Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winding Down....

2009 was a difficult year and I certainly do not find myself alone in being thankfully ready to put it to bed. Many of us had a lot of emotional or financial challenges, often both, and it has felt as though we've been slogging through, only to realize that while we were trudging/plodding/lifting/shoving/wedging, somebody ran off with the next month or three.

A little reflection before I go onwards:

Goals for 2009:
1) Use things -- I ha
ve tea, yarn, books...so many things that are here waiting for me. When they start feeling like clutter rather than things I enjoy, it's time to use up or get rid of rather than hold on indefinitely.

I've gotten rid of a fair amount but of late I've noticed the weeding bug has kicked in again and I want to clean out more. This is healthy, I think. If I don't love it, what's the point really? I see another trunkload to Goodwill in the near future.

2) Knit for myself. I talk a lot about knitting but almost always it's for other people. Call it selfish but I want some warm woolly things for me.

I made myself a cowl and fingerless mitts, both of which I wear all the time. A warm hat got added to the collection and a pair of green socks. And there is a super-bulky weight afghan that's about half way. Now that holiday knitting is nearly done I can get back to that.

3) Write for more than just my blog audience. I need a better collection of rejection emails and letters and possibly some acceptances too.

I'm working on poster session suggestions that are due by....Thursday. Note to self--finish those on Wednesday.

4) Scrapbook old papers. Not the incredibly matted, decorated, and beribboned, just the "here's a paper, here's something from junior high" with some notes on the side about why I kept it.

I haven't scrapbooked but I DID do a massive clean out. I went through literally cases of papers, notebooks and things from college. It was reliving those 3.5 years at an incredibly fast rate. I'm not sure I'd fully recommend it, the emotional roller coaster was so insane that I didn't notice that my cell phone wasn't working for four days. My suggestion--invite people over who are going to need to sleep in that space where all those boxes are. Either that or call the Incredibly-Patient-Mother. She's quite good with the cleaning/organizing thing and she doesn't have the emotional connection to your stuff like you do.

5) Survive braces....until April 2011

Somehow we had some miscommunication. I was under the impression that the whole process would be 30 months, including the nearly six months of wearing a bite plate. They had me in bands for 30 months. We just took new molds and my ortho continues to be upbeat about it. I'm looking at another sixteen months rather ruefully.

6) Get my books into LibraryThing.

Hmm...maybe I'll do this over New Years Eve/Day. It'd be one way to start the new year besides the whole freelance work I need to get caught up on.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

From Gypsy and I

We're at the Incredibly Patient Mother's until next week.

Catch you then!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thanks for the Audios....

It's painfully clear we're a week out from Christmas at the library: all the books are in (except the Christmas books, we still have a fair number but they're starting to look picked over) and the audio books and videos are flying out the door.

People have already begun to travel and parents are valiantly trolling the books on cd, trying to find something that will a) not drive them crazy and b) keep the older children engaged while c) still be appropriate for the three year old. I'm trying to hover with intent a little more by those shelves than usual. There's the various differences in families: age of the youngest child, fantasy v. non-fantasy, series v. non-series...but those are the general parameters.

Audiobooks have greatly increased in popularity, which I think is fantastic. I listened to George Guidall every night in high school, to the point that it was an instant sleep-inducer for the Incredibly-Patient-Mother for a few years thereafter. And yes, I order the kids/teens audiobooks and it's nice to see my collections circulate. Keep in mind I'm trying not to whine about the fact that the fabulous new chapter books that are coming down from tech services are languishing....

With the acceptance that audiobooks are not just something for people with poor vision and the wonderful quality and variety we're seeing of performers and titles, it makes sense that there are some followings of narrators. Among the most recognizable of these is Jim Dale.

Two years ago, if I mentioned the name Jim Dale, someone usually swooned in my presence. No matter the subject previous, I would then be treated to a glowing review of how wonderful he was, how fabulous the HP books were on audio, and how their entire family had listened to those books together. Anything he'd read flew out the door as families coming to the end of book 7 sought something else to appease their ears.

Today I came past my display of new audio books and noticed, not for the first time, that our copy of The Return to the Hundred Acre Woods by David Benedictus is still sitting there. Despite the allure of the sequel to a popular classic and being brought to life by no less than the venerable Jim Dale and being displayed face out on the top shelf of the display area (where other things are going quite nicely)...it's there, wistfully waiting to be popped into someone's "car bag" and taken along.

Wonder if that will change in the next couple of full court press "we need something for the drive to Grandma's" days...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hedgehogs in the News: Another Pudgy Hog

Albino hedgehog put on weight-loss regime

Cute "fluffy" hedgehog...I can think of worse things than getting to go swimming every day

Thanks M!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snowfall and Gypsy

Wisconsin has it in for me. I moved up here just over two years ago and we promptly had the worst winter the state had seen in twenty years. Last winter was one of the coldest ones--with an actual temperature one morning of -24F. I don't want to even fathom what the windchill was. All I know is that my valiant car refused to even try and start.

And, in case you've missed news for the past few days, we had a blizzard here on Tuesday night, promptly followed by bone chilling temperatures. I went from casual winter gear to the hard core duck fluff coat, chunky weight hat and mittens I got from a ski shop overnight.

Here's the view early Wednesday, following 11" of small ice crystals down and while it was still snowing.

The snow has been cleared from the roads, though yesterday morning's drive to work was quite exciting when I had the audacity to make a right turn. *insert grateful for the fact I got new tires a few weeks ago here* Friday's commute actually saw pavement and rumor has it we'll be up to nearly freezing this weekend!

In the midst of all of this cold, I brought home a new bundle of joy. I started considering adoption about five minutes after I moved up here and realized I'd be spending the winter having a conversation with a very healthy spider plant or two. The plants have thrived but they aren't much for talking back and they are really lousy at snuggling.

Meet Gypsy. She's between one and two years old. She's from the Coulee Region Humane Society. So far she likes to be draped over my shoulder, enjoys belly rubs, and is going to need a substantial clawing/climbing tower. She attempted to jump the height of a five shelf bookshelf last night. She didn't make it but that didn't slow her down. Who wants to come over and help me trim her claws?

We still have to go the vet and have all of the usual shots and things and spend a few days getting used to each other. She spent all of last night racing around the apartment, enjoying the fact that she wasn't in her kennel cage. Today she's in the bathroom as I realized I'm going to have to further cat proof the apartment. She doesn't seem especially interested in the yarn stash--yet.

I will make a strong attempt to not turn into a blogger whose only content is to post cute photos of my cat. If I limit myself to once a week, will I be forgiven?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Book Review: Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
Barbara Ehrenreich

I stumbled across a review of this somewhere in the piles of journals I read and it caught my attention enough to place a hold on it. It's taken a while to get through it, but certainly it's an interesting read.

Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, starts with her focus on how "positive attitudes" have been pressed on cancer patients like herself. Finding herself severely criticized when she wasn't relentlessly cheerful about getting and surviving breast cancer, she took a look around to see how else upbeat enthusiasm had become the norm in society.

She continues on, wading through motivational speakers, how "positive" has permeated the corporate world, become a multi-billion dollar business, taken over in mega-churches, and how a belief in ever positive, ever rising economy also saw us into a humongous recession.

It's a lot to go through in just over two hundred pages and a whole lot of end notes.

The book struck a serious chord, one that was almost slightly alarming as I read it: "be happy" is everywhere. I've mentioned before and I've run across many other bloggers who are absolutely afraid to mention sorrow, grief, frustration, anger, or irritation on their blogs--lest it be perceived as a weakness. We're downright fearful that being honest, realistic, and occasionally unhappy will ruin our careers, shame us in front of peers and readers, and make our site counts plummet. I was shaken out of the text a couple of times with how often I feel like I've had the idea of a positive outlook drummed into me. Not that Ehrenreich is promoting endless misery or perpetual cynicism, but instead not applying an overlay of perky cheerleader all the time.*

Ehrenreich ends with a short chapter on "post-positive thinking." I wish she'd spent a little more time there because her points, while not especially radical, are thoughtful. She points out that we look for students who are not "happy thinkers" but "critical thinkers" and physicians who hope and certainly strive for the best outcome but are realistic enough to help you plan for the worst.

I found the book incredibly refreshing. I spent years on the subway, staring at the ads for the various motivational speakers and internally wondering why it was that if all the attendees/readers were following their rules and guides why they weren't all rich and leaving me for dust. I saw the piles of "business motivation" books my then boyfriend was reading and recoiled from them, though personally at the time I just saw them as annoying fads more than anything. This is one of the first suggestions I've seen that perhaps being a giggly cheerleader isn't the only answer.

