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Cultivate a Relationship With Your Library Guardian Angel

The library guardian angel is not a living breathing librarian who dresses like a schoolmarm and wears big, clunky glasses with lenses like a coke bottle. Instead she is a phenomenon that has influenced the life of nearly every working writer whom I know. The scenario follows a common thread. A writer in the midst of researching a book or magazine article is wandering the library stacks or in a bookstore. The writer notices a book on the floors, pages splayed open. Said writer picks up book and looks at the page the book is opened to. The material found there is exactly what the writer was looking for, even if he didn’t know it a minute previously. Naturally there are variations on the theme. Here are some real life examples:

Dave Brown, formerly the editor of Lakeland Boating and Great Lakes Travel and Living magazines is also the  author of a number of non-fiction books including The Last Log of the Titanic and White Storm. brown is a confirmed believer in the library guardian angel.

On one occasion he had gone into the Toledo Library in the midst of doing research for a book on the modern farm. Looking for a particular book, he diligently searched the stacks for an hour but couldn’t find it. Frustrated, he gave up and trudged over to the woodworking section (his hobby) where he pulled out a book on routers. Unexpectedly another book tumbled to the floor, the exact book he had been looking for. Strangely, the book had been mis-shelved so far out of its category there would have been no other way for him to find it, had it not been for the whispered murmurings of the library guardian angel.  On yet another occasion Brown ambivalently picked up a book he felt might be of marginal interest to his research. Instead, the first paragraph included explosive information, yet nothing else in the book was useable. Recounting the experience, he says it felt like someone had put the material right in his hands.

Another scenario involves Doctor Kevin D. Randle, the prolific author of more than 112 novels and non -fiction books. No that’s not a misprint, like I said the writer is wildly prolific. While researching a novel about Vietnam War, Randle took a break from writing and drove his Chevy Camaro to WalMart where he literally stumbled across a DVD about the infamous siege of the U.S. Marines at Khe Sanh. The video lying on the floor at his feet documented the siege. He bought the tape. Back at home and in front of his big screen TV, Randle muted the volume and simply watched the action, gleaning precious details about uniforms andMarine vehicles that he incorporated into narrative. The book he wrote and the other 24 novels in his Vietnam Ground Zero series were a big hit. It also helped that Randle flew UH-1 helicopters in Vietnam. In another incident, this time at a Big Ten university library,Randle set an armful of books down on the wooden table next to the copy machine. He noticed a discarded bound periodical that lay wide open, exposing an article dedicated to the topic of his research. Obviously this was a coincidence, some anonymous undergraduate student working a a research paper had laid it there sometime earlier in the day. Or, was this further documentation of the library guardian angels handiwork?

Ed Gorman, also a prolific novelist, is another firm believer in the library guardian angel. The ward winning author says an integral part ofhis novel writing is research. Some time back he was writing a book set in Denver, Colorado back in the 1880s. At a yard sale he found a history book that provided breathtaking insights into life in the old west, including terrifying accounts of packs of wild dogs attacking people in Denver. The material helped him write a Western with greater accuracy. His novel Chicago Blue was set in Chicago during the 1890s, a period of time so wild and woolly that back then the Boston Tribune derisively categorized The Windy City as the Sodom of the prairie. Gorman says he was surprised to learn how political and corrupt the Chicago police force was back in the days of Yellow Journalism. This information provided inspiration for a new character, a character who would become the most vivid in the entire book. For Gorman, it would seem, the library guardian angels work is more subtle. Perhaps tha because he is a really good listener.

Warren Billy Smith, the author of dozens of historical romances, westerns and non-fiction books recountedthe times he meet the library guardian angel. Visiting the University of Iowa library, he was intent up on doing research for his Belle Meade series of historical romance novels. Barely five steps out of the elevator he saw a book laying open on the tile floor. He bent over and picked up a Stuart Edward White novel set in the 1800s, its pages replete with all of the background information he needed to bring the characters in his own novel to life  Then there was the time when Smith was struggling with alcoholism and was desperate for a means of defeating his demons. One day, in Chicago's now defunct Kroch and Brentanos bookstore, vibration from an L-train jarred a book loose from a shelf. It landed on his shoulder with a thump. The self-help title's nudge on his shoulder helped him get sober.

Author Ralph Blum says he has heard colleagues talk about the phenomena of the library guardian angel and respects the concept, but that he has had no personal experience and respects the concept, but that he has had no personal experience. This is a curious happenstance, for Blum is the man who authored the Book of Runes, the famously successful book that comes replete with a velvet bag full of stones. This collection of flat stones are eachinscribed with a single runic letter. The stones are cast, then a person fate is determined by cross-referencing the stones ideograms with corresponding sections in the book. Obviously the stones and Blum's poetic commentary don't speak directly to its users. Instead, they provide a medium through which a persons own intuition finds voice. Rune stones assist us in vocalizing what we already know deep within As an added benefit, experts say the stones exercise the muscles ofintuition, that using rune stones improves psychic abilities.

Some writers argue the voice of the runes is the muse pure and simple. That what is really happening with a set of rune stones, or the perceived actions of the library guardian angel, is the release of a great body of knowledgewithin us. This inner voice wants to be set free and just needs a little coaxing. Rune stones, or a library guardian angel work equally well.

Social scientists offer yet another point of view. Experts who specialize in the phenomena of mass media and its effects on individuals invoke the selective processes theory. Essentially it says a writer, or reader,either consciously or unconsciously, avoids material unsympathetic to his or her beliefs, yet readily accepts material in agreement with their own attitudes and beliefs. In plain language, we are predisposed to accept, reject, or discover certain things before we even set foot inside a bookstore or library. The great collective unconscious could spring open a mile wide and we would still limit ourselves on what wed allow ourselves to discover.

In the final analysis it really does not matter what is at work in the mind of a writer. Famed novelist Robert Silverberg, best known for writing science fiction, attributed his great success to his ability to efficiently use the library, and the proposition that too many of his less successful colleagues could not. Considered from another angle, perhaps what Silverberg was saying was that even if the library angel never lifts a feathered wing to help you, you are ahead of the game simply through the act of going to the library. Even if you are cast out into the endless wasteland of stacks, alone with notebook and pen in hand, with no sign of the library gurdian angel, that there is still hope for your soul.

Recall how all of the authors who cited experiences with the library guardian angel shared one key element: Active involvement in research. In other words, the muse did not grace them with her noble presence while they sat on the couch thinking about someday writing the great American novel. They were already hard at work on a project, or at least in the midst of taking a break from work. Sofor believers,non- believers and social scientists alike, the great secret for conjuring up the library guardian angel is no secret at all. Implement a one step plan. Get thee to the library and open a book, any book. Read. Next, apply the seat of the pants to a chair and the fingertips to the keyboard.. Then keep a sharp lookout for books to begin falling off the shelves. I wonder: Will you encounter the library guardian angel? If you do, let me know. - next -