Wednesday, November 1, 2017

       which means it's NaNoWriMo 2017

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."                    >> Ray Bradbury

It's time to gather your ideas, sharpen pencils (and minds), sit down and begin to write.

And write.

It's November, and time to celebrate National Novel Writing Month 2017. What? You don't have plans for a novel but you've been kicking around ideas for a picture book or memoir? You're in luck - November is also National Picture Month and National Memoir Month. If your genre is poetry or essays, pick up that pen. Sit at the keyboard.

And write.

Celebrate creativity every day this month. Write. Draw. Sing. Dance. Imagine.

Creative Sprint: Six 30-day Challenges to Jumpstart Your Creativity - Noah Scalin & Mica Scalin. Use the last song you remember hearing as your theme for the day (Day 4); write your recipe for happiness (Day 7); retell your favorite book or movie from a different perspective (Day 30).

The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional - Agustin Fuentes. Humans may not be the only artists on the planet - bowerbirds (Australia & New Guinea) spend "a good deal of time investing in something we call art." Learn other fascinating flights of creativity in Fuentes' book.

Letters to a Young Writer - Colum McCann. Don't let "young" scare you off from reading McCann's brief collection of letters. Even if you can quote from memory all the writing's good to review occasionally.

Show Your Work! - Austin Kleon. Try writing blackout poetry. Open your mind to creativity. As Kleon advises, "don't turn into human spam."

Looking for more ideas? Check out Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative by Danielle Krysa; Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein; Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer; Journal Sparks by Emily Newberger; and Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke.

And make time to read November's new books.

Memoirs/Bios: The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis; Rickie Lee by Rickie Lee Jones; The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown; Prairie Fires: The Life and Times of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser; Gold Dust Woman: Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis.

Cookbooks: Tasting Hygge by Leela Cyd; Moto: The Cookbook by Homaro Cantu; Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook by Jim Lahey; Naturally Vegetarian by Valentina Solfrini; Bread is Gold by Massimo Bottura.

Fiction: Midnight Line by Lee Child; Darker by E.L. James; Hardcore 24 by Janet Evanovich; End Game by David Balducci; In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury; Artemis by Andy Weir.

Celebrate these November days...

1       Howl and Other Poems (Allen Ginsburg) published 1956
         National Authors' Day

2       Plan Your Epitaph Day

3       Cliche Day

6-10  National Young Readers' Week

8        Aid and Abet Punsters Day

10      Sesame Street premiere, 1969
          Sinking of Edmund Fitzgerald, 1975

13-17 American Education Week
13-19 National Book Awards Week

19-25 National Game and Puzzle Week

23      Fibonacci Day: 11/23 >> 1+1=2; 2+1=3

30      The Joy of Cooking (Irma Rombauer) published 1931

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Monday, October 2, 2017

            Tell Us a Little About Yourself

"October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!  >> Rainbow Rowell

Introducing ourselves can be tricky. Are we just our occupations? Or zip codes? What if I don't have entertaining stories about a pet or child? And does my home state reduce me to a mere stereotype?

In advance of a summer writing class at University of Iowa, my instructor emailed an invitation to introduce ourselves by way of a list. A list of what? She suggested a shopping list or even itemized tax deductions (interestingly, no one took her up on that). My assignment...750 words in list form to introduce myself to a dozen strangers.

Who I am could be explained by where I'm from. Originally Kansas City, Missouri, then circling around to Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and now, Iowa. Or by my chosen occupations of reporter, and later, assistant children's librarian. Or the hours, days and years of my childhood (and adulthood!) spent watching TV to the point my mother predicted I would wake up one day with square eyes. But even with moving from state to state, and despite all the time spent staring at a flickering screen, it's always been books that are the most tangible description of my life, of who I am or ever hope to be.

This is only the beginning of the long list of books that helped to shape me. What are the great books of your life? In honor of Great Books Week, Oct. 1-7, start your own list of books that matter.

1) Blueberries for Sal/Robert McCloskey. Young Sal and her baby bear counterpart each wander off from their mothers, seeking adventure. Decades have passed, but I can still hear my mother's voice reading me this tale, complete with the kuplink kuplank kuplunk of the blueberries dropped in the pail.

2) Three Billy Goats Gruff. Even as a little kid, I understood how the troll felt regarding the annoying goats...I could be territorial, too. I still adore the Itsy Bitsy Spider and cheer on her fortitude and vision.

3) Harriet the Spy/Louise Fitzhugh. Girl spy & writer...Harriet had a rich inner life, although I didn't recognize that concept at 9-years-old. I appreciated the idea that it wasn't weird to  live so much in your own head or to be preoccupied with writing.

