How to Keep Occupied on a Snowy Day

(Would you like to listen rather than read? Check out my podcast episode on this same topic here.)

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards...not so much. Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

This snow is peaceful. Blizzards…not so much.
Image courtesy of murrysvillechurch.com

I wanted to keep this week’s post timely. Since storm Jonas is upon the US East coast, here are a few ideas on how to keep occupied while you’re snowed in, not just for this 2016 weekend, but also for other snow days as well.

I’ve broken the suggestions down into four categories: Netflix, Books, Art, and Being a Kid.

  1. Netflix: Here are my suggestions on fun shows to watch while sipping your warm beverage of choice.
    • If you’re in for thrills and psychological intrigue, watch Dexter & Criminal Minds.
    • The 100 provides a great sci-fi plot line and a diverse (and large!) cast of characters.
    • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Solving mysteries set in the 1920s. ‘Nuff said.
    • How Stuff Works gives a behind-the-scenes looks at, well, how stuff works. One of my favorite episodes was seeing how contacts were made.

The next few activity categories can be done with or without power.

      2. Books: Are you a bookworm? Curl up with one of these while watching the snow fall outside your window!

    • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a whimsical yet mature tale that asks: Can a snow girl come to life?
    • The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman have fantastic artwork and have (in my opinion) a grittier storyline than the show.
    • The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde is a fun, quick read that will give you tools to spice up your yawn-inducing meeting notes.
    • The Olympians comic series by George O’Connor. Greek gods in comic form. Do you need more convincing? (If so, I don’t think we can be friends…. :-P)

      3. Art: Use the time off to get your hands dirty!

    • Fingerpaint.
    • Paint with coffee or tea.
    • Draw with whatever you have. Draw your meal, the scene outside your window, or your pets. Make the mundane frame worthy!
    • Play the squiggle game. This is pretty simple: Take out a piece of paper and draw a squiggle on it (any shape, size, etc). Have the next person add to it. You can go back and forth (or pass from person to person if there is a group of 3 or more) until the squiggle looks like something recognizable, like a person, a starfish, or a dragon.

      4. Be a kid!

    • Build a fort. Get pillows and blankets, then defend your territory!
    • Make shadow puppets.
    • Make hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows for a lovely sugar coma.
    • Tell (ghost) stories.
    • Play in the snow!

What are some activities you like to do when you’re snowed in? Share in the comments!

Quotables: Philip Levine

Curious what this “Quotables” thing is all about? Check out the first post here.

Photo courtesy of www.poets.org

Photo courtesy of http://www.poets.org

“You don’t need permission to write about life on Mars. You can do whatever the hell your imagination is gifted with.” —Philip Levine

In 2012, I attended the Dodge Poetry Festival. While I saw a bunch of incredibly talented writers speak, this particular quote from Philip Levine has stayed with me to this day. Perhaps it’s because I shared this quote with my first composition class. Perhaps it is because I included this quote in a prior blog post. However, I think the main reason this quote has stayed in the forefront of my mind for the past few years is because it hits the core of a construct I have struggled with nearly all my life—the need for permission.

As kids, we all need permission to do certain things, like go to a friend’s house or eat a cookie. It wasn’t until around 2009 or 2010 (while in my MFA program), however, that I realized I was holding back when writing. There were delicate subjects I wasn’t writing about. There were certain things I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. And all this because I felt I didn’t have permission. I had a wealth of emotion, but I told myself, “Who am I to feel it?”

Many people and events have helped break down the crud to get my “dam of creativity” flowing, but permission remains a funny thing. I feel free to write, but what about to live a life with a flexible work schedule? What about feeling anger?

What I love about Levine’s quote is that it’s sort of a “catch-all” permission slip to do “whatever the hell” you want. Indeed, it’s a permission slip to do, perhaps, what you must.

And those last words. To do what “your imagination is gifted with.” Yes! The feelings, daydreams, talents—all that we feel is a waste, not practical, or what others won’t accept or may dismiss as silly—is actually a gift. Share it!

What do you feel you need permission for? What would you do if you used this quote as your permission slip? Do you have any moments that acted as a sort of “permission slip” for you to do something you wanted?

 

Better Late Than Never: 2015 Resolutions Update

I intended to have two updates posted by now, but the best laid plans and all that jazz…

OK, so let’s get this part started. In previous resolutions posts, I noticed that I tended to be down on myself when I didn’t do well on a goal (which was often!). So now, I’m taking a cue from Sunflower Paperie and posting both my successes and areas of improvement.

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1. Cook a healthy meal once per week

Successes: Shoprite from Home has helped tremendously in this area! Each week (or nearly), I sit down with the hubs, and we decide what we need for the coming days. We still buy cookies and such, but we buy a bunch more fruit and healthy snacks since we don’t have to putz around the produce aisle anymore. This has also helped us save money in the long run since we have a fairly steady supply of good food options, so we don’t eat out as often. One of my favorite meals we’ve made this year is roasted pork loin with roasted red potatoes. YUM!

 Areas of improvement: I need to plan meals better. While my snack options have improved, meals have not overall. I was using a meal planner at the beginning of the year. I think it’s time to bust it out again!
Not as healthy, but totally yummy!

Not as healthy, but totally yummy!

 

2. Meditate once per day

Successes: This has taken different shapes throughout the past eight months. I downloaded the Headspace app, which helped a lot. I also got a devotional that I like and have been (fairly) consistent with reading it. I’ve also noticed that I meditate better at night. I’m trying to meditate first thing in the morning, but perhaps my rhythm is better later in the day.

