Choose to Act

For many people, May 1st is a day of prayer.  For a growing number of others, it is a day of reason.  Sometimes it seems that no two groups of people are further apart than these.  But no matter our preference for prayer or reason on May 1st, we can agree that action is needed to make our world a better place.  The Week of Action (April 24-29) is designed to bring people together to celebrate our ability to make a difference in the here and now.

I plan to engage in small acts of kindness for the next six days.  I was inspired by a book, of course.  There’s always a book in my plans somewhere.  The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz is a feel-good novel about the power of good deeds.  Maybe the idea sounds cheesy to you.  But to me, it sounds do-able.  It might not seem like you’re saving the world when you’re planting flowers in someone’s yard or leaving small gifts for your neighbors, but you are saving little tiny pieces of the world with every action.

 

Hopefully this is just the beginning of my own personal sense of action.  Let’s all choose to act.

Sharing the Love of Books

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There was a time when I had a whole roomful of books.  Shelves lined every wall, and they were packed with books.  I looked at my bookshelves, and I saw success.  It was what I thought I always wanted.  What book lover wouldn’t?

It took a while, but eventually I realized something.  Or perhaps something shifted for me.  I’m not sure.  In any case, I realized that I don’t get much from having books.  I do get lots of pleasure or happiness or fulfillment from sharing them, so I decided to share more than I kept.  I guess I’m more of a librarian at heart than I thought I was.  :)

My home is no longer a repository for books.  It’s a way station.  They may stay here for a bit, but then they are passed along to a friend or left in a Little Free Library.  Now when I look at my bookshelves (not a roomful anymore–just one bookcase in the dining room), I see possibilities.  I see connections.

Today I was an official World Book Night giver.  I pledged to give away a stack of books to light or non-readers along with thousands of others across the country who want to “spread the love of reading person to person.”  It was neat to see people’s skepticism (free? where’s the catch?) melt away as they realized that this was just a book for the love of it.

There’s nothing like an evening of giving away books to remind you that life is pretty great.  If you have the opportunity to be a World Book Night Giver next year, I highly recommend the experience.

A weekend of solitude

Call me an introvert if you must–you wouldn’t be wrong–but I have to admit that there are few things better than a weekend to myself.  It’s been a busy couple of months (as evidenced by the lack of blog posts), and I was more than happy to spend a couple of days re-charging from all the goings on of late while my husband and daughter traveled for the weekend.

I decided to avoid planning too much, to just do whatever I felt like doing at the moment.  It felt like the height of luxury.  I highly recommend the experience if you have the opportunity.

My weekend consisted of books, art, and writing.  Here are some highlights:

  • 20140406-184336.jpgLive-tweeting my reading of Dangerous by Shannon Hale with the hashtag #dwoh (or Dangerous with one hand).  It is the only novel I recall reading with a main character with a congenital limb deficiency, and I couldn’t help but be excited about it.  Shannon Hale has some interesting things to say about why she chose to write a character who is differently abled, among other things, in this essay.
  • Exploring the meditative quality of writing with Karen Hering, author of Writing to Wake the Soul, at a Sacred Salon at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The Sacred exhibit and the Salon were wonderfully inspiring, and I recommend both experiences to anyone interested in meditation or Buddhist ideas.  I’ve mentioned my interested in meditation here and here.
  • Turning up the volume on my latest musical obsession: Catbath.  What says spring more than opening the windows and playing the music a little bit louder?

How would you spend a weekend to yourself with no obligations?

Mothers, Daughters, and Stories

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This past Saturday I stood in front of a very small group to read an essay that is probably the most personal thing I’ve written outside of the pages of my journal in years.  That group will decide whether I will be offered an opportunity to read my essay in front of a much larger audience as part of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show.  I won’t hear until the end of the week whether my audition was successful.  In all honesty, I’m not sure which outcome I’m rooting for.  

