Do You Want A Little Free Library in Your Neighbourhood?

Have you seen the Little Free Libraries that keep springing up everywhere?

If not then you’re in for a real treat. Although I’d seen a couple, I’d no idea they were so widespread until I read an article by Margaret Aldrich in The Atlantic . ,,A.K.Andrew,a writer's notebook

First Little Free Library

What Are They?

A Little Free library is essentially a small bookcase that someone has built and filled with books. People can borrow books from them or take a book to keep, and replace it with one they put inside. And it’s all based on the honour system.

Tod Bol built the first Little Free Library in the Mississippi River town of Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009, as a tribute to his mother—a dedicated reader and former schoolteacher. When he saw the people of his community gathering around it like a neighborhood water cooler, exchanging conversation as well as books, he knew he wanted to take his simple idea farther.

“We have a natural sense of wanting to be connected, but there are so many things that push us apart,” Bol says. “I think Little Free Libraries open the door to conversations we want to have with each other.” He goes on , “We have a natural sense of wanting to be connected, but there are so many things that push us apart,” Bol says. “I think Little Free Libraries open the door to conversations we want to have with each other.”

Since Tod Bul had this brilliant brain wave, the idea has spread all over the US, and now into other countries.As of January 2014, there are over 15,000 Little Libraries worldwide, and counting. An estimated 1,650,000 books were donated and borrowed from 2010-2013

Why do they Have Such Appeal?

Everyone loves things for free don’t they? But people also like things that make them feel like they are part of a community, something they can easily participate in. In fact what books are in the Little Free Library is going to tell you a lot about your neighbours. I think the other appeal is that it is so low tech in a world that is seething with gadgets, reinventing the book and the way we read it at every turn.

Many people may remember being taken to a library when they were little and that just might not happen so easily now.

What is Their Real Potential?

The other potential, and this has already happened, is that the Little free Library becomes a low budget way for the “real thing” to reach areas in the world, including the US, that simply don’t have the money to build, stock or staff a traditional library. The organization’s Books Around the Block program, for example, aims to bring LFLs to places where kids and adults don’t have easy access to books. In North Minneapolis, an area more often in the news for shootings than community engagement, the Books Around the Block initiative set up 40 of the little libraries. Two hundred more sprung up shortly thereafter.

How Can You get a Little Free Library in Your Neighbourhood?

If you’ve not found one in your neighbourhood then do one of two things. Check on line to see if theres a local map showing where they are.

Sitting Room, A.K.Andrew, A writer's notebook

Little Free Library outside the Sitting Room by A.K. Andrew

OR, better still…..Build one !!! and put it outside your front door. I have considered it myself, but have not yet done it.

But I know the first time I came across one – and I’d not heard of the movement at the time – I thought  -Wow, this is so cool that someone took the time to build this little case, and fill it with books. I also thought it really said something about the neighbourhood. That it was somewhere people cared about and somewhere  people trusted others enough to not worry they would be immediately ”stolen” from. Isn’t that the essence of what we want in a liveable society? Sounds good to me.

What do you think are the pro’s and con’s of the idea of a Little Free Library?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

Connect with A.K. Andrew:

Follow on Twitter          * Like on Facebook          * Pinterest          *

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Buffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Time and Place: 1950’s USA

Screenshot from "Duck and Cover" fil...

Screenshot from “Duck and Cover” film, a 1952 movie. The ‘Duck and Cover’ propaganda movie was probably one of the most famous of all the pieces of propaganda during the early stages of the cold war. It was targeted at school children and was intended to install the constant fear of a nuclear attack from the Soviets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Anti- communist newsletter.

I’ve recently finished the first draft of my second novel, “Under the Bed”. It’s set in New York in both 1969 and 1952. Time and place are integral to the story; the commonality between the two eras is anti-communism in the USA. I’ll only deal with the 1950’s in this blog.

McCarthyism”, which was at the heart of the anti-communist movement, started in the late forties. You may be aware of the havoc and horror the Hollywood blacklist had on the lives of actors and screenwriters, many of whom were banned from writing or acting. Their careers, and often their entire lives were left in shambles. A number also went to jail. Dashiell Hammett is one of the more famous names of people who served time. He died a year after his release. Lillian Hellman, was also brought before by the House Un-American Activities Committee  – HUAC. She took a landmark stand, later known as the ‘Diminished Fifth’, in which she was willing to talk about her own activities but refused to talk of others .

