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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Showers Us with Memories

by Marcy Collier

The beginning of spring always reminds me of spring cleaning. I am a pack rat. I come from a family of pack rats. My dad has started cleaning out his attic. It is raining and pouring – stuff! It's not unusual for me to come to work and find childhood toys scattered on the floor of my office or boxes left in my basement with all of my grade school papers. Does anyone else out there still have their 1970s Barbie corvette or camper, maybe your old Nancy Drew books? Maybe. Maybe not. But these items flood back childhood memories. Memories that I can use in future stories.

Recently, I was having a hard time writing a scene in my novel. I did everything from sketch the physical scene to write down sensory elements, but I couldn’t get it quite right. I paged through my old high school memory box and diary. I downloaded songs to my Ipod from when I was 17-years-old, the age of my character. I read through a top 100 list compiled at my summer job working at a water park. Then something clicked. I remembered the awkwardness of this age and reconstructed feelings from my character’s point of view, based on the memories and experiences of my 17-year-old self.
All writers love books. We like to touch the spine and hear the pages turn. With the demise of Borders and other small book stores in the Pittsburgh area like Joseph Beth Booksellers, local writers are worried. This has been a hot topic, especially on our blog. Will paper books disappear, replaced by only e-books? Will all the agents turn into publicists? I don’t know. But take a look at the transformation of music over the last 30 years. We listened to records, then cassette tapes, CDs, now downloads. In the 1980s people insisted kids would stop buying music and tape their favorite songs from the radio. The same happened in the 1990s with Napster and other music sharing sites. But people still buy music. The device has changed.
I envision future books to include integrated music, sound effects and maybe even sensory overloads, like those old scratch-n-sniff stickers, only more intense. Wouldn’t it be cool to hear the storm, smell the rain and feel the hair on the back of your neck stand on end as the villain corners your character into an old, rickety shed? Or, you could mute the sensors and sounds and simply imagine those details.

But as Carol pointed out in her post on Monday, April 11, 2011, the picture book experience is different. I have young children. I don't read to them from my Nook. I like to snuggle up in our comfy chair and read from a book. Studies have shown, reading to children from a digital device can interfere with their ability to focus on the text and process the information. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081219073049.htm
But as writers, should we embrace the future of electronic books even if we disagree? J.K. Rowling hasn't. At least not yet. The Harry Potter series is not currently available in electronic format, but rumors are she is reconsidering. http://www.tweentribune.com/content/harry-potter-your-ipad

Writers will still be in demand even if the device has changed. No one knows if books in paperback will disappear in 10 years. They certainly won’t in my house. Remember, I’m a pack rat. Books will be displayed on bookshelves and packed in boxes in my attic. I want to be able to sit my future grandchildren on my lap and read hard-covered picture books to them. But the newest reading device will also rest on my nightstand full of electronic literature. How do you see the book industry in 10 years, and will you embrace the change or fight it?      

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