Project 52 – Bonus Post – Books!

Last night, I accidentally skipped this picture of my sisters and me with our library books:

1969_08 Reading

I like this picture, because I was thinking about books I read when I lived in Kent. There were two chapter books I got out of the “big section” of the library — one was Winnie-the-Pooh (which I remember my Mom reading to me), and one was this one — The Poppy Seed Cakes. (Ha! I just looked it up, and it is still in print! I am going to have to get myself a copy!)

I am quite sure that my Grandma Bates also had a copy of this book and that it was one my Mom had read and loved as a child. Anyway, when I read it at home, it was from the library.

The other books I remember reading while we lived in Kent were mostly Beginner Books. I remember that my Mom bought me a copy of Are You My Mother?, by P. D. Eastman. And it may have been new — but I also remember her reading to me Fox in Socks, by Dr. Seuss, and my Mom making much of the question at the end, “And now is your tongue numb?”

We owned many other Beginner Books for a longer time — I don’t remember them being bought. Some Berenstain Bears ones (The Big Honey Hunt and The Bike Lesson). Go, Dog. Go! The Cat in the Hat. Hop on Pop. Green Eggs and Ham. We may have had Dr. Seuss’s ABC.

In the picture, Becky is clearly reading a chapter book, too. But Wendy, at not quite two years old, is not reading. Yes, we learned to read early, but not quite that early. She is imitating her big sisters!

Oh, and I have to add one more thing because Facebook just reminded me today is the anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969.

I remember sitting in my Mom’s lap in the car (yes, the front seat!) and she said that I’d be able to tell my grandchildren that I remembered when men walked on the moon. What a ridiculous idea that was!

We also went out in the front yard and looked up at the full moon and waved to the astronauts!

Reading to Children


Yesterday I posted about reading Fox in Socks for our library’s Seussathon. (I also read The Sneetches and Other Stories, Horton Hatches an Egg, Green Eggs and Ham, and Mr. Brown Can Moo… Can You?)

Reflecting about my long history with Fox in Socks also reminded me how completely part of who I am is a delight in reading to children.

My Mom taught us to read before we were in Kindergarten. But the fact is, with the younger kids, we older ones had a lot to do with that. I learned at a young age that the process of watching a small child learn to read is next to miraculous. And I wanted in on it.

So as a kid, I learned both that being read to is cozy and warm and loving and wonderful, and that doing the reading to a younger child is the same.

Then, of course, I read to my own sons. I married a man who had a wonderful reading aloud voice, and read to the boys as much as I did. (Did I love that about him? Did I actually fall for him when we were reading Winnie-the-Pooh out loud in a group in college? Um, yes I did.)

Now my boys are grown, so there’s no one at home to hold in my lap and read to.

So how lucky am I that I get to do this on my job?!?

Mind you, I’m an introvert. Too frequent programs burn me out fairly quickly. However, the perfect thing about it is that as a manager, I don’t do many programs myself — just enough that I still love it.

Bottom line, I get to read books to children. And I get paid for it. I am a lucky woman!

The 2010 Newbery/Caldecott Banquet

Sunday, June 27, 2010.  I drove back into DC for the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet and experienced the highlight of my whole year.

I went three years ago, sat in the back, didn’t really dress up, and didn’t see a soul I knew — but still loved it.  This year was totally different except the loving it part.  Susan Kusel, founder of the wonderful DC Kidlit Book Club, got TEN tables close to the front.  I talked four other Fairfax County Librarians into going and was surrounded by people I knew from the book club or by reputation for their books.  And I’d gotten bold during the week, happily introducing myself to authors everywhere I turned.

And I bought a dress!  I ordered it, so it was a bit of a risk, but I loved the color and the fact that it matched the shawl I’d knitted so beautifully.  Here I am after the banquet, completely happy:

The evening started with stars of the publishing world milling around with cocktails. 

Here are School Library Journal Bloggers Extraordinaire, the two Elizabeth B’s: Betsy Bird and Liz Burns.  They are helping with the ALA Red Carpet videos.

The first night of ALA, I bought Betsy’s book,  Children’s Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career, and I’d been carrying it around all weekend, hoping to meet her and have her sign it.  But alas!  Due to a sprained ankle, she didn’t get to the SCBWI Kidlit Drink Night, and the only time I saw her, at the Newbery Banquet, was the only time I hadn’t brought the book.

Betsy always wears tattoos in honor of the winners:

In honor of the Caldecott winner, The Lion and the Mouse, Betsy wore illustrations of lions and mice from classic children’s books.

In honor of the Newbery winner, When You Reach Me, Betsy has tattooed on important words that someone needed to remember from the book.

I hung out and watched the Red Carpet interviews for a bit, but they didn’t ask to interview me.  (Can you imagine?)

