Visit My Etsy Shop for Cyber Monday

If you’re doing some shopping on this Cyber Monday morning, check out my Etsy shop, The Literary Button.  I have a few listings for signed copies of The Button Collector bundled with a vintage button bookmark.  This can make a thoughtful gift for readers, button collectors and anyone who appreciates the little moments in life! etsy - 3

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A Tale of Two (Button) Movies….

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a movie called The War of the Buttons.  It’s about pre-WWII Irish boys who cut buttons off their rivals’ clothing.  I looked it up on Amazon because I’d never heard of it and it looks pretty cool!

The Irish based movie The War of the Buttons

Then I saw there is another movie of the same title, but this one is newer and in French:

The French movie

I’m always amazed at how pervasive buttons are as symbols and motifs in art….and I’m anxious to watch these two movies and do a revew here soon!

In the meantime, feel free to share if you’ve seen them!

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Mrs. Mommy Booknerd: Review and Interview Now Live

I am happy to be featured on Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s book review blog for Memorial Day Weekend:

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Two Year Bookiversary!

This month marks the two year anniversary of my book’s release by PageSpring Publishing in Ohio.  PageSpring is a new, small press and The Button Collector was one of their first few titles, so I have to admit that I had a fair amount of trepidation and worries this time two years ago.  What would the cover look like?  Would the layout be professional?  Would people think that a novel based on stories about buttons was ridiculous?

It's here!

It’s here!

The picture at right is me on the day my preview copy arrived.  Part of me was happy, as the picture shows, but most of me was having a little existential meltdown!   While I’d always been a professional writer, until that moment I hadn’t shared many of my fiction pieces with people I knew in real life.  Now I was at the point of no return.  Ready or not, my baby was going out into the world….

Fortunately, none of my deep dark fears materialized.  Looking back on the past two years, I’ve been very pleased.  While I haven’t made a lot of money, had splashy ad campaigns or gone on publicity tours, I’ve stumbled upon many sweet surprises.  Here’s a sample:

  • It’s simply the-best-thing-EVER when someone calls me out of the blue or sends me a letter or stops me to tell me they enjoyed my book.
  • The Button Collector has sold in many other countries, including the UK, France, and New Zealand. It’s pretty cool to think my words have traveled the globe.
  • To date The Button Collector has 31 reviews on Amazon and 65 ratings on Goodreads. While there are a few written by idiots critics, the vast majority are positive.
  • A few days ago my publisher concluded a five-day promotional giveaway of the kindle edition of The Button Collector. When I found out how many people downloaded my ebook, I was floored.  Ready for the number?  12,246!  For those of you not counting, that’s FIVE whole digits.  During the promotion, my book was consistently in the top 100 of overall giveaways and was in the top three of the fiction-family life category.
  • I feel honored to have fantastic blurbs from authors I admire, including Susan Vreeland (Girl in Hyacinth Blue), Ann B. Ross (Miss Julia) and short story writer Amy Willoughby-Burle.
  • My little blog has had 10,750 hits from 105 countries. When I’m down, I take a look at that row of brightly colored flag icons on my WordPress stats page.  Instant cheer up!
  • I love it when my book is checked out at the library.
  • I’ve discovered dozens of fascinating, talented, weird-in-a-good-way button people—people who make bouquets of button flowers, own collections of thousands of historic buttons, use buttons to make exquisite art and other things I can barely comprehend.
  • It’s enlightening to read what book reviewers have to say about my book. Often they find meanings and connections that surprise me.
  • It was a blast to see how visual artists interpreted the book to create a beautiful cover and absolutely perfect button sketches for chapter headings.
  • While I haven’t gone to many readings or book festivals, when I do force myself to overcome my phobia of in-person marketing I really enjoy meeting other authors and discovering the wild and crazy things they’ve published.
  • I found the experience of working with my editor to be surprisingly positive and synergistic. I’ll always be grateful for her perfect idea of how to deal with the book’s structural conundrum, and it was awesome to work with someone on the same wavelength.
  • At this point, I estimate that 500 people have bought my book. That’s not as many as I hoped, but that happens to be the same number as Mary Shelley’s first edition of Frankenstein, so I’ll take it.
  • My book has gone to the London Book Fair. (Thanks, PageSpring!!!) Now to get a visit with the queen….
  • My book release party was one of the highlights of my whole. entire. life.

So to all the people who’ve played a role in my first book’s publication–thank you very much!  Many happy returns.

