Jun 162016

contestYou Have a Body in a Hot Tub!

A not-so-serious monthly contest for readers,  writers, quasi-writers, and occasional writers. At the beginning of each month, we will publish a “prompt”–a story idea, a character suggestion, a first line, or some other random bit of information–for a bit of writing fun.  The rules, as with Bulwer-Lytton, are fairly straight forward.

  • Take the prompt and go with it. The choice of genres is yours.
  • Submissions should be no longer than 500 words (roughly two pages) and should be submitted in the text of an email no later than the last day of each month. Email should be sent to whistlestopbooks@gmail.com
  • Folks are welcome to submit as many stories as they wish, thus improving their chances at an odd and somewhat random Grand Prize handed out on December 31st,

On the first of each month, we will announce the winner and runner(s)-up on our Facebook page and on the website. The winner gets a free novel (the choice of genres is yours) from Whistle Stop Books (stop in and pick up). As extra incentive, we’ll publish the winning entry (and a few of the runners-up) on the Whistle Stop Books website.

The monthly winners are chosen by our “distinguished” panel of judges who we’ve bribed into doing this.

The Grand Prize, a somewhat random item, is awarded on December 31st.

JUNE-JULY 2016 prompt: A dead body in a hot tub.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

In 1830, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “It was a dark and storm night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies, rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Bulwer-Lytton’s phrase remains both far better known than the author himself and the one phrase guaranteed to drive creative writing teachers to near distraction. As an old friend often noted, “it was a dark and story night” is the literary equivalent to “moon behind trees” for art teachers–an image so over used that it self-parodies the artist’s intent.

In 1982, the English Department at San Jose State decided to start a literary competition for the opening line to the worst novel never written and named the contest in Bulwer-Lytton’s honor. The rules are fairly simple:

  • Write one sentence (aim at no more than 60 words) in what ever genre you like and submit you entry either an index card (sentence on the front and contact information on the back) or in an email (no attached files, please) to the Grand Panjandrum at San Jose State.
  • The “official” deadline is April 15; the actual deadline is June 30th, so there is still a bit of time if you wish to try your hand at writing the worst opening line to the worst novel never written.

For more information on the Fiction Contest, to become a bulwarian, or just to waste a bit of time while you are at your computer, check out the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (Where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome).

Weekly Calendar:

  • June 16: Pick-a-Book — Reading, Art, and Storytelling Activities for kids ages 6 to 9. 1:00-3:00 p.m. (activities and stories vary per week).
  • June 19: Paper Modeling for Grandparents. Learn basic paper modeling techniques you can pass on to your grandkids. 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. (Adults) Part of our ongoing “Grandparents 101” Series.
  • June 21: Read Anything Good Lately?  Our weekly Tuesday Afternoon Book Chat. (Adults)
  • June 21: Mysteries @ The Depot…a Book Chat for Mystery Lovers. 7 to 8:30 p.m. Includes a very cool challenge for the intrepid sleuth. This week’s challenge: the perfect villain.
  • June 22: Construct This–Paper Building Projects for Kids ages 9 and up. 2:00-4:00 p.m.


Share This:

Jun 122016

If you are a long term customer at the depot, you have, more than likely, ended up in a conversation about cooking, gardening, or both as you were checking out. Food, both the growing and the cooking, is a favorite topic, and is to vary degrees a passion, evidenced by the kale and rhubarb in the front planters and flower beds.

The Cambria Toy Station & Whistle Stop Books is owned by two people, Meghan Dorsett, who is originally from the High Plains, grew up with folks who make hot dishes, and subsequently knows very little about cooking–or at least cooking things other than hot dishes; and Carol Lindstrom, who is a Cajun from Louisiana and takes great pleasure in swapping recipes, tips, and occasionally hot sauce.  She is also largely responsible for the bird sanctuary and garden at the back of the depot. The idea for a book chat for cooks who garden (or gardeners who cook) was hers.

Come by the depot between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on the 2nd and/or 4th Sundays each month and join in the fray. For the first Cooks Chat, Carol has a raft of tomato plants that need to go to good homes. Bring a favorite recipe with you, and we’ll add it to the Depot Cookbook (an ongoing collection we are starting this summer and which we will publish on the web). If you love to talk cooking and recipes, this chat’s for you!

