Library Books and Reflection

Submitted into Contest #91 in response to: Set your story in a library, after hours.... view prompt

18 comments

Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

I love that at the library anyone can find a book to suit their taste. It’s a place where people can privately explore secret interests or openly celebrate their favorite passions. For me, the library is a place of comfort, discovery, and sanctuary. Where I can be alone with my thoughts or tucked away in a corner with a Beloved book. This haven of books and the magic they hold will always be my home base.


I have fond memories of visiting the library as a kid. Sitting between the shelves, reading comics with my friends. The joy of discovering a favorite new author. The pride of finishing a book that I was considered too young to read. Yet my favorite experience in a library happened when I was an adult. A couple years ago, I had the chance to work in the library After Dark.


I had decided to take part in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. During the month of November, participants in NaNoWriMo were challenged to write a novel, or at least fifty thousand words, in thirty days. At first, the challenge seemed to be A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor.


Let Me Be Frank With You, I wasn't sure I could do it. I love telling stories but I've always found more enjoyment in imagining those stories than actually writing them down. I've got dozens of notebook pages and word documents filled with ideas. Fantasy worlds plotted, interesting characters designed, and complex narratives story lined. Unfortunately, whenever I set out to turn my ideas into actual stories, I'd run out of steam halfway through and leave the piece unfinished.


Despite my doubts, on the first day of November I started turning one of my ideas for a fantasy epic into a completed novel. Within the first week, I was caught up in The Grip of It. I was on pace to finish by the end of the month. I soon discovered that my town had a local NaNoWriMo group and leaned on them for support when I felt my pace or enthusiasm begin to lag.


The thing that excited me most about the writing group was that they were holding an after-hours event at the library. The library would be serving pizza, soda, coffee, Cakes and Ale. There were even prizes for the people who managed to write the most words during the event.


This write-in was held in the library's private reading room. A room I didn't realize even existed. It was on the library's fourth floor in an area I once thought to be off limits to library patrons. With my laptop bag on my shoulder, I filled my plate with food and made my way into the private reading room. From the moment I stepped through The Door, I knew I was In a Perfect World for writing.


I was instantly hit with the sensation that we were Creatures in an aquarium. The outer wall of the reading room was all glass. The large windows started at the floor and curved into partial skylights on the ceiling. The room's bright lights contrasted with the dark night outside, turning the windows into mirrors. My own reflection watched me as I got out my laptop and quickly ate my food.


Invigorated by the energy in the room, I powered up my laptop and began writing. Words flowed from my brain into my fingertips. I wrote a chapter where conspirators meet In a Dark, Dark Wood. Hidden in shadow, they speak of The Prophets' predictions and the Good Omens suggested by their prophecies.


During the three-hour event, I wrote over four thousand words. The most I've ever written in a single sitting. There were other writers in the group who managed to write even more than that during the event. Even though I ended up winning Nothing, I walked out with a sense of accomplishment and a newfound confidence. From that day forward, I had no trouble turning my ideas into fully realized stories. Whenever I found myself stuck on a chapter or unable to come up with a story's conclusion, I'd head to the library. There, sitting in the quiet, inspiration always finds me.




People often think this is odd, but one of my favorite things to do on vacation or when I'm On the Road for work, is to stop by the local library of whichever place I'm visiting. I find the differences in architecture and book collections between libraries fascinating. I got in the habit of visiting libraries while traveling after the death of a loved one.


A Death in the Family may seem like an unusual catalyst for such an activity but being a hundred miles away from my home base left me desperate to find a temporary outpost. A week after my cousin Garrett passed away from cancer, his family held a funeral in the small town of Lebanon.


It proved to be an emotional day. Garrett's passing was the first time someone close to me had died. At the funeral it fell to me to comfort my aunt Helen. She was devasted after the loss of her only child. Throughout the service I wanted to be strong for her, so I forced myself to Choke back my tears.


Later, at the cemetery, it got even harder for me to hold it together. As Garrett's coffin was lowered into the ground, I watched Aunt Helen fall to her knees and let out an anguished Cry to Heaven. The pastor had assured us that since Garrett had lived a good, Christian life, his soul would avoid A Lush and Seething Hell. I tried to take comfort in the thought that now Garrett would get To Live Forever in paradise.


Too emotionally exhausted to drive home afterward, I checked into a cheap motel before setting off on foot to grab dinner from a nearby restaurant. The easiest option was the McDonald's across The Road, but I decided against it. A group of rough looking Vagabonds were milling about in front of the restaurant, picking cans out of The Ditch.


Wanting to avoid any hassle, I looked around for another dining option. In the Distance I saw the sign of a takeout place called Number One Chinese Restaurant. As I waited to cross a side street on my way to the restaurant, I looked up the hill and saw the city's library. Instantly drawn to it, I abandoned my dinner plans and made my way up the hill.


I would soon learn that the building at the top of the hill didn't just house a library. It was also a museum celebrating the rich history of Route 66 and the Lineage of towns like Lebanon that sprung up alongside the storied interstate. I took a few laps around the library floor, scouting out the size and location of each literary section. Then I headed into the museum.


