramer or not. Then, boom, suddenly I am offered a job in Austin and we are moving there. Wow. I wanted to write Jette and say, “Guess what? I’m moving to Austin!” but I thought that would be way too creepy and stalker-y so I did not. We just moved and I continued to read.

One of the things Kramer often wrote about was his long walks around town, especially around Town Lake as he went fishing, exploring, or just to lunch. He also posted some pictures on his blog so I One day I was driving to my job and was on Barton Springs and who did I see walking along the sidewalk with his shirt over his shoulder? It was Kramer. I wanted to honk and wave, but I realized he wouldn’t have a clue who I was.

I truly don’t remember what happened between moving in May and November of 1999, but somewhere in there I did let Jette and Kramer know I was a reader and now I lived in Austin. They, along with other writers of the community, decided to have a get together at Texpresso (one of the great bygone Austin businesses) of writers AND readers of the Austin blogs. I was so excited, I would finally get to meet these interesting people.

Early November we got together. The three of us and maybe a dozen others. It was really to meet these cool new people in Austin and see what they were like in person. During the chatting and discussion, Jette said that I really needed to write my own blog (journal). I wanted to, but had NO idea how things on the Internet worked and how you got an online diary. They were all much more tech savvy than I was. She told me about Diaryland.com. I checked it out and soon my diary was launched.

FIFTEEN years later, yes FIFTEEN, I still have that online diary. Somewhere along the way I quit telling people about it and I don’t often write in it, to tell the truth, but it is still there as my true DIARY of what goes on day to day with a little more explanation in case someone stumbles upon it and needs to know the major characters. A few of those people from those days might be able to hunt it down if they wanted to. I don’t go passing the address around because I don’t know what I wrote 10 years ago. Maybe I wrote about YOU and I don’t want you finding it!

I started THIS blog in 2007 when I was laid off from my job. Initially I thought it would be part of a bigger picture I had for myself and my post-radio future. I would write about local music and events and have a calendar, too. Sadly, I didn’t get too far with that idea. It’s still a good idea, but others are running with similar ideas and doing them much better so I won’t be trying that again. I’m still not tech savvy enough to make it really good.

I found out I enjoy the blogging. I always either over think and don’t write because I’ll never find the right examples or express things just the way I want or under think and just jump in here and write stream of consciousness. But at least that puts up an entry.

Jette started Holidailies a long time ago and I have participated sporadically. I think I ALWAYS say I’m going to participate and then (like my NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo ambitions) I fall apart 3 days in. Jette, by the way, has moved on to new endeavors, like her amazing blog Slackerwood, and Kramer is still doing what he does, being my personal astrologer and cheerleader and blogger at Astrofish. I thank them both. What a great welcome they gave me to Austin and encouraged me to do something I love to do.

January 1, 2013

New Year Books

Filed under: At home,Austin,Reading — Janice @ 11:28 pm


My nephew asked me over Christmas how many books I read in a year.

“12?” I guessed. “50?” I have no idea, really.

I am not a voracious reader. I wish I were. I wish I were like my brother-in-law with a book nearby at all hours of the day and night, while watching TV, while eating lunch, while stuck in traffic. Mark reads a lot, too. He always has a book with him and reads through his lunchtime. That’s something that became a sacred ritual to him when he worked a hot, sweaty job in a knife shop and the best part of his day was when he was able to eat lunch in an air conditioned restaurant and indulge in an hour of reading. Now that he has progressed to working in a hot, sweaty drum warehouse, he still treasures that time with his book. My mother and sister are both big readers. My sister gives me stacks of books she’s bought and read and I know that is just a portion since she has them on her Kindle and from the library, too. I don’t know how she does it.

I don’t think I am a slow reader. I took the SRA tests in school like everyone did and we had those little devices that forced you to read faster and faster by showing just a few words at a time and projecting them on a screen and you had to keep up and then be tested over the content for your reading comprehension. There is no doubt I CAN read fast, but whether I do or not is a different question. And, I’m sure, I waste a lot of my reading on the Internet. I’m reading news, blogs, articles, and funny things and can’t count that toward the number of books I’ve read.