Share This:

Jun 092016


The Depot summer season kicks off this next week with the introduction of a number of new weekly & monthly events:

  • The Cook’s Garden (1 -2:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sundays of each month). Come talk gardening and cooking, trade recipes and tips, and swap produce (effective during over abundant zucchini season). A “reader’s group” for cooks who love to garden (or the versa).
  • Mysteries @the Depot (7-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month). Come join the mystery fray. Mysteries @the Depot is a readers’ group (come and compare notes, talk mysteries, get suggestions, et al.) with a twist. . Each meeting has a different activity. Pour a cup of coffee (or tea) and figure out how to stump even the most intrepid investigator. Create the perfect detective. Figure out who dumped the body in the hot tub.
  • Read Anything Good Lately? (1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons). A different type of readers’ group. Come spend some time talking to other readers. Learn about new authors or authors new to you. Pour a cup of coffee (or tea); compare notes on character development, settings, genres; and explore why folks read what they read. Each meeting revolves around a different question or topic.
  • Construct This! (2-4:00 p.m, Wednesdays). Paper modeling and construction for kids (and adults) ages 9 and up. A different project every week.
  • Pick-a-Book. (1-3:00 p.m., Thursdays). Reading, art, and storytelling activities for kids ages 6 to 9 (activities and stories vary per week).

Tea & Scones: Celebrating Dorothy L. Sayers

Come by the depot on June 11 for tea and scones and help us celebrate Peter Wimsey’s creator in thoroughly English fashion.  Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) created the Lord Peter  mysteries during the period between the two World Wars.

New to the Shelves

We have had some amazing donations this week (thank you to the Lazars, Stephanie Gilmore, Marvi Stine and Greg Duncan, Paul Poff, and others), which means we have some really cool new books. Our personal favorite is the Hogwarts pop-up book (who doesn’t like Harry Potter). We also have a great collection of Robert Parker (Spenser) mysteries and Stuart Woods thrillers. For romance enthusiasts, we have all three volumes of Nora Roberts’ In the Garden series (Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, and Red Lily).

Book of the Week:

radioMy mother used to listen to the television but very rarely watched it. She used to say she got bored staring at the screen, so she would reach for one of her projects, glancing up only occasionally. One of the reasons had to do with radio. As a child of the 1930s, she learned early on how to multi-task from her father, Sam. He would go out to his shop, turn on the Cubs, and spend the evening woodworking and groaning (the Cubs had a fairly poor decade).

Raised on Radio. Gerald Nachman (1998) is part memoir, part social history, and goes a long way in explaining why folks from the radio generation managed to get a whole lot more stuff done in the evenings than those glued to the television set. A fascinating and very entertaining look at vintage radio and how it impacted the Depression, WWII, and 50s generations.  As Carol Alessio of the Chicago Trib put it, “Raised on Radio is a compelling guide to an era.”

Wrestling with Air Conditioning

While old buildings, including old depots, have their charm, air conditioning is not on the list. Despite the abundance of windows, half of which have been painted shut for roughly a century, the temperature inside is always going to mirror (or at least closely parallel) the temperature and relative mugginess beyond the exterior walls. So, every year, we do battle with the window air conditioner. Unlike other types of technology (computers, phones, even books–much to our dismay), air conditioners have not gotten lighter with technological advances. They are still bulky, rectangular, and abnormally heavy. They are also not designed for the width of windows built when folks waved pieces of cardboard attached to popsicle sticks and pretended to be cool while drenching in talcum powder.

The annual match starts with unearthing the air conditioner from the void under one of the freight wagon–a nice, out-of-the-way location that prevents painful toe stubbing for seven months of the year. Unfortunately, it also prevents easy access when time comes for re-installation. As the crow flies, the air conditioner only needs to travel about 30 feet, but (as with all old buildings) there is no such thing as a straight line or a simple route in the depot.

This year’s annual air conditioning wrestling match turned out to be much easier because a long-time friend with younger back muscles arrived (with his two young sons in tow) and managed to wrestle and weather strip the air conditioner in place.



Share This: