rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
Yesterday I wondered why the whole "writing" dream kept niggling at me when I barely write anymore and I have a decent life and nobody needs stories from somebody bland like me anymore anyway. Kim Aippersbach had some good answers to that question-- the "why bother?" question-- in the comments, such as "You know you're a writer when the Lone Power's specific message to you is 'you shouldn't be a writer'," and that there's a "little blip" in your brain that "isn't ever going to be happy until you're writing, even though when you do finally try to write the rest of your brain (and/or the Lone Power) will spend all its considerable energies trying to convince you that you suck and this is stupid and pointless and no one will ever want to read it...And the only reason you keep trying to write is that stupid blip in your brain itches and squirms uncomfortably when you don't." Those are all true answers. But it was while I was driving between outreach preschools this morning that I realized another answer-- I don't know if it's an answer to "why bother?" as much as an explanation for WHY the question hurts so much.

It's because of this kid:
me with goofy hat

Would I tell that dorky little girl that nobody needed to hear her stories? That lonely little kid who spent her recesses scribbling stories in folded booklets of notebook paper, or at the very least telling herself the stories in her head? Would I go up to her and say "Why are you DOING that? You've obviously already seen yourself in other people's books, that's why you're so ADDICTED to books, so why the heck would the world need more stories from people like YOU, pray tell?" I mean, can you SEE that? What kind of cruel person would ever say something like that to a kid, a kid whose ONLY outlet is those stories she writes? She had no like-minded friends to share her imaginings with-- most of her friendships at that age were, frankly, unhealthy-- no Internet to post her thoughts and stumble upon kindred spirits.

She wrote stories about unexpected things happening that would upset the current social order and force kids to work together, hence forming friendships that otherwise would never have started. She wrote jokes and drama and strange observations and magical creatures unlike any you'd find in other books. She wrote because ALL THIS was going on inside this frankly more-awkward-than-average-kid who couldn't get words out when she was feeling any type of emotion because all she could manage was crying instead, who kids just laughed at if she said any of the long words she knew aloud, whose so-called best friends told her she could only play with them at HOME, not when anybody at school could see. Would you dare say to that kid, "Oh, by the way, you can't have your stories, either"?

I have other outlets now. I have real friends, and this blog, and social media, and (for a slightly narrower focus, but still an outlet) a library full of displays and booklists and programs and Readers Advisory. But not writing my STORIES, no longer feeling able to weave them into anything worthwhile... I just feel like I'm letting Dorky Little Amy down.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
The other night at the library I celebrated Arbor Day (-ish) with a Library Explorers program that basically amounted to "Tree Appreciation Through Art." I'd found this interesting thing for kids comparing famous paintings of trees and jumped off from there, gathering more tree artwork for inspiration, including a lot of drawings I've done. Because it turns out trees are a motif I come back to an AWFUL LOT when I draw, even when I'm just doodling. I'm actually GOOD at trees. Trees and flowers. As opposed to attempts at drawing most anything else that isn't mostly abstract psychedelia. Actually, the trees and flowers show up in the mostly abstract psychedelia. Anyway, so the point is, I was really in to joining in the tree-painting with the kids, and one mom said, "That's really good! You just keep being talented at everything we do here!" "That's why we never do sports," I joked. And I said something modest about how I like drawing trees so just them particularly blah blah blah. But it put two things in my head:

--why not make trees more often? Why not celebrate, USE my talent, even if the only visual art I DID have any talent at was trees? Heck, I remember an art show we had to study in college of this guy whose whole schtick was baking bread into inanimate objects to make sculptures ("His parents were bakers," our professor told us in an off-hand way after showing us about ten slides without remarking on the obvious bread thing).

--During one discussion in library school, a classmate had quipped, "The librarian: Master of All Trades, Jack of None." "Don't you mean--" someone started, and the first woman said, "I meant what I said."

I thought about how my Art in the Elementary School professor in college (NOT the same class as the bread-art show) had asked me why I wasn't an art major since I seemed to have a knack for it. "Um... it never occurred to me...?" Because I went from there directly to Music in the Elementary School, where I was also one of the more musically-skilled-and-loving-it students in that class. And I'd go to Teaching of Science, of Reading, of Math... whatever, I'd ace it. I'd even go to Physical Education in the Elementary School and think of all the things I would have done differently than my own childhood gym teachers to make it clearer to lumps like me that physical education was more than just competitive sports and opportunities for klutzy kids to get bullied. I wanted to do EVERY subject, not specialize, which made Elementary Education seem like a perfect compromise, until I ended up in the classroom and realized THAT was something I definitely did NOT have talent in. But then I'd go do my volunteer work at the public library, and knew that I'd found the perfect environment for me.

In the past few years, since I've had more authority, autonomy, and actual assignments at the library (the one I work at as a librarian, not the one I volunteered at in college), I've been thriving-- feeling that ALIVE feeling you get when you're using your talents to great success. It IS a place where I can be Master of All Trades, and where I'm helping people in a way unique to me.

...so why do I feel like I'm still not DOING enough with my life?

The next day was, according to Facebook, the anniversary of the death of the mother of one of my good friends. My eyes welled up as soon as I saw her picture. I don't pay ALL that much attention to the parents of my friends, but she'd been a particularly lovely woman-- kind and funny, the sort of person you feel instantly at ease with. She'd call ME up just to check in. What a truly special person, who'd touched everyone she encountered so deeply in her cut-short life. She was a Pastor's Wife and Stay-At-Home-Mom-- her social identity tied up completely in how she related to someone else. That's not what the world calls Living an Influential Life. But as small as her SPHERE of influence had been, there was a depth to that sphere that was-- well, enough to put a friend of her daughter's, little more than an acquaintance, in tears seven years after her death. My own mom is much the same-- presiding over a very small sphere of influence, but doing it so well, with intelligence and kindness and a variety of talents-- there's no way I could ever believe her life hasn't been SUCCESSFUL because she hasn't done Great Things In the Larger World.

I've got a bigger sphere of influence than both of them. I'm the public children's librarian. People recognize me at the grocery store. And yet I still can't shake the feeling that I'm FAILING because I'm not the author I expected to be. Because I'm not writing brilliant stories and sharing them with the world, making hundreds of tweens say "THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS BOOK, IT'S CHANGED MY LIFE AND I'M NOT ALONE!"

Why does it matter? Why does it matter when I could be leaving the world a better place for my having been here just by being a Good Person like my mom or Mrs. Sistek? Why does it matter when I'm obviously doing good work as a librarian, hooking people up with the stories and information they need and didn't even know they wanted? There's a social media campaign going on right now called #WeNeedDiverseBooks, which the librarian side of me is all about-- YES! MORE PEOPLE'S STORIES! WE NEED UNIQUE STORIES! --but the writer side of me cringes every time I see it, as this nasty voice-of-the-Lone-Power (I will never be convinced it's anything OTHER than the voice of the Lone Power, no matter how hard it is to disbelieve) takes every opportunity to translate that hashtag into "SHUT UP, AMY, YOU WHITE CIS-HET TECHNICALLY-ABLE-BODIED PERSON-WHOSE-STORY-NOBODY-NEEDS-TO-HEAR! SEE? NOBODY CARES IF YOU EVER WRITE AGAIN. YOUR STORIES ARE NOT NEEDED." I mean, though, SURE as it's the sort of thing the Creator-of-Entropy-Prince-of-Lies would say... but what DOES it matter? What difference does it make if I never publish a book? I wrote some great Lycoris letters, touching the lives of a few specific strangers-- to those people, that was enough, you know? Every time I recommend one of those stories to somebody at the library, that's enough. Every new concept I introduce people to at my programs-- it's ENOUGH. To my family, my very BEING is enough.

Why can't I focus on being the best person I can be in the sphere of influence I've got? The kind of mom who isn't constantly forgetting to sign her kids' school papers on time or to force them to brush their teeth? The kind of homemaker who doesn't let messes pile up until the very last minute? The kind of librarian who PUTS HERSELF OUT THERE more and gets the attention of more potential patrons and financial donors and board members? How can I even IMAGINE having a broader sphere of influence when I'm barely juggling THIS one?

What does it matter if I'm not an author? I barely write anything anymore than journal entries and blog posts and the occasional paper letter, anyway. Why can't I let it go?
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Last week, a tree fell on our house. I was in the upstairs bathroom, the room directly under the point of impact. My initial reaction was to burst out laughing at how this had been immediately preceded by one of the guys cutting it down saying "Uh-oh." A few yards and an attic crawl space from being beaned to death by a falling tree,* and all I could do was appreciate the comic timing of that loud "uh-oh," followed by the smack of a huge bunch of branches right outside the window.

A bit later I was able to expand that reaction to laughing at the irony of the entire situation. We have a series of very old, very tall, very rickety pines right on the property line-- on one side or the other, but all a threat to either our house or the neighbors'. So when said neighbor came over to ask permission to work in our yard so as to remove one of those trees that was on their side of the line, I said, "Oh yes, we're concerned about those trees falling on our house, too." So when the first tree being removed instead falls DIRECTLY ON OUR HOUSE IN THE PROCESS... seriously, you have to admit that's funny!

"How are you laughing?" people would ask me later as I tried to tell them what had happened. "How are you TAKING this so well?" Well, no one got hurt. Insurance is handling all the repairs. Sure, we're going to have to pay a lot more, to take this opportunity to replace the entire roof that needed it anyway; and to replace ALL the siding because they don't make the kind we have anymore to match; and to take this opportunity to get the house properly insulated because it turns out it ISN'T (and that will save money in the long run). And that's kind of exciting. Sure, we probably WON'T get to fixing the retaining wall or painting the shed as per the original plans for this summer of having-more-money-than-we-used-to, but hey.

And you know what? We've never been as friendly with those neighbors before as we have since they dropped a tree on our house. The guys at first cowered in terror from my husband, and took some time to get their heads around that he HADN'T come out screaming-- or shooting, everybody knows about his hobbies-- at them, but instead just expressed concern about no one getting hurt. "What good does getting mad do?" he said. And, as it turned out this had been our neighbor and his buddies themselves trying to do this tree removal instead of a professional company-- and they were definitely not going to try again WITHOUT a professional company, J said, "When you do, let me know, we can go in together on it and get the other trees done, too. Talk to you later, we'll have some beers and barbecue!"

All the personality type descriptions of me that come up feel the need to point out that, as an optimist, I need to be careful not to ignore problems or refuse to acknowledge that there's Bad Stuff about even the things and people I love. That was even TODAY'S Type 9 "Enneathought for the Day" in my inbox: "As average Nines accommodate themselves, they idealize the other person, who can do no wrong. Values and beliefs are seldom questioned. Watch for this tendency in yourself today." I snorted. Well, it's true I'll tend to go with whatever anybody else says rather than stand up for what I want, and that IS something that's been on my mind since yesterday evening, when the hubs and I had an argument about what colors to go with for the new siding and trim. He wants grayscale for easier repairing. I want the exact opposite-- even our current blue-with-white-trim is too bland for me. I want COLOR. Sensible color. I'm definitely leaning toward this particular shade of green, which looks lovely with some browns and a touch of red. Last night I spent a great deal of time dreaming I was studying green houses, and how to compromise with roof color. I also dreamed I was trying to unlock these pictures I couldn't access of the Time I Swear I Really Did Meet Julie Andrews and She Said She Liked My Gardening (note: I have never actually met Julie Andrews), and this lady kept wanting to give me acupuncture in the shape of India. But anyway, my point is I'm sticking to my guns on this, and we ARE going to have SOME color in our new house covering.

And, okay, I do tend to ignore problems, either hoping they'll go away or waiting until I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DEAL with them, which could be dangerous especially in medical situations (but you know what happens every time I go to the doctor, after trying to rassle up babysitting or some other rearrangement of schedule? "Oh, you just have a pretty bad virus. Get some rest and drink plenty of fluids." AAAGGHHH!)

But refusing to acknowledge the bad or thinking loved ones can do NO WRONG? I kindly disagree. I am all too aware of The Dark Side. I'm probably MORE aware of the Dark Side than the average person.** That's why disasters and tragedies and horrors seem to SHOCK other people more than they shock me. Not saying bad things don't make me sad, or angry, or slightly sick. It's just that they're so common. If I was expected to cry in outrage EVERY time I encountered a tragedy, I would never stop. So I choose to focus on the beauty or the humor or both.

A common refrain of those who take a pessimistic view is, "We're just being realistic about it!" Dude, let me tell you about being unrealistic. Do you know what goes on inside the head of a person with chronic depression? It's utter negativity. And it's utter BS. Choosing to focus on the positive allows me to actually TAKE ACTION in the world. Focusing on the negative makes me give it all up to hopelessness. Now, I can see where acknowledging as opposed to ignoring problems comes into this. Ignoring problems is not taking action, either. But there's a difference between "HERE'S A PROBLEM. LOOK AT THIS PROBLEM. GASP IN SHOCK AT THIS PROBLEM. OH NO, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" and "Well, THAT'S something we need to fix. How are we going to do that? I'm sure we'll find a way."

