Benefits of Hobbies: Books to Help You Find Your Next Favorite COVID-Pastime

While we’re all living this COVID-crisis together, our experiences of it are different. Whether we’re essential and working our job harder than ever, a working/e-schooling -from-home parent juggling more apps than should be humanly possible, or suddenly bereft of human companionship and needing something more constructive to do than washing day pjs, exploring hobby options can be beneficial.

Hobbies help you find your people. Nowadays may not be the best time to meet new people in real life, but you can connect to all sorts of people online who get excited about the same things you do. Even solitary hobbies can unite you with others.

Hobbies encourage purposeful mental breaks. Focusing on one thing can lead to brain-fatigue which means grumpy and unmotivated people. Having a hobby helps you change thinking gears so you’re having fun with purpose. We may recall from the Highlights magazines of our youth that fun with purpose is what it’s all about. Hobbies give you an outlet for stress.

Hobbies can challenge you and boost positive stress. Called eustress, this kind of stress gets you excited about life and what you can achieve. And with accomplishing any challenge, there’s a rush involved when you master a new skill or concept. It can change your perspective too which is always a positive thing. Keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.

Hobbies help you stay present. When you’re in the moment—and thoroughly enjoying it, it’s difficult to worry about the future or dwell in the past.

Hobbies are good for your body, just as much for your mind. Research shows that participating in activities you enjoy may lead to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. It also shows correlation to lower levels of depression and higher levels of positive psychosocial stages, such as intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, ego integrity vs despair.

Obviously, everyone knows reading is the very best pastime. But what if you need to expand your horizons and find a new COVID-hobby? The Haunted Book Shop wants to help with a few suggestions.

Click on the links for more info on each recommendation.

Bird Watching Birds of Alabama Field Guide, What It’s Like to Be A Bird, or if your tastes run more humorously, Effin’ Birds: A Field Guide to Identification and The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America. In our kid’s section, we have Look and Learn Birds PBS Kids for ages 4 and up.

Gardening If you’re trying to steer clear of the overcrowded grocery produce section, try Southern Fruit & Vegetable Gardening. If your gardening preferences run a little more magical, Garden Witchery. If you’ve always wanted to combine botany and a drinking hobby, we recommend the The Drunken Botanist. We have many more used books that run the gamut of composting and camellias, to the best plants for any sort of garden. For kids, Jam and Jelly combines gardening and cooking for ages 8 and up.

Poetry/Creative Writing/Memoir Writing We have an entire Writer’s Room full of new and used books on craft how-tos and inspiration. Including Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Writing Picture Books  and so many more. For our young authors, Write Your Own Story Book and Story Writer’s Ideas Journal for ages 8 and up gets the creativity flowing.

Crafting/Knitting/Sewing Geek Knits is perfect for fantasy and science fiction fans. For any age, we have Paper Crafting with Harry Potter Origami and Paper Planes to Fold and Fly.

Cooking This is a great way to learn about other cultures too! Check out our extensive new and used cookbooks. Making your own sourdough? Ferment will help. Still have Moon Pies left over from Mardi Gras? Check out the recipes and vignettes in Death By Moon Pie. Want to add a little magic to your meals? Try Wiccan Kitchen. Enjoy cooking for your pup? Check out The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook. For the kiddos, our selection includes Kid Chef Junior for ages 4 and up and The Vegetarian Cookbook for ages 8 and up.

Survivalist/Outdoor Skills Studies show the benefits of being outside, especially practicing social distancing, far outweigh the risks. We have local author, Joe Cuhaj’s Best Tent Camping: Alabama. How To Camp in the Woods and How to Stay Alive in the Woods are a popular series. We have books on Metal Detecting. Want to learn how to tie knots? Why not? Try Know Your Ropes for Better Boating. From the kid’s section, we have books such as My Very First Outdoor Book for ages 3 and up, and Survival! for ages 9 and up.

Get Active–Hiking & Biking Be sure to check online before heading out as some parks are closed. In the meantime, read Hiking the Gulf Coast , or if you want to bring your best friend, Best Dog Hikes of Alabama. For kids, try Lift-the-Flap: Nature to get young ones involved.

New Pets While not technically a hobby, with time home on their hands, many people are finally getting that dog they’ve always wanted. Become the best dog-parent with Dog Body Language: 100 Ways to Read Their Signals or Why Do Dogs Sniff Butts?

