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6,000 Ft., 8.5 Hours, and 7.3 Miles

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On a snowy, 23 degree morning, my boyfriend, our friends Andrew and Emily, and I stared up 6,288 ft at the summit of Mt. Washington.

Known originally as “Mother Goddess of the Storm”, it is not only the highest peak in the Northeastern US, but it is most famous for its dangerously erratic weather. For 76 years until 2010 it held the record for the highest wind speed ever measured on earth at 231 mph.

At 7am on Monday, March 2nd, 2014 it looked like a scene out of a movie. Snowflakes the size of a penny floated slowly in thick blankets around us.

Going into this experience I prided myself on being in excellent shape in terms of both strength and endurance. After all, I go to the gym every day, six days a week and am constantly striving to lift heavier and run further. But in the gear room, I wasn’t putting on a pair of Nike’s and a sports bra.

Emily and I worked on our PB&J express line as the boys geared up. Everyone was pretty quiet, acting busy with the task at hand, but really just grateful for our last few moments indoors.

The first inkling I had that it would be a rougher journey than anticipated came when our guide, Shawn, handed me the ice pick. We were already wearing 2 inch spikes on the bottom of our boots…how much more traction could we possibly need?

The first several miles are a steady incline on rather easy terrain. We hiked quickly, hearts racing, trudging through the snow. It felt familiar. Sweat building, pulse racing, breathing deeply. I could do this all day, I had practiced for this on the treadmill. I did my best to focus on my surroundings, it really did look like the entrance to Narnia. Distraction is key for any endurance workout, you can’t focus on each footstep against the pavement, you think about the end goal, whether it be the top of Mt Washington, the finish line, or minute twenty. After about an hour we stopped to switch up our gear and get ready for the next section of the hike. Snapped out of cardio-mode, it wasn’t until then that I realized no one else was enjoying themselves. Tom looked completely exhausted, Emily focused on her gear with a zoned-out look in her eyes, and Andrew was already cringing.

Looking to break the mood, Shawn lead us in some stretches.

“Shit,” Tom was leaning over to his left, in a lat stretch.

I was worried about him a little bit. Tom doesn’t really workout, and the last time I could remember us doing something active was the summer before when we did a light hike up to Diana’s Bath to see the waterfall. I chickened out of asking  him about  climbing a mountain of the winter twice before Andrew and I sat him down after a few beers and broke the news.

Tom laughed a little, “yeah, I think I pulled a muscle.” Part dumbfounded and part amused, I think everyone else took it pretty lightly, but I was pretty concerned. Convinced that I knew what the day ahead would be like and how I would react and everyone else too, I figured they all had a long day ahead of them. In reality, I was completely clueless.

About another hour in, after slightly steeper climbing, I figured we had set the pace and was looking forward to my endurance being tested, and my muscles feeling nice and sore the next day. The trail, however, got thinner, and steeper.

It’s funny, really, how fears and anxieties rarely settle in until we’ve taken a step back, paused, and re-assesed the current situation. One moment you are trudging along, content in the monotony of labor, and after a small rest, doubts flood our thoughts. Taking a sip of my frozen slush-water, a chill ran down my spine, my muscles clenched, and I couldn’t catch my breath. My body felt as if it had to lean forward onto the mountain. So crouched on all fours, I refused to turn my head around to look at the view with the others, all I could picture were rocks outlining the almost vertical drop down towards the basin of Tuckerman’s Ravine.

I could barely even think about the trail, let alone my footing. My thoughts were clouded with a mess of anxieties, one stringing into the next. I grew quiet, and concentrated, and couldn’t separate myself from my thoughts to enjoy any aspect of the experience. Still, I didn’t feel like I was at the point of crying, just very numb and cold like my surroundings.

Tom grabbed his phone to take a picture, “C’mon, fake a smile for the camera,” he said.

Cheese.

Behind his phone I could see the same concern in Tom’s eyes that I’m sure I had during out stretch. What was for? I’m fine. That can’t be for me.

Oh god, it’s for me.

