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Writer's Market 2016Writers work hard to find an appropriate home for their work, a publisher they can trust with the very important job of connecting the written work with the eyes of readers. This can be a process fraught with emotion and frustration!

First off, there are bound to be a lot of rejections - I haven’t been able to nail down an authoritative number, but I keep hearing that the average rejection rate for writers is 90%, or 95%, or 97%. Submission guidelines are strict and picky, and reading periods are these little windows of time when your submission will be admitted for consideration… if you miss the window, you may have to wait another year for that particular submission.

But how does one decide where to submit their work in the first place?

Book publishers

If you have a book that’s ready to meet the world, you might be seeking an agent or a publisher, or researching small presses that accept submissions, either as part of a contest or an open reading period. Books like the Writer’s Market and the Poet’s Market are classic sources for information about publishers, updated in annual editions. These are pretty basic listings, with description of what’s published by different publishers, as well as contact and submission information. There’s also the Literary Market Place (LMP), an in-depth directory of the book publishing industry. A little more practical and personable advice can be found via Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent database of small presses, which allows you to search using criteria such as form, genre or style, submission fees, payment (if any), and reading period (try the advanced search!).

Wait, what are these small presses you speak of? Generally speaking, they are book publishers that operate on a smaller scale of business than the Big Five Publishers - either they make less than a certain amount of money per year, and/or they publish a smaller number of books per year. There are lots of them, and they may have open reading periods and/or contests. You don't need an agent to get your manuscript into their hands. Many are members of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), which also maintains a useful searchable directory of its members. For a helpful overview about choosing between small and large publishers, and the self-publishing option (see below for more on self-publishing!), you might enjoy this article from The Huffington Post. It's published by the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, another handy resource for the process.

Literary magazines or journals

What are literary magazines? In short, they’re print or online magazines publishing a variety of authors all at once. These are especially found in conjunction with poetry and short stories, although essays, reviews, and novel excerpts may be found in them as well. Literary magazines cannot be summarized, such is their variety in terms of readership, distribution, and style. The library maintains subscriptions to some excellent literary magazines.

The Review Review is an online magazine dedicated to literary magazines - news, reviews, and a database of magazines. Lynne Barrett’s essay “What Editors Want,” published in The Review Review, is a must-read if you are considering submitting your work to literary magazines! Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent searchable database of literary magazines, too. Both of these can be searched by many criteria to narrow down the wide world of literary magazines to some of the magazines that publish work like yours.

Entropy Magazine is another excellent online source for info about where to submit work that’s ready right now: it has listings for literary magazine, chapbook and book publishers’ reading periods. It also has a top notch small press database.

Don’t forget that when submitting your work to a literary magazine or book publisher, your chances are best if you have some understanding of the style and type of writing that they publish. That means you have to read the magazine, and read the books published by the press! While the library can’t carry everything published by small presses, can do our best to help you find the publications you seek, whether it’s on our shelves, online, in bookstores, or via Interlibrary Loan. Please ask us!

Self-publishing

Of course, you could self-publish your book - this option is getting easier and more popular all the time. See our blog post about self publishing, and our reading list

You might also enjoy these other blog posts about self care and practical matters for writers:

The Care and Feeding of the Writer

The Business of Writing

 

 

Four Welcome to Reading color coded kit bags and bookmarks

Learning to read is an exciting time. Finding books your child is interested in at the right reading level can be a challenge. Library staff is always ready to help. We've added another way to make that process easier for you and your child: Welcome to Reading Kits!

Multnomah County Library has kits at four levels: Starting Out (yellow), Building Skills (blue), Reading More (red), and On My Own (purple). Each color-coded bag contains 5 fun books and an information sheet on how to determine your child’s reading level, how to order more kits, and other activities you can do to help your child become a stronger reader. Some kits have books on a specific theme, like Comics, Dogs and Cats, or For Real! Facts. Many kits are called Five to Try, and contain a variety of books at the reading level. Explore several kits and help your child discover what he or she loves to read. Ask library staff about Welcome to Reading Kits today!

Young Bilingual VolunteerVolunteer Mia Strickler

by Donna Childs

Mia’s parents adopted her from China and made sure she learned about the culture and language of her birth country. She has visited China, and she went to schools with Chinese Immersion programs. At Woodstock Library, Mia helps Amber Houston, the Chinese bilingual staff member who does storytimes, with behind-the-scenes work, such as props, arts and crafts, and keeps track of participants. She also leads the craft activities. Woodstock was the first library in Multnomah County to offer a Chinese-English storytime. Amber reads stories in Chinese, and then retells them in English. Participants include English speakers who want to learn Chinese and Chinese speakers learning English.

