Tag Archives: washington dc

Frederick Douglass House

Ever on the lookout for new and interesting places to sketch on location, my friends and I ended up at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. The tour of the house was fantastic, then afterward we sat on a stump and drew the house. Buildings are hard to draw but I’m actually pretty pleased with this one. And of course I’m always a sucker for National Park stamps.

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Urban Sketching: Dupont Underground

DC Urban Sketcher Guido was kind enough to organize a visit to the Dupont Underground. It was a streetcar station until the 1960s, and save for a failed food court in the 1990s, it’s been unused ever since. It’s currently under construction with plans to become an art gallery and other interesting space, but we were allowed down there for two hours to draw.

It’s really nifty down there. Filthy and with terrible lighting, but still cool as hell. Most of my companions drew amazing shadowed landscapes. I drew little stuff:

And, of course, a couple of my fellow sketchers:

And in case you thought I was kidding about that whole “filthy” part:

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My First Sketchcrawl

I attended my very first official sketchcrawl this past Saturday. We started at the Maine Avenue Fish Market, then moved a little way down the shoreline to the Capital Yacht Club.

Drawing objects from a distance is very hard for me; I’m used to drawing still life mere feet away, or even photographs right in front of me. Plein air sketching is a new challenge. So because I have a tendency to over-explain/defend my drawings, I’m just going to present them without comment.

In conclusion: I had a good time and enjoyed the company of the artists very much, even if I felt more than a little bit intimidated when we all shared sketchbooks at lunch. Oh well – everybody has to begin somewhere!

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BookCrossing BackStory

I was recently asked how I discovered BookCrossing and got to the point of being so involved as to be on the planning team for an international convention.

Jeez, I dunno. I guess I’ll start from the beginning.

Once upon a time, I had a subscription to Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, a publication which highlighted assorted interesting websites. At the end of each issue was a pull-out list of all the URLs mentioned. As I read the stories I’d circle their entries on the list, and then bookmark the sites for later perusal. It could (and often did) take years before I got around to actually visiting the links, but from time to time I’d browse my “check it out” bookmark folder, remove the dead links, and re-file anything I wanted to keep. One of these links was for Photo Tag (or maybe Foto Tag), a project where one leaves a disposable camera out in public with instructions for the person who uses the last exposure to mail it back to the owner. The owner then develops the photographs and posts them online. (Astoundingly, some of the cameras were actually returned!) I can no longer find this site anywhere; I suspect it’s either defunct or I am misremembering its name.

Anyway, one of the links on that page for similar projects was BookCrossing. (WheresGeorge was another, IIRC.) I admit, my first thought when I discovered BC was, “Free books!” I did a little hunting, not realizing that most wild-released books are picked up within hours or even minutes. It took about two months to get my first wild catch, a truly exhilarating experience.

After a while I started attending the monthly BookCrossing meets at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, organized through Meetup. I met some lovely folks this way, but the group was fairly small since it was held on Thursday nights and nowhere near a Metro stop. Once Meetup started charging group organizers for events, the whole thing fell apart: who wants to pay to chat in a public space? Disappointed, I started a Yahoo! Group, but clearly wasn’t disappointed enough to actually plan any get-togethers. The group was very quiet for a long time.

Enter Cookie, recent transplant to the DC area. In July 2007 she held a meet in Waldorf, Maryland. Remembering how much I loved the gatherings at St. Elmo’s, I drove over an hour to attend. I’m glad I did. Almost single-handedly, Cookie re-energized the group, and slowly we gained momentum and members. Soon our group had free-book tables at local festivals like Kensington’s Day of the Book, the Carroll County Book Fair, and the Gaithersburg Book Festival. We held annual joint meetings with local Librarythingamabrarians each fall at the National Book Festival. We met monthly at various locations in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia, plus occasional additional meets with BookCrossers visiting the area.

Then Cookie got a crazy idea.

As one of the largest and most active BookCrossing groups in the country, she suggested we put in a bid to host the annual international convention. Bids are put in two years in advance, so in 2008 we bid to host the 2010 convention. We lost to Amsterdam, but when we bid the next year we won – which was better in a lot of ways, since it meant we got to celebrate the 10th anniversary of BookCrossing. It was during the 2008 bidding process that the name BCinDC was born and one of our members designed the lovely logo we used for the convention.

I have absolutely no idea how I ended up on the convention planning team. It started out as a totally informal thing, then somehow it turned into massive brainstorming sessions on Google Docs, quirky book-collecting sprees, a series of well-researched blog posts, and marathon meetings that lasted long into the night. I nearly had a mental breakdown, to be perfectly honest. As awesome as the convention was when it finally happened, those two years of planning involved a lot of stress and heartache. There were times when I wanted to quit the site entirely. I’m glad I didn’t, because the convention was so totally worth it.

BookCrossing is a lot of fun. It’s fun leaving books in random places for folks to find, it’s fun when the right book finds the right person, and it’s fun to discover new books I never would have come across otherwise. But in the end, it’s the people that keep me coming back. BookCrossers are the most generous people I’ve ever met. It’s not just books (though they are almost aggressively generous with those!), but everything. For example: each year an event called “Holiday Gift Giving” is held on the forums. Basically, you post your wish list, no matter how simple or outrageous, and people can choose whether or not to fulfill any of them. There is no obligation to give and no guarantee to receive, and yet people do both. Whenever I travel, I post on the forums and there is almost always someone who would like to meet up and welcome me. On Sunday morning of the convention, when we had to pack up the book buffets, attendees enthusiastically took on the job without even being asked. I could keep going, but I think you get the gist. We’re connected by a love of books – and not even the same books! – and this nutty hobby of giving away the very books we love. And yet somehow that is enough to form lifelong friendships. I certainly have.

My sister suggested once that BookCrossing is my “tribe.” I think she may be right.

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BookCrossing Convention, April 15-17, 2011

You may have noticed that I’m a member of BookCrossing. (How you would have missed it I’m not sure.) BookCrossing has an International Anniversary Convention every year on the weekend nearest its birthday (April 17) and in 2011 it’s going to be here in Washington, DC.

It’s going to be awesome.

First off, you really have to check out the BC in DC website because it’s gorgeous. Kate’s done such an amazing job.

Second, we’re holding an auction to help raise funds for the convention in order to keep registration fees down.

There are eight themed boxes in all, with bidding open for two weeks each. I’m sure some of my friends would be interested in the Harry Potter box, the Books to Movies box, or the Cooking box. There are a few I’m thinking of bidding on as gifts for other people. You don’t have to be a BookCrosser to win. And if you’re local or I’ll be seeing you in person, you don’t even have to pay shipping – I’ll bring it to you.

In related news, we are collecting Choose Your Own Adventure-type books. They don’t have to be that specific brand and they don’t even have to be children’s books – just the CYOA style. If you come across any at thrift stores or yard sales, please send them our way:

BCinDC c/o Kate McDevitt
P.O. Box 343
Fairfax Station, VA 22039
USA

(Or you can send them to me if you’d prefer. Either way is fine.)

I am so excited about this convention, I can’t even tell you. Even if you can’t attend or donate or bid in the auction, I’d really appreciate it if you helped spread the word. Link, Digg, Stumble, Tweet, or whatever – just please tell your friends. It’s going to be so much fun.

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