I still like D&D at my library

…in case you were wondering.

But seriously, I thought I would update my library Dungeons & Dragons life for you all so you know how it’s going. Also, I got a message from someone on Goodreads – hello new friend! – who asked me about my experiences. She was just asking for some general tips for running D&D campaigns for tweens/teens. I’m not an expert by any means and I get stuff wrong sometimes, but this is also something that anyone can do. It obviously helps if you’ve played D&D or some other roleplaying system before, are moderately organized, and like having fun, but those aren’t requirements.

Well, you should like fun. D&D is very fun.

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We usually have anywhere from 8-10 players and 10 is just A LOT of kids. As far as adventures I’ve used mostly pre-made – with lots of tweaks and changes – from the Dungeon Masters Guild via Wizards of the Coast. You can buy adventures for cheap and they are pretty good! I tweak them a bit by adding in more combat and simplifying the story. My teens like killing stuff, what can I say?

Anyway, here are some miscellaneous thoughts about DMing (Dungeon Mastering aka running the game):

-Be sure to know your story really well and be ready to either improvise or fall back on prepared side stories when your players do something completely unexpected. They will, because that’s the fun of D&D. I also like to have the teens summarize the last session but also try to take notes.

-Make sure you have a few copies of the Players Handbook around for kids/you to look stuff up. Your players will ask lots of questions. I don’t think that you need to know everything off the top of your head, but they want to know quickly. Try and review the classes and mechanic beforehand. I also like to put tabs in the Player’s Handbook for frequent sections like races, classes, weapons, spells, and leveling up. I also just discovered the D&D 5e Compendium from Roll 20 which is great for quick reference. Its so helpful!

-Always make sure to have plenty of dice, scrap paper, blank character sheets, and pencils around. I often have new players drop in right before we start so I have some pre-made characters as well. Also snacks. Snacks are key.

-My friend and DM for one of my current campaigns told me about DM David’s imitative tents. They are great – I love them! He has some for creatures/monsters too.

-The Dungeon Masters Guild has a lot of stuff on the website: pre-made characters, cheap adventures, and help. I’m sure there are people on there who know way more about this than I do.

-I definitely fudge the rules a little bit to make it more fun and because rules isn’t really what my group is playing for. They are into the story and the adventure. (And the murder of monsters and sometimes innocent NPCs. Did I mention the murder?) I tell them that if they want to be super picky about tracking how much food they have, they can, but that I’m not especially interested in that level of minutiae. I promise to not let them starve.

-My kids are also super concerned about things being really fair – as are many kids – so I try to be really aware of that when it comes to any rule bending or treasures giving out or inspiration. If you fudge the rules for one player, make sure to give the other players similar opportunities to get a second chance. Also, if they start complaining that no one is attacking them, I will have the creature attack them next. That’s what you get! Don’t complain!

-Finally, the biggest challenge for me is making sure that the kids aren’t talking . . . ok SHOUTING . . over each other and making sure everyone is getting a chance to talk/share ideas. One way I need to try out is to have a party leader. Basically one player will tell the DM what they want to do as a group in a roleplaying situation or if they are setting up a trap or something. Then you don’t have 8 kids talking to you at once! Or you could do to “talking stick/dice/ruler” whatever and only the person who has that can talk. Either one could work though I admit I haven’t really tried for various reasons.

So that’s how D&D has been going. We have the best time! How do you game at your library?

(Wait you don’t game at your library? Get with it.)

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2016: The Good Stuff

2016-year-in-review

It’s time for the 2016 year in review. As I mentioned in my best books of the year post, a lot of 2016 was shit. But we know that; I’d rather talk about some of the good stuff that happened this year. The good stuff is what is going to sustain me going forward. Yeah some really scary, sad, and frustrating things happened in 2016. Nothing can change that, but remembering the good things that happened will give me hope to keep going.

Professional life:

Nominated to the 2019 Printz ballot – voting in March/April 2017. I’m very nervous about this but deeply thankful to be nominated. I really hope that I get on the committee but if I don’t, I can always try again.

Went to PLA in Denver which was such a great experience. I got to hear about innovative programming, make new librarian friends and connect with old ones, and even meet a WWAC friend in real life.

Got a new coworker – the amazing Renata! Listen to her podcast, The Worst Bestsellers, she’s super cool and a great librarian.

Read some great books: 30% were by people of color, 51% were by women. That improves slightly upon my authors of color numbers from last year, but I also read less books by women. Interesting! (2015 I read 28% authors of color, and 53% women.)