Here are two authors whose books I’ve enjoyed, Jim Averbeck and Laurie Halse Anderson:

I saw Richie Partington and introduced myself to him.  He’s one of my Facebook friends because we took an online class on the Newbery Medal together. 

Richie is also the sort of person editors walk up to and introduce authors to!  I was chatting with Richie when a Scholastic editor walked up to him and introduced the two authors she was with.  What was I to do?  I was NOT going to walk away, believe me!  So as the group was chatting, they naturally turned to me to begin chatting, too.  One of the authors was Brian Floca, a distinguished author and illustrator and author of the recent Moonshot:

By this time my friend and fellow librarian, Nancy Bronez, joined me and took the picture. 

Next, I saw Laurie Halse Anderson, whom I’d met at the YA Author Coffe Klatch that morning, so I introduced Nancy and myself to her.  Nancy and I both admire her work very much.

The next person I accosted was Jon Scieszka.  I’m a huge fan of his — as you can tell by my attendance at his workshop Saturday and my lurking to take his picture earlier that afternoon.  Now I was thrilled at a chance to get my picture with him.

Looking at the picture above after the fact, it strikes me as hilarious that the sign behind Jon, with an arrow pointing to his head says, “Restrooms are to the Left.”  Since he has a little boy prankster’s heart, smile, and laugh, this struck me as wonderfully appropriate!

The doors opened, and we found our seats and connected with the other FCPL Librarians.  Since I had just been RIF’d and had begun working that week at the Office for Children instead of the library, it was very good to see them.

Here’s Nancy Ryan, my branch manager at Herndon:

Even though Nancy is not a children’s librarian, I have converted her into an even more devoted Mo Willems fan than I am myself.  So when I saw him at a nearby table, we had to go over and introduce ourselves and get pictures:

First, Nancy and Mo:

Next, me and Mo:

Here are the other ladies at our table, two of whom are members of the DC Kidlit Book Club, Patty Reeber, Genie Bailey, and Susan Sikorski.

And here are the other four librarians from Fairfax County Public Library, Nancy Ryan, Gena Bos, Susan Fay, and Nancy Bronez:

And here we are all together and looking at the camera:

Next, more schmoozing.  First, I snagged some authors who were also at Susan Kusel’s tables. 

Sara Lewis Holmes is a fellow member of the DC Kidlit Book Club and organized the SCBWI Kidlit Drink Night on Friday.  I’ve reviewed her book Letters from Rapunzel.

Then I introduced myself to Jim Averbeck.  When I reviewed his book, In a Blue Room, I had no idea he was so handsome!

And next, I had to introduce myself to Tanita Davis, author of this year’s Coretta Scott King Honor book, Mare’s War.

Then at a nearby table, I saw the warm and delightful Soroj Ghoting, a speaker for ALA who had just done a workshop I’d attended at FCPL:

Then the presentation of the awards began.  The speeches were fabulous and inspiring. 

First, here’s Jerry Pinkney speaking about the Caldecott Award:

I think everyone in that room was thrilled for Jerry.  He has won FIVE Caldecott Honor Awards — and The Lion and the Mouse was absolutely brilliant.  As you can tell from my review, I wanted it to win from the moment I first read it.  And once I’d heard this nice man speak, I was all the more happy for him!

Then came the Newbery Award and honors.  Here’s Rebecca Stead speaking:

Rebecca wrote When You Reach Me, another book I was very happy to see win the gold.  I loved Rebecca’s speech.  She talked about knee-knocking joy and helped all of us experience her humbled thrill of this incredible validation.  Again, I got the impression that a super nice person had won an incredible award, and I couldn’t help be thrilled for her.

Afterward, it was time for more pictures with the friends I’d shared the fabulous night with.  Here are the FCPL ladies again:

Here I am with Nancy Bronez:

Here I am with Nancy Ryan:


Here are some cute toes belonging to Nancy Ryan and Gena!

And here I am with the Banquet sign behind me:

On our way out of the banquet room, we saw Susan Kusel, who organized getting seats at TEN tables.  She was still pretty stressed out, though, and couldn’t stop for long:

The expressions on both our faces made me laugh!

We wrapped up a beautiful night by standing in the receiving line to congratulate the winners.  The ALSC folks were very nice, and had someone in front of each winner to tell you whom you were meeting!  I figured it wouldn’t be polite to flash a camera in their faces when I met them, so I took a couple pictures ahead of time:

And another part of the line that included Rebecca Stead:

The whole evening was a peak experience for me.  I was thrilled to meet these authors I so admired, proud to be a children’s librarian (whatever my current job), happy to be with fellow lovers of children’s books, and happy to be a writer and determined to keep at it.  All in all, I was inspired!