The idea of being the weak-link of the group didn’t settle well with me. But rather than snap me back into Mia-mode, it just sank in until it became a visceral feeling. I took inventory of the feeling in my toes, calves, and quads. Everything seemed to be alright, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was not in a safe place, and even the slightest misstep would sling me down the mountain to my death.

I shuffled along the trail on all fours, feeling more grounded to the mountain.  Each shuffled scraped my knees and my right shoulder throbbed with pain from pulling up most of my body weight with each hack of my ice pick. My breath grew shallower, and my eyes wide, focusing on nothing but the next foot or so of trail. I started to notice more and more rocks on the path.

“Soon, we’ll approach the treeline at 4,500 feet in elevation,” Shawn yelled up the trail, “you’ll see the trees get smaller and smaller until a tree up to your knee is actually hundreds of years old.”

“With less and less trees,” he continued,” the wind drifts are higher and there is no protection for the snow, so we’ll be doing some bouldering and rock climbing work.”

The next thing I saw when I looked up was the bottleneck, a small section of trail in which only one person can climb either up or down at a time. There was a rope set up, strung through the tree roots and anchored at the top of the section.

We didn’t even get to see Tom climb, he was already up, waiting for me with a smile. He was coaching me along, but his words were washed out by the fear ringing in my head. My toe felt like it was slipping, but the next foot hole was up on the other side of my right knee—on the opposite side of any hope for a handhold. I grabbed onto the rope, but the glove muted any sense of security. I climbed slowly and solidly with a determination fueled by Tom’s even keel voice coaching my every move.

I collapsed as soon as I reached the top. My muscles felt like they couldn’t take it anymore, and the lump in my throat threatened to spill out into a messy fit of tears. I fought to choke it down so hard I almost forgot about and lactic acid pooling in my legs.

“You alright babe?” He asked with a little laugh at the end.

“No.” I whispered, refusing to look up at him.

I lost track of how many times I said “No, I’m not fine,” but I kept on with a steely determination. The hike blurred at this points into memories of pain and fear paralleled with Tom’s calming voice and incredible confidence. Soon I began to focus less on my own pain, and more on the funny miniature trees and the incredible strength that I was able to feel through Tom.

As cheesy as it sounds, I fell in love with him all over again that day. But on a different level than I had ever experienced before. And not to say that it was any more passionate or deep, but moreover that it was different, that I was able to connect with a new part of him that I had never experienced before. Another piece in the puzzle.

It was going to be another 45 or so minutes to Lion’s Head when we stopped for a quick break to look over the edge of Tuckerman’s Ravine. My anxieties began to melt away as the trees faded into the distance below us, and the sight of the 90 degree drop into pure unadulterated snow parked a bubble of elation from somewhere deep inside of me. Warmth began to flow through my veins, and I couldn’t help but smile as a gust of seventy mile per hour winds came up and slapped us all in the faces. Mother Goddess of the Storm warning us that she could take us down any minute if she wanted to.

The feeling, however, was not contagious. As soon as we stepped away from the edge to prepare ourselves for the summit, the smiles faded. Andrew had aggravated an old injury. Emily’s boots were jamming into her shins no matter how many times she adjusted them, and Tom had to take his off and bare the elements in order to change a bandage for the second time in the day. Only, he was able to do it with a smile.

We shared a few sips of power aid slush and some Eskimo kisses as the winds whipped around us. A beautiful reprieve that promised the end was near and we would make it through this trip.

The peak of our trip was not what you would expect. No one waved flags, jumped into each others’ arms.  It was beautiful, it was moving, and it was beyond spectacular, but it was also cold, painful, and over quickly. We jumped at the opportunity to turn around and head back to camp.

“Well, this part should only really take two, two and a half hours,” Shawn said.

Those were some of the best words any of us had ever heard. The rock climbing sections would be tough again, but gravity was working in our favor and we would get down that mountain.

Walking downhill in crampons felt a lot less secure than I’d originally imagined. On one hand you have huge spikes gripping you into the snow, on the other hand, if you didn’t lean back onto your heels, your center of gravity would pull you headfirst into a downhill roll.