I probably don't have the best reputation for being cheerful, there's a bit too much sarcasm that sneaks in to allow me to make anyone's list of "perky" people. And I enjoy being cheerful and happy; but it was nice to read a book where one didn't feel horrible for acknowledging and possessing other emotions as well.

Highly recommended read.

*Eerily, as I was writing this, I remembered a guy I met while traveling in Greece. He worked on a cruise ship and I never once saw the guy look anything but "super-happy" (jazz hands) for three days. At the end of the cruise I asked how he managed to maintain it and got some vague answer about love of his job. I wandered off, wondering if he was heavily medicated.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kids' Knitting Group: Beyond the Basics

Kids Knitting for the fall ends next week and it's been gone well. New thing implemented this fall: a six week, half hour Advanced Knitting Techniques. I finish the second round next Tuesday and overall I'd say it's been quite a success. I have patterns selected that I'd use again to teach the basics and I've got some ideas on what to change and do better should I tackle this again.

The regular kids group is chugging right along. They bring projects, ideas, and enthusiasm. I show up with yarn, how to knowledge and piles of books for them to read. We average between 10 and 12 kids per week, not a shabby number.

The advanced tech was about growing the kids who were moving beyond the basics. I taught I-cord, different types of increases and decreases, cables, lace, and we went over (in detail) gauge and reading a pattern. The general goal was to make them more confident and self-sufficient. Up to this point, most of them had good basic skills. They could do one type of increase, maybe two. They might pick out a pattern but they weren't confident about reading it and the concept of pairing yarn to pattern wasn't quite kicking in.

Now--they're doing better. Several of them have moved on to more difficult patterns, coming to me only to read parts of it aloud together. At least three have/are tackled/ing clothing and all of them are learning. I want them to be able to go out and do without me. I'm here to help, certainly, but I don't want them to feel like they can't if I'm not available to get them going.

I set up pretty strict parameters to do AKT. It had to be kids I'd worked with for at least a few months--I needed to know their level. They, along with a parent, had to come in and talk to me about what we'd be learning, my expectations of them showing up and doing homework, etc. I wanted commitment and I've gotten it. I also had to call one kid out of the rug in front of a parent when homework wasn't done--but while I came down pretty hard, it was done with the intention of reminding expectations that were previously agreed to by the child and parent.

Watching the kids blossom is incredibly rewarding. They have the skills, they use the skills and twenty years from now, I'm confident that some of them may still be knitting (and probably kicking my tush in the "difficulty" levels). I packed three of them in the car on Friday for the Ewetopia Fiber Shop open house. (Different three from last year) As always, watching their eyes when they see just how much cool stuff is in a really good yarn shop is amusing and exciting. The possibilities and potential leap off the shelf at you--and it's in ways I can't even imagine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

I was one of two featured interviewees for Dana's class project on Tween Programming. I'm in the Q&A section.

Allow Me the Age Parameters

One of the bullet points in the job description is programming. I figure out activities and crafts, stories and games, literacy tools and educational aspects that can all be blended so that it's not just a half hour or hour of uncontrolled insanity. Sometimes programs dissolve into that but we usually do start with a plan and, when possible, there's still method to the madness.

One of the important part of planning is knowing what age group I'm working with and being able to plan accordingly. Such it is that when programs are advertised with an age group, that's the age group I want, that's the age group I expect, that's the developmental level I'm looking to walk in the door. Children grow and change incredibly fast, as anyone around them can tell you. When I worked strictly with infants and toddlers, three year olds were huge kids to me. They could talk in complete sentences and were mostly potty-trained!! Now working babies through teens, I'm stunned at times how young some of the teens seem (really, you're 14?) or how old some of the eight year olds are. I do still think that a child who is actively walking doesn't count as a baby anymore, but that's my choice of brackets.

And there are mixed ages and groupings that work, but there are times we expect something best suited for an older child. This is something I've run into with teaching children to knit. Most children have the manual dexterity and understanding to learn how to knit about the same time they learn to read and write. For some children, this is age four, for others it's closer to six. When you're working one on one with a child, you can choose based on the skill of the child. When I have a group, I really prefer eight and up, though I'll stretch it to seven. This gives me the opportunity to have children who have all achieved that manual dexterity and who will be able to read a knitting pattern, even if they need help translating some of the meaning or symbols.

Often, it's adults convinced of their child's high level of maturity who throw a spines-out hedgehog into the mix with programming age parameters. Their child is old enough, mature enough, with enough manual dexterity, whatever it is they think they need to say to get around the age barrier so that their child is granted whatever treat or program the parent has promised. [I've also seen this in reverse where parents thought their ten year old should be allowed to thunder over equipment built to support a two year old--it works both ways.]

Sometimes this is not unlike watching parents attempt to convince carnival ride attendants that their 3'8" child is really 4' so they can go on a ride not safe for shorter children.

Granted, I don't expect to cause whiplash in the programs, but perhaps I'm suggesting books to the kids or reading a select chapter. Most six year olds are not going to be ready for the battle scenes in Brian Jacques' books and or the opening pages to this year's Newbery winner--Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book. Similarly, most ten year olds are really moving beyond books about a precocious kindergartner who has little grammar and less discipline.

When I set an age parameter on a program I'm trying to create a productive atmosphere for learning, communicating, and interacting. When the rules "just have to be bent" because a younger child wants to participate, we're teaching the child that those rules don't apply to them, that they don't have to wait, or grow into something or be aware that they are too old for other things. Quite often older children don't get anything special and are required to share it all with younger children, which isn't fair to anyone: not the older kids for whom the program was meant, the younger kids who aren't ready for the older books, or the programmer who is now having to focus unfairly on the younger kids needing extra help or completely rework the program on the fly. Librarians are good at programming off the cuff and at a moment's notice--but the point is that we've planned in advance here.

And truly, how many ten and eleven year olds do you know who want to hang out with six year olds all the time?

Knowing something will be a special treat when they're older, or taller, is not a horrible thing. Following the rules about something like age now just might set a precedent for down the road when it's driving, curfew, or dating. But in the meantime, please don't make me or any other program planner the bad guy. I can't control your child's age or height--but then, I'm not the one who promised them they could ride the ultra-looping-roller-coaster or go to the program that's for the big kids [or preschoolers] only.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Care and Pruning of Chapter Books

I took on the care and feeding of the children's chapter book collection in the fall of 2008. This collection, spanning three buildings, is about 8000 books and hadn't seen much weeding in several years.

I would be handing off the branch collections at the turn of the year to the newly hired assistant branch manager, and before I did so I wanted to make sure some pruning took place. Print outs from the tech services department in hand, I spent several afternoons wading through the collections at the LPL North and South branches. Some series were pulled en masse and others we debated keeping despite a decrease in circulation (e.g. Brian Jacques). Extra copies of Harry Potter books went into storage-one really only needs three or four copies of book seven during the off season between films. And I started lists of things that needed to be replaced or purchased at both locations. We have heavy plastic weeding bins and I filled up a number of them at both locations.

Then I started at Main. As my work was done sporadically as I had a free afternoon here or there, deep weeding took the better part of a year. I saw and touched nearly every single book in the collection. If it was on the shelf, I looked at it, checked it off my list, made a decision on condition, and either replaced it on the shelf, put it in a pile with a note to check the series or be replaced, or it went into a weeding bin. If it wasn't on the shelf, I needed to know why. Was it missing? Was it checked out? I learned quickly that my work card only allowed 100 holds as I started placing holds on the materials checked out. The staff hold shelf was constantly crammed with books with my name on them. The "missing/lost" lists still haven't recovered. I discarded an average of four-five weeding bins per range of shelves (we have 4 units containing chapter books-- 8 ranges of 16 shelves each). I'm still working on a solid grasp of series and suggested reading lists but I've certainly made a start.

My goal was not to bar access to great literature. It wasn't to limit reading options or discard beloved children's classics. I don't get some kind of strange pleasure out of getting rid of a book your child read once ten years ago and loved. And yes, I got the occasional horrified look as I'd grab a series that was yellowed and crumbling and fling them collectively into a bin bound for the Friends of the Library Book sale (e.g. Magic Attic). Whether it was horror at the condition of the books or horror that I was weeding varied.

But it was time for housekeeping. All collections, whether they are your home stash of elephants or the library juvenile fiction books, need pruning. The shelves here were stuffed to the point one was afraid to take something out--you'd never get it back on the shelf. This hindered browsing and meant I had no space to turn anything cover out. We all pick up things based on the cover. There were series that weren't complete or had long outlasted their time. Yes, the Mary-Kate and Ashley books still occasionally checked out but not nearly often enough, in my opinion, to keep all four series now that both girls have dropped out of college.

