Friday, April 22, 2005


I've talked about how giving your novel a title is a form of branding, because once the book is published, you'll forever be known as the author of [insert title]. It's also the primary promo for your novel, especially if it's a catchy or interesting title.

I presently have a novel I need to retitle before I send out the proposal. The original title is good, but circumstances beyond my control have just rendered it unusable. I can think of more titles I wouldn't give it than one that works, which made me think of how many titles I must have sent over the years to the Lost Library.

I created the Lost Library when my 7th grade English teacher threw away the only copy of a short novel I had written and shown to him (and for which I have still not forgiven him, the jerk.) The only way I could console myself was by make-believing that my book had been whisked off by magic means to a mysterious place where all lost writing goes. Silly, yeah, but I was thirteen and traumatized. I think I also still believed in Santa Claus.

The Lost Library has taken plenty more of donations from me over the years. Writing I misplaced, writing I threw out, tore up, burned, rewrote, lined through and on one memorable occasion, balled up and threw into the ocean. The last one seems very romantic, but I should mention that if you're doing this from the shore it does float back almost right away. Do it from a boat.

Who would work at the Lost Library? A nice lady librarian, of course. The one whose name you could never remember when you were a kid. She'd sit at the front counter while she uses white-out to erase all the catalog cards for new arrivals.

Whole book manuscripts would be shelved, short stories stuck in magazine racks, and in between all those sets of encyclopedias that computer CDs made obsolete, crumpled-up note pad pages being flattened out like flowers you press between the pages of a Bible. Title ideas maybe printed on ribbons and wound up in balls and left on the floor for the lady librarian's cat to play with. She'd have to have a great cat.

There would have to be a special bin for lost shopping lists, Christmas lists, and to-do lists. Poems would hang from mobiles; paper castles in the air. Somewhere in the back corner shelves of the nonfiction section, shoe boxes filled with the love letters that I never mailed and the journals that I've destroyed. Computers to store all the e-mails I've deleted. A few folders of sad song lyrics (I could never come up with a happy one.) Posters printed with the names I chose not to give my children.

I can do this all night, you know.

You can't check out anything from the Lost Library, but on rare occasions the nice lady librarian whose name we will never remember sends them back. Today while I was digging through a business file I found the only copy of a longish short story I wrote seventeen years ago. Maybe the Lost librarian sent it back because her magazine rack got too crowded, or it was something worth finding again.


  1. Anonymous7:18 AM

    Sounds like the Well of Lost Plots in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series... (not at all sure whether they would be your thing or not, but I thought the first one was fantastic).

  2. Anonymous7:40 AM

    I love the image of the Lost Library. And the cat. Every book store or library needs a cat.

    It's far more romantic than mine, which is something like "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler".

  3. Anonymous10:00 AM

    You gave me chills! What beautiful images. I thought I was the only one who destroyed my journals and such... (couldn't stand to face what I had written in them at the time, now I wish I still had them...)


  4. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Awesome. Sad. Touching.

  5. What a great image. I still have most of my old writing but every once in a while something surfaces from my parents storage and I'm amazed (either by how well I wrote at 7 years old or by how much my writing resembles Middle English with random capitalization and no punctuation). I like the idea of the rest being quietly cared for until a time comes when they might be needed again :).

  6. Loved your essay on Lost Libraries. I know a few people who have them.


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