Areas of improvement: I fell out of rhythm with the app and am trying to get back on track. I need to make it a priority. Overall, this is probably the habit I need to make a priority the most. My iPhone tends to get in the way. Perhaps instead of opening up Twitter first thing in the AM, I should open up Headspace. If only there was an app for that….

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3. Work on art once per week

Successes: I have tried more types of art so far this year than any other in recent memory, so that’s a huge win! I’ve taken part in a few art challenges and have gotten to know quite a few great people through Instagram and Twitter. Given that my word for the year is “gather,” this area has been a big success in that I’ve “gathered” a lot of practical art tips, art friends, and prompts.
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Areas of improvement: I tend to work in bursts. I’m super prolific for a few days, but then I may not create anything for a few weeks. In the long run, this may just be how I work, but I do want to create the habit of a steady creative practice.

4. Read 60 books

Successes: I’m a little over halfway on my goal! So far, I’ve read 33 books and am 55% done with my goal. I’m pretty happy with where I am. I’ve read fairly broadly. Some titles that stick out to me include The Night Circus, The Fire Next Time, and Raising My Rainbow.

reading

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Areas of improvement: Goodreads says I’m three books behind, so I suppose I should catch up. I also haven’t read any books I own nor have I finished any ARCS I’ve received. I think I’ll make more of an effort to read at least one book in each of the aforementioned categories in the next 4.5 months.

5. Keep a steady writing practice

Successes: One of the bullet points I listed in this area was to celebrate the publication of my chapbook, which I did to the fullest! I did a bunch of readings all over New Jersey from April through June. The crowds were fabulous, and I saw so many familiar faces. I loved talking about my process and sharing my work with others. I also recently signed up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts, which arrive every day to my inbox. They’ve provided great inspiration, and I wrote a poem with one of the prompts that I’m pretty sure is a keeper!

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Areas of improvement: Other than celebrating my chapbook, I haven’t done much writing (other than that keeper poem). I have tons of ideas, but I’m not making time to write them down. Much like the meditation habit, I need to be more conscious of making my writing (and art) practice a regular habit. I’m just not quite sure how to do that, but I’ll brainstorm some strategies 🙂

How about you? What is one goal you are working on this year/month/week? What have been your successes and areas of improvement?

Who Writes Better?: A Battle of the Sexes

The fine folks at Grammarly (a grammar checker) were kind enough to share the following infographic with me. I wanted to share it with y’all because I think it’s an interesting debate. What defines “good” writing anyhow? Is it the characters? Plot? Description?

Checking out my Goodreads list reveals that so far this year, I’ve read six books written by women and four books written by men. The thing is, I don’t really pay attention to the gender of the person writing; I tend to focus more on the type of content or plot I’m interested in at the moment. But my statistics would say I prefer women.

Hmmm, what do you think? Are women or men better writers?

Image courtesy of grammerly.com

Image courtesy of grammerly.com

The Resolution Game: 2015 Edition

Image courtesy of becuo.com

Image courtesy of becuo.com

We’re almost two weeks into the new year. I figured it was time to not only wrap up my previous year’s resolutions but to also share my goals for 2015.

2014:
I’ll admit it: I didn’t do as well with these goals as I had hoped. It may have been due to the fact that I had so many goals. It may have just been apathy. It may have been because I planned a wedding in 2014. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I finished what I did, and I’m looking ahead…right after this recap.

1. Read 5 classic books
I read The Hobbit. The problem I found with this goal is that I read one or two more classic books in 2014 but couldn’t count them because they weren’t on my list. The particular list I made was pretty limiting, unfortunately.

2. Read 5 books I already own
Yeah, didn’t do to hot on this one either. There must be a phenomenon among readers where we need to have the shiniest books, but once we own them, they get lost in the shuffle and we go on to shinier books.

3. Read 10 books on my Goodreads “To Read” list
OK, I rocked this one and finished out the year having read 20! Really proud of this.

4. Read and review the ARCs (both digital and hard copy) that I’ve received in the past two years
Aaaand right back into resolutions I didn’t do well with. I’m almost done with one ARC, but didn’t quite finish in time for the new year. I’m hoping to keep my Netgalley review average to about 70-80 percent this year. (It’s currently hovering around 1 percent. Dismal, I know.)

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

5. Read the four Gospels
I started this one. I got up to chapter 11 in Matthew, chapter 9 in Luke and John, and didn’t start Mark. This is getting depressing….

6. Send chapbook out to at least five different contests
Yay, a pick-me-up resolution! Not only did I submit to more than five contests, my chapbook, Field Guide to Fire, was picked up for publication by Finishing Line Press. Booyah!

You can pre-order your copy here.

7. Spruce up my full-length poetry manuscript to send out to at least two fall book contests
This didn’t happen. I kept meaning to and wanted to send out to one or two November contests. I forgot how much time putting together a full-length manuscript takes.

8. Acquire a full-time teaching gig
No dice, unfortunately, though I did apply to a few positions. Also, this is largely out of my control because I can only apply, not hire myself (though that would be awesome if I could!).

9. Work on a piece of art every other week
This one went fairly well. I broadened my idea of what “art” is and took off the pressure of having to work on a piece I wanted to sell. I let myself play and got some fun doodles in the process.