4) Trixie Belden was a girl sleuth with an unlikely group of friends, solving mysteries and growing into adulthood in the Hudson River Valley. I often wished I could move there, too, and help figure out the Secret of the Mansion or the Mystery of the Emeralds. (authors Kathryn Kenny or Julie Campbell)

5) Waiting for GodotAs a reading assignment in high school, maybe I understood the play on some level. Maybe I really didn't. I know that Samuel Beckett's work challenged and inspired me.

6) John Steinbeck. I knew the power of language and good writing long before reading any of Steinbeck's work, yet his collection was a revelation about difficult subjects and characters that remain in readers' own lives long after the book was finished.

7) Go Ask Alice/Anonymous. Because I was in high school in the 1970s and had fairly oblivious parents.

8) Peter Benchley's Jaws. First the book and then the movie...I'm still a devoted fan of both.

9) Portnoy's Complaint/Philip Roth. It's a family debate, but I think my oldest sister, back home for a visit, left behind a copy of Roth's raw novel. I started the paperback as a sheltered Catholic high school girl and finished as a mature, worldly person. OK, not really, but I knew I had read SOMETHING.

10) My mother was a firm believer in keeping a dictionary within reach. And frequently using it. One of the best things about a smart phone is the dictionary app. Now I don't have to make a mental note about checking later for a definition or correct spelling.

11) Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings. This is possibly the first advice I ever received from a writer. I absorbed it, memorized it, and was grateful for Eudora Welty.

12) Ambulance Girl/Jane Stern. Struggling with finding her place in the world, middle-aged food & travel writer Jane Stern decided to become an EMT in her small Connecticut town. I read this memoir just as I was beginning my own journey into middle age.

13) Novelist Suzanne Shea broke from her usual genre and wrote a memoir, Shelf Life, about her experiences recuperating from cancer treatment while helping out at a friend's book store. I laughed and cried my way through the book, occasionally at the same time.

14) Amy Krouse Rosenthal. We don't usually catalog our lives, but Amy did. And when she finished Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life, she wrote another memoir as an interactive textbook. But she didn't write only for adults. Children and adults can both read and treasure I Wish You More and That's Me Loving You.

15) Tortilla Curtain/T.C. Boyle. This powerful social message is disguised as a novel. According to author Boyle, it's not enough to tell people our beliefs in political or social issues. We've got to practice what we preach, and realize that sometimes real life rises up and challenges our most ingrained beliefs. 

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New books in October to add to our shelves:

Origin by Dan Brown
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin
The Rule of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly (mystery)
Strange Weather by Joe Hill (sci fi)
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen M. Machado (short stories)
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (young adult)


Grant by Ron Chernow (biography)
Going Into Town by Roz Chast (memoir)
Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan (memoir)
The Glass Eye by Jeannie Vanasco (memoir)
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Loved by Adam Rutherford (science)

                                  October Days

1-7     Mystery Series Week
          Great Books Week

3        Debut of Captain Kangaroo, 1955

6        Anniversary of American Library Association, 1876

8-14   Teens Read Week
          Earth Science Week

16      Dictionary Day

18       Anniversary of first comic strip, 1896, New York Journal, The Yellow Kid 

22      Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

29      National Cat Day

31      National Knock Knock Joke Day 

October is National Reading Group Month, National Popcorn Month, National Stamp Collecting Month, Photographer Appreciation Month, Organize Your Medical Information Month and World Menopause Month. 

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

          Summer in the Rear View Mirror

"September days are here, with summer's best of weather and autumn's best of cheer" >>Helen Hunt Jackson, poet & activist

It wasn't the subtle change of the air getting cooler in the evening or the sudden disappearance of fireflies. It wasn't the calendar with the first day of school circled in red. As a child, the end of summer was clearly marked by my father's annual ritual of swimming out to the dock in the lake, climbing the stairs to the highest diving board, turning and waving to us as he prepared for his grand leap. 

I would stand knee deep in the water with my sisters and cousins, all of us lined up with our toes digging in the wet, spongy sand while giggling and pointing at the man poised at the end of the diving board. Our almost weekly family picnics at a Kansas City lake, Sunny Shores, would soon be lost to school, busy jobs and, eventually, snow. My father would return to being the man in the suit and hat, gone for long hours after backing down our drive each morning.

But on that one Sunday afternoon at the end of each summer, he was the silly man who would jump from the highest diving board, pretending to ride a bike, legs pumping and hands waving. We'd laugh and clap, cheering him as he swam back to shore. Then it was time to pack up the cars, exchange hugs, and return home, knowing we'd said goodbye to another summer. 

