pocket taxi service

We always gave each other thoughtful gifts, it was our rule. They didn’t have to be fancy or expensive, they just had to mean something, for birthdays or holidays or just-because.

So I was a little bit surprised when my going-away present was a piece of chalk.

I did that stereotypically girly thing and assumed jewelry when the ribbon-wrapped box was so small, but sitting on the velvet cushion inside was a single piece of chalk.

“I thought you might need it,” he said, but he didn’t explain. I knew better than to ask so I just said thank you and kissed him on the cheek like always only we knew it would be the last kiss for a while and we said our goodbyes.

I put the box with the chalk in my bag and almost forgot about it.

Tonight I found it again while I was looking for a pen and opened the box to take a closer look.

It’s a regular stick of white chalk, the velvet is all chalk-dusty from it, but the chalk itself is embossed with text: Pocket Taxi Service.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d have to wait, but the car pulled up almost as soon as I’d finished writing on the wall.


About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

This past weekend (how is it Thursday already?) I was in Anaheim for ALA. I have not yet reacclimated to east coast time, not that I ever acclimated to west coast time, since I kept waking up at odd hours of the night while I was there.

I would love for this to be a proper long photo-filled recap but I’m still in denial about this whole “Thursday” thing and the whole weekend is basically a book-filled blur that I shall recount in a non-linear flurry of paragraphs and possibly sentence fragments.

I was attending my very first ALA to participate in two different events, both for library-based honors The Night Circus had received. The first was for RUSA which designated it as the Fantasy pick on their Reading List. The event was a fabulously eclectic “Literary Tastes” panel bright & early (I think it was early, again with the not knowing what time it was) Sunday morning which involved me babbling followed by Russell Banks, Candice Millard and Mark Adams speaking engagingly and coherently about their books.

After signing shiny new paperbacks for librarians I went directly to my other event which was for the Alex Awards, an honor given to ten books a year that are written for adults but have special appeal to young adults. That panel featured me, Ernest Cline, Rachel DeWoskin and Brooke Hauser. I babbled again, but that appears to be what I do. And it was great to see Ernie again since we keep running into each other as we are on similar publishing roller coasters. Someone at Random House should organize some sort of Ready Player One/Night Circus mashup event, that would be magical geeky goodness.

Other than that I was mostly wandering the event floor, rarely getting recognized but often being complimented on my shoes. I met lots of wonderful writers (including all my delightful co-panelists) and also people I have known through the magic of the internet but hadn’t had the opportunity to meet in person as well as writers whose books I knew but hadn’t met the people behind them. I saw my friend Lisa Brackmann read and got a copy of her new book which I haven’t read yet, and later I went to see Deb Harkness read and got to meet her and she was absolutely lovely. Really, I met so many fabulous people I would name-check and link them all but then this would turn into a sea of links.

Instead I will just tell my favorite meeting people story of the weekend, which came about because I got to spend some time with the fabulous Lisa Brown and as we were walking around she asked if I’d met Daniel Kraus and I said no but I remembered he tweeted that he wanted to give me his book, so she introduced us and he’s fabulous and I got a shiny copy of Rotters which has a fantastic cover and also everyone who saw me holding it gushed about it. And then he mentioned that there was some pre-Newbery award Random House cocktail party thing and I should go, so I asked other Random House lovelies about it and ended up crashing and then one party-crashing led to another and I wound up invited along to the Newbery Caldecott banquet, though I am told it does not count as crashing if you have a nametag, though mine was handwritten:

Overall I had a fantastic time and could probably fill lots more paragraphs with names and links and books and babbling, but I’m running out of Thursday already. I’d been a bit worried about having so much extra time but time surrounded by book people is always time well spent.

Really the only negative was that I could hear but not see the Disneyland fireworks from my hotelroom, ah well.

handwritten notes from the margins of the third page of the june inventory list* for the purgatory emporium

Order x2 amount of bottles, last case arrived damaged.

Clean awning. Inquire re: budget for new awning, sick of stripes.

It’s been so long.

Bring in cupcakes Tuesday?

I could wait forever and he will never [remainder of sentence illegible].

Remember to release the goldfish before annual burning – don’t need a repeat of last year.

Burnt and purged away.

Caramel cupcakes, maybe.

*the third page of the inventory list includes feathers, teacups, dreamcatchers, goldfish bowls, marshmallows & melancholy.

About flax-golden tales
. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

I don’t really research. I was asked at a book event once how much research I did for The Night Circus and I responded “I didn’t research, I made things up.” I think people clapped.

It’s true, I mostly just make things up. For the circus I would occasionally check to make sure certain elements weren’t historically anachronistic (that’s why there’s no cotton candy, alas), though I’m sure a few anachronisms snuck in there anyway, and I relied on my own instincts from years of books read and movies seen as far as getting the tone right. And of course, my late Victorian/early Edwardian era circus exists in its own fantastical version of the past anyway.

