litPhoenix | Changing Hands Bookstore & First Draft Book Bar

Having lived in Phoenix for five years and taken advantage of few “literary” opportunities, I’m committing to a more books/writing-focused experience out here in the Wild West.

I’ve discovered an oasis in this blazing hot dustbowl known as the “Valley of the Sun.” It’s easily one of the best independent bookstores I’ve frequented – and with a weekly trip, I’m definitely one of the regulars. I hope more people will join my ranks.

Changing Hands has been in business for forty years, but the Phoenix location is new. Changing Hands is in the renovated, revamped Newton complex – formerly the iconic Beef Eaters restaurant.

Changing Hands is a bookstore for bibliophiles. On my last trip to Barnes & Noble, when I walked in the first things I saw were: Nook display, magazine racks, Starbucks, books. All illuminated by flourescent lights.

You have got to be kidding me.

Changing Hands? Yeah, you’ve got your book accessories next to the register. There is a freaking bar connected to the store. There’s a small magazine section. But above else, it’s about the books – with tons of natural light to give the space a homey, comfortable feel.

There are the usual new/staff picks displays. There’s also a couple of bestseller displays – one for NYT bestsellers, one for indie bestsellers. A book group selections rack is nearby. What really impressed me was how easy it was to find anything. I noticed that several books were shelved in a few different areas – so if you think the latest Stephen King would be found in horror, mystery, or bestsellers, you’d be right on all accounts. Most bookstores have the one spot, and I end up wandering around trying to figure out where the book is.

There’s also ample space in the bookstore proper to relax with a book. Yep, actual book nooks, complete with cute chalkboard designs like this one:

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Attached to the bookstore is a book bar called First Draft. That’s knowing your audience. First Draft isn’t going to be your new hip happy hour spot – it’s just a nice bar with great staff. There are small plates likes mixed olives, hummus, and caprese salad (this is new, I think!). There’s beer and wine. It’s a casual, relaxing atmosphere that’s set up for a variety of customers. You can also get coffee, tea, and baked goods, so it has a nice cafe element, too. This is the kind of place where you will see a lone writer talking up a plot twist to one of the bartenders at the same time a group of friends comes in to unwind and have a beer.

Sometimes we approach books as a very singular experience, but we don’t have to do that – and we can do better at creating a space that encourages conversation and interaction. Part of my litPhoenix journey is to find more places like this. Changing Hands is a good place to start.

Recommendations for other places I should add to my litPhoenix list? Questions about Changing Hands in Phoenix? Leave a comment!

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Exploring Phoenix’s Literary World

Having lived in Phoenix for five years and taken advantage of few “literary” opportunities, I’m committing to a more books/writing-focused experience out here in the Wild West.

I grew up loving books. I spent most of my summers at the pool or sprawled out reading. My parents didn’t mind – there were no qualms placing a couple of crisp bills on the counter at the local Little Professor (though I was often told to narrow my teetering tower to my top ten choices).

When I packed up and went to college, that love waned. I didn’t enjoy shopping for books as much as I used to. Maybe it was a preview of my disillusionment with big, brand name behemoths, or maybe I was just busy keeping up with my reading for classes.

Living in Phoenix, I haven’t made as much time for local books or writing events. Over the next few months, I’ll be chronicling regular forays into the world of indie bookstores, author events, and word nerdiness. It should be fun times, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Writer Wednesday | The Eight Questions Writers Should Ask Themselves: A Response

Consider this post an unofficial, unsolicited response to this AWP post, The Eight Questions Writers Should Ask Themselves.

  1. Are you a good literary citizen? Yes and no. I’d say that I’m on the higher end of the literary citizen spectrum, but I’m not where I would like to be. I would like to volunteer with one literary-based local organization, but time constraints prove challenging. I could be doing more, both online and in the Phoenix area.
  2. Are you more invested in the business of publishing than the practice of writing? No. Although I may consider how people would respond to a smaller piece or a manuscript and I certainly want to be published, it isn’t my sole or primary motivation for writing.
  3. Is your writing ready to be submitted? Will you stand behind your work not only today, but well into the future?I’ve had success pitching at conferences, but as a perennial perfectionist I hesitate to say it’s ready for submission today. I don’t tend to put anything out there unless I’m ready for others to tear it apart, but standing behind my work is something that plays into whether it’s time to let other eyes take a look.
  4. Are you willing to be critiqued and/or edited? I read something…somewhere…about an 80% rule: submit your work when its 80% there. With works-in-progress, I submit for critiques/edits expecting and hoping for a critical eye to improve the work on a micro- or macro- level. And of course, I always open the door for feedback with pieces I post here.
  5. How will you deal with failure? Well, as a learning opportunity. I’ve even blogged about the necessity of rejection to the creative process.
  6. Are you reading diversely? I haven’t read a whole lot of anything so far in 2014, but I do make a conscious effort to vary up genres, authors, themes, and writing styles. I’m enjoying Susan Bordo’s The Creation of Anne Boleyn right now.
  7. Are you taking risks? I think so, although some of it hasn’t quite made it on the blog yet. My content of late has been a little too “easy” for me.
  8. Do you believe in your writing? Yes.

How might you respond to some of these questions? Does this give you additional reason to challenge yourself?

What’s Next? | 2013 5K/Running Events

According to FitSugar (one of my favorite fitness websites), if you’re planning on running any kind of race n 2013 you should register now. Part of the reasoning behind that is a definite race day will help you stick to your goals and design a long-term training plan that will prepare you for success. I ran a 5K in college and I walked a 5K last year with a coworker. I’d like to try and do more this year. Here are a few that sound like fun:

February 16th: Glow Rush
Basically a combination of a 5K Run/Walk with an urban scavenger hunt, with the added bonus of lots of glowing things and an after party. It’s a little early to be ready for a super serious 5K, but this sounds less like a race than a mobile rave (a lame rave).

February 24th: Petco 5k9
DOGS!!!!!11!!!!1! That is really all you need to know. Again, a little early for serious competish, but if I go it will be with Huckleberry and she is not a running-friendly dog. She thinks it’s a game to see how fast she can nip my ankles and then look totally adorable. I’m on to you, Hound.

March 9th: Run to Fight Cancer
This will be the third time GCU puts on this 5K event – it was actually so successful the first time around they did a second run less than six months later. Now it seems to be a 5K staple for the Phoenix area. I kind of like the idea of my first legit 5K attempt in 2013 being the one put on by my employer (obligatory: Go ‘Lopes!).

March 23rd: The Neon Run
I’ve been obsessed with neon lately and this definitely isn’t helping. It’s another night run, but there’s a big emphasis on having fun and just socializing with other neon enthusiasts.

April 13th: Firefly Run
Oh yeah. Another evening run! Although in Phoenix, you really don’t have many options starting mid-March. It begins to heat up during the day and you’re pretty miserable. Anyway, night running! This one also seems geared to a more casual environment.

May 11th: The Night Run
Actually marketed as such and not just a label I’ve smacked on it. The biggest difference? This one isn’t a 5K – it’s 8! There is a 3 mile event, but I would love to train for the 8K. I have just under four months – why not?

May 18th: Run Drenched
It’s always important to stay hydrated…especially in the dry heat!

November 2nd: Run for Your Lives
It’s a zombie-theme obstacle race. YOU GUYS!!! This is AWESOME.

So, who’s in the Phoenix area and is in?