Sunday Schmoozing

Well, I wanted to blog all about ALA — and now it’s been a couple of months.  However, I really do want to relive it and post all the pictures with authors I admire.

Sunday after the YA Author Coffee Klatch, I was in a mood for author signings!  I went to several and got signatures but not pictures, but did get a few pictures with authors whose books I’d already read and enjoyed:

Here I am with Jessica Day George:

Here’s the review I’d recently written of her latest book, Princess of Glass.  I was happy to get a signed copy!

Another author I met was Tom Angleberger, author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

One session I did want to be sure to go to was to hear Will Shortz speak.  Yes, he’s a big famous puzzle guy now, but I remember doing his puzzles in Dell Magazines when I was a little girl.  (Sure enough!  When they talked about his bio, he worked for Dell Magazines in the 70s.)

I thoroughly enjoyed his talk.  He told some secrets about making puzzles, and ended off with a competition between the two sides of the room.  (My side won!  Woo-hoo!)  I had some signings I wanted to get to and didn’t want to wait in the long line after that, and he was signing crossword books, not logic puzzles or the types of puzzles I prefer, so I went back down to the exhibits.  But here he is signing books:

Back at the exhibits, I almost ran into Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka.  I couldn’t stay away from that!  I did some serious lurking and picture snapping.  I got to tell Jon Scieszka that I have more brothers than he does.  (Hey, you think of whatever you can say.)  And I told Mo Willems that I was wearing his Elephant and Piggie design t-shirt yesterday.  (Oh well.  He said he would have signed it.)  Oh, and I talked to Casey, Jon Scieszka’s daughter.  She was very nice, and I’m going to watch for her graphic novel coming out soon.

Here are the pictures I took while lurking:

Mo’s on the left, Jon’s on the right, and Casey’s wearing purple.

I always say that Jon has the smile and laugh of a mischievous little boy.  His daughter agrees that he never grew up.

I think they were discussing the Book Cart Drill Team Championships that afternoon, which they would host.  I saw them host it three years ago, and was very very sorry to miss it this time — but I was scheduled to go home and get the shawl I accidentally left at home, but while I was at it take a little nap and change clothes for the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet.

On the way back to the car, I stopped at a Bookmobile that had been set up with a project to record hundreds of people’s voices reading The Wizard of Oz.  It was a lot of fun — I’ve read the book aloud to both my boys and loved it as a child myself.

Imagine my delight, though, when the person who walked into the booth after me was Grace Lin, scheduled to receive her Newbery Honor Award that very night!  For the book Where the Mountain Meets the MoonI was so excited to meet her, the person reading ahead of me had to do a couple extra takes because I was too noisy.  But when the production is finished, I’m reading the page right before Grace Lin!

Here I am with her, thrilled to meet her:

And here she is reading her page from The Wizard of Oz:

So, like I said, I’m disappointed it’s taking me so long to post about ALA, but now I’m up to the highlight of the whole weekend.  My next post will be about the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet.

YA Author Coffee Klatch

I’m taking a long time to write about ALA because life is interfering.

I got RIF’d from my job as a Youth Services Librarian, but I was fortunate enough that the county found me a job as part of the RIF process.  I’m a Management Analyst for the Office for Children, Provider Services.  I’ll be managing data, but I will probably also get to talk to providers about Early Literacy and how the libraries can help them serve the children under their care.

I’m a little bit annoyed that my new job is at the same paygrade as the Librarian position.  It does not require a Master’s degree, like the Librarian position did.  It doesn’t supervise anyone.  It doesn’t deal with the public.  It’s much less stress and much better hours.  The catch, of course, is that I feel a tremendous calling as a children’s librarian — ALA confirmed that strongly.

It turns out that the county sets the pay grade based on what the surrounding counties pay the same position.  So it’s not that this county undervalues librarians — it’s that librarians are undervalued as a profession.  However, it is enough to get by on, as long as I’m still getting child support, and my Dad is helping me pay my student loans.  But the nice part of keeping paychecks coming is that I can pay rent.  Yay!

And in the meantime, I’ve been applying for corporate and school librarian positions, and now have an interview for a Youth Services Manager position in a neighboring county!  So we’ll see…  Maybe I can get back to being a children’s librarian.

And I love meeting authors!  That’s what the YA Author Coffee Klatch is all about.

I admit that Sunday morning, I had a lot of trouble getting out of bed.  I had very much wanted to go to the first hour of the session “Children’s and YA Book Blogs: Enhancing Library Services.”  But alas!  Trying to get there by 8:00 only meant that I was there on time for the 9:00 YA Author Coffee Klatch, which I’d bought a ticket for.

