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Month: November 2015

UNITED States – One Fat Pet Tweet at a Time

UNITED States – One Fat Pet Tweet at a Time

fat pet
#fatpet on Twitter

The other day #fatpet was trending on Twitter. So was #blackfamilythanksgiving .

Fresh off the heels of terrorist attacks in Paris and Tunisia and Lebanon and Israel and Baghdad, I was more than grateful for the lightness these threads provided. Yes, scrolling through countless tweets was a sweet diversion, but it quickly became more than that as I giggled over post after post, most of which I could relate to from my own life. I had a light bulb moment. Yes, we are spread out across this nation, we have different struggles, dreams and fears, but these Twitter threads illustrated how much we still have in common.

And it hit me. I knew in that moment what I value most about the United States of America –  it’s the united part. What unites us? Well, that’s a beautiful complication. Our innovative spirit? Freedom of speech? Our belief in the American dream? Freedom of religion? Our rich diversity?  Our unwillingness to quit? Yes, those are common strings that bind us, but they only begin to scratch the surface.

wing detail
Crow’s Wing Detail by Jennifer Hotes

Recently, KUOW did a story about the crows of Seattle. Here’s the link in case you’d like to read it. Every evening at sunset,  tens of thousands of crows take to the skies and fly north. Observing this, the reporter became obsessed with finding out where they gathered and why. After a harried drive through the city, she followed the crows to a cemetery in a northern suburb. The crows clustered across the grounds of Calvary Cemetery. The strongest birds perched in the treetops overhead, standing guard. The rest of the crows sat on the grass, arranging themselves so that the younger, smaller birds were surrounded, protected by the others. As the sun sunk into the Olympic mountains, all of the crows stood facing the same direction as a community. Their instincts led them to this place, where they stood a better chance of surviving the night against predator attacks. United.

Jenn TweetAs I read this story, the hair stood up on my arms. These crows are smart. They know there is safety in community. By instinct, they know to protect the frail, the young and the old. At night they stand together. Safe from the coyotes and raccoons and raptors that probably detest this unity because it makes killing all the tougher.

There are global predators that wish to do harm to America, obliterate our way of life. Can we stand united against them? Or will we continue to allow our mainstream media and political leaders to fracture us? Pit you against me? Us against them? Him against her? Or should we take a lesson from the crows and unite. Can we agree to protect our most vulnerable? Can we view our differences as a blessing? Can we seek to find our commonalities and rejoice in them?

So, if your social media threads of late have left you feeling angry, frustrated, scared, and maybe even invisible, I suggest you unplug for a couple days. Connect with people in real life. Look for the good your neighbors are doing right now, then roll up your sleeves and join them. Live your truth and value the person next to you who has their own take on the world. Relish the differences and find the common threads. Gather at sunset and face the same way. United.

 

HOW AMAZON.COM IS MAKING INDIES BETTER THAN EVER

HOW AMAZON.COM IS MAKING INDIES BETTER THAN EVER

HUMAN SOFTWAREThe recent opening of Amazon.com’s first brick-and-mortar bookstore, Amazon Books, has filled my Facebook timeline with alarm, indignation and bitterness. Many swear this single act will be the final nail in the indie bookstore coffin. There’s ire directed at Amazon for being insensitive to the damage they’ve already done to indie bookstores with their wholesale buying/price cutting tactics. And once again people are talking about the paper-thin profit margins of regular bookstores.

People, get a grip. Amazon opened a bookstore. Not a meth lab or a casino or a porn shop. They sell (gasp!) books.  Yes, I realize indie bookstores can’t compete with Amazon’s wholesale prices, but GAWD, it’s one bookstore.  Today when most of our waking hours are stuck behind a screen, it’s refreshing to have one more way to engage people in some old-fashioned page turning.

PollyannaAs to the argument that Amazon.com has killed the indie bookstore, well call me Polyanna, but I see it as an opportunity to become better indie bookstores. Listen, I love reading mysteries, but I will never write like Hitchcock or Connelly or Jance or Christie. I’m me. I won’t apologize for my perspective, my visual prose, my multi-cultural characters or my obsession with addition history to my stories.

Amazon.com has forced indie bookstores to look at themselves differently, too. And the successful ones are evolving at lightening speed. Instead of fixating on the places where Amazon chops them at the knees (market reach, pricing, to name a few) successful indie bookstores are taking a close look at what they already deliver better that Amazon can’t. An intimate vibe. Helpful staff. Sense of community. Author showcase space. Access to indie books.

Ten minutes from my house is one of these success stories, Third Place Books. Enter their doors any day of the week and you will find a bustling, thriving bookstore. With a schedule packed with author signings and special events, there is a steady parade of foot traffic at Third Place Books. Patrons come to engage with authors, sip coffee, buy books, print indie books on demand and find gifts.  By focusing on what makes them special, Third Place Books has become the heart of their community. What’s more? They support indie authors (not always the case with bottom-line obsessed bookstores). In fact, their espresso book printing service can print a book for you in thirty short minutes. Mindblowing, right? Yeah, even if Amazon.com had drone service, they couldn’t compete with THAT!

favicon.icoNeed another example of how competition with Amazon.com has made indies stronger? Take a look at the new trend, specialty bookstores, and you’ll understand. Book Larder in Seattle, Washington specializes in cookbooks. They offer cooking classes, and they sell cooking stuff. Their schedule of events keeps a steady flow of foot traffic coming into the store. The cooking lessons themselves bring addition revenue and book sales. Genius. They’ve made themselves relevant to their customer base and are thriving as a result. Another Seattle-based specialty bookshop is Seattle Mystery Bookstore. Their events calendar is a who’s-who list of modern mystery bestsellers. Because mystery readers shop here, the authors come, sign books and connect with readers. Everybody wins.

In other corners of my city, indie bookshops are staffed with bookaholics –  smart savvy consumers of books, they help readers discover new favorites. These vital people and places will never be retail dodos. As long as they do what they do best, they’ll never be rendered obsolete by Amazon.com. As long as they continue to push and evolve, they will be successful and relevant.  And better.