Category Archives: books

My friend Bill

Bill Whorrall - Artist Parking Only

Bill Whorrall – Artist Parking Only

Recently, I went up to visit my friend Bill Whorrall.  Up – to me – means north.  He lives a few counties over up in Martin County, a place nearly as rural as mine.  Hills, rivers, woods, rock outcroppings and a good variety of interesting people.I’ve been acquainted with Bill for several years but have only gotten to really know him the past few years.  He and his lovely wife (or as he describes her “the long-suffering Karen) live on a nice little homestead farm snuggled back into the hills overlooking their large garden and orchards, where they have their studios (she works in clay).  So I had a little extra time over the holidays and wanted to kick around a few ideas with Bill.  It was one of the most interesting days I’ve had in a long long time.

Bill is well-known in the region but those who don’t know him well often think of him as an opinionated, outspoken crank and contrarian.  He is.  He is also one of the most innately creative people I know and is passionate about his work and many other things. He has a wonderful attraction for the ironic. Bill is a photographer, artist, sculptor, writer, poet, and one of the best art teachers in the country.  That last is not an exaggeration.  He was recently nominated for a nationally-known art teachers’ award although he would never tell you about it.  He is very humble about his accomplishments.  His students, both children and adults adore him.  He is able to get his students to tap areas of creativity they didn’t even know they had.

After several hours talking about art and the state of the world, and a substantial lunch prepared by the lovely Karen, Bill voiced his frustration about updating his website.  His web designer had disappeared.  This is one of the few areas that Bill isn’t experienced in so I offered to come back and help him.  I suggested that with his many creative talents that a blog would be a perfect venue for him.  Currently, in addition to all his other work, he makes and prints his Billzines.  These are wonderful handmade, hand-printed magazines that are only mailed to a few select recipients.  I am happy to say that I am on that very short list now.

So I returned to Bill’s house the following week and help him set up a blog.  It is called, of course, http://www.billzine.com  He is now posting his own thoughts and rants, books, photography, ideas for art teachers, poetry and writing.  Please take a few moments to visit his blog and website.  www.billwhorrall.com  I think you will be amazed at what he has accomplished in less than THREE WEEKS!  Sheesh!

Another thing I should mention.  Bill just turned 70 and will retire from teaching this year.  Fortunately, he has agreed to teach for us at the arts center.  Boy, are we lucky.  Oh, yeah.  One more thing.  Bill is now legally blind.  Please don’t feel sorry for him as he doesn’t feel sorry for himself.  He can see somewhat and works at his computer with a big magnifying glass.  He still paints and writes and photographs.  As he said himself, even if he goes completely blind, he will still find some way to create.  And he will.

Bill Whorrall in his studio

Bill Whorrall in his studio

Bookstores and resolutions

Books, my not-so-secret addiction

Books, my not-so-secret addiction

Recently my son was looking at a photo of me in my office at work and observed, “You know, Mom, it seems as if wherever you go, you always have piles of books around you.”

Guilty as charged.

I have made no secret of my special addiction to books in previous posts.  I truly am.  I get a rush when I walk into a bookstore or library.  And hitting the BUY button Amazon must generate a feeling akin to a gambler who has just pulled the lever. I love the smell of books.  The heft.  Looking at pictures, turning pages, feeling the texture.  Seeing piles and shelves full of my favorites makes me giddy with pleasure.  The (yet) unread stories or the old friends and memories of where I acquired the book, where I read it, my thoughts about it.

The only real drawback with books is the sheer space they take up and how much they weigh.  If you’ve ever had to move, you already have learned to pack books into small boxes.

Soooooo….I made a resolution not to buy any books this year.  (I truly am overwhelmed.)  That still leaves the library and my VINE selections.  But…before the new year began, I visited my favorite real bookstore in Louisville.  Anticipating spending at least an hour cruising the aisles, I was shocked when I walked in to see how much their book stock had dwindled.  Their shelves were now filled with toys, games and puzzles.  Gift items and cheap overstock books.  But where were the REAL books?  The poetry, the philosophy, art and musings?  And I realized just then – in a most drastic way – that I was partly responsible for this book shrinkage.  The demise of the brick and mortar bookstore.

I shop online for the lowest price, even for used books.  I’ll frequently receive a “used” book which appears brand new and it only cost me a penny!  (And, yes, I shop Goodwill online, too.)

But what is the future of bookstores if we all shop online or download to our e-readers?  Where will our children and grandchildren experience the pure pleasure of fondling the tomes of authors across time and space?  That they can actually possess for a mere few dollars?

I used to anticipate for an entire year my annual visit to Ann Arbor, home of the flagship store for Borders as well as many funky used book stores.  I’d often wander in with determination and a list.  It was a reader’s pleasure garden, a true emporium of knowledge.  Well, Borders put up a good fight but we all know the end of that story.

So, my resolution has been amended to buy from and support real bookstores whenever I can.  There are no more real bookstores in my little town but all the Google maps of the cities I visit are sure to be starred with my favorite haunts.  I look forward to keeping this new resolution.

As for the other, well, it’s only the 16th of the month and I’ve already broken it several times.  Oh, well.  Keeping authors employed, right?