The worst thing was that they didn’t even bring coffee to the tables — you had to stand in line.  I wasn’t early enough to want to risk not meeting an author for the sake of coffee.

Basically, we had an extra seat at each table, and we had 6 authors spend 10 minutes with us.  It wasn’t time to really talk to them — they talked about their books.  But it was cool to meet them, and they talked me into reading some of their books.  Here are the authors I met that morning:

Carrie Jones was tremendously nice and did talk me into getting a signed copy of her book later.

James Kennedy was a lot of fun.  His book sounds quite bizarre — the perfect thing to give my son for his 16th birthday.  I decided then and there to be sure to go to the author’s book signing and purchase a copy.  I thoroughly enjoyed James Kennedy’s sense of humor, and am looking forward to reading the book myself.

Next, we met Simone Elkeles.  I later saw her book signing and bought a copy of her latest book.

Next was Holly Black.  I already had her latest book, White Cat, in one of the piles in my bedroom.  After she talked about the book, I planned to put it on the top of the pile.  Sure enough, since then I have read it, and it’s intriguing and fabulous.  Holly talked about how in that world, people can curse you by touching your skin with their hand.  So everyone wears gloves, and seeing bare hands feels far too intimate.  Fascinating!  My review is coming soon.

Here’s Richard Smith, pitching The Marbury Lens.  He made it sound fascinating, but a little on the scary side for me.

This is the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson, who just keeps winning awards.  She pitched Wintergirls, telling us some background behind it, and also the upcoming sequel to Chains.

Deborah Heiligman had one of the most interesting stories-behind-the-book to tell.  She was a religious studies major, and her husband had written an award-winning book about evolution.  Charles and Emma is the story of Charles Darwin’s marriage to a deeply religious woman, and how their partnership made both of them better people.  Deborah Heiligman convinced me to be sure to pick up a signed copy later.



Then came Carol Lynch Williams, pitching her new book, Glimpse.  I have heard good things about her earlier book, Chosen, and was convinced to give her books a try.

Finally, our table was visited by Kekla Magoon, another author whose book, The Rock and the River, I’ve heard great things about.  That’s the only problem with ALA:  My list of books I really want to read gets so much longer!

After the authors had visited tables, all the authors (there were lots more) posed for a group shot:

I was thrilled to meet some of them, like Rebecca Stead (!) in the milling around afterward.

All in all, it was a great time to meet people who have done it — they have gotten published!  And they are nice people, who enjoy talking about their work.  I wanted to read books by all of them!

First Full Day of ALA 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010, I woke up bright and early and excited to go to ALA.  I drove in — funny thing, but there’s no traffic early on a Saturday — and had no trouble and even made it to the 8:00 session! 

Saturday was a day of lots of great sessions of learning and inspiration.  First up, at 8:00, I went to a session called “Listen Up!  Using Audiobooks to Motivate Boys to Become Readers” featuring a panel that included the illustrious Ambassador Emeritus of Children’s Literature, the hilarious Jon Scieszka, He Who Laughs Like a Little Boy Getting into Trouble.

Jon and the rest of the panel talked about how audiobooks can help reluctant readers (particularly boys) see themselves as readers.   They talked about all the great things that happen when children listen to audiobooks.  Jon is adding a new part to his Guys Read website called Guys Listen.  It has some great resources.  If I become an elementary school librarian, or even if I go back to being a public librarian, I want to come back to this site and this information to convince parents and teachers how great audiobooks can be for kids. 

Oh, they also showed the hilarious clip which you’ll find on the Guys Listen site that promotes Jon’s new Guys Read collection of funny stories.  The clip is of the writers of the funny stories all telling parts of a joke.  I want that book!

After that session, I tried to get to the session called Move Over Dick and Jane: Reconsidering Books for Beginning Readers, about how beginning readers are changing.  However, in that room, there were no seats left, and I learned three years ago that it’s no fun to go to an ALA session and sit on the floor.

So instead, I went to hear Sue Monk Kidd and Anne Kidd Taylor talk about collaborating together on their book Traveling With Pomegranates.  It was wonderful!  I’ve recently been reading several meditative books by Sue Monk Kidd, so it was a thrill to meet her.

Some things she said that I liked:

Memoir is about backward understanding.

It’s always a reach for wholeness when you write memoir.

Memoir can create wholeness in the reader as well.  [That says it for me.  When I join an author on her journey seeking wholeness, it indeed helps me find it myself.]

To write memoir, you need an authentic willingness to be known, a unilateral disarming.

Aging is about the process of letting go of what is leaving anyway and letting something new grow.

After their talk, I got in line, and the publisher gave everyone a free copy of Traveling with Pomegranates, which both authors signed.  I was completely inspired and uplifted by the time I walked away.