10. Blog at least twice a week
*Sigh* This did not happen either…at least not consistently. Many life events derailed me. BUT I made a shiny editorial spreadsheet at the end of 2014. Hopefully it will guide me to a more consistent blogging schedule in 2015.

11. Pay off one of my two major credit cards
Ending on a high note, woot! This one’s done and done.

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2015:
Mmmmkay, I want to keep this year simple. As I worked through last year’s resolutions, many people made the good-natured comment, “I get overwhelmed just looking at your list!” I realized I did too, but tried to plow through anyway. The result was much frustration and a lack of focus.

With that in mind, I picked a word for 2015 (“gather), and I’m focusing more on creating habits in areas that are super important to me. Here is my (more manageable) list of resolutions:

1. Cook a healthy meal once a week
Toward the end of 2014, I got super sick. During that time, my husband and I ate a lot of

Picture courtesy of sexyeatz.com

Picture courtesy of sexyeatz.com

takeout food. I don’t feel great about that decision, though I realize there were circumstances in the way of cooking healthy meals. I want to be more conscious of what I consume in 2015.

I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself because I still love chocolate. I want this to be fun. The goal isn’t to lose weight; it’s to take care of my body. I plan on being around for a while! Plus, I love cooking and want to indulge in this practice more.

If you have any recipes you’d like to pass along, feel free to e-mail them to me at michelle.e.greco [at] gmail [dot] com.

2. Meditate once per day
Taking care of one’s spirit is just as important as taking care of one’s body, in my opinion (or IMHO, as the kids are saying these days). My goal here is to be mindful of God each day, whether it be through prayer, yoga, reading the Bible, talking a hike, doodling, etc. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to sit in silence to be close to God. Sometimes I like to sit still, but sometimes I’m too antsy for that. Keeping the way I meditate open will, I think, help me with succeeding with this goal.

3. Work on art once per week
I’m upping the ante a bit here. I want to work on art once per week, which hopefully won’t be too hard since I’m OK doodling once per week all year.

However, I’d love to work up to arting three times per week and focusing more on selling my art. My vision goes something like this:
Start out: Once per week (work on doodles and sketchbook ideas, visit craft fairs to get ideas, and make artist contacts)
Continue to: Twice per week (work on both sketchbook ideas and starting art I’m willing to display to build body of work)
End the year at: Three times per week (sketchbook ideas, have several finished art pieces in whatever medium or in a theme, begin forming a plan to sell more art seriously/exhibit more of my work)

Photo courtesy of clipartpanda.com

Photo courtesy of clipartpanda.com

I’ve also given myself a hashtag: #arteveryweek2015. If you want to join in with making art every week, tag your work on Instagram!

The goal with the hashtag (and this goal in general) is to have fun and, hopefully, build a bit of a web presence. I just want people to talk to me about art. I’m not fishing for compliments; I’m just looking for an online community.


4. Read 60 books
 I would love for this number to be broken down as such:
20 books on my “To Be Read” list on Goodreads
20 books I already own
20 ARCs I’ve received

Ideal? Yes. Realistic? I’m not sure. I’m going to shoot for it, but as long as I have read at least 60 books in 2015, I’ll count it as a win.

5. Keep a steady writing practice
This one has steps too. Sort of. There are many things I would like to do this year as far as writing. Here are a few items I’ll keep in mind when I think of this resolution:

  • Celebrate my chapbook!
  • Revamp my full-length collection and send it to two fall contests
  • Aim to have one new draft of a poem to read at each reading I go to (which may translate to writing a new draft per month
  • Work on a piece of fiction or nonfiction (gotta spread the wings a bit sometimes)

Your turn to share: What are your goals for the new year?

Quotables: Junot Diaz

I read a lot. Those who know me (and those who follow me on this blog) know that. This means I often come across quotes that I find intriguing or puzzling, quotes that I want to talk about. So, I will! Every so often, as the mood strikes me, I’ll feature a quote here and say what I think about it. I’d love to hear your responses. It’s what I love most of all about teaching and blogging—discussion!

Enjoy this first “Quotable” feature with a quote by Junot Diaz!

Photo courtesy of npr.com

Photo courtesy of npr.com

“Books are surviving in this intense, fragmented, hyper-accelerated present, and my sense and hope is that things will slow down again and people will want more time for a contemplative life. There is no way people can keep up this pace. No one is happy. Two or three hours to read should not be an unattainable thing, although I hope we get to that stage without needing a corporate sponsored app to hold our hand. The utopian in me has my fingers crossed that we haven’t quite figured out the digital future just yet. After all, the one thing we know about people: they always surprise.” – Junot Diaz

This particular interview from which the quote is taken first appeared in The Guardian. I saw this right before I taught my first college course in 2012 and thought it would be a great way to open the class. The first time I ever asked students to take out a piece of paper and write was to talk about this quote. So, as you can tell, these words have weight to me.

More than the memory, though, is the ideas this quote presents. Granted, I don’t agree with all of them, but that’s kind of the point isn’t it? The words that often speak to us the most make us wrestle in some way.

I cheer when Junot says that, as a whole, people should make more time for a contemplative life. I love the idea of sitting by a lake and then getting up and walking into my cabin to sit next to a wood-stove fire and writing. But I know that’s not for everyone. While this quote speaks to me, I’m aware that Diaz is leaving out a certain portion of the population that likes frenzy, that thrives on social media. Whether or not that’s healthy is a whole other blog post. But I don’t think people can “keep up this pace.” Our bodies aren’t machines. They need rest. America is a country of excess, yet we desperately lack down time. (America, the ironic)

“No one is happy” is a really broad statement, and I don’t agree with the broad stroke with which it paints humanity. Though I do hope there’s some discontent with the disconnecting tendencies of social media.