I wish I kept better track of the books I read. I try to do it each year. Every diary I have has names of books in January and February, but then I get forgetful and don’t put their names down. This year I did take note of reading the Bill Bryson book “A Walk in the Woods.” Truly the best book I read all year long. And it is one of those books that I even hate to tell you the subject because you might go “Oh, that doesn’t interest me.” That’s what I had said for years. I saw that book’s title on lots of best-of-the-year lists and didn’t think it was for me. I’m so glad I finally got to it.

Lately I’ve read 2 and almost 3 books loaned to my be my friend Lu. The Film Club was excellent. I like the nonfiction books that read like a novel. And Comfort Me with Apples.  Another nonfiction. Now I am reading Little Bee. It is fiction and at first the subject didn’t interest me (a Nigerian refugee), but now I can’t wait to read tonight. Lu has great taste in books.

I read an article this week about a man who read a book a week for a year in 2012. I don’t even want to commit to a book a week in 2013 because I don’t want to feel rushed. If I like a book and it takes me a month to read it, there is no problem in that. I read at night before I go to bed and sometimes it is only a few pages before I get sleepy and have to stop for the night. I don’t want to read a comic book and count it as a book just for the joy of attaining a big number.

And I don’t think I stand a chance on getting to all the “best books” of 2012 or of even a week.  This guy, Largeheartedboy, has so many lists of the best that you’d never finish the books on one of them, much less all. And whose to say someone’s list is better than anyone else’s? Unless they have read ALL the books published and have tastes very similar to mine, I don’t know if I can trust their list.

The picture above is from flickr.com, a picture posted by MyEyesSee of a wall of shelves at Larry McMurtry’s bookstore in Archer City. I’ve never been to his bookstore, or even Archer City, and that is a plan I want to make for this year. And I want to read Duane’s Depressed, another of his books with the characters from The Last Picture Show. I keep hearing of good books, reading about good books, ordering good books, and I’ll never get to them all. I have another 5 or so coming next week from an order I placed late in the night the other night. And the pile beside my bed just keeps getting bigger.

January 18, 2012

A Mission

Filed under: Austin,Reading — Janice @ 8:59 pm

Dec. 31, 2011 – My friend Jenni gives me the book “A Redbird Christmas” by Fannie Flagg.

What an incredibly thoughtful gift because it had been a full 11 months earlier that she learned I had not read this book. I don’t know how it even came up, though we were discussing Fannie Flagg books. I told a story about my cousin and her little girl that died at age 3 or 4 and how on the day of her funeral the entire neighborhood was covered in cardinals. Jenni knew this book would mean more to me because of that.

Jan 1, 2012 – I think about how sweet it was that Jenni gave me this incredibly thoughtful gift and I wanted to sit right down and write a thank you note. No, I thought, I will read the book and then I’ll really be able to thank her and tell her how much I enjoyed it, too.

Jan 2, 2012 – Despite football games keeping me up late at night, I start reading The Redbird Christmas and find it to be a wonderful book. Like so many of my favorite Fannie Flagg books, it is about simple people and every detail adds to the story and brings you into it more. I can hardly put it down.

Jan 4, 2012 – I finish the book with great satisfaction (and some tears) and want to immediately turn back to page one and start it again. No, I’ll write that thank you note. But it is bedtime, I’ve finished a good book, I will do that tomorrow.

Jan 5, 2012 – It’s Friday and company is coming so I clean house and put off note writing.

Jan 7, 2012 – A vet appointment and more company preparation. Company arrives, frivolity ensues.

Jan 8, 2012 – I send A Redbird Christmas home with my sister so she can enjoy it, too, and tell her to pass it on to Mother as soon as she is finished. She’s not so sure about a Fannie Flagg book after this last bomb she wrote, but I assure her that this is the old Fannie and she’ll love it. A Redbird Christmas goes home with Mackie and I think, Gosh, I need to write that note to Jenni.

Jan 9, 2012 – Somehow a college football game takes my mind off of thank you notes.