As for idealizing people... I AM very good at seeing the good in other people. I AM inclined to Not-Hate people everyone else can't stand-- and often I DON'T see what their problem is until it's pointed out to me. But usually, I do. I just don't care unless it's actively causing a problem. Like there's a book vendor who has a history of coming to our library. I do not want to work with him. I wish they'd stop letting him come in. He's a horribly pushy salesman. Last time he showed up, unable to find anyone who actually orders books to talk to, he just asked some of the others to look and see what they might be INTERESTED in, and then went and ordered them all for us anyway. I don't like him. But only as a book vendor. I'm sure his family is very proud of what a good salesman he is, how he supports them and all. Just because I don't want to work with him doesn't negate his worth as a human being. It doesn't give me the right to insult his fashion choices or make assumptions about his politics. It doesn't mean I'm going to start a campaign to have all my followers find his Twitter handle and bully him online-- "well HE'S a bully, serves him right!" No, not really. I just don't want to deal with him trying to sell me books.

In one of my childhood books-I-wrote, there's a line at the end where I said (I'm the narrator of that book) something like, "The others have been treating so-and-so better after I told them that she makes a very good book character." Maybe the whole empathy-from-reading-fiction thing is what's kept me realistically-optimistic about people, instead of idealizing them or hating on them. I've always liked looking at people as potential book characters. Imperfect characters are way more interesting than perfect ones. I like quirks. I like wondering about the pain and/or hopes beneath the surface of people. I like comparing the different ways people react to the same situation.

And so I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And what's wrong with that? Is it really better to say "This person is a jerk because they have this terrible fault," than "This person is wonderful in these ways! Oh yes, they're not perfect, but I wasn't talking about that right now"? I mean, sure, if someone has done something reprehensible, they ought to be punished for it if at all possible, and it's wrong to let them get away with it (for example, on one end, Justin Beiber's DUI issues, or Woody Allen's sex abuse thing on the other). And I admit when someone gets a lot of praise whom you know has been, to put it mildly, Imperfect, there's that urge to say "...but!" It's my John Lennon problem. It bugs me when people talk about him like he WAS the Beatles, like he was the genius behind it all, because he wasn't. He was only a so-so musician, particularly compared to Paul. And that whole Icon of Peace thing... excuse me, John? Who mistreated his wives and girlfriends? Rude, crass John? GEORGE would make a much better Icon of Peace-- or Ringo. From a personal day-to-day standpoint, Ringo embodies living a life of Peace better than any of them. DARN IT, PEOPLE, STOP IDOLIZING JOHN. And yet... John. Funny, clever John, who would have made my life by writing either "Across the Universe" or "Julia" alone, and he wrote BOTH of them. I can't not love John, warts and all.

I just don't see the point on dwelling on problems that can't be undone. There comes a point where you realize what a crapball the world can be, what idiots humans are, what atrocities and injustices happen at every moment, and you give up on it-- or you notice the good things that keep on happening, even among all the bad. You notice the wildflowers that have overgrown the tracks at Auschwitz, the strangers sharing supplies with each other in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the smile on the person you pass on the street, just acknowledging you, just saying, "Hi, I see you're there, and you're a person who could use a smile today."

Focusing on the good is not the same as refusing to acknowledge the bad. It's just not letting the bad win.

----
*one of my grandfathers was killed by a falling tree, this is serious business!
**seriously, "The Imperial March" is playing on my computer right now. I'm not even kidding.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
For as infrequently as I actually post, my brain is often churning over blog-posting possibilities. Apparently-- I've come to accept-- blogging is my writing genre of choice lately, and even IT I can't always make myself sit and do. But I have that thing you get when you're writing fiction, where the story won't leave you alone, and you keep writing it in your head even though you're not writing it on paper... it's just lately I've been doing it with blog posts instead of fiction. Maybe it's because lately I've been READING more blog posts than I've read fiction. INTERNET, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MY BRAIN?

Anyway, all these little posts get backlogged and I find myself stuck, when I actually have TIME to write, just trying to decide which I ACTUALLY want to write about most. Then it occurred to me that that never stopped me in the past, and I could just post them ALL AT ONCE, and nobody would read it because it would be So Friggin' Long, but it would all BE there as opposed to just theoretical. So HERE, with bolded subject headings, so you can skip to the parts you like:

On the Anniversary of US Beatlemania

...a topic I addressed slightly by describing my library program on the Beatles in January. And it's technically a topic I've addressed many times over. You all KNEW already by now I'm a serious Beatles fan, right? I've told you about the Paul McCartney tv concert that changed my life (and how badly I want to go to one in person). I've discussed all my favorite Beatles songs. I've written odes to Paul and George, who, if pressed, I will probably claim as my two favorites. And I've made so many off-hand references that I can't possibly go back and find them all.

But have I ever devoted a post to what being a Beatlemaniac MEANS to me?

It sounds like such a cop-out answer to say the Beatles are your favorite band. It sounds uncreative, like you couldn't be bothered to listen any deeper in the history of music so as to even FIND somebody else. I see the "Beatles are overrated" haters and they always try to argue the superiority of some other band (usually, for some reason, the Kinks. Which I have no argument with. I like the Kinks), but it DOESN'T MATTER. I can't help where my heart goes, and nothing makes me happier than Beatles music. Maybe not "nothing." But very little.

It also seems funny to claim that your biggest Geekdom is the most popular rock band in the history of the world. Aren't people supposed to Geek Out over NON-mainstream things? But no, my love for the Beatles is true Geekishness. I collect books about them. I absorb trivia about them. I am the resident Expert on the subject among all the people I know personally.

The comments section of The A.V. Club is widely regarded as one of the few places on the Wide-Open Internet (as opposed to nice personal blogs like mine) where reading the comments is not only an okay idea, but actually takes the article to a whole new level of awesome and/or fun. And I have to tell you how awesome I felt in the comments section of their review of the Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan retrospective concert the other week. It was a found my tribe moment, for me to contribute comments and get into discussions where I CLEARLY was on-par in the conversation, to have SO many of my comments upvoted. To be able to converse so geekily and appreciate and be appreciated! Eight strangers upvoted my desire to play drums in an all-girl Beatles tribute band, aka Lovely Rita and the Meter Maids nobody else is allowed that band name I claim it! I felt so accepted. :D

I really don't know if it would have been different in the '60s, if the Screaming Fangirl aspect would have put me off to the extent that I wouldn't have CLAIMED them so completely. So I'm glad I came in after the fact, when it could be just me exploring a band I (and my dad) loved, and worrying about how many other people loved them later.

But they're magic with a melody. With harmonies and countermelodies and chord progressions. With their sheer variety of STYLES. With the WAY THEY MAKE IT ALL COME TOGETHER. (RIGHT NOW. OVER... sorry).

Which brings me to my next little topic:

Sensitive Hard Rockers

Last time I mentioned my Highly Sensitive son, so I want you to start with that image of a timid, high-strung, quiet, shrimpy little kid... which is why it amuses me that he's becoming a Metalhead. His DAD IS a metalhead, but he doesn't really play his music much (or at all) at home (he's even the sort of person who can --*GASP*-- DRIVE LONG DISTANCES WITH THE RADIO OFF), so the kids' musical exposure has been my more eclectic tastes. And of my tastes, he's developed a clear preference for hard driving rock.

THIS IS FUNNY BECAUSE HE'S EXTREMELY SENSITIVE TO LOUD NOISE. But IS it? Funny, I mean. Maybe it makes perfect sense. Music-- yes, even hard rock, old man-- brings order out of chaos. Maybe it's not the VOLUME of noise we're so sensitive to, but the RANDOMNESS of it. When that noise resolves into clear pitches and rhythms, it's like "OH GOOD, you made it all better." Part of my own fascination with/love for psychedelic rock is the way it outright acknowledges chaos-- harnesses it. It takes all the dizzying sensations of the world and thoughts of the universe and... SORTS it. And yet it's still all there, it's just organized! It's like a library versus a pile of books!

I did another video where I eventually started musing about how maybe my sheer lack of Being Rock and Roll was possibly WHY I love rock so much. It's an outlet for the wild side of myself. Which is funny when I just finished saying it's ORDERLY. Maybe that's what makes it a SAFE wild side!

... yeah, I know I started out talking about my SON and hard rock. But it all applies.

Anyway, now that I'm here, maybe I'll just stick to the music subject for today. The rest may work better tomorrow, after all.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
New Years EnneaThought

RIIIIGHT. So every morning in my social-media email (it used to be my junk email, but it got to the point that more people message me through social media [which I registered through that "junk" email address] than send me an actual email, so it is usually more entertaining than my "official" email), I get a Type 9 Thought for the Day like so from the Enneagram site. If you recall if you've been here long enough, I really liked this personality test because it was so dang ACCURATE for me (Actually, I've since managed to find a Myers-Briggs test that actually came up with a clear result for me--INFP, also, and there was this other test I took recently that labelled me, fairly obviously, as a "Dreamy Idealist." And if you read the descriptions of all three of those "types" here you'll see they're all virtually identical, naturally, so-- yeah, probably accurate). So a motivational reminder that's actually TAILORED to SOMEONE LIKE ME is a lot easier to catch my attention each morning than a general platitude. Easier to catch my attention, but naturally harder to do. If I got, say, a Type EIGHT thought that said something like "Try to be nice to people today," I'd be all like, "Oh SURE!" and I'd be really good at following that advice, but it would do neither me nor anyone else much good because I'd probably have done it anyway.

No, dangit, I need to GROW in life, and the only way to GROW is to stretch a bit in that direction. Stretching is challenging. Particularly for personality types known for their tendency toward sloth. Hence the notes in my inbox saying "HAPPY NEW YEAR! Why don't you make and keep some actual resolutions for once?!"

Maybe I should make a plan to figure out how to make a plan. This year I will figure out what it is I actually want in the first place! First step: figure out how to figure out what I actually want!

But it helps to know I'm not starting from scratch-- no couch-to-5K thing. Or it is, but I'm already OFF the couch, strolling leisurely and distractedly toward 5K. Maybe toward The Marathon of Self-Actualization in the long run. But I'm OFF THE COUCH. If you scroll to the bottom of that Type 9 description linked above, you see a chart describing the way a 9 behaves at various levels of psychological/spiritual/emotional health. Two years ago at this time I was bottoming out around Level 7. I was dragging myself through the very basics of making sure nobody died in my care, and only managing that because people WERE in my care. Eventually I found Zoloft. ZOLOFT MY TRUE LOVE! Now what many people struggling with clinical depression don't realize at first, and I didn't either (and people who AREN'T struggling with it certainly don't even THINK to realize), is a) you have to trial-and-error to find the RIGHT medication and right DOSAGE of that medication before it actually works right, so if you try something and it doesn't work that doesn't necessarily mean MEDICATION ITSELF doesn't work. I had three serious relationships with other medications-- was engaged to Prozac for a bit until it went all ANXIETY-ATTACK-INDUCING on me-- before I found my beloved Zoloft. Anyway, and most importantly b) medication is your life-raft. Medication is not the cure. Zoloft brought me up out of those "Unhealthy Levels." Dropped me at about a Level Six or a low Five. Hardly a model citizen. But I could WORK now. I could work at MYSELF without despairing and falling into an impenetrable Brain Fog.

Last year at this time, with the help of a lot of counseling and self-helpish reading and the Lycoris Letters project and the deep philosophising with the new and dear friend Cat I'd made through that project, I'd made it up to bouncing between Levels 5 and 4. Now, after over a year of semi-regular yoga and other enforced exercise (I mean, for ME. Not compared to the way my SISTER does exercise), as well as continued self-helpish reading and chats with Cat and-- well, actually, doing a lot of Real Life Stuff-- dare I say, I'm actually showing a whole lot more Level 3 (and 4. Average to bad days I'm definitely not pulling off the whole healthy assurance thing... but on good days, maybe I have!)!

I mentioned before this marvelous inspirational creativity book I'm reading/working through, The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright. Right now I am thoroughly stuck on the Hard Questions (my words) at the end of only Chapter 3. "These two things nearly always happen when I create:" I'm supposed to explain. "When I create something, this is what the beginning is like:...the middle...the end. My creative gifts really kick in when:"

I HAVE NO IDEA! DO I create? Maybe I haven't created anything in YEARS. No, I just sewed like five fleece sweatshirts for Christmas, that probably counts as creating. Also my library programs. WHAT DO MY PROGRAMS AND MY SEWING STUFF HAVE IN COMMON?! Nothing? I don't think anything. What do I do when I create? Putter around doing everything but? No, when I was SEWING I actually tackled everything pretty straight on and all at once. It's only making stuff up from scratch that I putter around Not Doing. I think I'll go check Twitter again....

So as I said: my goal this year is to figure out how to make goals in the first place. Or to figure out what the heck I'm doing in general. Or... something.

