2014 Resolutions Update

Now that we’re a little more than a quarter of the way through the year, I figured it was time for an update on my 2014 resolutions. I’m kicking butt in some areas and lagging in others, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I’m not being as hard on myself as I was last year, which certainly helps. I mean, I’ve got a year…it’s natural for my focus on certain things to ebb and flow.

Anyhoo, here’s the update:

1. Read 5 classic books
Have not started this one yet. I have read Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” this year, but I didn’t put it on my classic book list. Le sigh…

2. Read 5 books I already own
Haven’t started this one either….

3. Read 10 books on my Goodreads “To Read” list
140213_001…because I’m focusing on my Goodreads list! Two down, eight more to go! (In case you are curious, my Goodreads book reading goal this year is 50 books total. As of the time of this post, I’m eight behind but am determined to catch up!)

  1. Damn You, Autocorrect! – Jillian Madison (January 2014)
  2. Cinder - Marissa Meyer (January 2014)

4. Read and review the ARCs (both digital and hard copy) that I’ve received in the past two years
Haven’t started on this one either (wow, I’m really not doing to well with my reading goals. Now I know what to focus on in the next three months).

5. Read the four Gospels
Is it awful I forgot I made this resolution? (Sorry, God!). Once again, another resolution to really focus on in the next few months.

6. Send chapbook out to at least five different contests
I’ve actually been pretty good with this one. I’ve sent my chapbook out to two contests so far. Last weekend, I went to a chapbook workshop to get feedback on my book from professionals. They gave me some really good advice. My hope is to tweak my chapbook in the next week or two and send it to a few more contests. I’ve got a list of about five or six more to send to, so that’s my creative project for the rest of the month.

7. Spruce up my full-length poetry manuscript to send out to at least two fall book contests
Even when I wrote this one down, I knew I wouldn’t get to it until the summer. By the time of my next update (late June/early July), I’m hoping to have at least started the sprucing up process.

8. Acquire a full-time teaching gig
I think this one is turning into the “publish a chapbook” goal from least year. By this I mean that I can’t possibly control whether I get a full-time teaching position or not. I can only apply and interview. I’m OK with this. I have been doing my part. I’ve applied to a few positions and have had one interview so far. I count that as a win.

My attempt at sketching a mug. I'm hoping to sketch a little bit every day.

My attempt at sketching a mug. I’m hoping to sketch a little bit every day for the rest of the year.

9. Work on a piece of art every other week
I’m also happy to say that I’ve been doing really well with this one also. Last year, I felt like I had to paint something on canvas, but I’ve broadened my idea of what “a piece of art” is. I’ve worked on videos, sketches, and poetry as well (I’ve even done some MS Paint drawing). I think broadening my definition of art has really helped me be consistent with this goal because I’m not limited to using one medium.

10. Blog at least twice a week
I’ve tried, I really have. Lately it’s been tough for me to post something that isn’t part of a series on my blog. The semester is almost at an end, so I’m going to try to get better with writing posts that are not parts of a series as well as scheduling posts. (I’m a little ahead of the game on this one. As of the time of this post, I’ve got three posts scheduled. Woot woot!)

11. Pay off one of my two major credit cards
I’ve technically accomplished this. By technically, I mean I took out a low-interest personal loan to pay off my two major credit cards. So, both of my accounts say nothing is owed, but I still owe the money. So…partial win? On the upside, I won’t owe nearly as much interest on the loan, so baying back this debt will be much easier and faster (hopefully!).

If you’d like to keep up with my goal progress apart from my quarterly blog updates, check this page out. I update it when I’m making progress with my goals (particularly the reading ones).

What resolutions are you working on? Which ones are you doing great with and which need a little more attention?

The Upside of Grading: Funny Student Typos

Sorry for the crappy quality, but I have to make sure I don't show students' names.

Sorry for the crappy quality, but I have to make sure I don’t show students’ names.

As a professor, one of my main duties is grading papers. With five classes, that averages to about 100 hundred papers, give or take, for any assignment. While I love reading student responses, grading and slogging through the slush pile is exhausting and can be tedious (and sometimes a little painful). I realized I needed to make it more fun somehow. So, I started tweeting funny typos (with the number of papers I grade, they happen often!). After tweeting them for about two months, I figured, “Why not share them with my blog audience as well?”

So sit back, relax, and laugh:

“The family charges everyone that came to see him, which leads Pelayo and his wife to become extremely wife.” (How do you become extremely wife? Is it like being Betty Crocker?)

