2014: pretty great!

2014 header

It’s a day past Beethoven’s birthday and you know what that means. Ok, I don’t know what it means either… I guess it means it’s time for my 2014 wrap up post!

I looked back at my 2013 wrap-up, and it was a bit of a downer. Sorry. 2013 was not my best year. Though as I say, there were some pretty great things that happened: I ran a marathon, got a sweater with ponies on it, etc. Does 2014 live up to the pony-sweater-aquiring amazingness of 2013?

Oh yes.

Oh yes.

It surpasses it in many ways; I’m definitely much happier and more content this year. Let’s see why:

  • I got a new job and it’s great! I miss all of my Methuen coworkers but working in Andover has been wonderful so far.
  • I spent a lot of time with my friends and they were predictably awesome.
  • My mom and sister visited in October and had an awesome weekend with friends in Rhode Island. It’s always amazing to me how game my family is for hanging out with my friends. It was so fun to see these two important groups of people hanging out together. Plus we had some rousing game of Masquerade. (Swap-or-not!)
  • My library sent me to Austin, TX for the YA Lit Symposium and it was definitely a highlight of the year! Great authors, books, and discussions of issues in teen literature.
  • I became a comics fan thanks mostly to my lovely new boyfriend. I highly recommend: Saga, Sex Criminals, Rat Queens (can’t wait to see the new artist post controversy), Ms. Marvel, The Wicked + the Divine, Lumberjanes (my love for Lumberjanes has no bounds), and more. I’m always looking for more titles!
  • While the stupid, unrepresentative, and hateful actions of the president of my alma mater didn’t make me happy, the response of my friends and all of those involved in the One Gordon organization did. They are living out the change they want to see in the world and I couldn’t be prouder.
  • I volunteered at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival like I have for the last few years and it was so inspiring. I discovered Carol Ann Duffy and realized I am way late to the game. She’s so amazing.
  • I saw and interacted with some amazing authors. I saw Lev Grossman, Laini Taylor, Andrew Smith, and more of my favorites. I was totally dorky about meeting all of them. I got to bother Leigh Bardugo on Twitter for the Hub. She’s so gracious and writes great books.
  • Writing for the Hub has been especially rewarding and our bloggers meetup at the Symposium was a blast.

Last year I made a list of goals for 2014:

  • I hope to read even better books.
  • I will do NaNoWriMo.
  • I will run again and get healthy and qualify for the Boston marathon (JOKE).
  • I will be the best at my job I can be – working as hard as I can for those teens and the rest of my library’s patrons.
  • I hope to read more books than this year’s total of 122. I am especially excited about Dreams of Gods and Monsters out in April and The Magician’s Land out in August.
  • I hope to somehow karmically repay everyone who helped me through this year – you all are priceless (especially Mom, Sara, Hannah, Ang, Maggie, Katelyn, Adam, Dani, Alex, Kells Bells, Church Amy D., Work Amy D., Tracy, Tatjana, Amy F., Paul and everyone else who gave me a hug when I needed it).
  • I will be spend more time being happy.
  • I won’t forget to be awesome.

Um, well, I did some of these?

shm1

I did read some pretty great books but I didn’t do NaNoWriMo. I helped with NaNoWriMo programming at my library but that probably doesn’t count. I think I did pretty well at my job, too, and even started a new one.

I did not read more than 122 books. How did I do that?! That’s a lot of books! I’m hovering around 100 right now. My goal on Goodreads was to read 125; initially it was 150 but that was crazy. I really wanted to read 125, but transitioning to a new job took up a lot of my brain space. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I watched a lot of TV.* But while I maybe didn’t read as many as I wanted to, I read some really great ones.

I ran another half marathon but the bursitis is still lingering. Hopefully next year I will get to 100% and back to my best running self.

Spending a lot more time being happy? Yup. The beginning of the year was a bit stressful with the job transition but since then it’s been pretty great: I love my new job, my new apartment, my new boyfriend, and of course, I still have all the same amazing family and friends. I wish that I could say that I was able to karmically pay back all of my friends who were so sweet to me last year, but that’s an ongoing goal.

And yeah, I’m pretty great. No worries there.

Here are my goals for 2015:

  • Spend more time with family and friends.
  • Regain title of favorite aunt to my nieces and nephews. I think I’ve been slacking.
  • Keep reading but focus on reading widely and not feeling so guilty about reading adult books! I like Book Riot’s suggestions for reading goals.
  • Get my hip 100% healthy.
  • Continue to grow in my job and become more confident as an advocate for teen services in libraries.
  • Make full use of my vacation time.
  • Be better about posting here once a week.

That’s it, we will see what happens!