I have to say, I love that last line. People do indeed surprise, for better or worse. (Ah, the beauty of free will!). Many times, it seems as if people don’t react unless something catastrophic happens. I hope that’s not the case with making time for face-to-face interaction. I don’t think so. I sincerely hope not. Technology has huge advantages. I get to talk to people all over the world, people I would not have otherwise had access to. The struggle, I think, this quote is getting at is balance. At least that’s what I take from it. This balance probably won’t be two to three hours per day to read (at least not in my case), but I do hope it’s at least an hour a day (maybe not consecutively) to disconnect from media and reconnect with each other. </hokeyending>

Now it’s your turn! What do you think about this quote and/or my reading of it? What sticks out to you? Do you agree, disagree, or find yourself somewhere in the middle?

Librarian’s Spotlight – Brian Herzog

This installment of Librarian’s Spotlight includes a librarian whose blog I’ve been following for quite some time—Brian Herzog! Enjoy!

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Roaring Out: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background
with libraries. Also, what made you want to become a librarian?
Brian Herzog: For an introduction, my name is Brian Herzog, and besides writing the Swiss Army Librarian blog, I am the Head of Reference at the Chelmsford (MA) Public Library. Chelmsford is a medium-size library in a very supportive and progressive community, which means we get to experiment with a lot of the latest trends in the library world, and our community lets us know pretty quickly what they think.

(Blogger’s Note: This is the short version. If you’d like to read the long version of Brian’s story, click here).

RO: What is your least favorite aspect of being a librarian? What is
your favorite aspect of being a librarian?
BH: My favorite thing about being a reference librarian is that no two days at work are the same – patrons always have interesting questions, which cause me to learn about a new resource or just some aspect of the world I’d never even considered before. The variety is fun, and helping someone find what they need is rewarding. The least favorite thing about my job is having to play policeman. We have pretty lenient policies at my library, but some patrons always still push the rules as far as they can – while others ignore them outright and interfere with other patrons, staff, or library resources. I don’t enjoy confrontation, but as a department head, it’s part of the job.

4478052780_38da08febf_nRO: Librarians have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any
that you find particularly amusing?
BH: I suppose the classics are that we sit around and read all day, and that we know everything. I’m always quick to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out,” to combat the latter (and to engage people in the search process). Besides, the reference librarian’s motto covers this: we don’t need to know everything, just where to find everything. As for the former, I rarely even get a chance to read during my lunch break, let alone all day. I am sensitive to the stereotype though, so if I do find myself reading reviews in a journal while sitting at the reference desk, I always have a pen in my hand – if you’re holding a pen, it looks like you’re working, not just sitting there reading a magazine. How the community sees library staff is very important to their image of their library, so even when I am working, I want to look like I’m working (while still looking approachable). Also, I do not wear my hair in a bun.

RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
BH: This really depends on the question, but the tool I use the most is the library catalog. My library is part of a consortium, and it’s a powerful tool for finding and getting items to patrons. We also have extras, like Novelist Select, and records for our ebooks and databases, which make our catalog that much more powerful. The more useful we can make library resources, and educate patrons on how to use it well, the better.

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 NOT would recommend?
BH: I just finished Matt Ruff’s “Bad Monkeys,” which I enjoyed far more than I expected. By the end of the second paragraph I knew it was my kind of book, and I was right. Before that was “Swell,” by Corwin Ericson, which I also liked a lot. Both of these are off-beat novels, with plenty of absurd humor and social reflection. The only thing I’ve read recently about which I have anything negative to say is “The Last Kind Words Saloon,” by Larry McMurtry, but I don’t think my comments are fair. I’ve never read anything by him (although “Lonesome Dove” is coming up soon on my to-read list), and what I read was an advanced reader’s copy I picked up at PLA this Spring. I think it was a very early ARC, because some parts of it read more like a story outline than a novel – so much so that I’m curious to read the final published version, just to compare the two. The story itself was interesting, but the ARC just didn’t seem developed enough.

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?
BH: One of favorite types of questions are when the library is able to surprise people by having exactly what they need – be it a recipe the really want, town records from the 1800s, or obscure contact information that they’d been trying to find on their own for weeks and finally gave up and called us for help. It surprises me that people are surprised we’re good at our jobs, but there you go. Another favorite type of questions are the ones I barely notice, but end up having a huge impact on someone’s life. Sometimes a patron has come in the library specifically to say thanks for helping them format their resume, or send an email, or find an HR person’s contact information, because that little act on my part – which probably took just a few minutes – led to a huge and positive change in their life. Library staff do seemingly inconsequential tasks like this every day, and it’s not very often they make a point of coming back and letting us know that it made that much difference, but it feels pretty good when they do.

As for the wackiest, usually those are based on misunderstandings. One of my favorites was when a man who moved here from India called and asked if “wifey” was at the library. I thought he was looking for his wife, but it turns out he was asking if we had wi-fi, and just pronounced it differently than I do.

