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Novels In & Out

Novels In & Out

bookcase of novelsIf you are a reader, books are like air – essential, life giving.  We breathe in novels like deep gulps of air, sucking the story in allowing yourself to be completely consumed by the narrative.
Just as I don’t consciously think of breathing, I don’t consciously consider reading, I just do it.  It’s natural.
I grew up with book breathers.  Both my parents sucked in novels like oxygen. Whole books in an afternoon, stacks of books to work through during a vacation. In, in, in. But how they exhaled was unique to them.  
My father read detective novels written by male authors. Pulp fiction books with covers featuring beautiful bleeding women sprawled on a hard floor with serious men wearing fedoras looming over the prone body.  Once a month Dad gathered  me and a big basket filled with paperbacks and we made our pilgrimage to a used bookstore a short drive away.
While he exchanged his books for more of the same. I was free to wander the packed, stacked shelves that towered over me like the imagined streets of Manhattan. I never found anything to read myself, but I loved the smell, the dust, and puzzling over inappropriate book jackets.   
My father sucked in his books, then purposefully exhaled them back out into the world.
My mother  read detective and mystery novels written by women:  Agatha Christie, Rita Mae Brown, Sue Grafton.  When I was small, my mother frequented the library – breathing in borrowed air and returning it back out again at a vigorous rate – almost like exercise.
As she grew older, her breathing changed.  She continued to suck in books but they weren’t on loan, so she could breath at her own rate – inhaling, but now never fully emptying her lungs.  Finished books collected.  Paperbacks stacked along the stair rails flooding into the empty children’s rooms.   Every room in the house gradually acquired stacks of  books as my mother held her breath.   
Do I keep books? Yes.  I find my book shelves are mostly filled with histories, biographies, poetry and reference books. I keep the novels written by clients, but the mysteries and novels I love to inhale on a Sunday afternoon? Those I exhale fully back into the world.   I learned from my father. I keep a list of books read, like keeping an exercise journal:  in – out.  
 It’s breathtakingly sad to witness all the  stacks and shelves and drawers of books piled in an otherwise empty bedroom like some kind of purgatory for novels.  I itch to box these paperbacks: Ellis Peters, Anne Perry, Joan Hess and restore them into the open shelves of our local Friends of the Library (sale every first Saturday of the month)   in order to offer them up to a new reader who is ready to breath in and become a super fan of a forgotten author.
Exhale: we can’t hold it in forever.  


Catharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach and author. She has published over 300 newspaper and magazine articles in publications like Modern Maturity (AARP), SF Chronicle and Santa Rosa Magazine. She was a contributor to two Chicken Soup Books and has published anthologies of her work, non-fiction works and novels. Her work has also appeared in a number of poetry and fiction anthologies. She has experimented with the self-publishing world since 2001. She has published and self-published seven books through companies like Author House, author assist companies like 3L Publishing and through traditional publishers like Write Life. Her poetry collection, Ammonia Sunrise, will be released in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press and her mystery novel, In Good Faith will be released by Write Life in 2011. Catharine holds a BA in English from UCSB and a MA in English from Sonoma State University. She is a 25 year member of California Writer’s Club. She is an adjunct professor for the University of Phoenix. She works with authors of both fiction and non-fiction to make their dream of producing a book come true. For more information on that, visit her at Catharine has lived in Sonoma County for 25 years and considers wine a food group. She is married to an adorable and very patient man who complains he’s never featured in any of her books. Her grown children who are featured in a few of her books have fled the county.

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