September 7th, 2011

Save Time by NOT Googling…

searchingBetween the books, encyclopedias and other materials that fill our shelves, we can help you learn about what you want to know.  But many people don’t realize that we can also help with navigating the internet.  Everyone knows how to Google (heck, it’s a common verb these days), but Googling doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find answers.  There’s so MUCH information and it can be frustrating to figure out which sites are trustworthy and which are a waste of time. And when you’re looking for local information, basic search engines often disappoint.

We are here to help! Just as we carefully chose the materials that go on our shelves, we also thoughtfully consider the information that we link to on our website.  Here are a few of our favorite links for Marylanders that you might not know about.

1.  AskUsNow! – This 24/7 online reference chat  is one of the handiest services ever, and it’s completely free for all Marylanders. Simply choose your library and type in your question. It could be simple (like a phone number you can’t find) or a complex question about finding sources for a research paper. Whatever your question, the service is fast, easy to use, and the friendly librarians will help you find quality info you can trust. There are even special hours when you can chat with law librarians about legal questions.

2. Maryland Community Services Locator – This searchable site beats Google hands down when it comes to locating services in our area like substance abuse treatment centers, homeless shelters, food assistance, resources for senior citizens and more. It’s simple to use and you can tailor the search to show locations near you – the results include phone numbers, addresses, maps and directions.

3. Marina - If your local library doesn’t have the book you’re looking for, you can probably use this service to borrow it from another library elsewhere in the state of Maryland.  Libraries statewide share a large portion of their materials and Maryland library card holders can borrow from other systems in the state–for free!  You can request materials yourself, but we’re also always happy to help you, particularly if you can’t find the book you want.

4. Maryland Insurance Administration – There are few things in life more confusing than insurance, but there’s a whole agency to help Marylanders figure out insurance of all types – health, home, life and more.  The MIA helps consumers learn about coverage and can even help if you have a complaint about how your insurance company responded to a claim. If you had damage from the recent hurricane, their website has a wealth of helpful info about contacting your insurance company, dealing with storm damage, handling mold remediation and much more.

Whatever you’re searching for, don’t hesitate to ask for our help. For more great links to quality information, try our community information and Maryland links. What are your top sites for local info?


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August 10th, 2011

Inspiration: Books to Help You Write Your Own

the idea!At some point in any writer’s life—whether you are starting out or need a dose of inspiration—a craft book on writing can be useful and helpful. A so-called “craft book” is sort of a writing class and writing companion gathered between two covers. There are several such books on my bookshelf that I turn to time and again, and some that I keep within reach right on my desk. They are great to keep you going … along with a bottomless coffee pot.

Writing can be lonely, and in an era obsessed with “social media” in which we’re expected to fill every waking moment with emails, text messages, tweets and Facebook updates, you can’t help but wonder if there’s something wrong with wanting to be left alone to write something that’s a bit more involved and less instantaneous. On the pages of these books you’ll be reassured that you aren’t the only one trying to put words on paper (or on the screen). Someone has done this before you, and done it well, and they’re willing to share what they’ve learned.

Craft books are something I plan to mention during my upcoming talk, “How to Get Started Writing Your Story (And Publishing Your Work) at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22 at the Chesapeake City Branch Library. (Hope to see you there!) Meanwhile, I thought I would share some of my favorite craft books and how—and why—they have been helpful to me.

FAVORITE CRAFT BOOKS ON WRITING:
How to Write Magical Words and magicalwords.net
This wonderful book is a compilation of the magicalwords.net blog kept by several accomplished fantasy writers, including Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley and C.E. Murphy. Though geared toward fantasy writing, it’s chock full of practical tips from working writers dealing with everything from getting unstuck, to making a living, to rewrites, to marketing, to coming up with ideas. You can easily visit the blog online, but the book (available in print and as a digital book for your Kindle or Nook) is a resource you will turn to again and again.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (available through InterLibrary Loan)
I came across this book several years ago and it remains one of my perennial favorites. Don’t be scared off by the commercial nature of the title, because this is actually a very practical book that shares first-hand accounts of how several well-known authors struggled with concepts or rewrites until they had a good (and sometimes bestselling) manuscript. Examples of good writing, characterization, etc., are pulled right from the pages of popular recent novels and you will be introduced to some writers you might not have known about, but whose work sells well for a reason.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Known for his historical novels, Pressfield’s short and rather “new age” books will get you inspired to step off your creative project, whether it’s writing or getting in shape or launching a business. He writes from the experience of someone who struggled for many years before finding success through hard work. I keep this one on my desk.

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (available through InterLibrary Loan)
You can probably guess from the title that this book is all about polishing your manuscript. Have you got a good hook? Here are practical tips on keeping your manuscript in front of editors and readers.

On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
I would call this book a “classic” and useful to anyone doing just about any kind of writing for work or school. There is a lot of sound, traditional advice in this book. Best of all, it’s available on the shelves of your local library.

Those are ones I keep on my shelf. Here are a few other craft books available from the library.
-On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
-A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write by Victoria Hanley
-Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress
-Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction by Jack Hunt

How do YOU get inspired to write?


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