2943850303_8f8262742c_nRO: In your blog, Swiss Army Librarian, you explore all things bookish,
including conferences and reference questions. Where did you get the
inspiration for your unique blog name? What prompted you to start your
blog and take your love of books beyond the library’s walls?
BH: Here’s how I explain the name on my About page – I wrote it in 2008, but it’s still accurate:

Why “Swiss Army” Librarian?
There’s actually two reasons for this:
1. During my freshman year of college (1992-3), the guys on my floor got together and placed a huge order from the Smokey Mountain Knife Works catalog. I ordered a Swiss Army Knife, and I’ve carried it with me ever since. I use it all the time, too, to open boxes of tax forms, tightening loose screws (wherever I encounter them), cut away tree limbs from paths when I’m hiking, or let friends trim their split ends during long car rides. Most people who know me have become accustomed to me always having it, and claim it is a major defining feature of my personality.

2. If I had to summarize the job responsibilities of a librarian, “swiss army knife” comes pretty close. We’ve got to be ready to handle any request that comes along, from directing someone to the restroom to researching the propulsion physics behind the space shuttle. Not to mention check books in and out, shovel the walks, design websites, change light bulbs, give presentations, tactfully interact with unruly kids (and adults), balance million dollar budgets, and ensure that everyone has unmonitored access to whatever information or resources they need. Like a Swiss Army knife, librarians need to be ready with whatever tool is needed for the job at hand.

As for what got me started, all the credit goes to my friend and fellow librarian Lichen Rancourt. She and I had been friends and colleagues for awhile before this blogging fad came along, and she was an early adopter and could see my potential for the platform. She was right, and I probably would not have gotten started without her encouragement and motivation. Since then, it’s been sort of a self-fulfilling kind of thing – we do something fun or interesting at my library that I want to share, and people read and respond to it. And then, to make sure I have new and interesting things to talk about, I stay engaged in the field to learn what’s upcoming and what’s shareable, and comment on my experience with or thoughts on it. It’s hard to believe I’ve been posting almost weekly since 2006, but there you go – maybe it’s my slightly compulsive nature that keeps me going, or a fear that if I stopped blogging, I’d likewise fall behind with new developments in the field and start slipping at my job. So in a way, the blog is my own personal professional development exercise – but I am extremely happy that other people enjoy and benefit from it too.

RO: What is something librarians do that, in your opinion, should be
considered a superpower?
BH: Huh – since I work mostly in adult reference, I think entertaining a room full of kids during storytime is a superpower. With me, I think the only thing that comes close would be the reference interview. We all learned about this in library school, but it’s really true: our job is to address the patron’s need, despite the question they’re actually asking. In a lot of situations, I know the answer, or at least the right resources, before the patron finishes their question – and in certain situations, before they even ask it – and that often mystifies patrons. Or those library staff people who can find the right book with only “it has a red cover and is about a woman” to go on. Being able to give people exactly what they want is pretty awesome. It’s often taken for granted, but it’s still an amazing ability.

RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
BH: One of the worst feelings is when a patron – especially a kid – asks for a book, but it’s checked out. I always feel like we let them down, even though resource sharing is just part of the nature of libraries. Still, the ability to always have the item on the shelf would be nice. Or, to be a more traditional superpower, the ability to fly – that way, when a child came in looking for a summer reading book, I could just fly to whichever library had it and fly back, providing instant ILL service (or even home delivery). The patron benefits, and plus, I get to fly.

RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering
going into the library science field?
BH: I think might depend largely on the person, but in general I’d suggest volunteering in a library first, because our profession does have stereotypes and not all of them are accurate. Don’t become a librarian because you like to read, although that does help. And you certainly won’t get rich being a librarian, nor is it as easy as it might look (no job working with the public is as easy as it looks). You have to enjoy people, not be afraid of technology, want to be engaged with the community, and not be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. The best library staff are those that are truly motivated to help people – everything else comes with experience.

Thanks, Brian! I love that reference librarian’s motto!

If you’d like to check out Brian’s awesomely named blog, click here.

An Update, Some Great News, and a Poem for Your Monday

Hey gang,

As I shared in my resolutions update, I’ve been wondering how to restructure my blog so as to better facilitate posting more regularly. One of those ways involved making a three-sheet spreadsheet. Another includes making some tweaks to featured posts.

On this note: I’m trying a new format for Poetry Monday. Rather than posting a video of me reading the poem, I’m going to still share a poem, but in typed format, then give a few sentences as to why I like it. If this goes well, I’ll keep doing it. If not, I’ll go back to videos in a few months.

The great news: I got word on Friday that my chapbook,”Field Guide to Fire,” will be published by Finishing Line Press! No word on a publication date yet, but I’ll be sure to post when I know! Now that I’ll be on the author side of things, I’ve got a kick in the pants to support other authors and catch up on reviews I’ve been dragging on.

velociraptor_FINAL

Why raptors? Why the heck not?! Thanks to Beth Colletti for helping me with this image.

Speaking of reviews, I know I don’t usually post star ratings, but I’ve come up with a system. I’ll give books “Raptor Ratings.” The highest rating is five raptors. Why raptors? Why the heck not?!

Now for the poem. I’ve posted quite a few poems by Kim Addonizio on my blog, but given my recent publication news, she’s the first that comes to mind. I’m over the moon with this news, so I want to share a poem that makes me feel unstoppable!

“What Do Women Want?” by Kim Addonizio (from Tell Me)

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Photo courtesy of goodreads.com

Kim Addonizio - How badass is she? So badass. Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

Kim Addonizio – How badass is she? So badass.
Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


Why I like it
: My word, the sass! I love the no-holds-barred brashness of the language. “I want it to confirm/your worst fears about me.” I mean, damn! Addonizio dives head first in the face of what is expected of women and says, “Screw you!” I love those last lines. They’re so affirming, as if to say, “This is who I am, and I’ll be this ’til I die.” I read this poem and I have insta-confidence. And, of course, I just love red dresses.

