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A Walk With Grasshopper

Or: Helping a Newbie Wild Releaser Spread Her Wings
by bookczuk
March 18, 2009
I remember my very first wild release. I had lurked the BookCrossing site for over a year and finally decided to join. I registered a handful of books and one fateful day in January, I went out and released a half dozen books around Charleston. The first, a copy of Atonement given to me by a friend, was toted down to a local coffee shop, where I quietly left it by some comfy chairs. It was caught within days of the release. Atonement was caught and caught a new member. BookCrossing had caught me like a Bass and reeled me in. (In fact, of those original 6, three were caught within a few weeks, journalled and brought in new members.) "This is easy!" I thought, and registered a few hundred books or so. "You get rid of your books, but they write home to tell you how they are. What a great concept!." I was hooked, no doubt about it.

I started slowly with coffee shops and "safe" places, but soon I was hanging books from campy statues of cows, leaving them at the feet or in the hands of larger than life puppets, or nestled among the veggies at the local Farmers' Market. It was only slightly disconcerting when a local tracked me down at a coffee shop after seeing a release note, and took the chance that I'd actually be there ... or when my mother called me on my mobile phone to ask me to pick up something for her, "since you're there releasing a book, anyway." (That plan went awry, as I was already home, and upstairs at my desk, doing release notes when she called from her phone downstairs.)

I've read the discussions in the forums of releasing habits: the talk of the stealth releaser or the spies who hang around and watch the reactions of passersby, etc. I often will circle back to check on a book, but rarely hang around to watch its fate. I'm like the mama bird who prepares her offspring for the world as best as possible, but then pushes her little baby from the nest. It's up to the fledgling to fly.

I'll never be a great releaser like some of the masters on the site, but I do enjoy it. And I especially love trying to make wild releases themed. It's nice to give the brain a workout and see what is sparked by a title, subject or anything else. So, when another Charleston BookCrosser said she wanted to start doing true wild (as opposed to leaving a book on an OBCZ shelf) releases, and asked if I'd give her pointers, I said I'd try.

Harper415sc, her husband and I met one day downtown at a favorite cafe, with the idea to take a little walk and set a few books free. She released one there in the paper rack, and heaved a huge sigh of relief. The ice was broken. As we walked along, I left a book here or there, pointing out some favorite spots, or places that might make a good release site, like the alcoves carved in the courthouse walls (And yes, I released a book there, though I needed someone taller than myself to put it in the actual nook, as I am vertically challenged.) There's no magic rule of thumb, but I always look at the weather, and if there's ever a chance of rain, I try to use a release bag, or put my release in a "protected" area -- under an awning, in the shelter of a doorway etc. I did a couple of themed releases : Killer Pancake at a breakfast place; The Last Amateurs at the college gym by the basketball courts, and so forth. We started talking about themes and found ourselves walking along King Street. As we went over her remaining books, we found ourselves outside of a lingerie store. "Perfect!" I declared and pointed to one of her books. Both she and her husband (who is not a BookCrosser "officially", but really enjoys what we do) looked a little startled. It only took a second, but I could see the idea click. There were plenty of chuckles and discussion between the two of them as they discussed where best to leave a cheesy chick-lit romance in front of the Valentine's display of ladies scanties in the window. Well done, Grasshopper.

We've now taken a couple of walks together, Harper415sc and I. We'll walk by a bench and break off from whatever else we were chatting about to discuss the merits of that particular bench for releasing a book. One is good because it's protected from the elements by a courtyard. Another is deemed unsuitable as it's missing a couple of struts on the back and a book could easily fall through and be hidden. We have a rule never to release near a street sweeper or trash can. She has adopted my early rule of "re-feed a successful location" and if there has been a catch at a particular spot, we go back and leave another book. And once, when we were walking in the Charleston Market, headed back to our cars, we found the first book she'd released in Marion Square. It's only a little over a half mile between Marion Square and The Market, but that book certainly hadn't grown feet and walked the 9 blocks! Someone had picked it up and carried it there, abandoning it for whatever reason. As far as I know, that book is still travelling. And as for my fledgling releaser? She's flying beautifully.

Editor's note: This article was done at our request, as we were curious to bookczuk's point of view on this article. Sort of a BookCrossing "She Said She Said". Thanks to both harper415sc and bookczuk for indulging us and taking us along on their adventures.

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