My Borders isn’t closing, but I still feel sad

The summer before my senior year of college, I left my internship at a D.C. newspaper and looked for part-time work in my hometown. The natural choice was Borders, a place where I could get paid (paid!) to talk about books all day. The salary was decent; the staff seemed friendly. The lovely aroma of fresh coffee immediately permeated my pores and gave me the extra jolt I was seeking. Both a refuge and solid employment, my gig at Borders seemed like the perfect opportunity.

And it was. The only reason Borders wasn’t my first job ever was due to the 18-and-over employment policy. When I applied for jobs fresh out of high school, I was a 17-year-old kid who wanted spending cash. Getting to work at Borders came three years later and, excited beyond words, I started my part-time shifts with the idea that I would work there until I graduated from college and had to seek out full-time, career-related employment.

Well, I got a full-time job. In 2007, I was hired as an assistant editor at the newspaper where I still work and write. But when the time came to break ties with Borders, offering myself fully to the paper that was my “big girl job,” I just couldn’t do it. The idea of leaving the bookstore was unfathomable.

Most of the time, I loved the people. Even when they were rude and terrible and ignorant. Even when they sought a book with no description other than “it’s blue” or “it’s written by a famous person.” The jolt I received when I actually could find that book — that crazy, elusive, damn-near-impossible book — was a high unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I loved giving recommendations and receiving them from others, watching with understanding as customers’ eyes lit up when describing a favorite read. It felt like magic.

If I thought I knew lots about reading before, working at Borders opened up a whole new world for me. Authors previously undiscovered now littered my shelves, their tomes procured with the awesome employee discount. On the nights I would go straight from my 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. full-time gig at the paper to the store, staying until 11 p.m. or later, I discovered the lovely aroma of coffee and chai tea. I made great friends at Borders, all of us united through our “in the trenches” mentality.

More than anything, I just looked forward to being there. The smell of fresh books, stripped open from heavy palates, was intoxicating. I loved store events like our midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when I hosted a party for more than 1,000 people and worked until 4 a.m. I loved chatting with other readers and feeding off our mutual love of literature. I met a boyfriend there. Ran into countless friends there.

In our town, which has no other bookstore, Borders is the epicenter of life.

I didn’t want to leave. When I visit the store now and see many familiar faces — you know, minus the whole “you don’t have a bun in the oven, do you?” debacle — I feel a jolt of sadness and whimsy for life back at the bookstore. After receiving a great promotion at the paper, I finally quit my part-time job there in October 2008. I visit often and still feel like, if called upon, I could hop behind the information desk or man a register without trouble. It’s just the sort of job that sticks with you.

On Feb. 16, Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced they would be closing 200 stores (click for full list of store closings). When my dad emailed me that spreadsheet, my stomach dipped down to my shoes. The idea of Borders — our Borders, the site of countless dates and late nights and chats and coffee runs — closing was hideous. It actually made me feel sick.

I’m happy to say, friends, that our Borders in Southern Maryland is safe.

But so many others aren’t.

I understand why this happened. Countless articles have come out about why the chain, once so prominent, is teetering on the edge of extinction. The recession; the rise of e-books; the abundance of cheap books online; Borders failing to keep up with market trends. All of these things make sense. They suck, yes, but they make sense.

But what I can’t understand is a town without a bookstore. If our Borders in Waldorf, Md., had closed, we would be without any book retailer in three counties. There are no independent bookshops peddling anything more than old, dusty paperbacks, and there’s only so much you can find at Target or Wal-Mart. Friends, without a Borders, we would have been book destitute.

And I would have been devastated.

Though we’re out of the red zone, I feel terrible for the cities that are losing their Borders locations — and the employees who are suddenly out of work. I feel bad, too, for the publishers and distributors and authors who are still trying to make a living in a tough business during a tough recession — and how Borders’ closings are affecting them.

I feel sad for the couples who can’t meet at Borders for coffee on a first date or the families who covet their time at the store paging through the children’s section. And who hasn’t spent a lazy Sunday wandering around the store’s bookcases, admiring recent releases and feeling the weight of a hardcover in their hands?

Is everything with the chain sunshine and roses? No, of course not. Sometimes customer service sucks, and I get that. But it doesn’t make me love Borders any less.

I’m hugging my own store a little closer these days. And if yours dodged the bankruptcy bullet, I hope you will, too.

Peeps hateration, pranks and other things I won’t stand for

As with many things in my life, my obsession with Peeps is known far and wide. And it probably doesn’t hurt that I recently wrote a column about my love of the sugary candy in the newspaper for which I work. In an unexpected twist of fate, turns out people actually read my articles, which run twice a week in our local papers.

And you guys will love this: my column is called “Right, Meg?” Not to be confused with write meg!, my blog, but . . . right/write, ?/!