ImageMy solution was to walk sidestep the entire way down. Right foot first until my right quad became exhausted, and then left foot first.

Emily and Andrew didn’t have much of a choice, no matter which way they tried they were in pain. They trudged down almost zombie-like.

Tom, after accidentally stepping off trail into waist-high powdery snow a few times, sat himself right down and used his butt as a sled all the way down the face of Mt. Washington, completely fearless and thrilled. I had never seen elation on him like I did that day.

The bottleneck was rough, the fear came back, and I pictured myself rolling down to my doom a few more times, but the promise of a good meal kept us trudging down the mountain just like that minute 20 or mile 13.1.

There was no runners high, no crazy endorphins, or out of body experiences at the bottom of the mountain. It wasn’t pretty at all. We were cold, we were in pain, and we were exhausted. The discovery of my blue toe and swollen foot didn’t even faze us at the time. We ate fast and fell asleep quickly without so much as a “brr” or “ouch”. It might sound anti-climactic, even dull. But the range of emotions and the level of exertion was like nothing else. Those 7.3 miles, 8.5 hours, and 6,000 feet in elevation made up one of the most impactful days of my life so far.

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Haruki Murakami on translating The Great Gatsby

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It seems like all I can see, hear, taste, smell lately is people re-reading The Great Gatsby in wake of the new movie adaptation coming out this weekend. I look forward to reading it again myself, hopefully tomorrow, but an article in today’s GallyCat caught my eye.

It turns out that my favorite author, Haruki Murakami, has translated The Great Gatsby into a modern Japanese version of the timeless text. In an essay for The Columbia University Press’ In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means

The essay (read here!) is beautifully written, as is everything by Murakami, but it also gives a beautiful lens through which one can appreciate the classic novel in an entirely different view. Murakami not only describes his process, but also his particular affinity for the book as well as an in-depth description of Fitzgerald’s process, the history of his career, and the history of Gatsby.

I loved reading about the real-life experience of Fitzgerald and how his notorious wife Zelda affected his creativity. Murakami even includes some snarky remarks Hemingway has made of the wild woman.

In light of all of this I am inspired to watch the enchanting Midnight in Paris this evening and read through The Great Gatsby tomorrow. Then I’ll hopefully get to see the movie this weekend!

Please read Murakami’s excerpt, it is incredible!

National Poetry Month

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In honor of the end of April, which is National Poetry Month, I am pulling out a piece of history, the first poem I ever wrote. I wrote this in class in the fifth grade, when I absolutely could not be separated from my C.S. Lewis books. As silly as it sounds to me now. I did happen to win the Youth Poetry Award at the San Pedro Public Library. Enjoy! Happy National Poetry Month!

Narnia

As Aslan gracefully yet proudly

walks to the end of the cliff

he looks over at the giant

wondrous world of Narnia

He walks again to the tip and starts his speech

as he lifts the grandiose staff over his beloved claw

he stares as he speaks

the words come out of his mouth

like eagles in the sky

The sound soothes the heart as I listen

when he stops…

it is as if the world was gone

Worry fills the lives of many animals

as they loyally bow to Aslan

the grandiose, courageous king

He gently praises each beloved animal

with a child of their kind

This is the wonderful beginning

of the giant world of Narnia

Throughout these graceful years of praise

the babies grow to be

what they are meant to be

As their beloved king, Aslan, gets to turn the hands of time

he grows old…

another king will now

turn the fearful hands of time

The world is renewed

with a newborn of each kind

and words that could grace

a baby to sleep.

Bookyard: A Library as Art

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Bookyard-An Outdor Library by Massimo Bartolini

Bookyard-An Outdor Library by Massimo Bartolini

How did we miss this beauty in the news?

Italian Artist Massimo Bartolini created this outdoor library Bookyard, as his addition to TRACK: a Conteporary City Conversationa Belgian Art Festival.

Although the exhibit ended in September of last year, the beauty of these images continues.

These twelve bookcases were located in St. Peter’s Abbey Vineyard. The shelves mimicked the curvature of the natural slope, falling right in line with the vines.

