Top 20 Bookish Memories
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
1. Winning my very first short story prize.
When I was seven-years-old, I wrote a three-page short story about a boy who was accidentally locked in the basement. I submitted it to my teacher as a writing assignment for English and was surprised to be asked to read it aloud in front of my class and then received a First Place prize for it. It was a wonderful affirmation of my joy in writing and reading and my first experience in reading in front of an “audience,” even if they were only a group of my seven-year-old peers.
2. Getting accepted into the Creative Writing Program at York University.
The best Creative Writing Program in the country is known to be the program at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The next best program is the Creative Writing Program at York University. Since I received a York University Entrance Scholarship and was living in the GTA at the time, attending York University in Toronto made a lot of sense. It was a relief and privilege to finally receive my acceptance letter to the Creative Writing Program at York after I submitted my writing portfolio—an achievement that gave me a great sense of pride and fulfilment.
3. Seeing my work in print when published for the first time.
It’s quite an experience to see your work, which began as a simple idea, become a draft and then again into perhaps a number of drafts after many revisions, finally come off press and in print. When if first happened to me, I was filled with pride and disbelief.
4. Seeing my son learn how to read for the first time.
I remember the first time the meaning of words in print were finally revealed to me and the feeling I had when I finally understood what it meant to be able to read. When I witnessed my son read his first words off the page out loud, I was extremely proud to see him pass such an important milestone and nostalgic of my own memories of reading as a child. The picture above is a picture of Michael already eight-years-old and able to read chapter books!
5. Meeting Barbara Gowdy in person, having a conversation with her, and a glass of red wine.
One of my professors for the Prose Fiction Workshop course I took as part of my studies in the Creative Writing Program at York was published poet and author, Christopher Dewdney, who also happened to be the long-term partner of author, Barbara Gowdy. Barbara Gowdy also just happens to be one of my favourite authors! Because of her connection with my professor, I was able to meet her personally during her reading of her new book at that time, White Bone, with a special introduction from Christopher Dewdney. She gave me writing advice while we both sipped red wine. It’s one of my all-time favourite bookish memories.
6. Being asked to join Random House of Canada’s Blogging Team.
When I was asked to officially join the Blogging Team for the prestigious and largest publishing company in Canada, Random House of Canada, I was absolutely thrilled. They have always published an excellent quality of literary fiction, which is my preferred genre, and their books have published many of my own favourite Canadian authors such as Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, M.G. Vassanji, etc. Reviewing books for Random House of Canada continues to give me great joy and privilege!
7. Becoming an editorial assistant for the literary journal, Existere.
When I was accepted as an editorial assistant for the literary journal, Existere, I was extremely excited to be able to work alongside peers of the same creative interests. My experience there taught me to sharpen my critical and editorial eye and have a first-hand peek at the publishing world. Not to mention, I was able to make great friends who also happened to passionate about reading and creative writing.
8. Reading my poetry for a Poetry Night reading at the Grad Lounge.
Writers tend to be introverts. Who else could tolerate hours of writing in solitude? So, when I was slotted to read one of my poems for Poetry Night at the Grad Lounge, it was not only an honour, it was a nerve-wrecking experience. I’m naturally a shy and introverted person, but to be able to share my work with others in this type of venue meant getting up and reading my work out loud…in front of an audience…live! While I was perhaps self-conscious of that fact, I read through my poem with ease (since it was of course, so familiar), and was elated to receive a good response from the audience. When I left the stage, the bartender actually complimented me on my work, “That was a really good poem, good job!” While it made me blush, it helped to reaffirm my motivation to continue writing.
9. Attending my very first Canadian Book Expo.
When I worked as an editorial assistant for a small publishing house, UCPH, a few of us were granted the opportunity to attend the Canadian Book Expo event in Toronto. It’s an event that hosts Canadian publishers an opportunity to showcase their publications and their authors by providing members of the publishing and book world with free copies of books, ARCs, galleys, and book signings. For a book lover like myself amongst the many hundreds of people who attended that particular weekend, The Book Expo was a forum to be able to completely immerse myself in book mania. Both my husband (who was a book buyer at the time) and I attended, which made it even more meaningful.
10. Attending the Random House Blog Fest and meeting Erica Ehm and authors Ami McKay, Erin Morgenstern, and Paula Mclain all in one day.
As a book addict and potential author worshipper, to be able to attend an elite event such as The Random House Blog Fest in February 2012 meant that I was privileged enough to meet not one favourite author, but three! I was not only able to meet them, but I was able to chat, take photos, and receive personally signed books! What more could a bibliotaphe ask for? Not to mention, I was surprised to also meet Erica Ehm, the former V-Jay of Muchmusic, who I had watched religiously as a teenager!
11. Receiving a personal tweet from Margaret Atwood.
As most of my readers know, Margaret Atwood is not only a Canadian literary icon, but one of my favourite authors. I had written a review on her book, Cat’s Eye, and published on my blog as well as shared it online on Twitter. Margaret Atwood actually read my review and tweeted me personally in response!
@zaraalexis: Aw… thank you. But for all who are jealous: trade you 10 years, make it 20, and you can have some “it.”
— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) December 11, 2011
12. Receiving my very first book for review from a publisher—and it was signed!
The first book I received for review was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I not only thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel, I was so happy to have coveted a copy that was personally signed by the author. Imagine my surprise, when I was able to meet her later in person at the Random House Blog Fest later that year!
13. Receiving news that other publishers would like me to review a book(s) for them on a regular basis.
Slowly, but surely, other publishers came through in deciding to put me on their book blogging distribution list. It certainly is flattering to be asked to review books for more than one publisher on a regular basis. It’s also a great opportunity and privilege to work with creative people in the industry who, though don’t pay me monetarily for my reviews, pay me in kind with free books and collegial, working relationships.
A special thanks goes out to the Trisha at House of Anansi, Corey at Goose Lane Editions, Emily at Constable & Robinson, and Anneliese at Simon & Schuster!
14. Creating my book blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet
When I created my book blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet, for the very first time, the achievement of learning how to publish a posting in itself was rewarding. Prior to The Bibliotaphe Closet, I was completely unfamiliar with the blogosphere and the working of WordPress. It was wonderful to create a forum to advocate literacy, share my thoughts about books I’ve read, and to be a part of an online reading community—all with my personal branding!
While many of those who don’t blog merely consider blogging as a “nice, little (and perhaps useless) hobby,” book bloggers themselves know the amount of time and effort it takes to create — and maintain a book blog.
I am happy to see The Bibliotaphe Closet survive and pass its first year bloggoversary. The Bibliotaphe Closet is now a-year-and-two-months old!
15. Receiving a personal tweet or blog comment from Eugenia Kim, Benjamin Wood, and Scott Fotheringham in response to my reviews of their books.
I had written a review of Eugenia Kim’s novel, The Calligrapher’s Daughter. It was an absolute pleasure to discover she had read my review and left a comment to thank me personally for my work. She was the first author who contacted me in response to a review I had written and it made me realize that, yes, authors do indeed read the reviews book bloggers write and appreciate the thought and work put into them.
@zaraalexis So pleased you connected so strongly with the book, Zara. Thanks for the thoughtful review.
— Benjamin Wood (@bwoodauthor) March 22, 2012
Hey! Thanks @zaraalexis for the review in your blog. Glad you liked it.
— Scott Fotheringham (@SFotheringham) May 1, 2012
16. Winning and receiving a personally signed copy of Haruki Murakami’s limited edition novel, 1Q84, by winning the Haruki Murakami Writing Contest.
It’s one thing to receive a free book from winning a giveaway contest; it’s quite another thing to win a free book that happens to also be signed in a limited edition because you’ve won a writing contest! One of the most treasured books in my entire book collection is Haruki Murakami’s signed novel, 1Q84 because of how I received it and, of course, the opportunity I have to own it personally, and the pleasure I have to read it someday.
17. Chatting with Esi Edugyan, author of Half-Blood Blues, online.
The novel Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2012. It took Esi Edugyan eight years to write her debut novel and the time was well spent since its debut not only put her on the longlist and shortlist of the $50,000 Giller Prize, but actually won her the Big Kahuna!
To chat with her live online was a pleasure. Here’s a portion of that conversation I had with Esi Edugyan through the CBC Book Club Chat event on January 27, 2012:
As an award-winning writer and a friend in the craft, what’s the best advice you can give to aspiring writers out there (okay, by this, I mean: me)?
by you 3:41 PM
My advice to aspiring writers is first, to read everything, and secondly, to keep going. When the rejections are pouring in, keep going. If you’re advised to stop, keep going.
18. Buying my very first book from my school Book Fair.
I didn’t get allowance as a child so I had no means of buying myself a copy of any book at my school Book Fair. I did, however, convince my mom and dad to give me money so that I could place an order through Scholastic Inc. I remember wanting only one book at that time: Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White.
When the book arrived at school and my name was called so I could pick it up from the library’s Book Fair, I was so happy. When I received it, I simply stared at it in awe. My very first purchased book! I remember inscribing my name inside the front cover just to make it official. While it’s a little tattered, I still own the original copy I bought as a child.
19. Listening to Gordon Korman read in my school auditorium when I was eight-years-old.
Aside from reading books by Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, I also read a lot of books written by Gordon Korman when I was a kid. When I heard the news that my school was hosting a special reading by him in the school auditorium, I was starstruck. I couldn’t believe the person who had written all the books that I spent all my time reading at that time would be in my school gymnasium! Though I didn’t have a camera to capture this moment, this bookish memory has stayed with me for a very long time—it would have to—I was only eight.
20. The times I have cried in response to being deeply moved while reading a wonderful book.
There is nothing more wonderful than being deeply moved by a story you’ve read. While I’ve enjoyed reading many different kinds of novels, there are those that I remember that have simply moved me to tears, or rage, or both! And those are the best books and bookish memories one can have—how books and their stories make such an emotional impact on one’s life.
Thanks to the Broke and the Bookish blog for providing and hosting this weekly meme!
How many wonderful bookish memories can you recall?
Which books have you read that moved you to tears? Or rage? Or both?