Jan 10, 2012 – I have my new diary for the New Year and I write my 3 things I WILL be doing tomorrow (I’ve learned I can only accomplish 3 things for sure). Jenni’s thank you is at the top of the list.

Jan 11, 2012 – I go to write in my diary only to discover I haven’t done any of my 3 things on my list. I move them to the next day’s list.

Jan 14-15, 2012 – Suddenly I find myself embedded in the couch with football games – football games I won’t remember in a couple of days—completely taking my weekend.

Jan 16, 2012 – I have a dream. I have a dream of writing this thank you note!

Jan 18, 2012 – Today. No, it is still not written. I went so far as the box of cards to see if there is anything appropriate. No luck. At this point, a scribbled note on the back of the water bill would be at least SOME acknowledgement of how much I enjoyed this book and, more importantly, the thought that went into it. No, this blog will not serve as a thank you note. I swear a thank you note will be in the mailbox TOMORROW! And if I promise it here, I have to follow through, right?

I found a beautiful painting of a redbird on the web, but don’t want to steal it – – – so just go look at it HERE. Pretty! Instead I’ll use this pretty bird link (Image courtesy of birdclipart.com):

August 2, 2011

Thoughts on Reading

Filed under: Family,Reading — Janice @ 11:36 pm

I visited with a friend tonight and she was telling me about the list of 700 or so books she has read in the last 4 years. Yikes. I don’t know if I’ve finished 70 books in the last 4 years. My Internet habit has replaced my television habit that replaced my reading habit long ago.

Not that I don’t read. I really do. Right now I am reading 4 books. Sarah Bird’s latest “The Gap Year” is at the top of the list and it is the reason I look forward to going to bed and getting in a few chapters before I have to make myself sleep. On hold for the moment is the autobiography of Keith Richards. I had to put it aside to read a book for my book club last month (“The Gay Place” by Billy Lee Brammer) and there it sits. I’ve got a book about Comanche Indians on the Texas Plains called “Empire of the Summer Moon” going and I keep it in the car for when I go out for lunch alone or get stuck somewhere for a while. Sadly, that isn’t often enough and that book has been neglected for a while. And I just began “The Art of Racing in the Rain” at the recommendation of my friend Beth. If I read as fast as my friend Susan (or as much) I would have finished those all before this paragraph was written.

I definitely grew up with a mother who read constantly. In the summer, when I was home to observe her, I would see her do the gardening in the morning and get the house clean and then she would lay down on the bed to read for a  while in the afternoon before making dinner. After dinner and after some TV with the family, she was usually the first to retire to the bedroom so she could read.

My Dad was a gas pipeline land surveyor and his job frequently took him out of town from Monday through Friday or even for two weeks at a time. Those summer days when he was gone seemed to stretch forever. Without his leaving in the morning and arrival in the evening to give the day structure, we three just floated on a never-ending bookmobile. Mom would pull the mattress off of her bed onto the floor and Mackie and I would sleep on the floor mattress and she would sleep on the mattress that was still on the bed. We three would read and read and read late into the night. That is a very pleasant memory for me. The windows wide open because the nights are so cool in the summer in the Panhandle and the only sounds were from a coyote in the distance or our dog outside the window and pages turning in the room.

We also were allowed to read at the dinner table when Daddy was out of town. That was a real treat, too. Probably a treat for Mother more than anyone!

We made a lot of trips to the library in Canyon in the summer. Canyon had the best library in the world when I was in junior high. It was a long narrow military building of some kind, like barracks. I don’t know if it had been moved onto that lot, just off of the square in Canyon, or if it was originally there. It was dark and crowded and you could lose yourself in there for a long long time. When I was in high school they moved into a large modern spacious and airy new building and I never got the same enjoyment from it. There’s something about those dark crowded shelves that made me feel like I was discovering something that no one else knew about.

April 3, 2011

Sarah Bird’s Stalker

Filed under: Austin,Reading,Writing — Janice @ 9:57 pm

I have often referred to myself as Sarah Bird’s stalker. But I thought about not going to her public reading of her new book yesterday and decided, no, I’m a good fan. An author should like someone like me being at their public readings.

