Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Honoring the Maze Maven, Jorge Luis Borges at 112

Find your way out of maze as we celebrate the 112th birthday of Jorge Luis Borges. I’m sure he has had a tremendous impact on your writing. I know he has on mine. When I was introduced to his stories, more than a dozen years ago, I’d found my mentor. The very idea of sneaking hardcore philosophy into literature with such mathematical and narrative precision was an awakening for me.

Reading his brilliant stories, I realized it was imperative to tackle the unknown and deepen one’s prose with academic quandaries while still keeping one’s finger on the human pulse. Borges did this better than anybody I know. We think of HG Wells as the godfather of Sci-fi, Poe the high priest of the bizarre, and Sartre as the Prince of Philosophical lit, but Borges mixed these into his own unique stew.

I’d caution writers to read, but not emulate his style. It is too difficult to master and Post-Modernism has led to very mixed results. Then again, tapping into magic realism’s sly genius is great counterpoint for most of the realistic, hardboiled fluff we leaf through nowadays.

All I’m really saying is this, treat yourself to “The Dead Man”, “The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths”, “The Circular Ruins”, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, really, anything you can get your hands on and don’t let a day go by without toiling over the nagging itch of writing. Grope for it like “The Book of Sand” or pinch for a single grain. One a day, mind you, will get you through the daily toil.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Interview with Robin Stratton

Today my guest is Robin Stratton. She’s the Editor-in-Chief of the fabulous Boston Literary Magazine.

JG: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Boston Literary Magazine is a wonderful journal. How long you been running BLM? How did you originally get involved?

RS: I started Boston Literary Magazine in 2006 after spending a week in Virginia at a writing workshop. I didn't know anything about the on-line community until then; came home, checked it out, and decided to become part of it by starting my own, and then sending my own stuff out.

JG: I thought it was originally called Boston Literary Review. Was there a name change?

RS: No, but we are often called that!

JG: What other journals have you been a part of?

RS: Only Boston Literary. One is enough!

JG: You have a few different categories of stories and poetry. What distinguishes them? How did you decide upon these particular categories?

RS: In the beginning we considered everything... but the longer pieces were just taking up too much time... I get hundreds of submissions a week, and if someone sends in three short stories that are 3000 words, it just gets to be too much. We now have a word limit of 250 words.

JG: Tell us the difference between dribbles and drabbles?

RS: Dribbles are EXACTLY 50 words... Drabbles are EXACTLY 100 words.

JG: Are dribbles and drabbles a BLM invention or do other Flash Journals have something similar?

RS: Drabbles have been around for a long time... I think there's a Wikipedia article about them... one of our editors came up with the name Dribble for 50 words, but I have also heard that genre called a Half-Drabble.

JG: What do you look for in a piece of fiction? What do you look for in a poem?

RS: I always look for a strong sense of character... I love feeling as if I am meeting someone whose fate interests me. I think it takes a lot more skill to craft scenes that show dynamics rather than a piece of writing that explains/analyzes characters.

JG: What turns you off?

RS: Anything titled "Untitled." Instant pass! I don't like when a pivotal line is in a foreign language— my rule is that I refuse to google anything... I don't have time for that. I pass on material that clearly makes a lot of sense to the writer, but no one else. This is just a personal preference, but I usually pass on stuff that's very global— "love is this" or "life is that" – and I also got tired a long time ago of stories/poems about characters from Greek or Roman mythology. And as much as I love a good deathbed scene, I've gotten so many that I've had to start passing on them.

JG: What impresses you?

RS: When I send someone feedback about how I think their piece could be stronger, and they rewrite it and turn it into exactly what I was looking for, and they say how much better it is now... I love when writers are open to comments... that tells me so much about them. I have a hard and fast rule that I never ever send a form rejection - every single person who writes gets a personalized reply - and I love when someone writes and thanks me for that... some have the grace to thank me even when I have passed on their work. That means a lot to me.

JG: Define story.

RS: Character, conflict, and satisfying resolution.

JG: Besides BLM, who else is going places in the Lit Mag World?

RS: I wouldn't even know where to begin! There are soooooooooooo many great mags out there!!

JG: Who is your readership? How large?

RS: What a great question— I wish I knew the answer! What I do know is that I've had to start taking breaks from submissions, which I didn't have to do for the first three years... we close for a month and a half after an issue comes out. Gives me a chance to go back to my other life. We also just started putting out a print issue, which has been a real blast!!

JG: How many souls in your staff?

RS: I have the most amazing webmistress who ever lived, and another editor who offers feedback from time to time. So three.

