Life in General

The More Things Change…

…the more they stay the same.

It has been nearly a year since I last posted here, and, as it was originally penned in French, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Because, if we rewound exactly a year from today, you might not notice much difference at first glance:

I was and am still trying to hit a stride with my writing, consuming so much of other people’s work and writing my professional reviews but not truly dedicating myself to my own projects. At least, not in a way that feels meaningful; let this blog’s recent history be an example of that.
I was and am still figuring out a workout routine that hit the balance between happy yoga and healthy running and strength training; a happy medium between working to get ahead and stopping to smell the roses (and snap a few Instagram worthy photos of them, too).
I was then and am still a Chicago-dwelling, happily married dog mom, very much in love with my two favorite guys and my city.
I was and am still a nervous wreck about the state of our country, doing everything in my power -from marching on the streets to having conversations with loved ones to cold calling registered voters and elected officials alike- to make a difference.

But if you linger on today and focus on the scene before you, you’ll begin to see the subtle and not-so-subtle differences:

Back then I was in an inarguably urban condo overlooking the lake and presently I am in a cottage-like, nearly-suburban home with a garage and a yard and a twenty minute commute to work (down from nearly an hour).
A year ago my hair was a newly-transformed shade of rose-gold pink and today it is very close to my natural, dirty blonde hue (with plans to go even blonder soon).
I often called my thumbs black, almost with pride, as I couldn’t even keep a succulent gifted to me alive (I over-watered it). But another gifted plant lives in my house these days: a fiddle leaf fig, the mother of all Millennial trophies, and a challenge for even the most seasoned gardener. And yet, she thrives, and encouraged me to pick up another little green friend, a corn plant, for my bedroom (and I have my eyes on a ZZ, spider, and snake plant, too!).
While I have always been a traveller, I had not yet been to the European cities of my dreams: London, Brussels, Paris, and Amsterdam (in order of my desire to visit them). Nor had they permanently shifted in what they would mean to me and how much I would want to return to them: Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Brussels, in that order. I am now what I refer to as ‘a Paris girl’ (more on that soon).

And here, this place, it’s changed a bit, too.

You might have noticed the new layout if you visit from time to time. But I am always playing with that; tinkering to make things more aesthetically pleasing, more me: learning as I grow in content and coding.

Most notably, however, is that now I have a domain of my very own.

I’d been toying with the idea of making the jump for some time, but I am a sucker for sales and so… Happy Valentine’s Day to me. Hopefully this place where I am right now becomes and remains a place that I love (and that perhaps you do, too).

Writing

Convos With Writers

When talking to anyone, especially kids, about writing, I tell them you only need to do two things to be a writer: read and write.

That’s it.

You don’t have to read any one specific thing. You don’t have to write a certain amount or with any specific frequency. Reading anything will give you experience in how your own writing should (or shouldn’t!) sound, and writing will keep you in practice of putting words down and develop your own personal style.

Just read. Just write.

When a friend and patron of a library job long, long ago invited me to not only participate in her online series #ConvosWithWriters, but be her first live interviewee at Lakes Community High School’s Writers Week, I jumped at the opportunity.

What a thrill! Wha an honor! What on earth could I tell these kids about writing when I, myself, wasn’t really a writer?

Except that I am a writer, I reminded myself. I read a ton and I write a little. And sure, my writing isn’t always toward my pie in the sky goal of becoming a published novelist, but it’s writing nonetheless. It’s out there on social media, sometimes here at this blog, often in my offline journal, and published worldwide when on assignment for my School Library Journal reviews.

It’s writing. And that’s all that matters.

It’s enough for me to consider myself one, and it’s enough for a local columnist with a feature literally about writers to count me as enough of a writer to chat about it.

So here’s your reminder (and mine, again): just read, just write, and you are a writer.

Now, get writing.

Reading

I Came. I Read. I Conquered.

As you may have known, I was on a state-wide book award committee this past year: the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award. While I wish this was the sole explanation I had for my lack of writing (both here and in general), it isn’t. But I digress.

I knew serving on a book award committee would be challenging, but I am always up for a challenge. Over the span of 7 months, I read 60 books for the award alone and did so in a careful, measured fashion so I could take notes on the aspects of each novel that worked or didn’t work within the periphery of the award. It was tough. Especially when the title was one I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Sometimes reading something outside your comfort zone surprises you and gives you a new perspective on a topic or genre you wouldn’t have otherwise known. And sometimes it’s just uncomfortable.

But through the pleasurable and uncomfortable reading and one long meeting in Champaign, Illinois (and a nostalgic walk around my old campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), myself and a few dozen other school and public librarians, teachers, and retirees who previously worked with children, a new list of 20 titles has been picked for students to vote on next March.

