Books, Library, People

ALA 2015 Debrief: You have to see it to be it.

 

T-shirt design by the Harry Potter Alliance, beign sold at the conference
T-shirt design by the Harry Potter Alliance

Finally getting a chance to process all that I experienced at  the ALA conference in San Francisco. For those librarians who want to learn more about the specific sessions I went to, I have included short write-ups of those at the end of this post.
But the best part first:

It's Mo!!
It’s Mo!!

Of course, I was starstruck by all the authors signing their books in the exhibit hall (Mo Willems! Brian Selznick! Rita Garcia-Williams! Thanhha Lai! Oh my!) and was blown away by amazing speakers like Gloria Steinem and Edwidge Danticat, but the awards ceremonies I attended were truly inspirational. My heart hurt for Dan Santat accepting the Caldecott after years of hard work and self-doubt. My body was covered in head-to-toe goosebumps when Kwame Alexander recited his speech on how to win a Newbery like it was a poetry slam for his life.  I felt Jandy Nelson’s spiritual ecstasy as she described her process of writing her Printz award-winner, I’ll Give You the Sun.

Jason Reynolds at the CSK breakfast
Jason Reynolds at the CSK breakfast

But best of all was the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast. Kwame Alexander said he felt like it was church, and I think everyone in attendance would agree that they felt elevated to a higher place that morning. From Jason Reynolds’ absolutely electric opener to Christian Robinson and Patricia Hruby Powell’s joyful Josephine-inspired dance to another amazing Kwame performance to Chris Myers’ hopeful assertion that we are rewriting the world – wow!

Shivers. Tears. Joy.

Josephine would be proud, Christian and Patricia!
Josephine would be proud, Christian and Patricia!

Diversity was the overarching theme at the conference for me this year, perhaps only because of the sessions I chose to attend or the incredible news of SCOTUS’ decision kicking off the conference on a high note, but it seemed again and again that the need for diverse books was affirmed and is being heard and acted upon. Gloria Steinem said in her talk, “You have to see it to be it,” and over and over I heard that sentiment repeated in some shape or form, asserting that all readers need to see themselves in the pages of books, to know they matter, to know they have voices, to know they could become whatever they want to be. The beloved group at the CSK breakfast are toiling for it, writing windows and painting mirrors, keeping all children dreaming. The creators at the diverse comics panel are pushing for change and succeeding – Ethan Young even offered himself as an example, only allowing himself to dream of creating comics because he saw Gene Luen Yang’s success.
Change is here. Diverse books seem to be increasing and their amazing authors are being given a platform. And do you know what they say?
They thank librarians.
Because we are the ones who get the right books in the right hands at the right time.
Like I said in my last post, Jandy Nelson called us “the light keepers, the ones who hand out the light”.
This is what it’s all about, people. We are rewriting the world together. Keep on handing out the light.

The Newbery, Caldecott and Wilder acceptance speeches are available  here.

And here are my session reviews:
Robot Invasion: How Librarians in School, Public and Academic Libraries are Educating with Robots
Programs in robotics are becoming more commonplace and this wonderfully helpful panel of school, public and academic librarians helped break down the process of getting a program started in all different types of libraries. If you are interested in getting tips on how to start your own program, you might contact one of the presenters in the type of library you work and ask for tips because they were all very approachable and made robotics seem feasible, even for the least tech-savvy librarian to pull off. The panel was hosted by Sara Kepple, who has a book called Library Robotics coming out this September (get it for 20% off with the code q21520 here).

Resource Re-Defined: School Libraries as Learning Spaces
School librarians Nancy Jo Lambert and Stacy Cameron from Texas shared how they have transformed their traditional library space into a true 21st century learning commons. They discussed the importance of fighting for flexible schedules, seeing makerspaces as an idea not a place, highlighted the useful technology and configuration of the space, and went over some of the successful programming that ensured they were integrating their services into the schoolwide curriculum, including in math. They offered an excellent example of the shift from the library being a quiet study space to becoming the learning community hub, and with their tremendous ideas and energy you could see why their space is now often “two glowsticks short of a rave”.  I will write more about this in full over on the AASL Knowledge Quest blog.

