) On my second shift, I arrived to find that there was an event taking place that night — one of the former Antarctic Writers in Residence was sharing poetry she wrote and photographs she took as a result of her trip to Antarctica.For those of you who recall the recent book I read about Antarctica, I’m sure you can imagine how much fan-girling was taking place on my part, and you can be adequately embarrassed on my behalf.On my third shift, there was another event taking place — literary speed dating, a networking event for book agents and publishing houses.

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A couple weeks ago I made my best choice in New York so far – I decided to start volunteering at Housing Works Bookstore!

This organization runs second-hand bookshops and thrift stores all over New York City and Brooklyn, and the main bookstore/café in Soho is staffed entirely by volunteers. The floor plan is wide open, not like all of those tiny, narrow, windowless NYC restaurants and shops that I still can’t quite get used to.

All proceeds go towards ending HIV/AIDS and homelessness. People there know not to bother you if you have a book open, or even if you’re just holding a book, or even if you’re just standing there. And although the books are stacked pretty high all throughout the store, it doesn’t feel like you’re navigating one of those little bodegas where one wrong move could send a pile of toilet paper rolls and soup cans tumbling down around you.

(They also host all sorts of events both in the stores and around the city — here’s a list of the spring events coming up.) I feel like I have finally found a space in New York that makes complete sense to me. Bodegas = earthquake hazard.* On my first shift I was supposed to be helping out in the café, but they needed an extra hand at the front of the bookstore area, so I volunteered to work there instead.

My first task was to turn a chaotic pile of recent donations into a manageable pile that a bunch of the guys could then move to the basement for sorting.

In this pile I found such gems as “Cooking for Dogs,” “A History of Metal Music Boxes,” and “How to Be a Good Lover – Girlfriend to Girlfriend” (this seemed to be more of a “let’s have some girl talk” thing rather than a lesbian thing, but either way, very helpful!

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