Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Library Series: In a Town With No Bookstores by Owen Egerton

Children reading, New York Public Library

It's that time of year, where, at most local libraries in the United States, librarians are climbing up ladders as rickety as the federal budgets that keep the air-conditioning going and the doors open. And above the circulation desk, they hang the motto of this summer's reading program: I Want You to Read As Hard As You Can. Then, they fold up the ladders, straighten their shoulders and the free bookmarks, and wait for the onslaught of children.  

This summer, What She Might Think will be running a special reading series of original short essays about libraries and childhood, written by authors from the United States and abroad.

And so, kicking off the Summer Library Series, is humorist Owen Egerton, who grew up exploring the library in Friendswood, Texas.  Enjoy!


In a Town With No Bookstores

by Owen Egerton

. . . I'd sneak a copy of some 
bloody horror or erotic thriller 
into a nook of the children's area 
and wish to God I could read!

Friendswood Public Library
Friendswood had one library. Of course, this excludes the pillow-padded, lunch-hour harbor school library which locked its door for the hottest months. In the summer you had one choice: the small, early-70's-style, green-carpeted, pale-walled, nearly air-conditioned public library. My sister and I would tag along with my mother once or twice a month. In a town with no bookstores, in a time with no internet, it was her one outlet for new writings. I found the place mysterious and overwhelming. So many books! And unlike our child-proof school libraries, the public library had adult books with dark, forbidding--and by forbidding, inviting--covers. Flowers in the Attic, Coma, Carrie. These dark books my mother or the elderly librarian (I'm sure she was nearly forty!) would snatch from my palms as if they were hot tubes of black-tar heroin.

But sometimes I'd sneak a copy of some bloody horror or erotic thriller into a nook of the children's area and wish to God I could read! I'd imagine the stories, whisper plot lines to match the covers and wonder at the weight of the pages.

As years went by, I recall other hours spent with my bicycle parked outside browsing science books and old copies of National Geographic. In those days you could check out newspapers from around the country, too. Like the post office, this place seemed to be in conversation with parts of the world I only knew from maps. This one, clumsy building was the town's nerve link to Africa, Australia, Europe. But no one seemed to care. One thing I clearly remember. The library was never crowded.

For a middle-school project, I used the library like an eager post-grad degree candidate, passionately researching how to build a kite, making weak copies from the buzzing Xerox machine and feeling incredibly scholarly. That one project was a heady experience. I had walked in not knowing something and walked out with enough new knowledge to teach my 6th grade science class a hands-on-lesson on kites.

I don't recall any guides in the library, can't picture a helpful face recommending the perfect book or new subject. I'm sure they were there, but I mainly recall the massive amount of options--shelf after shelf after shelf of hardback, mysterious texts.

I went to library less as a teenage. Looking back, I'm surprised I didn't spend more hours there. At the time, I believed books were serious, quiet things. I believed the customary hush was not so others could read undisturbed, but so the books might sit undisturbed--like ancient, dead gods. I still believe books are serious--but they are also lusty little demons willing to yank, cut, kiss and steal. As a young man, I had yet to balance my reverence with irreverence, yet to learn that the contents of book can sing and scream.

We now live a block from a public library in Austin, Texas. Just a month ago, newly seven-years old, my daughter applied and received her first library card. I let her check out whatever books she wanted for the family. We left with a children's book on space travel, another on dinosaurs and also a collection of Thoreau's letters and Bukowski's poems. Brilliant.


Owen Egerton lives and writes in Austin, TX and Los Angeles, CA.  He is a performer, screenwriter, and the author of three books of fiction, Marshall Hollenzer is Driving (Writer's Club Press, 2001), How Best to Avoid Dying (Dalton, 2007) and The Book of Harold, the Illegitimate Son of God (Soft Skull Press, 2012).

Egerton is currently on his book-tour for The Book of Harold. Check out his schedule on  

To find out if your local library has books by Owen Egerton, visit

Next week's library author: 

Monday, June 25, 2012

NOW AVAILABLE: The Midwife in Glint Literary Journal, 2012

"Get Back Better On",
Photograph by Eleanor Leonne Bennett,
Cover art for Glint Literary Journal 2012
"Along the block of mostly abandoned storefronts, the barber turns the sign to Sorry we're CLOSED Please come back tomorrow, and moves the red plastic arrow to 7 AM. No customers came in today, yesterday, or the day before. But no matter, you keep the same hours every day, said her father when, after her mother's hysterectomy, he began officially training her for her inheritance."