And books with ratty, dated, beat up covers have a limited appeal, particularly the children. The majority of the kids I know come in looking for something shiny, bright and applicable to them. If they are greeted with yellowing pages, early 80s clothing and hair cover art, and "library edition" stickers --kids will leave thinking that the vast majority of the books aren't interesting to them. And they won't want to come back.

I replaced a lot of classics, generally with newer versions that I thought would circulate better. We might have had a copy of the book but if it looked old or boring or a little too well loved, it was time to wade through for something newer. The book doesn't do anyone any good sitting on a shelf collecting dust. There's a reason they have been reissuing Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters with covers that look remarkably like the Twilight books. And I'm a big fan of the new Beverly Cleary/Judy Blume covers.

That we would replace a book when, technically, we had a perfectly readable copy has surprised some patrons. It has been perceived, I suppose, as a waste of money. But I would argue that the Matt Christopher books are circulating much better now and boys are reading them. Or that the Blume and Cleary books are far more likely to be in the hands of a child--and purchasing those classics in a format that helps kids to enjoy them is, in my mind, an excellent use of money.

As I've weeded, there has been a lot of adding/replacing. Books in our collection get a lot of love and life out of them and bindings crumble, covers fray, pages get ripped out and some get lost or stolen. It's the nature of a public library. The 2009 year alone I added nearly 1000 books to the collection, between replacements, filling out series, and newly published titles. Our "new" shelf has been fully loaded all year with cool options and that makes for a very pleased hedgehog.

The weeding and ordering and wading through reviews has well been worth it in terms of happy kids and increased usage. Over the summer months I saw a 16% increase from 2008 to 2009. That number has flattened out a little now that everyone is back in school (October we were only up 10%), but the books displayed face out keep needing to be refilled and the new books are circulating quite nicely from their display area. So, as I pause to indulge in a little self-congratulations, I'm doing something right. In this case, a focus on quality rather than quantity has revitalized the collection. And lest you think I "got rid of everything"--there are currently 4759 books in the chapter book section. By no means are the shelves bare.

Amusingly, I had one patron tell me that as long as I was buying new copies of Newbery books, things would be fine. She was pretty surprised when I responded that while yes, I bought current Newbery winners and replaced ones still relevant to our collection , it wasn't my current plan to find obscure early awards winners that circulate only to the rare person wanting to read "all the Newberys" (why we have interlibrary loan) or the last college student of the third section of the children's lit course who has to read one. Besides, Daisy Meadows has another set of Rainbow Magic Fairies books due out soon....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And One Important Thing More:

Today is Veteran's Day....

Both of my friends who are actively serving are stateside at present, for which I'm incredibly grateful. When I was growing up, today was a day we honored wars long past memory. Now, I'm helping people honor friends and family members currently engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To the Master Sergeant and 2nd Lieutenant and everyone else serving in the armed forces, to those who have served at home and abroad:

Thank you

A Few Brief Thoughts

Happy Birthday Week to Sibling-the-Younger. I'm told he didn't want a big fuss but it's still pretty cool that he shares a D.O.B with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Take a moment with me to be incredibly amazed by and jealous of Laurie Halse Anderson's writing cabin. When I grow up and write many many wonderful books that inspire kids, teens and parents and win tons of awards etc, I want one just like it. Only, maybe with a little more yarn.

Should you be a member of the library profession, particularly if you are job seeking, it behooves you to not condescendingly talk about public and/or children's librarians as though we were a lower life form. Just a suggestion.

I've read most of the new Winnie the Pooh. It was okay but I don't think Pooh should ever be referred to as having fingers. He has paws....

We're having our signature fund raiser at the library on Friday: we've picked out books we'd like to add to the collection, you come, choose the ones you like, pay for them and we add them into our collection with name plate identifying you as the giver. It's called Give-a-Gift. I've got a whole shelf of stuff upstairs that I hope meets with enthused donors. Plus there will be snacks, wine, and I have a reason to wear 4 inch strappy heels in November. See you there?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hedghogs in the News: Baldly

From My Friend the Lawyer:

Bald hedgehog is found abandoned

Poor hoglet--without prickles or family....

Thursday, November 05, 2009


I was under the impression that NaNoWriMo was relatively widespread but I keep running into people who haven't heard of it, so thought I might share it here.

National Novel Writing Month: a competition to write 50,000 words/175 of a new novel (not one you've been working on for years) in the month of November. You start on November 1 and scribble furiously until the 30th, not taking time (at the moment) for revision.

It's a good kick start, an excellent prompt, and hopefully gets a lot of people to the writing board. I participated last year, though I didn't "win" (get to 50K).

It's evolved and a lot of other people have taken up the idea. There's NaNoBloMo (Post something on your blog every day for 30 days), NaNoSweMo (Knit a sweater in a month), etc etc. The essence seems to be: pick a challenge, a big challenge. Here are 30 days. Make yourself accountable to other people. Go.

It was my intent to participate this year. Somewhere in my apartment is a vague square piece of paper with the notes for the book I was thinking of working on.

I can't find it and by the time I realized it was November, it was the 2nd.

So I made a different goal. It's a personal one, so, despite my joy of sharing with y'all, it won't be going on the blog. I have another 25 days. And then holiday knitting will be taking over the rest of my life until 12/26.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Rube Goldberg Software

I am among the privileged, so I'm told. I have a Google Wave account. No, I don't have invites yet so please don't leave me a comment or send me an email asking for one. EJ was my benefactor and no, he doesn't have any invites to share either. Here's what Google Wave is/does...

I've gone in and tried to play around a little. I can see some uses for group work, but it's still in preview and the clunk factor, at the moment, is outweighing the cool factor. That's my opinion for now. I'm sure that will change and we'll all glide in there and have a good time in the future.

But today was amusing. On LITA-L a proliferation of emails were sent with hopeful requests for invites. Invites are apparently being far more carefully guarded and reluctantly tokened out by Google than Gmail was--at least, in my memory*. When today, the requests started coming that people stop sending invite requests to the list (it was creating a lot of noise), something needed to be done.

Enter me with an editable spreadsheet. Have I mentioned how much of a fan of these I'm becoming? Shared Google Spreadsheets has made committee work so much easier and I can pass out book lists and all sorts of things--making them editable, view only, all sorts of convenient things. I named a spreadsheet, grabbed a link, and told people to add themselves.

At present we have 70 people on the list. That was in the first three hours. The hope is that when people are granted invites they will pull people from the list and bring them into the fold. And then that LITA people receiving invites will remove themselves or edit that they've already received an invite. Any way around it, at this point, I've gotten far less emails this afternoon.

A large (but controlled) group of people are using a shared spreadsheet to communicate with each other about gaining an opportunity to join a shared space to communicate with a large (but at this point controlled) group of people.

Email list to a shared spreadsheet to invites (via email) to join Wave.....

Rube Goldberg anyone?

*Is that the new uphill both ways in snow? I had to WAIT to get a gmail account?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cleaning Out the Closet Programs

Most (not all) children's rooms have a back closet stuffed with supplies. There's a little of this and that left over from all kinds of programs before. Some glitter, paper in weird colors, tissue paper, two dozen 5 mm dowel rods, enough glitter glue to decorate a building, that kind of stuff just piles up if you don't drag it out occasionally

I've been trying, this year, to figure out some programs that allow me to use up leftovers without having to purchase a lot of additional things. I haven't made it anywhere near through our backlog yet (especially of tissue paper, we may NEVER run out) but I'm working on it.

This summer, our theme was "Be Creative." This translated to a focus on art, music and dance for the summer, with some theater and gardening thrown in for good measure. I opted to focus on "colors" because it was vague enough to let me pull out a bunch of cheerful crafts without getting too bogged down.

Supplies Needed:

Tissue Paper
Pipe Cleaners
"Stuff to decorate" (can be just about anything but make sure it's light)
Butcher paper
Glue/Glue Sticks (I prefer glue)
Styrofoam Cups
Masking Tape
Paint Brushes (little ones, preferably old ones that you can then throw away)

Craft One: Tissue paper butterflies

Precut the butterflies out, if possible, and provide decorations (markers, stickers, etc) and pipe cleaners.
Ask the kids to choose a pipe cleaner middle and decorate the wings. These look lovely hung up in windows.

Craft Two: Tissue paper flowers

Precut rectangles of tissue paper (about 4x8 inches) and have them stacked up. Pick up four or five layers, bind the center with a pipe cleaner. Cut the petals in decorative shapes, fluff them apart. Add decorations as desired. (These also wrap nicely into headpieces as the base is then all pipe cleaners.)