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Five Days of Free!!! Check Out Kindle Promotion of The Button Collector

Big News–The Kindle version of The Button Collector will be available for FREE from May 14-May18 as part of an Amazon promotion.  The print version is still available through Amazon at the regular price.

The Button Collector

The “The Button Collector” by Elizabeth Jennings

My publisher has had incredible response with similar promotions for some of their other titles, and I’m very excited to see how this week will go.  So if you’ve been thinking about reading The Button Collector, this is an awesome time to do so.

Here’s the fine print:  As part of the Amazon promotion, The Button Collector will not be available from other online sellers for about three months.  I’ll be sure to update this site when that changes!

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Five Fascinating Facts about Peter Pan

Love the metaphors in Peter Pan, especially as they are depicted in the movie Finding Neverland….. Here’s some interesting background…. from Interesting Literature of course!

Interesting Literature

Fun facts about Peter Pan and his creator, J. M. Barrie

1. Peter Pan first appeared in a novel for adults. The boy who wouldn’t grow up made his debut, ironically, in a book for adults, a little-known 1902 novel called The Little White Bird. However, it was the stage play Barrie produced two years later which really brought the character to a wider audience, and Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was a huge hit in theatres in 1904. ‘The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’ wasn’t Barrie’s first choice of subtitle for the book: among the others he considered was ‘The Boy Who Hated Mothers’, but his publisher disliked this suggestion. All royalties from productions of the play go towards helping children at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, after Barrie gave them the rights in 1929.

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For Mother’s Day … and Beyond

I’ve put up a couple of listings on Etsy … barely in time for Mother’s Day!  One is for a bookmark with a vintage button and the word MOTHER written in calligraphy.

etsy mother

When it’s in a book it dangles kind of like this:

etsy - 3

The other listing is exciting because it’s designed for people who have a special button but don’t know what to do with it.  They can just send it over to me and I will use it to make a custom bookmark with a word of their choice.  It could be a person’s name–like Sissy.

etsy sissy

Or it could be REMEMBER…..or almost anything else:  EXPLORE, IMAGINE, ANAM CARA, JOY.

Both listings include a signed copy of The Button Collector.  I can customize this as well.

Orders for the MOTHER bookmark need to be made by April 25 if they are to ship in time for Mother’s Day!

Interested?  Head on over to my etsy shop, THE LITERARY BUTTON.

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Travelogue, Book Nerd Style

With Thoughts on Heidelberg, Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank

I imagine it takes a lot of patience for normal people to travel with a book nerd.  First, there’s the book nerd’s tendency to read too much and too long, perhaps missing some key landmark as the train speeds by.  Then there’s the tendency to blurt out random tidbits of esoteric allusions sparked by road signs.  (“GHENT:  I wonder if they’ve got the good news!!! HaHa.”) But perhaps the single biggest hazard of travelling with a book nerd is that while other people like to check out things like night life or shopping when they visit new places, a book nerd wants to check out things like the library or authors’ homes.  This explains how my travelling companion was surprised to find himself browsing the stacks at THE Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh or taking photos with a cardboard cutout of Jane Austen in Bath, England.

(And you didn’t know that was a thing…..)

Heidelberg’s Library, Fred Plotz, Creative Commons

Last month my traveling companion and I were especially book-nerdfully lucky when we spent a week in Germany and the Netherlands. In Heidelberg, Germany, we stayed in the sunny Hotel Acor, and on our short walk to the historic quarter, we would pass right by the Universitatsbibliothek Heidelberg – the University of Heidelberg Main Library.

Heidelberg is one of the oldest universities in Europe and its library dates back to a 1388 purchase of a chest of documents.  Today’s library building is more recent, of course, but I still felt a strong sense of continuity when I went through its doors.  It was kind of spine-tingly to think of people like Goethe and Mark Twain sharing the same intellectual space.  It was kind of encouraging to see students hurrying to class in the same frenetic way college students do everywhere.  It was as if there were a connection spanning both time and place, a metaphysical grid generated by wondering and reading and exploring ideas.

photo by Elizabeth Jennings, author of The Button Collector

One of Amsterdam’s beautiful canals. Global trade helped shape this port city’s acceptance of other cultures and ideas.

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Tijs of Free Walking Tours Amsterdam in front of a statue of the philosopher Spinoza.

