Several Writers and a Turtle

Sue Grafton, author of the alphabet series which began with A is for Alibi and concluded with Y is for Yesterday died in December. Adding poignancy to her passing was her missing by one letter the publication of all twenty-six mystery novels. Z is for Zero will not be finished by anyone else, says her daughter Jamie Clark. Sue was adamant that her detective , Kinsey Millhone, never be sold to movies or TV, and no ghost writer would write novels about her. Good for Sue. Think of all the authors who are no longer with us, but who are still “writing” bestsellers. For instance, Margaret Truman has a new book out, Allied in Danger.

Meanwhile, Janet Evanovich, who is alive and counting, published novel number twenty-two in her series in October (Tricky Twenty-Two). Considering the number of numbers there are, we can predict she has her work cut out for her.

And meanwhile again, prolific mystery author Lawrence Block, who edited the new fiction anthology In Sunlight or in Shadow, seems on the verge of retirement. In the book’s introduction, he says, “I’ve been [writing fiction] for 60 years. And I’ve been getting the message lately that it may be something I can’t do anymore.” In addition to novels about burglars, private eyes, and hit men, Block wrote several books about writing, many short stories, and TV and movie scripts. So although we’re sorry he needs to retire, he’s entitled.

Books by all of the aforementioned authors (even Margaret Truman) are in good supply at your friendly Longmont Library.

Okay, here’s where the turtle comes in. The first American cookbook was published in Connecticut in 1796. The author was Amelia Simmons. It contained some strange recipes, such as pan-cooked eel, and a turtle dish that instructed, “About 9 o’clock hang up your turtle by the hind fins, cut [off] the head and save the blood.” No pictures were included. Thank goodness. No, this classic is not in the Longmont Library collection, but a book about this book is United Tastes.

T.S. Eliot was right. April is the cruelest month. Especially the 15th.

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at
*Originally published in April 2018

Library of Congress, The President is Missing and Robert Benchley

“The Library of Congress is the greatest library in the world. If you ever get down about American culture, [remember that] there are more public libraries in this country than there are Starbucks.” David McCullough

Here’s a fun anthology if you like fantasy: Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries and Lore. Available at the inimitable Longmont Library, this book includes such authors as Kage Baker, Elizabeth Bear, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and other Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy award winners. Be thankful our library is nothing like the ones depicted herein.

“My resolution was to read more so I put the subtitles on my TV.” Unknown

You’ve noticed that James Patterson likes to co-author novels with other suspense writers. In June, Knopf/Doubleday will publish The President is Missing, and Patterson’s co-author is none other than Bill Clinton. Also, as if he weren’t busy enough, Patterson wants to teach you how to write a mystery. For $90, you can take an online class involving videos, reading material, exercises, and critiques. If you visit I’m pretty sure no salesman will call.

“[Creative writing] really isn’t like any other kind of work, for it must come from a great emotional upheaval of the soul of the writer himself; and if that emotional upheaval is not present, it must come from the works of any other writers which happen to be handy and easily imitated.” So said humorist Robert Benchley. For a good time, search for him in the library catalog. He also claimed he needed to actually live the lives of his characters, which took considerable time in Cannes, Nice, gambling, drinking. “It was not until I decided to tell stories about old men who just sit in their rooms and shell walnuts that I ever got around to doing any work.”

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?” Henry Ward Beecher.

“How about the public library?” CC

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at
*Originally published in March 2018

An International Tour: The South Seas, Korea, Arabia and Tennessee

Did you hear about the discovery of Blackbeard the Pirate’s sunken flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, off the North Carolina Coast? Incredibly, fragments of paper with still legible words were found wedged inside a breech-loading cannon in the warm waters. After much research, the fragments were determined to be from a 1712 first edition of A Voyage to the South Seas and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711, by Captain Edward Cooke. Sorry — you won’t find a copy of it in the Longmont Library.

You know the saying that something is “lost in translation”? The January 15th issue of the New Yorker ponders how close to the original a literary translator should hold. “Nabokov, who was fluent in three languages and wrote in two of them, believed that ‘the clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase.'” The Korean media has criticized Deborah Smith, who translated author Han Kang’s novel The Vegetarian, for embellishing Kang’s spare style with adverbs and other words not in the original. Nevertheless, the novel won the Man Booker International Prize for both Kang and Smith. Our fine library *does* have two copies of this book.