Librarian’s Spotlight – Brittany Murphy

This month’s Librarian’s Spotlight features someone with a unique perspective—Brittany Murphy. She’s an archivist who loves to chat! Enjoy her enthusiasm!


2RO
: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background with libraries.
BM: To put it briefly: I’m a dog-lover, avid reader, coffee addict, city-dweller and make a mean mac ‘n cheese! I finished my MLIS in Archives Management in 2012, so I’m still pretty new to the profession. I’ve spent my last four years in Boston working the ever-popular temporary librarian job circuit. I am currently working as a contract records analyst with the City, which means that I am responsible for the management of the City’s digital records.

Brittany's Color Sorted Shelf

Brittany’s Color Sorted Shelf

RO: You are currently working as an archivist. Please talk a bit about the difference between an archivist and a librarian.
BM: Absolutely. At the heart of it, both librarians and archivists are on the same team. Archival work is just a specialty that librarians can learn about. (Kinda like that saying: Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.)

My favorite way to look at the distinction between a traditional librarian versus an archivist is this: Libraries collect and make accessible a variety of publications while archives collect and make accessible unpublished, rare or unique materials. Because of this, items found in a traditional library circulate (can be taken out of the library) while items in an archives can only be studied onsite.

It’s also good to keep in mind that there are wide variety of different kinds of librarians and they often will do lots of other jobs in addition to reference or circulation. Some are Early Childhood or Youth Librarians, there are Catalogers, some are focused on Library Instruction or IT, etc.

The same goes for archivists; some work in corporate settings such as law librarians or as part of the IT staff, or in special collections or at museums. The general duties and experience for an archivist depends on the type of institution at which he/she is working. Right now, my position is very tech-heavy; lots of digitization projects and data management databases, and meetings, meetings, meetings. But I have also worked at a museum archives where most of my time was split between organizing and preserving collections and responding to researchers.

RO: What made you want to work in this field?
BM: I sort of fell into library work. When I was in college, I took an internship in the college archives. Mostly I was doing very basic housekeeping: organizing a collection of yearbooks. But the college archivist, my internship advisor, dedicated time each week to educate me all about how archives work and why they are important. I began to realize how all of the stuff in an archives is historically significant and informed culture, society and even the institution that holds it. I loved learning about all the sorts of incredible information that was being cared for in different archives around the world, and that I could look at it myself!

Brittany's doggies

Brittany’s doggies

RO: Those that work in libraries have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any that you find particularly amusing?
BM: I know a lot of people in the library community get really aggravated by the different librarian stereotypes. In their minds, the stereotypes are detrimental to the profession and can really put us in a box.

But, I kinda love all of them! I guess that I think along the lines of “any publicity is good publicity.” But, I also love that I can put my hair in a bun, pull on my wool tights, a skirt and a white blouse and I’ve got an instant Halloween costume!

If I had to pick one, I think my favorite would be Tammy’s character from Parks and Rec. I mean, c’mon, obviously.

6RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
BM: Gosh, there are so many.

I find that they change for me from position to position. Right now, I am all about Wikipedia. Whenever I come across a tech-related problem, I do a quick Wikipedia search and BAM! I’ve got loads of information and (most importantly!) links to credible sources for more help.

I also frequent library organization web pages. The New England Archivists site (http://www.newenglandarchivists.org/) and the American Libraries site (http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/) are my favorite for catching up on the latest trends and happenings in the field. Sites from organizations also usually have sign-ups for various listservs, which are incredibly helpful when trying to tackle a common (but new-to-you) work issue. Plus, library people are crazy-nice and always happy to help.

RO: Is there any request you have gotten that you found particularly interesting/unconventional? If so, why?
BM: Most of the requests that I get now are from the legal department, so no, not really. Occasionally, I’ll receive a request from a news reporting agency for email correspondence. Typically, these are pretty neat. Sometimes I’ll Google them afterwards and see what’s happening. It’s mostly regarding any legal issues or salary information that is open to the public.

I did work as a processing assistant for a collection of German film stills once. There were all kinds of materials to research, organize and catalog; film stills, film strips, photographs and documentation from movies from the early 1900s to present day. However, the bulk of them were 1980s German pornography. I’ll bet those research requests are pretty interesting!

5RO: 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 not would recommend?
BM: This could be a long one, but here we go!

Recommendations to read:

Most recently I’ve been re-reading my favorites. Namely, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and before that Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies. I usually make time to re-read these three once a year (nerd alert!). I would recommend anything by these authors – all good stuff!

But I have also gotten into a true-crime kick as of late. I recently read “I: The Creation of a Serial Killer” by Jack Olsen which is a memoir of sorts from the perspective of the Happy Face Killer. And when I finished that one, I came across “Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter” by Melissa G. Moore, which is a memoir written from his daughter about her life, experiences and feelings about being known as the daughter of the Happy Face Killer. I can totally geek out about how fun it was to read these back-to-back, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Recommendations not to read:

I am rarely disappointed in a book, or disappointed in it enough to not recommend it. Plus, what might not totally float my boat, could be the absolute best for someone else! I think I’ll play it safe and pass on this one.

One of Brittany's Superpowers--Pasta!

One of Brittany’s Superpowers–Pasta!