Now a senior at Cleveland High School, Mia is considering pursuing a career in medicine. She attended a medical camp at OHSU to explore career possibilities in the medical field. According to her, despite her love for Woodstock Library, she reads science blogs more than she does books.

Her volunteer involvement extends far beyond the walls of the library. She has volunteered at her church, for the Heifer Project, served meals at a food kitchen and at her church, and created and sold ornaments and cards made from her original photos to earn money for the Oregon Food Bank. She is active in her school’s National Honor Society. All this, and she is only 17!


A Few Facts About Mia

Home library: Woodstock Library
 
Currently reading: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
 
Favorite book from childhood: The Harry Potter novels
 
Favorite section of the library: The DVD section
 
E-reader or paper books: Paper
 
Favorite place to read: In my room, on my bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Naturalization ceremony at the Grand Canyon, 24 September 2010.The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) states that an average of 710,000 people have become new U.S. citizens each year since 2010. Even with that remarkable figure, there are still 22.1 million immigrants in the U.S. that are not naturalized citizens. These 22.1 million include permanent residents legally in the U.S., unauthorized immigrants, and legal residents with temporary visas. In Oregon, less than 40% of the  more than 390,000 immigrants are naturalized citizens. Why is that? While no single answer applies to everyone, for many the process can be overwhelming and complicated. Multnomah County Library can help with language learning opportunities and citizenship classes. Staff can also direct you to resources that help immigrants become naturalized citizens.   

Local Resources

There are many organizations throughout the Portland metro area that offer resources to aid those seeking citizenship:

Legal AssistanceDohes Elias Haney's naturalization certificate, 1917

Those seeking citizenship often require legal assistance, especially with the USCIS N-400 form. Most citizenship classes do not focus on paperwork requirements but there are organizations that can provide that type of help. There may be a fee for legal services:

USCIS Citizenship Resources

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service provides many resources online for those seeking to become naturalized American citizens.

If you still have questions about becoming a citizen contact a librarian to get personalized assistance. We're always happy to help!

 

Pyramid photoAncient Egypt is fascinating! You can learn about how the pyramids were built (and about the treasures found inside), how mummies were made, and how to write in hieroglyphics. The ancient Egyptians also made numerous advances in science and architecture.

Did you know that the Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for over 3000 years? Learn more about the pharaohs, or about the daily life of the average Egyptian.

Here are four sites which have information on many topics related to Ancient Egypt:

The British Museum has an extensive website that covers subjects such as geography, gods and goddesses, trades, and Egyptian life.  You can read the stories to find out more or participate in challenge activities.Image of sarcophagus

Click on a map of ancient Egypt to find out about topics like farming, temples, and warriors at the DK Find Out website.

The History Channel has several videos to watch, as well as a written history of ancient Egypt.

The Children’s University of Manchester Ancient Egypt site is great for younger kids and includes online activities.

Enjoy your exploration of Ancient Egypt, and don’t forget to contact a librarian if you need more help.

A college degree is one of the most expensive items you will ever buy. It can leave you in debt for years, so you want to be as smart as you can about your education. When you attend college, you are "buying" a college degree, much as you purchase other big-ticket items. So, you want to make sure you get your money's worth.

Barnard College

Figuring out what college is going to cost

The U.S. Department of Education has a useful website called College Scorecard. You supply information about the type of degree you are looking for and locations or regions that you are interested in, and you'll receive results that show the average annual cost of tuition and fees at each matching institution, the graduation rate, and the annual average salary of their graduates. It's a great website for getting an overview and comparing what different colleges cost.

Another great place to research college pricing and student aid is at The College Board website. There is a wide variety in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country, so it can really pay to do your research.

Looking at online colleges? They can sometimes offer you more flexibility and easier access than traditional colleges. Check out Affordable Colleges Online to see, by state or by subject, which colleges offer affordable options. 

Be sure to add in what your room and board costs will be, including your meal plan, books and supplies, and other personal expenses

Your Personal Resources

Before you apply for student aid or scholarships, you'll need to figure out the amount of money that you and perhaps your parents can afford. Some parents choose to contribute and others believe that it is the student's responsibility to pay for college.

