LLA 2014 Conference in Lafayette

I made my way to Lafayette for the annual conference for the Louisiana Library Association. The keynote speaker for the opening session was library consultant Pat Wagner (no relation) spoke on the future of libraries. I had a nice conversation with her before the keynote which was very nice and made a contact for a coworker who is relocating to Colorado.

The second day was packed full of concurrent sessions on various topics. They moved the opening of the exhibit hall to mid morning so I didn’t have a ton if time to visit the different booths. Was very surprised to that a Premier Jewelry consultant had set up a booth. Great idea to come to a librarian conference.

I went to many informative sessions but two stood out to me in particular. One was on E – Publishing and was not that informative at all. The presenter didn’t really have any positive information to impart. She had published her books on a small press in ebook form but also in print. So I was a bit confused why the session title was called “E-Publishing” Frankly, I have learned more about publishing ebook from Mur Lafferty and her podcast I Should Be Writing. I think it would be awesome for Mur to speak at a professional librarian conference. We see avid readers and budding writers everyday. This session stood out as not that helpful or informative to me. I feel like she gave the wrong advice to aspiring writers.

The other really great session was actually the last of the day on Friday. It was an informative session on getting published in scholarly journals. The presenters, Megan Lowe and Walt Fontane,  spoke about how to get your work published in a professional journal and they brought their experience from academic libraries and showed how librarians from all types of libraries could benefit from writing about their work. They offered some great tips on the writing process and about the process of submitting your work for peer-review. I hope to be able to get together with colleagues from public libraries in the Baton Rouge area to see if we can put together a peer review group.

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YALLFest 2013

It was definitely a completely different experience this time around. The first time around, I was a volunteer at the very first one. This time, I could relax because I was just there as a participant and could take it all in. I completely enjoyed the keynote with Veronica Roth and Rae Carson. It was fun waiting in line with other fans and meeting fellow librarians. The authors spoke about the role of female characters in young adult literature and what drives them to write which I thought was very interesting. I got there early enough to get a wristband for the Veronica Roth signing line. The great thing about that was that I was assigned a half hour window in which to show up for my signing. This made it possible for me to attend panels.

Speaking of panels, I really only got to go to two or three. I went to the panel on Fantasy and Dystopian Fiction. However, I missed on the others that I wanted to go to in order to stand in lines to get author signatures. I had to give up on the Ally Condie line after about 30 minutes because I was so hungry. Decided to eat lunch with a friend instead. I personally think too much was crammed into one day. There honestly wasn’t enough room for the long line in the signing tent. In order to get Rainbow Rowell’s signature, I stood in a line while she was still giving a talk. The room where she was speaking was full.  I know this was a free book festival however, with the huge draw that it received this year, I sincerely hope that organizers will consider a larger venue next year. Perhaps one that can accommodate everyone more easily.

I really did enjoy the excitement about books. While I was in line for Rainbow Rowell, I got to talk with some of the best people. They were all very nice. I especially liked talking to a few of the teens that were still in high school. We talked at length about books, music and school plans. I just thought how amazing it was that these girls were waiting in line to see an author and not some pop star.

While I was waiting in these lines and going to these panels, I noticed that there was a definite shortage on minority authors in attendance. A few minority groups were represented but there were no African-American authors. I was a teen librarian in an urban library for almost a year. I know that there are a ton of African-American and Latino authors who write great books that kids love. I read quite a few of them. I really wish that the diversity of the young adult literature landscape had been accurately represented at this book festival. I hope that in the future organizers can make an effort to include more minority authors in their billing. I would like to see more writers of color represented at this festival in future years.

All in all, I had a great time at the book festival. I really enjoyed seeing old friends and making some new ones. Loved being able to finally meet Rainbow Rowell, of whom I am a such a huge fan. I also loved being able to visit my hometown for such a great event. Hope it continues to get bigger and better.

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Gearing up for Y’ALLFest in Charleston!

8704965257_ac76fd3f3d_bI am getting really excited. Not only do I get to go home to visit friends and family but I also get to go to this awesome young adult book festival called Y’ALLFest. There will be tons of authors there and I cannot wait to meet them.It is sponsored by the local independent bookstore, Blue Bicycle and takes place in the heart of downtown Charleston. I have read a lot more young adult literature in the last year, so I am more excited than the last time I went.

Epic Reads has sponsored a keynote with YA authors Veronica Roth and Rae Carson. They are doing a ticket giveaway on their Facebook page. I have entered as well because I’m a spaz and completely forgot to buy myself a ticket. So if you’re going and didn’t get a ticket, enter to win one.