But I DID make it past chapters one and two. I MANAGED to answer not just the first set of Really Hard Questions, but several MORE sets. "The activity that gives me greatest joy is…" "A lot of things make me happy," I wrote, "but JOY implies an ALIVE sort of happiness... I think it's 'making music,' for all I don't do it much... When I think of 'JOY,' raising ones voice in song is the first thing that comes to mind...."
"The good qualities that best describe my life are…""'Loving.' 'Relatively secure and comfortable'-- part of me is like 'BORING!' and the other part is like 'HUSH! Don't tempt fate! Secure and comfortable is GOOD!'..."
"The help that people often solicit from me is…" "...well, besides 'MOMMY GIVE ME FOOD! NOW!' INFORMATION. And book recommendations. I'm a librarian and the world knows it."
"The part of my personality that I would most hate to lose is…""imagination, the ability to see things in unique ways."
"The work that is most satisfying to me is…""I'd say it's a combination of 'making people smile' and 'getting results.' ...it's getting feedback, I think. Getting evidence that what I do actually makes a difference. Which is a problem when it comes to WORKING on writing...."
"The activity that I feel drawn to, even when it’s scary, is…" "okay I have no idea. Performance can be scary? Flying? Boating? Does 'EVEN when it's scary' HAVE to imply some level of fear? Or can 'sleeping' count? Or stalking Martin Freeman? I avoid being DRAWN to scary things. Even though I've always liked scary books...."

Got the answers out. All over the place, but out. Next came some questions about my most joyful memories from various times, and what I'm doing when I get so carried away that I lose track of time ("first I thought, 'Oh, that's hard, I can't remember when I last got so involved,' then I realized, WAIT, DUH. This is me ALL THE TIME! I have NO sense of time, apparently, I'm ALWAYS losing track of it or having it disappear on me... I think the problem is my attention wanders ANYWAY, it just never wanders to 'WHAT TIME IS IT') and what it means to me to say Yes or No to my gifts.

Then we came to: "If you asked the people who know you best, what would they say your gifts are?" You may think this is strange, but at that moment, I hadn't a CLUE. I honestly didn't know. So I turned to Facebook, which is a debatable mix of people who know me best, but to be honest I'm not sure I could even tell you who on this earth knows me best to begin with, and I posted this:
Good stuff about me
Note the responses, which I have cleverly grayed out and numbered for easier reference. Gah, that person they're describing... that sure SOUNDS like somebody who DOES have something unique to say, doesn't it? Like somebody who really is called to write after all? And yet it still surprised me a little. It's OBVIOUS, and yet all my doubts have been working so hard to not let me see it.

Finally we come to Friend #7 there, and her somewhat frightening clarification request. Her actual answer, just below where this image cuts off, is long and quite revealing, so I'm copying it here in full so you don't have to squint at a screen capture:

In person: You are sweet and understanding, and accepting of everyone from the start. Even if you aren't really, you appear trusting and have a calming influence on me (and I suspect others around you.) You also, once one can get you to open up, have a wealth of information on a broad range of topics, which makes you a fascinating conversationalist, provided you remember to speak up. But you are usually not the one to introduce a topic. However, you are clever enough to try to get there tangentally, if you so choose.

Online: I think your online personality is similar in some ways, but online, you are wittier, more brazen. You're willing to put yourself out there a good bit more. Online, you aren't afraid to be the one to initiate conversation on any multitude of topics. You share more of your likes and dislikes, obsessions and pet peeves. You are brave, online. You're more provocative, and I don't mean that in a sexual connotation, but never mean or troll-like.


WOW. THAT'S some insight. It actually sounds a bit like she's WRITTEN some of the Personality Type descriptions linked above just by looking at me. But the sentence that stuck out the most for me?

"You are brave, online."

Why am I so scared to write, guys? Why am I so scared to BE? I AM brave, online. Here I am. And I'm using my writing voice (it's actually my WRITTEN personality rather than exclusively an ONLINE one. This is the same person you'll find in the journals I kept when I was fourteen. Though hopefully I'm a bit less naive and cringe-inducing now). What will it take for me to be brave OFF-line? To write "seriously," actually crafting stories again? To speak up at home or at work or wherever when I'm not comfortable with something? To speak up when I WANT something? To ADMIT to myself that I want something (something attainable. Not Martin Freeman)? To TAKE CHANCES? To GO PLACES? To TRY NEW THINGS?

So, maybe that's my goal for the year. Learn to be brave.

Step one: figure out what I want to be brave about.

Which really isn't all that different a resolution from what I said at the beginning of the post. I just stuck the word "brave" in there. It looks more determined of me.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
When I was growing up, there was a man at my church who'd had a stroke, some time before we'd moved there. It had left him, most noticeably, with no vocal control-- his timing was off, tonality unexpected, sometimes the words would even come out wrong (once he said "I shall not be healed" instead of "I shall be healed," which was so appallingly wrong I couldn't keep a straight face about it), and his volume was ALL OVER the place, especially if that place was "loud." Yet he insisted on raising that voice forcefully into every song, every chant, and every prayer. It was more than a little distracting for any tactless kids in the congregation, like my sister and I. One day on the way home we were giggling about it-- not making FUN of HIM so much as just laughing at the weirdness (I can at LEAST claim that we had no cruel intentions), and our dad gave a sympathetic but sort of sad smile and said gently, "I've heard he used to be a wonderful singer, with the most beautiful voice." You could hear that, when you thought about it-- the richness behind the technical flubs. The PASSION. The man LOVED to sing, loved to raise his voice in prayer, and he wasn't about to stop just because he couldn't get it to WORK as well as he used to.

This morning at church we sang a song that we'd sung frequently at my childhood church-- it's "Like a Shepherd," if you know it-- you know that random sustained high note in the third verse? That sudden six-step leap that your average untrained singer is NEVER going to hit right no matter how often it's on the program? I've been battling laryngitis all week and could barely sing as it was, so I looked ahead to that note a LITTLE warily. And then I heard, in my head, the way that man had always sung that note when I was a kid-- the sudden huge slide to a blaring off-key finish. It made me smile and get teary at the same time, and I got over the nervousness and dove right onward-- and actually managed to hit it okay. Inspired by a now-dead man whose name I don't even know, whom I heard sing this song, poorly, decades ago. The music continues.

It reminded me-- and rather proved the point-- of something I read just last night. I've been MEANING (but too busy) to tell you about this book ever since I started reading it (if you're my Facebook friend you might have noticed a cryptic reference to an exercise I was doing from it a few weeks back, when I needed your opinions on me and swore I wasn't fishing for compliments but actually doing a writing exercise, and I SAID I'd explain eventually but in all honesty I don't think I'm going to get to explaining that part today, either). The book is The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright, which I read about at Kristi Holl's Writers' First Aid blog. She'd (Kristi Holl) pulled a list of questions from the book for this post, and I thought, "Whoa. These questions are WEIRDLY HARD." So I knew I'd have to track the full book down, because it surely had something to teach me (and in my journal I actually DO tend to call it "The Hard Questions Book").

The subtitle is "Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life," and it's published by a Christian press, which I suppose is the only reason the book is not more well-known in the mainstream writing community (although Walking on Water is, and that's got possibly even a MORE spiritual bent, but then Madeleine L'Engle is a bit more well-known a name. And Bird by Bird and If You Want to Write are, like, THE writers' inspirational titles, and neither of them exactly shy away from spirituality, either. Which is basically the whole point of THIS book, so let me get out of this parenthesis). The premise is that creativity (not just writing, not even just art-- CREATIVITY in general) and spirituality are intrinsically linked, and developing one will help to develop the other and vice versa.

This book is GORGEOUS and WISE. I keep wanting to post quotes from it, but then it gets to the point that there is TOO MUCH I WANT TO QUOTE, and I'd basically be quoting the ENTIRE BOOK. Basically, it's LOVELY. It's got ALL these quotable moments, when something wise and deep that you didn't realize before is said in a way that you know instantly is Truth and it's also beautiful. But I haven't got time today to tell you about all of it; I just want to focus on this bit I read last night:
I like to think of creativity as a celestial drama in which each of us walks on and off stage at various points. It's a huge show with trillions of acts, big and small, scaling the centuries and the cultures, informing humanity constantly and at multiple levels. You and I dip into the action as we respond to the smaller dramas in our own soul. We answer single soft voices, never knowing where our individual efforts fall within the overarching story line.

When we delve into our creativity, we are responding to something that's bigger than us.... When you respond to your creative calling, you are doing something that is necessary for the world. It may be necessary in a big way-- say a series of newspaper articles that can help shape the consciousness of a generation. Or it may be necessary in small ways-- perhaps a charcoal sketch that brings you, the artist, healing.... Creative works are called out by cultural and personal needs that are too deep and intuitive to be obvious every time....

...If you've ever participated in [a creative ensemble, like a band or a theater troupe, where everyone's individual efforts combine into a whole bigger than its parts], remember them as you begin a project on your own. Just assume that there are other voices, images and phrases joining your own work, somewhere and somehow. ASsume that whatever you do will rhyme with what others are doing and will do, or with what others have already done. In someone's life your turn of phrase will make a difference, simply because it follows another turn of phrase by another writer at another key point in this person's life.


See, I could just keep going. It was HARD sticking to the right-here-relevant bits and not typing out the entire section of chapter. But here's the point:

A quarter-century ago there was a man who loved to sing, even though he couldn't do it technically well. A little girl heard him giving it his all anyway, and a quarter-century later, that now-woman remembered, and she sang a little louder herself. The music grew. Who knows what effect each bit of song has on the whole? Who can say that even the most off-key note can't help the eternal music of the universe keep playing?
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
OR...not really. I mean wouldn't it be great if I got paid to keep a household fed and clothed and generally functional? Well, maybe I do, if you count Jason making more than me (he makes more in two weekends than I make in a month SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY AND EARMARK IT FOR EMPLOYEE WAGES *ahem*) and say maybe he's technically paying me for that? It sounds so chauvinistic when you put it that way though. But so far no one's paying me to read blogs, do yoga, indulge in inappropriate daydreams involving Martin Freeman, or sing loudly to the radio and/or the DVD the kids are watching and/or the Muzak in the grocery store (which technically isn't Muzak, but that's easier to say than "streaming light rock/adult contemporary playing over the loudspeaker"), at all. I even have to pay for the yoga twice a week.

NO, I just mean I feel like MYSELF doing the things I DO get paid for, possibly At Last. I was originally hired at our local library as a very-part-time reference librarian/circulation clerk (which, if you ask most of the board, translates strictly as "just plain circulation clerk which anyone off the street can do"-- which is totally not true! You'd be shocked how many volunteers find even circ and shelving duties beyond them!), and I've gradually wormed my way into more hours and much more time and a bit more influence in the Children's Department, but my specific duties there were never quite made CLEAR. I occasionally did programs, but pretty much on my own whim. I suggested books to be purchased, then waited for them not to actually be purchased. I put most of my librarian skillz into book displays, and those joyous moments when people actually asked me for help beyond "where's the bathroom?" and "can you put me on the computer?" Because dangit, I'm an awesome reference/reader's advisory librarian (at least in the children's/YA sections).

But lately I've gotten Duties-- CLEAR YOUTH SERVICES LIBRARIAN Duties. Two mornings a week I drive around to various area daycares with bags of books, read a couple, tell them about the rest, bring the bag from two weeks ago home. To the Library, not my house. Two evenings a week I lead programs-- the same I did last spring, an elementary-age hands-on STEAM program basically and a Family storytime-- which have been getting bigger turnouts all the time. And in between I am IN CHARGE. OF THE CHILDREN'S. AND YA. COLLECTIONS. I control the Weeding AND the Ordering! I am officially NOT scheduled for circulation but I help there anyway, especially with reference questions. Just this week I realized I need to start delegating tasks-- asking OTHER people to work on the displays, make copies, do some basic weeding, things I would have done myself before but now I no longer have TIME.

Is there anything that makes you feel more like a grownup than being able to tell other people what to do and have them take you seriously?

Actually, it's just been working GREAT. Since I've gotten clear job duties that happen to be in my areas of expertise, I've been thriving. My insecurities, immaturities, and slothful tendencies melt away when I'm working. Except the telephone. I still hate calling people on the phone. But I'm way more likely to make myself DO it at work! (Also, ANSWERING the phone at work is not a problem at all. I am ALL about professional reference librarianness THERE). I sweep into the daycares with confidence and greet a sea of excited faces calling my visit the highlight of the fortnight (assuming any of them would USE the word "fortnight"). The in-house programs end with laughter and joyful thank-yous from parents and children. I'm professional and open and pointedly questioning with book vendors, I find the best options for our library and our budget, I've GOT collection development DOWN.

Gracious, folks. Could it be I'm finally living MY VOCATION IN LIFE?

But what does that mean, says the quiet, worried confused voice inside my head, for the vocation you THOUGHT you had, from way back in your childhood? Maybe your story-loving has found its place in your life, and you don't need to be a writer after all? But it's kind of a silly worry, when "librarian" has to be one of if not THE most common day jobs of authors everywhere, and has been pulled off spectacularly by everyone from Beverly Cleary to Megan McDonald.*

And SECONDLY, as I mused in my latest Lycoris letter, on the topic of "Why do we write?" -- it's only my FICTION that I haven't been writing. And even then I still chip away at this bit of Firefly fanfiction** I've been working on for years, and there's a draft of an early chapter book I managed to come out with a few months back, and the other day I at least started PONDERING how to turn an interesting dream I'd had into a SF story with Deep Social Commentary, which isn't the same as WRITING but at least puts to lie the voice in my head that says I don't even have anything to write ABOUT. But I was WRITING A LETTER. Right now I'm writing a blog post. I write EVERYTHING in my journal.

