Category Archives: Uncategorized

Think, Act, & Be Happy

I’ve been remiss: Think, Act, & Be Happy: How to Use Chicken Soup to Train Your Brain to Be Your Own Therapist, another fine Chicken Soup book, was released September 25 and I am just now getting around to mentioning it. Because life. 🙂

You may know where this is going. I’m so pleased to announce I have not one but two stories reprinted in it, complete with Dr. Mike Dow’s dissection of how the methods I used helped me reach my goals. (He did the same for all the featured stories, of course.)

Not only was it cool to hear I got some things right, it was also great to be reminded that it was time to get back to some of them that I have let go by the wayside.

The first story in the anthology is “Wake-Up Call,” from Dreams and Premonitions in which I write about a dream — a nightmare, really –helped me quit taking my husband for granted. I’m certainly not perfect at this, but I’m better than o used to be. He’s a pretty great guy!

The second comes from Shaping the New You. “Ready to Listen” discusses my ongoing battle with my weight and the hints that work best for me — when I work them. And I’m once again using my own tips to tame that tiger!

Our local newspaper is writing up a feature on my inclusion in the book, which is always fun.

The book includes the usual touching, personal stories, but it also includes a list of powerful cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to change how you think and act. It follows up with questions to ask yourself, pen in hand. It’s like a bowl of healing Chicken Soup paired with powerful vitamins!

While I am incredibly proud to be included, I’m also proud of how Chicken Soup continues to innovate and evolve. In these dark political days, they give us something to celebrate, something to enjoy, and now, something we can do to help ourselves.

Is There an Idea Store?

As far as I know, there is no idea store. At least not as such.

Some freelance writers find that their biggest obstacle is coming up with ideas. My mother has an inquisitive mind. She’s curious about everything, and she passed that gene onto me, I guess. I come up with too many ideas some days. (Not all of them are good, but still.)

Because of my nature, when I go for a mammogram and someone gives me a rose, I thank them first and then ask why I’ve been given such a sweet gift.

From that recent question came an article I wrote that is just out over at Radiology Today. While I don’t always share everything I write so as not to overwhelm, here’s the story, if you’d like to take a look.

Writing this was engrossing, involving discussions with caring health professionals and a patient or two. And the editor was a dream to work with.

Ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from annoyances, from curiosity, from passions, from wondering, from lack of knowledge, from observation…there are endless sources of questions/ideas.

Pretend you’re a two-year-old and keep asking, “Why?” If you do, you’re halfway there. Of course ideas have to be refined and angled. That’s a whole course in itself!

Oh, and what did I mean by there isn’t an idea store “as such?” If you read publications and websites and identify a gap, well, that’s your signal to ask if they would like to have that gap filled. It’s called sending a pitch or a query. What they typically publish tells you more than anything what they’d like to see more of, or what they need that they don’t yet know they need. Sometimes you’ll get an enthusiastic response. Sometime you’ll hear nothing. Keep pitching.

Sure, there’s a world more to be said about this topic, but this will get you started. Happy idea hunting. Don’t forget to bring along paper and pen, or your phone if you prefer to record ideas.

Writers, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you? Readers, do you have a list of topics you wish writers would write about?

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Thanks for stopping by. I value every page view.

XOXO,

Drema

Ordering Business Cards Can be Vision Clarifying (Not to mention, fun)!

Yesterday I ordered my new business cards! The special offer was for 500 cards, and right now I can’t imagine ever handing out so many, but hey, you never know. Lately I’ve had people asking me about my services, and while my website is handy, it’s nice to have a piece of actual paper with my contact information on it to hand out.

As I scrolled through the color choices and debated fonts, it occurred to me how vision clarifying it was to fit my writing services on one card. Okay, so they didn’t all fit, but the important ones did.

I found myself pondering how to explain why what I do is so important to both me and to my clients on a tiny, 3.5 by 2 inches card! What I came up with had me teary-eyed. That’s when I realized that I’m part writing coach, part freelance writer, part novelist, and all parts cheerleader. Please don’t criticize my math here. I’m making a point. 🙂

While there’s nothing like putting your own hands to the keyboard and creating, the next best thing to me is helping someone else do the same. I’ve been a teacher. I’ve taught classes and workshops on writing. I’ve sat side-by-side with clients and talked through their work. And I love it all. Writing out this card reminded me of how much I enjoy waving pompoms! Isn’t that what we all need, someone to believe in us, someone to hold our hands when we’re scared to write, someone to tell us when we’ve left the path and help us nonjudgmentally back on?

So here’s what I came up with for my business card:

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(Forgive the blurry image, but I had to take a screenshot. The real cards won’t be in for a couple of weeks yet. I’ll add a new photo then.)

I wrote on the card, “Everyone has a story. I’ll help you tell yours.” And at the bottom of the card I added, “Because stories live on.”

This is not where I go off on one of my frequent tangents on writing a legacy. It is where I acknowledge that humans are unique creatures every one, to be redundant for emphasis. We all have a story, and there’s nothing better than helping someone tell theirs.

Fiction and nonfiction are included in storytelling. The best truth comes from fiction, but nonfiction can wring your emotions like little else. (As a fiction writer, I’m wanting to qualify like crazy here. Both forms can do everything. It depends on your goal.) When it comes to my clients, I have both kinds, and I see similar reactions when they finally say what it is they wanted to say, fiction or no. There’s a release, a relief. There’s pride and hope for publication, often. And often there’s another idea following closely behind.

This lesson I learned from creating a business card could apply to most everything. If you’ve lost your way, try putting what gives you the most joy on a business card as a miniature mission statement. Find someone who will relentlessly cheer you on toward your goal. (For writing, that would be me. My husband and I also provide a “writer’s nag” service to remind you of your goals and to ask if you’ve achieved them for those of you who might find that helpful…contact us at drema@writingallthethings.com or go to writingallthethings.com/nag. )

And if you’ve got a burning story idea, a tiny spark, or you just want to write your memoir for your family, let’s chat. Email me: drema@dremadrudge.com.

 

 

 

There Should Be Tech Support For Writers!

 

 

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I’ve been doing lots of “techie” tasks lately on my website, and while it’s been challenging, for the most part there’s a person to contact or a video to watch to solve most technical issues. As a result of all of this back and forth, I found myself telling Barry that there ought to be tech support for writers! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

But in reality, how would that phone call go?

“Tech support.”

“Yeah, um, I’m writing a novel and I need help.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“I don’t know. The middle doesn’t flow.”

“Flow? Let me check my manual.”

The sound of typing.

“Ma’am, I can’t seem to find anything. Can you be more specific?”

“Flow. You know, it seems choppy. Like, the first hundred pages are fine, but then it seems to sag.”

More typing.

“There’s something here about middle-of-novel problems being common, especially in first-time novelists’ work.”

The sound of flames would come out of my mouth, no doubt: “I am not a first-time novelist, and there is something WRONG with the middle of my novel. Can you just get someone to come take a look?”

Typing, typing, typing, then.

“If you had sentence fragments or comma splices, maybe I could help you, maybe, but a middle problem? I’m afraid the best you can do is find a writer friend to troubleshoot it or hire an editor.”

“Right.”

Sometimes I wish novels were widgets and you could at a glance know when they’re finished, know when something’s out of place. As someone who has helped others with their novels, I can say with all confidence that yes, there are ways to make books much, much better. And thankfully, I do have a way of knowing when my novels are finished. I’ve learned when it’s time to walk away from my book for a few days or weeks. I’ve learned when to persevere. 

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if there were tech support for novels?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATED: “Never Too Poor to Give” to be Featured on Chicken Soup for the Soul Podcast

I wanted to let those of you who don’t follow my social media know that my story, “Never Too Poor to Give,” will be featured on the Chicken Soup for the Soul podcast on Monday, December 4, 2017.  You can find it on iTunes or anywhere you listen to podcasts. I’ll try to embed a link when it comes out, but if you miss it on Monday don’t worry, because you will be able to find it later in the archive.
How honored I feel that they are going to broadcast this story of mine from the Count Your Blessings book, out a few years ago.

