Wild Release This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     I had a good book. I had a great spot; Iwas waiting for the right person. With My Antonia in hand, I slowly mademy way to B. Dalton, my heart skipping a beat every time I passed astore. My feet kept moving and my heart kept pounding until I wasstanding outside my favorite store right in front of the bench thatwelcomed weary shoppers to sit and rest. I slipped the book onto thebench and scurried away, a grin that could compete with the CheshireCat’s spread across my face. My first wild release mission wascomplete.

***

Before joining Bookcrossing, I was a gluttonfor books. I had to have them. Whenever someone would ask, “Howmany books do you have?” it was a source of pride to spout somegrandiose number and watch the looks of awe cross their faces. Rainydays were spent counting, listing and organizing my books. When therewere no more books left to catalog, I turned to Amazon.com and createdlists of books I wanted based on customer reviews. It was a sad,materialistic time for me, when the very presence of a bookmeant more than the story between the covers.

Everything changedwhen a friend emailed me about a website called Bookcrossing. I read inwonderment as she described an underground society of booklovers whowent around mysteriously leaving books in public places. Never mind thatit was really a free online book club with members in almostevery country. To me, Bookcrossing seemed exclusive and secretive. Iliked it!

Feeling as if I had stumbled upon something evenbetter than a 75 percent-off book sale, I clicked on the link. It waslike coming home, if a person can have a home on the Internet. Eventhough I was not yet a member, I belonged there among all thosebooklovers. With increasing excitement, I surfed through the website.Bookcrossers interacted in forums of all kinds: Bookrings,Bookrays and Bookboxes, where books were traded; Wishlists, a placewhere book wishes were made and granted; Chit-Chat, the center ofcommunication for people just to talk, and many others. Something thatparticularly interested me was that upon becoming a member, eachbookcrosser is given their own “bookshelf,” which is like amini website within Bookcrossing that a bookcrosser uses to tell aboutthemselves and display all their books. It did not take long to discoverthat my collection of 236 books was downright paltry compared to thebookshelves of other bookcrossers who owned thousands! What amazed memost was that these people, these biblioholics just like me, were givingtheir books away!

In the face of such good will, I had toscrutinize my motives for keeping all my books. What good did they dositting on a shelf, gathering dust with no one to read them? Why keepthem when they could be out traveling the world with their bookcrossingbrothers and sisters? But old habits die hard, and I feared apost-partem depression, an empty-nest syndrome, if all my beautifulbooks were to leave me, never to be seen again! Visions of the untimelydeaths of my wildly released books plagued me, too. What if someonejust threw them away or hungry toddlers found them and ate the pages? Icouldn’t bear the thought.

In my anxiety, I looked up atmy computer screen for guidance, and, lo and behold, I got it. One ofthe Bookcrossing catch phrases rolled across the top right-hand cornerof the web page. “Don’t be Shelf-ish,” it said.“Share your books.” It was as if some higher being hadspoken. All of the worry and apprehension fell from my shoulders. Iaccepted that some of my books would be lost, but I knew that if onewere caught, it would be worth it. I joined Bookcrossing immediately,and started planning ways to share my books with theworld.

***

After I made the drop, I circled the mall andmade a stop at Target. Efforts to distract myself were in vain, however.I needed to know whether someone worthy had found my book, whether theywould appreciate the beauty of Willa Cather’s story. So I followedmy feet past Claire’s, Hallmark and Journey’s and with allthe inconspicuousness I could muster, past the bench where I had left myfirst wildly released book. There, sitting together on the bench, anelderly couple was flipping through the pages, taking in the strangenessof finding a book with a green Post-It note on the cover declaring,“I’m free! Take me!” Something told me that these weregood people. Just by the looks of them I knew My Antonia had found agood home.

Whenever I am in a bookstore, I find myself buyingbooks not only to read but to set free. Pringles was right in theirslogan, “Once you pop, you just can’t stop!” The sameis true for wild releasing. From the time I left My Antonia in the wildblue yonder, I have been unable to stop myself from releasing. I justcannot get enough. It is odd, but I care for my books even more whenthey are gone, except this time it is the memory of the story that Ilove, and not the binding.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the February 2005 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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z3CarGaragez said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm
YAYYYY!!! A fellow BookCrosser!! I am in love with this site, it's so exciting and I love coming home to waiting packages with new books for me to read in them. It's like Christmas all year long and I can't get enough of it. I devour books and am always looking for new ones to read especially young adult fantasy/romance books. Maybe we could do some sort of trade sometime as there really aren't many young adults on the site!
 
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