AND, to get back to the title of this post, I've started again on my annual Actually Getting Paid to Write project, the activities for Pennsylvania One Book Every Young Child (which you will hear me refer to simply as "One Book" in everyday speech, but there are many programs called "One Book" so I'll be more specific this once). This is my ninth year working on it, but I think it's finally sunk in that, YES, I am writing professionally, and I'm quite capable of it.

So the tl;dr of this is: I'm writing this post to let you know that if I seem to fall off the face of the Internet for the next few months-- not posting here much, trying to avoid Twitter (which is hard!), missing your own fascinating blog posts until weeks later if I see them at all-- it is only because I am SUPER BUSY being Moderately Successful In My Professional Life for once. And the usual hanging-in-there busyness of my home life, still. So, come visit me at the library! Or at least feel free to occasionally comment on old posts here, send me hellos or things-that-remind-you-of-me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me if you do that. Or REAL PAPER LETTERS! I'm all about them. (You can even TELEPHONE! Just don't expect me to ever call YOU). Just don't forget me, and know that my apparent absence is in no way related to me being tired of YOU.

---

*If you haven't heard me mention it before, Megan McDonald was the children's librarian at my big public library growing up. But I TOTALLY DIDN'T KNOW IT until after she stopped working there. Or I just never saw her because she never worked Saturdays, which is the only time I was there. Or something. Anyway, the young budding author that I was never got to take advantage of the THEORETICAL MENTOR RIGHT THERE because she wasn't.

**Speaking of which, guys, I just saw this news last night, a week late, and... do you know how STUPIDLY RELIEVED I am to hear about Zoe? Obviously it's just something to make the fans feel better, I mean WHAT A COINCIDENCE, but I don't CARE, it EASES MY SUFFERING to know that at least one little "at least" is canon! ALLOW ME TO FEEL FEELS ABOUT FICTIONAL CHARACTERS, thanks.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
So I thought if I posted my Movie-Howl Rant I'd feel less irrationally compelled to rant it whenever someone mentions it, but apparently I just feel irrationally compelled to link them to my Rant post, instead. When I did so in response to a friend's Facebook posting yesterday, she said something that cleared up the whole What Makes an Adaptation of a Book Work For Me issue. And she was just agreeing with me. "We don't love the props, the accessory: we love the PEOPLE, and the IDEAS (maybe values is more appropriate)," is what she said. But it made me see the issue in a new light: it's like Fanfiction.

Why do people write fanfiction? It's not an effort to replicate the PLOT of a story-- what would be the point? It's instead an opportunity to play in that universe, with those characters, to see how they react in new situations. Spend any amount of time glancing at the exploits-- fanfictiony or not-- of any rabid fandom and you'll see the passion directed not at the story, not at the words (except for some soundbite-worthy quotations, juxtaposed in beautiful fonts against pictures OF THE CHARACTERS THEY REFER TO), but by the characters, whom fans refer to as if they were real people-- wondering "What would Katniss think of THAT?" and "I bet Captain Mal is responsible here." It's the worlds and the concepts, the intricacies of Hogsmead and the myriad treats at Honeydukes, the customs and philosophies of the Jedi Order. It isn't about the STORIES so much. The stories have been done.

I admit I'm not much into fanfiction and/or online fandom. I've written a little bit, stories that tickle me enough into writing them, but not of the THIS IS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE FANDOM THAT I SPEND ALL MY TIME IN sort. But it's okay, I know of which I speak. I'm a FAN. I understand the FEELING behind it, the desire to stay with those people in that universe. I DO feel that way about stories I really love (and even sometimes only love a little bit), even if I don't always want to WRITE my imaginings or care to read other people's.

And really, movie adaptations-- if done properly-- are fanfiction. The non-properly-done ones are the ones where the movie makers don't particularly CARE about the original work, they just want to exploit it-- so you get the ones that have the same name as a book but do whatever the heck they want with the details. But the movie adaptations that WORK for me, work the way fanfiction does-- the movie makers believe in the characters and the universe and they're playing around with that, taking the characters they love and putting them in a visual, usually shorter, movie-shaped format. Sometimes the plot changes, but that's okay. This is why I think Peter Jackson's Middle Earth is a successful adaptation in my eyes (SHUT UP BRIAN YOU'RE WRONG....just anticipating a Facebook comment there). So much care is taken to MAKE that place Middle Earth, and dangit, IT IS. THE REAL MIDDLE EARTH, and you cannot convince me otherwise. The characters are also all true, even if not PERFECTLY right *coughFaramircough*-- the deviations can be attributed to personal interpretation rather than BLATANTLY GIVING A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARACTER THE SAME NAME (and, by the way, I am all about Arwen having been further developed --as opposed to changed. If they'd gone with one of their original ideas and turned her into a fighter, THAT would have been a Wrong change. Instead they just SHOWED more of her, in a way that you can completely believe, and that totally worked for me because when I first read the books I was like "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU ARAGORN EOWYN IS TOTALLY AWESOME AND IN LOVE WITH YOU you're gay, aren't you"-- I happened to be unrequitedly in love with a gay guy at the time-- I suppose that "unrequitedly" was redundant-- so by the time Arwen showed up again at the end I was like, "oh, HER? You were holding out for HER? WHAT IS THE POINT?!" but it was okay because Eowyn got THE WAY MORE AWESOME MAN IN THE END ANYWAY, but I'm SAYING, giving Arwen an actual presence FILLED THAT OUT and felt true to the story! Eowyn is still more awesome, but at least I could UNDERSTAND it better). (ALSO, ALSO, I've felt like ranting about this, yay, a place to get it out, but I AM TOTALLY OFFENDED by the amount of hate slung at the new female elf, Tauriel I think? --that they put into the next Hobbit movie in order to have more females in the story. I was indifferent to her, willing to wait and see, but when the first Desolation of Smaug trailer came out I came away with two heartfelt opinions on it: a, on the negative side, WHY THE HECK WAS THERE SO LITTLE OF THE TITLE HOBBIT IN THIS TRAILER you've ruined my planned gazing session; and b, ooh, I like that new elf, she seems Just Right. But then I'd read all these other reactions and people were like "I can handle the other changes but UGH, WHY, that girl elf totally doesn't BELONG" and I'm thinking "Of ALL the changes to complain about, you're harping on about her, I'm sorry, I'm not one of those who plays the Feminist Card much but you are TOTALLY coming across as 'EW, who let this GIRL in our movie!'" Because my impression from the trailer was that she totally fits. She belongs in the Middle Earth I know, in the elven culture. She's a new character added TO the fanfiction, not a blatant alteration of a canon character. THAT MAKES HER ALL RIGHT BY ME). Okay, now that the parenthetical parts of this paragraph have gotten completely out of hand, I'll try to sum it up, somehow-- what I'm saying is Jackson's making fan art, in a much more dramatic but not all that dissimilar way from a fan on YouTube who pieces together clips from a TV series to highlight a particular theme they've picked up on. He's got a huge wonderful world to play in, and he loves it even too much to edit it to a proper movie length.

Also I just right clicked on all the wiggly red lines on my screen in that paragraph and ADDED ALL THOSE TOLKIEN CHARACTERS TO THE DICTIONARY, because COME ON. Fans know their characters belong in the dictionary.

Oh, and about loving the universe of the story: there IS Alternate Universe fanfiction, and there ARE adaptations that can get away with changing the setting of a story, too. In my Howl Rant post, one commenter suggested that the movie's steampunk setting might have further felt UNLIKE THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK, but I didn't mind that. I actually liked the setting. It seemed good for the story. But in order for an Alternate Universe fanfiction to work, it's GOT to be even MORE true to the characters, and the new setting will either run by similar concepts of the original setting, or it will acknowledge that the setting has changed and make those changes part of what they're playing off of. It's all playing "what if?" but it's still confining itself to the OTHER rules of the canon.

The more I thought about it after that post, the more I realized my negative feelings toward the Howl's Moving Castle movie may have had LESS to do with the blatant replacing-of-a-canon-character-with-a-boring-imposter-with-the-same-name, and more with the sense that this WASN'T Diana Wynne Jones fanfiction, after all. I don't know, maybe I should see the movie in Japanese. Maybe I should have seen the Japanese special features. Maybe Miyazaki gushed about Jones in the original special features, but in the English-language special features it was like Diana Wynne Jones didn't exist. And THAT'S not right. That's like somebody posting a fanfic and not acknowledging that it's a fanfic-- not naming the original source, trying to pass off the work as entirely their own.

And that's all I want from an adaptation. I want some sense that the people making it actually read the same book I did. That they did their research. That they're ACTUALLY FANS, like me.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
For the past month or so the default song in my head-- the one that's still there after the songs-because-I-just-heard-them and the songs-because-something-reminded-me-of-the-lyrics and the general noise and chatter in my head quiets down a bit-- has been U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Every morning when I wake up (if I wasn't just dreaming about another song). Every quiet moment. I notice it-- still there. I think my subconscious is taunting me.

Because a couple months ago I was driving along, blasting that song on the radio, when I thought, "Isn't this something? They were trying to get a message out, and instead of just SAYING it, they did it through a great song, and so we're STILL hearing their message 30 years on." And I got smacked with the Revelation Stick: "THIS is WHY ART."

Which really shouldn't have been a revelation. I wrote a whole thesis paper on the subject-- that Art teaches great truths to the heart whereas the mind might reject them if received straight-- my first semester of college. I KNEW THAT ALREADY. But I'd forgotten.

I'd forgotten because I'm bombarded by Non-Art. So much of my reading nowadays is online-- blogs and tweets and status updates. Articles. Journalism. Telling rather than showing. Every day there's another Important Social Cause somebody wants me to know about-- it gets tiresome. I can't CARE about every social cause you tell me about. I tune them out. But on the radio is a decades-old song and immediately I AM caring, I AM asking "How long must we sing this song?" about violence in a small country on the other side of the ocean.

I'd forgotten because my husband doesn't believe in Art. Well, he doesn't understand it at any rate. He doesn't get the point. And so it's easy for me to let it go myself, just getting by day to day trying to manage a household with two small children in it. It's easy to get wrapped up in the mundane without someone else appreciating the extraordinary with me. That's my fault. I am too susceptible to other people's moods and opinions and wants and needs and too likely to let them block out my own-- except the "leave me alone" need. I'm pretty good at at least attempting to enforce that one. But I'd allowed the "what's the point of Art?" to seep in, to trample down my own beliefs in it-- the beliefs I'd lived by my whole life before kids and even written a thesis paper about. But when I hear music-- REALLY GOOD MUSIC-- I get transported somewhere else entirely.

And how many times-- the answer is "daily at least"-- do I complain about stupid songs when they come on the radio? The ones that just sound like they weren't trying? Sometimes I think I should be an editor for songwriters. "See what you're doing here? That's bland. Punch it up a little. On the other hand this flourish here is ridiculous. You're trying to sound cool but it's not doing anything for you. And your LYRICS, oh my. Do you know about poetry? Real poetry? Have you ever heard of "Show, not Tell"? Sure, tell me how terrible your life is, la dee dah, but when I listen to Pink Floyd's "Hey You" I FEEL what it's like for a depressed and hopeless person, and he never once SAYS exactly what's going on." Actually I'd be a pretty rude and nasty music editor. Maybe if I was actually doing it I could be nicer and more constructive, but since I'm just listening I'm more inclined toward "OH MY GAD THAT'S THE STUPIDEST WHINIEST CRAP I'VE EVER HEARD." But then when a GREAT song comes on, one that's been crafted from the soul, you can FEEL THE DIFFERENCE. ART, man. That's what it is.

Lately I've given up on art. I've given up believing that there's any reason for me to want to make it. I can SAY things, sometimes, in blog posts. But why should I write a story? Why should I play the piano or draw a picture? Why should I try to capture something numinous on paper-- what is there to capture?

But that song keeps swimming through my head when I'm not paying attention, but now it's not reminding me about the people of Northern Ireland. It's reminding me about Art. That Art DOES have a point. And that maybe I should try making it again.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Funny, I was way more enthusiastic to write this post this morning. Naturally, LIFE got in the way and I didn't get around to writing it (unless you count me gushing the basic details into my journal this morning) until now, when, LIFE having gotten in the way, I'm no longer floating on the bubbles of joy that I was.

No, I don't have any sort of huge good news. It was just the building up of little beautiful things. And THAT, in itself, is why I wanted to post about it!

Yesterday evening I wasn't in any particularly good mood. It was evening, which meant I was tired, and my husband was at work, so I had two whiny overstimulated kids I was trying to get settled down for bed by myself, which isn't exactly a party; but I wasn't feeling particularly bad, either. In fact, my son was doing all right. He'd earned, through chores and good behavior, some time to spend on something he wouldn't normally be allowed on-- in this case, my computer. He was drawing several variations of his usual "beach" picture in Paint (he draws a line down the middle, then paintbucket-fills one side with yellow, the other with blue, and that's his beach picture. He has at least five of these saved on my computer) while I struggled his sister into bed. But when I came back, he was saving a new picture to my computer. This was it:

I mean, let's stop right there. That alone could make anybody's day.