If you are saving for college, the State of Oregon offers the Oregon College Savings Plan which provides tax advantages. 

Federal Student Aid

If you plan to apply for aid, check and double-check the application deadlines. State and college aid may have earlier deadlines than federal aid. When you apply, you want to be in the first stack of applicants, not the last. You can check the federal and state application deadlines at www.fafsa.gov.

The first step to apply is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Financial aid experts recommend that all students fill out the FAFSA because it is used by colleges and grant-makers to figure out financial need. 

The fastest way to fill out the FAFSA is online at www.fafsa.ed.gov, but you can also get paper forms at all our public library branches: Just ask at a reference desk. Give yourself plenty of time to fill out the form. You'll need to have information about your financial situation and you or your parents' federal tax forms from the previous year at hand.

Using the information that you supply on the FAFSA, the financial aid office at your college will determine that amount of aid you may receive.

Book Partners, Volunteer Partners

by Sarah BinnsVolunteers Carole and Emily

Library patrons know the volunteers they see face-to-face, such as those who teach computer classes or work with the Summer Reading program, but what they don't see are the volunteers who devote their time to getting library books into the hands of the right patron every day. Two who work behind the scenes are Carole Parkinson and Emily Hollingsworth. Carole began volunteering at Gregory Heights Library in 2010 and Emily in 2011.

Together Carole and Emily work every Monday morning on the paging list, a daily document listing around 200 items placed on hold by patrons throughout the system. After finding these items, some of which are in the wrong place or missing, Carole and Emily send them off to the right branch.  “Carole takes the last page of the paging list and I go process the yellow crates,” says Emily. Towers of yellow crates full of books greet Emily. These are books from other libraries that patrons at Gregory Heights have placed on hold. As soon as Emily checks in an item, a patron receives that delightful email notification that their hold is available and the item is shelved on the pickup shelf. Carole's paging list shift is about two hours; Emily spends as much as four hours.

Carole and Emily are lifelong book-lovers and met in 2009 through Pageturners, an MCL-sponsored book group, before they began their complementary volunteer shifts. “I've always worked with Carole at the library,” says Emily. “She was my go-to when I started on the paging list and didn't know where anything was!”

Both came to library volunteering almost immediately upon retirement several years ago. In their spare time, Carole enjoys knitting and Emily gardens, but both remain passionate about books and recommend checking out the Lucky Day section (where patrons can find popular new selections without waiting for a hold).

While patrons don't always see the work that Carole and Emily do, anyone who places a hold at Gregory Heights has reaped the rewards of their efforts. Says staff member Andres Chavelas, “Their contribution to the work flow on Monday mornings is unparalleled.” After five years on the job, neither woman shows signs of stopping. “I love doing the paging list,” says Carole. “I'd hate to miss it!”


A Few Facts About Carole and Emily

 
Home library: Gregory Heights for Carole; Midland for Emily.
 
Currently reading: Carole is reading The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler and Emily is reading The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck.
 
Favorite book from childhood: Carole’s favorites were horse books such as My Friend, Flicka and Thunderhead.  Emily liked the Cherry Ames nurse books, which she buys when she sees them at estate sales.
 
Favorite section of the library: Cookbooks and knitting books for Carole; Lucky Day books for Emily.
 
Most influential book: For Carole, The Island at the Center of the Earth by Russell Shorto; for Emily, The Wright Brothers, David McCullough's latest biography.
 
E-reader or paper? Both, says Carole, who enjoys the ease of looking up words on her Kindle. Emily prefers paper, although she uses her Kindle when she travels.
 
Favorite place to read: In bed where she can concentrate, says Carole; somewhere comfortable like a bed or a couch, says Emily.

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

LEGOland FloridaLEGOs. You probably played with them when you were little, and maybe, like me, you still have a stash of LEGOs that you pull out when the mood strikes. Or maybe you're a parent who is intimately familiar with the excruciating pain of stepping barefoot on a LEGO, cursing the day that you ever let those tiny instruments of torture into your home. No matter what your opinion is of this classic toy, you have probably clicked a few of those bricks together at some point in your life.
 
Last November I was lucky enough to visit LEGOland in Tampa, Florida. I was completely in awe of the creativity and skill that went into building everything out of LEGOs. Buildings, bridges and boats, animals, Star Wars scenes and full sized characters, a full sized car, all built with LEGOs. What can be build with those bricks is only limited by your imagination (and access to vast supply of LEGOs). 
 