Continued Girls Who Code at MHL – a wonderful program that I’m so happy to be able to present.

Dungeons & Dragons is still going strong. It’s a riot! If you ever would like to feel more control of your life, host a D&D game for 8 – 10 middle school teens. Your life will seem calm and controlled in comparison.

Kept writing for Women Write About Comics. I’m especially proud of these posts this year: The Fear of a Cage: Re-reading Eowyn; In Defense of the [YA] Love Triangle; Why I Game: Trying to Try; and Super Sad Depressing YA Books: How They Help Me to Feel.

Personal life:

I got to travel a lot in 2016: Punta Cana, DR; Scotland; Montreal; New Hampshire; Connecticut, Chicago; Denver! What a year! 

punta-cana

My trip to the Dominican Republic was an amazing trip with my best lady friends for the year most of us turned 30. It’s something we’ve been talking about for 10 years or more! It was absolutely perfect. We sat in the sun, drank cocktails, read, and swam in the blue-green ocean. Probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been. 

scotland

Scotland was a trip with my mom, sister, cousin, and two aunts. We drove around, ate the best food, talked to the most wonderful people, and enjoyed the beautiful Scottish countryside. We saw castles and sheep, laughed and joked, and had just most wonderful time. I can’t wait to go back! 

Doug and I went to Montreal in July. (No good pictures – it was too sweaty!) It was hot but we ate some really good poutine and pastries. We had to drive over a huge bridge and neither of us spoke French so it was a bit hilarious.

wedding-party
Also, duh, we got married, which was amazing! I have the best family and friends who did incredible amounts of work. Family did everything from sewing a wedding dress is basically a weekend, making a million paper flowers, giving us money to pay for the wedding we wanted, took amazing photographs, and came out to celebrate with us. Our incredible friends picked up ice cream, coordinated the entire event the day of, threw us parties, officiated the freaking wedding ceremony (!) wrangled tablecloths and more. As is every year, the best part of it was family and friends.

I also love being married to Doug. He’s the sweetest, kindest, most hilarious person I know. I’m very lucky. </schmoop>

Last year my goals were to: “Read more, sew more, bake more, write more, run more (and get better!), game more, librarian more, and well . . . more. Just more of all of it, really!”

And I can say I did most of that. I read a lot of great things and I even had time to sew some new clothes. I made macarons the other day and am working my way through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. I wrote a lot for WWAC but not really for anyone else. I need to work on my blogging, clearly.

I’ve been running and am hoping to ease back into races – like 5k distance – in the spring. We joined the YMCA in town and I’m also looking forward to trying out some yoga classes.

I’ve gamed a lot. Doug loves games and I’ve really come to love them as well. Some favorites I’ve played this year include: Eldritch Horror; Mission: Red Planet; Inis; Jaipur; Castles of Mad King Ludwig; Survive: Escape from Atlantis, and Betrayal at House on the Hill.Oh and Dungeons & Dragons. I love it so much. 🙂

As far as next year? Here are some goals:

-Read more books by authors of color and other writers whose lives differ from my own.
-Generally, listen to other peoples’ stories.
-Become more politically active and fight/campaign for the things I believe in: women’s rights, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, LGBTQ rights, accessible health care, slowing climate change, and supporting immigrants and refugees.
-Write more critically.
-Sewing goals: learn to install a zipper and experiment with different fabrics.
-Food goals: improve my macaron; make miso soup; figure out that food processor recall….
-Exercise because it makes me feel good; keep running.
-Be kind.
-Go on adventures!

 

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If nothing else, I read some good books this year

best-books-of-2016

2016 was . . . certainly an exceptional year wasn’t it?

Stay tuned for my annual year-end roundup. I’ll recap what’s been happening with me, take a look back at the goals I set for 2016, and set some for 2017. Before I get to the books, though, here’s a preview of the two modes of 2016:

2016

I mean, it wasn’t all bad. Here’s one of the good parts:

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But anyway, here are the best books that I read this year. There are 22 books. I know that number doesn’t make sense, but 2016 doesn’t make sense. Here’s to some more great literature in 2017!

Middle Grade/YA

Giant Days – John Allison and Lissa Treiman – My new favorite comic of this year – don’t worry, Squirrel Girl and Saga and Lumberjanes, I still love you –  about a group of friends’ hijinks in college. Great art, too.

Labyrinth Lost – Zoraida Cordova – Innovative urban fantasy set in NYC and magical realms between worlds. A great system of magic featuring Latinx heroines and family love. Great for fans of diverse fantasy like Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog – Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly – Amazing illuminations about a Joan of Arc-esque girl, her dog, a Jewish boy looking for his family, and a too tall African-European monk. Sweet and engaging.