GraphiCon Discussion Forum: On Diversity in Comics
This panel of exceptional comics creators who are working to turn the tides in terms of diversity in comics was outstanding. Comics are for everyone, and creators like these are ensuring a diverse audience sees themselves on the pages. Check out the link to see slides with the list of all the panelists and an array of titles featuring characters that defy stereotypes, then get them on your shelves!

Best/Worst Comics and Manga for Kids
What an excellent list of recommendations these experts put together! Check the link for the handout to get a great list of graphic novels that will disappear from your shelves as soon as you put them on. Note: They were not calling out the “worst” comics as in, “these are terribly done”; instead, they offered much-appreciated suggestions about titles which were not suitable for children due to their graphic and violent content. Beware if a 10-year-old comes in asking for a copy of The Walking Dead, for example.

Marie Lu Chats with 8 Young Adult Debuts
Marie Lu of Legend fame (and now The Young Elites) moderated a panel of eight debut authors offering a delectable smorgasbord of new diverse YA novels. Check out the link to get the list of authors, stock up on their books, and invite them to come to your library to speak. All eight women were excellent speakers who have written stories that dismantle any YA tendencies toward a cookie-cutter cast of characters.

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Library

ALA came to me this year!

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What better way to kick off the new blog kick than with posts about ALA 2015? In my town! Got my badge today and helped three lovely librarians from Nigeria take a picture in front of the Moscone Center. The fun starts tomorrow! Stay tuned.

Places, Uncategorized

Stimulated yet?

Supposedly this summer is one of the coldest on record in San Francisco for the last hundred years. I am not surprised. It is dreary and gray and so foggy I had to use my windshield wipers driving around the city yesterday. Summer is never our best season, but it has been particularly gloomy this year. I don’t do well when the weather is like this, and it’s even harder when other things aren’t going so well.

I was going to self-publish my book, Animal Mashups, on a small, handmade scale, but have found the process so incredibly frustrating, I decided instead to seek a publisher or agent representation. Which most likely means heading down a long path of rejection, which I’m also not so good at.  That said,  I’m trying extra hard to keep focused on doing things that bring hope and light into my days, keeping my senses stimulated until the blessed sunshine returns (I know much of the country can’t fathom this, as it’s hot as balls everywhere else, but the grass is always greener, right?).

This week I stopped by Casa Bonampak in the Mission to get a gift for a friend, and to brighten a blah day. Everything in here is made by hand in Mexico. There are papel picados in every color for any occasion, paper flowers, Day of the Dead ephemera, Virgen de Guadalupe onesies, Spanish greeting cards, Mexican wrestler action figures and on and on. It makes me happy just walking in. If you need to brighten up a party (or your day just because), you can buy fun decor directly from their website.

Have any of you done anything to wake up those senses this week? Do tell!

Activities, Uncategorized

Action #3: Eat Well

Once a week, I will post a suggested activity for creating wonder in your life (mostly to get myself to do it, but I hope you’ll join me). I will include three different participation levels, so lack of time or money will be no excuse. Please share your experiences here to inspire others. Go forth and create wonder!

It may not seem related to creativity and wonder, but eating well is essential to taking care of yourself. You will not be able to create wonderful things if you are not well-fed. And eating something amazing can lead to surprise and awe for your tastebuds. So try it out this week. Eat well and share your experience here.

Ample Time and Money: Eat at that restaurant you have always wanted to go to. Summer Pierre writes in her book The Artist in the Office about putting off going to a certain restaurant until the day she would get the big shot book contract of her dreams. Some friends surprised her by taking her there and she realized “I didn’t have to wait to go there – my life was special occasion enough!” I used to not put a whole lot of value on food, and fancy restaurants in particular, but my husband is a big foodie.  Back when he was just my boyfriend, I saved up and surprised him with a trip to Gary Danko, one of the best restaurants in San Francisco. It was amazing! The service was like nothing I had ever experienced before by staff so professional and smooth they made you feel like royalty no matter who you were. The food was so exquisite it was the first time I realized what an art it is to create an awe-inspiring meal. The whole experience was truly a wonder we will never forget, and have since saved up and went several more times. If you have a place you’ve been dreaming of trying, make it happen now! Life is short, and it will be well worth it.

