I like learning which was one reason I didn’t like school much as a student and it was one of my major frustrations as a teacher. Learning isn’t destination driven; it means surrendering to not knowing the destination and accepting the discomfort, the sense of not being able to touch the bottom of the pool.

School always led somewhere. Research to write a paper that was turned in and graded. An exam. Graduation. As a teacher, I was happy that I did not normally teach material/information, but, instead, I taught skills — that old learning to fish vs. giving a fish.

This morning I feel absolutely empty of ideas or things to say. The novel marketing business has hit a sand bar which is that I need to take my books to the Narrow Gauge Newsstand  in Alamosa and ask if they can be put on the shelves with the OTHER works by local authors.

The shelf on which they will go is easily the least visible shelf in the store. My books will be placed alphabetically with all the others. Most are books about the area along with the mystery series by the women whom I tried to help upload their third volume last winter.

If I were running the ONLY bookstore in the San Luis Valley, I’d have the same strategy. In the very front of the store is the new Harry Potter not written by J. K. Rowling alone, but with two accomplices, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Around the store are shelves dedicated to the two main spiritual directions found in the San Luis Valley; Christianity and vague semi-Buddhist mysticism. There is a shelf dedicated to very beautiful coloring books for adults. Two whole walls are dedicated to magazines.  It is truly the loveliest bookstore I’ve visited in a long time. What makes it special is its size; it’s small. It has a small stock that reflects with sincerity, honesty and quiet pride its place in the world.



19 thoughts on “Learning…

  1. Theoretically, I was/am (?) in the only (lovely little) bookstore in the valley (NOT counting Barnes and Noble, two of which are located in malls) as well as the local library, but I’d be very surprised if anyone ever even saw the books were there. But both the library and the bookstore sponsored readings by me, so I felt I shouldn’t complain. It really is hard plodding away at the marketing. Some of the places you are sure will get a great response, no one shows up. Others that should pointless are just the opposite. I did TV, radio, readings … and I sold a reasonable number of books for that first year. But if you don’t catch on somewhere, it dribbles away. Some people hit the right place, the right time, the right audience and suddenly, they have a nice run. Others, not. All you can do is give it your best shot. That’s all anyone can do. Plenty of “traditionally published books” don’t go anywhere either. Publishing IS a crap shoot.

    • Yep. Definitely a crapshoot. I’m just tired. A lot of what I’ve learned in the last few days has been extremely informative. On Goodreads I got some advice about advertising and took it. In taking it I learned more about the historical fiction that sells in the English speaking world and I don’t write that.

      Last night I watched a documentary on the Puritans and it was really discouraging (and it pissed me off). England is NOT the whole world and while it IS an island, it’s not an “island” in another sense at all, though you’d think it was from listening to the historians I heard last night. It’s strange to me that the non-English speaking world was/is so often essentially ignored. AND… yes the Puritans killed Indians but that wasn’t what they came to this continent for, and the fact is Thanksgiving is a made up holiday like Valentine’s and Mother’s day. Revisionist history is immoral, IMO. It really matters to me to try to understand the world in which my characters lived, and to get a good understanding — if I can — of what motivated THEM. In watching this documentary last night (though much of it was good) I was stunned by the way the historians dismissed what those people actually DID that none of us could even begin to do — not the least of which is building a settlement on the New England coast in the winter. They stressed so much that half the people died — well, half the people didn’t and that’s really amazing. And, given the way the Puritans felt about death, sad though all those deaths had to have been, it was not the same for people who believed their true home was Heaven.

  2. I totally agree on revisionist history. I especially enjoy when they dismiss contemporary accounts as being agenda driven (like theirs are not). The poor Puritans take it in the shorts every Thanksgiving. The truth in history is now suppressed by present-day desires to make history palatable for all. History is going to leave a bad taste in somebody’s mouth, regardless how it is seasoned by so called intellectual thinking.
    To look at history through modern eyes and find any truth takes research, and most modern historians are unwilling to do the work.

    • Yep. I have an honest curiosity about people in the past. Somehow their thinking got us here, now, and I think that’s worthy of our respect. In the critical thinking text I taught forever, the author made the point that the fact that Americans HAD slaves isn’t worth noting. Everyone from time immemorial has had slaves. What’s exceptional is that Americans STOPPED having slaves. That idea SHOCKED many of my students. They could not wrap their heads around that fact because it flew in the face of their indoctrination.

      • I had ancestors on both sides. I’m proud of all of them. My Confederate ancestors didn’t own slaves, and probably couldn’t have cared less about slavery. They lived in a state that conscripted every able-bodied male between the ages of 16-56. They didn’t have a choice. Neither did my Yankee ancestors; the Union had a little thing called “the draft.”
        I’m proud of them because they did what they had to do and survived.
        Just like Vietnam. I was poor white trash so I was going to get drafted anyway, so I joined up. I didn’t hate Vietnamese people, didn’t want to kill anybody, but I joined because I really didn’t have a choice. I think I made the right choice with the information I had to work with. I imagine it was much the same (if not more so) for my poor white trash ancestors.

        • That’s the part of history many American historians forget — the people. Just ordinary people doing the best they can with the world they are living in.

          • The other thing they forget is they are the same people as those they point fingers at. Technology has advanced, but people haven’t. They may be more educated, but they’re still the same. They’re the same people as those who stacked heads at the gates of Carthage. And under the right circumstances, they would stack heads just as high as the Romans and justify it.

            • Totally with you except I don’t think we’re/those modern historians are more educated. William Bradford taught himself Hebrew right there by candlelight in that hellhole of Plymouth Plantation.

              AND it seems to me there are plenty of forces out there in the middle east and Afghanistan now stacking heads like cords of wood. This “holier than thou” thing REALLY “chaps my hide.”

            • Ha. As I recall, the Puritans weren’t above putting a head on a stake when it served their purpose.
              I was thinking modern historians are more educated that your average “first spear” in the 10th Legion. But maybe not. 🙂

            • Oh the head on the stake outraged the modern historians, not thinking that a head on a stake was pretty standard treatment for enemies in European countries at the time. I was outraged when one of the modern historians called the soldiers in the 30 years war “Barbaric.” He called them, “Hammerers.” Consider that the vast majority were mercenaries and their job was to kill people and it was kill or be killed, what were they supposed to do? Frolic around with carnations in their hands? It’s like these historians didn’t fully understand what “normal” warfare was at the time and they seemed to think our warfare is less barbarous? That blew me away. The purpose of war is to kill people and win. End of story. If a tribe of Indians is coming at you ready to kill you and your family are you going to go, “Oh mercy me. They were here first. I’m an asshole. Kill me painted savages, I deserve it for coming here, risking my life to cross a MF of an ocean because the hammerers are going to get me at home.” Unbelievable to me. Of course they put a head on a stake — but, to give the historians credit, one of them, British, said, “The puritans were driven to do what they had never imagined doing” but that mention brief and softly voiced, vanished in image after another of the head on a pike and another historian, American, and a couple of Indian historians, decrying the barbarism of the Puritans.

            • And if you bring up the fact that some tribes engaged in cannibalism, you’re a racist. My Irish ancestors used to decorate their homes with the heads of their enemies. I take pride in that.
              Personally, I think the Puritans showed great restraint. After all, they only put one head on a stake. 🙂

            • Apologies to all Indian historians, but staking a pregnant woman to the ground and scalping her, cutting off her eyelids, nose, and nipples, cutting out her unborn child, boiling it and eating it in front of her is savage behavior in anybody’s book.
              I had an ancestor that fought at Tippecanoe–when it was time for a little payback.

            • I agree with you. I think historians need to see both sides — my second trip to Europe I went to a small medieval town on the Rhine. There, after wandering around a while, I found myself at a customs house. The date over the door was 1623. I was knocked off my pins. This place was beautiful, comfortable, clean, civilized, livable. That was the first time I realized what they had left behind and appreciated their desperation. Whatever it was that drove them had to have been really, really bad for a long time. I wouldn’t have left. The poverty must have been dire. The persecution must have been beyond our imaginings and the sweet glossing of our history. That’s when I became a writer of historical fiction. It was THAT moment. I suddenly felt a “calling” to tell the stories of ordinary people and their ordinary lives in the midst of life in the past.

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