JG: How many submissions do you get a month? What is your acceptance rate?

RS: We get well over a thousand a month... probably 1500 or so... our acceptance rate is low... about 15%. We're fussy.

JG: Do you and the other editors ever clash about which pieces should be published? How do you resolve your differences?

RS: No, I am the only one who makes those decisions.

JG: Besides literature, what is your second greatest passion?

RS: Science... music... the internet!

JG: Any parting words?

RS: Advice to anyone wanting to be published by BLM or any other magazine... I can't stress this enough: Read the Submission Guidelines!! It's such a huge waste of when someone sends in something that's not suitable (non-fiction, a novel excerpt, stories that are longer than 250 words.) It's a waste of their time, too!

Robin Stratton is the editor-in-chief of Boston Literary Magazine. You can check out their Spring 2011 issue which is available now

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hail to the Guitar Heroes

I just saw the Guitar Heroes exhibition at the Met and it got me thinking about craft again. How you like them apples? When you look at the beautiful ebony fingerboards and the spruce body you get that strumming sensation. What really surprised me was that much of what is considered modern guitar-making owes its shiny frets to some of the most hallowed luthiers like Stradivari and Guarneri who are often most noted for their exquisite violins. The care and attention given to each instrument was unparalleled.

But as much as I wanted to draw a profound connection between word-building and guitar-making it became apparent to me that I should consider the art of bookbinding. That was the ticket. Of course guitar-making has more in common with bookbinding than writing. I’d been the exhibits at The Center for Book Arts in Chelsea so I’d seen some of it firsthand. They actually have courses in bookbinding. Their exhibitions are a treat. I’ve had the privilege to check out a few of their special events. If you love machines, cool implements and have a penchant for parchment this might be a fun way for you to kill some time. They have a collection of over 2000 books and a healthy archive. So if you’re one of those worrywarts who think paper books are doomed you’ll be pleased to know these special museums will keep cloth and binding alive.

What did strike me as interesting was that bookbinding doesn’t seem to have legacy of famous craftsmen. We know certain locations that produced great work like Nag Hammadi in ancient Egypt and that the monks during the Middle Ages spent a lot of time binding codices, but generally speaking the artists aren’t singled out. Writers have always seemed to play second fiddle to musicians even when classical music rocked the house. Naturally musicians get more hype, but the instrument-makers were also revered. Take a look at a Christie’s auction. Watch the movie Red Violin to get a taste. I’m sure you’re familiar with the names Stradivari and Guarneri. And if you’re a rocker you’re gaga for the genius of Monteleone, D’Angelico, and D’Aquisto (which are a bit more obscure) although you have probably heard of Gibson.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Paper Chase

Paul Auster tells the heartbreaking story of running into Willie Mays’s as a little kid and asking the legend for an autograph. The pint-sized Auster didn’t have a pencil to his name and Mays didn’t have one either. After several minutes of frenzied pocket-rummaging, Auster came up with nothing but lint and an empty gum wrapper. He was so stunned he couldn't even cry. He loafed there flatfooted with his t-shirt untucked, one block from the old Polo Grounds and his childhood hero turned the corner and disappeared. Little Paul vowed always to carry a pencil everywhere he strode. The tragedy would become a triumph years later. That episode bore the right of passing for a great New York Author.

Now where fact meets fantasy I’m not sure, but as Auster has pointed out that experience taught him a valuable lesson. To always, always be prepared. Of course, the pen, the pencil, the Crayon, the bloodied finger: all suffice as writing tools.

I’m pretty good about stocking writing ammo. My Achilles Heel is in the scroll. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a loss for paper when the magic moment hits me. Fortunately, I’m blessed with the resourceful gene. I’ll use a napkin, a flyer, a takeout menu. This happens quite a bit. Believe it or not, I use newspapers. The mad scribble gets a bit messy, but it does the trick. Sure it looks really strange, but it's better than letting my thoughts slide out of my creative ether. Transcribing becomes a bit of a mission. The jumble of words takes on a Sanskrit-type look, which isn’t so bad. It makes me think of the monks and what they must have went through when they were engaged in their own transcription.

Do I recommend this for the casual free-write? It’s not a terrible exercise to undergo, but I wouldn’t want you to make a habit of it and don’t get me wrong this isn’t my chief M.O (modus operandi).