And, if I were a stalker, I would have some idea of what part of Austin she lives in and I don’t have a clue. I would expect it is one of the cooler older neighborhoods that has big trees and lots of ferns and ivy growing under those trees. The neighborhoods where people take walks and often drop by their neighbors for a glass of wine after work.

I don’t know if I’ve written about my Sarah Bird love before or not. If you don’t know who she is, she is my favorite author. Period. No question about it, no others come close. She’s the only author I can say I’ve read everything they’ve written (though I’m really lying when I say it about her because I haven’t read the romances she wrote under another name). My friend Beth told me about Sarah Bird in about 1988. I can pinpoint it to that era because I was traveling for a living. I think Beth had recommended The Boyfriend School and said I should read it. This, of course, was before the age of Amazon and easy access to any book in the world. I was traveling with my job then and I went into a fabulous bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and found Alamo House by Sarah Bird. It was her first novel so it was a good place to start.

Alamo House was fabulous and is still a favorite because of the Austin setting. I got The Boyfriend School at the library and loved it even more. Again, Austin setting (though this was long before I lived here and really knew how true to the city it was). Next up, The Mommy Club came out and that was the first I bought brand new. And that was when, I guess, the stalking began. I drove to Arlington, I think, for a book signing and bought it and my own copy of The Boyfriend School.

Then I met Mark and soon he knew how much I loved Sarah Bird. On HIS birthday he went to a book signing and got me a personalized copy of Virgin of the Rodeo when I couldn’t be there because I had to be at work.

I hope you appreciate how much I’m condensing this story.

We moved to Austin and I had the THRILL of my life when Sarah Bird emailed me at the radio station one day. I have my friend Ann to thank for that because Ann had somehow been in touch with Sarah about a book and Sarah had lost her email, but Ann had mentioned how I had started her reading Sarah Bird books…. so she emailed me. What a high!

So then I bought her book The Flamenco Academy at a book signing and got to introduce myself in person to her… for the first time with her sort of knowing who I was now.

Somehow the Yokota Officer’s Club came out and I didn’t get an autographed copy of it (I don’t think — I’ll have to check!). It is an amazing book and different, really, from all the others. Funny, but much more serious at the same time. j

If I already didn’t have a huge girl crush on Sarah, she really won me over when I ran into her at the Austin Chronicle Music Awards a few months after I was laid off. I went over and reintroduced myself and told her I had been laid off. Her response? “The bastards!” I loved that.

Next was How Perfect Is That that came out 2 years ago. Again, I don’t think I got an autographed copy because that seems silly now that we are friends.

And now I am eagerly awaiting The Gap Year that comes out July 5.

I went to a writer’s festival yesterday sponsored by the Texas Observer and heard Sarah read from it. I almost didn’t go to the festival because I was busy and had so many things that I needed to do. But my wise mother said, “How many people get to go hear their favorite author read? You should go.” She was right and I did.

I didn’t stay to say hi to Sarah this time. I let others who might just be beginning their life of reading her books have a shot at her. I did buy a hardback copy of The Boyfriend School to add to my shelf of Sarah books. It won’t replace the paperback I’ve had for 20 years, but just add a copy that I might be willing to loan. I don’t have a hardback of Alamo House since those are few and far between, but my dog-eared, much read and loved copy of Alamo House is still treasured.

February 2, 2011

My Reading Efforts

Filed under: Reading — Janice @ 1:12 am

I grew up with parents that were in a mixed marriage. Mom was a reader, Daddy wasn’t.

Mother read voraciously and subscribed to Reader’s Digest Condensed Books so that there were always books to be read. I vividly remember visits to the Bookmobile in Amarillo when it would stop in the parking lot on Bell by the good Belmar Bakery and we would troop through gathering as many books as they would let us have and then they would put the card with the little metal tag on it into the machine and clunk-clunk, push the cards down into the machine to have it mark the due date magically on it. It left enough smear of ink on the metal of the card you could sometimes stamp your number on your hand.

Once we moved to the country, we seemed to use the church library as our primary book source. It wasn’t just “church” books. I know Mackie read every Nancy Drew mystery there was checked out from that library. I was a little young for the Nancy Drew books at that time so I didn’t read as many.

