Lost in nonfiction…and loving it

There are some who never venture past the alphabetized-by-author’s-last-name fiction section of our library. These people never ascend the stairs, say hello to the research librarian, or wander the stacks with their lengthy strings of numbers.

181.45 .F423sha c.2
The Shambhala guide to yoga

CRAFTS 746.432 .D794 eth 2007
Ethnic knitting discovery : the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and the Andes

741 Knight
Animal drawing : anatomy and action for artists

306.81 .G464 com 2010
Committed : a skeptic makes peace with marriage

641.65655 .M182 this
This can’t be tofu! : 75 recipes to cook something you never thought you would–and love every bite

I try not to go into the nonfiction section with any specific agenda but on my most recent nonfiction adventure, I was looking for the tofu cookbook above. (Is there any way to get my children to eat tofu? Answer from cookbook: hide it in a smoothie.) Once that book was pulled off the shelf and safely in my pile, I start to explore.

I like to run my finger along a row of books with eyes closed then stop, and take a look at what I’ve found. Usually one book leads my brain to make another connection, another subject that once flitted across my brain as I drove children from school to activity to home. Sometimes the topic took root while I listened to a story on NPR, or it was mentioned by a kiddo in a carpool, or suggested by an image I’ve seen. Sometimes it plants a seed for a story I’d like to tell. Sometimes it’s just a random web of one thing leading to another until I find myself sitting on the floor, back against the shelves, reading a chapter of some topic I never knew existed. The best part about being lost in nonfiction is that curiosity and lifetime learning is part of my job as a writer. 

Shhh…I’m working.

National Day on Writing A Success for Maine Students

Friday, October 19th marked the NCTE National Day on Writing. Technically, Senate resolution 565 commemorates October 20th, but for many of us, every day is writing day and that is our wish for the rest of the world as long as they don’t try to publish and create more competition for me.

Yesterday I caught up with a wonderful librarian friend of mine, Heather Perkinson, who was all aglow with the results of her Day on Writing events. “[The event] showed students that writing is not just something that you do alone. You can do it together and it’s fun. They liked being able to play,” Heather said. Her enthusiasm was contagious and so I am excited to pass on her success for both educators and writers. Perhaps through her wonderful activities, your students can find fun in writing. If you are a writer, maybe it will remind you to take time to play.

Heather’s excitement came from her creation of the GHS Inkspot, a series of live (as opposed to web-based) stations in her HS library where, over the course of the day, many of her school’s ELA classes found fun in writing. The Inkspot link (above) gives plenty of resources to go with the stations, but the stations themselves need some introduction too.

List making: Heather cut notebook paper in half vertically and let the students make lists. The could follow these list prompts or makes their own.

(I’ll add here this site of found grocery lists that certainly contain story starters for a variety of characters. *Not always appropriate for children.*)

Journaling: With 12×12 scrapbook paper, Heather made two front and back covers for journals and gave them out to students who sat right down and started to fill them with writing. See example pictured on GHS Inkspot.

Neologisms: If you’ve ever coined a word, you know what a neologism is. Students taking part in Inkspot created new definitions for some of Lizzie Skurnick’s words and coined some words of their own.

Poster stickies: Oversized stickies on the library wall became the gallery of favorite student quotes, words (wasabi is my personal favorite), authors, and song lyrics.

Flash Fiction: Character, setting, conflict, human experience. Nuff said. (See Heather’s links at GHS Inkspot.

Exquisite Corpse: What Day on Writing would be complete without an Exquisite Corpse station. This parlor game allows collaborators to add to a drawing or story, or reinterpret a series of sentences. Sometimes the writer knows what comes before and sometimes they don’t. At the library, Heather used a chartpad with a cloth covering that moved down the board as others participated.

In addition to these activity stations, the school literary and art magazine staffed a table where they answered questions about submission guidelines, had examples of past issues, and brought their submission box. If a student didn’t have submission ready to go, they could fill out a submission pledge!

As a new hire at this school, many of the English teachers didn’t know what to expect from Heather’s Day on Writing.  “I should have let people know farther ahead. It’s so hard for the teachers to change their schedule,” she said. Still, GHS Inkspot showed that her events are worth planning around. She is looking forward to serving more of the students with future events.

Five on Friday

1. Don't forget that the NYC SCBWI conference registration starts on Monday, 10 am PDT. Hopefully you got your postcard in the mail. If not, click here for more information.

2. My husband came home on surprise visit. He's away with the Navy and hasn't been home for a month. The whole family is very happy and I can't believe how relaxing it is to just write, plan my next lesson, do SCBWI stuff, and exercise without having to shuttle children, take care of the dog, make dinner, do laundry, clean the car, and vacuum the stairs. (The last two I just don't do when he's not here.) We'll see him again next weekend at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference in Dulles, VA.

3. My WIP is moving forward fabulously. A huge thank you and shout out to the entire community for their cheering and support as I tackle daily word count. Another huge thank you to my fellow Cheese Sandwiches who check in with me during the week to make sure we are all on track. It takes a village to write a book.

4. Speaking of a village. Another shout out goes to Lynn Conway, a librarian at Georgetown University who helped me this week by answering silly questions about Riggs Library such as: Do the stairs in the library cling or clang when you ascend? What stained glass is in the round windows? Are the book cases painted gold or do they just shine in the pictures because of the flash? Once again I'm reminded of the awesome and selfless nature of the librarian.

5. Casey Girard, NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator has been working hard to put together an Illustrator Day Event for the region. Here's what we know. It will be on November 19th from 1 pm – 6 pm at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH. (Yes. In a month.) It will include an award-winning book designer, Carol Goldenberg, and a reprise of the "Dueling Digital Painters" Workshop with Carlyn Beccia, and Jennifer Morris from the spring NESCBWI conference. Keynote speaker to be announced! Watch this space and www.nescbwi.org for more information.

ALA National Library Week

This is ALA National Library Week and today is National Library Worker Appreciation Day. I owe a special debt of gratitude to the Curtis Memorial Library’s children’s librarians. It all started about 14 years ago when we moved to Brunswick, Maine. Then, the library was small and cozy and the children’s section was headed by the spirited Phyllis Fuchs. Phyllis was pleased as punch when I said that I’d like to volunteer. She let me join her as she read picture books to toddlers both in the library and those watching community cable at home. When I had my own children, Phyllis was there every week at Finger Fun for Babies. Thank goodness for those weekly sessions where I could speak with other adults and beat the isolation of early mothering.

The newly renovated Curtis Memorial Library opened and Phyllis decided to retire, but a group of amazing librarians took her place.  Pam, Robin, and Melissa in particular have been especially helpful on my journey to become an author/illustrator. They are quick to jump on-line on my behalf when I ask, "Have you got a list of books that use the This is the House that Jack Built, construction," or "I’m looking for ballet books for boys," or "What do you love that’s new?," or "Which of these books do 5th grade boys really love?" The always know where to find the answers.

Moreover, they know me. They know my kids. They often know about my work in progress, or research and will save things on my behalf. They know how long this journey has been, how hard I work, (or don’t- I loved the day that I walked in to get a book and Melissa, after reading my Facebook update said, "Aren’t you supposed to be working on your illustrations?") Some people long for a place where everybody knows your name. For me, that place is my community library.

I hope that the next time you elect your community officials you’ll communicate to them how important the library is for your community. Perhaps when you hear that your taxes are going up, you’ll consider the library collection, physical requirements, and library workers who do so much to help so many by providing access to information through books, computers, and other media. Perhaps you’ll think about the women I listed above, about how as women, last year they earned 77% of men’s median earnings, the same as the wage gap in 2002. Perhaps you’ll agree that when we all chip in, our communities prosper economically, and educationally.

To Melissa, and Pam, and Robin, I hope you enjoy the flowers I sent. It was a small symbol of my endless appreciation for all you do.

For more information on how you can help save libraries go here.
For more about ALA National Libary Week go here.
For more about National Library Worker Appreciation Week and info on pay equity go here.
For links to other authors and their essays and lists about loving libraries go here.