Limited Resources: Plan a dinner party where everybody makes a different part of the meal. Use fresh, local ingredients. Browse the beautiful produce at your Farmer’s Market to see what’s in season and get ideas. Check out the Slow Food website to see why this is important. Or just trust your tastebuds. Everything tastes better when it’s fresh. And even better when shared with friends. We have been doing this in the city with a group of our friends every couple of months or so. We have a rotating list of course assignments – at each meal, different people are in charge of an appetizer, a main dish, a supporting side dish, a dessert, wine, and pre- and post- dinner drinks – so no one is saddled with cooking too much of the meal and you have a different role every time.  We keep it exciting by challenging each other to make something we’ve never attempted before (no tried and true family recipes, this is all about experimentation and creativity). We just did it last night and it was incredible! Oysters three ways (not usually a big fan, but anything drenched in butter and garlic and baked with cheese on top is a hit with me), handmade pasta with the yummiest homemade pesto and marinara sauces I have ever tasted (sounds simple, but when was the last time you ate noodles that were made just minutes before you consumed them? So good!), an excellent spinach side salad with a sweet homemade vinaigrette topped with hard-boiled egg and bacon bits (mine sans the bacon, but still delish), and a dessert of orange churros in homemade vanilla ice cream served ablaze with rum! Not to mention sangria, an assortment of Spanish wines, and champagne. Decadent! Plus, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. It is so good for the soul to get together with friends and share a special meal. It doesn’t have to be so extravagant either. Shared grilled cheese and tomato soup is just as nice. Get your friends together this week and mangia!

Busy and Broke: So often we are rushing through our days and our meals become an afterthought. Take a moment next time you are eating to slow down and savor what you are putting in your mouth. Revel in a juicy summer peach. Notice how it feels in your mouth. Imagine how it is going to nourish your body and keep you going. Give thanks for it.

(I was going to end with a video of my son eating  a peach, but found that WordPress no longer allows you to upload videos unless you pay for a video upgrade. This, along with the discovery that I have to pay for an upgrade to be ad-free, means I am just about fed up with WordPress. Any suggestions for free blog sites that allow you to be ad-free and post videos at no cost?)



Uncategorized

Can We Have It All?: Redefining Success

Our culture is obsessed with success stories. We love a good rags to riches tale, an American Idol who came from nowhere and rose to the top can move millions to cast their votes, and we teach our kids they can become whatever they want to be if they just work hard enough. The dark inverse of this “meritocratic” societal belief, as writer/philosopher Alain de Botton infers in a fascinating TED talk, is that we must think those who are at the bottom are there because they deserve to be.  When success as defined by status, fame and riches is perceived to be attainable by all, the stakes of failure become higher. We become “losers” if we try and fail. We become envious that others are able to achieve their dreams while we somehow cannot.

This puts enormous pressure on those pursuing their passions to succeed. David Sedaris says if your life is a stove with four burners for family, friends, health, and work, you have to cut off at least one of the burners in order to be successful.  Throw kids into the mix and the dreams feel even further out of reach. Ayelet Waldmen expresses this well in an essay in her book Bad Mother in which she says she feels lied to by the feminists of the ’70s who taught her she could “have it all”, a family and the career of her dreams. Madeleine L’Engle writes in A Circle of Quiet that “the various pressures of twentieth-century living have made it impossible for the young mother with pre-school children to have any solitude. During the long years before our youngest child went to school, my love for my family and my need to write were in acute conflict.”  I relate to her frustration and her quip that none of the great artists would have qualified for a mental health certificate (much less a Parent of the Year award).  This sentiment was reflected in a recent article at the99% about Chris Guillebeau from the Art of Non-Conformity. He says, “Balanced people don’t usually change the world. Something’s gotta give and it’s up to each of us to determine what that’s going to be and how we’re going to allocate our energy.”