Next on my schedule was the Margaret Edwards Award Luncheon, honoring Jim Murphy for his lifetime achievement in the field of literature for young people.  Jim Murphy writes amazingly immediate nonfiction for children.  There was a copy of one of his books on our chairs.  I got to sit next to blogger Liz Burns, and Fairfax County Librarian Shannon Seglin was nearby, sitting at the School Library Journal table.

After a yummy lunch, Jim Murphy spoke about his process of writing and getting at primary sources, and his innate curiosity that fuels his great books.  He had some nice stories of serendipitously discovering material that later became the meat of his classic books.

After lunch, I went to a session called, “Everyone’s a Critic: The Future of Book Reviewing.”  The panel included the founder of GoodReads, a New York Times Book Critic, and a blogger and librarian, moderated by a reviewer from Booklist.

The session was interesting and fun to listen to.  All the panelists agreed that there is room for everyone, that the different review sources have different purposes.  They did point out that one of the strong points of professional book reviewers is that they are excellent essayists.  Their reviews are good reading, whether you want to read the book or not.

Next, I rushed down to the exhibits and got two books signed by Diana Peterfreund.  I met her back in October at the Kidlitosphere Conference, a few days after I had written a review raving about Rampant.  One of the Advance Reader Copies I was the very most excited to get was her sequel, Ascendant.  It’s not out until October, and now I don’t have to wait!  I also bought my own personal copy of Rampant for her to sign since I liked it so much. Killer unicorns rule!

And right next to Diana, who should be signing but Sarah Blake, the author of the excellent book sitting on my bedside table at the time, about three-quarters done, The Postmistress.  While I was there, I got a signed copy.  Very cool!

After that, I went to “Science Fiction and Fantasy: Informing the Present by Imagining the Future.”  This wasn’t so much a panel discussion as it was five distinguished authors speaking on that topic.  They were good!

Here are some things I particularly liked that they said:

Dom Testa  (He’s on the far right behind a fan.)

The visionaries provoke us into thinking.  Their greatest contributions are their ideas.

Science Fiction can be the driving force behind good things, not just defense against bad things.

Jane Lindskold (on the far right at the table — the rest proceed across to the left.)

Give kids something a little different: Imagination is key in any endeavor.

Libraries are the best place for the combination of knowledge and imagination to happen.

Cory Doctorow

Science Fiction writers are always really writing about the present.

Writers also inspire the future.

Science Fiction allows people to vividly imagine the future consequences of their decisions today.

Science Fiction today is an inherently activist literature.

Cherie Priest

Science Fiction and Fantasy is talking about us right now — especially Steampunk.

“Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover brown.”

With Steampunk, you get to go back and change the rules that bound you.

In Steampunk, if you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right.

It looks to the future by looking to the past.

Brandon Sanderson

Our culture has a fetish for the “real.”

SF and Fantasy write about real things “with dragons” or “in space.”

Fantasy writers are talking about NOW.

When people are more important than ideas, that brings people together and does great things for our world.


Alas!  The only thing I didn’t like about that session was that even though I got there before they started, I did not get one of the bags of books the publishers were passing out, to get signed after the talk.  They definitely got me wanting to read their work.  (Brandon Sanderson is the only one of them whose work I have read — and I did get a signed copy of his second Alcatraz book that morning.)

After so much inspiration, I finished the day off by going to the Opening General Session with Toni Morrison speaking.  Good stuff!

I didn’t stay for evening programs, because I was hoping to get plenty of sleep and get there bright and early the next morning for the bloggers’ session.  Unfortunately, I got to posting pictures on Facebook and was way too excited to sleep.  The next day was the pinnacle of the conference…

ALA Annual Conference 2010

It’s been more than a week since ALA finished, and I had a wonderful time.  Time to report!

I’d had four days at my new job as a Management Analyst for the Office for Children, Provider Services.  It’s a nice job, very peaceful, but it’s not a librarian position.

Going to ALA Annual Conference this year was a no-brainer, since I wouldn’t have to pay for travel (except parking) or a hotel.  And it ended up being a peak experience.  Three years ago, ALA Annual was in DC and I went and was inspired.  But that time, I didn’t see a soul I knew.  This time, every day I saw librarians I’d worked with, bloggers I’d met, and authors whose books I’d reviewed.  I felt like part of the great big wonderful Kidlit community, and it felt good.  I did realize that I am a Librarian by calling, not just by job.

The first night, the main thing going on was the opening of the Exhibits.  I happily filled my bag with free books.  And then I looked up and saw an author I admire, whose newest book was sitting on my bedside stand, a few chapters in:  John Green.

I didn’t come up with anything especially clever to say, but I managed to ask if I could get a picture with him and with his co-author (of that book on my bedside stand) David Levithan:

(David’s on the left, John’s on the right.)