Craft Three: Mural
Have a general idea sketched out on some butcher paper and ask the kids to help you fill it in with all the decorations you would like: markers, tissue paper, feathers, anything that won't fall off when you hang it up. And by general idea I mean abstract shapes--not a farm scene. For whatever reason though, kids liked making "clothes" out of the tissue paper.

Craft Four: Instruments

Ahead of time, put beans, beads, any small thing you have in the back that you can stand the site of any more 9and will rattle) into styrofoam cups. Tape two cups open ends together (now it's a shaker!) Use tissue paper (told you we had a lot) cut in small squares and lots of glue and layer the tissue paper all over the cups. Should get a stained glass effect.

Tomorrow I'm doing another "what's in the back room" program with fairies as the theme.

Colored paper
Dowel Rods (leftovers from another program, straws or popsicle sticks work too)
All the glitter glue in Wisconsin
Leftover tissue paper squares and flowers (I don't know where the precut flowers came from
Flat "angel" cut outs (from my mom's cleaning out) (wings plus a skirt cut out = fairy to me!)
Magnet pieces

Craft one: Wands
If I could guarantee 10 year olds, I'd make them cut out their own wand shapes. Since I can't, I used the die cutter and colored paper and tada--52 stars (none of them yellow). Glue two stars together with dowel rod in the middle and you have a wand. The fairies tomorrow can decorate, add ribbon, write their fairy name on it...all sorts of things.

Craft two: Headdresses
See Tissue paper flowers above, adding in ribbon and a base circlet of pipe cleaners. I'm actually not doing this one tomorrow, I decided two crafts was enough

Craft Three: Make your own fairy magnet
We had the magnets and ornaments, so the girls will get to design their own flower fairy friend. Once they are done decorating, we'll write their fairy name on the back (I'm using this Fairy Name Generator) and add a magnet so it can go on the fridge.

Wish me luck and not bringing any of this stuff back with me!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Review: NERDS by Michael Buckley

by Michael Buckley

Buckley's pretty well known for his charming Sisters Grimm series, which brings to life the rather frightening reality that fairy tale characters live in a small town in upstate New York. So it was with high anticipation that I grabbed NERDS off the shelf.

Meet Jackson Jones, your typical super-popular star athlete at the middle school. Kids want to be like him or at least in his circle of friends, even adults emulate him. Charm and style and amazing skill at football should see him through fifth grade trials, tribulations, and time spent picking on geeks and nerds, right?

That is--until a fatal dental appointment--where Jackson learns he has an unusual number of teeth and is slapped into braces and headgear. Highly magnetized headgear. Instantly gone is his popularity

But then he begins to notice something about the classmates he picked on before. When he follows them, he stumbles upon a secret world of spies, missions, and a very unusual Lunch Lady.

Inadvertently joining the team, Jackson has to prove himself to teammates who hate him, deal with super special braces, and try not to flunk out of fifth grade--oh, and save the world from a supreme evil doer and his hired assassin (who is also in fifth grade).

Buckley provides a very realistic hero in the stereotypical popular boy who has fallen from grace. Jackson sees himself as a good kid and is startled to realize he is a bully. A little self-realization and sadness and growth comes but not one of those sudden 180 turn arounds. At random the reader does have to provide retina scans and pass other security clearances...with a typical does of tween humor.

First in a series, this is another one to keep high on the ordering list and make sure it's face out on the shelves. The guy taking my order at the sub shop the other day grabbed it off the counter for a quick perusal--so I think we can safely say the cover appeals to all ages.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hedgehogs in the News: 5 Star Rating

Thanks to Jennie, who tweeted me this too adorable story!!

Hoglets born in hotel reception

Mama Hedgehog had good taste!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where's the Literacy???

At work, we have a number of professional subscriptions, including to Book Links. Skimming through the latest issue (Oct 2009) I came across an article about Family Literacy that floored me.

One of the suggestions was a Family Literacy Night at the Library. I was excited at the prospect of getting some new ideas to add to my storytime, where the parents are continually hearing me harp about early literacy techniques, methods and reasoning.

I was stunned when I read the "schedule for the evening" , for after the introduction, the first activity suggested was watching a fifteen minute movie.

I have nothing against movies in general. I don't have anything against developing a good picture book into a good short film*. We show features length movies occasionally at the public library where I work during the summer, on no school days, at most perhaps 8-10 per year (probably fewer) and very occasionally use them in our storytimes.

But your first action on a literacy night is to show a movie???? This just seems incredibly counter-intuitive to me. What about literacy games? Story boxes? Doing a short skit with two staff members and some puppets or stuffed animals modeling reading as a family. If a "gentle call to family reading" is desired, why not actually read a book together?

The rest of the evening is a story-teller or librarian doing a read-aloud, passing out a "goody bag of resources" and time for questions. In my experience, once I've turned on a film, that's it. The kids' brains are gone and they aren't interested at the end of the movie in a live person doing something. This is precisely why the day after getting my braces, I read two stories before I turned on a book-based film in my storytime. At the very least, wouldn't you wait until the end when attention spans are lost or going?

Of an hour of the proposed program, twenty minutes is spent in some manner of reading, though most of the story-tellers I know tend not to actually use books or use them scantly, which doesn't model good reading together. So it is quite possible to do an entire evening without ever actually opening a book. How does this promote family literacy?

I recognize there are many kinds of literacy, particularly when one delves into the myriad segments of information literacy. But when working with younger children we tend to err on the side of the physical reading of books. There are so many games, activities, and take home ideas that are available that you can develop while the parents are actually there with their children. And if they've come, they are there to get some early literacy and family literacy ideas.

Why would you waste fifteen precious minutes on a video?

* I particularly am looking forward to seeing Mo Willem's Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meet the Parents: Regency Romance Series

Welcome back to another round of the Regency series:
* Starting off
* Meet the man
* Pretty Lady
*Who Do I Read 1

Since someone had to give birth to these paragons of virtue, troubled souls, wicked but utterly reformable rakes, and innocent but oh so wise maidens (and occasionally widows), we must as matter of course have parents.


Now then, in all the really good novels, they kill off the mother. Perhaps it's a throwback to the classic fairytales or perhaps it's just the reality that childred, especially girls, with mothers often have relationships with those mothers and don't tend to be quite so prone to running away, having strange romances, etc etc. So please, do consider abolishing the mother before you start the first page.

Mother often died early, perhaps even in childbirth. This is not necessarily unrealistic, many women did die at that time from giving birth. And all of their children apparently promptly grew up to star in Regency Romances. If the mother dies, it allows one to make her a sainted creature, fondly remembered and loved and without any flaws a woman who had to survive the teenage years of her child.

But sometimes you need the mother to live.

If it's the girl's mother:

If she survives the father (killing him off, also popular) often she's useless and all burden of supporting the family, being an active character etc falls upon the daughter about whom the story is written. Mother is often relegated to having trunks of beautifully made clothing that can be remade for the daughter to wear when snaring the noble who'll be her husband by the end of the book. Said noble then gets mother and other siblings as new dependents.

Other mother daughter options to consider:
* Mother ignores daughter in favor of another child: either a boy or a much more beautiful sister
* Mother is the grasping mushroom type trying to buy her daughter a title she doesn't want
* Mother is running around with all sorts of inappropriate men, which embarrasses virginal daughter

It's very very helpful is the girl's mother was disowned by her gentry/noble family for marrying the girl's father, reconciliations between grandchildren/grandparents are very popular.

And, occasionally, mother is a pretty regular normal decent parent with a pretty normal relationship with her daughter.

If it's the guy's mother:
* She was the only one who loved him but died early because his father was cruel to her
* She abandoned him at a young age to run off with her lover
* She had him with her lover but he's been acknowledged/raised as the heir
* She is vitriolic and plans to rule his house forever and has to be thrown out.

Those are the extremes. Usually the guys have much better mothers and much better and more realistic relationships with their mothers, the moms mostly having the role of complaining about them not being married and providing grandchildren.


Fathers are more likely to be alive for the girls. If they have died, they've left massive of debts behind so their daughters are impoverished (the charming gamester dad or poor cleric dad) or they've left them as heiresses with bad guardians.

For your heroine, her Father

* raised her like the son he never had but hates her for being female and/or for behaving like a boy.
* ignored her, hated her for being female.
* is the vague professorial type who educated her too well for men.
* has remarried and the woman he's married is awful for variety of reasons

For your hero, his father
* hates him for surviving his older brothers, or being wife's ill-begotten child, or being born at all (take your pick)
* loves him and thinks his being a rake is perfectly marvelous
* is dead and was horribly mean, causing the hero never to want children or get married.
* is dead and was wonderful, in which case he only gets mentioned in passing.