"The Midwife", by Erin Pringle-Toungate, just came out in the newest issue of Glint Literary Journal.  It will be in her book Midwest in Memoriam.  The story follows Susan, a woman who has inherited the family barber shop as well as the "delivery" end of the business.

The managing editor of Glint, professor and writer Brenda Mann Hammack, wrote a very welcoming and in-depth introduction to the work in this issue.  Regarding "The Midwife", she writes, 
At least three works of short fiction (Noah Milligan’s “Amid the Flood of Mortal Ills,” Alexandra Pajak’s “Election Day,” and Erin Toungate’s “The Midwife”) concern themselves with feasible futures that challenge faith. 
[. . .] Language has undergone a similar sea change in Toungate’s narrative as a young girl is inducted into the family business of “midwifery.” In each of these speculative texts, the authors imagine that the world as we know it has vanished, though not entirely.
Other artists in this issue are Eleanor Leonne Bennett, Ivan de Monbrison, Christine Dano Johnson, B.D. Fischer, Noah Milligan, Alexandra Pajak, Abdel Shakur, and David Vardeman.  

Glint Literary Journal comes out of Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom: Made of Summer

Moonrise Kingdom, a film by Wes Anderson, opened at Cannes and then sneaked around select theatres for several weeks before it moved into a mainstream release.  It arrived in Spokane last night, and we caught the 4:45 showing.

The film follows the romance between a girl and boy that culminates in the summer of 1965 when they run away--he from the scout camp on the other end of the island from where she lives: in Summer's End, and she from her three brothers and parents who live in a house of separate rooms and lives.  The camp leader, played by Edward Norton, and the boy's fellow scouts are in hot pursuit, as well as the girl's parents (played by Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton), and the local police officer (Bruce Willis).

The film is beautiful and perfect, from the cinematography (as though a series of painted photographs circa 1960s) to the acting to the script.  Throughout the film, Anderson creates small details that, altogether, maintain and create the verisimilitude of childhood: for example, in the flashback that explains how the boy and girl met, the boy leaves the church-play about Noah's Ark midway through to go wandering about the church, and along his way walking past the children who are lined up outside, two-by-two, and waiting for their turn to enter the stage. As the boy passes he idly tweaks the nose of one of the elephants and a few moments later he's walking through a basement and as he passes a water fountain, he turns it on--not for a drink but just because.  Then, in parting a rack of costumes, he comes face to face with the girl who is sitting at the make-up counter, with other girls dressed as birds.  What kind of bird are you? he asks.

It is perhaps the culmination of all of these small, purposeful details within moments that make Moonrise Kingdom excellent, for there is no single moment that makes the movie, perhaps because there are so many to choose from--such as the girl bringing a suitcase of books that she later reads aloud from (reminiscent of Wendy from Peter Pan), and a kitten in a fishing basket for her runaway gear, to the boy taking the time and care to make a log of all the objects she brought, to the woman from social services (the boy is an orphan) referring to herself as Social Services.

Real thought has gone into this movie, and it is clear that Wes Anderson and his co-writer, Roman Coppola, believe that children are real human beings whose lives, tragedies, and loves are to be taken seriously.  That is, the film sees little difference between the seriousness children regard life with and the seriousness adults regard life with.  The adults are, as in most subversive children's literature, rather bumbling and behave with less reason than the children.  The movie is playful throughout, and the experience of watching it is often like being given a delightful thing carefully wrought by grinning children.  It's a pleasure.

Moonrise Kingdom is a smart, beautiful film--full of ache and summer, and a desire for freedom from a world that keeps sending hurricanes and lightning.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

James Jones Literary Society: Lincoln Trail Writing Award

James Jones was born in Robinson, Illinois and led a writer's colony in Marshall, IL for a short time. He's well known for his works such as From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line

But until I learned about this contest, I had no idea that Jones was from near where I grew up. I bring news of the short story contest that the James Jones Literary Society holds because my sister was a writer in Crawford County, and I'm a writer, and we both grew up in Clark County. So, surely there must be more up and coming writers who need a bit of funding and encouragement.  There must be some pens scribbling among the cornfields.