But now that I’m back in the development stages while working on the new book I’ve been thinking about research more and I think I do research, only I view it more as digging around for inspiration than actual research-research which I mentally associate with term papers and laboratories.

I oscillate between input mode and output mode. When I’m in output mode I’m writing writing writing, usually in caffeinated marathon sessions where I rarely self-edit and accumulate lots of words. (Later there will be self-editing but we are not concerning ourselves with such matters at this stage.)

In input mode, which I’m in at the moment, I’m not writing a lot (though I will jot down random bits if they float into my head) but I am reading a lot and pondering a lot and trying to marinate in the flavors associated with what I’m working on while constantly looking for new ones to add. Unsurprisingly this mode also makes me hungry. And it is research in its way, even if it’s not all book research.

Things I have done in research/inspiration mode for the new novel have included reading lots and lots of detective novels, playing (including getting other people to play the difficult levels for me) Bioshock I & II, exploring art deco hotels in Miami, visiting cocktail bars and peering at artifacts ensconced in glass cases in art museums.

I love museums, maybe because they tend to be library-quiet and story-filled. While I was in NYC I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is one of my favorite museums. (I don’t know how I managed to miss the Cloud City.) I spent a lot of time wandering around the Egyptian galleries, not particularly searching for inspirations but keeping my imagination open since there’s an Egyptian mythology flavor floating around the edges of the not-yet-novel-shaped novel. I didn’t have any epiphany moment but it got some wheels turning in my head.

Where do you get your ideas? people ask. Sometimes they’re at the bottoms of cups of tea. Sometimes they’re lurking in my shower. Sometimes they’re waiting patiently in glass cases in museums.

And having peered in glass cases so recently, I was particularly delighted to see my author-friend Simon Toyne doing very much the same sort of research only on the other side of the Atlantic with a lovelier accent and a camera in tow.

Of course, his new book is all shiny and book-shaped and available in stores and mine is…

I should go back to researching now.

This is not an actual post, this is a list of things I wanted to tell the internet on someplace other than Twitter. I have several proper posts in-progress and at least one of them will be posted this week.


  • This upcoming weekend I will be at ALA Anaheim. I will be participating in two events on the morning of Sunday June 24: the RUSA Literary Tastes Program and the Alex Award Program. Other than that I will probably be wandering around attempting to resist the urge to go to Disneyland and ride the Haunted Mansion over & over & over.
  • On July 3rd there will be a paperback release event for The Night Circus at Brookline Booksmith. And by “event” I mean “Epic Circus Party Complete with Band.” Come one, come all! I am still trying to figure out what to wear.


I think that’s all the miscellany for the moment. Someday I will be properly caught up with email and to-do list things and actually have time to write proper posts (and fiction!) again, but today is not that day.

hollow places

Sometimes I forget who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.

All the me-ness slips away and I feel hollow and confused.

Dizzy and light, like my feet aren’t on the ground.

I can’t even cry, because I don’t know what to cry about.

I don’t know why it happens.

I can’t even tell how long it lasts.

It is an always feeling once I’m in it, never-ending, never-begun.

All I can do is stay very still and press my fingers to my lips to keep the thoughts or secrets or cries or lies or truths or whatever else is left from slipping out.

So they can stay inside and fill the hollow spaces.

While I wait to feel like myself again.


About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

This time Book Expo America was the first book world thing that I’d done before. Last year’s was Baby’s First Book Event, so this year was deja vu all over again. (BEA 2011 was recapped epically here & here. This post will not be as epic.)

The weather yet again toyed with me but I managed better this year. Last year as I was packing it was freezing in Massachusetts so I packed boots and things with sleeves and then in NYC it was roasting hot and humid. This year I kept looking at the ever changing weather and even though I waited until the last possible minute the weather report was still daunting, 60s & rainy predicted for pretty much the whole week. I packed sandals and things without sleeves and layers anyway, and I think in retrospect I succeeded admirably.

I did need my one dress with sleeves for the Knopf Doubleday party, which was lovely and I got to see lots of lovely booksellers (including ones I’d met before, which was something akin to having familiar books on shelves only with more hugging) and I got to meet Ian McEwan and Chris Bohjalian and Deb Perelman of smitten kitchen. (People kept explaining to me who Deb was and I kept telling them that I already knew & I’m delighted that I got an advance copy of her cookbook. The party food was all from her book and oh, so delicious.)

It was a busier night than I’d expected and when squished in the middle of the crowd I momentarily regretted the dress with sleeves decision but overall it was splendid if slightly surreal, since it was held at the same venue as last year when I was overwhelmed and scared and still trying to wrap my head around the fact that people were reading my book already. I had feathers in my hair and they managed to stay there through the entire evening.


The next day was my proper busy BEA day and I got to wander the Javits a bit before my signing, just to soak in the bookishness. My dress was very pale pink, to mess with the circus color scheme system.