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I had just started reading and appreciating manga. Well, my first touch of manga fever has become an acute case of manga-itis that has taken over my reading life. Biweekly trips to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Beaverton have served only to further my new obsession. Pursuing their manga shelves provides regular inspiration for my “must read” list. Given my love for horror films and graphic novels it should come as no surprise that the manga that I have been most drawn to falls within the horror and supernatural genre. 

Seraph of the End book jacketSeraph of the End is set in a world that is ruled by vampires. After a mysterious virus kills all humans over the age of 13, vampires come out from the shadows to take over. Intent on avenging the deaths of his friends and family, a young, angry and impulsive Yuichiro joins the Japanese Imperial Army. Yuichiro is anxious to earn his demon weapon and start battling vampires, but first he has to take on a most difficult task, make friends with his fellow vampire slayers.

Tokyo Ghoul book jacketToyko Ghoul is a series that was first released in the U.S. this year. I was first drawn in by how beautifully illustrated this manga is but the story has made me want more.The plot centers around Ken Kaneki a shy, book loving college student who enjoys hanging out with his best friend Hide. After a violent encounter, Ken finds himself in the hospital with a new kidney, a kidney that once belonged to a ghoul. Now half-human and half-ghoul, Ken must learn how to straddle the thin line between the human world and the vicious underground world of the ghouls. 

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service book jacketAdapted and published in English by local darlings Dark Horse Comics, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a horror manga that I am in love with but that I recommend with a bit of caution. Some of the stories are quite gruesome. This series follows the adventures of five recent graduates from a Buddhist college who find that their special skills do not translate to employment. So what are a hacker, a dowser, an embalming specialist, a medium and a psychic to do? Carry out the wishes of the dead, of course. 

Kitaro book jacketThe last title that has sparked my manga loving heart is KitaroThe series was first published in the 1960s, but an English translation collection of the Kitaro episodes was published in 2013. The main character, Kitaro, appears to be at first glance a normal young boy, but he is really a 350-year-old yokai (supernatural monster). His hair serves as an antenna directing him towards paranormal activity, he has one eye and his yokai father lives in his other eye socket, he has jet powered sandals and he can seamlessly blend into his surroundings. In each episode Kitaro and his father cleverly battle criminals and malevolent yokai with the purpose of keeping humans safe. Kitaro is a wonderful melding of horror and whimsy where the good guy always wins.

 

Esther Stutzman, storytellerStorytelling is an ancient art form of connecting cultures, passing down customs, and preserving history. Religious leaders share spiritual stories with their congregation; politicians share historical moments with their constituents; grandparents share traditions with their grandchildren. For historians, it was a way for us to make sense of and explained events of the past.

Stories have been told and retold, passing down from generations to another, as myths, legends, ghost stories, epic adventures, fables, and fairy tales. Oral tradition is part of every culture throughout history and it continues to be a part of our community today.

Tellabation!™ is a night of storytelling celebrated world-wide during the month of November. Throughout the county, you can find storytelling performances and workshops celebrating our oral history.  

Multnomah County Library offers storytelling programs for Native American Heritage Month in November, as well as for other communities all year long. Can’t go to one of our events at the library? You can find other Tellabration events at Portland Storyteller's Guild and City Club of Portland.  

With Halloween approaching there are lots of skeletons to be seen, but did you know that you have a skeleton hiding inside of you? Human beings have 206 bones to be exact! Your skeletal system is the body system made up of all of your bones, joints and cartilage. Along with your muscular system, it makes it possible for you to walk, run, sit, stand, swim and move around the world.
 
To learn more about the skeletal system check out this article from KidsHealth.org or for teens at TeenHealth.org You can also check out the library's databases, a trusted source for homework help available free with your library card. Kids InfoBits has some great articles for kids in grades K-5 about the skeletal system. Simply log in with your library card then search for “skeletal system,” “bones,” or “skeleton” to find lots of information.  Two great resources for middle schoolers and high schoolers are eLibrary and InfoTrac Student Edition.  Both databases are free to use with a library card and provide access to electronic reference books, journal articles, newspapers and media. 
 
Check out this video about the Skeletal System from KidsHealth:

If you want to explore this topic more, or if you have more questions about any of this, Ask a Librarian! We’ll be happy to talk more about it.

