Monthly Archives: November 2016

Why I Write

Write all the things!As NaNoWriMo winds down, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I write. My NaNoWriMo project was highly unusual for me — I chose it simply because I wanted to do NaNoWriMo with my teens, and I knew I could write 50,000 words about these characters and their world. This is the first book I wrote with zero intention of publishing it. I wrote it for me and me alone.

It’s a train wreck of a book (or, more accurately, about three-quarters of a book, since that’s what got me to 50,000 words), but it’s also exactly what I needed this November. When my stress and anxiety levels peaked, I was able to fall back on my writing. Disappear into someone else’s problems, and celebrate their triumphs. I don’t think I wrote much that was good this month, but writing got me through some rough patches.

Writing isn’t only, or even often, therapy for me. I write because I have stories to tell, characters who refuse to shut up, worlds that demand to be brought to life. I write because I can’t imagine not writing. I love learning more about a character and the world they live in through writing their story. I love learning more about myself and my own biases when I write characters whose backgrounds or experiences differ from my own. And as a librarian, I love doing all the research.

I also write because I believe in the power of words and reading. I believe the right book for the right reader at the right time can make all the difference. It did for me — more than one book, at more than one point in my life. I hope my books will someday have that kind of impact on a reader. Even if it’s just one person, if my words have led someone else to think differently about something or to smile when they thought they couldn’t or to cry when they needed a good cry, it will be one of my greatest accomplishments.

Why do you write?

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Thanksgiving listens

When this publishes, I’ll be on my annual road trip from Indiana to New York for Thanksgiving. It’s a long drive, so audiobooks and podcasts really help! Here’s what I’ll be listening to as I make my way east:

Storm Front.Storm Front by Jim Butcher (first of the Dresden Files)

This one is for librarian book club, though I’ve been looking for an excuse to bump it up on my to-read list. For December, we each chose another book club member’s name at random, and had to come up with recommendations for them. Storm Front is my buddy’s recommendation.

StoryWonk Sessions

Someone recommended this podcast for those who struggle with plot, and I really enjoyed the first episode. Hosts Alastair Stephens and Lani Diane Rich break down the plots of Pixar movies from Toy Story through Monsters University. Since plotting/outlining is my biggest weakness, this is a good way for me to study up while I’m on the road.

Do you have a Thanksgiving reading/listening list?

Speaking out

You will ALWAYS be WELCOME, RESPECTED, VALUED, and HEARD here.

I posted this on the Idea Board in the library’s Teen Room, because I felt like some of us could use that reminder this wee.

Libraries are supposed to be neutral spaces, and for a long time I wanted my blog to be a neutral space, too. I welcome all thoughtful, open discussion, but in the past I haven’t written about anything that could be deemed controversial. I can’t believe I live in a country where respecting the humanity and rights of others can now be considered controversial.

If you don’t want to read this anymore, feel free to unsubscribe. But I’m done with staying quiet about things that bother me at the risk of offending others. I am saddened and scared by the hateful acts that have taken place all over the country — in schools, on buses, in parks, at several college campuses — since November 9. Muslims being threatened and having their hijabs torn from their heads. Latinx, black, and Asian American people being told to go back where they came from. Swastikas graffitied near campus Hillel houses. A lynching group chat sent to African-American students at the University of PennsylvaniaGay couples being told they’ll burn in hell. My friends, my family, so many people I care about are being attacked. My teens at the library are being attacked. What does it say to them when so many adults in their country voted for someone who wants to strip them of their rights, who sees them as less than human, whether because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or (in most cases) a combination of these?

There are those who say our president-elect was a performer, that he said all the horrible things he said (ban Muslims, build a wall, “law and order,” “grab them by the p***y,” etc.) to get votes. Ignoring for the moment that that is a deplorable way to gain support, let’s consider the repercussions of this. We now have an elected official who has normalized discriminatory language and actions. Neither he nor any of the leaders who back him made any kind of public statement denouncing this behavior until a 60 Minutes interview aired five days after he was elected. And he said he was surprised by these acts of violence, when his campaign rhetoric fostered this hate. In his speech on November 9, Trump talked about working to unify the country, yet he doesn’t even call out the deplorable behavior his campaign condoned. By electing him, this country has condoned and normalized extreme acts of hate.

I have never been more saddened, more scared, or more ashamed of my white privilege. No, I didn’t vote for this, but maybe I didn’t do enough to stop it. Maybe if I’d been more open about how alarmed I was by this campaign, if I’d been more willing to risk offending people whose opinions differed from my own, if I’d been another voice speaking out instead of just liking and sharing posts while the brave posters subjected themselves to Internet trolls… I don’t know. Probably it wouldn’t have made a difference. But maybe it would have.

I’m still not allowed to talk politics at work. But I will fiercely defend the rights of all my patrons, and I will do everything I can to foster a welcoming environment. I will be there for my teens, to listen, to give them books that may help them through hard times, to provide game nights and craft nights and other programs that can serve as much-needed distractions.

And what I cannot say, but hope they’ll understand: “I’m sorry. You deserve better. And I will fight for you.”

Stay safe, everybody.

Awesome Audiobooks: Illuminae

Happy Election Day! If you’re a U.S. citizen over 18 and haven’t done so already, please go vote! I won’t get into politics here, but in an election as crazy as this one, I think every vote is especially important.

Illuminae.If, like me, you could use a distraction from all the election news, I recommend getting lost in a book. I just finished listening to Gemina, the second book in the Illuminae series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and wow, are these books great. The writing is fantastic — each character has a distinct voice, and the authors managed to make me laugh out loud at some of the tensest moments. Also, if you want an excellent study of dialog and voice, I take a look at Hanna’s and Nik’s conversations with Kady about two-thirds of the way through Gemina.

Gemina.If you like science fiction, thrillers, or are into really gripping characters, I cannot recommend these books enough. Because of the format (the Illuminae Files are a series of documents, transcriptions of chats and videos, and so on), I can’t say exactly how the audio adaptations compare to the text. But these full-cast adaptations are phenomenal, and a welcome escape from the real world.

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy (hopefully) end of election season!

Good luck, Wrimos!

NaNoWriMo crest.NaNoWriMo starts today, and I’m so excited to write this story! For all those who are nervous about doing NaNo, remember, it’s perfectly normal to be scared. We’ve all been there. When I was in college, I let a professor’s opinion scare me away from writing for three years. I’d get ideas for stories, but I’d talk myself out of writing them, because I was convinced they wouldn’t be any good.

But here’s the thing: not writing wasn’t making me a better writer. The only way to improve at something is to practice it. Professional musicians didn’t start out playing sonatas; they started with scales. First books, and even first drafts of books, are like scales. You learn the notes, learn what fits in this key (with this story) and what doesn’t, find a rhythm that fits. It won’t be perfect, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a starting point.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to push yourself to get that first draft written. Don’t worry about messing it up. Don’t worry about what your friends or family or future readers will think of it. Just write.

Remember, you can always edit in December.