Ever wonder why a periodical is called a magazine? It’s because numerous articles are “stored” therein. The Arabic word for storehouse is “makhzan,” and was originally applied to a place used by the army for storing arms. In 1731, the Gentleman’s Magazine appeared, the first to use the term.

“If you don’t read books you only live one life…. If you read books you live a thousand lives.” So say Hector Cantu and Carlos Castellanos, creators of the comic strip Baldo. And writers, especially fiction writers, experience similar benefits as they work on stories. Tennessee Williams once remarked, “I always have a roomful of company.” David Samuels puts it this way: “Reading [and writing] requires a loner’s temperament, a high tolerance for silence, and an unhealthy preference for the company of people who are imaginary or dead.”

Doesn’t reading about reading make you want to read?

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at
*Originally published in February 2018

Six Word Memoirs, Wuthering and Jeopardy Librarians

Do you have trouble finding time to read? What you need is a six-word memoir. Longmont Library has the 2008 collection published by Smith Magazine editors Fershleiser and Smith, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. Several other editions have been published since, including one for teens, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets. Examples?

  • Time to start over again, again.
  • Kissed many frogs. Finally found prince.
  • Wife. Daughter. Dog. Home. Miss them.
  • He still needs me at 64.
  • If only he wasn’t a Republican.

Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway once bet friends that he could write a six-word story that would make people cry, and he won the ten-dollar wager. “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”

Okay, pop quiz. What does the word “wuthering” mean in Wuthering Heights? [Long pause while you think.] Do the words “froonce”  or “queach” help? Me neither, if I hadn’t had The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk in front of me. Apparently, when the wind froonces through the trees and queaches the branches, the sound is a rustling that is represented by the onomatopoeic word “wuther.”

Are you a Jeopardy fan? The November/December American Libraries Magazine featured an interesting article about the show’s librarian contestants. About 150 of them have competed since 2005, and thirty become Champions. Some of the comments:

  • When it’s your turn, you go up to the stage, and there’s a little stand behind each podium that goes up and down so they can get all the contestants to be about the same height.
  • They send you home with a tote bag, a cap, and a ballpoint pen that looks like the buzzer.
  • Not too much has changed. You do get a lot of creepy messages on Facebook for a little while.

Librarian or not, how can you get to be on Jeopardy? Go to to find out.

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” Oprah Winfrey

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at
*Originally published in January 2018

NaNoWriMo, Museum of the Bible and Beverly Cleary

November was NaNoWriMo. No, that has nothing to do with Robin Williams’ Mork. The National Novel Writing Month challenges creative people worldwide to draft a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. In operation since 1999, NaNoWriMo expected 350,000 writers to take part this year. And there have been many successes — 449 published novels, at least 80 of them with Big Five publishers. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was conceived as a NaNoWriMo manuscript. More information is available at You have a year to think about what you would like to write.

Also in November, Museum of the Bible held a grand opening in Washington, D.C. The 430,000 square-foot museum, largest in the city, would take a visitor nine eight-hour days to see it all. One feature is a walk-through exhibit of a n ancient city excavated on a hilltop over the Valley of Elah, traditionally the site of the showdown between David and Goliath. A tourist attraction of literally biblical proportions.

A few months back, Beverly Cleary, author of the Ramona Quimby picture books and so many others for young readers, turned 101. Her first was published in 1950. Since then, 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. When she was in eighth grade, a teacher assigned a creative writing paragraph, one that described something. Beverly didn’t receive her usual good grade on it, and that disappointment influenced her writing style for years thereafter. Which was okay; kids often told her they liked her books because they didn’t have much description.

Here’s a question to liven up any party. Do you know what makes a word a “piano word”? It’s a word in which all the letters can be played on a musical instrument. “Cabbage” is one. Now everyone can have fun thinking of other examples. And by the way, easily confused words, such as “ideal” and “idea” are sometimes known by the provocative term “dangerous pairs.”

“Between Friends” is brought to you by, and Carol herself, whose memory isn’t what it was, but she still knows all the words to “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” And she remembers all her Friends at the Longmont Library. Have a happy Christmas.


*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at
*Originally published in December 2017