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Ray Bradbury and Mass Media

I recently attended a panel discussion about the themes of censorship, mass media and the classic novel Fahrenheit 451. This panel was part of the Mix Tape Lecture Series, which brings together speakers to talk about hot topics to coincide with upcoming features at the Manship Theater. The speakers included Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain, and East Baton Rouge Parish Library Assistant Library Director Mary Stein. The main topic of the panel was a discussion about how censorship, the 24-hour news cycle and how our world compares the futuristic one imagined by Bradbury over sixty years ago.

The mass media aspect of this event really drew me to attend. The panelist spoke on the effects mass media has had on our society. There are many events in recent history that were delivered to us via Walter Cronkite or CNN, but, in recent years, the way we receive news is massively different. Many of us read our Twitter timeline or Facebook stream to glean the day’s news stories. However, in doing so our experience of an event is a bit disconnected. For instance, I had a very different experience when on the morning of 9/11 than when I heard the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. I personally like getting my news from multiple sources and being my own curator of the day’s news. I feel like this gives me a better worldview. I can see how some can think we have lost some of that shared experience of news.

The panel also spoke on censorship, as it is a central theme in Bradbury’s novel. As a librarian, censorship is something I deal with on a daily basis. It still surprises me just how many books are challenged or banned toady. I have based my career on helping people find the information they need and connecting them with books that will enlightened as well as entertain. I am a firm believer that libraries shouldn’t censor material. That is the job of the individual. Parents should ultimately decide what their children read. I am thankful I was raised in a home where my parents encouraged us to read extensively. Librarians do their best to act as a guide to everyone. We divide our collections into age-appropriate sections in order to help parents decide what their children read..

This panel also touched on how technology has made us more isolated. While I can see evidence of that in some, I see technology has shrunk our world. Because of technology, I can read about news from across the world, keep up with current events in my hometown and FaceTime with my 3-year-old nephew who lives hundreds of miles away. Ten years ago, moving 800 miles away from my close-knit family would have been very different from my experience today.For me, it has allowed me to foster my relationships with friends and family from a distance.  I have lively conversations with my friends and people whom I have never even met. I feel like there has to be a balance in our lives. I try my best to foster relationships with real people in person but still use technology to maintain those connections.

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Book Review: Fangirl

FangirlDo you read and/or write fanfiction to your favorite book series? Did you ever feel like people outside of the fandom “just don’t understand”? Welcome to Cath Avery’s world. In Rainbow Rowell’s latest young adult novel, Cath is just starting her freshman year of college in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is also a HUGE Simon Snow fan! She and her twin sister Wren were engrossed in the Simon Snow book series as kids. They both started writing a fanfiction story called Carry On, Simon!

But now that they are staring college, Wren thinks it’s time to put aside childish things. She insists that they live in separate dorms and meet new people. But this is the easiest for Cath, who is more introverted and doesn’t deal with new situations very well. She ends up with a surly roommate who has an always-around charming boyfriend. She also has to deal with a fiction writing professor who think fanfiction isn’t real writing and a cute classmate who only wants to talk about writing.

I completely loved this book. It took me back to my freshman year of college with all its difficulty, uncertainty and awkwardness. While I never wrote fanfiction, I read plenty of it. I loved reading about this fangirl and my heart completely goes out to her as she is navigating a brave new world. I love any writer who not only created a great story but creates a story within a story. We get to read Cath’s fanfic and excerpts from the fiction Simon Snow series (a hilarious Harry Potter stand in). There are so many inside jokes and pop culture references that I was LOLing quite a lot.

I liked this book so much that I listened to the audiobook even after I had read it in print. Maxwell Caulfield narrated the Simon Snow excerpts at then end of each chapter. Amazing! As a longtime fangirl of certain books, TV shows and music, I can now add Rainbow Rowell to that list. I am hooked!

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The Climb to Katahdin

The Climb to Katahdin promotional flyer

The Climb to Katahdin promotional flyer

I went to a premiere of the documentary, The Climb to Katahdin, directed and edited by local Colton Calloway. He and his girlfriend Lindsay embarked on a six-month long journey to hike the Appalachian Trail and ultimately climb Mount Katahdin in Maine. This was Colton’s first foray in documentary film making and I have to say that I was very impressed. The film was great and it was completely sold out at the Manship Theater here in Baton Rouge. I had heard about this film through a friend and so I was really excited to see it. The BR community really rallied in support of these amazing people and their incredible journey up the mountains of the East Coast.

It was incredible to see the beautiful landscape captured on film as well as the many towns, hostels and shelters that these called home for so many months. I have only been hiking on moderate hills and small mountains so this gave me a close-up view of what it was like to hike the Appalachian Trail. I was touched by their bonding with fellow hikers and by the people who assisted them along the way, appropriately dubbed Trail Angels.

I thought the journey was incredible but don’t want to give too much away. I highly recommend seeing this film and sincerely hope that Colton is able to gain viewers through the independent film circuit.

There will be an encore showing of this incredible documentary on Friday, August 23rd at The Baton Rouge Gallery.