Occasionally both parents are still alive and do seem to have a good relationship with their child. More often these are his parents and then they are either wonderful people who have a lovely marriage or they are cold, harsh aristocrats who sneer upon anyone except a frigid girl like themselves and who hate each other.

(At least I'm giving you a variety of options...cut them all up, draw them out of a hat, and go.)

Ah but we can't forget remarriages, now can we.


These poor women are, ninety percent of the time, bad mean evil women. They resent daughters and sons of first marriages, they are grasping, money grubbers.

Generally it is the heroine's father who has remarried. Those women, often younger than sainted dead mother would be, always want to marry off the daughter as fast as possible in hopes the daughter won't require any more money from their fathers. If the father has remarried the stepmother wants the son/heir to die so her children can inherit or some other random and strange thing.

Such it is, it comes as a pleasant surprise when there is a healthy relationship between stepmother and hero/ine. The best example I can give is Julia Quinn's book The Viscount Who Loved Me.


Stepfathers are rare. Sometimes the mother has remarried before she goes off to sainted death and now the stepfather is selling the heroine off to the highest bidder or one of his old cronies. Sometimes the mother is still alive and this same situation is happening. Rarely do they just portion off the daughter and let her marry some nice man.

But then, that wouldn't make a good story now would it.

Siblings and other relatives on the way soon!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Academic Disconnect: Whither Public Professors?

A strange fact about my graduate library education recently struck me: none of the professors I had were public librarians.

The tenured professors were from academic or school media. The majority were from academic libraries, though from what memory serves at least one of them had pretty much only ever taught library science and theory without ever having actually done the everyday work of applying the theories she'd helped to create.

I took a variety of classes over those 4 semesters, several with adjuncts. The closest I came to a public librarian was Gary Wasdin*, but he was on the research division side and the Director of the Office of Staff Development at NYPL. While I was in class with him, he was the Director of the Library at New School and I see he's gone on to the Uni of Alabama. This is not to say I begrudge Gary what he's done and is doing, and certainly I learned a whole lot from him by virtue of the fact he was actually IN the library field doing library things...I'm just pointing out how far even that was.

The MLS has a lot of theory and general preparation from the profession as a whole, at least, it's supposed to, along with potentially allowing specialization in a certain kind of library. But in retrospect, my head is reeling that none of those people I worked most closely with to prepare myself had any experience with the work that I actually do everyday. While I'll be the first to argue that the basic skills do translate across all kinds of libraries: budgeting, collection development, outreach, marketing, management...there are things that one learns really only by having worked in the public library. For example, it's one of the only types of libraries that sees patrons from every single age bracket. Most others have a slightly narrower audience than birth to death and all education levels.

Public libraries are a large enough group that they have their own association, conferences, tracks at bigger conferences, and are in the headlines everyday. We're a site for self-education, continuing education, the foundations of children's information literacy before they hit those school media specialists. But these librarians do not seem to be the ones getting to the classrooms. I wonder why this is? Do they not want to teach, seeing it as a part of academia and an academic's job? Are they shot down by LIS programs because they aren't academics? Is it not conducive because grad classes are in the evenings and that's busy time for most public libraries? Has this changed drastically in the past five years and now public librarians are everywhere?

With the increased desire for specialization I wonder if future graduates will have any opportunity to move beyond the divison/library-type where their first job lies. But if they aren't prepared for public libraries, and aren't working with public librarians, how will they be ready for those first jobs?

I wonder if a LIS school would consider me experienced enough to start teaching....

*btw...if that somehow manages to get Gary's attention: Hi! Greetings from one of your former St. John's students. I had you for intro and summer management. Skinny light brunette with waist length hair.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Who Do You Love? Part 1: Regency Romance Series

A commenter asked for some reading recommendations. If you're just getting into historical fiction and regencies, it can be a bit daunting to face the romance section in your local library or bookstore and try to pick out the ones that are interesting and amusing over those that might be to prurient or insipid or "Please tell me that isn't REALLY Fabio on the cover...."

My author suggestions will mostly come from the longer types of romances, those running about 350 pages. This is not to imply that there are not many valuable authors in 180-220 page category, but I read those by the pound. I don't tend to grab a particular author (with one notable exception), I grab a publisher and put everything the library has on hold, ten books at a time.

Those publishers are:

Signet Regency
Zebra Regency
Fawcett (Coventry Romances or Crest or something other of that nature)

They aren't the only ones but those are the most prominent amongst the 40 or so I just had a quick look at in the living room. You'll get to where you recognize the cover formatting, more than anything else.

I don't read the Harlequin Historicals. I have read a few and they were decent, but there seemed to be a focus on getting a sex scene into what was a relatively short story. When 1-5 pages has to be sacrificed to the obligatory "then they went to bed together" with all of the accompanying euphemisms, it annoys me.

So, onto those author suggestions.

Georgette Heyer: Heyer gave us Regency Romance and so no list should begin without her name. She's known for her historical descriptions, her inclusion of detail, and her fine style. Her books tend to read like the shorter Regencies but be of the length of the longer ones. I've only read a couple of hers but more are definitely on my list. These are ones, I'm told, that have convinced skeptical male readers that there might be more to these books than petticoats, balls, and "purple patches."

Julia Quinn: Quinn is my absolute favorite and I back that with my checkbook, having bought every single one of her titles, a couple of them more than once when my copies went missing. She is witty, her characters have depth, and she tends to break out of the oh-so-typical formulas that I am gently mocking. She spins new twists with a wonderfully ironic sense of humor. I recommend starting with The Duke and I and reading through the Bridgerton series. Those are, in my humble opinion, her best work.

Eloisa James: James is a tenured Shakespeare professor and a NYT best-selling author of romance. It somehow was a surprise to me, when I heard her speak, for her to point out that she writes about marriage. Not about engagements and happy endings that stop at a march down the aisle, but what happens five, ten, fifteen years later, when things have gone awry from misunderstanding, people growing and changing, miscommunications, etc. Her books are well-researched and rich in detail. Jemma is her most vibrant character, but certainly not the only one with whom one can or wants to identify. I would say start with either Duchess in Love or An Affair Before Christmas.

Celeste Bradley: Bradley was recommended to me by a dear friend in Chicago. Upon discovering that the other read historical romance, she and I went through author names until we found ones we'd not heard before. Bradley writes strong heroines, active women, and for that I grab everything with her name on it eagerly. Her books are also humorous, often I chuckle aloud at a description or turn of phrase. Witty dialogue, fun characters, and she tends to write in groups of three or four, which make for a pleasant, but not overwhelming cluster of books to take on for a trip, weekend, or however long. Best to start though with The Pretender. I read the books out of order, but it's helpful to get them in sequence.

Michelle Martin: Here is the exception to the short-Regency author rule. Martin wrote The Hampshire Hoyden, a book known between the Incredibly-Patient-Mother and Sibling-the-Elder and I for having made all three of us cry for laughing so hard. It's out of print, so you'll need to look for a used copy and they aren't the easiest to come by. I have one and no, you may not borrow it. Her others are amusing but not as good, in my opinion.

I have another half dozen authors to suggest, but I'll leave you with these for the interim.

**Note: Some people like to know in advance, all but the Heyer books (and Martin's) have sex scenes in them and some of those are pre-marital. None of them tend to put dialogue in those scenes that "can't be missed or you'll never understand the rest of the book." As a result, once I've read how an author does the scene once, I usually can skip right over them in the rest of the books. They are there but they aren't obnoxious. And with rare exceptions, all of their books meet the no-sex-in-the-first-100-pages rule.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Book Review: White Witch by Janet Graber

The White Witch
Janet Graber

There just aren't enough good plague books for kids. Fortunately, Graber steps up to the plate, addressing a devastating point in history and confronting the belief system of the time.

In a small English village, Gwen has a reputation of being a witch because of her pale coloring and ability to commune with animals. While she doesn't seem to be albino, she has light hair and skin and the village people both respect and fear her.

Her father, a trader, brings news of the plague from London and warns the villagers that they must not allow the refugees fleeing the city to come down the river and dock with them. Believing that God will protect them and choosing to believe the illness a sign of retribution for sinfulness, they choose to ignore his warning.

Gwen's father knows they will blame her for the illness. He hides her in a secret room in the church, formerly used to hide riches, and leaves the village, promising to return. Time passes and refugees, rats, and ultimately the plague arrive. Gwen watches as people flee or die, with deaths outpacing the rate the bodies can be buried.