I also went to see the Peachtree book and found my friend and Writing Sister Kristin Wolden Nitz’s new book Suspect prominently displayed.  It will be out in the Fall, and they were giving away Advance Reader Copies.

I finished up the night at the SCBWI sponsored KidLit Drink Night.  Right away, I met Karen Cushman!  Author of The Midwife’s Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy, among other great books.

I met lots more authors, some published and some unpublished (like me), and many whom I knew from the DC KidLit Book Club.  I was hoping to meet Betsy Bird of the Fuse #8 Blog, but unfortunately she was in the Emergency Room with a sprained ankle.  I did meet my friend Kristin’s agent and lots of other fascinating people. 

Then I lugged my books home on the Metro and resolved to drive for the rest of the conference.  It was a nice beginning!  Already I’d gotten lots of cool books, met wonderful people, and schmoozed with authors and bloggers and agents and librarians.  And that was in only a few hours.  There were three more long days to come!

Best of Lists and NaNoWriMo

So the end of the year is approaching, and everybody’s coming out with their best of the year lists.

I have to admit that I hate that!  How can you say what were the best books of 2009 when 2009 isn’t over yet?  And of course that would be to admit defeat — to admit that I will not, in fact, finish reading all those great books that are piled at the foot of my bed clamoring to be read.

So, I make my Sonderbooks Standouts lists in the following year.  The years that I was really on top of things, I printed my list on January 1st.  But that was awhile back! 

For my list of the best books I read in 2006, I decided to copy the Newbery Medal and call the list the 2007 Sonderbooks Standouts, since I was making the list in 2007, and I didn’t want it to sound horribly out of date.  Besides, 2007 was practically over by the time I got that list made!  So my list of Standouts goes from 2001 to 2009, but it looks like 2006 is missing whereas really 2009 is missing — does that make any sense?

Anyway, NaNoWriMo is almost done, and I got just slightly slightly more caught up on books I’ve read and want to review.  At the start of the month, there were 35 books waiting to be reviewed, and this morning, there were 30, so I made a tiny bit of headway.  At this moment, there are 31, and I think by the time I go to sleep there may be 33, so it’s not actually great progress.

I did not get very close to the 50,000 word goal for the first draft of a novel.  However, I did experiment with the reckless, brash way of writing through a first draft.  I think I work better with more of a plan — The Weekend Novelist approach of writing key scenes first.  However, with the particular book I was working on this month, I had tried that approach and reached a dead end.  This was like a month of brainstorming that gave it new life.  I think I will spend the next two days printing out what I produced and write out a scenario of what I’ve got, and I think I can come up with a plan for writing that I can really get excited about.

I’m happy that I did NaNoWriMo.  It shook me up.  Reminded me that writing is fun, and that creative juices flow better if you spend more than 15 minutes at a time.

For 2009, I had a New Year’s resolution of writing for at least 15 minutes every single day, and I kept it almost perfectly.  Probably only missed about a week’s worth of days (actually more days this last month, when I had that nasty headache — but I was writing a lot more on the other days, so it was okay).  But I was getting in kind of a rut with that.  I was revising a book I finished a long time ago, and it was getting kind of mechanical, a bit of a drudgery.  I’m hoping I can get back to that book with a bit more excitement now.

So, here are my goals now:

I’ll still keep a word count for the last two days of November.  Let’s see.  For writing plus blogging, I’m up to 30,772.  Think I can write 10,000 words on each of the next two days?  Hmm.  I’m not so sure!  So that won’t be part of the goals.  Here are the goals:

1)  Write up a scenario for the novel I worked on for NaNoWriMo.  All the writing I did got a little incoherent, but some things were coming together.  I’m going to write it up so I can come back to it after December.

For December:

2)  Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!  I want to review all the books I read in 2009 so that I can make my Sonderbooks Standouts lists right at the start of January.  It would be nice to scoop the Newbery and the Printz!

3)  For December, I am going to experiment with a goal of writing on my book for 30 minutes a day, instead of the 15 minutes a day goal I had for 2009.  If it seems do-able, that will be my new goal for 2010.

4)  I want to finish rewriting my earlier book by the end of December!

And then start looking for an agent!  It’s time to SELL that book!  (The Mystical Mantle is a middle grade novel about a princess whose father offers her hand in marriage to the person who wins a quest to gain the Mystical Mantle of Meteorology from the Obstreperous Ogre.  She decides to win the quest herself so she doesn’t have to be a prize.)

I now have four books in different stages of completion.  Unicorn Wings, my first novel, is sitting in a drawer, chalked up to experience.  The Mystical Mantle is being rewritten.  A retelling of One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes is in first draft, and my NaNoWriMo novel is in early shaping stages.

