Archive for January, 2010

January 29, 2010

Swing Swing

I don’t think it’s in my genetic code to remain in a good mood for a full week. Maybe not even for three consecutive days. First full week of school and I should be feeling on top of things. Especially since I have yet to have a CHL 401 moment – aka, I haven’t sat down to my first class and immediately wanted to spring from my chair and out the door so I can run madly around trying to do more reading, trying to get smarter because good LORD what is going on in this classroom?

None of that.

No. I have schedules.

Multiple

Schedules

And I’m sticking to them. So far. My secret New Year’s Resolutions all involve the two dirty words – self discipline – and I can feel my body catching up with my brain a little. I haul myself off the couch so I can go to the library not because it seems novel or fun or because I have to or else I will fail life… I go because it’s better than not going.

But you know you’re in trouble when you start writing out this schedule:

The four year plan. That scary red box is when I have to start paying back my student loans. Awesome. And those scary pink bars are my birthdays. My scary, scary birthdays. I’m not going to have more than a month of respite until I’m TWENTY-SEVEN and then, BAM, student loas are due, better get a job!

The day to day life is fine. It’s the theoretical life that’s stressing me out. When the little purple and orange boxes are over, what will I have left?

?

Don’t worry, I’ll feel better by Monday. The pendulum always swings back.

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January 26, 2010

Library (Student) Day In The Life

Back in July, I caught wind of this fun event called Library Day In The Life. So I captured a riveting day in my own life as a Library Assistant. Really enthralling. Read it. There’s arguments, the quitting of jobs, teen violence, racism, and me, kicking delinquent teenagers to the streets. Oh, and a librarian bun.

That was round 3. Yesterday was round 4. I can’t believe six months has gone by. I have been living here for almost 6 months?? Really?

Anyway, I am no longer a Youth Library Assistant in a bitchin’ rural-ey library. I am now a library student. I study library science and children’s literature full time at a private college in Boston. Which should be enough info for you to figure out where I go to school, but not enough for my school to Google me and kick me out for using the word “bitchin’.” Although that last sentence was somewhat of a delusion. Hi, school! Don’t worry, I won’t sully your good name.

This is my first full week of my second semester

6:20 a.m. Alarm goes off. Wake up without snooze! (1 Self Actualization Point awarded)

6:25 a.m. Get very excited when the kitten eats her dry food after being sick all weekend, much to my motherly distress. Exclaim loudly to boyfriend, who is on his way out the door for work.

6:30 – 7:15 a.m. Write three pages, longhand in a notebook, a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, something I dabble with here and there. I think I wrote about my sick kitty, then remembered that I checked out a book of poetry from the library specifically so I could read a poem and then write something about it, so I would feel more Artist-y and less Self-Absorbed-y. So I did that. (2 SAPs). Also, watched Someone Like You, which is a bad, bad movie. (-1 SAP)

7:15 – 8:15 a.m. 2 fried eggs, 1 piece of cinnamon toast, 1 bowl of fruit from my anniversary gift. And last night’s Big Love. Have I mentioned my love of HBO and Showtime On Demand? Oh. I love it.

8:15 – 10:00 a.m. Worked on an assignment for my picturebook class. I have four colors of construction paper – blue, yellow, black and white – and with it, I must cut and paste two scenes. The one I made today was a scary scene where a bird is attacking someone. Awesome. I think it’s done, but we use this removable glue that turns everything into Post-Its, so I will probably be lifting and repositioning. I already took my bird’s eyes off when I saw my picture in the hallway.

While I watched Juno.

10:00-11:30 a.m. Took a shower. Blow dried my hair. Ate some cheese and crackers and got duped by my refrigerator as to it’s Diet Coke contents. As in, THERE WAS NONE IN MY FRIDGE. Very upsetting news. Soothed myself by reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and watching a little 16 and Pregnant.