Here’s the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-chicken-soup-for-the-soul-podcast/id1085746482?mt=2&i=1000395572674

If for some reason that doesn’t work, it’s episode 148. If you want you can look it up. 😁

I don’t want to spoil the story, but nonspecifically, it’s about a student at the Learn More Center where I taught who gave me a Christmas gift when she could ill afford it, and the desire to give it prompted in our household.

This is a great time of year to count your blessings, and one of mine is certainly that my story has been chosen. Recalling the circumstances that brought me to write it brings me back to a time and place I enjoyed, a pleasant reminder of the many students and colleagues I worked with who were and continue to be a part of my life. I could write stories about them for years to come.

Aside: Am I the only one, or does the title of the book remind you of the hymn “Count Your Blessings?” It’s a fun, bouncy little song that I hear in my head sometimes, but it bears considering.  Just in case you wondered, if you’re reading this, I count you among my blessings, too.

 

 

Lofty Goals and Musings

Today, I feel the need to spend time evaluating my writing life and goals. I do this periodically to be sure I’m on track. Because let’s be honest — I’m ambitious, and idk how else to know whether or not I’m even coming close to approaching my goals.
So much about publication, about remuneration, about our writing legacy, is out of our hands. All we can do is write, consult the best sources we know about what to do next, put ourselves out there, and maybe whisper a prayer to our higher power.
One of my overarching goals is to be a part of literature today, a vital, intertextual, integral part of the voice of my generation. To not only interact with but to elevate the art, if possible. To cause others to pause, think, and live more fully. To speak for those who do not know how to articulate their experiences.

I strive to do this through fiction because there I have license to more fully tell the truth.
Oh, and if I can entertain and transport others while doing this, well alrighty then. No pressure, right?
I try to remember that attempting these lofty ambitions means sacrificing things I’d enjoy. Like bingeing on Netflix. Wait, I still do that but I want to cut back. Like ever getting around to spring cleaning. Except during the times I’m stumped on what to write. Like thinking I will ever organize my books by the Dewey Decimal system or the aesthetically-pleasing-but-confusing-because-how-do-you-find-anything-color-coordinated system.

Neck-twisting transition(s) ahead alert.

So, unless you don’t know me at all you know I’m obsessed with Virginia Woolf. Look at what Barry bought me for my birthday! I just BAWLED when he gave Woolf and company to me. And just check out Vonnegut! That hair!
We had another Woolf encounter earlier in the week. Barry has wanted to go to a Robyn Hitchcock concert for, well, ever since he started a “Twittermance” with him. (Shh…don’t tell either of them I said that.) We had the opportunity to go to a show in Indy. And after the show, at the informal meet-and-greet Mr. Hitchcock replied “Drudge?” when Barry said his first name. Robyn recognized Barry. *Fan squee.*

My point: while the opening act was on, Tristen, who had some unique lyrics, much to my delight, my muse starting tick, ticking. I had no paper with me and my phone’s charge was low, so what was I supposed to do with all of the ideas that started flowing? Eventually, I dug out a yearly planner I had just picked up at the bank and wrote a couple of sentences in the back of it in the dark. (And I scammed juice for my phone off the helpful sound engineer, Chris. Good folks, those guys. I recommend getting to know the person at the sound booth, especially if you are a musician.)

Then my muse kept talking and talking during Robyn’s opening songs, while Barry and I squeezed up front to get a better look at that dapper shirt Robyn was wearing. (Photo credit goes to Barry.)

 

My muse started screaming, though, when Robyn played his next-to-closing song: Virginia Woolf. Which I was familiar with, of course, but was delighted and surprised that he would play in concert. Want to hear it? By all means.

Here’s the thing I finally realized: my muse loves live music! It’s got to be music I am free to drop in and out on, focus, then daydream. Live music. My mind fills and twirls. I am there, not there. (Same thing happens at some movies for me.)

Lyrics suggest other words, ideas. Heart-felt performances remind me that this is my tribe, my people, all artists, and I get them and they me and we share the same struggles, ambitions, heartbreaks.