“He looked like a normal man without any freaky fetuses, but ended up being a necrophiliac.” (I probably laughed for five minutes after reading this one. By the by, this is a response to Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples, in case anyone was curious why fetishes—umm, I mean fetuses—were brought up.)

“The two fictional short stories…are two great stories to compare life lesions.” (That’s an unpleasant visual…)

“She goes and buys some men supplies and arsenic.” (…what are men supplies?)

“She lacked quilt…[because] she will kill again.”

“Behavior also has a hug role in the case of a serial killer.” (The softer side of serial killers.)

“They’re people we call our family, friends, and collages.”

“…Garcia Marquez makes the readers question if the old man is really an angle or not.” (The real question is if the old man is really obtuse or acute.)

“I literately have given up sleep to watch Dexter.” (Giving up sleep poetically? I’ve done that.)

OK, I couldn’t just end the blog with typos. Every now and then, students are really freaking awesome and say things I just have to document. So to end the blog, here are a few amazing student quotes (that were typo free!):

“Without fiction, life would be plain and to the point. Nothing creative and magical would exist.”

“Poetry is pretty darn cool. It’s like drawing with words.”

“Just because you guys both like listening to The Smiths and eating Razzles on a Friday night does not mean you have found ‘the one.’” (This one is probably my favorite!)

Conversation with a student, in which the student is trying to understand the “Significance” section of a research proposal:
Student: Say I’m writing about the difference between peanut butter and jelly. Is the “Significance” part where I would say that peanut butter is better than jelly?
Me: Yes, it would also be where you state why knowing that peanut butter is better than jelly would be helpful for the sandwich field.

Want to keep up with the hilarity/awesomeness of my student’s typos? Follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

Artist’s Spotlight – Stephanie Levy

I have to say that I’ve loved doing this feature and all of the artists included thus far, but I must say that this particular interview is close to my heart. Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features collage artist and e-course leader extraordinaire, Stephanie Levy. I’ve followed Stephanie’s work and have been a participant in her e-courses for about two years now. I’ve greatly admired her work and her generosity, so I was overjoyed when she agreed to do this interview. Enjoy this fresh and inspiring interview with Stephanie, one of my art heroes :)
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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Stephanie Levy: I began studying Fine Arts at the university when I was 18. I’ve worked in all sorts of media, from painting and watercolor, to collage, jewelry, ceramics, photography, and sculpture.
a+a.berlin400RO: What first inspired you to art?
SL: I was one of those kids who was always drawing and painting and making books. And I guess I just never stopped!

RO
: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
SL: Now I mostly work in mixed media collage and photography. Actually, I’m pretty happy with this combination, but I would like to create books in the future that combine my collage art, photography, and writing. This is my personal dream!

RO
: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
SL: I mostly work very intuitively and I’m often inspired by specific materials or colors that catch my eye. I usually work on small series of collages at one time, maybe 3-4 collages at one time, or sometimes larger series of 6 or 9. I like to listen to music when I’m creating visual art, but when I’m writing, I need quiet and a peaceful, cozy atmosphere. To make my photographs, I love walking around Berlin and taking snapshots of the beautiful and absurd things that I notice. That is one of my favorite creative activities at the moment (maybe because it gets me away from the computer and outside ;) ).
30daysofcollage1RO: Most artists have subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
SL: For years I worked on drawings and collages of interiors. Before that I worked on chairs. I tend to enjoy drawing still lives and objects more than people or animals. That is actually the same when I’m taking photographs too.
I would like to do more abstract collage and painting work in the future :)
stephanielevy.journalRO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
SL: It depends on how you define that. I usually need a few days to a couple of weeks for a collage, but there have also been times when I’ve been frustrated with a painting and I’ve just painted it white and started over. Which obviously delays things…

RO
: You are originally from the United States, but you now reside in Germany. How has that transition informed your artwork?
SL: I’m not sure how my move to Germany has influenced my artwork because it was so long ago, already 18 years. Most likely I’m a different person in Europe than I would be had I stayed in Tennessee. But I do love Berlin, and I truly enjoy taking photographs here. The city is so fascinating and creative and vibrant and changing—I don’t think I could ever get tired of living here and documenting what I see through my photographic walks. Berlin as a place has become a central feature of my artwork and life!