September has arrived along with chilly mornings, school buses chugging down the street and shorter days. It's an opportunity for Helen Hunt Jackson's best of cheer as we prepare for leaves to change from green to gold, go on brisker walks, and, in my case, crave carbs and casseroles.

It's also a perfect time for long evenings spent reading classics such as JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit in honor of Tolkien Week Sept. 17-23, or a banned book during Banned Books Week, Sept. 24-30.

                                      New Fiction:

The Cuban Affair - Nelson DeMille
A Column of Fire - Ken Follett
Enemy of the State - Vince Flynn
To Be Where You Are - Jan Karon
Proof of Life - J.A. Jance
Sleeping Beauties - Owen King & Stephen King
A Legacy of Spies - John le Carre
Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
Forest Dark - Nicole Krauss
Five-Carat Soul - James McBride
The Ninth Hour - Alice McDermott
Sing, Unburied, Sing - Jesmyn Ward
Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions - Amy Stewart
The Good People - Hannah Kent
The Golden Hour - Salmon Rushdie
The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs - Janet Peery
Don't Let Go - Harlan Coben

                                  New Nonfiction:

Unstoppable: My Life So Far - Maria Sharapova
Coming to My Senses - Alice Waters
It Takes Two - Jonathan & Drew Scott
Midnight Confessions - Stephen Colbert
Braving the Wilderness - Brene Brown
The Four Tendencies - Gretchen Rubin
Draft No. 4: The Writing Process - John McPhee
Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition - University of Chicago

>>And if you enjoyed being terrified by a clown named Pennywise, It by Stephen King is being re-released. 

September is Be Kind to Writers & Editors Month,
Classical Music MonthLibrary Card Sign-Up Month.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017


"August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time." <<Sylvia Plath, poet

August may be an odd uneven month. It has no major holiday or celebration, unless you count a handful of birthdays in my family. We're beginning a month of transformation. Asters, sunflowers, and zinnias burst with one last glorious display of summer color while long shadows stretch across lawns in the late afternoon, cicadas sing us to sleep, and school days are almost here. 

On August 21, those of us living in the path of the total solar eclipse will have a front row seat to this historic event. And the eclipse is a perfect way to celebrate American Adventures Month

Enjoy the 31 days of this odd uneven month. Read a different genre or author. Join a book group. Jot down book titles for future reading binges. Swap books with a friend or neighbor. Donate books to a foster family or children's organization. Watch for upcoming lectures/readings by authors at your local book store. Keep a book handy just in case you find a park bench or porch chair that's perfect for an afternoon of reading.

Need ideas for August reading? Expect to see these new books on shelves soon.

Novels: The Last Tudor - Philippa Gregory; Seeing Red - Sandra Brown; Any Dream Will Do - Debbie Macomber; Class Mom - Laurie Gelman; Mrs. Fletcher - Tom Perrotta; The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter; The Store - James Patterson; Map of the Heart - Susan Wiggs; Dragonsworn - Sherrilyn Kenyon; Exposed - Lisa Scottoline; The Other Girl - Erika Spindler; Crime Scene - Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman.

Mysteries: Y is for Yesterday - Sue Grafton; Glass Houses - Louise Penny; I Know a Secret (Rizzoli & Isles) - Tess Gerritsen; Thief's Mark - Carla Neggers; Barely Legal - Stuart Woods.

Memoir: Dying - Cory Taylor

Humor: Of Mess and Moxie - Jen Hatmaker

Children: Dog Man - Dav Pilkey; Thanks from the Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle; Percy Jackson Coloring Book - Rick Riordan; Girls Who Code - Reshma Sanjani; Writing Radar - Jack Gantos; Duck & Goose - Tad Hills.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

                  Read, White & Blue

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." >>John Adams

       Preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain Unalienable Rights, that along these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

     The Constitution of the United States of America 

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general
John F. Kennedy presidential library flag
Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America...

 First Amendment to the  Constitution

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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Fourth of July trivia:

Two presidents died on July 4, 1826; one died in Massachusetts, the second died in Virginia. Name the presidents.

One president was born on July 4. Name the president and year of birth. Tip of the hat for knowing his state of birth.

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Declare your reading independence. If your habit is reading general (lighter) fiction, try science fiction, a mystery/thriller or a classic. If you haven't read poetry since high school, browse the 811 or 821 library shelves. Rarely pick up nonfiction? Read an autobiography, cookbook or history of the United States (it's almost July Fourth!). If you need ideas, these new books will help.