Most of the writing and speaking I do these days is focused on books.  I like it that way.  It is much more comfortable to talk about books than it is to talk about myself. The essay I entered for consideration in LTYM is not at all comfortable.  There are no books.  It’s just me.  I felt a little naked up there without a stack of books to take the eyes and attention away from me.  Maybe more than a little.

My essay is about the mother-daughter relationship.  If I were to turn it into a booktalk, I would have to start with the dedication page of Dreamer, Wisher, Liar by Charise Mericle Harper:

“For my mother and my daughter–I wish we could be twelve together.  Just for a day.”

I should note that in this advance copy of the book nothing is final.  Perhaps the dedication will change before the book is published, but I hope it doesn’t.  It’s what made me pick up the book.  I can’t help but wonder what that wish would turn into for me.  

When I read What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren I felt myself getting teary eyed more than once at the relationship between Esther and her mother.  It’s a small book and perhaps a bit old fashioned, but it isn’t far off from my story.  Maybe you’ll see some of yours in it too.

If you are an 8 to 12 year old girl or just remember what it’s like to be one, you might like Dreamer, Wisher, Liar or What the Moon Said.  

Meanwhile, make a note of the date: May 8th.  Whether or not I am part of the show, Listen to Your Mother will be a good one.

Thoughts on Love

What does love feel like to you?

sonoffortuneI found this description in Son of Fortune by Victoria McKernan:

“Aiden had almost starved to death once.  Love felt exactly the same, only the complete opposite.  Starvation had scraped out the center of his bones, numbed his hands and feet and shimmered his vision.  It conjured weird, distant music in the back of his brain, and made everything he touched feel oddly unreal.  The same symptoms seized him now, only the ache in his gut was a lump of silver.  The strings that fastened his heart in his chest had come undone, so the muscle skidded around with every beat.  His lungs could never get enough air, for the air contained the breaths she had exhaled.”

I have collected more thoughts and ideas about love from books and poems in a zine that is on sale for $0.99 for Valentine’s Day week.  Love… contains quotations from Kate DiCamillo, Rainer Maria Rilke, and everyone in between.  It may make a unique gift for someone special or a little treat for yourself.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

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P.S. Son of Fortune is the sequel to The Devil’s Paintbox.  Both are excellent historical novels for teens.  Recommended for readers who like adventure with just a touch of romance.

6 Things I Wish I’d Known

Last year Minneapolis spoken word artist Guante posted his list of Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Getting Started as an Artist, and Minnesota Public Radio has taken the theme to several other career choices, like teachers, doctors, and journalism.  Now that I am over ten years into my career, I have a few ideas of things that I wish I’d known when I was a new librarian.  Here goes:

  1. Most people have no idea what librarians do or why they matter.  You will just have to get used to people saying different versions of “You need a Master’s degree to check out books?!”  Be ready to advocate for yourself politely.
  2. The library field draws book people, but it is a people job.  Learn to connect.
  3. It’s all about change.  The Internet didn’t kill libraries.  Ebooks aren’t going to do it either.  They just change things.  Be an early adopter when you can.
  4. Education matters, but experience is crucial.  Most people pursuing library science degrees have years of experience working as paraprofessionals in libraries behind them already.  Volunteer, if you have to, but get experience in a library before you graduate.
  5. The field is hugely varied.  People bring different backgrounds, skills, and interests to librarianship.  Get to know your colleagues, and learn from them when you can.
  6. Accept help when you need it, even if it’s from a vendor.  This is perhaps a somewhat self-serving comment since I currently work as a staff librarian at a library vendor, but when I was a public librarian I really didn’t know what kind of tools and support were available from book companies.  These services are often free, so take advantage of them.   We want to help. :)

Are you a librarian?  What would you add?

January Book Pick: Handling the Truth

handlingthetruth“Memoir is a strut and a confession, a whisper in the ear, a scream.”

–Beth Kephart in Handling the Truth

I sometimes think I have a story to tell about my life, but then I’m not entirely sure I’m ready strut, scream, or, worse, confess.  If there is a book that can turn off my doubts about my story, it is Handling the Truth by Beth Kephart.  The book ranges from practical to motivational, and I finished reading it feeling like I’d received a crash course in the art of memoir.  Not to mention I had a huge reading list of all the memoirs referenced and quoted in the book.