In Colorado, we again had a Bookmobile and we sometimes walked all the way to the parking lot at the Palmer Park and Academy shopping center to get books. When we would walk home we would trade our stacks of books as we went because a new load always seemed like a lighter load and it made the walk go faster.

I don’t know Mom’s other sources of books. Her sisters and friends, I guess. She always had a book going and would always go to bed in order to read a while before she slept. When Daddy was out of town (which was often in his job), Mother and Mackie and I would read and read. We sometimes slept on a mattress on her bedroom floor when Daddy was gone and we three would lay there and read a long time before sleeping. We would also read at the supper table– not allowed when the whole family was together and Daddy was home.

Daddy, on the other hand, was not a reader. He got that from his father. I have heard my aunt tell about hiding in a barn loft in order to read without being derided for such a wasteful pasttime. Daddy certainly wasn’t that bad, but I vividly remember him ranting on in the mid-1980s about “Show me a man that has time to read and I’ll show you a man who doesn’t accomplish nothing!” I folded my arms and said my brother-in-law’s name. Theo hadn’t been in the family very long, but it was obvious that he was a reader. He always had a book in his hand and while the rest of us might be watching a football game on TV, he would be watching, but reading at the same time. And as for accomplishment, we were all proud of his self-built diamond business and his success in anything he put his hand to. That shut my dad up that time, I know.

Later, Daddy became more of a reader himself. I think he was just not raised with it and, as a man with a more-then-40-hour-a-week job and a farm on top of that, he didn’t have time to enjoy reading. Once he retired, he took up reading and read a lot, particularly Louis L’Amour westerns and biographies.

When I met Mark, he said he didn’t read books, only magazines. He didn’t know what he was talking about because it wasn’t long before he was plowing through nonfiction books as fast as he could get his hands on them. He finds time to read during lunch most days, though he never has picked up the reading-before-bed habit.

So that gets me to me and my poor reading habits! I am appalled at how little I read these days. I love books. I love words. I love a well-crafted book that compels me to read it. Those seem to be few and far between these days.

What brought this all to my attention today was two posts I saw on the web. Yes, I read a LOT on the Internet (including books on Google books, though that doesn’t seem to count in my mind). First,  a friend posted on Facebook her brother’s list of his favorite books that he had read this year. Autumn (my friend) is an incredibly talented singer and songwriter and her brother apparently has a way with words as well. Here is his list of the books he liked most of the 45 or so that he read in 2010. Forty-five? I didn’t count, but I bet I didn’t read 12. I read 2 of the 3 Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books and I read The Help. The Help was probably my favorite. If I dug through the giant stack of books by my bed there are probably more that I read and liked, but maybe less memorable.

After reading Autumn’s brother’s list and thinking I needed to read more, I found out that Art Garfunkel keeps a long list of ALL the books he’s read for the last 40+ years on his website. It’s a pretty amazing list of great variety. I would be lucky to read just his favorites in the next 40 years.

So all that has made me wish I would make time to read more. It’s not that I don’t have the time, I just don’t make the time. I spend too much time sitting here at the computer (not this, not writing in the blog, but the other stuff) when I could be reading. I do almost always read before I go to bed, but usually a chapter (if that) is as far as I get before I am too sleepy to continue or it is too late to go further.

I am currently reading two really good books, so I hope that is a good start to the year. One is the memoir from singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell, called Chinaberry Sidewalks. It is about his childhood and his parents and is very well written and interesting. I’m also reading a book by Bill Bryson about traveling around the U.S., but it is in my purse and, as so often happens with a book in my purse, I carry it more than read it and I’ve only read one chapter and that was last night while sitting at a Sonic.

Reading is a lot like writing in this blog. It is something I really enjoy and once I get going and get it more into a habit, it gets easier and is something that I can’t go without. I hope I get back to that point with my reading soon. Maybe once the football season ends Sunday I can commit to at least filling a tenth of the time I would have spent watching football each week to reading a book. And I mean a tenth of the time of a good year of football, not like this year. I will try and report back soon.