Silence falls on the village, and then one of the villagers returns from hiding in the woods, a young woman who knows where Gwen is hiding.

Gwen risks getting the plague herself to help her friend, even when she knows it means losing the boy she loves to that friend. But those aren't the only villagers around, and now Gwen faces a witchcraft trial.

While not making inappropriately light of the death and the superstitions that surrounded healing and people who were different, Graber presents an interesting glimpse of a time not often addressed in children's literature. A thoughtful read.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

On the Flip Side

No, I'm not dead, just buried. Freelance work seriously picked up and then I went home for six days. Now I've returned and started to make sense of the disaster zone also known as my desk at work, and have hope that the living room floor will be reclaimed within the next 72 hours. And so I get back to my writing, yours obediently.

I had the chance, early in the month, to attend Wisconsin Sheep and Wool. It was a bit of a drive but the day was lovely and I was on a mission. At the Jefferson Fairgrounds I found two large buildings full of vendors with all manner of woolly goodness. That I succumbed only to some beautiful pale seafoam green alpaca, some tweedy alpaca, two skeins of coarser but delicious Icelandic wool and a couple of bars of soap should be applauded. Apparently I'm now collecting bars of great handmade soap, but at least it gets used and cleanliness/godliness and all that.

Also I met some sheep. There were a lot of sheep that looked like ones that I imagine in my head when I think of those wool-providing creatures. Then there were the ones as pictured here, who looked a lot more like goats that someone stuffed into a woolly pillow. Doesn't that look like a fluffy Alpine to you?

The majority of the sheep were friendly and happy to discover whether or not I tasted like a salt lick. Fingers are always an acceptable nibbling treat.

I finished my first ever pair of socks! It came about entirely as a coping method one day, when I had so much running about in my brain that I quite literally could not do anything else. I sat and knit just plain stitches, one after the other, around in a very small circle. 52 stitches per row. Who knows how many rows because I didn't count. Just one more needle, one more row. My brain ran on at insane miles per hour and my physical self worked stitch after stitch.


They haven't been blocked yet. The yarn is Sanguine Gryphon Eidos in Alcibiades using the numbers/pattern from the Tsock Tsarina's Tsock 101 Kit for those of the knitterly persuasion playing along.

And then it was back to Queens for two days of Indian summer and the first chills of fall. I stayed with the Brunette and Husband and new roommate. The Actor convinced me that singing for Rock Band, in public, was somehow acceptable. I made my way through Evanescence and No Doubt before it was decided that my rock repertoire was rather limited. (I knew this, they didn't believe me. When Rock Band comes out with the 24 Italian Songs and Arias for Medium-High Voice version, call me.)

The Blonde, Brunette, Husband and I went apple picking upstate, in/near Warwick, NY. It's a combination apple picking, rose garden (small but great colors), winery, and homemade donuts place. We stood for over 40 minutes waiting in line for fresh donuts and agreed that it was a form of unusual punishment to wait and be able to see and smell hot donuts but not buy nor taste lest our tongues be burnt. But warm apple cider donuts and great wine, as well as quite abundant apples, made it well worth the trip. (The two bottles of wine survived the plane trip home!!!)

Me in the obligatory "put your head in the cutout" --as required by the Blonde.

Finally, I headed into the City to meet up with My-Friend-the-Lawyer (who these days is more like My-Friend-the-Student, but he's almost done with that) and eat amazing Lebanese food at Naya. The desserts were incredible.

So that's where I've been.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11: Year 8

It's gotten easier, now that time has passed. The immediacy isn't quite so upon us.

And I say this as a young woman who broke down in tears in front of Carmen Agra Deedy when she shared with me the beautiful picture book she wrote about the gift of cows made to America by the Maasai tribe in Africa. That was only six weeks ago.

As my grandparents remember Pearl Harbor, and my parents the day Kennedy was shot: I remember 9/11/01.

I know where I was when the first plane hit (Renaissance Women in Italy History course). I know who the first person I reached on the phone was (Master Sergeant). I can remember shutting off the television because my roommate Cindy and I were so numb from repetition that there were no tears left. I can remember the name of someone who should have been at work that day and wasn't.

I can remember, a year later, tears streaming unashamedly down my face as I was a part of the Rolling Requiem. I remember feeling as though I'd just dropped 100 feet when the NJ Transit train pulled into the daylight--and I realized that I was riding around inside the basement of the towers.

Today, as I imagine it will be for the rest of my life, I will remember.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yarn Giveaway: Winner

Thank you so much to everyone who donated to LFPL over the last month.

Steve has extended his fundraising (with a matching donor offer) to the end of the week, if you're still inclined.

But I promised I'd draw a name today.

I put everyone's name x number of times on a spreadsheet, based on the number they told me they'd donated. I then used random.org to get a truly random number.

The winner is: Ivy.

Ivy, I'll be emailing you for your address to mail the yarn. Thank you everyone for your generosity!!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pretty Lady: Regency Romance Series

It's another dose of the regency series:
* Starting off
* Meet the man

The Heroine

Alongside such a strong hero, it's very possible for the woman of a Regency Romance to be overwhelmed. Still, it takes a lot to wrangle these guys into a marriage and so most of these girls need a spine. It's when they're really insipid that one needs an even larger leap of romantic faith. Really? A dynamic worldly 35 year old and an waifish 18 year old virgin...uh huh. But let's lay the ground rules of our leading ladies:

Your heroine is beautiful but not always the most beautiful woman in the room (except, of course, eventually to the hero). She's unusual, different, unique. The reigning beauties may look pale, washed out, dull in comparison, etc next to her. That's one take, another is that she's very attractive but in the shadows, waiting for some man to discover her and shine the limelight upon her. Blond is the most preferred hair color, though any myriad version of that shade will do (Golden, honey, white blond, etc). But even with this pale hair color, make sure her eyebrows and lashes are naturally much darker. Red hair also shows up with alarming regularity. Strawberry blond is the best of both worlds. If her hair has to be brown it must be chestnut and only on rare occasions where someone had a gypsy ancestor does black hair show up. Her face, if you're following the Barbara Cartland tradition, is heart-shaped. Eyes are large and luminous (belladonna applications anyone?), pools of color to be fallen into. Again, brown eyes not so much, we really prefer a crisp green or blue or, randomly, violet. I've never met anyone with purple eyes, but apparently they were all over the place in the Regency.

Height is either unusually tiny, where she doesn't come up to his shoulder, or she's unusually tall and is the same height or taller than most of the men. ***If I seem to use "unusual" overmuch, it's because some authors do.*** But then, with all those taller-than-everyone-else-men, it helps to have a girl who measures vertically up to them. Figures are at most full. She might have an impressive bosom but earthy figures are left to older women or those of a less moral nature. Often she's not incredibly endowed but has a wonderful figure, slim and healthy, that doesn't really ever need a corset. So ideally we're going for curvy but slim. Got that?

Your heroine generally gets one of two personalities: the self-sufficient feisty girl or the delicate flower who needs someone to build her a backbone. The first is getting to be far more popular, probably because too many readers were getting sick of these wistful waifs who couldn't say boo to their husbands. Backbone, willingness to work hard and possibly break a few rules, and generally having spunk is a good thing. Still, she should at all times also be incredibly well mannered, kind to small children, animals, and old servants, and beloved by all but the inconvenient family members who mistreat her. (More on those relatives in later posts.)

Whatever it is she's done or doing, she's doing or has done it well. Whether that be singing (golden songbird), dancing (no stomping on toes here), drawing or painting, raising her eight siblings after both parents died, speaking Latin, preserving her virtue, or dealing with some sort of weaponry, she's awfully good at it. Occasionally, you find the rare girl who admits an inability to sing/play well, when others around her are virtuosos, but more likely while she might not play perfectly, she plays with so much more emotion that everyone has to stop and take notice.

Your heroine really should be from a good family. It is slightly less imperative that she be born aristocracy than it is with the guys, but not by much. She still needs to come from a good family: gentry and aristocracy preferable, if her family is merchant, then she should have been raised and educated as a lady so she'll at least fit in neatly. Even if she has been demoted Cinderella style to servitude, she was brought up well and that always shines through when it needs to.

Yes, many of them have a Cinderella complex. Either personality, or evil family, or whatever....she's waiting for Prince Charming to take her away from her life of servitude and shower her with wealth, security, children, and the greatest opportunity of her life: being his wife. She's amazingly self-effacing in all this too. Yes, I know, options for women were rather more limited than they are now, but seriously.