Paul Robeson and Charlie Chaplin were also victims of the HUAC. Chaplin, who was born in England, was refused re-entry into the USA in 1952, and ultimately never returned to America. Paul Robeson’s passport was confiscated, leaving him unable to work abroad – he was already blacklisted from working in America. His career as a singer and his International Human Rights advocacy work were severely curtailed.


Paul Robeson,American actor, athlete, bass-bar...

Paul Robeson,American actor, athlete, bass-baritone concert singer, writer, civil rights activist, Spingarn Medal winner, and Stalin peace prize laureate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)







Influence of the House Un-American Activities Committee, reached far beyond Hollywood into many professions, including those in public service. University professors and elementary schoolteachers  were asked to sign an oath swearing that they were not, nor ever had been a member of the Communist Party. Those who refused, which many did on principle, lost their jobs.

All serious stuff – but in researching the period, I came across some hilarious footage from the public service announcement of the ‘Duck and Cover Campaign’ that told people, and especially schoolchildren, what to do in the case of a nuclear attack – “Why, duck and cover of course!”.


Its simplicity might seem ludicrous to us now –  perhaps it did to many people at the time  –  but it gives us a certain insight into an era of fear, tinged with naïveté , in the USA of the 1950’s.

I love the whole idea of exploring different time and place in writing. They’re usually the two challenges I first  set myself when I start a new project. It’s so important in a novel in setting the tone.

Where do you set your work? Is it is always in the present, or in the town or country where you live? How does time and place affect your choice in the novels you read?

Let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

English: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin

English: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Buffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

#Authors – An Infinite Writer’s Resource

Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Writers are always looking for resources, whether it’s for technique, style, how to get published, or ideas for a story. The single best resource is using other authors as a reference for better ways of working.

During my Creative Writing Certificate course at Sussex University, we spent one semester on  ‘Special Author’.  We each chose an author, and a particular novel, whose work we thought would most benefit our own. I chose The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. We looked at all aspects from first encounter, tracing sub-plots and the climax of the story to name a few.

At the end of the semester we each gave a verbal presentation to the class, which forced us to study the work, and think about it in a critical way we’d never have done otherwise. We were lucky to have Susannah Waters as our tutor – a stickler for precision in technique and critique skills,  with an incredible passion for the process. (FYI Susannah does independent mentoring and manuscript assessment, as well as  teaching at Arvon. See *below for contact details)

The purpose of the course was not to necessarily emulate the author, but to look at how they might deal with different aspects of writing from dialogue to creating suspense, character and setting and thereby learn from them. A simple example is in my novel Radio Echo– the first scene in Bologna is set in a graveyard. I’d had no thought of using that location until our tutor asked us to create a scene in a setting used by our Special Author.

As an example of how to learn from another writer’s work, I’ve chosen two pieces of text from The Blind Assassin to look at dialogue and description, and see what Atwood does with them. The sparingly used dialogue in Atwood’s novel, functions as an insight into character relationships, rather than moving the plot forward.  The immediacy is emphasized by the use of present tense. The dialogue is tight, short phrases back and forth, rarely interrupted by gesture. This accentuates the intimacy and envelopes two individuals in their own world during the scene. It’s the lover’s first sexual encounter; this is never stated, but just enough information is given to spark the reader’s own imagination.


Don’t worry so much, he says. Lie Down.

Don’t you’ll tear it. Wait a minute.

She hears her own voice. It isn’t her voice, its too breathless.

 ….Smoke  taste on his mouth, salt in her own; all around, the smell of crushed weeds and cat, of disregarded corners. Dampness and growth, dirt on the knees, grimy and lush; leggy dandelion stretching towards the light.

Below where they’re lying the ripple of a stream. Above, leafy branches …the blue sky in splinters. Hard dirt under her back.¹

 The text shows Atwood’s excellent use of metaphor and simile. Her descriptions are not elaborate: they simply use evocative words to show what’s in the scene. Once that is established, she then places the character, in a physical sense, into the scene, which highlights the physical nature of the encounter, but also grounds the reader.

The second text shows description of setting that also conveys the mood of the scene. It’s the last time the lovers meet and the scene depicts resignation, a bleak encounter in a rundown motel.

A carpet once dark blue and red. A pathway strewn with flowers, worn down now to the roots.