RO
: Your Creative Courageous e-courses have become very popular! Please talk a bit about what inspired you to create these sessions. Also, your sessions involve so many wonderful goodies, like recipes and interviews. How do you go about preparing a session? Lastly, what is your favorite part about running these e-courses?
chickpea.spinach.soup480SL: Thank you, Michelle! I love putting together my Creative Courage e-courses, and the new year long course, Creative Courageous Year, is so much fun because it is so multidisciplinary. I myself enjoy the changing seasonal aspect of the course, and it makes me happy to create new recipes and projects for our wonderful international group.
Preparing involves a lot of brainstorming, some reading and research into beloved books and notes that I’ve gathered through the years, and then actually preparing and documenting the recipes, projects, photos, and other materials for the course. It is a lot of work, certainly not boring, and a true labor of love.My favorite part about the courses is seeing the connections made by the women around the world who are taking the course, and when I get positive feedback from someone who has enjoyed a course, it honestly makes my day!

stephanielevy_raspberry.lemon.tart

RO
: You are a woman who does it all! E-courses, artwork, and family, to name just a few. The audience, particularly the ladies, would like to know: how do you make time for everything? In other words, how do you do it all?
SL: The real truthful answer is: I don’t! I believe in our online world, sometimes other people’s lives look more fulfilled, organized, and/or “perfect” than they really are. I do a lot—but there is always more that could be done :) I have unanswered emails in my inbox, laundry that needs to be folded, drawers and closets that need to be organized, bills that need to be paid—just like everyone else. Some days I’m better at getting these everyday things done, and other days I’m terrible.
berlin.sept2.400I think we’re all just plugging along, doing the best we can, and it is important to take time for our real life contacts—as well as our online ones. It can be a lot to juggle, and it is something I struggle with. I’m also learning that you can never make everyone you know 100% happy all of the time. It is impossible. So it’s important to set your own priorities and then go with that. This year, I’m making plans to begin delegating more responsibilities—with taxes and housework for example. I tend to try and do everything myself, and there are just not enough hours during the day. So I’m trying to learn to be less of a perfectionist, to let go and to let others help me out :) It’s a process!

RO
: If you could spend an evening with any artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
SL: Hmmm, that is an interesting question. I would choose Ernest Hemingway because he was also an American who loved living in Europe—and we share the same birthday, July 21st. I know Hemingway was a big macho and womanizer, but I do love his writing and he had a lot of great artist friends. I imagine hanging out with him for an evening in 1920s Paris would be quite an adventure!berlin.sept2.400

RO
: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
SL: Yes, I have a few handmade quilts made by my Aunt Pearl in Tennessee that I love dearly, and I now happily have these in Germany with me :)

RO
: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
SL: Time travel and the ability to beam myself wherever I’d like in an instant—for sure!!
berlin.400.june2RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
SL: The main lesson that I’ve learned from life and from creating art is: just do it! Make whatever it is you want to make, do whatever you want to do now—and without hesitation. Two of my favorite quotes are:
“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake.” —Marie Beynon Ray

and

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” —Simone de BeauvoirStephanie, thank you so much for generously sharing your process and experiences with us today! If you’d like to check out Stephanie’s work, visit her website, blog, e-course website, and Berlin workshop website. If you’d like to keep up with Stephanie’s exciting happenings, sign up for her newsletter.

Librarian’s Spotlight – Alyssa Bussard

I am super excited to kick off the feature “Librarian’s Spotlight!” I love art (as showcased with the “Artist’s Spotlights”), but I also wanted to give exposure to books and libraries as well.  Thus the concept for this feature was born.

The inaugural interviewee is Alyssa Bussard. She is a New England librarian that has experience working with children. I love reading her bookish tweets. Enjoy the interview!

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Roaring Out: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background with libraries.
Alyssa Bussard: The fun (read: real) answer (thank you Twitter profile): Let me ‘splain, no there is too much. Let me sum up. Librarian, Slytherin, villain lover, cat whisperer, embracer of the macabre. I read, I blog, and honey you should see me in a crown.(That last bit being a smile and wink to Sherlock…ahem, I mean, Moriarty – I am not totally obsessed with myself that I think I deserve a crown) The professional answer: I have been a librarian on and off for 10 years, and I have experience working in every department in the library. The best thing about making my way through multiple types of libraries and jobs within the library, is that I was able to find out exactly what I want (and do not want) to do for the rest of my life! I have been working in a high school and middle school library for the past three years but I recently obtained my DREAM JOB that I have been waiting for! Say hello to the new Information Services Librarian at a very busy and amazing library in New England!

