Still here! I think I have a long post coming about the trashing of women’s lit as a questionable hipster hobby that I have admittedly participated in.

In the meantime, I’ve been pursuing some Americorps positions and thought I would share my “Motivational Statement.” The prompt asked for a specific experience that drew me to community service, and after great struggle I wrote this. Note, I intentionally simplified my discussion of street newspapers, especially glossy charity productions like The Big Issue, for the purposes of this 3000-character essay. They aren’t perfect: the equation of homelessness with panhandling on one hand, the emphasis on “honest work” and pulling-oneself-up-by-the-bootstraps as antidote to poverty on the other. Nevertheless, I loved the ritual of buying The Big Issue while I was in the UK, and I hope that participation in the program was helpful to at least some of the people selling it.

 

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Right now Libraryblogland is all a-twitter (sorry) over the hurdles that have been piling up lately to prevent public libraries from making a wide range of ebooks available to patrons. Library professionals seem most frustrated by lack of options – for now, Overdrive is the single go-to vendor, and Overdrive in turn must deal largely with six international conglomerate publishing houses whose licensing decisions affect a huge number of individual titles currently in print.

Digital publishing is a new business, so the monopolies that dominate the world of library lending and, indeed, ebook sales are no big surprise. But are other, more established digital media any different?
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This summer I finally read Steering the Craft, a book on writing by one of my very favorite writers, Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin’s writing speaks to me because, with wisdom and beauty, it brings to the table of genre fiction so much human activity that is left behind in standard heroic fantasy. People in Le Guin’s novels farm and fish and trade, they exist in worlds of deeply felt gender, class, and cultural norms. Her books are still transgressive in the genre due to writing about societies of people whose skin is a color other than white. I’m still not as well read in contemporary adult speculative fiction as I’d like to be, having gotten started somewhat late, but it’s been a struggle to find books set in imagined worlds that are as thoughtful and challenging as hers are.

While Le Guin has influenced the kind of settings and characters I write about, I had never considered the matter of plot. That is, I had taken it for granted that fantasy novels can pretty much only have one kind of plot – highly structured, full of conflict, mystery, and danger, involving high stakes, and usually featuring a young character coming into his or her own. This kind of plot has certainly been wildly successful in the ever-burgeoning young adult fantasy genre, of which I am a big fan. It’s the kind of story I’ve always been taught to write, epitomized in the famous writing advice, “Get your protagonist up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Then get him down.”

So Le Guin totally BLEW MY MIND with the following seditious advice about writing plots: (more…)

It’s true – I’m still alive, kicking, and hoping to continue on with this blog. Alas, I have been busy recovering from graduation, going full-time at my current job, moving, and staring the following to-do list in the face:

1.Create a professional web portfolio

2. Get a library job

3. Finish my third novel

4. Publish my master’s project

5. Get my driver’s license

6. Acquire some sort of social life, as I had no time to do so for the first 4+ months of living here

That I now have a full-time office job makes it difficult for me to get some of the above done, let alone post here, since I generally have no desire to spend my weekday nights staring more at a computer screen. I’m hoping to find equilibrium soon!

First, a video:

This post is about feeling bad about yourself. It’s also about The Chronicles of Narnia, but I’ll get to that part later.

For a nation that is stereotyped far and wide as being selfish and irresponsible on a global scale, Americans have quite a knack for personal self-loathing. If you listed all of the things that we feel guilty about, you’d have the self-help section in an average suburban Barnes & Noble. (When I worked for a used bookstore, we never had enough shelf space for self-help. It was always overflowing into the sociology section, diet books and relationship manuals jostling for space with “Nickel and Dimed” and “Gang Leader for a Day.”)

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I had another post written, but it will have to wait, since I feel compelled first to write something about Diana Wynne Jones.

I can’t pinpoint the moment when she became one of my favorite authors. I had never heard of her until college, when one of my best friends insisted I read Howl’s Moving Castle. I liked it a lot, although it took me several subsequent readings before I really understood the plot. I read several more of her books, and liked those a lot too.

And I kept reading – perhaps, in part, because I spent six months after college being poor and living in England, where her books were readily available at the local library. Or perhaps because of Fire and Hemlock, which I’d read the summer before that trip, and which blew my mind. It’s a book that does things that I didn’t realize you were allowed to do in a young adult fantasy novel – in any fantasy novel.

All I know is that over the last few years, she’s been my most read author. Her stories are elusive, complex, smart, strange, funny, and immensely magical. They’re among the only children’s books I’ve read which have the slightest correspondence with the actual experience of childhood, yet (or perhaps because of this) they have so much to say to adults.

So, somehow, without my exactly noticing it, she’s become one of the few novelists that as a reader I’ve unreservedly adored. As a writer, I’ve learned so much from her. More than that, her kindness and humor have been transmitted to me through the words of everyone who’s met her.

I’m immensely saddened by her death, but also grateful that I have so many of her books left to read, and the others to reread, and share and talk about.

As a young, idealistic library student, certain immutable facts about the contemporary library have a way of haunting me. Take, for instance, the oft-quoted statistic that 50% of library reference questions are not answered correctly or completely. (The study, by Childers & Crowley, is thankfully from the 70s and rather misleading in my opinion, but it’s still a pretty harrowing percentage when pronounced the first time in a library science classroom.)

Similarly, whenever I have a spare moment for library navel-gazing, I always end in despair at the realization that, no matter hard we try, there are books being wrong in the library.

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