Ideally, I stock a handful of scrap paper in my back pocket, jacket pocket, the side flap of my shoulder bag, and under the sole of my shoe. I’m loaded to the gills with paper. You remember the 80’s shoulder pad fad? Okay, I don’t go that far, but I lose track of some of my storing places which causes its own problems, but I can’t be blamed for being idle. The goal is to keep cranking out genius. I tend to rip up most of what I write. So much for genius. Much of my scrap paper happens to be printouts of earlier drafts of stories, novels-in-progress, and a hodgepodge of other whatnots. It’s nice to see where things are going and be a little bit green at the same time.

Scrap on.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are We Defined By Our Genre?

I’m going to level with you. I’ve been guilty of genre-snubbing. You’re lounging at your favorite coffee hub with Portnoy’s Complaint in hand and the guy next to you is reading the latest Janet Evanovich. Naturally, you cast aspirations. You’re a writer. Maybe you consign your guilty feelings into a sestina or a napkin doodle. Then you scope the place to find somebody who is reading something meatier and you plan to sit next to him or her.

This seems childish, but many times this is the kind of knee-jerk reaction you get when you tell people you like Plots With Guns, Zombie Gone Wild, The Great American Sexcapade or Hills Weary of Pink Elephants. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that literary fiction is “Art” and everything else is “Entertainment”. Good writing is still good writing. Let’s not forget fiction is a form of entertainment, at its best enlightenment.

Okay some genre fiction is commercial, bland, and formulaic, but a lot of highbrow literary fiction is meandering and dull. Let’s be honest it takes guts to write a book and it takes more guts to wear a label that may typecast you. It could make or break you and if it makes you it can be hard to break from your genre mold. And top of that, your readers will expect you to stick to your guns so to speak. We can’t seem to think of Stephen King as anything but the master of horror. But, then what do you consider The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption? And couldn’t you argue that Kafka’s Metamorphosis shows that indeed sci-fi belongs to the family of literature?

John Banville, the Man Booker Prize-winning author, writes crime fiction under the name Benjamin Black. It isn’t so uncommon. He’s tapping into a different audience and sometimes he lets some of his fans cross over to the dark side. One of my personal favorite writers Haruki Murakami has written a number of books in the noirish style, but really he goes all over the place. I heard Aimee Bender recently say that Murukami’s After Dark spins the Sleeping Beauty fairytale on its head.

A compelling story is still what hooks the reader. If anything at all, genres help to narrow focus. You have one set of expectations when you step into a romance versus a space capsule adventure. Personally, I’m always on the lookout for a writer who can stuff more than one genre into his goody bag. I like surprises and stumbling upon sentences that humble me as a writer. What can I say, the craft is a chameleon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interview With Carolyn Arnold

Today my guest is the writer Carolyn Arnold. She’s the author of 6 novels and is currently completing her 7th novel entitled Eleven. Carolyn is also the founder, publisher, and author of the blog A Writer’s Journey.

JG: You recently had an amazing post about determining body temperature at the time of death. What kind of research did you do to find this out?

CA: The internet is an amazing wealth of information. Of course, you can’t take everything you read as credit worthy. That’s why I cross-reference the material to ensure the accuracy of what I’m trying to share with the followers, and viewers of my blog. I also suggest any M/T/S (mystery/thriller/suspense) writer get the book Howdunit Forensics A Guide for Writers.

JG: Who are some of your favorite writers?

CA: Love David Baldacci, and Sandra Brown. Other authors I have enjoyed reading are Lisa Unger, John Gilstrap, and Jonathan Kellerman to mention a few.

JG: What turns you off?

CA: Inaccuracies or inconsistencies. If you’re going to write a novel, make sure you know your facts. As writers, we’re reminded that our readers are more educated than ever, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint them. Even keeping in mind that some of our readers may get their education from “Hollywood”, as writers we are entrusted with the privilege to get the facts right. So, if something we present in our work may contradict what they watched on TV, but it’s factual – always go with the factual.

JG: Why did you decide to start a blog?

CA: At the point I started the blog, I was editing. I find the process of editing, although rewarding, to be even more solitary than writing itself. I thought by writing blog posts this would fill the need to get words “out there”. What it became was much more. I opened the blog to guest posters, and found that by getting fresh perspectives I learned from them, and became inspired by them.

I believe that as writers we’re stronger united, and banded together, than we are alone. I also strive to be creative, and unique with the subject matter I decide to discuss. This is how Forensic Friday, The Human Observation Project, and Writing Weekend posts were born.

JG: Are you working on anything special right now? Any assignments, novels, query letters

CA: Right now, I’m working on finishing my seventh novel. ELEVEN is a thriller that follows a FBI team in search of a serial killer. When they think they have everything figured out, it’s almost too late when they realize they don’t.