11:30 – 12:00 p.m. Wii Fit. Actually did some of the strength moves for once. The whole top row (leg extensions, push ups, lunges, side twists and jacknifes), then Expert Aerobic Boxing, Advanced Step (which now add a little 5 lb weight routine too… throws off my rhythm like what, but I like a challenge), Soccer Ball heading, and Rhythm Kung Fu. (+1 SAP)

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. True Life: I’m Addicted to Meds. Worked on my second picture for picturebook class – the same thing that was being attacked, now comforting a bird. A lot harder than the first one. Tried one idea out, but apparently I can’t cut out a small paper bird for the life of me, much less on that needs comforting. Kitty attacks scissors, scraps of paper, and sits under the book I have balanced on my crossed legs and peeks out at me. Exclaiming that she is again, behaving like a healthy cat!

1:00 – 2:15 p.m. True Life: I Can’t Afford My Lifestyle. Started to get dressed and wearing makeup and such. Made lunch – goat cheese and tomatos toasted on a ciabatta roll with spinach and pesto mayo, and a smoothie with frozen berries, vanilla soy milk, and a banana. Mmmmm…. and packed some snacks for later.

2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Don rain boots and gigantic red and white striped umbrella. Count out change, stuff into pockets. Plug ears into iPod – Columbine by Dave Cullen (a little light afternoon listening, and I swear the voice actor was also the narrator for King’s Quest VI). Take the bus to school. Get very wet in the process.

3:00 – 3:30 p.m. Epic quest to find suitably affordable and suitably cold caffeinated beverage. Shouldn’t have taken me a half hour….. but it did.

3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Work. I no longer work in a library. Sad, I know. Although, on Friday, I was in charge of moving all the books on bookshelves, rearranging them, and then dusting. Which is kind of like working in a library. And I made a lot of copies. Also similar.

5:30 – 6:00 p.m. Head over to the school’s library to hunt down a stack of picturebooks. On February 24th, I have to turn in an assignment for my picturebook class, an assignment that requires I read 120 picturebooks by specific illustrators, and write 1 page papers on 50 of those books. So yeah, I’m already hunting for picturebooks on a weekly basis. Heck, on a three or four times weekly basis.

6:00 – 9:00 p.m. My first library class of the semester!! Child Literature and Media! Excitment…. but must this class REALLY start at 6:00 p.m?

First impressions: Love my prof – funny, professional, super smart, but class will be strange. I’m also working towards an MA in children’s literature… these two perspectives were clashing LOUDLY in my mind. Librarians wield a tremendous amount of power in the children’s lit world – they are responsible for buying a huge percentage of the mass of American children’s books, give out the only kid lit awards that consistently boost a book’s sales, and are usually outspoken advocates for the books on a small scale (hand “selling” books every day) or a large scale (reaching out to schools and communities, writing professional articles and book reviews, blogging, etc)

Librarians are influential. But books are still, ultimately, a product. A THING we all like and we want to use to do something (to entertain, to educate, fund further years of library services).

In my other classes, books are pieces of art. Things to be studied. Respected. Completely separate from the hands that made them and the minds that will consume them.

Holy dizzy brain, batman.

I contributed only a single thought to the class discussion, since mostly these thoughts were whirring madly around in my mind, and it was a controversial one, one that’s never EVER crossed my mind before.

Is it our job, as children’s librarians, to get all kids to Love Books as much as we do? Or is it enough to make sure they CAN read and that they know where the books are?

Well that’s obviously a post for another day.

Oh, and I also got a headache at some point during this class that throbbed up the back of my neck. Ow. Ow. I slept on the futon for three or four hours on Sunday morning with my sick kitty, and am still paying for it.

9:00 Successfully added money to my CharlieCard onboard  the 39 bus. Oh, Elena, what would I do without you?

9:30-10:30 Lay on the couch and talk to my boyfriend. Exclaim loudly that I don’t want to go to sleep because it will be too much work. Lance exclaims back that he did the dishes for me. I exclaim my gratitude even more loudly, and then ask him to wash my face.

10:30 Try to kiss kitten goodnight. She bites my face.

January 24, 2010

The Best YA Books You Haven’t Read

Kelly over at YAnnabe celebrated her one-year blogiversary by doing something really awesome. She threw the Unsung Heroes of YA Blog Blitz. Basically, she’s inviting kidlit bloggers to share their favorite YA books that nobody else has read. You can read all the official rules on her site, here, but that’s the gist of it. And she’s keeping a little running tab of everyone who participates, so you can browse for hours and hours through everyone else’s choices. Not that I have hours and hours to waste. I’m a grad student, here.

My Top 5 Favorite YA Books

…that you haven’t read

… but really should

1. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

I’ve read this book so many times I’ve lost count. So many times, my sisters and I destroyed the library copy – it was replaced and we got to keep the scrapped copy. Classic realistic, guy-why-aye-fic. Oh, and Rob Thomas is directly responsible for a young lady called “Veronica Mars.” If that doesn’t sell you, then I don’t know what will.

2. Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

Everyone’s read Frankie, and probably Ruby, too. But Gretchen Yee will always have my heart. This is quintessential YA, for me: strong voice, quirky storyline, a relevant ideological bent, and a little romance. One year, I read it three times.

3. The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

A high school, full of characters, and each with their own story. Or, in this case, a poem. I really, really love this book. The poems stand alone in terms of voice and originality, but the real fun is the unraveling of the loosely woven schoolmates… who is friends with who? Which stories will come back again? Will everyone get a happy ending? Love, love this book.

2. Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn by Sarah Miller

Talk about hook: new boy at ritzy prep school, learning to navigate the social ropes… but Gideon’s story is told by the girl who is CURRENTLY SPYING INTO HIS MIND. Unbeknown to Gid, of course. How did this one slip under the radar?

1. Teen Angst? Naah… by Ned Vizzini

His latest YA is about to be a major motion picture. But before he was a fiction writer, Vizzini was a high school wunderkind, going to Stuyvesant High and writing for the New York Press and The New York Times Magazine. This, his nonfiction debut, is a collection of those essays and articles, personal missives on some of the more mundane aspects of adolescence. You know, like and Ode To Playing Magic The Gathering. That kind of nerd fodder. His stories are topical enough to inspire young readers to catalog their own lives via creative nonfiction, but well-written enough to shock the adult reader when he or she realized Vizzini was only  15.

January 22, 2010

Love Letter 2010

Dear Lance,

Today is January 22nd, 2010, and I have bought you the lamest birthday/anniversary present imaginable. Really, I might as well have bought you a vacuum, except that we don’t have any carpet. And my lame gift giving is really a shame, since this is such an important day, for you, for us. You should have a diamond! A pearl! At least a new sweater or something.

Today, you are 25. Twenty-five! A quarter of a century! The first quarter of your life, even. Exciting!

(Although you should really stop getting into so many car accidents. I’m becoming concerned for your longevity).

And today, for us, we are 6. Which means we have occupied nearly a quarter of each other’s lives. But oh, how much longer it feels than a quarter. The previous year alone passed like a millenium. What was I doing in January of 2009? I really have no idea. That life, whatever it was, is gone.

If you’ll allow me to make sweeping judgements about your life, Lance, I will say that this year was about The Things You Did. Not that you hadn’t done anything before 2009, it just seemed to me that this year was about Doing and not about dreaming or planning or preparing, but just Doing.

You did School. (Or in the case of good old U of M Flint, School did you.)

You did School and Student Teaching and Music and Work all at the same time.

You did a Recital.

You did a Job Search, and found A Real, Live, Full-Time Job. With Benefits.

2009 was a trial by fire, a test of your manly fortitude, and now that you are 25, you have proved yourself and can relax and enjoy the spoils of your victory. Which amount to about 100 dollars a month, after the bills are paid.

A year of doing.

Which is why I’m having such trouble crafting this, this annual love letter to you, my love. A year ago, two years ago, I was 150 miles away from you with a lot of time to wax rhapsodic on our relationship. I was seeing you on some weekends, but spent the rest of the time alone. Lots of time to hope and dream and muse, and a lot of gaps in our relationship to fill in with my hopes and dreams and musings.