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Neil Gaiman’s new novel is enthralling

Ocean_at_the_End_of_the_Lane_US_CoverI am always excited when Neil Gaiman publishes a new book. I fell in love with his writing a few years ago. I did not discover the genius of Neil Gaiman until a friend turned me on to him. Now, let’s face it, I am a fangirl. In about a day and a half, I read his latest book The Ocean at the End of the Lane and I absolutely loved it. In this short novel, we meet a middle-aged man who returns to his small, English village in order to attend a funeral and finds himself remembering a fantastic story from when he was seven years old. He recalls his eccentric neighbor, Lettie Hempstock, and odd mother and even more odd grandmother. He remembers being under the influence of a rather magical (and not in a good way) housekeeper. I felt pleased to be sucked into this rather dark tale.

There are elements of this book that feel very autobiographical and Gaiman even alluded to such in press interviews upon the book’s release. He explores the disconnect between childhood and adulthood with superb characters and expert story-telling. I highly recommend listening to this as an audiobook as it is also performed by Neil Gaiman. He is excellent at bringing his stories to life when he reads them. I love that this book is getting such popular feedback, by fans and critics. However, I just read that the movie rights have been sold for a feature film. there are some books that i don’t really want to see made into a movie. I have a picture in my head and all too often I am disappointed by what appears on-screen. Although, Tom hanks is producing the project so I remain mildly optimistic.

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Love is All Around

mtmThat great theme song. Those wonderfully written characters. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a mainstay of my childhood. Even though I was born in the 80s, I was able to enjoy this show because my mother was a Mary Richard devotee as a teen in the 70s. We enjoyed it in reruns on Nick at Nite and I credit this show with molding my aspirations a young woman.

In the book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, Jennifer Armstrong writes about this classic TV sitcom with great insight about the actors, writers, and producers that brought it to life. She covers it’s early struggles to get on the air and the lives of the people involved in its creation and success. In particular, she discusses behind the scene details about the pilot. They made one change in which Phyllis’s daughter Bess says that she likes Rhoda and that changed how the rest of the episode played to the studio audience. She also speaks to one of my favorite lines from Lou Grant “You know what? You’ve got spunk! I hate spunk!” This is a scene that Asner initially struggled with but eventually found the right timing and we have one of the funniest scenes in the series.

Armstrong makes some poignant connections to the status of women in comedy today. The Mary Tyler Moore Show influenced modern TV in Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, Lena Dunham’s Girls and many of the other female-dominated comedies today. In pop culture, MTM made a huge impact with feminism and the women’s lib movement. Not only was the show about a young, single woman making it on her own but it also was one of the most well-written shows to date. I have to admit when I feel scared about life, I hum the “Love is All Around” theme and suddenly get a boost of confidence that allows me to forge ahead into the unknown.

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Upcoming new books

I recently downloaded a sampler of books that have received a lot of buzz for the spring and summer of this year. And I have to say that of the 28 in the sampler, I am looking forward to reading a few in their entirety.

9781444761405-1-11Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Theresa Fowler – I am completely fascinated by the Fitzgeralds. Based on the excerpt  Fowler gives us an interesting look at an iconic woman from our literary history. Can’t wait to sink into this book.

 

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The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – She chronicles six teenagers who meet in the 70s at an arts camp and follows them over time. I love books that follow characters’ development over time. This should be a fun read.

 

 

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – In this novel, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly. The premise of this book really intrigues me.

I’m not usually a fan of excerpts but the ones I read really teased me enough to try out these books. I’ve never read anything by any of these authors.

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Building a Better Block

Today, I went down to an event in Baton Rouge called Better Block BR. Organizers transformed Government St between Beverly and Bedford Streets with a street fair, crosswalks and a short bike lane. In an empty lot on Government St, there were food stalls, information tables and booths from area businesses. Better Block Br was an event led by the Mayor’s office of the City of Baton Rouge – Parish of East Baton Rouge, the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, and the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance. I got some information on this and other Baton Rouge initiatives like Healthy BR and discovered some local businesses like Honeymoon Bungalow and Yoga Bliss. I also got some delicious tacos from La Careta. I had heard about this event on Facebook a few weeks ago so I was looking forward to seeing how it went.

The idea behind this demonstration is that if you slow down the traffic in a given area, businesses can thrive. The idea is that you can take a four-lane road and transform it by adding a bike lane and a center turn lane. This forces traffic to slow down and makes a better environment for pedestrians and cyclists. I had recently read about this idea in Jeff Speck’s book Walkable City. He cites several examples of cities who had done this and had seen positive economic impact.

I think this would be a great improvement to this section of Government Street. I think it would help back it a better neighborhood and attract more business. I live in Mid City and work downtown and it would be great if there was a safe bike route in the area. I am glad that the Mayor’s office is trying to garner support for this type of urban renewal.

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