Minutes before my signing I found out that Ray Bradbury had passed away. And while I was still mid-sad face I was asked for a response by USA Today which is how I ended up sad-face babbling about Something Wicked This Way Comes and quoted in their article. I never met him, but I’ll miss him. He lived on my bookshelf. He still does.

I truly wasn’t expecting my signing to be that busy, being last year’s news and all, but to my surprise there was a huge line. I was signing freshly baked paperbacks:

A gigantic thank you to everyone who stood and waited. Last year was a bit overwhelming and of course most people hadn’t yet read the book, so it was wonderful to re-experience that with more signing experience (if anyone has a 2011 & 2012 version to compare you will likely notice that my signature has lost several letters and become more glyph-like, though I am still crossing the t) and with more people having read the book. Someone did ask me what it was about and I think I looked at them funny. Sorry.

After my Random House booth signing I went and signed things at the Librarian’s Lounge which was apparently a corral for librarians in which librarians were given cookies and allowed to sit, which seems like a good deal in the middle of the Javits. We ran out of books which I felt badly about but it was lovely to meet so many librarians and be allowed in the librarian-only lounge, I felt special.

Then I went and had sushi with my editor and thought about going back to the Javits afterwards but then taking off my shoes was more appealing.

This is my fairly modest book haul. I had some help with it since I was busy and trying to focus in the sensory overload wonderland that is the Javits Center during BEA is not my strong suit.

I’ve read (and adored, as you’ll be able to tell from the quote on the cover) The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen which is a debut novel that comes out in September. The rest will be added to the ever-growing to-read pile but hopefully I’ll have some time over the summer to curl up and do nothing but read.

Let’s see, what else did I do during the whirlwind that was BEA?

I had drinks with my US editor and my Canadian editor at the same time. I’ve never even seen them in the same country before so that was all looking-glass magical.

I wanted to get back over to the Javits again just to wander more but I never had time, unfortunately. There were many people I wanted to say hello to and never got the chance.

I went to see Sleep No More for the 10th time. The nurse whisked me away and locked me in a room and wrapped me in a blanket and I promised not to tell what happened after that. It was just as wondrous and dreamlike as always. I keep saying I don’t have to go back but then I always find myself back at the McKittrick Hotel again.

Also, I broke my eyeglasses. Not sure how I managed that but they’re missing a screw so I need to get them fixed. In the meantime I have my old ones with the only slightly out of date prescription and my contacts.

So, that was my week. It seemed longer and busier but there were also meetings and drinks and dinners (Alta has the best tapas and also really strong sangria) and the sun did stay out most of the time. It was strange and lovely and felt circular in a lot of ways, having a whole year of this being an author thing. Still don’t really have the hang of it but I think I’m getting better.

Until next time, BEA.

the chandelier rebellion

The chandeliers went on strike but no one noticed, assuming it was the age of the wiring or faulty bulbs and not a calculated withholding of light.

The list of demands appeared on the dining room table on a Thursday morning. It was a comparatively short list. Regular polishing. Appropriate use of dimmer switches and more frequent dinner parties.

The household was given until the following Monday to comply or respond in writing.

Only everyone who read the list thought it was a joke, though no one would admit to writing it. By Thursday evening it had been crumpled and thrown away.

On Monday morning the chandeliers pulled themselves down from the ceiling and walked out of the house.

They still haven’t come back.


About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

I don’t listen to as many audiobooks as I’d like to but I still flipped when I found out that Jim Dale was going to narrate the audio version of The Night Circus. For a few reasons, including the fact that he narrated the short-lived but beloved-by-me Pushing Daisies and also he was Barnum in Barnum and I was a clown (seriously) in a production of Barnum when I was in high school. (Seriously, it involved pink and yellow polkadots and I had pigtails, and is likely one of many reasons there are no clowns in my circus.)

He has the most fantastic storyteller voice. If you haven’t heard it, have a listen:


I love the audio of The Night Circus so much I sometimes want to rig my iPod at readings so Jim Dale can read instead of me. He does all the accents, while I avoid reading the sections with lots of dialogue.

(Jim also narrates all the Harry Potter audiobooks. You know, if you haven’t read Harry Potter or want to have someone re-read them to you. That’d be a fun June is Audiobook Month activity, I’m just sayin’.)

So, in summary: I can’t believe it’s June already and listening to books is like childhood bedtime stories all over again and if you haven’t listened to an audiobook in a while, it is a perfect summery month to do so.


keeping time

I put time away.

I locked it in a cabinet. An old cabinet, painted to look older than it is, with a lock and a key. I put the key on a chain around my neck.

The cabinet has a glass door so I can see inside to check that time is still there.

I want to be sure it doesn’t get away from me again.

I put time away so it would stop.

So everything will remain just as it is.

As it was.

So you can stay.


About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.