Little by little, 2009 changed that. I had much less time to muse and dream because I was Doing Things, like planning road trips and hunting for apartments and hunting for jobs and reading books and washing dishes and grocery shopping and any time I had to lay on my back, alone, in the quiet, was not usually a time I spent thinking about My Relationship – it was a time I spent thinking about grad schools and reading books and washing dishes and papers and grades and then falling asleep.

But like you were eventually rewarded with that enviable FULL! TIME! JOB! I was rewarded, too. We both were. The metaphysical “Lance” and the imagined nooks and crannies of our relationship are not always in my heart-of-hearts anymore, because the real Lance is in my home.

Which is so much better.

Instead of wishing, hoping, dreaming, imagining, worrying, fretting, waiting,

I am grocery shopping with you

I am paying the bills with you

I am reading books while you play piano

I am doing the dishes from your lunchbox

I am doing my schoolwork in the bedroom, hiding from you

I am coming and going from school and from work, always coming and going from you


In 2004 and 2005 and 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and 2009, we had a relationship together.

And now, we have a life

together.

Thank you for holding my hand and jumping, with me.

Love,

Jessica

January 20, 2010

First Day of School

Today is my first day of class, but I am not nervous, not one bit.

My teacher is one I had last semester, and she is a-lot-of-fun. My classmates are all my classmates from last semester, and they are all a-lot-of-fun, too.

And we are learning about picturebooks.

No, I have nothing to be nervous about.

Except that I was supposed to bring removable glue to class, and I have none.

Removable glue!

Have you ever heard of such a thing!

January 19, 2010

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

I still can’t believe I read this silly book.

Romance? I prefer mine realistic rather than genre-fied.

Historical? I prefer mine nonfiction… or at least from an POV that is interesting to me. Wealthy society girls in early 1900s NYC? Eh…

Trashy plotlines? I prefer mine adult.

Big, fat, 500+ page books? I prefer mine Harry Potter.

But I read it. And I didn’t hate it. Historical Gossip Girls is the much repeated tagline, and probably the author’s pitch as well. But it’s really the only way to describe it. Familial money scandals. Who’s doing who. Who’s doing whose sister. Who will marry below their class, who will marry above. Drama drama

What made me finish? This strange murder plot. We learn from the first chapter that the ingenue protagonist, Elizabeth Holland, will be found dead at some point. Which isn’t necessarily thrilling, since the storyline is so drama-drama anyway, it just felt way too soap-opera. However, as I continued to flip pages as I flew back and forth above the continental US, I became rather invested in HOW this girl would die. Godbersen presents multiple suspects, all with different motivations and reaasons to wish Elizabeth dead (including Elizabeth herself), and none of which are really, truly exonerated by the end of the book.

Although if any of those above qualities don’t appeal to you, I’m not sure I’d reccomend this read. Surely there are better young adult murder mysteries set in turn of the century high NYC society?

Or maybe not…

*An Aside*

When learning more about the character of Elizabeth Holland, I was reminded strongly of the protagonist of another formulaic teen series – Anna from The A List.

I mean, I don’t read the A List books. I just flipped through a few chapters once or twice. Ahem.

Anyway, Anna and Elizabeth are both filthy, stinking rich, but their respective authors paint them as sort of Wealthy Angels, possessing of higher moral and emotional capacity than their peers. Their peers, actually, are filthy stinking rich and disgusting about it. They party hardy. They sleep around. They flaunt their riches, wear gaudy clothing, and seem to have no purpose as characters other than to stir up trouble and be obnoxious.

Anna and Elizabeth float even higher than their high-society upbringings demand. They date discriminatorily, respect their parents, tend to their educations, care for their siblings. Any trouble they get into is usually the fault of their meddling friends. They are blonde. They dress more plainly than their wealthy ilk, but possess natural beauty. Oh, and if you are Elizabeth, you are dead. Martyred.

What kind of female character is THAT supposed to be, exactly?