I’m sorry, he says. It could be better. ²


Painters are renowned for learning from other painters – “learn from the masters”. So why should it be any different for writers? We’re not talking plagiarism, but simple learning by example.

At the end of the course I realized as a writer I’d always have an infinite resource if I was stuck and wanted to know how to deal with a scene. Looking for a spare style?  – go Raymond Carver, or Cormac McCarthy. Want to portray a character who’s fraught to the point of despair? – go to the scene in ‘Anna Karenina’ leading up to the suicide. Write text that will push emotional buttons? – Jodi Picoult.

Etc. ad infinitum.

We first learn to love books by reading them. Learn to love writing from the same source.

Who or where do you go to when you’re stuck? What authors would you recommend for particular styles?

Let me know. For me, learning is an ongoing process.



Excerpts from The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Paperback 2001 Virago press

¹Pg 32 -33 Chapter – The Lipstick Heart

²Pg 563 Chapter – The B Rage Room


*Susannah Waters:-

Literary Mentoring and Manuscript Assessment.


To follow this blog click on “FOLLOW” in the bottom right hand side of the page. 


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Buffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

#Editing Forward

How many times have you groaned about having to go ‘back’ and edit a piece of work? And yet all writing is rewriting. I’m fortunate that for the most part I enjoy editing. In fact I often view it as a way of ‘keeping in touch’ with my work when there’s not a lot of time. Edit a short passage – even a sentence – rather than wait for the 2 hr stretch that won’t come along so easily – and it keeps your mind from losing the plot so to speak. Makes it easier to get started the next time you come back to the work. In short I’m a big advocate of little and often. But hey, no one’s perfect, and I can get ground down and see editing as something that’s dragging me back, stopping me moving forward. But no more. This afternoon I had an epiphany!

Today is the start of British Summertime. The clocks went forward – which is what prompted my train of thought. It’s been a lovely weekend in Brighton, on the south coast of England, and yesterday I went down to the seafront. It could have been the start of summer. The stripy deckchairs were out, seaside kitsch was back on sale – bags of shells, flip-flops, small containers of shrimps and half shells of freshly caught crab. Men had taken off their shirts, women wore bikinis – generally a lot of pale skin that hadn’t seen a stroke of sun for many months.  There were even some people with a couple of toes in the water. And not the hardy 365 days a year swimmers.

The Wurlitzer carousel, built in 1888 has been reassembled into its circle, though when I was there at 10.30 the horses were still wrapped in a giant tent of tarpaulin. There was a sense of emergence in the air, a new season, a new beginning.

It was only today when I sat down to do a bit of editing, secretly wanting to press on with where I’d left off, that I realised the problem was that I was looking at editing from the wrong perspective. Editing is not going back but going forward. As you may have seen in my last post I’ve changed the title of my first novel to ‘Radio Echo’. I’ve also recently re-edited the first three chapters (rewrite 28?). Both things have been very positive in my approach to the work. When you edit a section, it’s done to make it better. You might be approaching it with some feedback from other people, or with merely a keener eye from yourself. But the chances are very good that you’re going to make the work better. So in what way is that ‘going back’? The answer is it’s not. It’s moving forward.

I’m not being Pollyannaish about this, it’s simply a fact. You are moving your work forward every time you edit. There is no going back about it. So if we keep this in mind, then maybe it will help to take the groan out of having to edit. When you’re sitting down to edit a 60-100,000w bit of work, it’s going to be more than a quick ten-minute task. Inevitably there’ll come a point – or several points, where you feel jaded, bored – whatever you want to call it. But more often than not, we’re editing smaller chunks – a line, a paragraph, or a couple of chapters. All of this is moving the work forward, which is a good thing. To be a writer you have to enjoy rewriting. That’s the fact of the matter. If you don’t, then you’ll rarely get past one edit without it being an unpleasant gut-wrenching task. It’s impossible to edit everything as you go along. The work needs distance. Then you move forward. You edit.

I hope that looking at it as editing forward, rather than going back to edit is of some help to those of you who dislike the task. We all have different writing habits, methods, rituals that work for each one of us. How do you approach your editing? Are there ways you make it go faster or are more economical with your time?

Let me know what you’re approach is, bad habits you’d like to get out of or any good habits you want to share.

I’d love to hear from you!



Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Buffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone