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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Beauty of Earning A Spot On The Keeper Shelf

Things are beautiful if you love them.
- Jean Anouilh -

My keeper shelves for books have always been virtual because I keep too many books to restrict them to a "keeper shelf." In fact, I've kept just about every single one of the paperback romance novels I've ever bought. And since I devoured the books ravenously for more years than I'm willing to confess, you can guess that I have a massive quantity of the things.

I have shelves of romances surrounding the television in my den and more shelves hidden away in the cabinet where my landline phone sits. I have boxes and boxes of books in my youngest's walk in closet because he's a 14-year-old boy and will wear anything he grabs - it doesn't have to fit or match. I have a long shelf in the garage that my father-in-law kindly built for me one year. The hope was that other shelves would be built and eventually my whole book collection would have a home that didn't take up so much room inside the house. The garage bookcase never came to be but the one long shelf is so full that books are double-stacked and fall off the ends.

If paperbacks ever qualify as antiques, then I'm set for life.

So, I've never had an actual physical keeper shelf - I've kept all of my books. My keeper shelf has always been virtual and it always, always existed in my mind. Woodiwisses' books are there along with some of Johanna Lindsey's Malory novels, Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series, several of Julia Garwood's (Secret and Ransom are real faves), some of Linda Howard's early work, a number of Diana Palmer's, and Elizabeth Lowell's Only series. Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Chicago Stars Football novels are there too, even though I've only started watching some football lately and then only my law school alma mater, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. (Even though I wasn't a football fan I loved Phillips' Stars books.) Because my keeper shelf was virtual, and because I have books in so many spots around the house, finding one of the books could be like a scavenger hunt. My hubby will tell you that he's often walked the distance of our small house, calling me, until Sam would shout, "She's in here Dad." Then my hubby would locate me bent over and tossing books all around the youngest's closet until I found it. You know it. The exact "keeper shelf" book I was looking for.

Likely, no people on earth were happier to see the ebook revolution than my family. Eventually, the books would have run 'em clean out of room to live indoors. Heck, I was already eyeballing my oldest's closet....

Even though it was always virtual, my keeper shelf has always been a very important place. It contains the books I've re-read, and re-read. You know - those books? The ones that take me somewhere special. Sometimes, I'll be depressed or sad or I've been moody and a real Queen B for several days and it'll hit me - I need to read that book. Yes, each book on my virtual keeper shelf serves a purpose. They lift my spirits. They soothe my turmoil. Visiting those characters is like visiting friends that will always, always be there for me. Books only earn a spot if I know, right from the first read, that I'll read them again. Every book on my keeper shelf -without exception - I re-read within days of finishing it the first time.

I consider keeper shelves - real or virtual - to be a mighty special, nearly magical place. And I've told you all of this - all about how much the books I re-read and treasure mean to me - to say this: I recently got a couple of reviews and a message from different readers all saying the same thing: I loved your book so much that I've already re-read it. The readers were all talking about the same book -- A Faerie Fated Forever which is still available free everywhere.

Now that you know how important my virtual, keeper shelf has always been to me, and how very special a book has to be to earn a spot, perhaps you can understand how very, very much those recent reader reviews and messages have meant to me. I wrote something that meant enough to earn a spot on keeper shelves. I wrote something that created such an impression that readers had to re-read it right away.

Wow. Just, Wow.

I know that having Shonda "Sunshine" Rhimes, Penny Marshall, Ron Howard or most anyone call with a movie deal for one of my books would be an amazing thing. I know that making the bestseller list would leave me woozy. I know that having retails have to back up Brinks trucks to unload money into my bank account would make life much more comfortable. But I know something else even more important - there are some things that you just can't buy and earning space on a keeper shelf is definitely one of those things.

Writer Jean Anouilh said, "Things are beautiful if you love them." I agree and I would add - "and things matter if you love them." By those standards, I love my readers and I adore those who get my work, those who can open themselves and just experience what a ride over the top feels like and enjoy it enough to line up again as soon as the ride ends.

Having my work earn space on some readers' keeper shelves is a beautiful experience. It's a defining moment to me as a writer because I really understand how special a book is if it's one that gets re-read. BUT NOW IT'S YOUR TURN - What does it takes to get you to re-read a book right away? And what stuff is on your - real or virtual - keeper shelf?

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Photo credits:

Messy bookshelf #1

Messy bookshelf #2

Messy bookshelf #3

Digital bookshelf

Bookshelf ducks

1 comment:

  1. The last book I re-read right away was A Discovery of Witches. It was just and the paranormal elements were handled really well. I fell a little bit in love with the hero, Matthew. I actually felt like the heroine didn't deserve him.

    Come to think of it, that's the exact same way I felt about Bella Swan in Twilight.

    Anyway, to make it onto my keeper shelf (or to get me to dig deep and spend lots of cash on an eBook) I've got to bond with the characters. Once that happens, it's nearly impossible for me to get rid of a book.


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