Monday, April 27, 2009


Two weeks ago, I gave a library talk to kick off National Library Week. The library was in Lawrence, KS, one of the many libraries that have impacted my life and my writing career. My talk showcased libraries from my childhood and into my adult life - ornate Carnegie libraries with their huge ceilings and cavernous rooms full of books, older homes that had been converted into several floors of reading space, and brightly lit modern buildings with up-to-date computer equipment and research rooms.

All of the libraries had one thing in common: Books, books, and more books. Nonfiction. Fiction. Research. History. Biographies. Romance. Mysteries. Westerns. Every kind of book imaginable and some I never considered until I found it on a library bookshelf.

Just walking into a library gets my imagination flowing and I have itchy fingers to touch the spines of the books on the shelves. I become very tactile in a library, sitting on the floor near the magazines to skim through a new issue of The Writer or the Writer's Digest. I tap over the books of favorite authors, seeing if a new release is there or perhaps a hidden treasure that I've missed on one of my visits.

When I was younger, I could only go into the children's section and I would crane my neck to see what was in the mysterious and off-limits adult section. I loved the books I found in the children's section and I read through every book in a series. But perhaps it's a case of forbidden fruit. I wanted to know what was in that other room and I could hardly wait until I could check out those books. We lived in Florida when I was finally old enough to get my adult library card. Now I could read the bigger books and I found authors who took me to the past with detailed historical research and bigger-than-life characters and authors who brought places around the world alive with their strong images.

Along the way, I discovered that I enjoyed writing my own stories. I shared a few with school friends, writing a serial story while in high school. Each night I would write another chapter about my characters, using that large, loopy handwriting teenagers use to cover a page. My friends would pass around my folder, asking me questions after they finished about what would happen next. Sometimes I had an idea, other times I had to wait until I was home and had pencil in hand. Then I would create more angst and dilemmas for my characters.

My goal was to have a book in the library. Libraries helped me accomplish that goal in several ways. First, I heard an author speak at the Lawrence Public Library and found my first writers' group. When my husband and I later moved, I found another writers' group through the local library. One of the members mentioned she was submitting to Avalon Books and I sent away for their guidelines. The story I was writing seemed to fit and I sent it off. Some revisions later, I had my first published book: Key To Romance (written under the name Terry Zahniser McDermid).

Avalon Books sells to libraries and so my books are now on library shelves around the country. When we travel, I've had fun stopping at libraries in different towns and checking to see if my books are there. If one of my books is on the shelf, I offer to sign it and add an "Autographed Copy" sticker to the cover. (Having the book in the library listing but not on the shelf is an even bigger thrill - someone has it checked out!) The librarians chat about writing with me and we discuss books for a few minutes before I have to leave. In some libraries, all the Avalon Books are grouped together and it's fun to see the books of my writing friends.

I love libraries! Librarians have helped with research. I've found new authors and new ideas in the library. I've found kindred reading souls in the library. My books are now in the library, along with other favorite authors. I can't imagine life without a library close by and that's always been a condition when we've moved to a new location. Library story time was a favorite with my sons and I enjoyed passing on the library tradition to them.

What about you? What library story can you share?


Carol Hutchens said...

I love this post, Terry! I started smiling from memories while I was reading. I've always loved libraries, too. You are so right, the love of books mingles with many memories. For me, a trip to the library was one of my first solo excursions as a newly licensed driver...

Thanks for the memories.

Tessa McDermid said...

Oh, Carol, one of my first solo trips as a new driver was to the library, also! We lived about three miles away and I could go to the library to study and see friends :). Straight there and straight home.

Thanks for sharing.


Elisabeth Rose said...

I love the library too. I always go in with a sense of excitement at what I'll walk out with to read. It just seems so full of potential.

Because we don't get Avalon books here in Aus when I go to the US in July I'm going to visit as many librairies as I can and find my books. Doubly exciting.

Christine Bush said...

I love EVERYTHING about libraries. I even like the smell of libraries. I visit one everywhere I go!

Jane Myers Perrine said...

It's great to have a mother who's a reader. I started going to libraries long before I could read--probably further back than I can remember. What I love about where we live now is that the library is only a few blocks away. I love being surrounded by FREE books.