The library was fully-functional as well! Visitors could take home a book of their choosing for a small donation. All proceeds benefitted the libraries of Antwerp and Ghent.

This incredibly innovative concept should be applied in more public venues! Imagine a public outdoor library hosted by the Boston Public Library under the beautiful flowers of the Public Gardens, or the Commons? What a great fundraiser, and incredible way to foster the love of reading. World Book Night 2013 may be over, but the cause does not have to end.

Would you love to see a Bookyard in your city’s park this summer?

Amazon Supports the Marketplace Fairness Act

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Online shopping will be forever changed by the Marketplace Fairness Act

Online shopping will be forever changed by the Marketplace Fairness Act

Is Amazon the new Joe Fox of the publishing industry? The online shopping destination has proven itself to be a major threat to indies, brick and mortar, and publishers alike, but Amazon has surprised us all.

On Monday, April 21st, the Senate voted 74-20 in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act. The act, S. 743, would allow states to collect sales tax from online sales. But don’t worry small businesses, it would would exempt small businesses that earn less than $1 million annually from out-of-state sales. This has been a concern to several senators including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), but those worries are completely unfounded, as explicitly stated in the bill.

But really, isn’t it only fair? That is exactly what Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is a co-sponsor of the bill said:

“It’s only fair to the businesses across America, if they are required to collect sales tax on their sales, that those competing with them ought to do the same.”

So let’s get back to the big shocker here…Amazon is in full support!

In his article on the subject for DailyFinance, Matt Brownell reported Paul Misner, Amazon VP, saying:

“Amazon.com has long supported a simplified nationwide approach that is evenhandedly applied and applicable to all but the smallest volume sellers. With this in mind, I am writing to thank you for your bill, which will allow states with simplified rules to require sales tax collection by out-of-state sellers who choose to make sales to in-state buyers.”

The fact is, Amazon has been on this path towards supporting sales tax on online sales taxes for a while now. Misner is gifted in predicting his industry, and he knows that the Marketplace Fairness Act is an inevitability of the digital future.

Amazon made this turn in 2011 after going nuclear on the state of California when it passed a similar law. However, Amazon soon changed its tune when it struck a deal with the state in which Amazon would be granted a one year leniency on tax if they continued the building of two fulfillment centers in the northern part of the state. California eagerly agreed, as it would bring over 2,000 new jobs to the state. A similar deal was struck in South Carolina as well.

The genius of Misner is his ability to adapt and evolve with his industry. Amazon sees the inevitability of online sales tax and will continue to support the Marketplace Fairness Act, a blessing to state’s income, and to the future of our indies and bricks and mortar booksellers, as it will even out the playing field, even if it is only by a small margin.

The opposition to the bill is coming from conservative GOP members and lawmakers from Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon (which don’t have sales tax).

“I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man.”

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Jay-Z: The new book mogul?

Jay-Z: The new book mogul?

John Methven of The Atlantic Wire posted a whimsical and deceptively smart article on Thursday, Jay-Z, Will You Take Over Books Next?

I’m posting this article as some light, entertainment reading for the weekend, but Methven really does have a valid point with his query. Jay-Z, or Sean Carter, may be best known as a Hip-Hop mogul, but most recently he has created Roc Nation Sports. Carter is dipping into all entertainment niches, why wouldn’t the publishing industry be next?

Carter’s book Empire State of Mind was extremely well received by fans and critics alike. A publishing house of his own would be a valuable asset to him, but perhaps more importantly, to the future of publishing overall.

Carter has proved himself to be a ruthless business man, negotiations with him would undoubtedly be high-pressure, but he has the power to “make books go platinum” as Methven wrote.

A name as influential as his could be the solution to our industry’s money problems. Sure, the whole industry would be turned on its head, but all the better!

“I’m guessing he’d demand a 40/40 royalty split,” said Simon & Schuster senior editor Sarah Knight. “And I’m not sure I could say no to that, even though it makes no sense.”