So I put him to bed (after thanking him thoroughly), grabbed my Nook and a bowl of corn chips, and flopped on the couch. (Okay, the title isn't accurate. Most of this was actually my NOOK exploding with beauty. But it was still the Internet, so it still fits). I set out to catch up with almost a week's worth of blog reading.

There was one post I was most anxious to see. Those of you who are already familiar with Hyperbole and a Half know what I mean. It was such a joy to see brilliant webcartoonist Allie Brosh back online after months of hiatus, particularly when we all knew she'd been very depressed last we heard from her (and by "we" I mean "a shocking variety of people. Like, everyone from all walks of life"). And she came back with the most perfect summary of her dark experience of the past couple years: seriously, if you HAVEN'T seen this yet, GO DO IT NOW. CLICK. Actually, do it again if you already have seen it because it's that wonderful. What she has done is given us the most dead-on heartbreakingly accurate description of depression that somehow also happens to be laugh out loud hilarious.

It's part of the "Clowns of God" concept again. When you mix happy and sad together, heartbreaking and hilarious together, it makes each of those emotions THAT MUCH STRONGER. And it's especially refreshing, to know so completely what she's talking about, but to be able to LAUGH at it... in the face of it... there is possibly no stronger force for battling the Darkness. I drew the connection between Allie Brosh and The Bloggess, how two of the absolute funniest people I've found on the internet are also two of the most broken. I don't think funny makes you depressed. I think being depressed forces you to find the funny. Humor is a gift given to those who need it most!

So now I'm buoyed up on that (that last picture and final sentence still do me in, even just now scrolling past to link to it), I continue reading through blogs-- or, to be honest, scanning them for the most interesting ones-- and I nearly skimmed right by this next one at Fuse #8 because, at first glance, it seemed to be a review of a picture book (which I don't get much say in ordering at our library) and I had a lot of other stuff to read, but then I noticed it was really an anecdote written by the author, about how, as a frustrated young immigrant, she found a library and a librarian who changed her life. OH LORD. A BEAUTIFUL IMPORTANCE-OF-LIBRARIES STORY. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time AGAIN.

So then I finished the blog-scanning and opened my Twitter app, where I immediately ended up retweeting the ever-so-wise Shannon Hale: "How can we build up instead of tear down? How can we make each day better for our presence? Our words are powerful. We can be superheroes." And even though, in context, she'd just been lamenting some cyberbullying her friend was going through, I was too high from the other things I'd read and seen this evening to get pulled down by those bullies. Instead, I saw we can be superheroes. YES! With wonderful, positive, sensible and sensitive people like Shannon Hale leading the way! All I saw was the light piercing THROUGH the darkness.

And close below that was another picture from Commander Hadfield aboard the International Space Station. If you haven't seen Commander Hadfield's pictures, please go, do it. Each picture of our troubled planet from far above is a quiet moment of Zen. It's like something I've always remembered from reading Joseph Campbell: that if you look at Creation stories from across cultures, they are almost always violent and traumatizing when told from the POV of the people of Earth, but when told from the POV of the gods, they suddenly become beautiful dances. That's what the pictures from the ISS are like, and last night's picture of the Alps in the clouds was no exception. Except I was already feeling lovely and positive, so it was that much more awesome.

Then I did something that might have dragged me back down into my own brain, my own self-conscious self-pity-- I went to YouTube to see if my particularly awesome if-I-do-say-so-myself but-that's-because-it's-about-one-of-my-favorite-topics vlog post of the week had got any more likes or comments. Eh, it had only been VIEWED four times, and I was pretty sure two of those views were me. So I was all set to start whining to myself how "NOBODY CARES WHAT I HAVE TO SAY!" (which we all know is a stupid thing to think and ones self-worth should absolutely not depend on how many people respond to your Internet postings, BUT YOU ARE STILL WELCOME TO COMMENT ON THIS POST! GO AHEAD! I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! IF YOU ARE EVER WAVERING BETWEEN RESPONDING OR NOT RESPONDING TO ANYTHING I POST, GO WITH THE RESPONDING! IT'S NOT ENABLING, I SWEAR!), but then I caught sight of YouTube's little "Recommended for You" column. You're going to laugh at me, after all these heartwarming philosophical transcendent things I've been talking about, but face it, this is me. And YouTube had found me an old interview with Martin Freeman I'd never seen before. SHUT UP. It totally does fit with the rest of these beautiful things. Look, I've never been able to truly explain (no matter how I've tried) exactly why I adore him so much, but I can't watch him without smiling. I am unable to even look at a friggin' Hobbit DVD cover without smiling. And he was SO utterly lovely here that I very soon found myself just bubbling away in a hot spring of joy.

And then I caught sight of my list of YouTube subscriptions on the side, saw a little "1" beside Collective Cadenza. I think I'm late to the game on the CDZA thing, and everyone else discovered them a long long time ago, but I only discovered them a week ago, and the fun they have with music is possibly the greatest thing ever. Even the videos that aren't so good are still the Greatest Thing Ever, just because Fun With Music is THAT AWESOME. So I watched their new video, where they took their "History of Wooing Women" routine (which I hadn't thought was a particularly great one) on the road. It was basically them serenading random people on the street. And the longer the video went on, the more wonderful it felt. The more I was LAUGHING AND CRYING AT THE SAME TIME again.

And that was it. I didn't read or watch or look at anything else. I just sat there with my Nook on my lap, FEELING JOY. I popped onto Twitter just because, somehow, I had to share this feeling: "I've been reading and watching one lovely, beautiful thing or person after another here this past hour. I'll go to bed now filled with joy." It was all I could fit into 140 characters. But the feeling was, basically, the exact opposite of Depression-as-Described-by-Allie-Brosh. I've been there. I'm all too familiar with the hopelessness, the wishing-I'd-just-die-so-it-would-all-go-away. But THIS feeling was... well, this is basically the thought that came with it: I am so glad to be alive in a world where such beautiful people doing so many beautiful small things exist.

And I woke up this morning determined to LIVE, to BE one of those people who make the world a better place just by our being here. I don't think the day went quite like I hoped. But there are more days. And every little bit of beauty helps.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
So, this week's vlog topic is "Some of Your Favorite Things," which brings up the topic of Bic Velocity Easy-Glide Ballpoints.*

See, a couple years back, when I was trying to make a habit of writing to prompts every morning, I got the prompt, "Your favorite possession has climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and is threatening to jump." (I can't remember if there was a "What would you do?" or "Write what happens" after that. That sentence was all I wrote down of it). Well, I'd only just started using my very first Bic Velocity Easy-Glide Ballpoint, a lovely purple one (black ink--it was purple on the outside), and I was using it just then and was entirely too excited about it, so THAT, I decided, would be the possession in question. But why on earth would a pen be threatening to jump off the Empire State Building? It seemed vaguely X-Files-ish. In a silly way. But then, immediately, I knew what to write.

I'm not a big fanfiction writer-- I have some bits here and there I do, but it's not a major hobby-in-and-of itself. But ever since we had our massive X-Files marathon right after Sammy was born, I've wanted to write fic for Mulder and Scully. Not ABOUT anything specifically. It was just that I could see them, showing up at the scene of a bizarre crime, bantering over the clues. I just didn't have a mystery for them to investigate.

UNTIL NOW. I decided to turn the mystery of a pen threatening to jump into an X-File. It was silly. It was by no means high-quality. But it was fun.

So now that the topic has come up in the video, I'm going to share that little fanfic right here:

------

Under this cut which very few people will see because who reads this in a LiveJournal Feed anymore, anyway, is a very short fanfic. And I don't own Mulder and Scully, yadda yadda yadda, all that other stuff people put before Fanfics.... I do own quite a few Bic Velocity Easy-Glide Ballpoints. I don't get money for them, though. )
----
*DEAR BIC: I'm serious. Keep making them or I'll... act on a very vague threat that probably doesn't actually exist. I'm saying, though.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
Don't get me wrong. I'm not getting out of WRITING. I just feel like writing for my own benefit today, not the world's (or even just the-small-part-of-the-world-that-might-read-this-blog). I don't feel like working within a box on a screen. This is a big page, spread-out-on-the-floor sort of planning-writing. Actually I think what I'm aiming for is one of those Dream Board things, plotting out what I want from life in a big live Pinterest board (which I say as someone who doesn't use Pinterest).

What I actually ended up doing was drawing this:
tree2

Kind of the opposite extreme of creative thinking. What I'm really aiming for today is something between typing in a little box and drawing dreamy treescapes on large paper. What I'm really hoping for is reconciling the soul that feels swirly and treeish with a mind that likes to express itself in words. With a body that stumbles, cluttered and distracted, through a day-to-day world that's clamoring for attention and never quite getting it. Always discounting that body, and it's always tripping me up. Oh well.

Off to think on paper.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Guys, I need help. I need you to hold me accountable. That's the only way I can make this "truly living" thing work.

I never held much with New Year's Resolutions, because it seems to me that, whenever you resolve to do something, you should just DO it. Well, you SHOULD, but that's hypocritical of me, because I always say I'm going to do things and never get around to doing them. Doing-- doing is the next step in Me being a Better Me, a Me who's actively making the world a better place and not just drifting along attempting not to make it a worse one. Zoloft's great stuff, it got me out of that abyss of depression where I honestly COULDN'T do anything, not even THINK straight (which really hammers home how depressed people CAN'T "just snap out of it," considering that was merely my FIRST step-- getting to the point where I CAN do something). That was step one. No longer drowning. Hanging on to a floatation device. Then came all of last summer's ATTITUDE changes, the thinking about myself and other people in new ways. That was step 2. Building a sturdier boat. But now I have to learn to sail it. But which ropes am I supposed to pull first? Which direction do I even want to go? What if I choose the wrong direction? Maybe I should just drift, never deciding anything....

I am a NATURAL at drifting. There's been so many resolutions I made in these past few months, new habits I needed to start, others I needed to break, and I was determined-- but I never took action. I try to remember when I ever DIDN'T drift. But I think earlier on, before kids maybe, I at least CREATED. I made things. I wrote things. I did more than just consume. Then-- well, I guess more people joined the "I NEED SOMETHING FROM YOU, AMY/MOMMY" party and it became harder to find my own voice. The ironic thing is that, if you're a doormat like me, you think you're being "nice" by just letting everyone else carry you along, going their way and not your own, but in the end NOBODY'S actually happy because other people can tell your heart's not into it, or they get frustrated and think you're lazy, or that you're trying to brush them off when you really just want time to yourself, so you don't take time to yourself but then you're bitter about it, and nobody likes you bitter, and besides, what are you HERE for? What are you adding to the world? You're not. You have this spark inside you, the Holy Spirit trying to work through you, trying to add to Creation through your hands, and you push it down, hide it under a bushel, pile so many "but..."s on top of it that you can't even find it anymore, just because you're not brave enough to stand up and declare "I have gifts, I can make a positive difference in the world, I MUST TAKE ACTION AND NOT DRIFT ANYMORE!"

But even though I don't hold with New Year's Resolutions, I hold a little more with Lent. Lent DOES make me question, inspires me to change. Maybe because it's only, technically, for a short period of time-- it's not a whole YEAR you have to keep these resolutions, it's just 40 days, and you even get Sundays off-- if you want you can go right back to your old habits at Easter! But if you're lucky-- or you're really serious, and aren't just giving up chocolate* out of a sense of duty-- you will have ESTABLISHED those new, good habits over the course of those seven weeks, and you WILL keep going, and you WILL have grown into a better person.

So Lent is here again, reminding me that I need to get my soul in shape, and the universe is poking me about it. I have seen so many reminders this week directly focused on MY Type-9ish problem (here's a couple that popped up on Facebook right on Ash Wednesday itself), and I got a well-timed letter from a friend making it clear-- in an earnest, thinking-of-other-things way that lets you KNOW it's genuine and not just flattery-- that I AM needed: "I think you have a lot to offer to the world," she wrote outright. "We all could use more people like you." Then on the back of a receipt she quoted, "You owe it to all of us to get on with what you're good at."

On Valentine's Day I wanted to write a post about love, REAL love, because I kept seeing so much online that day-- from adults, not just hormonal teenagers-- that still INSISTED on equating "love" with "romance" or even "lust." "Oh, love doesn't last, it's scientifically proven." No dear, those are hormones. Love is something different. That night I had a family storytime-- almost literally, my family and two other people were the only ones who showed up-- and I had everyone make a group poster of ways to show love. My husband drew a picture of someone getting lice combed out of their hair. It was possibly the most beautifully accurate thing on that poster, because, indeed, we'd been doing quite a lot of that at our house this week,** and it was nothing if not acts of love. Anyway, it makes me sad when people don't realize the true extent of LOVE, and I wondered if, indeed, this is one of the things I'M needed to show the world. But I didn't write that post. There's so much I think about but don't write. Why don't I write?

Last night I slept shallowly, waking up practically every hour, but never staying awake long, so my awake times were more half-asleep. And it was during one of those times I wondered, what if I blog on a schedule? What if I make myself blog once a week, no excuses, so I can't just let things slide, and I'll have the people who read me to keep me accountable to that? After all, I've managed to do a vloggy=video every week for the past month and a half. (Here's this week's, which also felt like the universe poking me. At the end I kind of go off into what I described as "an 'It Gets Better' video, and I'd kind of let go and --well, what happens stuck OUT to me. I saw the Me that is me-when-the-Spirit-starts-working-through-me, the Me I CAN be, the person the world needs. I was DOING IT. How do I do it MORE?) Eventually I will start writing fiction again, but meanwhile I don't even blog regularly-- but THAT is a sort of writing I can be held accountable for. I'll be forced to get at least two different creative works out weekly-- the vlogs on Fridays, the blogs on Saturdays-- and that's the start of new habits.