Keto Restaurant Favorites - Maria Emmerich
The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook - America's Test Kitchen

The Land of Stories - Chris Colfer
The Force Oversleeps (Jedi Academy) - Jarret Krosoczlia

Everything All At Once - Bill Nye
Sting Ray Afternoons - Steve Rushin (memoir)
Associated Press Stylebook 2017

House of Spies - Daniel Silva
The Late Show - Michael Connelly
Paradise Valley - C.J. Box
The Painted Queen - Elizabeth Peters & Joan Hess
The Lying Game - Ruth Ware
Two Nights - Kathy Reichs
The Moores are Missing - James Patterson
Deadfall - Linda Fairstein
A Distant View of Everything - Alex McCall Smith

July is Get Ready for Kindergarten Month, National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, National Ice Cream Month (finally an excuse to eat ice cream!)

                                    July Days

1     -First U.S. postage stamps issued, 1847
       -Second Half of the New Year Day

3     -Earth at aphelion - farthest from the sun, 94, 510,000 miles at 4:11 edt 

4     -America the Beautiful published 1985, Katherine Lee Bates

11   -To Kill a Mockingbird published, 1960

12   -100th anniversary of the birth of Andrew Wyeth, artist. Best known for Christina's World (1948). Read Christina Baker Kline's historical fiction tale of Wyeth's work, A Piece of the World

19   -Take Your Poet to Work Day
       -Anniversary of Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, 1848

22   -National Day of the Cowboy (and cowgirls, too)

23   -Aunties' Day celebrates all aunts by relation or choice

30   -First modern paperback books introduced in Leipzig, Germany

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Answers to trivia: Thomas Jefferson died in Virginia, John Adams died in Massachusetts. Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872 in Vermont.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

                          Random Word

Lily Tomlin: "Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain."

Nonplussed - non PLUSST/noun/1582. A state of utter perplexity in which one is unable to act further. Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Writers and Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Synonyms: bewildered, perplexed, flummoxed, dazed, confounded. Roget's Super Thesaurus

>>He looked through the front windshield, then once more to make sure what he saw was really there, and sat back nonplussed. "You know," he said thoughtfully, "I don't think I've ever been this close to a live moose before."  from Winter at the Door by Sarah Graves<<

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

                   Hot Summer Reading

"Summertime, and the reading is easy...well, maybe not easy, exactly, but July and August are hardly the months to start working your way through the works of Germanic philosophers." Michael Dirda, Washington Post book critic

Just in time for summer reading lists, two new books landed on my desk.

If you're looking for book ideas from an engaging well-read St. Louis, MO librarian, buy Check These Out: One Librarian's Catalog of the 200 Coolest, Best and Most Important Books You'll Ever Read by Gina Sheridan. This is not a typical readers' advisory book, Sheridan said. There are no lists of "if you like that author, you'll like this author." Instead, her own favorite books are categorized, e.g. Ch. 8 - Reel Good Books (books made into movies) Chocolat by Joanne Harris, The Children of Men by P.D. James, The Godfather by Mario Puzo and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Or, if you want to wade into the sad pool, look at the books suggested in Tales of Woe: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein; Bee Season by Myla Goldberg; and Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.

My summer reading list, thanks to Sheridan, is filling up largely from Chapter 11 - Too Cool for School. I'll read The Awakening by Kate Chopin, a classic that has been on my to-read list for too long, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, and Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Her description of Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night sparked both interest and a question: will summer be long enough for my growing list? 

The second book filled with ideas is My Life with BOB: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues" by Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review. If her house caught on fire, forget passports or family letters, Paul would save BOB. BOB is a record of "everything I've read or didn't quite finish since the summer of 1988," Paul said. She added that BOB is better than a journal because it "contains things I wanted to remember: what I was reading when all that happened. If there's any book that tells my own story it's this one." 

I felt right at home reading Paul's explanation that "my life is engulfed in books." She writes that in her house, books are on the floor, on shelves, on tables and in tote bags. Cheers to you and your book-filled totes, Pamela Paul! I have also kept a book list for years, withholding only the occasional title that I was embarrassed to admit I'd read. In my mind, I jump ahead to a hopefully far-off day a sister, niece or cousin discovers my notebook and after skimming the list exclaims, "She read THAT?!" Usually the titles are thrillers that weren't or cheesy ghost- written Hollywood memoirs, or much too light on the plot fiction.

Let's make our own BOBs and Pamela Paul proud. This summer, read Franz Kafka's The Trial, Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Susan Faludi's Stiffed, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. 

If we're lucky, summer reading will be celebrated with a cool breeze and a chair on a porch.

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