RO: What is something archivists do that, in your opinion, should be considered a superpower?
BM: This is probably something that comes with time, experience, and answering a ton of researcher requests, but I have always been impressed with how an archivist can know so many intricacies about his or her collection. Obviously, archivists (and assistant or student interns) typically have a finding guide to locate things in most collections. But it is not unusual for an archivist to know a collection so thoroughly that he or she can, immediately without thinking, find the tiniest piece of information or ephemera on the spot. Like they have a photographic memory.

RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
BM: It would be pretty neat to be able to move things with my mind. I’d love to be answering an e-mail in my living room, and SWOOSH! here is the box of Thin Mints that I hid in the back of my fridge so that they would stay cool and delicious. Or BOOP! here is the crock pot that I can only fit on the very top of my kitchen cabinet and would have to climb on the counter to get down.

RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering going into the library science field?
BM: High five! Good choice, my friend!

  • If you plan to go to library school, make the most of it! Don’t focus too much on a specific field, try to take courses that sound interesting and have fun with them.
  • Be friends with your professors, because I swear, they are all awesome.
  • Intern or volunteer as much as possible. This is where you’re gonna learn the real stuff. Plus, you’ll meet loads of great people along the way.
  • Join some professional organizations, because library conferences are crazy-fun! And you’ll always be in-the-know with new trends and technology.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I e-mail former classmates and colleagues on the reg to ask about all sorts of things. It saves me time, and I get an honest, experienced answer. Plus, I get a chance to catch up with them!
  • Librarianship is not for people who want to avoid talking to other people.  I went into graduate school thinking “Cool, now I can be a totally bookish introvert and no one will care. I’m allowed to be afraid to talk to people!” This is not true. It took some work and some practice, but I have pulled the extrovert out of me, and use her every single day. From answering phone calls, holding meetings, responding to user requests—I talk a lot.

 Thanks, Brittany, for sharing your unique perspective!

Librarian’s Spotlight – Tara Anderson

Today’s Librarian’s Spotlight features a lovely lady whose blog I’ve been following for some time now. While reading her blog, I’ve found she’s had some really cool things to say about being in a PhD program, YA lit, and many other bookish topics. It’s my pleasure to present this wonderful, informative interview with librarian and blogger extraordinaire, Tara Anderson!

me circleRoaring Out: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background with libraries.
Tara Anderson: Hi! I’m Tara Anderson, and I finished my MLIS in School Library Media in 2010. I worked in a middle school library for three years before deciding to go back to school and get my PhD. I originally wanted to do my PhD in Library Science, but decided that a PhD in education would be me more marketable when looking for tenure-track faculty positions upon graduation. Fun fact: I was voted “most likely to be a librarian” in fifth grade.

RO: What made you want to become a librarian?
TA: I became a librarian with the specific intention of becoming a school librarian. I taught middle school for a few years, and did a lot of lessons in the school media center. The school librarian suggested that I might make a good school librarian with my love of books and my tech skills, so I applied to library school and took the plunge.

RO: You are currently working on your PhD in YA literature. What is your least favorite aspect of getting your PhD? What is your favorite aspect of getting your PhD?
TA: My favorite aspect of getting my PhD is having a lot of freedom in what I do with my days. I get a lot of control over my classes and the papers I write within those classes. And even though I spend a lot of time on studying and research, I can do a lot of it from local coffee shops. My least favorite part is always feeling like I should be doing more. There are always so many things on my to-do list!

RO: Librarians have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any that you find particularly amusing?
TA: I find the sexy librarian stereotype rather amusing. I’m kind of the opposite of that. I like the idea that we can be sexy and smart, but I think personal brand of sexy is a little outside of what that stereotype is portraying.

RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
TA: I was always a fan of procon.org . A lot of middle school projects have students practicing argumentative essays or exploring issues in politics or science. The site is a good starting point for these essays, clearly defining both sides of the issues. It is designed for students, and fits all of the criteria for “trustworthy resources” that we try to teach in middle school: it has citations, a clear creator, and well-organized content.

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 not would recommend?
TA: I’m currently reading Noggin by John Corey Whaley, and it is brilliant! The premise that a kid has his head cryogenically frozen when he gets really sick from cancer, and comes back to life 5 years later when they connect it to another body. The science is supposed to be a little wacky, but the story itself is an interesting exploration of second chances. As for a book I wouldn’t recommend, I just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and found it obnoxiously pretentious.

RO: Your blog, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh, is really such a wonderful place for literary types. What prompted you to start your blog and expand your love of books outside the library’s walls?
TA: My blog started as a blog in my media center, but it become very clear within a month that I wanted to say things a little too controversial for a middle school blog. I decided to move from Blogger to WordPress and pursue a personal blog.

RO: You have a very consistent posting schedule (posting once every weekday. With all that you juggle, how are you able to keep up with all of your posts and the comments they receive?
TA: I schedule everything ahead of time! The blog in general has a posting schedule that forces me to spread my content out. I do reviews on Mondays and Thursdays, quotes on Fridays, I post about graduate school on Wednesdays, and I usually do Top Ten Tuesday lists on Tuesdays. I’ll sit down while watching TV and write 4-5 posts when I’m feeling inspired. I have a calendar that I use to keep up with it all. The nice thing about the schedule is that a crazy week at school can go by and I might only miss 1 or 2 posts, rather than a whole week. If I disappeared tomorrow, the blog would run itself through mid-May!