Not every book I wanted on the list made it, and I didn’t want every book on the list to make it, but I am very proud and honored to have been a part of this process and to put good books into the hands of readers all across the state of Illinois (and beyond!).

And, though it was tough, I can’t wait to do it again and again.

And then, since after three years my time on the committee will be up, maybe I’ll find another committee to sit on or award to read for.

But only time will tell.

Reading

An Assignment

Most all writers I know have, or have had, a day job. I pursued a day job not in writing, but in something very related to the act of writing: librarianship. And while no, being a librarian isn’t all reading and books (we do programs and digital research, too!), that does make up a sizable chunk of what I do.

Being the librarian-writer that I am, I like to think I bring a certain level of expertise to readers advisory (that is, recommending books to readers, building collections and book lists and displays, etc.) in terms of not only age and reading level appropriateness, but honest-to-goodness literary quality. And so that is the track I’ve set my librarian career on: book quality.

One of the ways I do this is by reviewing for the publication School Library Journal– I let other librarians know what a book is about and whether I find it worthy of purchase and, if so, under what circumstances. It’s great and I love it.

And above reviewing and recommending books for purchase? Is lifting up those most excellent titles with awards. Ah yes, the library and publishing world is filled with book awards, some more accredited or prestigious than others (read: National Book Awards and American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards [with such honors as the Newbery, Caldecott, etc.]). Many states have their versions (often voted on by library patrons and students) of awards for different age groups, and Illinois is no different.

I’m most interested in the middle school and teenage category of patron and literature, so a few years ago I threw my hat in the ring to serve on the evaluation committee for Illinois’ Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Award specifically geared toward grades 4-8.

And just last week, I got the call. Or, in this case, the e mail.

That’s right! My application made it to the top of the stack and I was offer a three-year position on the evaluation committee. I am not only honored to have been offered a position on the committee -as the 20 finalists they committee decides will be used in many schools across the state for reading assignments and libraries for book recommendations- but I am so excited to gain this experience and see where this opportunity will take me next.

I’m sure I’ll write more (or as much as I am allowed!) on this as the process unravels, but for now all I can say is… happy reading!

Life in General

A Day Without A Woman

RiseOfWomen.png

Today is International Women’s Day, an ideal day to hold the Women’s Strike, an ongoing participatory day spurred by the Women’s March on Washington. To participate in A Day Without A Woman, we are encouraged to:
Wear red in solidarity
Not engage in paid or unpaid work
Not spend money, with the exception of small/women-or-minority-owned businesses

I was scheduled to work the day of the Women’s March on Washington. If I wasn’t, I would have participated in Chicago’s sister march with 250,000+ of my allies. However, I made a decision that holds true today: if I am scheduled to work and the situation is not absolutely dire in terms of a march/strike/protest, I will go to work.

My profession as a public librarian is in and of itself a public service and the position I hold in that profession, working with children in a diverse community, make me unable to believe it is a better use of my time and resources to March or Strike or Protest than it would be to Serve. I did not March (but I stood in solidarity) and I will not Strike (though I stand in solidarity).

Not only will I not strike from my paid position out of respect to the position itself, but because I also stand in solidarity with my other part-time, hourly paid employees who do not earn sick time or PTO to use or who simply cannot afford to take the day off work. I will be frank: were I not married to my husband, whose salary is good, I would not be able to afford to take the day off from my job, either.

What I will do:
I will wear red in solidarity. I’ll even paint my nails and lips red.
I will refrain from spending money. I am committed to drive directly to and from work, not passing go or collecting $200. My coffee thermos is ready and waiting, my gas tank is full, my lunch is made and packed, and my groceries for dinner have been purchased. Granted, I will do some browsing on Etsy of women-owned boutiques (I am really feeling this African print clutch. And this antique skeleton key necklace. And I received this dog cutout book for Christmas and I know all you bookish types need an initial cutout book in your life.)
I will stay off social media. Seeing as I work a full shift and Wednesdays are crazy busy for me, it will be easy to avoid the internet at large on this day. The exceptions (as usual) are this blog post (pre-scheduled) and Instagram (because I rarely find it as stress-inducing as say… Twitter and Facebook).
I will cook and write, which are forms of unpaid work (at this point in my life), but are also enjoyable pursuits to me that I see no reason to limit myself from.

I hope that, had you head of A Day Without a Woman before just now, you chose to participate in whichever way you were willing and able to. That, after hearing about it now, you alter your day in any way you are willing and able to fit the movement. I additionally hope that you will join me in not casting judgement on others based on their level of participation. And I hope that, together, in glorious unity, we can continue to press forward in the name of progress, equality, and justice for all.