Girl in Pieces – Kathleen Glasgow – Will probably break your heart. Charlie has had a rough life: drugs, cutting, homelessness, and abuse. Her journey from feeling broken to feeling hopeful again is really lovely without being schmoopy.

Outrun the Moon – Stacey Lee – The new best historical fiction author in YA. A story about the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake and unlikely friendship between entitled white girls and a plucky Chinese-American heroine. Mercy is the BEST.

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis – A tale of teen vigilante justice with some piercing explanations of rape culture.  A hard read but worth it.

When the Moon Was Ours – Anna-Marie McLemore – Two teens fall in love amidst gender issues and magical realism. A lovely story. I knew as soon as I started that it would destroy me in the best possible way. It did. Read it.

Goldenhand – Garth Nix – I was disappointed in his Old Kingdom prequel Clariel that came out last year, but Goldenhand continues the story of Lirael, the most badass Second Assistant Librarian ever. All of your favorite characters from the original three books make an appearance. Yes, ALL of them. You’ll cry too. 🙂

Ghost – Jason Reynolds – A boy trying to out run his problems – “altercations” at school, his dad in jail for threatening him and his mother with a gun, living in a “bad” neighborhood – finds that he can really run. He joins a local track team to find friends, bravery, and forgiveness. A sweet read that I hope gets on many summer reading lists next  year. (I mean, if you have to have a prescribed SR list, this book might as well be on it for 5th/6th graders.)

All American Boys – Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – Anything Reynolds is involved with turns to gold! This is an important book about a Black teen who gets beaten by a cop, and the white kid who witnesses it. For people who are still wondering about the Black Lives Matter movement read this. (All of you get out of here with your All Lives Matter nonsense. If you’re still saying that, you’re not getting it.)

Echo – Pam Munoz Ryan – A sweet story of three different young people connecting over the same harmonica: one fleeing Nazi Germany, one adopted out of an orphanage in Philadelphia, and one trying to keep her family together in the face of segregation in California. I highly recommend the audio version as music is an important part of the story and the audio does it very, very well.

Saving Montgomery Sole – Mariko Tamaki –  A sensitive coming of age tale mixed in with a reminder that people all contain multitudes and have the potential for compassion. A great quiet, contemporary YA novel.

Adult Fiction

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood – I read the whole MaddAddam series this year but Year of the Flood is the best. Atwood excels when she’s telling women’s stories and The Year of the Flood is about Toby and other women in her circle. I cried more at the end of the third book, MaddAddam, than I have over a book in a long time. Just thinking about it makes me weep. A timely – yes, sadly just as timely as Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale – and more emotional.

Rush Oh! – Shirley Barrett – A story of a whaling family in Australia and their struggles and triumphs. Sad and sweet and ultimately fulfilling.

The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee – A huge book encompassing the Franco-Prussian War, opera, and betrayal. Great for those who like epic character studies and music.

The Fifth Season/The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin – These books are so good it’s bonkers. A science fiction dystopia with strange geological powers and consequences. You will not forget these characters or their situations. You’ll also be reminded of how important the moon is, in case you forgot.

Adult Nonfiction

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates – Required reading for everyone. A heart breaking and honest letter from Coates to his son about how the world isn’t made for him and how American culture and life at large is built on the bodies of Black people.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America – Ibram X. Kendi – I’m only halfway through this book and had to take a break because it’s a slow read and someone else had a hold on it. But it’s incredible. It will, however, show you how little has changed in the U.S. when it comes to race relations. It’s pretty disheartening.

Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present – Alison Mathews-David – An amazing book about not just silly fashion trends that are dangerous – hobble skirts that “hobble” you so you can barely walk – but also the techniques that used to make clothes that will also kill you. May dissuade you from wearing the color emerald-green ever again.

Shrill: Women Are Funny, It’s Okay to Be Fat, and Feminists Don’t Have to Be Nice – Lindy West – A hilarious book with spot on ruminations about feminism and more. Great if you like essays and personal narratives.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson – This book is a tour-de-force about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North and West from the 1910s to the 1970s. Wilkerson follows three people who made the migration in different years. A fascinating look at history that I didn’t know very much about.

 

 

So that was the best of what I read this year. You can see the rest of what I read over on Goodreads. Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

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What to say?