On being an Amazon Vine reviewer

Amazon Vine reviewer

Several years ago I received an e-mail from Amazon inviting me to participate in a brand new program called Vine.  What the heck is that, I thought.  In their e-mail they said that they would send me FREE books!  I got to KEEP the books!  So what’s the catch?  I had to read and write a review for the books.  Okaaaaayyy…..  What’s the real catch?  So I called them.  Yes, it was true.  This was a brand new program.  They were inviting me to participate.  Yes, I could keep the books.  At the time there was some nonsense that I had to keep ALL the books they sent to me.  Yeah, right.  Do you have any idea how quickly those pile up?  (BTW, that changed recently. I guess they got some complaints from hoarders about the number of books piling up.)

Anyway, I’ve been a Vine reviewer since the inception of the program.  Now if you’ve read my previous posting about my addition to books, you know this is like asking an alcoholic if it would be OK if someone sent him free booze every month.  Heh heh heh.  And the answer to that question would be?  Heck, yeah!

So the way the program works is this.  Twice a month I receive an e-mail notifying  me that a new posting has been made in a special compartment of the Amazon website where I get to choose a certain number of books.  They mail them to me.  I get to read and write a review about them.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.  Since the beginning of the program, it has been expanded to include all kinds of products, not just books.  Food items, vitamins, toys…you name it.  Whatever Amazon sells.  I’ve received some really terrific stuff.  Aside from the books, I’ve received some neat food products, earphones, a flat bed screener, computer programs, toys….I can’t remember everything.

The big misconception by the public and what I’ve read online is that the Vine reviewers have to give everything a good review.  That is definitely NOT so!  I have been very frank when a product has been a real stinker.  And some of them have been.  I actually do try to read and review every book but they do pile up which is the big downside of this program.  I’m a reader and have a whole bunch of books that I want to read for ME, not just for Amazon.  But who’s complaining? 

Are all of the reviewers as conscientious?  I couldn’t say.  I only know that I read at least a couple of books a week from the program, not counting my own, or considering that I have a REAL life.  I’m not even in the top 1,000.  Do the top reviewers real ALL the books they review?  I can only speculate.  If you rely on the reviews for Amazon or any other website, at least be a bit skeptical.  I would say that most of the reviewers do a great job but there might be a few who take shortcuts. 

Anyway, thank you Amazon, this is a great opportunity. And, for you curious people out there, I use a pseudonym, not my real name so you won’t be able to track down my reviews.  It’s better that way, don’t you think?

Books. Books. Books. My secret addiction.

When I was a little girl and first discovered the wonders of reading, I vowed to read every book in the world.  I can’t tell you how old I was before I actually realized the impossibility of that.  But I’ve been trying ever since.

I’m not quite sure why I took to reading so well.  I wasn’t a particularly precocious child.  I didn’t have parents who pushed me to read at age two or anything.  But I did have a parent who read to me every night and we always had books around the house.  We had a three-volume anthology of children’s poetry and stories, plus my father had a complete set of the classics.  You know the kind.  The ones all bound in red.  Probably one of those order by mail deals. 

When I finally learned to read for myself, I was off like a horse at the Kentucky Derby.  I haven’t stopped since.  I had my first library card at the town library. These were the days where you were issued one of those cardboard cards with the numbered medal plates that made an impression on the card in the pocket of the book.  After I’d gone through most of the children’s section, I was given the privilege of moving up to the adult section of the library.  This was a really big deal to me at the time.  It was a very old library of many floors with steam radiators, high ceilings, dusty corners.  Later in high school, my friends and I would haunt the study rooms in the overheated atmosphere.  Yes, even before computers. 

In college, I actually had a campus job of working in the library which was wonderful.  I could cruise the stacks, get first dibs on the newest selections, and really learned how to research.  By the time I graduated, I had been promoted to the reference desk.  Sigh.  What fun! 

Just a small part of my secret addiction.

In the past many years, my interest in reading has only grown.  It continues to amaze me to realize that we can still share the thoughts of people who have been dead for centuries.  It’s as if they are still here, whispering to us. 

My interest in acquiring books has never waned either.  I still want to possess them.  I love the tactile feel, the smell of the ink, the heft and weight of the books.  I love to see them on my shelves.  Most of the online booksellers know me very well, as well as many of the used booksellers.  I love to cruise bookstores, both old and new, and often ensure that I locate the nearest bookstores when I’m traveling. Going into a bookstore for me is akin to an alcoholic visiting a bar.  It’s a very dangerous (and expensive) proposition.

But what about electronic books, you say.  They take up much less space and are easily transportable.  Humph!  My son bought me a Kindle for Mother’s Day.  Well…..it has its uses.  I can download nearly any book in the public domain and can often read a book for much less than the price of the “real” book.  But it just isn’t the same.

And then to further feed my addiction, several years ago I was invited by Amazon to participate in their Vine program.  I’ll write about that another time but the jist of the program is that they send me free books every month and all I have to do is review them.  I don’t even have to give them a good review!  How cool is that?!

So, thank you Ms. Kuhlman way back in first grade for teaching me to read.  You probably didn’t realize the path you set me on then.  And I’m really sorry I stole that Little Golden Book from the classroom library.  It was my first and only foray into crime.  I think I’ve more than made up for it since in the many many books that I’ve donated to libraries wherever I’ve lived.

Art. Books. Country living

I thought I’d combine my primary loves all into one website.  I live on a 90 acre farm in Southern Indiana.  I’ve been a professional artist for 30 years.  And everyone knows that I’m a true book addict.  What better way to pull it all together than through this one place?

In the coming months, I’ll put up some of my art, entertain you with my very opinionated views of books and art, and some of the funnier (or not) things that go on here in the country.