Same thing happened when my DH filled in on keyboards and vocals (and bass for a couple of songs) the other night for a local band. Because there wasn’t a table available up front at the venue and the music was too loud to talk over much, I was free to listen, think, feel. My mind soared, and I wasn’t even drinking.

That being said, I now have the next-next subject for my novel after this one, thanks to live music. I have a title, too. I am excited about it, though the realization of it’s a year or more down the road. Wish I could share more, but that’s not a great idea for incubating concepts. I am making notes for both it and my next novel to keep track of it.

 So if I am to hope at all to tie this post together, let’s sum it up this way: pursue your passions, feed the muse, and sacrifice when it’s called for to attempt to achieve your goals. 

And play. That’s what the literary finger puppets are for. I pity the overly serious, I really do. I used to be you. And I was miserable. 

Maybe I’ll fail to achieve any of my goals. Maybe I’ll blush when I read this a decade hence. 

Then again, maybe I won’t. 

 

 

A Passion for Patchett and Parnassus

One of the things we did in Nashville last month was visit Parnassus Books, the bookstore that Ann Patchett co-owns. It was our first visit to the store, although Barry remembers a bookstore in that same location when we lived in Nashville. Alas, I remember paying our cell phone bill in the plaza but nothing else about it.

I trust his memory more than mine any day. I blame my lack of memory of the store on not have the extra funds for books when we lived in Nashville. Don’t pity us too much — we had access to all of the branches of the  Davidson County library system and could and did have books from them all shipped to the branch closest to us.

Our daughter was into physics at the time, and she would order stacks of books that I found admirable but incomprehensible. (The pictures of fractals were mesmerizing.)

Barry and I were homeschooling both of the kids, so I ordered texts for Zack’s schooling from the library as well. Many an afternoon Zack, Mia, and I sat around (poor Barry was usually at work) and took turns reading aloud the book of the hour, usually classics or Harry Potter.

Along the way (beware an oncoming, tenuous segue), I had somehow missed Patchett’s books until Sena Naslund, the beloved co-founder and director of  Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing recommended Bel Canto to a group of us in a novel writing workshop. (Crawling back under my rock now.)

When I got home from that workshop, the book was lurking on our library’s secondhand books shelf, and I bought it for fifty cents. I have this rule: if someone mentions a book to me and I come across it right after or see/hear about it three times, I not only get it and read it, I read it right away. So I did. Swoon.

 

This post isn’t meant to be a love letter to Patchett’s writing, and yet it can’t help but be at least a love Post-it. Let me hold off a bit longer, though.

While Barry and I waited for the eclipse on the 21st (we were at Percy Warner Park EARLY), we discussed what to do after it. I mentioned Parnassus, and he immediately started Googling, though we both figured it would be madness to travel anywhere but where we needed to go after the magical sun/moon tango.

My husband is an adventurous driver. I don’t even like to ride in a car, much less drive one. But because he’s the vehicularly brave one, we ended up at Parnassus. Actually, the traffic wasn’t that bad. Until later. That’s another story, and I have the photos to prove it.

We did the geeky, touristy thing and took photos of ourselves outside of the store.  IMG_6032IMG_6033

Once inside, I became overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by being in the very space where authors I know and love lecture and sign books. I sat at the desk and Barry took a photo of me, though by that time I was so overcome it was hard to sit still. (My makeup had long since melted from being in the sun and I’m wearing an eclipse tee shirt, but whatever. I hadn’t anticipated this opportunity. Note the book I’m holding!!)

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And the book I’m holding comes from another delightful surprise. Honestly, I think I discovered this but it may have been Barry who pointed it out. Not sure:

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Sweet Sena’s marvelous Ahab’s Wife recommended by, gasp, Geraldine Brooks.  That along with everything else totally caused me to have a full-blown Stendahl’s Syndrome reaction. Remember that thing I wrote about years ago where when you are overwhelmed by art you feel dizzy and disoriented ? It’s the first time it’s happened to me in a bookstore.