January 18, 2010

ALA Weekend

I. Where I’ve Been

II. Who I Saw

Bonus points if you can identify all these Super Famous Celebrities.

III. What I Did

On Friday I took the bus and found myself walking, alone, in semi-scary South Boston around the back of the huge convention center.

Then I went to a panel of authors who had their books turned into films.

And then I went to the exhibitions and scored

1 free glass of champagne

1 free shot of clam chowder

4-5 free books, like this one.

Me, picking up a hardback book: I really liked her other book, I didn’t know she’d written another.

Vendor: It’s the sequel!

Me: Oh snap!

Vendor: It’s yours if you want it.

On Saturday I got up super early to listen to a famous author of a famous book speak. I forgot that I’d listened to her speak via a Youtube video awhile back and was completely floored. She was similarly charming and insightful in person.

Then went back to the floor to gather even MORE free books, like these:

And far, far too many more other than these.

At which point I really could have gone home. Instead, my CHL friends and I went to see the Former Next President of the United States talk about his new book and the environment, and boy, he would have made a nice president, I think. Too bad I wasn’t old enough to vote back then. And then we loitered around the Kidlit Tweetup in the hotel lobby until we got so hungry we had to go to Unos and order food, dessert, and two pitchers of sangria.

On Sunday I really wanted to see Atul Gawande speak, because I have a mega doctor-crush on him, but I was sick. I actually got sick the night before ALA started, and remain somewhat sick until this day. Sleeping in was lovely. And I had a later engagement, at my school, where I listened to some alumni of my program read from their most recent works. And I ate 10 chocolate covered strawberries and yet another free glass of champagne.

Then I was a bum and went home.

This morning was the earliest and the nastiest. At one point during the morning commute, the car shook from the wind and pedestrians gripped telephone poles to keep from blowing away.

But we made it on time to the

BIG AWARDS SHOW

Which was amazing. Picture the weirdest thing you are interested in, and then put yourself into a room full of a few thousand other people who also love that weird thing where they have assembled to honor the best of the best of their weird thing.

Amazing.

Newbery Award

Honor – Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose : I have nothing but love for this book and its author. In case you don’t believe me, click here and here.

Honor – The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly : Sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to pick it up.

Honor – Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Honor – The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Winner – When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead : The favorite, which I also enjoyed and blogged about here

Printz Award

Honor – Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman : Just what I love in nonfiction – discussed it here

Honor –The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Honor – Punkzilla by Adam Rapp

Honor – Tales of the Madmen Underground by John Barnes

Winner – Going Bovine by Libba Bray : A happy upset! ARC stillll sitting on my shelf. ALMOST read it over break.

Made one last exhausted walk around the exhibitions.

Took one exhausted nap on the futon.

And will entertain the idea of making one last exhausted bus trip back out to Copley to attend a few exhausted YALSA events before hauling it home to bed so I can get my rest before dragging my exhausted ass back to work in the a.m., and then back to school the next day.

Oh, my goodness, my life.

January 13, 2010

hedging bets

I have left home and arrived in Boston without much event. My journey home, by way of Detroit and Atlanta airports, wasn’t completely uneventful, but the events that occurred did not involve missing my connections or using my seat cushion as a flotation device, so I’m calling it a win.

Yesterday I was so tired and sore from such a long day of traveling, I could barely muster up the energy to hoof it to the library. And then I put another crick in my neck hauling all my hold books back to the apartment.

Today I attempted to buy my books and failed. I attempted to make a schedule of homework for next semester and failed. I tried to beat level 2-1 on Super Mario Bros Wii with Lance, and we failed about 75 times before an eventual win. I didn’t try very hard to do some Wii Fit, so of course I failed at that too.

I did succeed in watching a pretty bad movie (The Ugly Truth), somewhat planning out some things to do for ALA Midwinter this weekend, holding a mini Big Love marathon, and laying around with my kitty most of the day.

So I’m calling Boston a win.

P.S. She has a name!

Peach.

Or Miss Peach.

Or Peachy Peach.

And yes, she’s named after the Princess.