Cute, right? …Right?


So Peeps. Yes. I dig them. So much so that some people who shall remain anonymous — probably because I still don’t know who it is — decided to put this little gem of a paper in my work mailbox, pictured at right.

Did I get angry, friends? No. No, I didn’t. Anger would be a wasted emotion, and I’m most definitely not getting mad at a Peeps hater. Because Peeps? They’re awesome. Delicious. Light and airy. Covered in sugar. They turn your tongue weird colors. They’re indicative of spring. And what’s wrong with any of those things?

So I love Peeps so much that I actually went to the only Peeps store in the world last weekend with Spencer, where we took photos of candy-shaped things and I generally wandered around like a lunatic. Located in National Harbor just outside Washington, D.C., Peeps & Company is a shrine of magnificence. When one of the sales clerks asked me if I needed any help, I grinned like a homicidal maniac and practically shouted, “No, I’m just really, really happy to be in this Peeps store!”


Spencer was a good sport about the whole thing. He totally humored me as I wandered to all sorts of Peeps-shaped things and quickly bought a ton of the chocolate-covered varieties. And then I posed with stuff. A lot of stuff. And my boyfriend, dear heart that he is, took photos of this entire adventure.

While at this wondrous shop, I went ahead and bought myself a little souvenir, too: a yellow chick Peeps mousepad. Which I brought to work. And proudly showed everyone. And giggled and petted lovingly, feeling so happy and satisfied to have a Peeps-shaped mousepad.

And then it got stolen.

Yes, friends, the Peeps hateration just continues. It’s not enough to leave me “PEEPS SUCKS” notes, is it? Now my coworkers* have to delight in pranking me and pilfering my beloved Peeps mousepad.

When I got back from my lunch break last week and noticed it was missing, I genuinely had no clue who was at fault here. My cheeks started to burn as I grilled Sandy over who had swiped it — just before I considered sending out a mass email demanding my chick’s return. Was I seriously angry about it? No. It was obviously a joke. But let’s just say I wanted that mousepad back quickly.

After an hour or so, Kelly called me from the front desk. “You have an urgent package up here,” she said cryptically.

So I mosied myself on out there and was handed a thick manila envelope. Inside? My mousepad. With instructions to check Facebook for details on a little adventure he had made.

Yes, it seems my Peep got into a little trouble with the popo. I’m glad he’s safe, but I hope he learned his lesson. I mean, honestly… I thought his father and I raised him better than this. And it’s a good thing he had ID on him, because I was totally not bailing his marshmellowy behind out of jail.


*Gretchen, I’m on to you. Watch your own mousepad’s back — that’s all I’m sayin’. Not a threat, just . . . a helpful suggestion, friend.

It felt a little like stealing, but I most definitely took it

Like most book lovers, I’m constantly looking for a way to feed my addiction. Books are like crack to me — I dream about them; lust after them; can’t wait to get lost in them. But, being the terrible glutton that I am, I have a lot of them. And by “a lot,” I mean an entire Ikea bookcase full of novels — most of them unread.

So I’m doing a little spring cleaning. When I quit my part-time job at a local bookstore a few years back, I was desperate to find a way to keep the steady flow of books coming into my home. I couldn’t imagine not living in a place piled high with paperbacks and I simply could not give that up.

I joined BookMooch, an online book trading site, and have gotten more than 100 novels through the program — including The Hunger Games and other awesome hardcovers. In short, it’s been fantastic. But? Space is at a premium in ye ol’ bedroom and, since my bookcase is now so full that it’s collapsing in on itself, I’m weeding out books and not really eager to bring too many more into the house. I have ARCs to finish, sent from publishers, but other than that? I’m trying hard not to purchase and/or mooch new books until I’ve finished what I have already. Or borrow them from the library, which I’m now all excited to do.

That’s easier said than done, of course. Of the books I currently have in my possession, most are unread novels I’ve acquired a variety of ways: purchased by me; sent from publishers; won through blog contests; mooched; received as gifts. And some of them? Not really my cup of tea. So what do I do with them? The idea of parting with an unread book is like asking me to shed a piece of my soul. If I haven’t read the book and still want to, even if it seems boring/not my genre, how can I possibly let it go?

But then I remind myself that, at this very moment, the backseat of my car contains about ten hardcovers and a few paperbacks — because I have nowhere else to put them. So I’m storing them. In my car.

I’ve become That Person.

So they have to go. They have to. This morning I carried in eight books, recently plucked from the bookcase, and began distributing them to my coworkers. Sandy and I share books all the time, so that’s no big deal, but what she isn’t interested in?

It’s going in The Box.