 

 

Suffice it to say that before we left Nashville we bought three of Patchett’s books. Did you know that all of her books for sale in her store are autographed? (Insert clapping emoji here.)

Oh, and we went to Grimey’s after lunch, which is one of Nashville’s best vinyl and more music shops. Just an aside, but an important one to us.

(Below: photo of a window in a nearby Chinese restaurant where, regrettably, we ate lunch after our visit to the bookstore. Because it was close, because we keep thinking there’s more than one place that can do General Tso right. There isn’t. But this sign amused us because it reminded us so much of the tortured English we often saw in China.)

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Now, my belated tribute to Patchett.

One of the books we bought was Truth and Beauty, a memoir of her friendship with the late author Lucy Grealy. As amazing as Patchett’s fiction is, this book had me crying more than once. Even though I don’t know Patchett personally (Despite my peering into every office in the back of her bookstore when I went to the restroom, I did not find her. Trust me when I say I do not EVER celeb stalk, so that tells you something about my regard for her.)

Especially if you’re a writer, or if you want to hear about the greatest capacity for love and endurance in a friendship outside of maybe David and Jonathan in the Bible, read Truth and Beauty.

Once home, I read The Magician’s Assistant. I have one burning question for Patchett: did she do any research for it? Because it’s hauntingly beautiful and incredibly convincing. Lyrical. There’s a bit about the main character doing a trick with an egg that I can still feel in my hair as if she did it to me. So specific. So inventive.

It describes a nontraditional marriage that works spectacularly, and a woman who discovers she’s capable of so much more than she ever suspected. It’s about love in unexpected places, too. Gorgeous ideas.

Ah, and then there’s her most recent novel, Commonwealth. It begins with an illicit kiss that destroys two families but creates, (SPOILER ALERT) in the end, a novel. Or that’s my take on it.

Patchett has admitted that it’s her first real autobiographical novel. Though it’s a departure from her usual style, it works. In ways large and small, from the out-of-order storyline to the information tantalizingly left out that somehow ends up saying more than it otherwise could have, what prevails is a real sense that people, regardless of society’s expectations and labels for relationships, can care about whomever they want, for as long as they want.

And perhaps most importantly, that it’s fine, even desirable, to be human, in every sense of the word, to recognize and accept love wherever you find it.

Ok, enough. So much more I could say, but this is not meant as a review but as a way of memorializing a moment in our lives, a day of celestial wonder that will forever now be tied with our first visit to Parnassus Bookstore, a place that I, for one, wish we lived closer to. Isn’t it a good thing that we have her books, portals of a sort to that mind that conceived not only lovely literature, but Parnassus Books?

 

 

 

 

 

Issue 1.2 – Fiction

Proud to have my story published by the Same!

Let us pausefor a moment and pray. (10)

The examination table hurts my goddamn back.  I sit up straighter but it doesn’t help much. You have to have ab strength to stay in this position for any amount of time. This exam came about because I bled after sex last week, twice, and I knew immediately that something was wrong. I haven’t had my period for three years now.

“Don’t worry, Diana. You’ve probably just got an infection,” Robert, my husband, had said.

I have an unusual gift of sorts. I win things. No kidding. Last night I won a book at a writer’s group, a book I had been salivating over but hadn’t been able to afford. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. They’re usually small, not terribly valuable things, but I win. When I was still in school, I won not one, not two, but three hats using different family member’s names…

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Edinburgh!

Barry and I recently traveled to Edinburgh. While I have lots to share about what is now my third favorite city, I honestly don’t know where to start. Let’s try it with photos instead. Maybe I’ll elaborate later. 🙂

Sir Walter Scott Memorial, visible out the window of the restaurant where we ate breakfast every morning at our hotel: IMG_6971

Robert Burns’ desk:

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And Burns’ birthplace:

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The Scottish National Gallery:IMG_7014

The Brigadoon:

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Scottish Parliament Building:

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Arthur’s Seat:

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National Portrait Gallery: IMG_7364

 

 

Culzean Castle:

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The Ferris Wheel just outside our hotel, Elephant House (Rowling, anyone?), and Dolly, the first sheep cloned. Below, a rando bagpiper.