What's her view on marriage? She wants to be married a fair portion of the time, though not always to the hero. She has idealized the boy next door (who, if he's not the hero, is totally unacceptable). You could go with the idea that she doesn't want to marry so she can take care of siblings, relatives, etc etc. There's the rare gem of a heroine who doesn't want to lose herself in marriage, worried she'll lose herself, but the hero always sweeps past this. Oh, and yes, occasionally she's a widow. But with the exception of one of the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn (and it's a lovely book), I can't come up with very many where it was a happy marriage. Usually the first husband was a profligate and subjugated her personality, was manic-depressive, left debts, and may have abused her. And if that doesn't make one just want to RUSH right into a second marriage :-p

So there's your lady. Go forth and make a lady, countess, or other title of her.

Next up? Meet the in-laws.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who's Your Hero: Regency Romance Series

If you're just joining us,
*Starting Off

Every good regency needs a hero. The brooding type tends to be popular. Occasionally one sees the perky one but lethargy and brooding tend to rule the day.

Things to remember about your hero:

He is always handsome and most of the time he's a brunette. I'm not sure why this is particularly appealing, but it seems the vast majority have gorgeous dark locks to be played with. There are a few blonds in the mix. Red hair is an extreme rarity. Make sure he's tall, usually taller than everyone else and has piercing eyes. I don't go for the angelic type, but apparently some do, for there are many who get described as angelic. Though, more often than not, it's a dark angel.

He's from a good family. With exceptions that I can count on one hand and have fingers left over, he's from the aristocracy. He doesn't have to be titled, there are those occasional spare brothers floating around, but most likely he's got at least one or two titles. Some families seemed to have enough for everyone so no boy had to be a mere mister. Those rare exceptions probably have some kind of gentry in the past, even if he is a *gasp* merchant or *the horror* estate manager.

Your hero must be an exceptional rider, driver, dancer and fighter. He alone can handle the horses no one else can and is never thrown. He's always exceedingly kind to them and they never lose shoes. He beats regularly the times others have set on various road races. Within the ballroom he never ever steps on a ladies feet and always in charge when dancing. (Would that all modern men could lead with such panache and confidence!) And no matter what he's handed: pistol, sword, or knife, or if he's just using bare fists, he is one of the undefeated at them. Along that fisticuff line, he has a "punishing" hook and usually trains with Gentleman Jackson himself. It's a nice way to let the hero go blow off some steam, bond with other men, or attribute why he's so amazing at everything he does.

The hero has quite the active night life, but amazingly shows no sign of the dissipation. He drinks, gambles, smokes and carouses with the demi-monde until wee hours. He sleeps until noon and is quite often hauled out of bed with a thick head. (Assuming of course that alcohol affects him, there are a number of heroes who seem to be able to imbibe vast quantities without every having a bad morning afterwards.) But none of these cause pudginess, gout, diabetes, red noses, and amazingly, despite having biblically known quite a number of women, none of these men have contracted sexually transmitted diseases.

Speaking of the time he's spent with the demi-monde: your hero has a past with the ladies. He's had any number of mistresses (often a "really big number of them" that shocks nice ladies). These ladies are always acknowledged courtesans, dancers, and widows. It's amazing how he finds all these women with loose morals, the ladies of the evening never seem to have any problems with the fact they've turned to the oldest of professions. If the hero finds the heroine in a brothel, he must of course spirit her out of there post-haste because she's a nice girl who would never do that. If he finds anyone else, apparently she's excited about her profession and the chance to entertain him. There were an amazing number of lusty bar wenches. There are also an amazing number of wives who cheat on their husbands, though of course the hero and heroine never would cheat on each other. A surprising number of these adulterous wives are happy to set up their lovers with girls who turn out to be the wife of his chaste and monogamous dreams. Who knew?

War heroes are convenient to have around, so consider making your hero a former (in his past) or recent (just coming home from the wars now) soldier. If he fought in the war, he was mentioned in the dispatches, so everyone knows what a hero he was and how he sacrificed himself for others. Despite the sacrifice, he usually comes home in one piece, despite the French soldiers and horrible surgeons best and worst efforts. Often, regret and reflection is alluded too, along with nightmares. I appreciate this, actually, it makes the men more human to realize that they fought and took lives and had friends lose their lives. Much more realistic than shoving it down with a "doing one's duty" and being perfectly able to resume civilian life.

The hero generally has one of two approaches to marriage: he has to for purposes of having an heir, saving his fortune, meeting a parental requirement, winning a bet, etc OR he's completely against it, plans never to marry, thinks all women are beneath him (insert double entendre here), so on and so forth. It seems to be one or the other, rarely is he just casually interested in women (Austen's Captain Wentworth in Persuasion is a rare example where he's open to the idea of marriage without it being forced upon him.)

We've met our hero, now on to our leading lady.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wool: You Know You Want It (Donate to the LFPL)

We're down to the last week of Steve's goal of gathering 5K for Louisville Free Public Library. Which means, we're down to the last week of the enter to win really awesome wool and/or me knitting it into something for you!

Here's the kick off post .

Here's how to play the game (one more time):

1) Donate to LFPL either by mailing them a check or contributing via Paypal to the Library Society of the World fund. He's already sent one check when we hit the half way point and it has been received.
  • The Library Foundation
    Attn: Flood
    301 York St.
    Louisville, KY 40203
    (502) 574-1709
2) Email me/Facebook me/Direct Message me on Twitter or Friendfeed or Plurk and let me know either a) you donated (for one chance) or b) how much you donated for one chance per $5 donated. My email is on the blog homepage if anyone needs it.

I'll be doing the drawing on September 2, 2009, results to be posted shortly thereafter.

Come on...it's Malabrigo. And it's going to a good cause!! Help Steve Lawson and the LSW make the five thousand dollar goal!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

How to Write a Regency Romance: A Tongue in Cheek Series

It's become too serious of late, so it's time for some frivolity. This will be a multi-part blog series over the next few weeks.

I now offer you, based on my years and years experience reading historical romance novels, suggestions on how to write one.* I'll mostly be focusing on so-called "regency romances." Many of these suggestions, though, play over nicely into modern/paranormal/etc etc etc. I make these points not to insult the authors, whose books I read, suggest, buy, pass to friends, etc.; nay, friends, I come only to amuse.

Let us begin.

We'll start with something easy--the Top Five Things You Should Mention in your Regency Romance (RR). This way you can plan to build your story around them.

  1. Tea : Everyone drinks it, everyone offers it, there's always a fresh pot around somewhere.
  2. Almacks: The ton revolved around it, who was invited, who was going, who wasn't going, which rake showed up there, who was banned, and the Patronesses.
  3. Ankles: Apparently they were the height of sexy, since bosoms were exposed by evening wear. Make sure there are nicely turned ones. (Turned, not sprained)
  4. Napoleon and the war: Half pay officers, wounded soldiers returning, soldiers dying, someone leaving to war, getting a commission, the escape from Elba, heros. TONS of possibilities here.
  5. Cravats: No nice man is without them. They're used to promote the hero, bind wounds, point out the silliness of brothers, and so on and so forth.
Next we'll be exploring your hero.

*Please note, these suggestions are not intended as practical advice. I have neither written nor published a regency romance, though the Incredibly-Patient-Mother has suggested that perhaps I should.

Hedgehogs in the News: Joke

My-Friend-the-Lawyer spotted this early this morning and sent it on. We both agree it's not the funniest joke we've ever heard.

Hedgehog joke wins comedy prize.

Happy Monday all...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mid-Week Brain Break

I'm blaming MLx from Friendfeed for this one.

Pop Words.

I will not apologize for spreading the addiction.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Making Soggy Memories

When I was very young, it was extremely normal for family gatherings to occur regularly. We got together for holidays, birthdays, any excuse to gather for a meal was a good one. I am one of eleven cousins on that side of the family, and these events brought together any number of us to swing on Grandma's front porch, play rounds of Euchre, swim in the lake, ice skate on that same lake, sing and tell stories. I'm the youngest of the girls and the oldest of the boys is still renowned for making everyone at the kids table laugh. And even as adults, we of the "kid" generation still often end up at a "kid" table, while our parents and grandmother are together and now, all of their children are grouped.

Cousins, as all children do, grow up and we split out across the country. And across the world. At one point there were cousins both in Germany and Japan, and while at the moment we're all back in the general midwest region, I doubt that will last a lifetime and it's still a stretch to get together.

So when the opportunity arose to spend a weekend across the state with two cousins and their families, it was time to pack up and look for directions.

Incidentally, Highway 21 is a long drive across the state. Lovely and peaceful, but one definitely slips into a state of "I can't remember anything I've seen in the past thirty minutes, where am I?"