So I'd like you to hold me accountable. I'd like you to expect me to write here, to REMIND me to write here, to cheer me on whenever I do. (And not necessarily in a positive way-- if you want to ARGUE with me in the comments, as long as you do it in a thoughtful way that lets me know you actually read what I wrote, well... then I'll know you read what I wrote! That my words communicated something! And that will make me unable to use the "why bother if no one is listening?" excuse!)

And I'd like it to be a little more than just a rambly livejournaling. I'd like to experiment with formats and genres here. I was going to ask you to give me ideas, give me requests, but then I wrote this and wondered if that was still too much letting-other-people-steer me. But on the other hand, it's fun to know I'm writing FOR somebody else. They're not doing the writing-- it's still me, doing it my way. Our vlogs have weekly themes that I had nothing to do with originally, but I've made each theme my own. So it works. And I don't HAVE to take any of your ideas. So if you have anything you'd like to see me address, or a way you'd like to see me address anything, I would LOVE to hear about it in the comments. If you DON'T have any requests whatsoever, I still would love to hear from you in the comments, just to know that I have an audience. If you're not on LiveJournal, you can still log in through Facebook or Twitter or Google or OpenID or even just "Anonymously" (but if you do that, please sign your name in the body of the comment. Or use an alias! An alias is fine, too. Just something I can think of you as). I mean, it seems weird to ask for help to become self-motivated, but I do. I need the cheering-on. I need to know I'm needed.

-----

*I never give up sweets for Lent, mostly because my birthday usually falls during Lent and that would just be stupid. My birthday is actually ON Easter this year. I'm still not giving up sweets. Sweets are the least of my bad habits!
**LONG STORY. In fact most of this week has been taken up dealing with lice infestation. If you feel I've been online less this week, it may be that THAT was what was keeping me so busy.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Funny, I go weeks without thinking of anything I want to blog about, and then suddenly today I've had at least three questions/situations buzzing through my mind that I want to ask you about. Yes, you. Anybody reading this? I do love to hear from you.

Let's focus on one thing today. This question is for writers: any kind of writer. I know I'm read by real professional published writers EVERY so often, and that might be MOST helpful, but I'll be happy with the thoughts of hobbyists, also. The question is: where do you begin when revisiting and possibly redoing a previous work-in-progress?

This is a silly question, when I think about it. Of all writing skills, this is what I have the MOST EXPERIENCE WITH. I've spent most of my writing career from the time I was about 14 not writing first drafts, but REWRITING stories I'd written before: "Hey, this story I wrote when I was 11 is pretty bad, but it's got some good bits, so I think I'll write it again KNOWING WHAT I KNOW NOW!" That particular story-- the one I first wrote when I was 11-- has been rewritten completely (not counting smaller revisions and edits) at least 3 times, and though in the past few years I've given up on it, some nostalgia made me send it to [livejournal.com profile] elouise82 a few months ago on the off-chance she'd have any idea whether any of it is still salvageable. Basically, asking the very question I'm asking here, except NOW I'M OPENING IT UP BROADLY AND MORE GENERALLY. And thinking about a different story entirely.

This one I wrote for the first time (well, six chapters worth) in 11th grade. I've mentioned it. It started from some flights of fancy my best friends and I took off on during a sleepover. It starred the boy I had a crush on as a spy, the three of us as heroic and/or brilliant journalists and/or poets, many teachers and classmates as, in most cases, villains, and George Harrison's Imaginary (because we made him up) Nephew Billy, who turned out to be a superhero.

Ten years ago I decided to rewrite it, to make it less of a private joke and more of an actual book. I tweaked the characters-- while still inspired by real character traits in real people, they became fully formed and individual characters of their own. I structured the plot. I worked on it for the Institute of Children's Literature's bookwriting course. It got to a This May Be Finished sort of point. But it wasn't perfect. The tone was uneven. The plot was implausible. I messed around with the opening chapters awhile. Bruce Coville read one of these first-chapter rewrites at an SCBWI conference and made my year by liking it, and giving good advice about what I needed to change. Trying to figure out how to solve those issues, I decided to do a complete and total rewrite AGAIN. But I did less than one chapter of a rewrite before I gave up.

But you've heard me, the past two years. I've all but given up on writing entirely. And any more, if I DID make myself get back in the habit, I don't know what's worth WORKING on in the first place.

Today, during yoga class, all meditative and centered during savasana, I started thinking about the characters in that book. Billy and Hannie and Ashlynn and Ian. These very real, very developed, very alive inside-my-head characters. I still don't know what the heck to do with their story, but there's something ABOUT how they popped into my head today right when I was at my most-holistically-healthiest. I really DO need to tell their story. I'm just still not sure how their story WORKS.

I don't know where to go, if I should keep pursuing the Complete Rewrite I started, and if I do how much of the original plot points I want to keep, or if I should go off in a completely different direction (whatever that could BE)-- it was hard enough coming up with the FIRST plot. I'm so in the habit of NOT TRUSTING MY ABILITIES that figuring out what I need to do with it all feels out of my reach. In the end, maybe I don't really know what question I'm asking here. Maybe I have no idea what advice I think I need. I just have these characters I care about and don't know what to do with. How do you KNOW when a story needs to be completely scrapped? How do you say goodbye to characters that still haunt you with their Realness when you just don't know what to DO with them?

Maybe I'm just still too scared to write.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
The other day, feeling utterly uninspired in every area of my life and wondering if I even had anything to BLOG about, I pondered if a regular blog series on My Best Dreams of the Week or So would be feasible, because it would give me something marginally entertaining to blog about when I don't have anything I particularly WANT to blog about. I'm fairly regular about writing my dreams down (at least the good ones) in the morning, so it wouldn't even require all that much work.

I don't THINK I'm going to do that. Unless there's a huge demand for it now that I mentioned it. I HAVE written about dreams here many times before, and it's even worse if you're on Twitter because if I'm on the computer during breakfast and something amusing about my dreams can be summed up in a sentence or two and/or stars someone I FOLLOW on Twitter, chances are you'll hear about it. But have I REALLY talked about my dreams, in a general sense? Devoting an entire post to the topic?

Dreams are closely linked to my identity as a writer. I started writing stories based on particularly excellent story-like dreams-- for the first six or seven years of my writing career (using "career" in the sense of "how long I'd been writing," because I was in elementary school and hardly getting paid for it), all my stories were based, at least in their first drafts (and I really didn't start revising at all until about 5th grade), on dreams. Lately they're the only thing that keeps me from entirely losing my self-concept as a writer. I honestly still can't make myself believe, in the cold light of day, that I have any stories worth telling... and then I fall asleep and the blocks fall away.

I dream in narrative. Not saying they're GOOD narratives or at all things that would make a decent book, but I do dream stories. Dreaming in color? Pah, child's play. I dream in five or six senses and in fully-formed characters. I dream adventures! I dream EPICS! I dream insane twisted hilarious things, and actually-pretty-clever inventive things, things that are so unique that, yeah, maybe I DO have a one-of-a-kind special voice... in this part of my brain that my conscious mind refuses to let out during the day.

Sometimes I'm a character in the story, seeing and being through the eyes of a made-up person-- someone who could be of a different time, a different age or race or gender or background; it feels like reading a book, being in the mind of the main character and feeling with them even though they aren't you.

Other times I AM me, though not always me as I actually am right now. Often I'm younger-- a child, a teenager, a young adult unmarried and childless (though there are confusing moments when I'm sitting in my 6th-grade classroom saying, "But when I was in COLLEGE..."). I'm also more active, more assertive-- I have a lot of Rallying-the-Troops moments, which also somehow frequently involve me leading everyone in song. Occasionally I'm outright aggressive and violent, taking out the anger I've repressed in real life on obnoxious dream figures (did I tell you about the time I dreamt I was a serial killer who kept reflexively smiting people? I'm still not even sure what I was so angry about at that time).

I'm very prone to lucid dreaming, which sounds all new-agey and mysterious but for me it usually just happens, and most of the time I just decide to ride the dream out to see where it goes, anyway, all the while informing everyone I meet that I'm actually just dreaming them. Often I'll have fun with it-- or use it for quick problem-solving shortcuts-- doing things I KNOW couldn't happen if it wasn't a dream... which most of the time involves me either flying or having affairs with certain celebrity crushes. Many times I don't even have that much power (my flying attempts turn into a sort of low-gravity bouncing, or my celebrity crushes refuse to even show up), and I still get surprised by the dream moments that go on happening regardless of where I think the story's going-- like huge Sheriff McCheeseburger Dudes devouring Mr. Potato Heads behind you just when you think you're going back to redo your lost PRAXIS test. (What. Yes, I'm using real examples here).

But the most common thing I do, when I realize I've been dreaming? Grab a notebook and attempt to write it all down. Sometimes I merely forget that I'm still dreaming and that dream notebooks don't wake up. Other times I'm convinced that if I just get it all down, THIS time I'll have it in the morning. Very often I'm trying to write down the dreams while dreams just keep happening around me, and I'll be like, "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE TO FINISH WRITING THIS!" Or I'll keep having the dream over and over as I "rewrite" it, changing it slightly each time-- or, IT changing without me expecting it.

In real life my doubts have gotten to the point where I can't even write for fun anymore-- except for journaling and letters and occasional blog posts, but only rare bits and pieces of fiction. It makes me question my whole identity, makes me think that I'm NOT a writer after all, that that's just something I did as a child when I had trouble expressing myself and now I should just get an actual life instead. But in my dreams I'm still a writer, taking notes, crafting characters, thinking in narrative.

Am I giving up on my dreams? My dreams are not giving up on me.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I will probably not finish this tonight, but I have to start or else I'll just keep putting it off. Don't worry: I'm not about to make any terrible announcements or anything. But my reluctance to start writing is exactly what I want to write about.

See, I remembered something yesterday that I never should have forgotten. You see I was thinking about the enneagram personality and my 9ishness again because, you know, I've been reading about it and all, and trying to figure out why my written personality is so much more ALIVE than my real life personality-- for all of you who don't know me in real life, it's true. When I write I have opinions and inflections and passions, but if you met me in real life-- well! Like the description of the 9 says. It's like I CAN'T MAKE MYSELF EXIST. Well anyway, I was thinking about that, that gap between the outer me and the inner me, and wondering how the writing me fits IN to this overall shape of me-ness, when it suddenly popped into my head:

I've got a real, vibrant personality inside that I just can't seem to let out. But it WANTS to be let out. My whole life the best way I've ever found to let it out is through writing. I write to express what I can't express in any other way.

I've always known this. But I've forgotten-- maybe I've been getting sicker, I don't know. That Evil Voice in my head, the Lone Power in Young Wizards terminology, the Devil in Judeo-Christian terminology, the Misdeveloped Superego in the Enneagram books, my Personal Gremlin in the book my therapist gave me, whatever it is, keeps telling me that I have nothing to say, that nobody cares what I have to say or needs to hear what I have to say, that I ought to do something better with my time (although I never do, anyway), that I am nobody and I shouldn't try. It's gotten harder and harder to tune that voice out. I'm -- the outside, not-particularly-healthy-9ish me-- so good at Not Doing Things. I could spend my whole life Not Doing Things, except that I'd just become increasingly depressed, which makes it harder to do things, and on and on. That Evil Voice has almost succeeded in silencing me, in taking away that last outlet of creative spirit. In snuffing out the Light. Almost. I've still got that Light under a bushel that I can't seem to figure out how to take off, but at least I know-- or at least, I'm PRETTY sure-- it's there.

First thing in the morning, I usually write in my journal, and usually this is a recap of the highlights of whatever I remember dreaming. Many, many times I have dreams that are Exceedingly Storylike, either in their sense of plot or maybe just in the fabulously creative concepts my subconscious comes up with when it's not being squelched by the Forces of Evil. I write them down, and part of me smiles and thinks, "See? You have ideas. Maybe you can turn that into a story." Forces of Evil glare at that optimistic part of me. Optimistic-but-wussy part of me adds, "...someday. Maybe you'll write it Someday."

But a couple days ago the story dream I had felt SO fully formed, like it was writing itself, and barely thinking about it I started to write. Two pages of a story beginning about-- well, it's hard to explain what it's about. But I wrote it, without being afraid, without hesitating, without overanalyzing, without having any REASON to other than that I felt it ought to be written down. I don't know if I'll ever do anything more with that. It happened to me once before in adulthood, a couple years ago-- that one got to three pages long-- of a fully realized story beginning, with characters I knew and concepts that fit together and FUNNY BITS. Never added any more, though.

And I wonder, what was different? Why could I so easily decide to write that, when any other time it's a Huge Dramatic Dilemma? What was different, in my head, and HOW DO I TURN IT ON AT WILL?

How do I find the confidence to let my voice out?