Finally, I know some of you (mostly Hannah) like to see my list of best book that I’ve read this year. Here are my favorites: Station Eleven, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Wild, Saga (all of it…), The Book of Strange New Things, Alone on the Ice, It’s Complicated, The Sea of Tranquility, Scowler, Reality Boy, Grasshopper Jungle, Five Days at Memorial, I am Malala, Sex & Violence, The Magician’s Land, Cloud Atlas, Brown Girl Dreaming, Ruin and Rising, 100 Sideways Miles, and Boy Snow Bird. There’s probably a few more but that’s all I can think of right now.

2014 was a great year and I’m really thankful to everyone who made it that way. I’m looking forward to even more wonderful things in 2015!

*I’m fairly embarrassed to say that I watched all of Supernatural that is on Netflix in a year. Nine seasons of basically the same thing. I watched it ALL.

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Thinking about Ferguson

In so many ways, I feel really unqualified to talk about the events in Ferguson, MO. I’m not from there – I do have some family in the predominantly white South County suburbs of St. Louis and was born in that area, but I don’t really know it. I can’t really say that I’ve experienced damaging discrimination: I’m white, middle-class, straight, cisgendered. I’m a woman which does come with discrimination and fear, in many ways, but not because of my race. I grew up in mostly rural areas of the Midwest. The schools that I attended didn’t have a large black population. My high school had a minority of Chippewa Indians but I was still in that majority group.

I just want to start off acknowledging all of that. I grew up thinking that the police were generally helpful and trustworthy. I don’t know if I’m still there; I have a hard time reconciling the fact that police are supposed to be helpful and yet the accounts of rape survivors who are disbelieved, harassed, and bullied by police make that very difficult. So I don’t know what it’s like to experience the fear and distrust of the police. I don’t know what it’s like to be in that situation.

But I care about what is happening in Ferguson (and in Staten Island and Cleveland and everywhere else) because we are all humans. We all share in our common humanity – the good parts and the bad parts. I know that the stories of black Americans are different than mine and I know it’s important to me to listen to those stories. Why? Because they are our fellow people, our fellow citizens, our library patrons, our friends, and our neighbors. And because it is right.

I’m not sure where to start in my sadness and anger, other than listening and learning. Listening and acknowledging that doing nothing can be complicity. I don’t always know what to do, but I am going to try to listen and respond. I try to read books by all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. I think it’s incredibly important. My white, straight, rural upbringing is only interesting to a point. I want to know about all kinds of lives and I believe this creates empathy and love. I will treat people of all races and backgrounds with care and compassion, or at least strive to. I know I’ll probably mess up at times but I hope to acknowledge my mistakes along the way.

Let’s let everyone tell their story, and I need to listen. Then I need to think about a way to take that listening and use it in action. I’m not sure how that will look, but I will do what I can. I challenge you to do the same.

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Another note from Austin: living your life is not “too much”

I have another story from Austin I can’t believe I forgot to write about it last week. I really should be at the grocery store right now because I forgot to get basil for the pizza I’m making (I cook Tuesday mornings because I work Tuesday nights) but I hate the grocery shopping.

Anyway, at the #genrequeer presentation where panelists spoke about the need for LGTBQ readers to be able to see themselves in genre fiction other than the sad, “coming out” or bullying stories. The panel was amazing and pretty inspiring. I want all the teens I work with to feel like the books and stories they read represent them. The important of books being “windows AND mirrors” got thrown around quite a bit at the conference and I think that’s true. Books can help you learn about people different than you, but should also reflect yourself back to you.

At the end of the panel the presenters answered questions and then there was time for one final question. A woman in the back raised her hand and said, “So I just finished Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds and my teens and I just thought it was a lot. It’s the story of a writer and you read the fantasy book she’s writing along with the story, so that was hard to follow and I’ve never seen that before.” Really? You’ve never read a book within a book? Sigh. Then she continues, “Then he makes the main character an lesbian who happens to be South Asian, and it all just seems too much.”

Bill Bailey is really embarrassed for you right now, lady.

Bill Bailey is really embarrassed for you right now, lady.

There was silence in the hall for a split second before one of the panelists, I can’t remember who, said, “What about that is too much?”

Someone in the audience said, “I think it’s too much that I have all these straight white dudes in all my books.”

By now the lady asking the question is trying to backpedal and I can tell everyone else in the room is thinking, Was she even here for this whole panel? 

After a few comments from Robin Talley and Kristin Clarke about examining why the reader would think an Asian, lesbian writer is “too much” and other identities are not, Malinda lo leans forward. She pauses before she says, “Well. I just want to say in closing, I am Asian. I am a lesbian and I write fantasy. I exist; it is clearly not ‘too much.'”

