Where is Farley’s Book Shop, What is Press 53, and Who is Curtis Smith?

I was in Farley’s Book Shop in New Hope, PA and it is a relatively rare kind of bookstore because it has whole sections of it’s front shelving dedicated to independent presses. I’d also recommend Farley’s because they have regular events, and I like the way that shop is curated.

One shelf in Farley’s is dedicated to Press 53, out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina (yes the same Winston-Salem of cigarette fame.) http://www.press53.com/About_Press53.html

Much to mydelight, Press 53 specializes in publishing short story collections. From their website:

Short Story Collections: Since we published our first book in October 2005, Press 53 has gained a reputation for being a champion of the short story. We publish 6-8 short story collections each year.

So there I was, perusing the Press 53 shelf when I came across a signed copy of Bad Monkey by Curtis Smith. And while I had never heard of Curtis Smith before, I came to know that he’s been nominated for a half dozen Pushcart prizes.

Regardless of his pedigree, I decided then and there that it was my sworn duty to support fellow short story writers so I dished out the $14 bucks to support Mr. Smith, Press 53 and Farley’s Book Shop all the way down the line.

I’ve read several of the short stories in the Bad Monkey collection, and they are very well written, and have an emotional resonance that I like.

Since I am a short story writer myself, I really relate to the idea that there are so many unsung, relatively unknown writers out there and thank goodness for independent presses like Press 53 who are ready, willing and able to champion such writers and works.

So – go to your nearest independent bookstore and look for an independent press label. Take a chance and buy such books, and find treasures that perhaps no one has heard of but that are worthy of better recognition.

And if it’s a short story collection, so much the better.

What is a Writing Vacation?

Have you ever wanted to get away from it all to clear your mind so you could write?

I have.  I haven’t ever had a long stretch of time available to just write everyday and I thought it might be interesting to go on a “Writing Vacation“.

Here are a few rules of thumb that might apply to a writing vacation:

  1. Get out of the usual surroundings

Don’t stay in the house, don’t stay in town and don’t do all the things you normally do .

      2.  Don’t go someplace too remote OR too interesting

A cabin in the woods is probably too remote for me.  I’ve done this before and I went bat-shit crazy for three days without anyone to interact with and no one but myself to bounce off the walls. 

Similarly, a big city like San Francisco, Chicago or Washington, D.C. has too much going on and would be over-stimulating.  A big city says “come explore me” which could take all day, every day for your entire time away which is not what you want when on a writing vacation.

    3.   Ideal places for a writing vacation (on the East Coast)

While this would be a matter of opinion and preference, in my many East Coast travels I’ve come across some cities which I think could be ideal for a writing vacation. I wish I had more experience with the West Coast but I don’t know any places there that I’d choose for a writing vacation.

(If you are reading this and you are from CA, OR, WA or coastal British Columbia – please leave a comment if you have suggestions!)

  • Asheville, NC – a 2 hour drive from Charlotte, Asheville is tucked away in the mountains of N.C.  It is home to a few colleges, a museum, art galleries, some nice restaurants and is charming and down home.  Downtown has just enough stuff to do without being over-stimulating, in my opinion.
  • Annapolis, MD – centrally located on the eastern seaboard, Annapolis is a mostly sleepy town that is the home of the Naval Academy. Again, numerous B&B’s and plenty of charm, good seafood and restaurants, a few mom and pop ice cream parlors and a lot of quiet during the day
  • Burlington, VT – this is an amazing village or small town really almost in the middle of nowhere in the northern part of Vermont. I wouldn’t recommend this as a winter writing destination but the other seasons are a good bet. As with the other locations, this is a walkable downtown, charming boutique stores and good restaurants but not a lot of nightlife or distractions.
  • Lambertville, NJ – this town boasts tons of antique and art galleries and has an artistic vibe to it. There aren’t that many good restaurants in town though. Right across the Delaware River (walkable since there is a bridge with “sidewalk” space on both sides) is New Hope, PA. New Hope has a funkier vibe and hosts a few good bookstores, more art galleries and more restaurant choices.
  • Woodstock or New Paltz, NY – both of these towns are small Catskills locations. In the case of Woodstock it’s got a few art galleries, some funky boutiques, a great bookstore and it’s very quiet. (Some would find Woodstock too quiet.) New Paltz is a college town and has a little more energy, especially when the kids are back to school. There’s an art store, record store, funky clothes and cheap eats, along with some mid-range restaurants. The best bet in both these places are B&B’s.

    4.   Must-Haves for the Vacationing Writer

  • Writing time – you should be writing every day on your vacation if it is to be a writing vacation. But it is up to you how much of your day or evening will be spent that way. I’d suggest at least 3-4 hours a day should be spent writing, and the rest would be spent relaxing and exploring the limited surroundings.
  • Internet connection – some B&B’s are charming, quaint and provide a great breakfast but they have no internet connection. You need to ask and make sure you will be able to do research or look something up, check your email, or work on your submissions (this may apply more to short story writers, freelancers, etc.)
  • Comfort – don’t skimp when it comes to your comfort. It’s better to have a small kitchenette area where you can store some items in a refrigerator so you don’t have to run out every time you want a cold drink or a snack.  Now that you’re on vacation, let someone else clean up too. That’s why you are staying somewhere so you don’t have to worry about that.  Of course, if you like to write in your pajamas, by all means bring them with you.  If you need your bunny slippers, then pack them too.  Finally, make sure that you are going to get a great night’s sleep.   A Note about B&B’s – Don’t stay at the B&B downtown if there is too much noise.  Also, if you aren’t planning to get up early for the provided breakfast, you may want to skip the B&B entirely. This is a personal choice because you will be left alone most of the time in a B&B, but you will also have some social interaction at breakfast.
  • Books – bring a few books with you to read that will help spur you on your writing vacation.  If you are writing short stories, bring some well-worn dog-eared story collections you’ve read and enjoyed.

Do you have a place you like to go that you think would be great for a writing vacation? Please share – I’d like to hear about it!