RO: What made you want to become a librarian?
image (4)AB: You know, I never really had the slightest idea that I could even be a librarian when I “grew up,” it was never a profession that seemed real to me. In terms of dream jobs, all I ever wanted to be was an English teacher. Being able to share my love of literature was something that I always wanted to do. Then, when I was a senior in college and in the education program, I realized that I really had no desire to teach. At all. Imagine my surprise! I was working part time as a librarian at the time and it was becoming more and more apparent that the job was changing and merging into something more than what it had been in the past. I took some time off and pursued my Masters in Library Science and the rest is history!

RO: What is your least favorite aspect of being a librarian? What is your favorite aspect of being a librarian?
AB: I think my least favorite thing about being a librarian has to be the stereotypes. The wide-eye stares and to the point questions like, “You need a MASTERS to be a librarian?” Or “Why would you need a degree to do this, don’t you just Google things?” This misconception that all librarians do is sit around, reading, and shushing is laughable. Librarians have to be able and willing to wear multiple hats at any given time, and we are expected to know everything, always! Which in a way, is my favorite aspect of being a librarian. I love that my job encourages constant learning and adapting to new trends, technologies, and education. It constantly keeps me on my toes, every day is different, and I am able to use and expand my thinking constantly. It also doesn’t hurt that I can rock literary tattoos, superhero shirts, and a picture of Edgar Allan Poe on my lapel with no one blinking an eye!

RO: Librarians have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any that you find particularly amusing?image (5)
AB
: I sort of touched upon this while answering the last question, but I think I went a bit on the ranty side. I find many of the stereotypes amusing. I especially love the fact that people think we spend time “shushing” all day. Let me tell you, I do not have time to “shush,” nor do I want to. I do, however, have time to very directly use my teacher voice and explain that how you are acting is inappropriate. I was working in a high school this past Halloween and my two coworkers and I dressed up like librarian stereotypes. I was the “hottie,” my coworker R was “the shusher,” and my coworker K was “the bun.” As you can see from our picture, we all have props, including cats, rulers, and Facts on File which have not been used for many, many years. It was incredibly fun to participate in since for as long as I can remember people have always pushed that stereotype on me. Especially in college. I’m sure you can imagine why.

RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
image (2)AB: My favorite resource might surprise you, I really use Goodreads so much more than I ever thought I would. I do a lot of readers’ advisory at my job and I am constantly searching for readalikes, and I can’t tell you how helpful Goodreads has been. If someone needs to know what the next book in a series is, I can easily search Goodreads. Recently, I was weeding my collection and recycling some old dusty books and there were some I was on the fence about, I simply searched Goodreads to see their overall rating and used that information to help me make my decisions! In terms of professional databases offered in the library, I love helping patrons use ancestry.com, it is incredibly fun to help them as they garner information on their family.

RO: What book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you would recommend? Conversely, what book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you would not recommend?
AB: I am currently reading an advanced copy of Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers, and I honestly cannot recommend this series enough. Assassin nuns. Enough said, am I right? It is so, SO excellent. I am also reading The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert which is said to be The Night Circus meets Water For Elephants. I am not too far in but so far it is really intriguing, so check back for my full report! I also just finished the first book in an adult fantasy series by Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora which honestly blew me away I loved it so much. I’m going to stop myself, you asked for a book – singular – and basically recommending books is my favorite thing EVER! A book that I would not recommend…if I am being honest, I try very hard to only read books that I know I will enjoy since I really have limited time to read, but I did mark my very first “did not finish” book this year, and I was very upset over having to do so. The book is Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler and the premise is just fabulous, it talks of a childhood friendship between a lonely girl and a kraken. The novel, however, was terrible. So terrible that I tried to pick it up more times than I can count over the past year and I just can’t get over how terrible the writing and concept is. I only got about halfway through and I gave up. Honestly just thinking back to it makes me a little angry!

image (6)RO: What is the best (most challenging or however else you may define “best) reference question you have ever been asked? What is the wackiest reference question you have ever been asked?
AB: My favorite questions are the ones that really make you think and research. I once had a woman ask me for birth and marriage records for her research of her family tree. The town hall in which they were housed in Pennsylvania had burnt down and it took us months to track down an archive that held the information. It was a long but rewarding process. I love when patrons come in with very little hope that we can help them and when we do, though it takes a little time, they are so overjoyed. That is one of the best things about my job.