December 30, 2009


Filed under: Austin,Reading,Writing — Janice @ 1:02 pm

I just finished my last interview of 2009. Sigh of relief. I miss radio interviews. Radio interviews were done and over quickly. At the end I might say, “Shoot, I meant to ask you about _____.” But they were done. And over. Interviewing for an article means taking good notes (trying) and thinking about the next question and trying to get enough wordage out of the interviewee to put something together on paper. I’m not a fan.

And if interviewing is hard, the writing is harder. I’m not saying I don’t like it, it is just hard. So I’ll be wrasslin’ with this one for a few weeks. I haven’t been told a deadline or a wordcount on this one. Usually I know those things in advance. Ideally, I’ll write this TONIGHT and edit it tomorrow and I won’t have to think about it again until it shows up in the issue. Ha. I haven’t written before the deadline is looming ever. And since I don’t even had a deadline, this may be on my mind for a while.

I read today that the last B. Dalton bookstores are closing. They, according to what I read, were the first chain bookstores and were bought by Barnes & Noble and are now being shut down. I think I used to buy a lot of Christmas gifts in B.Dalton’s. Calendars come to mind. But it has been a long time since I’ve been in one.

My first bookstore memory was Brown’s Books in Amarillo, right by the Amarillo College campus. It was there for years. I’m sure they probably specialized in textbooks, but I remember going in there with Mom one time when there was some book that she had had them order for her. It was a neat, small store and was very intriguing. By the time I grew up and lived in Amarillo it was either closed up or I didn’t even think about going to a real bookstore.

I probably bought most of books in those days at Hastings Books and Records. They still exist today, but they are just Hastings. They were really the cool hip place in Amarillo with a location by the theater in the mall, which was handy to browse while you waited for the movie, and a bigger store down on 45th. I bought lots of books at those two stores and bought even more records and 8-tracks.

Bookstores are dangerous for me now because I will find too many things that I would really like to have. I went to Border’s before Christmas and got a few “small gifts” that added up quickly (especially since they were gifts for ME!). BookPeople in downtown Austin is a favorite and I try to buy books there if there is something specific I want. I went there to buy the romance novel a high school classmate wrote a few months back. I loved BookWoman and started going there before we even moved to Austin, but haven’t been there since they moved locations. I’m glad they are still in business. I like all their books about female empowerment.  Bookstore-wise, I probably go to Half Price Books more than any other bookstore now. Great prices, lots of surprises, and usually a used, cheaper copy of something I want if I know what I’m going in for. They have a great section of Texas authors and Texas subjects there.

The bookstore that brings back the best memories was a fabulous place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was on business and found it in their old downtown area (I think). Maybe it was near the college. It was long and dark and had the wooden ladders on rollers that seem to only exist in movies now. I was just having a great time looking around and I found a paperback copy of Alamo House by Sarah Bird. I hadn’t read any of her books at the time, but my friend Beth had recommended The Boyfriend School. Alamo House was her first novel and they had it so I snapped it up and finished it before I was back in Dallas, I expect, and it is still one of my all-time favorite books and it opened to the door to every book Sarah Bird has written since then.

I don’t mind living out here in the suburbs with the only businesses within walking distance being an auto repair shop and a gas station and a Carl’s Jr. But, if I could make a wish for a new retailer near me, I would be very happy with a combo coffee shop/Mexican cafe/bookstore. Sigh. Bookstores don’t have the same sense of wonder as they once did. And I hesitate to rush out and just spontaneously buy a book anymore unless I’ve checked to see how much it costs used online.

I would make a New Year’s Resolution to visit bookstores more often, but that won’t fit well with my fiscally responsible New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, I know I don’t have to buy anything, but I would. I know I would.

November 3, 2008

Book Festival 2008

Filed under: Austin,Music,Reading — Janice @ 11:46 pm

I went to the book festival Saturday. It is a wonderful experience and I am always surprised when Austinites are unaware of it. But maybe they are just not readers. The book festival is a FREE festival with authors speaking and panel discussions about books and writing and about the subjects of the books. There are books for sale and other things for sale. There is music and food. And the sessions all take place in the Capitol, which is the coolest thing. I love walking those long corridors and soaking in the sights and sounds that perhaps my great-grandparents and grandparents saw? They didn’t see that fabulous Capitol underground extension. That thing is a work of art.