RO: The Internet is full of wonderful resources for librarians, and you are active on many of those outlets. What do you love about connecting with other librarians/bookish types via social media and your blog?
TA: There is no possible way that I can read all of the books that I want to read or that kids want to read, but I really do feel like I know about a lot of books I haven’t read from reading reviews and musings on other blogs. Some of my fellow bloggers are still in high school, so they are also a good resource for thinking about YA books from the perspective of actual YAs. They have been a great resource, and I’m currently thinking about involving them in my dissertation in some way.

RO: We all know that kids say the darndest things. In your experience as a middle school librarian, what is the funniest interaction you’ve had with a middle-school patron?
TA: Middle school kids are nuts. In a good way, of course! I think my funniest interactions were with my TV news crew. We used to do the daily announcements on the closed-circuit television system. They used to come up with very creative ways to force me to play the news anchor for the day. I was supposed to just supervise and they knew I hated being on camera. One time they all changed into non-uniform shirts just before the news, knowing that I could not let them on the air out of uniform. It wasn’t something they could get away with all the time, but it was hilarious and they were so clever about!

RO: What is something librarians do that, in your opinion, should be considered a superpower?
TA: I’m pretty sure I can tell what’s happening on 24 computer screens at once. The kids used to joke that I can tell who is sneaking on Facebook from across the room.

RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
TA: I would want to be able to be invisible at will. I’m a curious person and I would sneak into all kinds of meetings. I think this is why I want to be a researcher—I like observing people.

RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering going into the library science field?
TA: Jobs are pretty scarce right now, but not impossible. Have a pretty good idea of what you want to do before starting library school. I was able to land a school library job because I was already in the school system and had connections. However, some of my classmates are still looking for school library jobs (3 years later) because they have no classroom experience or connections and the schools are on hiring freezes. For anyone not looking into school libraries, being able to spread your job search across the whole country, or at least a region, will also help. Many of my classmates are unemployed or underemployed because jobs in general right now can be hard to come by. I know that sounds pessimistic, but it is realistic.

 

Thanks, Tara, for your advice and insight! If you’d like to keep up with Tara’s happenings, follow her on her blog or on Twitter.

One Second Every Day – April

Here’s the fourth month of my One Second Every Day project. This month includes baking, my cousin’s sweet rollerskating moves, and lots of Cards Against Humanity.

The song in the video is Matt Nathanson‘s “Birthday Girl” (in honor of my birthday).

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

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?

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!

image (3)

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!

 

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!

Tables Turned: A Review of Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her”

(A word from our sponsor: Not sure how to avoid plagiarism? I use Grammarly because copy and pasting is for kids that eat Elmer’s glue.)

Image courtesy of Goodreads.com

Image courtesy of Goodreads.com

This book made me miss my train stop.  ‘Nuff said.  Oh, you actually want to hear what the book was about and what about it kept my attention rapt? Well, then I will continue.

I was introduced to Junot Diaz by a friend a little over two years ago. Since then, I’ve read one novel and two short story collections of his, including “This is How You Lose Her.” I’ve loved his sassy, authentic, Dominican characters.  This particular collection focuses on Yunior, a twenty-something born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York. He can’t seem to help but cheat, and I was worried that this entire collection would just be tales of his escapades. But, of course, Junot Diaz is too good of a writer to simply create one-dimensional characters.

I was delighted to find that Yunior has a rich backstory since, on the surface, he seemed like the stereotypical macho Hispanic man. This book served to remind me that everyone acts the way they do for a reason or several reasons.

This collection chronicles Yunior from the teenage years and above. There are women he’s loved and lost, some of which he actually cared about. Diaz also develops the relationship between Yunior and his brother, a macho man idol in Yunior’s eyes. The brother becomes ill with cancer, devastating our main character. It is these bumps in the road that mold and harden Yunior.

These bumps can be seen, and are fully explored, in the last short story, “A Cheater’s Guide to Love.” In this tale, Yunior’s fiance finds out he has been cheating on her during all the years they’ve been together. They split, and the journey begins. Diaz divides the story into 6 parts, each representing one year of Yunior’s life post-breakup. Karma catches up with him, which had the vengeful Latina in me cheering. And yet, by year 2 or 3, I found myself feeling sorry for him. By then, I felt like he got what he deserved and should be able to move on. But he couldn’t. Any attempts to genuinely start a better life for himself were thwarted not only by mental anguish, but by physical pain and friend problems as well.

Is there such a thing as too much pain or punishment? Diaz subtly poses this question and many more in his book. He makes the reader question “right” and “wrong” because he paints the human experience in the richness of gray and complexity.  Another aspect of his writing that I appreciate is the fact that he includes Dominican history and snippets of the Spanish language. While some may argue that this makes his work inaccessible to some, I’d argue that it lends another layer of authenticity to his stories.  Personally, while I am half Dominican, I am not familiar with that part of my heritage, and I’m thankful to Diaz for filling me in. His use of Spanish and Spanglish makes his writing feel like home to me. It is the kind of writing that makes me break the surface of reality two train stops late…and I’m ok with that.

I’d recommend this book to those who would like Latin-inspired fiction that is by turns conversational and profane. Also, if you want another good Diaz read that gives backstory on Yunior’s father, I recommend “Drown.”

Lastly, below is a speech/Q&A given by Junot Diaz. In it, he talks about “This is How You Lose Her” and Yunior’s character. I was surprised to find that there are still more layers to the character that have yet to be written about.