Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jan Nerenberg's Bookshelf

My bookshelf or shelves--I am surrounded by shelves, boxes, cupboards, and boxes of books, stacks next to the bed, on the kitchen table, and anywhere there is a blank space. Frustrated with finding just one book shelf, I turned to my pride and joy, a 12” Webster's Unabridged filled with etymology, thesaurus, definitions and near unlimited word choices. My Oxford English Dictionary (four pages reduced and printed on each onion skin) complete with magnifying glass is, alas, in storage as we wait for our home to be rebuilt from a flood. 

From my dictionary, it was just a step to add inspiration. Ursula LeGuinn and Charles Dickens, who can both pack an entire world into an opening paragraph; J.K. Rowling, James Owen, George R. R. Martin, Cornelia Funke, J. R. R. Tolkien and a new favorite, Tony Abbott's Kringle.  I, of course, had to add my little phoenix to remind me of how fleeting life is and the phases we pass through on our journey as writers and people. 

She (my phoenix) normally sits next to a cryptex and pictures of my folks and my kids, for it is all of these things that inspire me as I write. My mom’s face smiles and tells me I can. Dad reminds me to choose the right word. My kids remind me that the wish precedes the reality. The cryptex helps me to imagine new words. And the books, well, the silent rustle of pages whispers secrets. I lose time looking up words and then find myself pages later wondering where I began--but filled with a new arsenal of ideas.

And as a parting suggestion, try The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester – “A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.”  Delightful.
Jan lives in the Pacific Northwest, just completed a MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University. Her children's fable, "Misako and the Dragons," was published in both RAIN Magazine and Note Bene, an international magazine. "Gentlemen, Please," a nonfiction essay, was published in North West Literary Review. Her poetry has been published in both RAIN Magazine and The Daily Astorian. She is completing a fantasy novel, The Questing Pearl, written for young people and the young at heart. To learn more about her work, visit: Just Jan


  1. Jan, love your bookshelf. It's getting to know you in a whole new way. Looking forward to seeing "Questing Pearl" on my own bookshelf. HL

  2. I love this bookshelf, and I love that the dictionary is at the heart of it. Words, words, and more words, waiting to be placed.