I’m also working on finalizing edits for my other novels, and getting them ready for agent query. And of course, I’m doing all this while working full-time.

JG: If you had your druthers, would you prefer publishing a story online or in a print magazine?

CA: I’m going to go with print. And this is for two reasons: 1) I love the feeling of holding what I read in my hands, and would love to hold my work, and 2) isn’t everything, even printed work available online at some point? :)

JG: Self-publishing or Traditional?

CA: I praise anyone who gets their work into print, and hold respect for those who choose to self-publish. For myself though, at this point, I still have untapped opportunities that I’d like to pursue in the traditional publishing arena.

JG: Who are your writing influences?

CA: Influences, or support system? Inside, I believe I was meant to write. Now, maybe this sounds absurd, but at this point, it’s what I believe. As far as a support system, I’m thankful to say that I live with my best friend, and largest supporter.

JG: Why do you believe you were meant to write?

CA: I used to write as a way of expressing myself as a teenager. As life went on, I got married, and everything significantly changed. I didn’t even think of writing anymore other than the passing thought “it would be neat to write a novel”, and even then, it didn’t come up often.

But about four years ago now, a situation arose where a co-worker asked me to tell her a story. Work was uncertain at the time, and we knew that the Head Office would be coming in and laying off the department basically any day. So, I emailed her the first two paragraphs of a story, that just “came to me”. She kept wanting more, and then told me I had to finish. By then, I was wrapped up in the characters, and the excitement of writing again so it wasn’t a problem. A year later, I had completed my first novel.

I believe if you come back around to something in your life, it tells you something. I have since written 6 novels, with my 7th in the works.

JG: How long does it normally take you to complete a first draft of a novel?

CA: My first took me about a year, the second six months, the third three, and then my fourth, fifth, and sixth novels anywhere from one to two months each.

JG: What are you reading now?

CA: True Blue by David Baldacci.

JG: What's your daily writing routine like?

CA: I wake up about six during the work week to a cup a coffee and my laptop. I find the early mornings to be the most productive time for writing. I also bring my laptop to the day job and work on my writing during my lunch (but it’s only half an hour). At night, I work on posts for my blog. Weekends – while they’re like the “promised land”.

JG: What’s your favorite place to hang out?

CA: Honestly? My media room. We’ve got it set up with a large screen TV, and surround sound. There’s a sixteen-foot bar down there too. What more can I say?

JG: Favorite Bookshop

CA: It has to be Chapters. You can’t go wrong with Starbucks in there too!

JG: The 5 most important books you’ve always wanted to read, but still haven’t gotten around to.

CA: Wow, this is a tough question. I guess I don’t give a lot of thought to what I’m reading that far ahead. I know there’s a few from writers I’ve met online that I would love to support.

JG: Plot or character?

CA: You mean, which is more important? That’s a tough question. I believe the two are required to make a solid book. While characters drive the plot of the novel, you also need a plot to lead the characters along their journey.

JG: Any words of wisdom you’d like to share?

CA: Keep writing. Even on days you don’t feel like it, make yourself. You’ll be amazed what comes out onto the page. And as you keep writing, you’ll learn and grow. Another key aspect of growing as a writer is to read. Read other books in your genre, read out of your genre, read books on the craft. But on the latter, I’m placing a disclaimer. Books on the craft can be incredibly useful, but don’t take them as rule books, view them as suggestive guidelines.

Open yourself up to criticism. It’s tough, and sometimes it can sting, but you’ll grow from it.

Another thing, reach out to other writers. Whether this comes in the form of an online community, one in your neighborhood, a blog, or Twitter – connect.

Brief Bio: Carolyn Arnold was born in 1976 in the rural town of Picton, Ontario. Currently she lives with her husband of fifteen years and her two beagles in a city about two hours from the well-known Canadian center, Toronto.

While her first completed novel was a romantic suspense, since then she has branched out to the mystery, suspense and thriller genres. Her goal is to become a well-known writer, and a mentor for others striving to reach their publishing dreams.

You can follow her on her blog here. Also on Twitter here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flex Your Flash Fiction Muscles

It’s long been said that a failed poet is a short story writer. That’s a bit of a stretch if you asked me, but maybe I feel that way because I’m a wee bit jealous of the poets and I keep scrapping out short stories. Lately though I’ve been noodling with flash fiction. It’s a great way to map out a plethora of ideas and not have to worry about “going poetry”. I’ve been doing this for a while now. You already may have noticed that Flash Fiction as a style of writing has been growing by bionic leaps.