In my office, apparently, is a “Take A Book, Leave A Book” box. I say “apparently” because I never knew it existed until I wandered past the employee break room, a dark space I tend to avoid, in search of a soda. My caffeine fix is something not to be toyed with, friends.

And what did I discover there, sitting on top of a shelf all shiny and new and pristine? Sarah Pekkanen’s The Opposite Of Me, a book I’ve been lusting after for months.

In all the excitement, I’m pretty sure my mouth fell open. I reached out with trembling fingers to touch the cover, scarcely believing my eyes. In the past, the contents of The Box have been limited to tattered old romance novels circa 1983 and a few bad westerns, none of which I’m interested in. But this? This? A brand-spanking new work of women’s fiction with a colorful, gorgeous cover?

It was mine. It felt a little like stealing, but I most definitely took it.

Buoyed by the love I suddenly feel for my chick-lit-loving officemates, I brought books to contribute to The Box myself, including The Day The Falls Stood Still and Holly’s Inbox. And I have to tell you, I’m feeling pret-ty good about it.

Where do you take your books when you’re ready to part with them? Charity, friends, coworkers, a book swapping site?

Blogging is serious business

Moo_boxWhen I first started my job at the newspaper two years ago, the most exciting thing that could have happened to me — aside from getting my (gasp!) very own desk — were the business cards I got to order. Emblazoned with my official name and new title, I was thrilled to start passing them out to . . . well, whomever, really. Who was actually getting my business card was of no consequence! My parents, grandparents, siblings, random people I met at my part-time job — yes, all totally worthy of business cards.

To date, I don’t think I’ve actually had the opportunity to give my card to, you know, a real client. And after I moved into my boss’s old job last fall, they actually don’t bear my correct title anymore. But you know that doesn’t stop me from carrying them around everywhere in a cute little pink pouch! When I actually do meet someone who will have a serious need for my professional services, I’ll be ready.

And to that end, I broke down and ordered . . . blogger cards. And not just any cards, mind you, but mini-cards from MOO, an affiliate of Flickr who prints stickers, postcards, business cards and more. Rather than just getting plain ones that would, inevitably, be pink, these cards actually have my photos on them. I got 100 of them for $20, and you can choose up to 100 pictures to place on the cards. I’ve got a little bit of London, some flowers, beach scenes and, of course, books — all with my web address and other important information.

moo_cardsThese are pretty much the cutest things you’ve ever seen — and no, MOO is not in any way paying me to say this! I love how tiny they are, and I find them pretty memorable. In a world of standard, white business cards, who wouldn’t like a tiny piece of cardstock with my name and . . . a lovely pink rose from Hyde Park?

Since I’m a professional editor, I have professional business cards. And while I wouldn’t say I’m a “professional” blogger — don’t you have to get paid to do that? — I can certainly say that I’m a serious blogger, and a book reviewer / observer of life who takes what she posts seriously.

So if you run into me on the street and we have a brief but somewhat illuminating conversation, I’ll have one of those babies to slap in your palm — and you can bet your bottom dollar I will!

Drinking on the job

drinksIn keeping with my recent thoughts on vices, I have yet another confession to make: I like to drink.

But not alcohol, mind you — oh, no. Not interested. I mean flavored tea, sparkling water, diet cola, Red Bull, hot tea, coffee, espresso, lattes, fruit punch, Sprite, and . . .

I’m sure you can see where I’m doing with this!

On my desk at any given time, you’ll see a littering of cans, bottles and mugs. I’ve tried to keep this under control — honestly — but, well, I get a smidge lazy about my recycling and have a tendency not to dispose of things as fast as I should! Since we don’t have a designated recycling program at my office, I store everything until I can drag it all home in bags for curbside pick-up. And that process can take months — especially when I have something like the above snapshot on my desk daily!

I guess I should be thankful that I’m not a chronic work snacker. I purposely don’t keep any junk food within arm’s reach, choosing instead to shove a mug of tea into my grasping fingers. Any nearby crackers, chips or popcorn would be swallowed whole in a matter of seconds — and that’s why I have to keep all forms of delicious candy away from me, too! (I’m sure my incredibly good-looking dentist would approve.)

And now I’ll return to guzzling my kiwi watermelon spring water from Archer Farms, followed quickly by half a can of Red Bull. Good day to you!

Knitting Club Book Club ’09

friday_night_knittingApril 23 marks a pretty momentous day for me as a reader — and a social butterfly! I’m going to be hosting the first Borders Book Club at my local bookstore — a place I’ve worked, off and on, for more than two years. This month’s selection is Kate Jacobs’s The Friday Night Knitting Club, a book I just finished reading last week.

