Summer Inspiration: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Travel is one of my biggest sources of writing inspiration. I don’t always go as far or as often as I’d like, but inspiration can be found even in the most unexpected of places. Although I was generally collecting ideas for Book 4 this July, I didn’t realize I’d find them in Seattle when I visited relatives and college friends. In 2012, a new museum called Chihuly Garden and Glass opened (showcasing the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly), and knowing how much I love art and museums, it seemed like a good sightseeing option.

Boy, was that an underestimation.

20160710_143353

This was one of the most spectacular museums–no, places–I’ve ever been. I didn’t know what to expect from a museum full of glass artworks. It turned out to be transcendent.

20160710_144850

Words don’t do it justice. The glass itself was eye-popping, but the arrangements and lighting created perfect harmonies, like music, like poetry. There was an ocean-themed room, a Native American-themed room, and a garden of whimsical shapes that felt like something from Willy Wonka’s factory. I couldn’t take story notes fast enough.

20160710_154904

There were boats loaded with glass spheres that looked like planets, resting serenely on a black mirror that doubled their images.

20160710_153342There was a handmade glasshouse with a spiral of fiery glass flowers. It’s incredible how such a piece can weigh thousands of pounds, yet create the illusion of weightless fragility.
20160710_151338

You could see the Space Needle through the walls of the glasshouse!20160710_152759There was an outdoor garden where natural plants grew among glass pieces, the beds of flowers and glass grouped by color.

But my favorite was the rainbow room.
20160710_144716

Glass shapes, again both ponderously heavy and effortlessly delicate, layered a glass ceiling. Lights shining through them created water-like reflections on the walls. I almost burst into tears from so much beauty. The people beneath–even the selfie-taking tourists–turned beautiful in the rainbow light.

20160710_160033It was pure magic. I have a feeling you’ll be seeing some of these inspirations in a book.

 

In Which I Rave About A Bookstore

Last weekend found me in Seattle for a friend’s wedding. Weather forecast: Rain. As usual.

While there, I accidentally stumbled upon something amazing: the brand-new Amazon Books bookstore!

20151210_161708

Little did I know, the store had opened up just over a month earlier, representing Amazon’s new experiment in brick-and-mortar book sales.

Why was this cool, other than the fact that it’s a bookstore? After interrogating a poor unsuspecting bookseller, I found out. In Amazon Books:

All titles are displayed face-out. This means a smaller inventory, but it also means you’re much more likely to stumble upon a new read you didn’t know you needed in your life. Face-out titles=easier discovery of new books=more love matches made between books and readers.

All titles are listed with a plaque featuring a review from Amazon.com–so you can basically ask another real human being, “How was this book?” and they’ll tell you. No filtering through publishers, professional review companies, etc. Just real people telling it like it is.

No fixed prices are listed on the shelves. Instead, the bookstore has price-scanning machines. The price of the book is whatever it’s selling for on Amazon that day (usually a significant discount from the list price). Discounted books=yay!

Best of all: Amazon Books stocks top-selling books from Amazon.com, regardless of whether they’re traditionally or independently published. That means readers, not publishers, are deciding what gets displayed and sold in this bookstore. Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle platforms have already democratized publishing; now Amazon Books is democratizing the bookselling supply chain as well. As an independently published author, I personally think that’s fantastic–not only for me, but for readers who get to see more of the books they want on the shelves.

Amazon sometimes gets a bad rap for being a big company, and a big company it is. I sincerely hope the success of this new bookstore doesn’t come at the expense of smaller, independent bookstores. However, Amazon’s existence also nurtures the success of other little guys, like small presses and independently published authors. It gives us a platform from which to send out our voices. And more voices in the book arena=more ideas and stories circulating=happier and better informed readers=hopefully more understanding and compassion in the world. I’d call that a win-win.

So did I come home with a book from this bookstore? Why yes, I did. For some time I’ve been wanting to read the bestselling I Am Malala, memoir of the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, and I found it at Amazon Books (for less than $10). Malala’s story of courage is truly inspiring.

What do you think of Amazon’s new bookselling experiment? 

Independent Bookstores: Seattle

Since I spent last weekend visiting my college stomping grounds in Seattle, Washington, what could be better than to do a tour of the city’s used bookstores? In a city full of coffee, hipsters, and rain, the book trade flourishes, and the independent bookstores each have as much uniqueness as the people walking by. Here are my top 3 favorite Seattle bookstores:

1. Arundel Books

Though Arundel has recently moved to the Pioneer Square area, its old location was just a few blocks from Pike Place Market. Selling new, used, and rare books, it has something to tempt everyone. I found one of my rare nonfiction buys there: a copy of Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, on the psychology and importance of fairy tales. Very intriguing. Just as intriguing as Arundel’s spiral staircase that leads into an airy balcony packed with books.

2. Mercer Street Books

When my old favorite, Twice-Sold Tales, left the Lower Queen Anne area, Mercer Street Books rose from its ashes. A quick bus ride away from my school, this bookstore’s big, inviting windows often lured me to step inside…probably more often than I should have. In addition to selling used books, they also buy used books.

To me, selling books feels like selling children. I could perhaps conceive of passing along a few “less-favorite” titles in order to make room for more books on my shelves. But I have this hunch that if I were to trade books for money, I’d instantly trade money for more books. Then I’d leave with more than I brought. It’s one of the unfortunate laws of book magnetism.

3. Ophelia’s Books

Definitely my favorite independent bookstore in Seattle, Ophelia’s buys and sells used books. I found a nearly-new copy of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose for about $7 here while I was working on my college senior project. But the real draw of this bookstore is its charm. See that upstairs loft? The ceiling is only 5′ 10″ off the floor. And guess what’s shelved up there? Children’s books. Oh yes. Perfect.

There’s always at least one cat lurking around Ophelia’s. Even though cats make me sneeze, they do lend a certain ambience to a quirky little book paradise like this one. And I love that the store is named after a character from Hamlet, my favorite Shakespeare play!

Ophelia’s also has a spiral staircase. Have I mentioned that I think spiral staircases are awesome? Almost as awesome as sliding ladders. Those will show up in another bookstore, another day.

This concludes our tour of the Rainy City’s used bookstores. I know there are many more, though, so if you have a favorite that’s not listed here, please leave a comment!