Since my return to working everyday, these ideas have all been warring in my head with the emotions of missing my baby, and longing for more time to pursue writing and other creative ventures. Botton’s assertions that you cannot have it all, that there is no such thing as work/life balance, and that you have to accept loss in some areas were causing despair to set into this perfectionistic over-achiever’s heart. His only hope came in urging everyone to define for themselves what a successful life is. This theme also appeared in the book I just posted about by Summer Pierre, when she suggests answering “what does the good life look like for you specifically“?

It was an excellent practice for me to think through what my ideal of “success” would look like. Status, fame and riches are nowhere near the top of my definition of success. I found an alternative definition from another TED talk by John Wooden: “Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing that you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”  I love that. It’s only measured by me, not what anyone else thinks.

When I look back on my life so far, I am satisfied that I have accomplished everything of which I was capable. I could only define success in relation to what I knew at the time, so it has changed and expanded. When I was young, it was simply to make better choices than my parents – to stay sober, to not get pregnant too young, to go to college. When I went to college, I had no idea what else I wanted to achieve, so I decided to become the highest and best career I had been exposed to and emulated a beloved teacher, becoming a high school art teacher at the age of 21. Then, as I saw more of the world through travel, I realized there was so much more I might want to do, and that I wasn’t ready to teach yet. Success at various stages since then have meant pursuing a relationship with God, working on a harmonious marriage, learning to cope with anxiety, starting my own businesses, becoming financially stable, and lately, being the best mama I can be. When I look back to where I started, instead of feeling envious of where I see other people I admire, I can be proud of the choices I’ve made, and know I can go on to achieve whatever I set my mind to do.

The fact that I even have space for this desire to achieve something new is a function of my previous successes. I am building on the balance I have worked so hard to create, and I do believe I can have it all. I don’t have to turn off the burner of my health or my family to make room for creating art. I have already started ruthlessly weeding out other things that waste my precious time. In addition, it might mean turning off the TV or the Internet more often. Maybe it means a little less sleep (now that Little Man is almost a year old and sleeping well, this is an option again). I don’t have to achieve all my dreams at once, but if I can break them down into small pieces and work on them a little bit every day, I will define that as success at this stage of my life.

(On another note, I started this blog nearly two years ago, and it has been as scattered as my mind was through this time. It has been a place for me to vent, to try out various forms of writing from mommyblogging to travel journalism, and to post my art work. I have a new vision for it now. A more focused approach that I’m really excited about. Expect big changes in the blog and my website over the next few weeks. Prepare to be inspired. Nothing is going to stop me from having it all, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.)

Books, People

Summer Pierre: The Artist in the Office

“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard

I have been thinking a lot about jobs lately – why we work, how we end up doing what we do, what those choices lead to, etc.  I’ve often felt a disconnect between what I do for a living and what I wish I was doing with my time (even more so now with a baby). I’m sure everyone goes through moments like that, but I think creative types often have an idea that making Art (with a capital A) and making a living are incompatible and struggle with not feeling like a legitimate Artist if they have an unrelated day job. As I’ve recently gone back to work full-time, I have been trying to deconstruct that myth and look for ways to incorporate Art into the everyday.