Saturday I heard Alec Fouge, the  author of Right of the Dial about Clear Channel Radio. When he wrote his book, the company had their own paid author write their own view of the history of the company to be released at the same time. That author was also supposed to be at the festival which would have made for a truly interesting discussion, but that author canceled. I need to read the Fouge book. I have heard it is very even handed, but it also shows the problems of a company that big trying to remain true to its local audience.

I ate at the Capitol cafeteria Saturday, too, which was cool. Anyone can do it, any day it is open, but I never have. I would like to eat there on a day the Leg is in session. Though surely those guys go to Jeffrey’s or something for lunch, wouldn’t you think?

Later in the afternoon I went to stalk, I mean hear, my favorite author Sarah Bird. I guess I’m not alone in my adoration, the room was packed and I was lucky to have a seat. She started talking ten minutes before her time, had a door prize for someone in the room, and was willing to continue long past her scheduled time. She was quite political, doing a send up of Sarah Palin. My favorite line was when she used the classic Southerism “bless his heart” and then said, “And I mean that in the Aztec way . . .” indicating a still beating heart ripped out of a sacrificial chest. I didn’t speak to her because she had many ardent fans there to say hello.

What was a great delight and surprise to me was seeing a sort-of old friend at her session. Gianna came to the studio a couple of years ago when Billy Joe Shaver had a book published by the UT Press. Gianna was his “keeper” for the day (and, yes, he really has to have a keeper). I had just heard that day or the day before that Billy was engaged to be married. That certainly was going to be the first question I asked him. As we three made the long trip through the building to the studio, Billy was on the phone with his friend Robert DeNiro (my six degrees of separation with a movie star!!). Gianna leaned over and quietly said, “Don’t ask about the engagement, she broke it off.” I didn’t ask, but he volunteered a lot in a mumbly, bitter way. That was the day he played, “No Fool Like An Old Fool.”

Gianna remembered all those same details about that day and we discussed Billy Joe’s current legal difficulties and the hope that he makes it through all of that without conviction or at least without jail. She was just as cute and interesting as she was when I met her and it was neat to be back in touch. She is now back with Random House, Sarah’s publisher.

That was enough book festival for me for one year. I would have liked to have seen Robert Caro on Sunday because his LBJ biographies are brilliant, but I opted to stay home on Sunday to watch Cowboys (what a stupid choice that was!).

Book festival weekend always reminds me that I have had another year of writing my OTHER online journal, the one you won’t find by searching Janice Williams or anything obvious. When I first moved to Austin, I was reading some online journals of local characters. Somehow or another we had a meeting of journal writers and readers. I believe I was the only sole reader of the group, so the writers there encouraged me to start a journal (we weren’t really calling them blogs at that point, and it isn’t what I call a blog still). They directed me to sites that made it very easy to do (without having to have a domain or know how to do anything techy) and I’ve had that diary/journal/blog for 9 years now. It gets neglected a lot now that I’m writing here, but it is the more dull daily diary. It’s where I write things like “Rained this morning” or “Talked to my nephew.” Stuff I want to remember and know when I did it or how I felt about things, but not necessarily things the world needs to read.

I’ve had people puzzle over why I need an ONLINE diary as opposed to just a personal diary. Hard to explain that one, since I don’t really allow it to be public, but it is online and it is read by random people. I think it is because, since it is written for an audience of strangers, I sometimes have to make things more clear than I would in a personal diary. For instance, today in a personal diary I would note that my cousin Bobby Joyce’s husband Marshall passed away last night (yes, my sixth family member to die in the last year and my ninth funeral coming up Thursday). In a personal diary, that would be enough. In a diary I write for the public, I would go into more details about who Marshall is and how much we all loved him and his quiet, caring nature. He and Bobby have always been at my big family reunion that I go to and I will miss them both so much in years to come.

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