The history of Route 66 and Lebanon was laid out in chronological order. I stood and marveled at an old car in the center of the first room. I wandered further into the museum and In Other Rooms, Other Wonders temporarily made me forget the day's sadness. I finished my circuit of the museum and then returned to the library section of the building.


I stood in between two aisles of shelves in the fiction section and felt a Shiver run through my entire body. The stress and emotion of the day finally caught up with me. I sank onto a bench and wept. As I cried, the librarians set about closing the library around me. They let me be, obviously sensing that I needed the space.


Finally, when the staff were ready to close the building for the night and head home, one of the librarians approached me. She placed a hand on my shoulder and gently told me that the library was closed and I needed to leave. I stood up and followed her toward the front doors. Before the librarian closed the door behind me, she said, “Every Heart a Doorway, let your sorrow flow. It'll be alright, everything will be okay” Then she locked the door and I headed down the hill. As I returned to my hotel I felt comfort wash over me.




Due to the power of that experience, whenever I visited a new place I always made time to check out the local library. If you're looking for quiet inspiration or you're A Stranger in a Strange Land, the library and the books it holds will always be there for you. The library is my home base. Perhaps it can be yours too.


April 30, 2021 04:52

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18 comments

Michael Boquet
04:53 Apr 30, 2021

COMPANION STORY: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/91/submissions/64717/#comments

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Redd Herring
18:46 Jun 11, 2021

Hey Michael, I feel that about having to out it on the back burner. I am working an extra job now as well and it sure is tough to carve out some time. If you are looking for something to write about, I'd love for you to jump in and do a "Book of Choices" episode. I have been talking to Beth Connor about a spinoff podcast with the episodes. Info is on my bio about how we are doing it. Daniel Hayes just finished one "The Lost Relic" - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/97/submissions/71068/ and Beth has one in the wo...

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Ryan Lm Colli
14:21 May 11, 2021

Great story: Pls join this link... https://www.guilded.gg/i/6pR8goy2

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Monica June
01:08 May 11, 2021

This was so fun! It took me a second to realize that the italics were book titles. It was a cool addition! The writing flowed so well, I loved how the story made me feel. As readers and writers we all love the library. Great job!

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Rheo Graham
01:12 May 06, 2021

Interesting idea to work sme favourite titles into the prose 😄

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Beth Connor
16:15 May 04, 2021

This second story was quite an intimate piece and showed a different side of you and your writing. The first one brought me back to my youth- this one gave me feels. Great job.

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Arwen Dove
05:05 May 02, 2021

Amazing story!

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Cathryn V
21:41 May 01, 2021

Hi Michael, I've never thought about visiting a library in a town I'm staying in. I love how you used book titles throughout. Very creative!

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Ellie Yu
15:41 May 01, 2021

I read the other piece then went on to this one, and I really like how they fit together, like two sides of the same coin. The introspective mood is really neat, not to mention all the book titles that are worked into the writing! To be honest I usually struggle to get through stories like this, but your style held me the whole time and didn't let me go until I finished. Thanks so much for posting this!

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Claire Lewis
15:16 May 01, 2021

A very nice companion to the other piece. I enjoyed seeing the inspiration and solace your narrator finds in the library, which echoes the first story well but in a more grown-up way, if that makes sense. Also, The Road is one of my all-time favorite books! Seeing the title in there made me smile. One small note if this hasn’t been approved yet: “There were other writers in the group who managed to write even more than that during the event.” You used the word event shortly before this sentence, so consider rewording: There were others i...

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21:08 Apr 30, 2021

Wow, beautiful. I wasn't sure which story to read first, but I decided to just start off with this one. This is really creative and a unique take on the prompt! Libraries are like my second home, but I haven't gone lately because of Covid-19. I loved the Nanowrimo reference, though I have never been able to write much in those periods. Great job, Michael! Heading off to the next one.

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Daniel Hayes
18:35 Apr 30, 2021

This was a wonderful companion piece. Just like the first story, the first paragraph really sets the tone here. I liked how you described the writing process and how in both stories the library is a safe haven for creativity, imagination, and inspiration. One thing I noticed in this line: "Instantly drawn to the it" - Maybe drop the word "the" that's the only sentence that disrupted the flow of reading. Otherwise, both stories I consider to be masterpieces and I love how they compliment each other. Great job as always my friend :)

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Michael Boquet
20:38 Apr 30, 2021

Good catch! Thanks so much for your comments

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Rachel Loughran
10:57 Apr 30, 2021

Another really unique take on the prompt! Great work, Michael. Off to read your companion piece now...

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10:41 Apr 30, 2021

Again, beautiful. This is a very touching piece and it flows from small moments (like the NaNoWriMo) to the big moments (like the funeral) very smoothly. Again, your use of book titles was inspired. Well done. :)

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Michael Boquet
13:27 Apr 30, 2021

:)

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Michael Boquet
13:27 Apr 30, 2021

:)

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Rachel Smith
05:36 Apr 30, 2021

Hi Michael, I thought this was lovely. Nice touch having book titles interspersed in italics. I always visit the library when I'm in a new place, there is something comforting about them.

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