RO: We all know that kids say the darndest things. As a Children’s Librarian, what is the funniest/silliest thing one of your littlest patrons has said?
AB: One of my favorite things about working in the Children’s Department is when the kids come running in screaming “ YAAAAAAAAAAY!!! I LOVE THE LIBRARY!!!” However, my favorite and funniest moment as a Children’s librarian happened a few years ago while I was leading a storytime in a very small library, with children ages 2-5. In Litchfield county where I was working at the time, we have a lot of hikers, many of these are “barefoot hikers” which makes them stand out a little more. At this time, there was a large group of hikers and campers who were hiking part of the same trail as the so called “Leatherman” (for more information on the Leatherman, go here) many of these people had not showered, or shaved in months, and looked like they were accustomed to mountain living. Well, as I was in the middle of reading The Stinky Cheese Man to my kids, one of the very bearded, barefoot hikers walked through the library with his huge pack on his back. He stopped and looked around at us in surprise, and we stopped and looked at him, my hand paused between turning the page. Then, he winked at us and walked out. Without skipping a beat one of my kids looked up at me, shrugged his little shoulders and said “WELL, everybody’s gotta be doin’ somethin’, Miss B!” To this day I can’t get over the 5 year old quickly responding to an event that stopped everyone else in the room.

RO: In your blog, Books Take You Places, you explore all things bookish, including give reviews. What prompted you to start your blog and take your love of books beyond the library’s walls?image (7)
AB
: I have my Bachelor’s in English, so I have always loved reading and reacting to different forms of literature. While in graduate school, blogs were really starting to become popular, and one of my classes had us discuss which blogs we used for resources and why. I honestly only found two to be much help as a reader and library professional, so I decided to start my own! I promised that I would only do it as long as it was still fun for me, and I wouldn’t conform to become more “popular.” It has really always been more about what makes me happy and not the “perks” that go along with having a blog. Another plus is that it has really helped me forward my career as I have gained more knowledge of different technologies through my blog and Twitter.

RO: What is something librarians do that, in your opinion, should be considered a superpower?
AB: Oh, so many things! We spend our days working with the public! In that sense, I think it is a superpower to always be “on” and able to deal with any type of person or situation despite how tired/busy/hungry you are. Additionally, I can’t tell you how many times people in my personal life call me with the most random questions simply because, “You’re a librarian so I figured you would know.” Well, we don’t always know everything! Given time, we do, however, have the (super)power to be able to find that information for you. I often do feel like a superhero, education does that to a person!

image (1)RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
AB: The superpower I want more than anything…is to be able to read while riding in a moving car. BAM. Or, teleportation, whatevs.

RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering going into the library science field?
AB: Ohh this one is a tough question. One thing I can say is that it is absolutely imperative to have hands on experience. I can’t tell you how many people I went to school with who had never even volunteered in a library. It is an incredibly hard field to get into, job-wise. There aren’t many jobs, and so many applicants. You need to stand out, be able to adapt, and be unique. Always keep learning, and reading. Learn that technology, and focus on changes that you know are coming, but haven’t completely hit home yet. Most importantly, be sure that it is something you really want to do, which goes back to the hands on experience. It is not an easy job, and it is incredibly easy to get burnt out if you aren’t happy being around people all day!

 

Thanks for sharing your love of books and all this literarily quirky, Alyssa! Want to say hello to Alyssa? Keep up with her by following her via her blog, Twitter, or Goodreads!

 

The Weather’s Warm. Must be Time for Pictures!

Like most, I go into hibernation mode in winter. Now that the weather has decided to be cooperative and warm, I’m so excited to be out and be able to take pictures. Yesterday, I went out to a local park and snapped away.  Here are some of the shots I took. If you’d like to see the full set, check it out on Flickr here.

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Everyone has a favorite spring activity. Mine is photography. What’s yours?

Poetry Monday – Jon Woodward

Thanks for joining me for Poetry Monday! Today’s poem is from Jon Woodward’s book “Mister Goodbye Easter Island.” The poem I am reading is called “Cello.” Enjoy!

One Second Every Day – March

Here’s the third month of my One Second Every Day project. This month includes my friend’s adorable baby playing peekaboo, one of my classes writing to a prompt, and an arm wrestling match.

The song in the video is Lindsay Katt‘s “My Happy.”

(Curious as to what this project is all about? See the first post.)