Flash Fiction seems the appropriate medium in our Attention Deficit Age. More and more journals are offering readers bite-sized portions of prose. Today more writers are dabbling in the various mediums to perfect their craft, but also to connect with readers. Many of us have less and less time on our hands because of work, family, YouTube or gaming habits.

Anybody who writes should practice the art of Flash Fiction because the medium helps you focus on being concise, weighing words, and delivering sweet brilliance. You’ll discover that words carry more than meaning. They own their own shape. When I engage in micro-writing exercises, I approach it like woodcarving. I know absolutely zilch about woodcarving, but I imagine that shaving off excess wood is similar to finding the right words and placing them in the right nook of the sentence.

Sometimes it takes a month or two or nine to write a really good short story and many of us may not be invested enough in our characters to take that much time. What’s the solution to our creative quandary? Drop it altogether? Not a chance. Pick an idea or two and give yourself a page’s worth of free writing. See where your stream of consciousness takes you and then you can go back and let the left brain do its analytical stuff.

When you whip up something that you think meets the taste test you’ll be happy to know there are many online and print Zines dedicated to Micro Fiction. Some Zines are exclusively devoted to Micro Fiction: Smokelong Quarterly, Flashquake, Quick Fiction, and Brevity. Boston Literary Magazine focuses primarily on flash fiction, but further distills its passion by offering 250 words (or less), Drabbles (exactly 100 words) and Dribbles (exactly 50 words). The people behind Smokelong named their journal because one can smoke a cigarette while reading a single prose piece. Non smokers will be happy to note you can gobble down a Ring Ding while fully digesting a story.

Robin Stratton, the editor-and-chief of Boston Literary Magazine, has been doing great things with her journal and they are currently taking submissions for their upcoming issues. You can find out more about them by clicking here.

The consummate flash fiction artist keeps climbing the literary ladder. The Micro Award was established in 2007 to distinguish the work of brief brilliance. Kevin Couture is already this year’s winner. His piece “Choosing a Photograph for Mother's Obituary” appeared in the Antigonish Review.

It won’t be long before that old adage about poets and failed short story writers gets tweaked and short story writers are considered failed Flash Fiction writers. It’s a slippery slope out there. You better find your footing fast.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Let Them Toot Your Horn

Nobody lusts to be Wilson Betemit or Kosuke Fukudome. Everybody wants to be Albert Pujols, A-Rod or Josh Hamilton. Hell yeah. They’re all pro ball players, but there’s only so much room on top.

In terms of emulating, it pays to learn from top dogs. No argument there. All the same, a lead into how the middling athlete makes it to “The Show” can lend a clue to the would-be Best Seller in the right direction.

Here’s where you need to take notes. Discipline and consistency are the make or break factors. Pujols, A-Rod, and Hamilton don’t necessarily take more cuts in BP (Batting Practice), but they might if they are in a slump. What separates them from the platoon and the pedestrian players is that sanguineous desire to make each cut count. They know their strengths and when they see a ball in their zone— WHAM— they rip it.

I’m getting the point. Writers need to think like All Star Sluggers and figure out their pitch zone. You’re not always going to hit a homer, but if you know your strengths you will hit the ball with authority. Translation: Your focus on production will drive results.

If you’ll permit me to leap from Top Dog to Top Down thinking you need to consider the zealous, undisciplined approach to book promotion. So you want to be the next Barry Eisler, John Grisham or John Irving. Wanting is not enough. Wannabes are a dime a dozen. Results-driven writers— whoa, that’s something.

Okay, you’ve completed a great manuscript. The galleys cut the mustard and the publisher gives you the green light. Your graphic designer has whipped up something bad-ass. You can see your book in Borders and B & N windows, you’re pumped for a book tour, psyched to sign autographs and sip Evian from recycled plastic while you wait the applause to die down as you stand by your podium, microphone clipped to your linen collar. You’ve been waiting for this moment— forever. And, best of all your book has universal appeal. It’s a Techno-thriller with zombies, pitchforks, spiritual gurus, and you’ve even managed to sneak a few yum yum recipes on the inside flap of the book jacket. The story takes place in the 1980s so it’s got Historical Fiction appeal.

Grand slam!

Ahem. Who does this book really, really appeal to? If you had to pencil-sketch your reader who would he or she be? What book clubs does she belong to? What hobbies does he have? If your reader was a snack food what type would she be? You see where this is going. The whole wide world ain’t your audience. Not yet. They don’t even know who you are or that you prefer Twizzlers to Skittles.