For a lot of people, the pleasure of reading is enhanced when they can discuss books with friends or family. But children, teens and adults can't always read the same books. If you'd like to amp up the conversation at your dinner table, explore some of these titles grouped by themes and subject.

To begin, if your family enjoys stories about real people, here's one that is available in formats for beginning readers to adults. William Kamkwaba is a Malawian innovator. As a teen living in poverty, he devised a windmill that provided first electricity and then drinking water to his community.

Talking about animal welfare can be a challenge, for both kids and adults. Here are three stories for varying age levels that examine our treatment of animals.

If you're off on a camping trip this summer, what better time to discuss wilderness, courage and the will to survive?

Are you waiting with bated breath for Go Set a Watchman? Read, (or re-read) To Kill a Mockingbird, while younger readers get engrossed in The Lions of Little Rock, and then talk about civil rights and the power of friendship to bring people together.

In the early 1900's, Edward Curtis traveled North America taking photos of Native people, an obsession that almost destroyed his life but left us with an amazing historical record. Here's his story told for both adults and kids.

Looking for some creative inspiration? Syllabus is essentially a college course on connecting to your inner artist; My Pen encourages artists of all ages to draw. Just add blank paper.

Happy reading and discussing!

Finding and securing affordable rental housing is a challenge. There are a number of reasons for this, from a low vacancy rate of only 3% to the steady gentrification of Portland neighborhoods since 2000.   While the exact rate of increase is variable depending on neighborhood and data collected, an October 2015 State of Housing in Portland (pdf) report found that “average rents across the city have increased between 8-9%, or roughly $100 per month, since this time last year.” On October 7, 2015 the Portland City Council declared a housing emergency with Mayor Hales agreeing that renters need protection. The hope is that the declaration and subsequent actions taken will help with both increasing affordable housing (defined as no more than 30% of one’s income) and also begin to address the rising number of people experiencing homelessness in our community. Immediate Portland City Council measures require landlords to give more notice to tenants before rent increases and no-cause evictions.

Colorful icon of a house

What do you do if you find yourself looking for rental housing in this tight environment? What happens if you find a no-cause eviction notice taped to your door? What can you do to keep good relations with your landlord and ensure you are retaining your tenant rights?

The rental housing market in the Portland metro area is the tightest it has been in many years and is currently one of the hardest in which to find affordable housing in the country.  It is tough out there!  You are not alone, however.  There are many resources and organizations that can help and your library can help connect you to these resources.

Where do I look for housing?

There are many places online that you can do a general search for housing. They include but are not limited to:

Be aware of possible scams and do not send payment in advance to secure housing.  Be skeptical of any listing that looks too good to be true.

You can also search for housing and housing assistance specifically for people and families on limited incomes using these resources:

The lists are long and the process is overwhelming.  Where can I get more help?

  • 211info is a great place to start for a directory of community renter resources including deposit/fee assistance, eviction prevention, housing search assistance, neighbor and landlord mediation, renters rights, and renting classes.

  • Oregon CAT - Community Alliance of Tenants is a tenant membership organization that declared a Renter State of Emergency in September 2015 to address rent increases and no-cause evictions. In addition to a Renters’ Rights Hotline (503) 288-0130, they have many valuable resources including information on how to find and keep affordable housing, how to research a prospective landlord, as well as a Landlord-Tenant Law Booklet.

For help staying in your current home look to:

Contact your library for assistance getting connected to the right housing resource.  We are happy to help!

Readers, writers and book lovers!  Mark your calendars for two of Portland's biggest book events:  Wordstock book festival and Portland Arts & Lectures author series which made its debut with author Jane Smiley, and welcomes Anthony Doerr in November.

But let's face it –- Portland's literary landscape is a field of dreams. Search the events calendar for the library’s author talks, book discussions and conversations featuring local writers. If you're a self-published writer yourself and would like library patrons to be able to read your work, check out the Library Writers Project. And check out the Mercury's book page for author events.

City of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Portland by Gabriel H. Boehmer, a third-generation Oregonian, is a bible for Stumptown bibliophiles, bringing together bookstores, libraries, landmarks, authors, events and titles in one volume. Published quarterly, the free Portland Book Review newspaper is available at bookstores, libraries, and retail locations around metro Portland.

If you’re an aspiring author and want to meet fellow writers, Willamette Writers meetings showcase Oregon authors from mix of professions. The Attic Institute offers readings, workshops and a Poets Studio. Write Around Portland runs free writing workshops for adults and youth; participants share their writing with the public at free community readings. DIY folks should check out the extraordinary IPRC -– Independent Publishing Resource Center -– where you can create and publish your own artwork and writing.

