2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 6 books toward her goal of 240 books.

Guest Post: Bullets and Books: Looking Back on MAD Librarian Three Years Later by Michael Guillebeau

So in late 2017, I introduced you to the magic world of the MAD and its madcap cast of MAD Librarians (a group of women who go to exceptional lengths to keep their local library not only open but exapanding) all of whom were developed by the marvelous Michael Guillebeau who has donated half of his proceeds from the book to keeping libraries alive. The book is now available in audio format and I am delighted to report that the narration is every bit as marvelous as reading the book myself was. And as marvelous as the author, also. Those are powerful words coming from an avowed read-not-listen reader like myself, so pay attention to them – and then go out and buy, borrow, steal, appropriate, or do whatever you need to do to get your hands on a copy. Your ears will thank me. And then go out and do something in support of YOUR local library – we need more of us to get MAD if we want to keep them alive and thriving in this era of budget cuts and dramatically increased expectations on savagely decreased funding…

Oh yeah, and Michael writes other great stuff too, so if you haven’t seen them, check out his shorts and his fabulous mystery that I’ve also been fortunate enough to read and review!

Bullets and Books: Looking Back on MAD Librarian Three Years Later
by Michael Guillebeau

Three years ago, I was working on a book about a small-town librarian who stole to keep the town library alive after the town cut off its funding.

Ha Ha. Little old ladies with their hair in buns as robbers. It had been inspired by two librarians I knew named Sledge and Doom. Funny.

It was pretty funny. I liked the characters and the small Southern town they were simultaneously fighting for and fighting against.

But something was missing. I wrote a lot of the book in the Madison, Alabama, and the Panama City Beach, Florida libraries, and a lot of time talking to the librarians there (like most writers, I’ll do anything to avoid actually, you know, writing.) These women were spending most of their time on things I’d never thought of as library jobs: helping people write resumes and find jobs, helping entrepreneurs get what they needed to create jobs, finding medical books for people without insurance, herding children and homeless old men. In short, doing everything the city needed, while being paid and respected at a level appropriate to someone whose only skill was shelving books. And behind their usually-smiling, always-helpful eyes, I saw a look that was so deeply hidden in these very polite women that I couldn’t quite identify it.

I was sitting in the library one day, trying to name that look, and trying to find the missing center of the book. I looked up at a shelf of books before me. Every book in the Madison library was stamped with a three-letter identifier: MAD. I looked at the shelf, and the shelves lined up behind, all of them shouting one word at me: MAD. MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD. Everything here was MAD.

These women were mad, even if they were usually too polite to show it. Mad at all the things that needed to be done, mad at how much more they could do for their town with proper support.

And I got mad, too.

The background of my computer has a picture of Woody Guthrie and his guitar. During World War II, Guthrie was criticized for continuing to play music rather than enlisting. He took a can of paint and slapped, “This machine kills fascists” on his guitar and kept on playing. Like Woody and his guitar, I want my stories to be soldiers in all of the battles we all fight every day.

After that, MAD Librarian was fighting every day. Still funny, still light. But every time I’d finish a page, I’d sit back and ask, “Does this page have bullets?” If the answer was “No” I hit the delete key and started over.

But there were a lot of times I said, “Hell, yeah” and plowed on. Didn’t know if it was good (like most writers I know, I’m simultaneously convinced that every line I write is so good that it will win the Nobel Prize, by itself, and so bad that the police and my mother are waiting to arrest me and send me to my room.) But it was mad.

From November 17, 2017, the first day MAD Librarian was published, I’ve given half of its income to a library foundation that’s funded entirely by librarians, and the book. Over the two years, that’s been a few thousand dollars.

And other people got mad, too. I got reviews from librarians who waved the book at their patrons, librarians who slapped MAD Librarian bumper stickers over their desks. One reader checked the book back in, and volunteered to work at the library. Another couple read MAD and gave their library a check for $100.

Some days, you wonder why you spend your time sitting in coffee shops typing books that will neither make you rich nor famous.

But some days, I know why I do this. Thank you to every MAD Librarian reader that gives me this feeling today.

About the Author
Michael Guillebeau has published four mystery novels and two anthologies, winning both the 2017 Foreword Reviews Indie Award for Best Humor book (MAD Librarian) and the 2017 Silver Falchion for Best Mystery Anthology (Eight Mystery Writers You Should be Reading Now.) His first book, Josh Whoever (Five Star Mysteries, 2013) received a starred review in Library Journal, and was named a Debut Mystery of the Month by Library Journal. Guillebeau has published over twenty short stories, including three in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

For more information, see www.michaelguillebeau.com.

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