A Castle Filled with Stories

Over the past couple of years that we’ve been blogging, Britt Skrabenek and I have had an ongoing conversation about life, books, harsh winters, and those cute cats of hers.

Britt is an indie author and just published her third novel, Nola, Fran, Evie, which I know will be as good as her first two (I bought my copy last week and will be reading it this weekend; I can’t wait!).  You can check it out here:




As Britt has shared so many wonderful memories of reading with me, I asked her if she would be willing to write about one for my blog. Luckily for us, she agreed. Here it is:



© Britt Skrabenek

When I was a young girl, there was always one guarantee. Any time my mom and I passed a bookstore or a library…we were going in.

If we were on a tight schedule my duty was to distract my mom from any come-hither covers in the windows. I would block her view, drag her along, or point at something random in the opposite direction and pretend like it was the most fascinating thing in the world.

The rare times my mom didn’t have a book within reach, it was simply weird. Books cheerfully littered the house—the kitchen, the floor, the car—you name it.

Her love for the written word was contagious and there is no doubt in my mind that becoming a writer was no accident for me.

Earlier this year my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. On a whim I flew across the country to be with her when she received her test results.

I hadn’t seen her in almost four years.

Being with her during this time suddenly reversed our mother/daughter roles. It was my turn to soothe her, to be strong for her, to give her whatever she needed without hesitation.

A rather poignant childhood memory resurfaced as I huddled with my mom in that cramped exam room. It seemed like hours as we waited for the doc to bring the news. It was probably only a handful of minutes.

Languidly the thick sterile scents and unforgiving florescent lights faded away. A younger version of me and my mom were exploring the rooms of our favorite library of all, Huntington Library in Southern California.

The intoxicating smell of musty books blanketed our fears, comforting us effortlessly. We were surrounded with the richness of love.

This library is like a castle filled with stories. The reader turns into royalty with the power to go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone. It’s damn magical.

I was an adventurous child who used to wander off a lot.

Whenever I got separated from my mom in the grocery store, I would panic and cry. I would peer desperately around every endcap of candy, cookies, and canned goods, trying to find my mom pushing the shopping cart.

Getting lost in the library was so different. I was never scared…I felt safe.

I’m not sure how to explain it, but it was as if the books were there to protect me. They were my brave knights, lined up neatly side by side.

Strange how that was the one thing running through my mind in the exam room that afternoon. Then the doctor marched in and broke the spell with her authoritative demeanor and gave us the test results.

My mom lucked out with Stage 1. Since then, though it hasn’t been easy, she has recovered beautifully.

I like to think that the books had something to do with it.


You can find Britt’s blog here: brittskrabenek.com


70 thoughts on “A Castle Filled with Stories

  1. It’s kind of funny how good people gravitate to one another and the same goes for lovers of the written word. There are only a few blogs that I read as soon as they pop up in my email. Letizia and Britt, you are two of my favorites. I also have my copy of Nola Fran Evie. Readers do make the best writers.

    Wonderful story about your Mom, Britt. May she be healthy for years to come.

  2. Aw!!! Thanks so much for all that you said and for the privilege of guesting at your beautiful blog. Any time I need a boost of positivity, I know I can count on your blog to revive my spirits. And clearly, our friendship over the past two years has been very dear to me. Thank you for being such a doll.

    • As I told you before, I loved your story about you and your mom -so touching but also so sweet. The image of you distracting her from the window front of bookstores always makes me smile. Thanks again for writing this – you’re a doll yourself!

  3. Pingback: Books Were There to Protect Me | a physical perspective

  4. What a touching story, I will check out the book, sending blessing to Britt and her mom.
    Thank you to the both of you, for touching my heart today.

  5. Lovely story Britt, and told with that little bit of fairy dust that you must carry around.

    My Mum used to tell me when I was young that ‘Next year you can join the library’ which I understood to mean standing at the desk checking other people’s books in and out! I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do that.

    Nice to hear one of your childhood stories and well done Letizia for extracting it 🙂

  6. Books have such healing powers, don’t they? They can provide a lovely escape, even for a little while, transporting us to another time and space.
    Best wishes for continued recovery to Britt’s mom.

  7. Lovely post. Letizia. You introduced me to a fellow book lover, turned author who has a natural gift for writing. I wish success for Britt and lasting good health for her mom. A touching story.

  8. I must have grown up in a library – I spent so much time there. I have library cards from libraries around the world – and I treasure every one of them.

    • One of the reasons why I like your blog so much is that you share two of my passions: traveling and reading. And so often you’re able to interweave them in your storytelling.

      The other reason is that you get up to the funniest things when you travel- always up for an adventure, haha!

    • Thanks, love! It’s so neat that people from all over the world share such a fondness for libraries.

      And, ditto on everything that Letizia said. I’m still cracking up over that recent CasAnus post by the way! Amazing.

    • Thanks, honey bunny! Flying off the shelves would be lovely…perhaps one day. Can’t wait for you to read it as well. Plenty of “lippy” American dialogue that will entertain you, I’m sure. : )

  9. Nola Fran Evie is great, Letizia, you’ll really enjoy it! And thanks to Britt for sharing this inspiring story. As a libraries’ manager, this is just the kind of story that makes our job worthwhile.

  10. I can’t wait to read your book, Britt. I know how hard you’ve been working, and I’m sure it will pay off in a smash hit! I love that tale about you and your mom. What a great memory!

  11. Letizia thank you for sharing Britt’s background I have her new book on my wish list to read. Once I get through my pile. I love this story because it resonates with me. I loved the days my mum would drop us to the library and I would spend an hour or two in heaven….that smell must be universal it is a trigger for me too. My daughter is a book worm too and we both will have three or four books on the go at one time. Thanks Britt I loved your story and hope your mum is well and you have many more wonderful moments together.

    • Thanks so much for your support, Kath! That smell is heavenly to so many of us. Isn’t it something how books are so universally loved? My mum is doing very well and I am grateful to have the chance to create more beautiful memories together with her very soon.

  12. What a really intimate glimpse into a fellow blogger’s life, thank you both for getting it before these slightly rubbish (but nonetheless keen) eyes. It is amazing, the powerful memories that come from the simple act of existing near books…it makes me even more appreciative of my collection and how I can use it to improve my life and make others smile.

  13. Aww, that was beautiful. Britt, I envy you for that reading relationship you have with your mother. Though I do understand what you mean about libraries being like castles and not worrying about getting lost among their shelves. 🙂

  14. Best wishes for Britt and her mom. Libraries and bookstores–always feel at home there. And books have helped me through many a difficult times.

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