We also spent several days in Amsterdam, where this theme continued to grow.  This visit was my first time in Amsterdam and while I was somewhat familiar with its progressive, open history, I didn’t fully realize how deeply ingrained in the city’s culture is the concept of open thought.  This trait was highlighted by our awesome walking tour guide, Tijs, as we explored the city with him.  Our first stop on the tour was a statue of the Dutch philosopher Spinoza, who helped usher in the Enlightenment during a time when Amsterdam was a shining example of a city where ideas from around the world could coexist.  An openness to ideas, Tijs, explained, “is in the DNA of every Amsterdammer.”

Another day, we visited Amsterdam’s iconic Rijksmuseum, which not only houses the paintings of the Dutch masters, but also has one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen—open, bright, multi-storied, with whimsical mobiles and an airy spiral staircase.

photo by Elizabeth Jennings, author of The Button Collector

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

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Rijksmuseum Library

Elizabeth Jennings, author of The Button Collector

In the library.

Even more impressive, though, was my visit to the Anne Frank House. Before the visit, I somehow thought of the house as more of a history museum rather than an author’s home.  Of course I knew Anne Frank was a writer, but I never realized just how much she identified as a writer until I was in her home.  Writing was her calling and in her short life she created a whole body of work beyond her famous diary, including essays and stories and the first draft of a novel.

Moreover, her famous diary was much more than a teenager’s journal.  The facts and context of the story are not the sole reason its author is famous.  There are many holocaust memoirs and while all are precious, Frank’s is a deliberately crafted work by a skilled artist.

And there’s a story behind how it came to be just that.  In 1944, while in the Secret Annex, the Frank family heard a radio broadcast by Gerrit Bolkestein, minister for arts, education and science for the exiled Dutch government in London.  He encouraged Dutch citizens to write about their wartime experiences and to send them in after the war.  As a writer, I can imagine the excitement this request caused—the kindling of hope and purpose and meaning.  Frank began to spend more and more time and energy on her writing.  Because her documents are preserved, it is possible to see the evolution of Anne Frank the writer and it’s something to behold.  I no longer think of her as an emblem for the horror that happened to so many young lives; instead I respect her as an accomplished author.

This collection features writing other than the famous diary.

The museum did an admirable job of highlighting this aspect of her story.  Frank’s words were prominently displayed throughout the house and the depth of understanding and eloquence in them was quite moving.  I felt privileged to be in the space where they were forged, and it struck me as completely perfect that this space was protected by the bookcase that served as a secret door.

As is true for all great authors, Anne Frank used humor deftly and was a keen observer of human foibles.  She also pulled from a deep well of optimism.  Largely because of that, visiting the house was not a morbid experience at all.  It was, in fact, the opposite—uplifting and inspiring.  The theme for the exhibits when I was there was a quote from Emma Thompson’s speech last year—“All her ‘would haves’ are our real possibilities.”   It was a fitting sentiment.

As I left the museum, I couldn’t help but think about when we’d checked into our hotel in Amsterdam.  We got a lot of tips about what to see and do from the young clerk, who had a contagious love for his vivacious city.  He gave us some great information about restaurants and night life, but he also told us that the lines at the Anne Frank House were terribly long and, “to be honest with you, I don’t think it’s worth it.”

I wanted to say, “Sweetie, I’m the opposite of the kind of person you should say that to!”

But I didn’t.

I was just really deep-down happy and comfortable knowing that I’m the kind of person who is glad to wait for the incredible writer Anne Frank.

I am a book nerd.

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Don’t forget to support a book nerd by buying my book, The Button Collector.

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Buttons as Relic

Today I was excited to see this picture on the Facebook page for my hometown of Clemson, SC:

 

 

Button from a Clemson cadet uniform

Button from a Clemson cadet uniform

It was posted by Russ Hebert, who is also from Clemson and who found this during one of his metal detecting digs.  When I told Russ  I had written a novel based on stories about discarded buttons, he explained that “believe it or not, buttons are our most sought after relic. Buttons provide provenance and are easily (for most part) identifiable.”

He also linked to the YouTube video of the hunt that resulted in this button.  It’s a lot of fun so give it a look-see if you have a couple of minutes:

 

And, finally, he sent me a video of this mega button find in New England:

 

Sometimes I forget just how awesome buttons are as little distinct bits of history.  Things like this remind me!

***

…..and as always, be sure to check out The Button Collector, a novel in stories.

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INTERESTING LITERATURE on the word ‘Serendipity’

The wonderful blog Interesting Literature takes a look at one of my three favorite words–serendipity!!

And, serendipitously, the story that inspired the origin of the word–The Three Princes of Serendip–is a frame tale I hope to review in this space one day soon.

Check it out:  A Short History of the Word ‘Serendipity’.

 

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