Lo and behold, one of my favorite Artists, blogger/author/illustrator Summer Pierre, has written a book on the subject, and I had the opportunity to see her read from it last night at Books, Inc. It’s called The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week. I haven’t read it all yet, but just from the excerpts she used to sum it up and the first few pages I perused last night, it is exactly in line with what I’ve been pondering these days. She doesn’t encourage wild fantasies of dropping everything in your life to become who you truly think you’re meant to be. She asks you to look at the life you are in and analyze how you got here and what the job you have is doing for you. For example, though dogwalking has its frustrations, it allows me a lot of time to think, to be outdoors, to be with happy dogs instead of disgruntled co-workers, to be my own boss, and to afford to live in this amazing city where I can actually go see authors speak.  I’ve had a few “dream jobs”, but no matter how good a job is, they get old. I bet even if I was writing and illustrating full-time, I would find things to be frustrated about. In the book, Summer challenges you to shift your perspective and find ways to keep yourself living creatively throughout your days, as opposed to feeling like you can only create while you’re off the clock. Instead of feeling like you are living two lives (your work life, and your “real” life), she reminds you it is only one life, and it is yours. With examples of famous authors and artists who had day jobs alongside their illustrious careers, tips for prioritizing your life and exercises to try to get your creative juices flowing, Summer makes you feel like it’s not only possible, but a realistic and tangible goal to be an Artist (with a capital A) and keep your day job.

I am thrilled to have met her, as I’ve been following her blog for awhile. It’s such an odd thing to feel like you know someone you’ve officially never met, but she is a kindred spirit and it was nice to connect. Her husband and darling son were in the audience. They are on a small California book tour together (see if she’s coming to a town near you). She has another book coming out in November. Hooray for artist mamas making the life of their dreams. I am inspired. Congrats, Summer!

Check out her book and her blog.

And check out another job related podcast that has been fueling my thoughts about our occupational choices lately.

Books, People

Little Man Reads – 10 months

We are getting back into the swing of things after our trip. It is wonderful to be on our home turf in our beloved city, San Francisco. Sometimes it takes going away to see your life with fresh eyes and realize how good you have it. We really do live in one of the best cities on Earth and I’m glad to be back.

One of my favorite things about this city is all the opportunities to meet authors and illustrators as they share their work at bookstores. We still have a number of excellent independent bookstores in the Bay Area and they are popular stops on book tours. Just this morning we went to see Nikki McClure at the Book Passage in Corte Madera. She is one of my favorite artists. I posted about her back when she had a local show of her amazingly intricate and beautiful cut paper pieces. Her subject matter is often a celebration of nature, simple things, and motherhood – kind of a modern outdoorsy Mary Cassatt. So it’s a natural that she also does childrens books, the latest being Mama, Is It Summer Yet?


She explained to all of us at the reading that she created this book in response to her son’s question. The illustrations show the clues in nature that the seasons are changing and getting closer and closer to summer. As someone who dreads winter, and gets giddy with the spring and arrival of warmer weather, I loved it, even though my son is too young to be into it just yet. I was also inspired to get out my art supplies and get back to work on some stories. She said when she was little she played pretend that she was an artist, but thought it was similar to being a princess, a make-believe wish. Sometimes I still feel this way, so it’s always encouraging to see someone in person who is making their art in real life, not in some magical castle far, far away. She even did a demonstration of her technique and wowed the kids (and me) with her X-acto knife wielding skills.

So, that’s my mom pick for the featured childrens book on my sporadic review of what Little Man is reading lately. I posted at around 6 months and now at 10 months he is into completely different things. For one, he rarely sits still in my lap anymore unless he’s very, very tired, so sadly, our storytimes are fewer than when he was less mobile. At around 8 months his favorite was Sing-Along Song, written by JoAnn Early Macken and illustrated by San Francisco local LeUyen Pham. He enjoyed the rhythm and onomatopoeia of the text, and would reach out and touch and smile at the pictures of the little boy exuberantly going through the routine of his day. Now, he’s as busy as that little boy, zooming around the house with a very short attention span.

So, at 10 months, he likes Go, Dog. Go! the board book version. It’s short, it’s fun, it’s action-packed. He’s also into books with texture and sounds and pop-ups, basically he needs bells and whistles to keep his focus now. And he wants to destroy them. Chewing, grabbing, tearing. Books have to be tough now for him to enjoy. So, I will be putting my signed copy of Mama, Is It Summer Yet? away until he’s ready, and letting him enjoy tactile books like Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings by Matthew Van Fleet.