But, see, NaNoWriMo got me to that place.  Before I was slowly, slowly revising The Mystical Mantle, so some day I was going to get back to Duet’s Story. (“One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes” is an awfully long name.)  NaNoWriMo at least showed me the charm of working on one project for a specified period of time!

So, here goes!

And I’m also getting satisfaction out of reporting my progress in this blog.  I always did get a kick out of checking things off, and it has that sort of feel to it.  🙂

So, two days left in November.  I have both days off.  In those days my plan is to somehow consolidate what I’ve written on Dear Diary, my NaNoWriMo novel, so that I can come back to it after I’ve finished rewriting The Mystical Mantle.  I also hope to get as many reviews written as I can and try to get the to-be-reviewed number down to less than 30.

Oh, one other lovely thing about NaNoWriMo is that it transformed what was potentially an awful month into an actually good one!  This is my seventeenth straight day with a headache.  In my worst moments, I’d like them to just hook me up to an IV and make me sleep through them.  Now, mind you since Thanksgiving it’s mostly been a lot less severe.  But still.  This has given me something to be very interested in, something to remind me that life is very very much worth living.  Life is good!  That’s what writing does for me.  And NaNoWriMo reminded me of that.

NaNoWriMo & Newberys, Headaches & Hassles

I’m thinking about life.

November isn’t turning out like I expected when I decided to try NaNoWriMo after all.  It’s Day 10, and so far, I’ve written 4,214 words on my novel.  I had hoped for 2,000 words a day.  I thought that adding to my personal goal with anything I write on my blogs would make up the difference, but so far I have only written 1,114 words on my blogs, for a grand total of 5,328 words.

But you never know.  Today my headache is finally gone.  Calloo!  Callay!  And all the odd days off in November are starting up.  I have Veteran’s Day off, then Friday, then Sunday and Monday (for working the previous Sunday).  On Thanksgiving weekend, I’m working Saturday, but I get Wednesday off to make up for it, and I’m taking the last day of November off to attempt a last blitz on NaNoWriMo.  My son will be with his Dad for Thanksgiving, so I will have no excuses not to do some writing.

My headaches have been something of a puzzle.  After being completely under control for years now, why are they suddenly acting up?  They haven’t been very severe, but so persistent.  I have an appointment  with a neurologist in a couple of weeks to begin finding some answers.  It will be interesting to see if they stay away until then.  I’m not sure if “headaches” are really the problem, or if it’s a symptom of another problem.

Then there are the hassles from my husband over visitation logistics.  We were best friends for at least 15 years.  We both love our son.  Why can’t we just talk with each other about what times are good for each of us?  I don’t know, and it can absorb far more of my attention than I want it to.  I wish I had my husband and family and best friend back — yet I am surely enjoying this life of doing what I am interested in without worrying about whether it’s taking too much time from anyone else.

Today I learned that I was not accepted for ALSC’s Bill Morris Seminar in January.  But the nice part is that I have no more assignments of books to read.  I’ve finished the reading for the online Newbery class I was taking (It was wonderful!), and now I’m very curious if I could read lots of books that were published this year, if I might be able to guess next year’s winner.

What am I trying to say with all this rambling?  Well, that life is full and interesting.  Two of my best days this past month were when I had headaches — but I went hiking anyway, and walked in the glorious, gorgeous, incredibly beautiful Autumn woods and took some wonderful pictures.  Somehow surrounded by majestic beauty, everything falls into perspective.

One of the cool things about NaNoWriMo is that it looks like a whole lot of people who do it don’t meet the goal of 50,000 words.  So that is NOT failure, by any means!  But the fact is, 4,214 words toward my novel is 4,214 words that weren’t written before, and that is a wonderful thing.

I learned so much in the Newbery class, and read so many incredibly good books.  I’m excited about posting reviews of them and getting my website caught up — and then beginning to put in place some of the suggestions from the Kidlitosphere conference (which I attended the day before the latest headache started) and building community and making a better blog, and making connections.

I was excited when Nina Lindsay of School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog visited our Newbery class and recognized me as a frequent commenter on her blog.  Community and connections!  That’s the sort of thing they encouraged at the Kidlitosphere conference — and I want to get around to following more of my fellow conference attenders’ blogs.

When I did look at some of them, I found that some are doing NaNoWriMo!  So I added them as Buddies on that site.  (And I am down as SondySue on that site, so feel free to add me, if you’re reading my blog!)  It’s all about Connection…

So, this is my plan for my big day off tomorrow:  Post several reviews of Newbery winners, spend at least an hour on my novel, rake some leaves if it’s not raining, and put up some pictures. 