Asian lesbian writers exist. Deal with it.

Asian lesbian writers exist. Deal with it.

It was the best mic drop moment of the conference for me.

Differences and the complexity of humanity is not too much; it is the whole point. We need to have empathy for our fellow members of the human race. Empathy is something that should be remembered in the week (and every week) when National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson has to hear as much about Daniel Handler’s racist comment as her brilliant book. I’m in the middle of it, so lovely. We should also remember empathy when we consume media about Ferguson, MO, too. Remember that a son is dead and many more sons and daughters are killed everyday. That the country is not a post-racial one, and we haven’t moved beyond homophobia in so many places. We need to have compassion for all.

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I have returned from the land of chicken fried steak

I’m back from Austin and the YA Literature Symposium and had a great time! I wish that I had more time to explore the city and I know I missed out on some food truck awesomeness.

It was so nice to hang out with fellow YA lit enthusiasts and learn about new titles. I also really appreciated the impetus and opportunity to think critically about YA literature and it’s impact. It’s something I do on my own a lot, but don’t always have the chance to do with other people. There were so many great discussions throughout the weekend; I won’t be able to recount them all. I wrote a bit about the last panel, “Keeping it REALLY Weird,” for the Hub. Here’s some other things that I tweeted about:

birds-primary-headerstorify

Some highlights/notable experiences:

-I rode in the elevator with Andrew Smith (and thankfully a few other people!) and just giggled nervously most of the time. He’s one of my favorites and I felt like such a fool. I promised myself to be cool about it later on in the weekend and tell him calmly how much his books have affected me. But I lied; I was still weird at the book signing. Classic me.

-I got a list of new comics to read from @cat2mck like Copperhead, Ex Machina, and another one I forget… Yay comics!

-I had lunch with R. L. Stine – who is a delightful, curmudgeonly man – because Valerie aka Greatest Mentor of All Time  snagged me a seat! Whoooo!

-In the “Where are the heroes of color in SciFi?” session someone asked the panelists a question along the lines of “Why don’t these stories get published/why doesn’t the publishing industry realize that minorities are important and becoming the majority?” Before the panelists had time to answer someone else in the crowd muttered, “Republicans,” and it just made me so mad! Not because I am some kind of Republican apologist – I’m a liberal, feminist, LGBTQ-rights-supporting Democrat who thinks socialism has some pretty good ideas – but because that’s not the problem. You think some of those liberal, feminist, LGBTQ-rights-supporting Democrats, some of us librarians, can’t be racist or bigoted? Yeah, we can and we’ve all seen it. It’s not just Republicans, it’s Democrats, and the in betweens, and feminists, and those douchey MRAs and a lot of people. Lots of people who you agree with and don’t agree with can also still be racist and bigoted. I wanted to go over to here and shout, “Have you not heard of institutional and systemic racism? It’s a thing. Google it!” I refrained but I’m still simmering over it.

-Saturday night the Hub bloggers in attendance went out to eat together and had a great time! It was so nice to put faces to names I see all the time reading the Hub! I wish we could get together more because we were a pretty hilarious bunch of ladies. (Gretchen, I will learn a state song for you….) I felt like I should try the chicken fried steak because Threadgills seemed known for it. In hindsight, I should have ordered the “chicken fried chicken” also known as “fried chicken.” The chicken fried steak wasn’t bad, just weird. Cheesy grits, though? Heaven on a plate.

I’m sure I will think of more things I want to write about the Symposium. Keep on the lookout for those.

 

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Off to Texas

My other post about adult programming is languishing lasciviously in the drafts folder, fraternizing with all the other unpublished drafts. It will have to languish for a bit more as I won’t work on it now, and I’m headed to YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium tomorrow in Austin. My library is paying for me to go (Thank you, Library!) and I’m going to see my Superstar YALSA Mentor, Valerie. We’re going to dance in a bucket of glitter and it will be glorious.

I hope to write up a few of the programs I will attend. A bundle of YA authors will be there and I’m the most excited about seeing Malinda Lo, Lauren Oliver, Andrew Smith, and Jennifer Nielsen.

I’ll be writing up a report about some programs for the Hub as well as interviewing, via email, author Leigh Bardugo. I can’t recommend her Grisha trilogy enough. Do you like magic? Handsome soldiers? Russian and Slavic folklore? Kickass ladies in eye patches (gotta get to book three for that one)? Oh course you do!

If you’re not convinced by the convergence of those delights, read her response to this commenter who says, “You had a great story and then you ruined it with unnecessary lesbianism.It’s so good.

That’s it for now. See y’all later.

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