It was incredibly normal, after somewhere around six years (there are three more children since last time I saw this set of cousins), to step back into the familiarity of cousins. Some life stories, some family news, plans for the next year, adventures taken, all shared in a kitchen, or over food. There was an adult table and a kid table, and though it shouldn't have surprised me, it was strange to sit down with my cousins and know WE were the adults. But a long history of shared times immediately filled the gap of a half dozen years apart.

And then, there was the water balloon fight. I wasn't sure it was going to be warm enough, but a half hour or so of playing catcher for three boys batting a foam ball warmed me up enough. I was also reminded that I am not particularly blessed with a throwing arm.

I was, of course, the novel target. One can hit one's dad, aunt, uncle or siblings with a squirt gun or water balloon anytime. Cousin Abigail? Not so much. I did put two parameters in place--no balloons directly in my face, please, and when I had the camera, I had technological device immunity. But I certainly ended up drenched and, despite eventually being armed only with a watering can, I managed to inflict my share of sogginess. The boys complained it wasn't fair, me with a watering can, I argued that I only had arms reach to dump water on them, while they were planning distract and conquer tactics and lobbying balloons at me from some yards away. They play baseball and there was some decent pitching going on, trust me.

Arguing over the hose---note the child in the background who is ENTIRELY off the ground. Apparently S is capable of hovering and no one warned me about that trait in the extended family.

A mad dash after catching his aunt with a squirt gun.

Getting the adults with the hose.

A pair of soaked cousins. Trust me, I'd just wrung out my shirt.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Sworn to Silence
Linda Castillo

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. Early Reviewers get copies of books from publishers in exchange for reading and providing an honest review on LibraryThing.

Castillo presents a thriller mystery when a serial killer re-appears after an absence of sixteen years to start murdering young women in a small town with a large Amish community.

Kate Burkholder has returned to her childhood hometown as the chief of police, bringing a history of growing up Amish and larger city police experience. When a serial killer returns and begins to escalate after an absence of sixteen years, Burkholder is caught between attempting to do her job and trying to deal with her own past. For, we learn, she believes she killed the Slaughterhouse Killer as a young woman, an act that caused her to leave the Amish community and become an outsider to her immediate family. Now, with a burnt out former rogue state officer sent to help out, she has to juggle local politicians, other law enforcement departments, and the unknown of whether the killer is back or if she has a new problem to deal with.

Castillo does an admirable job of setting up a town with believable politics, history and personality. I particularly liked the night dispatcher, whose obsession with current crime scene television shows is treated with a gentle humor and teasing of readers who are similarly interested. Her scenic descriptions are distinct enough to give a clear image, though she makes the ones involving the victims sparse enough to keep the stomach from churning. She provides interesting insight into the Amish community and their behavior towards Kate, showing believe instances where love for family takes precendence over cultural rules.

Tomasetti, the rogue cop in state agency sent to help, was stereotypical--rugged, good looking, has a tragic background. They never send the happily married average looking guy. And of course there was the seeming obligatory romantic angle. I was a little disappointed that two people had to fall into bed together. Yes, traumatic situation and all sparking romance and celebration of life, but it didn't add anything for me.

Overall, it was well done. I probably should have figured out the killer a little earlier, but I didn't mind that I hadn't. And it was nice to see more realistic time lines (something will take 2-3 days to get, etc). Thrillers aren't a genre I read often, but I recommend Sworn to Silence for someone who likes to watch Bones, CSI, Criminal, etc.

And it's apparently going to be part of a series, about which I feel ambivalent.

Cross posted to my account on LibraryThing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review: Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Carrie Ryan

It will come as no surprise that this is a zombie book. And it put me in mind, a bit, of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village."

Small enclosed town, threat of the Unconsecrated in the forest, and a girl who dreams of freedom. A girl has three options upon coming of age: get married, stay with your family, or join the mysterious "Sisterhood" who are the governing force. Mary, orphaned and rejected by her older brother, is caught between marrying a best friend she doesn't love, suffering from unrequited love of her best friend's little brother, and not wanting to believe in God or the Sisterhood.


When the zombies, sorry, Unconsecrated attack, Mary, her betrothed, her brother and his wife, and her love interest and HIS betrothed and a child retreat into a path that takes them out of the village. Only, they seem to have never learned of Roman numerals and the paths lead them mostly to death and dead ends.

I couldn't empathize with Mary as she waffled between the boy she was betrothed to (who was in love with her but also her best friend) and the boy she "loved" (though he was also waffling between the two girls). The history of the Sisterhood and the development of the village was never explained, and by the end I just didn't care.

The ending sets up, of course, for a sequel, but I think I'll pass.

Half-Way Reminder

We're halfway through the time for the LFPL Malabrigo Giveaway! A reminder that if you've donated to LFPL, please send me an email to be entered either for Malabrigo Yarn or me making you something out of Malabrigo. I will also suggest that you probably have someone in your family who would REALLY enjoy getting something handmade and woolly as a holiday gift. Details here.

Steve Lawson posted on Thursday that he's nearly to the $3000 of his $5000 goal! Hooray! They've updated their losses to nearly five million dollars and while insurance will hopefully be taking care of a lot of that, we all know that insurance will probably take a while and may not cover everything.

And in the interim over the weekend, I expect to be surrounded by 2 first cousins, 2 cousin-in-laws, and 5 1st cousins once removed having a water balloon fight. Pictures to follow, water balloon fight and weather permitting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Did Going to Conference Matter?

I inflicted upon you long details of my racketing around Chicago, meeting people, shaking hands, eating, causing trouble.

So what? Why does it matter?

Unlike my first trip to ALA, a self-funded trip where I worked in publishing and knew only a former grad school cohort, this time I went in knowing people. And while last year's day trip to PLA was pretty cool, this time I could breathe and take in the entire conference.

I communicate with librarians across the globe in a sometimes ridiculous number of ways: Listservs (9 that I can think of), Friendfeed, Plurk, Blogs, Linked In, ALA Connect, Meebo, Facebook, Email, and Phone. Eighteen (at least) different ways. And each has its place, its time and its uses.

But there is something to be said for putting a bunch of people in the same room to actually talk about things. So much happens online that a lot goes to the periphery. We're aware of it but perhaps not as focused as we'd like to be. Then, in a fifteen minute presentation, it's brought to the foreground, allowing us to ask questions, find out the details, share troubles and actually start to make plans.

It lets us be inspired. I sat in the back of a room crammed full of school media specialists, children's and teen librarians, and other people who have enjoyed the works of Anderson, Sitomer, and Woodson, and we were captivated. They believed in us. Anderson pointed out how much mail she receives from kids, many of whom were introduced to her work by librarians. She gave us relevance. Well known award winning authors spoke in praise of us and the work we do. It was humbling.

It shows us what is passe. Though I wish we were living a closer to Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson) kind of world, Second Life ain't it for me.

It helps us make contacts. I had a rollicking conversation during lunch at Unconference with a librarian in South Carolina--about funding, politicians, developing our careers. I was aware of most of the people who were coming to dinner on Saturday, but I met people I didn't know or saw only here and there on other people's comments. I would return to introduce Sibling-the-Elder via email to the Business Librarian at Champaign Public so they could discuss business resources.

I walked the exhibits, partially to grab snacks, but to affirm to myself that what they were pushing the hardest--I was aware of. I skipped a few booths--one can only look at some many ILS's before is blue in the face and I'm not on the committee selecting the new one anyway--but I got to talk to some vendors face to face, on my terms. I got to see what books are coming and know that, yes, I think I'm ordering the stuff that's going to be big. Circulation rates for my chapter books collection is up, which I'm gloating about all over the place, but it's good to know what's coming. (I kept hitting booths going "I have that, that, that, that's on order, that, that, that...)

It reminds us that we are scholars and researchers and teachers of each other and ourselves, not just the people ordering the latest in horse-themed books and Disney releases. We participate in committees to recognize what others are doing, shine light on what is working, and hopefully, come away with ideas.

It gives us a chance to step back from everyday and look at what's around us. When immersed in what we're doing every day, it's often hard to pause, think about being a librarian as a profession (tho not necessarily a calling) on a grander scale. What do these new tools mean, is there something a public library can grab from an academic and vice versa. There certainly is segregation, snobbery, condescension, and creative assumptions--and that can be worse in person than when we're hanging out on our lists and social networks at home, surrounded by our own kind. But this time around, people seemed slightly less inclined to write me off instantly for being a children's librarian at a public library. I found people who could see the value in what I do and how I fit into the profession.

And I got to share my Moo cards around, grab some books to review, and spend a weekend in Chicago.