There was so much in this book that went beyond writing, beyond memoir.  It was a book about seeking truth and love, about telling stories in a way that connects readers and writers.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in telling true stories.  Perhaps you will find your strut in its pages.

Find this book at your local library or indie bookstore.

An Evening at Torch

Live music doesn’t have to be about huge arenas and screaming fans or late nights at crowded rock clubs.  Sometimes it’s about connection.   I recently had the pleasure of attending an event at Torch, a new performing arts space in Minneapolis that puts the audience-artist connection at the forefront of the experience.  It’s a great space with a strong vision, and I am excited to see what’s next there.

I caught the final date in the Raw Deal concert series that ran on Sunday evenings in December and January.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect at Torch, but I couldn’t help but smile when I walked in to find friendly faces and the smell of brownies baking.  “Homespun” is the way it is described on the web site, and I think that describes it well.  Torch has a homespun feel to it in the most complimentary way possible.  This is a venue where you introduce yourself to your fellow audience members and you talk about what brought you there.  It’s a venue where you can, not only meet the artist, but also have a conversation with them.  When the show started, we all paid attention.

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Hannah von der Hoff performed first.  Her bluesy style radiated warmth and fit perfectly with the setting.  There was no set list.  The audience drew the song names from a couple of hats, which kept things conversational and open.

Matt Latterell closed the night with songs that told stories.  His album Life on Land has been in regular rotation on the playlist at our house for a while, and my husband and I were happy to have the opportunity to see him perform in a venue like  this one.

The Freezepocalypse in picture books

I’m typing next to an open window, and there has been a steady stream of pedestrian traffic outside.  It’s up to 28 degrees today, and it’s a comparative heat wave.  Last weekend, we were preparing for a Freezepocalypse of ridiculously low temperatures (even for Minnesota), and my family spend two and a half days stuck inside our small apartment.  Here are three picture books that, together, represent our Freezepocalypse:

imbored2  babypenguinsev soupday

 

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black is for my six-year-old, for obvious reasons.  I felt more like the mama penguin who needed a little time to herself in Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion.  Side note to parents: Do you need a time out yourself? Read your kids this book to introduce the idea.  You’re welcome.

Fortunately, my wonderful partner decided it was a Soup Day as in Soup Day by Melissa Iwai, so we were well fed.  Soup makes everything better.

Books and soup.  That’s how we got through our Freezepocalypse.   How about you?

More 2013 Favorites

Back in June, I posted a list of my favorite books of the year at that point.  Here are the books that made the list for the second half of the year.

  • Journey_by_Aaron_Becker1Wild by Emily Hughes – You can’t tame everything.  You might remember this book from this post. (Ages 4-8)
  • Journey by Aaron Becker – Beautiful wordless book.  The trailer gives a peek into the magic. (Ages 4-8)
  • Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden – A poem turned into a picture book that looks at changes with a gentle touch. (Ages 4-8)
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – Fun and different. (Ages 4-8)
  • Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo – Great mix of humor and heart.  This was my Book Pick in September. (Ages 8-12)
  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan – I love pretty much anything David Levithan does in books, and this one was particularly good.  I had more to say about it in this post. (Teen)
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – If I could only choose one book by this author, I’d choose Eleanor & Park for sure, but Fangirl is a close second.  (Teen/Adult)
  • A look inside What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman.

    A look inside What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman.

    What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings by Joyce Sidman – The subtitle of this book of poems threw me off a bit, but once I gave it a chance, I found a lovely tribute to the power of words.  (Teen/Adult)

  • Handling the Truth by Beth Kephart – I’m still dreaming of writing, and this book fueled the dream. (Adult)

The best book I read in 2013 was  an old favorite that I reread in anticipation of the movie version, which I still haven’t seen.  The Book Thief was just as good as I remembered it, and I highly recommend it if you have yet to read it.

What were your favorite reads of 2013?