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The Dollar Tree and Me: Books on the Cheap

Hey my happy people! Barry and I are just a few days back from Scotland. I have lots to say about that, but while I catch up with life here’s a post I wrote earlier but never shared.

First, a pic of us in glorious Edinburgh outside Holyrood Palace:


Now the post. 

I have a confession to make: I’ve been holding out on you and for the silliest of reasons: fear of looking too thrifty. But I want you to know about this source for low cost books, my bookie friends, so here goes.

A couple of years ago I took my mom shopping and she wanted to stop by a store called The Dollar Tree. I had only been in one a couple of times to get their inexpensive party goods and as I followed my mom around the store, that’s all I expected to attract my attention. I like bargains, but I wasn’t feeling optimistic. Until.

Ah, you see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Darn headline of mine gave it away.

When my mom and I went down the aisle with books I paused. I cocked my head. My hands began that involuntary thing hands that love books do: I picked one up and caressed it, read the dust jacket. Realized it was by an author I respected. 

At first I felt sad. What if a book I write ends up in a store selling for only a dollar? 

But then I realized this store does something beautiful: it gives affordable access to books. This way people who love books or are just curious but can’t always afford full price can buy one for the same price as a cheap fast food burger. This makes my heart happy and hopeful. 

Not everyone has access to a library. 

What sort of books does the Dollar Tree carry, you ask?

You’re probably picturing odd westerns with smeary covers and tons of bodice rippers that should never have been written in the first place, and in part, you’d be correct. 

But. But when I was there that first time I found some reads by literary and not-so literary writers with recognizable names: The Competition by Marcia Clark, Astray by Emma Donoghue. Bridget Jones Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding. Prep and Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. (I know, right?!)

During one visit I ran across See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid, her first book (when it was published) in a decade. I hadn’t even heard it was out! 

I’m making my way through a mesmerizing book of essays bought for yes, a dollar, by Jonathan Franzen with an intruiging cover featuring what I think we called a Cootie Catcher in school.

This is only a sampling of the books I’ve picked up at Dollar Tree. There are fitness books by the likes of Jillian Michaels and Ben Greenfield there. Miscellaneous, mysteriously titled books such as Vatican Diaries , Guide to Being Born (stories) and Lincoln Dreamed He Died invite curious readers to take a chance on a title.  

I’ve got to admit (if it’s not already obvious) that I’m hooked on buying these books. As if I don’t live blissfully near a terrific library. 

But back to DT: Someone Special  also received a book from there as part of his Father’s Day gift from me.  I subscribed him to a guitar mag he mentioned he enjoyed an issue of recently but it won’t be in for weeks yet. In the meantime he can read about Joe Perry of Aerosmith courtesy of me and Dollar Tree. I hope he’ll let me borrow it when he’s through. 

Here are some of the many reasons/uses I like Dollar Tree books:

1. For their affordability. 

2. For stocking stuffers/gift additions. 😉

3. For those times (such as Father’s Day) when that gift isn’t going to be in before the big day but you are not about to give an empty gift bag. 

4. For creating a low-cost book club. Heck, at those prices you could supply every member with a book.

5. For giving an extra copy of a book to someone you think might like it.

6. For forming your own read-and-release program. I routinely buy books for trips and leave them behind when I return home. More room for souvenirs. 

7. For discovering new authors.

8. For locating a novel that you didn’t know existed by a favorite author. 😊😊😊

9. For taking chances on books you might not buy at full price.

10. For saving a book from being remaindered. I’m pretty sure the next stop for these books is the trash bin. When it’s a decent book, that hurts.

11. For projects. How bad can you feel about cutting up a dollar book? And if you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you know there are plenty  of fun “booky” crafts to be made. No, I’m not someone who thinks all books are sacred. The symbolism of books in alternate forms can be evocative too. 

12. For helping a loved one create an impressive library.

I’m sure I’m missing some reasons to like Dollar Tree’s books. You’ll have to tell me if you buy books from there and why. I’m sure I’m not the first person to discover their treasure trove.

(Some of our Dollar Tree finds.)