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.

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.

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Little Man Reads – 6 months

One of the perks of parenting, at least from the perspective of an aspiring author/illustrator, is having an excuse to read childrens books every day, multiple times a day. I can’t get enough of it, and fortunately, neither can my son. Periodically, I will post on Little Man’s favorites.

He started showing interest when he was three or four months old, for books like First Words and the ABC book from the Bright Baby First Learning Box by Roger Priddy. He liked photos of real objects or babies on bright backgrounds with big, bold words. When he became coordinated enough to reach out and grab and put everything in his mouth, his preference was soft cloth, interactive books. An old hand-me-down copy of The Busy Book was his favorite, even though we have some newer, flashier ones.

Now, at 6 months, he’s really into board books that have a good cadence or noises when I read to him. He can pick Sandra Boynton‘s Barnyard Dance out of a pile and will do so every time. The illustrations aren’t as bold and bright as he was into before, but he loves that we bounce to the rhythm and I slap my thigh and call it like a square dance. He’s also into the First Book of Sushi, Mirror Me, and Toes, Ears and Nose.

He’s not ready for longer picture books, which I can’t wait for him to get into. His attention span is too short and he still wants to grab or eat the pages, but I’ve had some luck reading him One Is a Drummer by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Grace Lin. The sing-song verse plus the gorgeous pattern-filled pages and lots of children in action keep his attention. I love how multicultural it is; it shows all kinds of kids enjoying typical kid activities like playing in sprinklers and riding a carousel, but incorporates many things from Chinese culture, like dragon boat racing, mahjong, and foods like eggs tarts and fish balls while it teaches the concept of counting to ten. My husband is Chinese so it’s great to find books that will help us teach our little guy more about his heritage.

I would love suggestions for what your 6 month to 12 month old is/was into, so we can expand our library. Happy reading!

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Studio Envy

I know I just wrote about being grateful and in the moment and enjoying just being, but this is also the time for looking forward and making resolutions for the new year and all that, right? I never make resolutions and I’m not about to start, but I do need to channel this feeling I’m having into a positive direction somehow.

I’m jealous. Of these people and their studios:

Yuyi Morales, children’s book author/illustrator

Marla Frazee, children’s book author/illustrator (whose studio is a separate little building in their backyard)

Ria Nirwana, scrapbooker/artist

I could go on and on showing you spaces of which I am jealous. Big, bright, everything in its place – they are everything my “studio” is not.

Here is mine:

It’s a cramped, uncomfortable corner in our cold, dark garage. I guess it’s better than a corner in my bedroom, which is always where I’ve worked before, but since it’s such a lousy space, I usually end up dragging projects out into the living room or our kitchen table anyway. I know I shouldn’t complain. We have shelter. We even own it. But it’s starting to feel very, very small – especially now with a baby. Our kitchen is so tiny we have to limit the number of appliances that can be on the counter at once. If we’re making baby food, there’s no room for a toaster. You have to move the trash can to open the pots and pans cabinet. With three people and a dog living in 750 square feet there’s hardly room for the baby to learn to roll over much less for space conducive to creation.

I know in my head that size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts. Sneaking peeks at someone else’s only makes you feel inadequate about your own. I know this. But I can’t help it.

So, I’m not so much making a resolution as putting my dream down in writing. Call it a goal. Or a wish. It seems like in the past whenever I’ve expressed a desire for something, whether it was to go to college or get to travel or for a good husband, I’ve put these hopes out into the universe and God/fate/my fairy godmother/whatever you want to call that higher being who knows the true calling in my heart and the best time to give it to me, delivers. In ways often surprising, unexpected and better than I ever imagine.

So here’s my dream, higher being. I would love a home with a room all my own – a studio for writing, drawing, painting or whatever I feel like doing, with big windows and natural light, a work table, lots of bookshelves, supply storage, a utility sink and a cozy chair, either in my house or close enough that I don’t have to get dressed to go to it. I don’t need it in 2010.  I would love to have it before I’m 40 (that’s 8 years away), but I know your timing will be right whatever it is.

If I resolve anything, it is to continue to do the work in my heart and hope that it leads me down the path to my dreams, to a creative life that would require steady attendance in a studio like that. I am grateful for all my current blessings, but it’s good to have something to look forward to. I’ve posted this Barbara Kingsolver quote from “Animal Dreams” before, but it bears repeating:

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.”

May you come closer to living your hopes in 2010!

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Maurice Sendak is my hero

sendak_lg

I went to see the Sendak show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum the other day. I had to whiz through because I was also there for a Litquake event, and I had Little Man with me (his first art exhibition! – this kid will be so much more cultured than I ever was). As a huge fan of Sendak’s work, (so huge I painted Little Man’s nursery with a Where the Wild Things Are mural), it was a treat to get to see so many original illustrations from his books. The show included some sketches showing his process, as well as many of the finished watercolors and drawings exactly as they ended up in the books. There was a video of Sendak, and a nook that begs you to sit and pore over his complete library. I’ll have to go back and spend more time.

The show is up until January 19, 2010,  and there are special events related to the exhibit to check out with kids older than my 3 month old.

I also want to spend more time looking at the rest of the museum, which had some really neat interactive projects like the StoryBooth.

Other cool Sendak fan sites: We Love You So, Terrible Yellow Eyes

I’m going to see the new Spike Jonze Where the Wild Things Are movie this week. Can’t wait!

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Maira Kalman

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Maira Kalman, one of my favorite author/illustrators did a talk on TED (which is an exciting new find for me – it stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design – Ideas Worth Spreading, check it out!) back in 2007 about her book The Principles of Uncertainty. It’s great to get to see her in person just as lively, disjointed, seemingly random, yet remarkably wise and witty as her work. Her words and paintings always make me feel grateful for the simple things – color, everyday objects, dogs, the peculiarities of people, life.

She ends her lecture with, “I have enough. And that is absolutely true. I happen to be alive. End of discussion.”

Also check out her latest blog for the New York Times, And the Pursuit of Happiness.