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Libraries I Have Loved

February 6, 2013

In honor of Love a Library Month, I asked a fellow lover of libraries, writer Terry McDermit, to share some of her library experiences with us. First, a little something about our guest:

Terry McTessa McDermidDermid has been writing stories since she was in fourth grade and her parents say she has been telling them even longer. Her first ‘payment’ for a short story came in high school when she received horseback rides from a friend each time she brought a chapter to school. Writing and teaching have always been connected for Terry and she has written articles, short stories, and lessons for the educational market, in addition to an educational resource text. She currently teaches kindergarten and loves the stories that she sees daily in her classroom, finding that they help her discover new ideas about which to write.

Libraries I Have Loved
A few years ago, I was asked to speak at an area library during the month of February. The idea was that since I write romance novels and February is the month of lovers, I could share about my writing experiences. The audience, though, wasn’t just going to be romance readers so I needed to think of a topic that would appeal to all of the listeners.
Since February is “Love a Library Month,” I decided that I could talk about my love of libraries. First off, I LOVE libraries. They’ve been a big part of my writing life and I can’t imagine where I’d be without the different libraries and the helpful librarians I’ve met along my writing career. The other reason I figured the topic would work is that we were at the library and I assumed that those in attendance also appreciated the places.Tessa McDermid 1
My first library experience was at a large white house in Des Moines, Iowa, that had been converted into a neighborhood library. Every weekend, my mom would pull my sister and little brother in our red wagon while my other brother and I walked alongside. The books that we’d checked out the week before were in the wagon and when we returned, we’d have a treasured new stack of books. Plus, the librarian would read a story to us while we were there. When my fourth year grade teacher told me that I might think about being a writer, I started reading books differently, thinking about the ones that I might write.
The next library I visited was a Carnegie Library in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The building was very grand and you couldn’t help being quiet when you walked inside. The librarian would suggest books she thought you would like to read. One she gave to me was about a boy who was mean to ants and shrunk down to visit their ant hill. I learned about combining fiction and facts from that story – and a lot about the industrious ants!
We lived in Independence, Missouri, for a year and our area library was the same one that President Harry Truman used when he was a boy. He determined to read all of the books in the library and I decided that was a goal for me. However, I was too young to go into any section but the children’s section. I did read a lot of books that year, even if I didn’t make it through all of the library’s collection.
Our Florida years solidified my writing desire. Chris Evert was becoming a tennis phenomenon and most of us took tennis lessons to be like her. I was a bit too tall and gangly, plus it was very hot on the court. The library was at the other side of the tennis court – and it was air-conditioned! I decided I’d rather read and write than run around on the tennis court. (I did exercise – I had to ride my bike three miles each way to the community center.) For the first time, I could go into the adult section of the library. I discovered Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and many other strong women writers. I knew this was what I wanted to do.Tessa McDermid 2
College years slipped in and I studied at the library. Writing term papers was my only writing experience during those years but the thought of writing fiction still lingered. Moving to Lawrence KS and finishing my last courses at the University of Kansas was the beginning of that chapter in my life.
The library at KU was set up with stacks – long rows of books organized by category and behind a door. You could wander for hours in the stacks and never see all the books. To get to the stacks, you had to pass through the shelves of the periodicals. And my most common path was from the back of the alphabet.
Which is where I discovered magazines about writing! The Writer and The Writer’s Digest caught my eye. Going back decades and bound into volumes per year, these magazines were a treasure trove of writing information and my education into the writing world. I found potential markets for my ideas and soon I was submitting – and eventually! – selling my articles.
More libraries have followed from those early ones. I learned about research and the vast resources at the Atchison Public Library. I heard my first real author speak at the Lawrence Public Library. Twice, I’ve found a writing group through a library. The list of support I’ve received from librarians and libraries could go on and on.
While I had to do the work to be published, the libraries provided me with the knowledge and resources needed to do that work. Some people like to go shoe shopping. I like to browse a library, touching the spines of the books of all those other authors. And, of course, now it’s fun and rewarding to wander to the McD section and find (or not find!) copies of my books on the shelf.
So in February, I remember those libraries and send them each a box of cyber-chocolates! I love libraries!!

How have libraries touched your life? Any great library stories of your own?

To learn more about Terry, please visit her website: http://www.tessamcdermid.com

Links to the two magazines mentioned in this post:
http://www.writermag.com/
http://www.writersdigest.com/
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