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Words to the wise for those who love to read, write, and talk about reading and writing

As a kid, my mom was forever telling me to "put down that book and go run around in the sunshine." I ended up turning into a deformed writer type anyway, but maybe it's not too late for you.

Colorado Springs gets far more sun per capita than those poor benighted souls in Wetshington and New Dampshire, so you can rest easy leaving the literary fate of the nation in their pasty housebound hands. Never mind that our fair city boasts a tempting array of book shops, spoken-word events, writers' groups and literary circles — far better to use the following article as a list of places to avoid in your quest for UV exposure.

Above all, stay away from the libraries. You'd think that the Pikes Peak Library District (ppld.org) and the Manitou Springs Public Library (701 Manitou Ave., manitousprings.colibraries.org) would pose little threat — after all, you can't keep the books longer than a month or so, and some of the libraries even have windows — but it turns out they're veritable quagmires of literary camaraderie. Not only does PPLD keep a list of every conceivable kind of book club to be found in the greater Springs area, but all its outposts offer weekly events expressly designed to turn you and, yes, even your darling children, into ravening bookworms.

Of course, some of the local bookstores are just as bad. Black Cat Books (720 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs) is a standout, almost library-like in the way it allows you to feed your book habit for a ridiculously small price while introducing you to more genres and writers to love. Throw its admirably well-used liquor license in the mix, and you might as well give up now on your hopes for a summer tan. Check out manitoubooks.com for a list of in-store events, which include open mic poetry at 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month, the Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series at 7:30 p.m. on the third Friday of every month, and a knitting group (usually well-juiced) from 4 to 6 every Sunday.

You're not safe at the Springs' big box stores, either. Barnes & Noble might not seem a likely Petri dish for local book culture, but don't let the massive floor plan and lack of personality fool you. The Citadel storefront (795 Citadel Drive East) fights the forces of writer's block with an ever-changing calendar of critique group meetings (see barnesandnoble.com for upcoming events), while the Briargate location (1565 Briargate Blvd.) hosts a writers' group at 7 p.m. every Thursday for coffee and writing exercises.

There's less going on at Covered Treasures (105 Second St., Monument, coveredtreasures.com), but its decent assortment of new and used fiction, occasional book signings, and serene atmosphere make the store a perfect fit for the historic Monument neighborhood. Catch it at its best on third Thursdays during the summer, when the Monument Art Hop keeps the whole district up past its bedtime.

Springs literary culture doesn't limit itself to just the bookstores, either. Lofty's (287 E. Fountain Blvd., #100, 520-0024) and Venue 515 (515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, thebac.org) do spoken-word events on an irregular basis, while the Modbo (17C E. Bijou St., themodbo.wordpress.com) and V-Bar (19 E. Kiowa St., 471-8622) keep things simple with BYOB Poetry at 8 p.m. on the last Friday of every month, and Word Wednesdays at 8 p.m. every week, respectively.

You are not alone

For those souls already irretrievably warped by words, we offer this solace: At least you don't have to indulge in your sad little proclivities all by your lonesome. Pikes Peak Writers (pikespeakwriters.com) offers all sorts of ways to trot your writing habit out into mixed company, from workshops to an annual conference to monthly slosh 'n nosh sessions at Poor Richard's Book Store (320 N. Tejon St., poorrichards.biz).

If your predilections run to the flushed and florid, Pikes Peak Romance Writers (pikespeakrwa.org) offers critical support and online plotting boards as well as a calendar of author events to get your Muse in the mood. Alternately, you can browse the impressive array at Beth Anne's Book Corner (1532 N. Circle Drive, bethannesbookcorner.com), where romance reigns supreme and a rake is never a garden implement.

Meanwhile, poets can feed their particular brand of literary obsession with Poetry West (poetrywest.org), which uses its monthly meetings (10 a.m., first Saturdays, on the Colorado College campus) to propagate unseemly levels of lyricism and structural clarity amid the unsuspecting populace. Their audacity is topped only by that of the Poet Laureate Project (pikespeakpoetlaureate.org), whose community poetry events and tastefully packaged missives, disseminated throughout the waiting rooms and office spaces of Colorado Springs, make it almost impossible to avoid exposure to top-notch local poets.

Treasure your independents

Finally, there's the grand slew of independent local bookstores, ranging from the boutique antiquarian goodness of Clausen Books (2131 N. Weber St., clausenbooks.com) to the bustle of Poor Richard's. In between, Agia Sophia (2902 W. Colorado Ave., agiasophiacoffeeshop.com) keeps history-, philosophy- and religion-lovers covered, Hooked on Books (3918 Maizeland Road, hookedonbooksonline.com) pleases crowds with over a quarter of a million books, and a trio of shops — Heroes & Dragons (5751 N. Academy Blvd., 388-9524), Ed's Cards & Comics (5857 Palmer Park Blvd., 596-9128), and Escape Velocity (19 E. Bijou St., escapevelocitycomics.com) — cater to those who like their heroes super and their novels graphic. For classics, military topics and Colorado history, Adventures in Books (606 N. Tejon St., 473-4090) excels.

In Skyway, Books for You (1737 S. Eighth St., 630-0502) does its part to keep kids and adults alike safely sedentary, while The Book Rack (4335 N. Academy Blvd., thebookrack.com/Colorado Springs) does the same for the Austin Bluffs area. Finally, Bargain Book Warehouse (104 W. Cucharras St., 475-8091) is downtown's best-kept literary secret, offering an extensive array of hardcover titles for $4 and paperbacks for $2.

However we may shudder at the thought of a whole city of bibliophiles ignoring the great outdoors, we can't find it in our hearts to denigrate The Bookman (3163 W. Colorado Ave., thebookman.com), whose proprietors routinely donate stock to needy children in Mexico, Belize, Cuba and the Philippines. Before your upcoming tropical vacation, seek out a school or nonprofit at your destination and allow The Bookman to stuff your bags with children's books and learning materials, free of charge. After all, it's not like the kids here are lacking for choice.

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  • Words to the wise for those who love to read, write, and talk about reading and writing

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