Jay-Z might just be the fuel we need in our fire. However, let me be clear that Sean Carter himself has made no mention of foraging into publishing, and this is all just speculative. That isn’t to say though that it is impossible.

Wu Tang Clan were the first Hip-Hop group to step into all aspects of entertainment, which included publishing. The Wu Tang Corporation published several books, mostly written by the nine members of the group, to relatively good reviews. The latest, and most successful has been The Tao of Wu by mastermind RZA.

So let’s get Methven’s question off the page and onto Carter’s desk!

That’s an idea. Why settle for a literary agency when he can start his own publishing house? Rocawords. After all, moguls don’t negotiate over fees with building owners when they can afford the building. Rocawords would do things differently — issue rejections via choreographed video, print all books using only the Beyonce font, stop quibbling with book retailers over shelf placement and force novelists onto the sidewalks to sell their masterpieces to passersby.

The fact of the matter is that the publishing industry needs a change, and a big one, in order to solidify its future. Let’s start taking steps even if we don’t know in what direction we are headed.

Goodreads: a Data Bank

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Goodreads founders Otis and Elizabeth celebrate joining the Amazon family.

Goodreads founders Otis and Elizabeth celebrate joining the Amazon family.

On March 28th, Goodreads co-founder Otis announced their partnership with amazon in a letter on the popular social network for book lovers. Rather than mention the reported $150 million Amazon spent to purchase the site, Otis says,

“Today I’m really happy to announce a new milestone for Goodreads: We are joining the Amazon family. We truly could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and an appreciation for the authors who write them. We also both love to invent products and services that touch millions of people.”

While Goodreads is making the merger sound quite peachy, many are unconvinced. Book lovers, buyers, sellers, etc. all know the impact Amazon has had on the traditional bricks and mortar selling structure. Indies and the big six alike are weary of the power Amazon holds over the market. What does Amazon buying Goodreads mean for the publishing industry?

First, it is important to fully understand Amazons reasons behind the expensive purchase. Jordan Weissman at the Atlantic wrote a very comprehensive article, The Simple Reason Why Goodreads is So Valuable to Amazon, which outlines very simply Amazon’s most important motivations. The first reason, which is on the forefront of everyone’s minds, is that Goodreads is quite simply, the holy grail of consumer data in the book world. But, as Weissman points out, there is an even bigger reason:

Today, the publishing industry survives on super fans — book worms who read far more than most Americans, and who tell their friends what to read as well. By picking up Goodreads, Amazon gets to tap into those super fans. Simple.

As the book market moves more and more online, the book displays at B&N mean less and less in the consumers’ eyes. Book buyers are making their choices based on word of mouth, and as our whole society moves online, so do recommendations. The recommendations on Amazon.com or other book seller websites, however, are not as well-trusted as those written on social media sites by readers for readers, which is exactly where Goodreads comes onto the playing field. And just like how a very small number of Americans do the major reading, a small number do the recommending as well, and they are all on Goodreads (now at about 16 million members).

Weissman reports as astonishing number:

Roughly 29 percent of Goodreads users told Codex they’d learned about the last book they bought either on the site, or at another book-focused social network.

And presents a number of incredible charts and graphs. This one in particular really shows where our top buyers are and where they get their recommendations.

gr media chart

 

Now that we all understand the reasons behind it, it is time to ask what this all means for the future of our industry. Will readers trust the site now that its data will be used for the benefit of Amazon?

While many readers are furious, and speak out quite openly against Amazon, the fact of the matter is that most Americans simply do not care. They want the best product, as fast as possible, and for the lowest price. In other words: America loves Amazon. It’s that simple.

The book world, however, has many more martyrs willing to fork out the extra five dollars, and a quarter tank of gas to get to their local indie book shop. Will those reads leave Goodreads? What will that mean for the rest of Goodreads’ users?

 

What do you think? Do you use the social network? Do you care about Amazon?

This will be a huge mile marker for the future of publishing, and it will be important to follow where the consumer goes, and what trends we see in book sales. This is the future happening right now, people. Don’t be too afraid to jump in and find out for yourselves.