Therefore, I find it very important to pass the word on regarding the Lincoln Trail Writing contest which is now accepting submissions for short stories! To submit, you must live in Crawford or Clark County, Illinois, be at least 18 years or older, or be a current student or alumni of Lincoln Trail College.

James Jones.  For more information about
Jones, the society, or to look through archival
pictures and documents regarding Jones,
please visit the society's website
Award: $500
Deadline: July 30, 2012
Length: At least 1,500 words typed

Format: Double-spaced, name only on cover sheet, not on story itself (copy-and-paste the cover sheet below into your own word document)

Submit in person to the LTC Marketing Office, or mail to 

D. Hevron/Lincoln Trail Writing Award
Lincoln Trail College
Public Information and Marketing 
11220 State Highway 1
Robinson, IL 62454

Questions about the contest? See this article that recently ran in the local Illinois newspaper. All the information on this page is gleaned from the newspaper article or the James Jones Literary Society website. 


James Jones Creative Writing Award

Short Story Cover Sheet

(City) _______________________________________________ (State)_____(Zip)_____________
email______________________________  Phone________________________________________
Status (check one):
                                                                                                            Current high school senior earning LTC credits ___________ 
                                                                                                            H.S. senior graduating in 2012 and attending LTC in fall ______________

    (If the above option checked, give the name of high school currently attending)______________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                  Current LTC student __________

                                                                                                            LTC graduate (give year___________)  

                  18 or older living in Crawford or Clark Co. _________
Title of story____________________________________________________________________

Word length ____________  Number of pages______________

* For Official Use Only

        Date Submitted                                      

        Person Receiving Story                                                            __________________

        Code #                            

**Reminder: Due date- July 30, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

There Might Be Zombies Next Door

Film still from the film Fido
So, we're moving into a new house at the end of this month.  Today we went to the house to go over some paperwork, do a conditions move-in check, and so on.  While we were in the front yard, two children bicycled up.  They slowed and then came to a stop in front of the house.  Our landlord had just pulled the FOR RENT sign from the lawn and was crossing back over the sidewalk when the boy on the bicycle stopped him.
       With a concerned face, the boy said that he'd heard from the other neighbor kids that zombies lived in the house.  He needed to know if, in fact, this was true, and if it were true, if the zombies were still presently occupying the residence, and if so, how many zombies--ballpark figure--were there.
       Yes, our landlord said.  But only two zombies.  Then he pointed at us as we stood by the front door.
       We waved, smiling.
       The boy looked over his shoulder at the girl on the bicycle behind him.  Then he looked back at us and the landlord who left the boy to dwell upon the news.
       The boy's mouth remained open and he ever so slowly began bicycling away as the girl, seemingly unconcerned or not fully yet understanding the implications of living near zombies, followed behind.

This Halloween, we will have no trouble whatsoever coming up with our costumes.  And maybe some day this summer, we'll just do a little gardening and routine yard-work dressed as zombies, too.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Miscellany: While You Were Reading

Photograph of a book opened on a bed
"Sick in Bed" by Pete, 
used under CC license
While celebrating National Short Story Month here at What She Might Think, a few major events occurred in between the stories. In case you missed them:

In other news . . . 
Cover of Mother and Child by Carole Maso, image of clay woman with fanciful dress
Mother & Child
by Carole Maso
  • She realized that Carole Maso has a new novel; it's named Mother and Child; it will be released June 26, 2012 by Counterpoint Press.  She was lucky enough to introduce Carole Maso at a 2007 reading at the Katherine Anne Porter house in Kyle, Texas.  Please see the Texas State University online literary journal, Front Porch, to watch the Maso reading online
fault tree by
kathryn l. pringle (2012)

Friday, June 1, 2012

NOW AVAILABLE! The Nortang Bears in SAND Journal, Issue 5

Cover and sleeve for Issue 5 of Sand Journal in Berlin
 You can now read her story "The Nortang Bears" in Issue 5 of SAND Journal: Berlin's English Literary Journal, which just hit the stands.  You can find issues of SAND in shops around Berlin or order it via email/Paypal, and they'll send you a copy by post. 

If the story were long, she'd share a bit more, but it's a very short story, and one of her favorites at the moment.

Up in the high mountains live the Nortang Bears . . . 
Image of first page of The Nortang Bears by Erin Pringle-Toungate