Ah, the slight autumnal chill in the air. The smell of apple pie wafting from the kitchen.The clouds and the greyness and the rain on the horizon. Yes, indeed, here in Portland, it's time to hunker down and watch some good shows.

The Affair coverWhat to watch, you ask?

Are you in the mood for deceit and mystery and sex and how distorted our memories can be? Try The Affair

Fortitude cover

 

Want to visit a bleak, desolate land of ice and snow? If you can suspend your sense of disbelief just a bit and want an intriguing story set in the Arctic Circle that’s filled with a completely bizarro mystery, pop Fortitude into your dvd player (the first half is the best part of it),

 

 

 

And then for a little lighter fare, an entertaining, series that stars the most splendid character, Miss Phryne Fisher wearing fabulous 1920s dresses, watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries cover

 

 

 

Need a few more shows to while away the winter with? Check out my list here. If you'd like even more suggestions, please ask me

 

Associates "Sulk"

 

"Your limitations are our every care"

The Associates (primarily singer Billy Mackenzie and multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine) were a Scottish act, now identified as quintessentially "post-punk."   But there's no way any taxonomic indicator could ever contain or expand enough to encompass the sounds embedded in "Sulk." Leading with the shrill blast of "Arrogance Gave Him Up"'s racing drums and fluorescent synth stabs, the record defies expectation at every turn.  Predictably, Bowie genetic traces run rampant - but "Sulk" sidles into the outer territories of what "pop" might be/come, like an acid spill corroding the enervated gestures of everything else happening in 1982 (Bowie soul-boys, New Romantics, chart entryists, end-days disco).  The record is overflowing with ideas and impulses - gorgeous, but like a still life of a swamp, harboring all kinds of unknown and carbonized creatures, sensations, and pitfalls.

No album is ever fully outside its historical moment.  "Sulk" has "1980s" written all over its face - Thatcher-induced paranoia, the seemingly endless money-spouts pumping out of the pores of the culture industry, and a leashed but furious gnashing of the teeth at sex and desire's constraints.  And drugs of course.  Legend has it that Rankine and Mackenzie spent half of their 60,000 pound advance (massive for '82) on cocaine, clothing, cocaine, room service, cocaine, and inspired concepts like chocolate life-sized guitars for a Top of the Pops appearance.  Mackenzie's lyrics are ultimately impenetrable but necessarily so. These songs are howls from the edges of a self-enclosed world that Mackenzie knew would never be able to carve out new space quickly enough for escape.  

I'll end with Mackenzie's voice.  It moves everywhere at once, sometimes following the often unpredictable musical pathways but just as often birthing new songs within songs, burning like brush fires that we know will eventually (though we don't want them to) self-exhaust.  




I've kept a list of the authors and titles I've written about over the last five years in order to avoid duplication, but I've finally found an author that really deserves another mention. I first wrote about N. K. Jemisin in 2010: A New Voice in Science Fiction.  Over the last five years she has been nominated for several awards for her early novels. She writes fairly short series and each series has an overarching theme. In an interview I read with her, she said the theme of the first series was racism, the second was religion, and the third is about the collapse of civilizations.The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms book jacket

Her first trilogy begins with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms where Yeine Darr, one of the many descendants of the emperor, is summoned to the court and told she is one of three potential heirs.  Being the "other", the jumped up barbarian half-breed from the uncivilized hinterlands, her welcome is about as warm as you'd expect.  The "civilized" heirs promptly try to assassinate her and it all goes on fromThe Killing Moon book jacket there.

The second series, a duology, begins with The Killing Moon.  Ehiru is a gatherer who is sent by his church to collect "dreamblood" from the dying and those too corrupt to let live.  He's too much of an innocent to realize that he's being used by the less ethical members of his church and that he isn't simply granting a merciful end to the dying and criminals.  Once he becomes aware of the corruption, his faith is tested.

The Fifth Season, the first book in her most recent series, has just come out. The world she created is prone to regular extinction level The Fifth Season book jacketevents that are called a “fifth season”.  Volcanoes so massive there might be 5 or 10 years of winter from the ash blanketing the sky.  Massive earthquakes flattening not just cities but entire regions. Tsunamis wiping out coasts (not towns, entire coasts) every few years. Despite this, humanity survives.  "Stonelore" tells what to do and how to make the hard choices so that some of the community might survive until better days come back. Then the ground shakes and the ash starts falling. This time it doesn't stop.