The homework assignment is to go to a café or some public place where readers chill. Chit-chat with somebody, ask them why they are reading what they are reading and tell them how much you’re enjoying David Bezmozgis’s new book. Will this launch you to stardom? Not a chance, but it will get the wheels turning in the old brain. You meet enough bookworms and find out what excites them and what kind of people will DiGG your stuff and you might find yourself rising up Amazon faster than you can say Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hey Bub, You're Not Cutting This Line

Sometime ago, what’s the difference how far back, I had the notion I’d share Cheetos with Stephen King, crack a beer with Malcolm Gladwell, dance the tango with Joyce Carol Oates. Newsflash. In your dreams. My dreams weren’t even so kind. I’ll admit I used to go to a slew of readings and book signings hoping to become BFFs with the Hardcover Crew, but time again I was nudged to the side like a schlemiel being denied his bowl of mulligatawny by the Soup Nazi.

Okay, Best Sellers aren’t the Soup Nazi. Maybe their agents and pouting publicists are. What I’m trying to say is that no matter how many times I tried bellying up to these Scribe Stars they kept putting up their shield. I’d do the same thing in their shoes.

A little role reversal maestro. In all fairness to them, I went about my schmoozing as a real dink. Authors are constantly barraged. They're propositioned by a gazillion schlubs. You think some smarty pants hasn’t tried slipping them a manuscript on the sly?

The nicest Lit Luminary I ever met was Myla Goldberg, Bee Season. I approached her at the Brooklyn Book Festival in 2009. She was very down-to-earth and a generous chit-chatter to boot. Even after the panel discussion had ended, she had no problem gabbing about books, her influences as a writer, and favorite snacks. How awesome I thought, to be gabbing so calmly with somebody who collects Hollywood royalty checks.

As great as it was to have had the opportunity to chew on her ear for an hour or so it didn’t help me sell one book of my own. We’re not BFFs. I don’t have any contact information from her, but her agent’s. That’s fine. I get it. Sure now I get it. But, the idea of rubbing elbows with Best Sellers and letting their lady luck rub off on me was silly at best. We should never think they are better than us, but I went about cultivating my following the wrong way.

Connect with the reader. I would have been 100 times better off chatting with the rest of the crowd, the Regular Joes and Janes. I’ve since learned to build relationships with readers, those who might actually pick up my book. It’s not about prejudging and excluding readers. Anybody could be your reader, but be realistic about who your target audience is and if you do your job and word spreads, always let the curious cut your line.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Is there such a thing as the perfect bookmark? By a show of hands, what’s your favorite? Hmm, well you’re entitled to your preference. For years people have given me these papery trinkets and I have accepted them with a wry grin. I rarely use them. No, I’m not from the doggy-ear school of thought. Shame on you for thinking that.

Technically, I’ll use anything to keep my paperback place. My abridged list includes: napkins, Post-its, bank statements, shoelaces, dry cleaning receipts, broken rubber bands, and oh yeah baseball cards. Baseball cards are my bookmark of choice. I’ve been using them for years.

So you probably suspect that I have some kind of affinity toward baseball and collecting since I have cardboard pics to mess around with. As a kid, I always wanted to be a baseball card dealer. Guess how that panned out? Th thing is I hate wasting stuff so I put my cards to good use. I’m not saying I am a hoarder by any stretch. At least I’m not as bad as those two clowns E.L Doctorow wrote about.

I’m also not dumb enough to slip a Mickey Mantle between the pages. I generally use a common (that’s a card of so-so value in collecting parlance). Sometimes people on the subway are more intrigued by my bookmark than what I’m reading. They might scan the cover to see if there’s some sort of connection between my reading and marking habits. The jury is still out.

Nowadays though when we hear the word bookmark we tend to think of the tabs we’ve created via our website links. You tag the sites you’ve found htt interesting that you DIGG and that you’d like to StumbleUpon again. Managing all of your bookmarks becomes a bit of an art, an exercise in organization. I can always use a bit of help in that category. As far as Kindle is concerned, they have their own modus operandi. Kindle saves your place whenever you put it down, but they also have some new stuff.

Here’s a link to some CNET videos that can give you some suggestions.Kindle Bookmark primer

When it comes to bookmarking, sometimes I use multiple placeholders. This might be just a quirk on my part. I really haven’t seen anybody doing it, but I bet you a shiny nickel there are bibliophiles among us who do. Care to share and make me feel less self-conscious?