Do you know-- you should, I'm telling you now-- Jerry Nelson died last night? He was one of the original Muppeteers. I bring it up, a) because not enough people seem to understand the gravity of this news (honestly, I felt rather gutted this morning when I found out, even though he was quite old and worn. But he's been still doing his famous Announcer voice until very very recently, if not To The End!), but also b) because whenever I think about shedding this restrictive outer self I shut myself into all the time, to become Somebody Who Makes a Difference in the World, I think about the Muppets. Mostly I think about Jim Henson telling everyone in the Fraggle Rock planning meeting that he wanted his show to end war forever. That he wanted to leave the world a better place for his having been here. That's what I want to do. I sense, within me, that I have that kind of peace and love to offer.

And yet I can't convince this outer shell of me to let it out. I can't even get it to write blog entries most of the time! I'm so, so far in the hole and I'm not SURE where to start getting out.

But every so often it happens. So maybe I'm getting better? I just need to convince myself that I do have a unique voice that is needed. That I'm not nobody.

It's just REALLY, REALLY HARD.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
She scrubbed the dishes with the coarseness of her frustration, her mood as bitter as the ginger-venison aftertaste hanging out on her tongue. Why did her life still feel so completely out of her control? How could she be doing so much BETTER, and yet she hadn't really GOTTEN anywhere? And why wasn’t she eating something sweet right now? She could go for something sweet. Not dessert, just... a cookie, maybe.

Her eyes fell on a fortune cookie on the counter. She'd brought a couple of fortune cookies home as favors from a wedding last weekend. She'd thought she'd save them for a fun occasion, or a nice treat to share with her husband. But she didn't foresee any fun occasions anytime soon, and she was a little mad at her husband, and a fortune cookie was just the thing to have after stir-fry. Why waste it?

The thing about fortune cookies is, a person has to pick their own. That makes it more truly THEIR OWN fortune. Of course, with two cookies between two people, SOMETIMES each gets the one they would have picked anyway, but sometimes one person’s quicker and the other person just settles for what's left.

Here was just ONE fortune cookie, although the other one should have been around somewhere. This one had a hunk broken off inside its wrapper, and a bit of paper with blue lettering poked through (she averted her eyes. NO SPOILING. That was one of the rules, too). It seemed like SETTLING, just eating this one cookie because it happened to be there, when there WAS another cookie to choose from, somewhere. She really ought to see them both before she chose.

She found the other one, still whole, under a blue tea-towel. She set it beside the broken cookie and gazed at them together, trying to pick up a vibe. It felt snobbish to pick the whole one over the broken one. The broken one cried out, "Be kind! Pick me!" But that had been the one that was out there all along! The one she would have SETTLED for! After she'd gone to the trouble of finding the other one... obviously THAT one was the real choice, the PROACTIVE choice. And proactively, she grabbed it. She tore off the wrapper and neatly cracked the cookie in two. Cookie halves in one hand, she slid the slip of paper out with the other and opened it between her fingers.

Just one sentence, printed in blue, on one side of the slip.

"Thank you for coming to our wedding!"

She paused, then picked up the broken cookie. The blue words peeking though the crack appeared to say "Thank you for coming to our wedding!" too.

She shrugged.

And she ate both of them.


-----
PS-- Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] elouise82 for editing.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Have I told you about the Lycoris Letters? You know, of course, that I'm completely obsessed with Real Mail, but you may have overlooked Item #2 of the second part of this post because it was a really long post and you probably skimmed it. Or skipped it.

Anyway, so a few weeks ago a woman in Japan goes, HEY people on Twitter, I will write a letter to everyone who asks for one!" and I of course said "OOO! OOO! ME!" But I was far from the only one, so she recruited a COMMITTEE and it became a THING, and, after applying for a position in said COMMITTEE, I BECAME A LETTER WRITER. I mean, more than I was before. Now I'm a PROFESSIONAL letter-writer, except for the getting-paid-to-do-it part.

So she sent me 10 addresses and Questions Said Addressees Would Ask The Universe, and I have set out to respond to each of them. One of the first letters I wrote was to a love-struck teenager on the other side of the world, because the question immediately reminded me of one of my own stories-- in fact, one of THE two stories that have shaped my obsession with letter-writing to begin with. That's why I thought it would be a perfect letter for our Fearless Leader Darcy to add to the Tumblr.

So today it's up! Now you can all see the sort of thing I'd WRITE in a letter to a complete stranger who asked the universe about speaking up to their crush!

I asked the recipient's permission to post it, and they replied Yes of course (after gushing with thanks for the letter in the first place), and then added, "It's a brave thing to write in a letter." Well, I don't know about that. I'm telling a story from seventeen years ago-- the emotional intensity has drained a bit. Don't even think I've even seen the guy in question for about thirteen years. I've been through many other loves and heartbreaks since. Also, according to his Facebook page, he has REALLY SUCKY taste in music. ...but wait, no, sorry, that's off-topic.

What it is is sharing stories, sharing bits of life across the world, connecting people. Who'd have thought seventeen years ago that my teenage awkwardness would end up inspiring a complete stranger across the world all these years later?

I love writing letters. I REALLY love writing THESE letters. I said I felt I WOULD be picked for this project just because it seems so much like FATE. Is THIS my calling as a writer, to write letters? Huh.

Well, maybe not. Maybe not completely. I'm sure it's my calling at this moment. But it's reminding me again of the power of stories, that if even my own teenage dramas can have meaning to someone else, maybe I do have more stories to tell, that might mean something to somebody somewhere.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
I’ve been nominated by [livejournal.com profile] vovat (but on his Wordpress blog) for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Here are the rules:

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
Why, thank you, Nathan!
Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.


Right. But lots of my favorite bloggers have huge followings and professional formats that make them hardly likely to care about such a meme. So this is more a chance for me to share with YOU some awesome-- and versatile-- blogs I follow that YOU should check out, or even possibly follow, if you don't already. It's advertising for great blogs, which I think is the point in the first place.

1. The Bloggess is my new favorite. I can't stop talking about her, and I thank [livejournal.com profile] iamdamanda profusely for pointing her out to me. I am THANKFUL for the Bloggess, for being simultaneously a great advocate for folks with depression and anxiety, AND unbelievably freakin' hilarious. Seriously, funniest blog you will ever follow.

2. A Fuse #8 Production is my classic favorite blog. Granted, as far as "Versatility" goes, the subject IS strictly children's literature, but within that general topic, my #1 blogger girl-crush Betsy covers everything with gusto and humor. And of course THERE ARE THE COUNTDOWNS.

3. E Louise Bates -- shout-out to a smaller more-likely-to-get-an-Award-Meme blog (and it's not only both versatile AND likely-to-get-the-award, I'm pretty sure it already DID relatively recently), run by my dear virtual friend [livejournal.com profile] elouise82. Louise not only has excellent taste in both literature and television and an occasional tendency to post recipes, she writes about everything in a compelling way, encouraging responses and conversations, and coming up with fun lists.

4. Bookshelves of Doom is definitely versatile, covering pretty much whatever catches her fancy (or raises her ire). There is of course (with a name like "Bookshelves of Doom") a tendency to be about books, with frequent reviews, links to book-and-library-related news, and librarian jokes. But they'll be bits about movies and TV (it's her fault I started watching Sherlock-- also, she agrees that Martin Freeman is the most awesome person on that show so that makes her worth following right there) and musicals and her cats and random geeky funny junk that really can be appreciated best by geeky bookish girls of our generation.

5. Nine Kinds of Pie --if Betsy Bird is my #1 Blogger Girl-Crush, my Blogger Straight-up Crush is definitely Phil Nel. He's a children's literature professor/scholar (ie, geek) who takes the name of his blog from my (and his) favorite picture book. Any time he's not discussing children's lit on his blog, he's posting playlists and talking about music (loved this recent post about musical taste). Seriously, MY USERNAME IS ROCKIN. LIBRARIAN. How is it we're not married already? (Kidding. You know I'd never abandon Martin. ...Jason, I meant. I'm married to JASON).

6. Screwy Decimal is a snarky public librarian in Brooklyn. You may just need to follow her on Twitter for the full effect, but even if you only follow the blog, you'll encounter stories from the trenches that are simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting, and ridiculous.

7. Kiersten Writes... speaking of people who are hilarious on Twitter. But author Kiersten White is hilarious across the board. Her posts range from purely silly, to realistic with a lot of humor in the execution, to quite serious on occasion (but even those are leavened by her unique outlook).

8. [livejournal.com profile] sarahtales is someone whose hilarious Livejournal I discovered even before she'd published a book, but now that Sarah Rees Brennan has a whole popular trilogy under her belt, she STILL writes a hilarious Livejournal (though a little less frequently). Lately, in anticipation of the "new Gothic" novel she has coming out in the fall, she's been writing laugh-out-loud retellings of classic Gothic novels monthly. Check them out!

9. Writer's First Aid is a writing blog NOT for people who want tips on getting published or landing an agent or doing school visits, but for writers who are STUCK. Kristi Holl has written books on the topic (I have one-- occasionally I remember to use it), and here she keeps up a steady stream of encouragement, advice on boosting creativity or managing time or just getting your writing head on straight. What's sad is I've been so blocked in the past few years that even THIS advice feels beyond me-- but I'm getting there, and every so often I make progress.

10. Book Aunt for book reviews, and sometimes poetry, and sometimes ruminations on literature or authors or whatnot. [livejournal.com profile] katecoombs is a genuine author friend and I like her. Also I gave her new picture book of poetry, Water Sings Blue, to my mom. Anyway, her reviews give you a true flavor of the books in question (she's won me over to books I hadn't thought I wanted to read before that way), and she's open about the good, the bad, what things certain people might like about it, what things might bother others. And she has good taste.

11. Slow By Little --another small one that could use an audience. My college roommate keeps this picture-filled blog of homelife and travel. See and read about her adventures in Germany last December, and if you scroll down a few posts-- you see that swimming pool? I spent all last Saturday afternoon in that pool. Personal trivia!

12. Happy Opu, in the Whodathunkit category: Canadian actress Jewel Staite is best known for playing one of my favorite TV characters ever, Kaylee Frye. When I found her on Twitter, I was delighted to discover that she also keeps a blog-- one that is not only funny and well-written, but is also almost entirely ABOUT FOOD. Not just any food. Fancy unbelievable Foodie-type food. She describes it in luscious detail, and yes, there are lots of pictures. It's food porn, really.

13. A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy: what's great about Liz Burns' reviews/takes-on-things is that she can be critical but never judgmental. Her book reviews have a section called "The Good," but not a section called "The Bad": she tells you WHY someone MIGHT like something... although when SHE loves it, she does let you know! But she also covers current events in the publishing/library/blogging worlds, movies, TV shows, and ALA policies. Okay, so the ALA policies part may not be roping you non-librarian-types in. But MOVIES and TV SHOWS!

14.squeetusblog: Author Shannon Hale is a wise, well-spoken (okay, WRITTEN) woman. She ponders questions about the elements of story (in any format) and stereotypes and life... and occasionally is just plain silly. She also does this while raising 4 small children including toddler twins. Besides, you know, the whole writing career thing.

15.Memoranda, a blog which once hadan ode to my awesomeness on it (actually, there may have been more to the post than just that). Naturally, I had to keep following Michelle Cooper and the fascinating glimpses into her mind-- historical, geographic, and scientific facts she's discovered, books she's been reading, thoughts she's been having, important things like when the next FitzOsbornes book is coming out... you know.

Honorable Mention to GeekMom, which is one of my very favorite-- and incredibly Versatile-- blogs, but as it's a group blog with many different bloggers, it doesn't quite qualify.

Happy reading! Like you can keep up with any more blogs.

So then, seven things about myself... that I assume you don't already know?

1. Last weekend I had a reunion with college friends that ROCKED MY SOCKS. Even though not much actually HAPPENED, but that's NICE when you're a grownup. The most eventful thing that happened was a night out eating crab cakes and singing karaoke. I did a pretty good Carole King and a not-nearly-warmed-up-enough Ann Wilson. Also, in the "nothing happening in a good way" portion of the weekend, we had to rescue a frog that had jumped in the chlorinated pool. Almost immediately, guess what song started playing on the stereo*? "The Rainbow Connection." Go Kermit.

2. I have gotten involved, over the Internet, in an international project that is so WRITTEN FOR ME that I'm pretty sure it's fate. An actual spiritual Calling. Here's the Tumblr for it (I know, Tumblr. Insanity. I just pretend it's a regular blog). First she offered to write a real handwritten letter to anyone who asked for one. Of course, hundreds of people (including myself) asked for one, so she recruited helpers. We had to apply for the job... but I wasn't really surprised to get it, because, like I said, FATE.

3. I finally, after weeks of protesting that it was much too hot to attempt, weeded the garden today. We thinned the carrots and the kids had the baby carrots at lunch, which thrilled them. Discovered my sprinkler sucks and has been missing whole swatches of garden. All my basil dried up and died off. Tried to buy more, but the hardware store was out. No fresh basil this year. :(

4. My Windows Media Player has randomly downloaded a whole bunch of SONGS I DIDN'T PUT THERE. It's kind of cool, because so far all the ones I've heard have been kind of awesome. But is this a nifty new feature of Windows Media Player-- picking new artists for me it thinks I might like judging by the rest of my collection?-- or have I been HACKED? It's kind of like the coolest computer virus ever if it is.