As you may have seen, I had some pret-ty strong reactions to it! Well, I’ll be honest: I freaked out after finishing it. If you haven’t yet read it, far be it from me to spoil anything for you . . . because I really did enjoy the book. I was just so flat-out flabbergasted by the ending, it tainted much of the story for me. I’m going to leave out any spoilers here, but I’ll just say, again, that I was a little heartbroken and angry.

So yes! Excellent first book club pick! Definitely a book that incited some emotion and fist-punching from me. But I’ve never led a book club in my life . . . in fact, I’ve never even attended a book club. I’ve read plenty of books about them (see: The Jane Austen Book Club; The Reading Group) but have yet to sit with a group of ladies (or gentlemen) with coffee and plenty of novels piled between us. And, to be honest, I’m worried that no one is going to show up! Our Knitting Club Book Club, as I’ve begun to refer to it, is sponsored by Borders — and folks across the country are all meeting at their individual stores to discuss it. I’m in Southern Maryland and our store is usually pretty busy, but I’m going to be so disappointed if we don’t have any attendees! Especially since I have some conversation topics ready to go.

Well, I think I have some conversation topics ready to go. I’m working on it. The back of my novel has a reader’s guide and several pages of additional information, as does the Borders website. And I love that sort of stuff! I’ve never had an occasion to actually bring any of these points up with anyone else, but I love reading the author interviews and checking out the discussion topics. Usually I get a better understanding of what I supposed to “get” from the book . . . and I use them as catalysts for beginning my book reviews.

bookmarks_i_made So I’m excited! Meeting other book-minded people! Expanding my circle of acquaintances! Getting paid to talk about a good book for a few hours! Seeing my friends from the store! Drinking a latte — something I’ve just been depriving myself of while detoxing from caffeine!

In fact, I’m so overzealous about the Knitting Club Book Club that I’ve actually crafted . . . bookmarks for my fellow clubbers. Yes. In all sorts of colors! I’m a pink girl, but I figured not everyone wants a pink paper bookmark shoved in their novel. And you can’t go to a party and not take home a little favor, right? I dig the bookmarks. I was optimistic and made 18 of them, my lucky number! I’m planning on putting this blog address on the back of them, hoping they’ll come visit write meg!

But now that I’ve successfully rambled my way through this post and shared some bookmark eye candy, I ask of you all: Is there anything that I, a total book club newbie, should know about running a successful book discussion? And if you’ve read The Friday Night Knitting Club, is there any awesome question or talking point you could share with me? I’m totally open to suggestions / thoughts /ranting, and I appreciate any feedback! I really want it to be a successful, fun night.

Office snacking: The messy aftermath. Today at 3 p.m.

popcorn_bowlIn my daily travels around the Internet and various non-profit websites looking for cool articles for the sections I edit at the paper, I’ve come across quite a few whacky stories (see tips on how to tell if you’re husband is cheating on you at Christmas — always a delight!). Most of them aren’t quite that graphic, but many can get a little strange! Often, though, I actually learn a little something myself.

Today’s lesson? Snacking right at work. Those of us spending our days elbow to elbow with coworkers know exactly what it’s like to see that giant box of chocolate chip cookies sitting, often unattended, mere inches away from your fingers. My friend Sandy enjoys popping a nice bag of popcorn around 3 p.m. — and is always generous enough to share. But the constant offerings of candy, coffee and — gasp! — Girl Scout cookies are almost too much to take! It’s as much about boredom and stress as anything, I know, but I have to really watch myself. I mean, I’m pretending to try and lose weight here. I’ve cut out the soda, God help me. And I’m going to start walking on the treadmill. Every other day. For real this time.

So I need to get serious about the no-snacks at work business. I’m generally pretty good about it, but I do eat lunch out almost every day — and often bring a cookie or something back to my desk after my outing. I keep granola bars and the like in a drawer, too (come on, you know you have a snack drawer!), but I’m going to be limiting that as well. And drinking only water. As much as I can stand, anyway . . .

And, according to the awesome article I will be publishing in my health section soon, I will also be:

• Bringing snacks from home. This limits the amount of mooching that will be required on my part to get a little afternoon pick-me-up, plus cut down on the money I’ll spend on snacky treats in the afternoon.

• Relying on flavorful foods. Bland snacks like veggies rarely satisfy that sweet tooth hankering I’m always battling. I’ll try low-fat crackers, especially with peanut butter . . . mmm. Trying to force myself to eat foods I’m not crazy about, like carrots, won’t help me or my psychological craving for junk food. If I’m going to snack, I need to pick something with some taste and nutritional benefits.

• Talking my coworkers into cooperating. My office neighbors (hi, Brandon and Sandy!) are great and rarely contribute to my bad habits, but we have to be a united front. It’s a lot easier to fight off temptation when temptation isn’t a nice, giant and free candy bar sitting on the edge of your desk!