January 12, 2010

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn

It wasn’t the fact that Starbucks did not—would not—serve Guinness with a raw egg followed by an espresso chaser that was ruining Very’s hangover. Nor was Very concerned that she had stumbled into her campus Starbucks on the morning after an overnight “study session” with the beautiful engineering major from Ghana whose name eluded her, although Very knew there were many hard consonants involved. Hey, she wasn’t even bothered that yesterday she’d been fired from her work-study “security” job checking student IDs—a feat that, contrary to her university career services advisor, was not, like, impossible to pull off—yet Very probably could be counted on later today to blow the remaining credit on her maxed-out card for primary wants like new headphones rather than for secondary needs such as food and tuition.

I always enjoy Rachel Cohn’s books, but this one definitely had me scratching my head.

First of all, we have the back cover matter. Have I mentioned to you that I don’t READ the back cover of books anymore? It’s like this: back covers of books are for people who have a CHOICE in their reading manner. Book window shopping. Which is not a luxury I have anymore. So why waste time when you can just jump right in? Anyway, the back cover of Very LeFreak.

“Very LeFreak is a technology addict. She’s on her iPhone and laptop all day long. She goes to technology rehab to learn to listen to her heart instead of a machine.”

(that was a very sorry paraphrase)

So the book described seems kind of gimmicky. But I know Rachel Cohn. There’s got to be something more going on here.

And there is. Very isn’t just a tech addict – she’s a geek. She writes fanfic, programs code, and carries on online affairs. Her technology addiction is the impetus for the story’s plot, but she is multi-layered character who isn’t anything like the teenagers you think of, LoLing and texting and Facebooking their way through high school. Technology becomes an art in Very’s hands.

I find Cohn’s narration  so lively. The narration is a close third person, as if Very herself can’t disconnect long enough to think about her own story, preferring to have someone narrate it for her. I’m really getting into this kind of narration – third person that really embodies a focalizing character. But here’s where I get confused again – the narration is at times frenetic, almost indulgently so. It’s hard to follow the action. The tongue-in-cheek moments overwhelm. Maybe Cohn could have cut half of her color commentary out and made a shorter book. But then, these little distractions, these funny moments that nobody else thinks are funny, they are what makes Very’s reality. They do embody her character, and her mindset.

And then we’re back where we started. Is this a book about a complex character that could exist? Or is Very LeFreak ultimately, an exaggeration, even a polemic? Is this just a gimmicky novel that hopes all 16-year-olds whose fingers are constantly curled around their Blackberries read and take heed?
We’ll call it 50/50. Very LeFreak is equal parts deft, relevant satire and a complex story about a nuanced female character. If nothing else, it will make you think about something.
January 9, 2010

To Do in Two Thousand and Ten

My New Year’s Resolutions are kind of private this year. Accountability is important for any major goals, and I’m usually not shy about sharing my various rambling hopes and dreams with the internet, but this year, I just feel like I need to do it on my own.

But I still have some things I’d like to get done. 1o things. Last year I had a similar list. I failed at 1 and 6. I did 2 and 10 for a short spell. I made significant progress toward 3, 5, and a very valiant attempt at 4. I inched toward 9. I had resounding success with 7 and 8.

I like the idea of simple, check-list type goals for a year. I think they help channel my urge to give myself 50 resolutions every January.

But for real, I have five.

Don’t worry, you aren’t missing much. They are extremely boring.

To Do in 2k10

1. Obtain a sourdough starter for bread-bakin’.

2. Visit NYC with Lance.

3. Send holiday and birthday cards to all!

4. Buy some kind of bento box-style , lunchbox  like this one.

5. Buy a pair of running shoes that my feet love…

6. …. and then put them to use once the weather gets nice.

7. Have 3k stashed in the savings account. Again.

8. Pay for my summer classes without taking out additional loans.

9. Buy into my local CSA farmshare (if they still have slots when I get my refund check!)

10. Improve attitude. Get up! Do stuff! Take advantage of your perfectly good legs and go! Do now, worry later!