I wouldn’t  be surprised to see The Fifth Season make the final ballot for the Hugo award this coming year.  She's one of the best new authors in the genre, and I fully expect she'll win a well-deserved award one of these years.  Pick the theme that speaks to you and give one of her series a try!

arctic tern

I always thought that bird watching would be boring until I actually did it!  I can't recall exactly how many birds I saw on my first official try, but I do remember being impressed by the beauty and variety of shorebirds on view in winter down around Tillamook Bay.  I was so completely charmed by the sweet little buffleheads as they bobbed around that I almost forgot the freezing temperatures!  Then there was the visit in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in spring where I was blown away by the beautiful American White Pelicans and got a close-up look at a rough-legged hawk making a meal of a duck.  On another visit to the same area, I got a rare and long look at some juvenile golden eagles as they were snacking on something. 

My latest avian adventure happened last spring in Britain when I went to the Farne Islands and was dive-bombed by an Arctic tern!  Fortunately, I had a hat on and had been warned that this might happen. I wish I had started my bird-watching ventures when I was a lot younger. if I actually kept a life list, it certainly would have been more complete had I started observing birds when I was five.  Fortunately for today's youth, there are lots of fun, fact-filled books to help get them excited about birds.  Check out this list for some ideas!

Renee watson headshotRenée Watson grew up in Portland, Oregon, and currently lives in New York City. She returns to her hometown on Nov. 7 for Wordstock. She is the author of This Side of Home, which was nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book,  Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors, including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her novel, What Momma Left Me, debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction. 
 
One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
 
Renée has worked as a writer in residence for several years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. She is a team member of We Need Diverse Books.
 
As a young reader, I loved the Ramona series by Beverly Clearly, in part because I also grew up in Northeast Portland. I knew those streets and it was fascinating to me to read about my hometown. In middle school I read To Kill a Mockingbird countless times and, in high school, I not only read the play Raisin in the Sun but I acted in it as well. These books, like the books on my list, explore issues of race, class and activism. They dig deep into neighborhoods and communities that are sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. They show us complicated, layered relationships between family members and friends. Each story has caring adults and mentors that come alongside young people to help them make sense of this world. Each book has made me laugh out loud or brush away tears. These are books I have used in the classroom when I teach creative writing. These are words I return to when I need inspiration and courage to tell my own stories. I call this list "Books on Home, History and Hope."
 
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz. A is for Angela Davis. Z is for Zora Neale Hurston. A book of female leaders, artists, and activists that everyone should learn about.
 
Speak to Me & I Will Listen Between the Lines by Karen English. Six third-grade children. One day. One classroom. One teacher who loves them all and truly sees them for who they really are.
 
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Two teen males — one black, one white — grapple with the aftermath of a police officer who has brutally beaten the black teen. This is a raw, honest, and necessary book.
 
These books and more that I find inspiring can be found in my list below!

When I was in Berlin a few years ago, I made it a point to visit the Bebelplatz -- site of the infamous Nazi book-burning of May 1933. This understated memorial consists of a glass plate set into cobblestones; peering into the glass, you see empty bookshelves below -- enough to hold the 20,000 or so volumes that were incinerated on that terrible night.Photo of Bebelplatz memorial

Fast forward 10 years and the world was embroiled in the most savage and destructive war in history. The movement that sought to quash freedom of thought in 1933 was now working to impose its will on the rest of the world. But those fighting against the oppressors were fighting not only with the personnel and material of war, but also with books.

Image of Armed Services EditionAmerican citizens suddenly found themselves transformed into military personnel and were stationed thousand of miles from their homes and loved ones. The Council on Books in Wartime was formed to provide America's military personnel with literature to enrich their lives, make them laugh, and to remind them of home -- and so the Armed Services Edition was born. These little books were produced in the millions and were specifically engineered to be light and to fit neatly into the pockets of government issue uniforms. These little books could be found virtually everywhere from ships to foxholes and in both the European and Pacific theaters. Photo of When Books Went to War

In her new book, When Books Went to War, Molly Guptill Manning relates the fascinating history of these little books which did so much not only to support the country's men and women in uniform, but to combat the philosophy they were fighting so hard to defeat as well.

 

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