Can I do all that in one day?  Well, if not, that’s okay, too.  Life is full and interesting, and headaches & hassles really can’t stop that.

I’m excited that I’ve found something I’m passionate about:  Books and what makes them great.  And writing books.  And sharing great books with children.  And talking about great books.

 And even more exciting is that I’m making more and more connections with other people who share my passions and find what I have to say interesting.  (And lucky me, it’s even related to my job!)

And meanwhile, I’ve joined a new small group at church and am making good friends, and I live in a place where fabulous hiking is close at hand, and I have a homey “new” place and I’m getting settled in.

Life is good!

Rain and Lessons in Contentment

I fully believe that Joy is a choice.  I am currently reading several books that tell me it is not my circumstances that determine my happiness, but the story I tell myself about those circumstances.  I have heard sermons about contentment.  I have lectured at length to my children that complaining will only make them unhappy.  I believe this.

In the last couple days, I got a delightful three-part reminder.

It began on Wednesday morning.  I was doing a quick run to the grocery store.  We had expected an ice storm, but instead we got nasty, cold, heavy, near-freezing rain.

I do not like rain in the winter.  I tend to think how much I would prefer snow.  Rain in winter is almost as cold as snow, but not as pretty, and not as fun.  It soaks into your clothes much more quickly, and doesn’t brighten a dark day like snow does.

As I came out of the grocery store, the thought crossed my mind that it was a shame I had to make a grocery run today.  The thought lingered long enough for me to feel guilty about the negativity.  But I was justified!  After all, loading groceries into the car in the pouring, cold rain is not a fun thing to do.  Ask anyone!

No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than I looked up and saw a mother and son walking toward the store.  The mother had an umbrella, but the little boy, about three years old, wasn’t paying any attention to staying under it.  He was positively dancing with joy at being out in the rain.  His shiny yellow boots splashed the pavement with zest, and you could instantly see how excited he was about this wondrous chance to go shopping in the rain!

Kind of put things in perspective for me!

The next day, a new book by Mo Willems, Are You Ready to Play Outside? came to the library.


Piggie is so excited about playing outside with Gerald!  They will run!  They will skip!  They will jump!  NOTHING will stop them!

Then it begins to rain.

It pours.  Piggie is NOT a happy pig.

Gerald, an elephant, first tries shielding Piggie with his ear, but it is still raining.  Piggie doesn’t see how anyone could possibly play outside with all this rain.

Then they see two worms come out, exuberantly happy, splishing and splashing in the rain.

They decide to try it.  They run!  They skip!  They jump! 

Piggie decides he loves rain!  He hopes it rains all day!

Then it stops. 

Piggie is not a happy pig.

Fortunately, Piggie has an elephant for a friend, who has a solution.

This book conveys its message far more effectively than any sermon, lecture, or nonfiction book.  Part of the effectiveness is Mo Willems’ brilliant illustrations.  With simple cartoon drawings he makes you feel his characters’ emotions.  I never imagined that worms could look so joyful!  Elephant and Piggie turning somersaults and kicking up their heels in the rain proclaim complete exuberance.  You don’t just read about Piggie’s frustration turned to joy.  You experience it!

Last night, I brought the book home and showed it to my son.  I told him about seeing the little boy in the rain.  Gerald and Piggie dancing in the rain reminded me very much of that little boy in his yellow boots.

I think of Are You Ready to Play Outside? as a metaphor for life itself.  After all, I reflected, at this time of my life, I am single, not by my own choice.  I can spend my time moping about how I wish it would stop “raining” or I can skip and jump and dance in the rain.

Isn’t it true that people like Piggie who are unhappy in the rain tend to be the exact same people who are unhappy when it stops?

Later, I was e-mailing friends about the Inaugural Parade, in which my husband will be marching.  Even though he left me and has told me he wants nothing to do with me, I find myself feeling proud and excited that he’s going to take part in this historic event.  Someone sent me a link to an inaugural website, and from there I went to an Air Force page and found a story about the Air Force Band.  Apparently, they are supplementing the main DC band with musicians from several field bands for one big 99-member band for the parade, which is why my husband and several other Air Force musicians I know all get to participate.

What I didn’t realize is that they are already in the DC area.  My son had mentioned that his Dad was going to be practicing 8 days for the parade, but I didn’t realize it had already begun.  In fact, according to the article, the whole group began practicing this past Wednesday — in the pouring, cold, nasty, near-freezing rain.

I would be ashamed to report that this simple fact gave me a certain satisfaction.  I would be ashamed to say that the very nasty, cold, and unpleasant aspects of that rain now filled me with a certain unreasonable delight.

So I will simply say this.  The next time I am caught in a cold and nasty downpour, I will reflect that it could be worse.  I could have to practice marching in it.