One Thousand Words on Booktopia

You just need to read a few of my blog posts before you’ll learn that I am a big fan of the Books on the Nightstand podcast. I talk about it so often you’d think I was being paid to do so.

But honestly, it’s a great podcast about books. And even though I usually don’t buy the books discussed until they are in paperback, I add just about every single one to my Good Reads “to read” list so the podcast has provided me with a steady diet of wonderful books I probably would never heard about before.

I’ve also written several times about the Books on the Nightstand Retreat that I attended with my friend Nan last April in Manchester, Vermont.

The weekend was not only one of the most enjoyable weekends I’ve ever had, but was also a bit of a life changer because that’s where I heard author Matthew Dicks speak. He urged everyone in the audience to start writing, which planted the very first seed for this one thousand words project and has led to my working on my “what possibly become a novel.”

Writing has become such a big part of my life that it’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing it for less than a year. I really cherish the time I spend composing these blog posts. And even when I think that I’m so tired that I’ll never be able to write one thousand words, I end up feeling energized and accomplished when I’m done.

And that’s all thanks to Books on the Nightstand.

So it is no surprise that when Books on the Nightstand announced they were hosting a second retreat this coming April that I signed up the moment the registration opened last September and have been looking forward to it ever since.

It sounds like they are making a few changes, including the name of the event. This year they’re calling the retreat “Booktopia.”

In every podcast Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, the Books on the Nightstand folks, have a segment called “two books we can’t wait for you to read.” That’s where they recommend books that they’ve enjoyed.

So at the retreat last year, they compiled a book called “Two Books I Can’t Wait for You to Read.” Every author and attendee recommended two books and wrote a little description of them.

At first I wasn’t going to participate. As I’ve written before, I love books but I’m not very good at writing about them. Maybe it’s that I’m too easily pleased or too in awe of authors, but all I’m usually able to say is “I like that book” or “that was a good book.”

Maybe it’s because I’m too shallow to look for deeper meaning in the words, but I seem to be unable to provide any meaningful literary criticism. I simply take most things an author writes at face value.

And when someone asked why I liked a certain book, I’m often unable to put the reason into words that are powerful enough to move them to read it.

That shortcoming made it intimidating to recommend two books to a group of avid readers and writers I admire.

It’s not that I was ashamed of my selected books. I picked two great novels. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to do them justice.

In the end, I went ahead and submitted them because I wanted to participate.

Ever since I heard there was going to be a second retreat, I’ve been thinking about what two books I would recommend this time. I’d read a book and think, “do I want to recommend this one?” and “what would I say about this book if I recommended it.”

Then in last week’s podcast, Michael announced that they were not doing a book of recommendations this year. Instead they wanted all the participants to describe their “booktopia” in 250 words or less. Or in a drawing.

I was listening to the podcast at work and when they made that announcement I exclaimed out loud, “How the hell am I going to do that.” Or something to that effect.

If writing two recommendations scared the bejesus out of me, describing my booktopia is absolutely terrifying.

For someone who is starting to consider themselves a writer, I’m very easily intimidated.

But then I took some time to think about it. What would my book utopia look like? Piles and piles of books? One of those big tall bookcases crammed full of books with one of those cool ladders on wheels? Being about to sit on my couch and read for as long as I like?

I consider reading a solitary pastime and I thought that’s why it always appealed to me. It’s quiet alone time, but you never get lonely because you have the characters in the book. And you never get bored because you’re traveling to the places in the book.

Last year, however, I was struck by the sense of community at the retreat.

One of the last events of the weekend was a gathering with all the readers and all the authors. People were getting their books signed, drinking and eating and talking. Mostly about books.

For a few minutes, I stood on the edge of the room and just watched all those book enthusiasts. I felt like I was at home, surrounded by people who loved what I love.

It was how I imagine it must feel for a baseball enthusiast to attend a live baseball game for the first time. You’re with people who get it.

it was a great feeling, even for a loner and an introvert

That’s what I picture when I envision booktopia. A big room in a wonderful bookstore filled with people who are passionate about books and are happily sharing their reading experiences with each other.

So while unlimited books and an infinite amount of time to read them sound wonderful, I think last year’s retreat was my booktopia.

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