Sometimes-monthly, sometimes-weekly, when-I-have-the-time blog.

My Top 12 Independent Bookstores

April 28 was Independent Bookstore Day. Did you go to an indie bookstore or independently owned, book-related business this week? Read on for my list of 12 fantastic independent bookstores. I hosted a group of writing comrades at my home on Saturday the 28th, but one of those friends brought me donuts from a small, locally owned shop in Madison--Greenbush Bakery! The best donuts in the state of Wisconsin. I'm so grateful for my small group of writing friends, all of whom I met through the excellent Madison Writers' Studio.

 It’s been a busy week. I found out news that may change the shape of my career—both writing and otherwise—and Monday, April 30 was the deadline to submit to Lunch Ticket. I’m caught up reading and voting on submissions now. There are so many good stories that slipped in under the deadline. And some…other ones, too, of course.

Early Celebrations

I will be taking on an expanded role at the family farm in the coming months. I’m so excited to get started on some big projects. This is what we’ve been working toward since we left Madison and moved to this area of Wisconsin. Patience has paid off. This is cryptic, but that’s only because my work at the farm is not especially relevant to my creative writing life. See me in person if you want to know more. ;)

Also, a spot opened up to introduce a guest faculty member—an incredibly accomplished, strong female poet—at Antioch’s June MFA residency. I get to introduce her! Come back to the blog in mid-June to find out how I introduced her; I’m researching and writing my speech in the next couple weeks.

On-Time Failures

I received two emails today; they informed me I did not get accepted as a contributor or scholar to attend the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in Tennessee this summer. A blow, but one I expected. I figured I would at least try for a scholarship; the funding brings the conference attendance down to only $700 (to cover room and board) from the $1800 it costs with full tuition and room and board. The Sewanee Writers’ Conference is difficult to get into, and I applied last minute, just to try. The bar it sets for high-caliber writing inspires me, though, and I’ll apply again next year, but earlier and with a stronger application.

I had already decided that if I didn’t get into Sewanee for the 12-day conference in July, I would train for and compete in an aquabike race event instead. I’m trying to decide whether I can feasibly train for a “Half Iron” aquabike race by late July, or if I should register for one of the shorter races. The “Half Iron” event requires swimming 1.2 miles (this would be extremely hard but doable; I was a competitive swimmer for years) and bike 56 miles. An “Olympic” aquabike race requires swimming 1500 meters and biking 24.9 miles. The shorter “sprint” aquabike race requires swimming 500 meters and biking 20 kilometers, or approximately 12.5 miles.

I already crossed a sprint triathlon off my proverbial athletic bucket list, in Summer 2016. That went well, so I began training for a hillier, more difficult triathlon. I made the foolish decision of training by myself, with no input from a physician or personal trainer, in the hills of my northern Kettle Moraine area. Now, due to the excessive impact of running up and down hills on my hips, piriformis muscle, and lower left vertebrae, I have a slipped disc. Cue occasional sciatica, nearly constant muscle tightness, hip pain on both sides while sleeping/reclining, butt cheek pain, and neglected core strength. Thus, I’m sticking to lower-impact activities like swimming and biking, and weight training that involves my body weight.

Sometimes, I’ll do careful, well-executed weight lifting on a squat rack with perfect form. The slower, the better. I swear, the faster the squat, the harder the movement must be on the spine. I used to see women in my Zumba toning and high-intensity interval training classes squatting frantically, like their butts were pushed up by a spring on the floor. More than one woman in those classes complained of sciatica…

Anyway, I’m sticking to swimming and biking for aerobic activity now. My shoulder joints are still in relatively good shape, thank goodness, and cycling with good form mysteriously doesn’t bother my piriformis/hips/slipped disc situation.

tl;dr: Running is brutal on my body, which is not shy about informing me of its limitations.

Exhibit A:

Monday night, I had a beer. Okay, two beers. I know, I know—it was the last day of April, not the first day of May. So, another failure this week: I didn’t abstain from alcohol until May. But, I turned in my 90-page packet for my fourth (of five) project period deadline that afternoon. I caught up on the long queue of hopefuls in the Lunch Ticket Submittable before dinner. And, I felt like I needed to celebrate some accomplishments after a few long weeks of hard work.

This was a mistake.

I was so dehydrated Tuesday morning, my head pounded me awake—a reminder that I didn’t drink for a month. I’m slurping bottles of water and cans of La Croix now. (Unsolicited opinion: lime fizzy water is second to none, though I’m an avid sipper of the pamplemousse, as well.)

I made you wait. In no particular order, my favorite independent bookstores around the world are:

  1. Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France
  2. Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  3. A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wisconsin
  4. Left Bank Books in St. Louis
  5. Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon
  6. The Last Bookstore in L.A.
  7. Books & Beers in Florianopolis, Brazil
  8. Grounds for Thought in Bowling Green, Ohio
  9. Last Exit Books and Coffeehouse in Kent, Ohio
  10. Books & Books in Miami, Florida
  11. The Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida
  12. Persephone Books in London, UK

It’s not always feasible to shop small, but I try. Lately, since I’m on a grad school budget, I’ve hearkened back to my 20-something, idealistic wardrobe shopping rules: only buy pre-owned clothing and accessories, vintage or otherwise. The environmental and financial benefits of buying pre-owned, lightly used (or even generously used—jeans fit better once broken in and who doesn’t like the sheen of a well-loved leather handbag?), and/or vintage clothing and accessories are many.

Thanks for making it to the end of this chapter book. Until next week. #shopsmall #shoplocal

E.P. FloydComment