Hello friends,

I know I haven’t been writing. The summer was busy and then Doug and I got married. It was amazing – we have the best friends and family who helped us in so many ways. Other things are good: My new coworker is incredible and I’m so grateful she’s at my library. I’ve been nominated for the 2019 Printz committee which is a professional dream of mine. Things are good. We are happy.

I really thought Hillary Clinton would win. I cried when I voted for a woman president. I thought that as a people we would come together to overcome racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-immigration fears, etc. I was naive in thinking that our hundreds of years of those things could be overcome or at least knocked down a peg. We let ourselves be isolated in our communities: liberals not listening to conservatives, city folks mocking the rural. It’s easy to do even as someone who grew up in the rural Midwest.

So it’s been really hard to stay positive about the good things in my life over the last few days.

A lot of the kids in the Teen Room are scared: Will they be deported? Will they have to go to conversion therapy? Will they be able to get birth control when they need it? What about the economy, will it be ok? I admit I’m scared, too. And I don’t know what to tell them. I try to tell them we are there for them; that their friends and family are there for them. Also, that there are a lot of us who realize we could have and should have done more to listen and talk to those who are different than us. To try to understand. And that we’re going to be better.

White women who voted for someone who stands for male entitlement and sexual assault, who thinks all black people live in hell, who rejects the refugee? What the hell, my sisters? The sisterhood – yes I know it’s cheesy but I don’t care – includes women of color, immigrant women, queer women. The sisterhood is maybe for them. Yes, “lift as you climb,” but maybe those of us already benefitting from life at the top should spend time pulling others, our LGBTQ, POC, poor, immigrant sisters and brothers, up first. We played a part in failing that. The idea of the sisterhood is probably something that makes us white ladies feel better; that has allowed us to make the advances we have at the expense of women of color. Let’s change that. I will not forget the past but I’m committed to volunteering my time and money to fighting racism, sexism, and fear for the future.

So I’m talking and texting with teens who are terrified the won’t be able to get married someday because they are gay. Or are afraid that they racism they’ve already experienced – yes in our liberal enclave of Massachusetts – will get worse. They can’t sleep at night and I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to be defeatist and I don’t want to be scared. I want to be hopeful without excusing people who are pushing these harmful agendas. I go back and forth between these two states a million times a day. I try to tell them when I can that I too am scared. But that I’m also ready to work, to advocate, to let highlight marginalized voices. The people who have more to fear than white, straight, cisgendered me.

As many authors and writers have said, books and stories are important. Read all that you can, as widely as you can. Don’t know what life is like in rural parts? Find a story. Don’t know what it’s like to be a Muslim American? Find a story. Sometimes, oftentimes, those stories are in books and articles. Other times, you may have to get out there and talk to people in person. Hear their stories in real life. It’s ok, we’re all just people. We have so much more in common than what is different. We all want love, safety, personal fulfillment, career success, the freedom to be ourselves.

I will do it. I will find those who are different and I will start doing the work that I can.

 

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Summer Reading aka the most magical time of the year

Ok, so when I say “magical” I really mean SUPER BUSY. It’s great because I swear all of our books get checked out over the summer, I see so many more teens reading and so many more just in the library in general, and it’s . . . summer. Winter isn’t crushing our souls and in New England, we’ve got to take advantage of the warmth while we can. We get like 4 months. Then misery.

But summer reading this year is extra busy because my coworker Rebecca is leaving to take an assistant director job (sad!) and because I got engaged (happy!). Between solo teen room-ing and potential wedding planning, my professional and personal life just got a bit more crazy. It’s ok! I will make it!

If you want to see what my library is doing for summer reading this year, take a look! We’re not going with the sports theme but doing “magic” instead as per teens’ requests and we’re doing a BINGO board for prizes instead of a more traditional prize program. Teens get a prize for every row and entry to the grand prize drawing – some Kindle Fires – if they complete the whole thing!

Magic Summer-2

We’re also doing really fun programs like more D&D – spoiler alert: the kids love it and middle school boys are murderous monsters – craft programs, using our BreakoutEDU box to create a Harry Potter adventure* and more!

What else is happening? Lots of new staff, Doug and I visited Montreal for a few days, Pokemon Go has taken over the library, and I’m still writing at WWAC. Here’s some recent articles about learning to try new things aka gaming and how much I hate summer reading lists.

This summer is going to be crazy what with being short staffed and planning a wedding so I’m not even going to try to lie and say I’ll be better about posting. There’s a lot happening. So I guess I’ll just see you when I see you?

Don’t walk into traffic trying to catch any Pokemon, friends. It’s a dangerous world.

*I should really start writing that….

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