5. It's Summer Reading Club time! After creating and data-filling a spreadsheet of all participants and what programs they're coming to, I am... not as involved as I used to be. I'm just there on Wednesdays, reading stories and doing booktalks. We've got an awesome set-up though-- one of the small meeting rooms has been turned into a campsite, with a light-up campfire and everything. Then I believe I'm chaperoning the field trip, but we're only doing one this year, at the end of the summer. So... less with the stress.

6. I'm wearing this skirt I made when I first got my sewing machine. It's an awesome blue batik print with bright yellow and pink highlights, which is so awesome I keep wearing it even though I made it lopsided.

7. Sometimes I like to wander down the office supplies aisle at the grocery store and JUST STARE.

*Technically, it wasn't a stereo. It was a playlist on an iPod hooked up to speakers. But that takes too long to say.

PS-- I also can't remember if I mentioned my determination to take drum lessons as soon as Jason's new schedule gets straightened out/paychecks start flowing in. I bought myself a set of 5-dollar drumsticks as a promise to myself. LOVELY RITA AND THE METER MAIDS COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. In theory. A vague, unsubstantial theory.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Dear, dear neglected blogreaders. It's been a fascinating few weeks. I just haven't had the time to sit and type up a proper blog entry. Sure, I've been READING blogs-- or skimming-- but I can do that on my Nook. I've been Tweeting and occasionally Facebooking, but those are those in-between short-attention-span things you can do while, say, manning a reference desk or parenting small children. Within reason. At least much more than typing a proper blog entry is. So let me catch you up on the past, um, month. Ish.

In Which I Give You a Real-Life Update

First, the personal news: Jason has a new job, finally-- if you know anything about him, you've probably figured out that this has been something he's been looking for for a LONG, LONG TIME. It's still just machine operation, but the pay, benefits, working conditions, and apparently management is SO much better that we can't even fault it (much) for being 2nd shift. I'm working out a new work schedule-- since mine is based around him being DAY shift-- and if the 5-year-old goes to afternoon kindergarten in the fall (likely), we'll have mornings as our family time and lunchtime as our Dinner. At least until first grade.

In MY workplace, on the other hand, we have a new director coming in. I met her last week, and we pretty much laughed the entire time, so... that's possibly a good sign.

The bad personal news is I've had a mysterious and horrendously painful sore throat for the past week and a half, which two different doctors have looked at and determined that I, well, don't have any DISEASE that they can see, and the strep test was negative. The second doctor decided I probably just have something STUCK IN MY TONSILS which is being irritating, and I'm just supposed to gargle a lot and take painkillers when needed. This is NOT SOLVING ANYTHING. If it's still a problem by Monday I'm calling for a referral to an actual ear-nose-and-throat specialist. Jason said, "I hope you don't have tonsillitis," and I said, "I hope I DO have tonsillitis, so they can just take those tonsils out and BE RID OF THEM." Better than "gargle a lot and hope it goes away soon."

...in good personal health news, my antidepressants are back to being Straightened Out. Actually I'm not even sure I mentioned to you (on any of my social media outlets) about the week I got a dosage increase and started having anxiety attacks. Yeah, fun stuff. Told you, it's been an interesting few weeks.

In Which We Wander Into the Bizarre Depths of My Imagination

I had this great nightmare last night about a satanic cult posing as a church (of a completely different sort) camp, and there were exploding snakes and bloody demons and people who appeared to be nice who WEREN'T and undercover sabotage-of-their-facilities and rescue missions and dramatic escapes by boat and antique car and a secret meeting posing as a premature labor. It was really scary! But it was so very plot-filled that I really didn't mind, once I woke up.

See, my brain chemicals are balancing out, but I haven't quite rid myself of the Negative Thought Processes. I SEE, logically, that I can make up stories, that my subconscious mind is CONSTANTLY making up stories, but then real life intrudes and I can't justify it. There's always so much else I SHOULD be doing, and none of my story ideas is calling to me SO much that I can make myself sit still and focus. My husband, frankly, doesn't understand. He's not an artist, so can't believe that writing is anything more than a hobby, and why should I write when there are so many other things not getting done? His mother is even worse. And I just don't believe in myself anymore, period. I'm too scared to start again. I can't devote the time and energy to it because nobody really wants me to be a writer. That's one of those negative and probably wrong thoughts, but I have lots more concrete evidence to support my No One Needs Me To Be a Writer stance than I do concrete evidence that Anyone Cares For My Point of View, or even that Anyone In My Real Life Understands. But at least I can see where the problem is, now. Maybe that's a start.

In Which I Go Off on Librarianish Topics

On the other hand, I've been oddly aware of an actual skill I DO have, lately-- I'm a dang good reference librarian. I still feel awkward and like I ought to be coming up with more programs and that I'm just not AMBITIOUS enough (I've got a younger coworker, just starting library school, who is SUPER ambitious and is always starting projects and I always feel like she's looking at me thinking "Why aren't YOU doing all this?"). But someone needs help finding something? I am good. Not just talking a quick catalog search and a call number lookup. I'm saying, for nonfiction or topic-based searching, coming up with lots of different ideas of where to search and what to use. For fiction, excellently helpful readers advisory-- I find stuff people LOVE. In general, giving people a little more help-- and a lot of friendly respect-- than they're expecting (it's one of those times I'm actually good with people-- because I know what I'm doing). One thing about my new work schedule coming up-- I hope to still get to work some evenings, some after-school time, because that's when people really need help with the Finding Stuff... and dang, it feels good to have something I know I'm good with, when the rest of my life is a long hopeless process of convincing myself that I don't Suck.

In Which I Get On The Topic of My TRUE Self, Which Is General Fangirl

Of course, in real life, all these serious real life things take up most of my, well, real life. This is why I often distract myself by thinking about and caring about things that Technically Aren't Important In The Grand Scheme of Things, but Nonetheless Interest and Amuse Me. Take, for example, the subject of my last real post, The Fuse #8 Children's Book Poll Countdown. I am still obsessed with it, but possibly a little disappointed. I should have seen that coming, because I DID change my votes around from last time, and the WAY I changed them around was by adding MORE OBSCURE stuff I'd discovered, and stubbornly still voting for Ghosts I Have Been even though I was the only person who voted for it last time. But we're up in the 30s now, and there are a LOT of my votes I know I'm going to have to give up on showing up by this point. Now, there are votes I KNOW are going to show up later, way at the top of the polls-- I suspect about half my ten novels will end up in the top ten of that list (Wrinkle, Secret Garden, Anne, Holes, and Harry Potter, specifically. They were all in the top ten LAST time, at least), but so far not only have I only gotten ONE of my votes on that list (at #31... which still seems low to me. How is Alice not Top Ten for EVERYONE? This may be my own brain issues), and even my Almost-votes have been few and far between. Though, there's also been more titles I've never read... which may mean more exciting discoveries!

Anyway, I've had much more luck with the Picture Book list: I've had at least three votes make it already, and lots more I love. Though I know by now I probably need to give up on seeing my biggest new pick, Barbara Lehman's The Red Book, make it, and though I was shocked to see Daniel Pinkwater's Big Orange Splot actually make the list last time, there's no way it's getting past #30 this time. But that's only two of the picture books. The others I suspect I'll be seeing eventually.

...of stuff I've read lately...

But speaking of good books, I've had good fortune in the reading department lately, after my long dry spell of being burnt out. The LAST FOUR BOOKS I'VE READ have all been getting-caught-up-in, not-wanting-to-put-down, attempting-to-get-away-with-reading-at-more-times-of-day-than-just-before-bed books. It's been awhile since I've encountered even ONE of those in a row. Granted, it's still taken me an entire month to get THROUGH these four books, and actually I'm still not done with two of them (one's nonfiction, one's fiction, one's on my Nook, one's a real book from the library-- so they're two completely different reading experiences. That's how I can read them both at the same time).

There was, of course, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, which neatly encompassed everything that is so great about Diana Wynne Jones, and I have a bit of a new literary crush on Derk. Which is funny because my other DWJ crush is Chrestomanci, who, aside from being a magic user and a father, is UTTERLY COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. But Derk reminded me a bit of a character of my own that I've had brewing-- for that possibly turning The Pipeweed Mafia Saga into something Useful-- and in general that whole idea felt oddly DWJ-ish-- so as usual, she sparks my imagination. I LOVE THAT WOMAN. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE HER.

There was Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, an upper-middle-grade fantasy that REALLY needs more attention, because it's so delightfully unique-- actually, speaking of which, it was blurbed by Diana Wynne Jones, and you can see why. It's thoroughly CREEPY (the bad guy is a serial killer, and there's something so REALISTIC about that in the middle of a fantasy that it makes it a thousand times scarier than some fantastic monster would be) and yet laugh out loud funny at times, full of unique magical twists. Also, it takes place in Nigeria. The only other SFF I've read set in Africa and incorporating African mythology (not counting Egypt-- Egypt gets done) is another of my favorites, The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, which as I've said also makes me say "Why on earth is there not more SFF set in Africa?! It's so rich with possibility!"

The two books I'm in the middle of reading are actually adult books, because that happens sometimes. The one on the Nook-- which I try to confine myself to little bits of off and on, to make it last longer-- is the ever-delightful, unbelievably hilarious, kindredly (and vocally-supportively) mentally ill Bloggess's memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened. And look, people, I was never AGAINST eReading-- using the Internet is, after all, eReading, and I do a lot of that-- but after only the INTRODUCTION I regretted not having the book in hard copy, if only because a hard copy is much easier to throw at Jason (maybe not literally) and say "READ THIS. Just this chapter at least. And the next chapter." Not so easy to share on a Nook. Unless the other person has a Nook. So somehow actually OWNING an eReader has made me MORE of a luddite about paper books. (Though I do love it for Internet reading, and interesting apps. I got a thesaurus app. It's pretty awesome).

The other book is kind of ironic because it's by Shannon Hale, who mostly writes YA, but somehow I've NEVER read any of her actual YA books (except the graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge which is debatably Middle Grade anyway), but I've now, counting this one, read ALL her ADULT books. WEIRD. And this one is probably my favorite of said adult books, even over her Austen-themed ones: The Actor and the Housewife, which is, *ahem,* frighteningly similar to, uh, some of my own fantasies, only involving very different characters. Actually, just recently Hale blogged that the main character was probably her "most controversial character" and that lots of people didn't like her because she was "hard to relate to" or something. As I started READING the book just a few days later, I thought "WHAT?!" I friggin' LOVE Becky Jack! Granted, she might be a little much to take in person in real life (I would feel utterly inadequate in her presense), but as a book character she is hilarious and unique and I love her SO THERE, WORLD.

...and of film and such lately

Speaking of *muttering* inappropriatefantasiesinvolvingactorsandhousewives */endmuttering,* you do realize what television thing happened in this past month, right? I'M AFRAID MAYBE YOU DON'T. Sherlock series 2 finally made it to PBS! And now it's over again! It zipped by in three weeks with entirely not enough fanfare. Where WAS fandom? Oh, right, they'd all already pirated the show or bought UK DVDs for their Region-Free players. :P I felt utterly lonely-- once more, it was like nobody cared but me. BUT, somehow, I managed to get Jason hooked too. He probably STARTED watching just to poke fun of Martin Freeman whenever possible (he never stopped with that)-- also he claimed he was there to keep me from licking the TV-- but after very little time he was actually enjoying it properly, laughing in the right places, exclaiming about plot twists, and NOT BEING DISTRACTED BY ANYTHING ELSE, which in itself is amazing for Mr. ADHD. And no matter what Jason says, MARTIN WAS AWESOME. He was SO UTTERLY PERFECTLY WONDERFUL. That's how I review things, all balanced and objective, like. Anyway, I don't know why Jason was so offended when I burst out how desperately I wanted to hug John Watson at the end. WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO HUG HIM? I'm just saying. Anyway, so if you, once again, MISSED IT, I'm pretty sure PBS is still streaming it on their website. SERIOUSLY I'M NOT KIDDING, GO BASK IN MY IMAGINARY HUSBAND BEING AWESOME. And everyone else being pretty much awesome, too, but that's just a bonus.

Okay, right, in other TV news, sort of, did you know The A.V. Club is now retroactively reviewing Animaniacs? It is even MORE AWESOME THAN I EXPECTED, bringing back so many laughs I'd forgotten about. Like this one somebody brought up in the comments: "Okay one time, see one time, Randy Beaman's aunt was sitting on her porch, and she felt her dog licking her feet, only it wasn't her dog, it was some crazy guy who liked doing that. Okay, bye." I'D COMPLETELY forgot about the Randy Beaman bits, PERIOD, and THAT one was like my FAVORITE LINE EVER. I laughed so hard reading that comment that I was forced to de-lurk myself just to comment how excited I was about it. Seriously. Best cartoon ever. NO ARGUING.

In Which I Try To Wrap Things Up

So, is that it? Is that the past month, or at least, everything you need to know about it? Kids are all right. So's everybody. We's getting on at least. And now I'll go make sure the kids aren't destroying anything or each other. Maybe, MAYBE, I'll post more often after this.

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