What new activities & interests have you picked up while self-isolating?

Support local, shop local. During this corona-crisis, we’re offering no-contact curbside pick-ups, porch drop-offs in select neighborhoods, and free local shipping. We’re also opening up by appointment so if a hobby of yours is sniffing books (we totally aren’t judging you), book your time slot today.

Stay safe, stop the spread, and happy reading!

Bringing the Writing Workshop to You: Creativity Exercises for the Stuck-At-Home Writer

Last summer, two other authors and I held a Lil’ Haints Creative Writing Workshop at the bookstore tailored to young authors from nine to fourteen. It was absolutely amazing to see the kids’ eyes light up as they told us about the stories they were working on. The students inspired us just as much as we inspired them, I think.

As I was casting around for ideas on how I could use my talents in this uncertain, coronavirus time to help others, I wondered, could putting my Lil’ Haints workshopping lessons online help encourage and entertain young authors at home?

What follows is the workshop I gave on “Brainstorms & Origin Stories” redesigned for this format:

Today’s workshop is about how to be a creative person—whether you write, draw, or underwater basket weave as my middle school teacher used to say. Being creative is about keeping yourself open to possibilities. It’s about observing the world around you and putting things together in weird, varied, unusual ways and making it work. Allowing other people to see the world the way you do. Or seeing the world the way you wish it would be. Sharing your experiences in ways that makes someone else sit up and say “hey! I feel the same way”. Or “I think the same way too”.

Being creative is all about connecting.

So first off, we’ll talk about origin stories, then how we can brainstorm our own—whether we want to create a poem, flash fan fiction, or a sketch.

Who all is into superheroes? We know their origin stories, right? How they came to be—climbing walls like a spider or flying faster than a speeding bullet. Books have origin stories too—how they start with a tiny spark of imagination, then grow into something amazing like a book that has its own life. I have three to talk about today: Marcie Colleen’s PENGUINAUT! that started with a Facebook post; Heather Montgomery’s SOMETHING ROTTEN that began as a question; and my picture book that’s coming out later this year, SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL, which grew from an observation.

An interview with author Marcie Colleen on how she came up with the idea for her picture book, PENGUINAUT! (I used picture books as some of the examples even though these workshops are geared for middle grade because I’m able to read the entire text in one workshop, and because I believe no one is too old for a picture book )

Nonfiction Alabama author Heather Montgomery was a keynote speaker at Metro-Mobile Literacy Council’s Young Authors Conference and told us her story about finding a dead rattlesnake on the side of the road. She was curious as to how the fangs retracted and that fascination took her all over the US and even the other side of the world to study roadkill. For interviews, visit her site.

And here’s the link to my book’s origin story.

1.To get the creativity flowing we passed around story cubes, which you can also do at home—make it a fun family activity! As a group, we chose a genre (horror!) and made connections to get the imagination jump-started. Other genres to choose from can be fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, or romance.

You can make your own with a cereal box and magazines. Divide the cereal box into six squares, cut out and tape to make a cube. Select various pictures from the magazine, cut and tape to the outside of your cube. Voila!

2. We talked about how creativity allows you to share the way you see the world. In the next exercise, you’ll pick an item at home and give it a voice.

In the workshop, I picked Mardi Gras beads because they’re everywhere in my house. I imagined them hanging from a live oak along a parade route. Around a kid’s neck. Then, a fate I’m sure beads would rather avoid if they could think or had feelings—abandoned in a dirty puddle of mud and trash. And those three images helped me brainstorm an excerpt from a middle grade story I wrote. [I read it during the workshop but as the manuscript is now on submission, I can’t copy it here. Sorry!]

Choose an item around your house. Brainstorm diverse and unusual ways to associate with your item and write those down. How can you make connections and weave a story around it? What story does the item want or need to tell?

In whatever you do, even stuck at home, be a person open to creativity and inspiration. Observe the natural world around you—maybe a squirrel with a sad short tail becomes a book on how our differences make us heroes. Take note of the weird and awesome things your family does. Write down how the coronavirus pandemic has changed your world—you’re a part of history now.

The Writer’s Room at the mezzanine level of the Haunted Bookshop has a whole shelf dedicated to young authors. Angela is offering No Contact curbside pickup, select neighborhood porch drop-offs, and free, local shipping if your writer needs more ideas on creativity or to add to their how-to library while they’re out of school and at home.

Stay home. Read a book. Be creative. And wash those hands.