Friday, January 23, 2015

Midwinter in Chicago

Chicago in January? I am nothing short of terrified about the weather. But, after one more "listening weekend," I'm off to ALA's Midwinter Meeting in mere days.

I have a lot of anxiety about being away from the library with so many things going on there. I decided I just couldn't swing ALISE, a bit ironically since I had University funding for that one. As it is, I have six very busy days ahead, for the USBBY program, Odyssey Award deliberations and announcement, a handful of other meetings, and, since it's my first time in three years not serving on Council, I can go to more publisher events.

Last Midwinter, Angie Manfredi got me up early and into some excellent seats for the Youth Media Awards (above), but this time I'll be walking in with my committee members. Just the thought makes me giddy!

This is my tenth Midwinter. I have had a minor existential crisis since finishing my dissertation. I've been a student for so long that I never bothered to consider what would be next. Now I'm deliberately shifting some of my energy away from professional associations and into more local endeavors. But speaking of ALA, I feel real gratitude for the leadership and negotiation skills I have learned through the organization. I feel like working for them has given me insight into so many different areas of the profession, of non-profits, of government agencies, and public funding. It's been really invaluable in preparing me to take on new things. I know I certainly wouldn't be president of ALLA were it not for ALA.

Meanwhile, the flu is ripping through school. Off to sanitize everything...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A new year's resolution, possessing the secret of joy

I'm usually up for reading any alternative work about organization or increasing productivity. But when I heard the premise -- you hold objects and determine whether they "speak to you" -- I was skeptical. But we were in a bookstore over the holidays, and my husband picked up the slim little volume, and it seemed like a sign. It turns out, I'm not the only one using Kondo's primer.
It may sound a little hippy-dippy, but this method is weirdly resonant.

Kondo emphasizes gratitude for having had things, even if you never used them, and for "learning" what isn't for you from past purchases. She has you work through things in a predetermined order -- first clothes, then paper, then "things," sentimental objects are last. It's true that in holding each object, you begin to feel the distinction between something you like and something you don’t.
I'm still deep in the clothes area. But I discovered I really don't like thin socks. I only wear socks if it is cold, I don’t need very many pairs of thin socks Tank tops were another scorched earth area -- I had so many cheap and flimsy ones I never wore, kept out of some sort of compulsion. Does anyone really need a dozen white tank tops? And got rid of many beloved, but ill-fitting tee shirts, because I have so many that do fit well and make me feel better. Another of Kondo's suggestions is that we don’t relegate clothes to casual wear, instead acquire loungewear that we like.
Kondo also views gifts as ceremonial, a notion that has helped me abandon guilt over not keeping some things. Another thing I find appealing: there's no emphasis on giving discards to charity -- read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion if you think charities need your cast-offs. For me, it was easier to simply let things go into a void than to another home.

Kondo refers to the vast number of bags of things she and her clients have excised and predicts it takes about six months to tidy completely. I anticipate still another couple of passes through my wardrobe, but I've been pleasantly surprised with the amount of space I've gained. For now, I'm limited only by the capacity of our trash cans. It's a good start for a fresh year.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014, what a year it was

More things happened in 2014 than any year in my personal and professional recent history.

I finished my Ph.D., the culmination of nine and a half years of effort, testing everything about myself.

We moved into our fabulous new library after a year and a half in limbo, and even longer thinking about it. I can't express the difference it has made to the school community.

I served on the 2015 Odyssey audiobook award committee, my first national award committee, for ages 0-18, and was appointed to the 2016 Batchelder award committee for books in translation.

I hosted 500 of my colleagues for the Alabama Library Association annual conference.

I coordinated two USBBY programs for ALA Midwinter and Annual (and, since I was reappointed, will have four more opportunities to put together those over the next couple of years…)

I traveled abroad (to London, Dublin, Mexico City, and Vienna) and domestically (Philadelphia, D.C. -- three times, Las Vegas, Amherst, Key West, and Minneapolis). I don't have any frequent flyer miles left, but it was worth it.

I started coaching some terrific kids for Scholar’s Bowl.

I don't know what 2015 holds, but this year was downright amazing.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's been 23 years...

...since the Rodney King verdict. It was my freshman year in college, and it was probably the first time in my life I felt like the world was a completely inexplicable place.

We're obviously still grappling with the same issues of social justice and privilege, but now we have to fight the filter bubble as well. 

Do we know what's going on? It seems to depend largely on who we followed, or friended, sometimes a while back.

Can you breathe or not? Do black lives matter, or not? I hate to think it comes down to algorithms, but it does. It's impossible to make a difference, even on a personal scale, if we don't know what's going on...

So I'm finding things even scarier this time around.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Best books of 2014

This year, my reading has been reactionary. That’s because, for the amazing Odyssey committee,  I’ve been listening to SO much children’s and YA lit.  While I’ve never before been so on top of the young people’s scene, it also makes me want to read some more grown-up stuff. So I’ll start with a sprinkling of young adult titles before I move on to what has made up most of my reading year…

My favorite young adult titles

Books as windows, ya'll...

Gabi, a girl in pieces by Isobel Quintano (2014) 
This debut in diary format is unflinching in telling the story of a southern Californian teen like nothing I’ve ever read before, except maybe Grace Dent’s Diary of a Chav.

Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass by Meg Medina (2013) 
This story is about everything – class, femininity, friendship, self-definition. It’s all told with a sense of humor and proportion, with super-endearing characters.

We were liars by e. lockhart (2014) 
Believe the hype...this was so good that I immediately, upon finishing, started over from the beginning. I still have some issue with the ridiculous privilege of Cadie and her kin, but echoes of King Lear cement it as a modern classic.

Some mysteries, by an Alabama author and a 1.5 American

So not Agatha...

The rented mule by Bobby Cole (2014) 
Cole manages to capture the New South in a way few have done. The landmarks and characters are familiar in the best possible way, and the writing is downright muscular.

The interpreter by Suki Kim (2003) 
I stumbled onto this one after reading Without you, there is no us (2014), Kim’s book about her experiences teaching in an English-language school for the children of the North Korean elite. It’s a fascinating exploration of the immigrant experience, family secrets and fallings-out, and Suzy is fantastically drawn.

Down memory road

It was a great year for memoirs...

How to build a girl by Caitlin Moran (2014) 
I just adore Caitlin Moran. Her Moranthology got me to read Life, the Keith Richards autobiography which gave me an entirely new appreciation of a band I've been listening to for 25 years. This is her first novel, heavily autobiographical, laugh-out-loud funny, and very resonant of the early 90s for those of a certain age.

Maggie and me by Damian Barr (2013) 
One boy’s exuberant coming of age, told through the metaphor of his love/hate relationship with Dame Thatcher, who is at once ruining his life and offering him a role model.

This boy by Alan Shepard (2013) 
Before the welfare state, life was so very different from today.  A heartfelt story about life in an almost-Dickensian austerity Britain, from the former Home Secretary.

Love, Nina by Nine Stibbe (2014) 
Another one for those of a certain age, this collection of letters from a nanny working for a bohemian literary London household conjures up perfect sense-memories of the 80s.

From the U.K., and Australia, too

Okay, my Anglophilia is showing, I think.

The little stranger by Sarah Waters (2009) 
I ripped through Waters’ work this year, but this excellent twisty ghost story for the rational is my favorite.

Thursdays in the park by Hilary Boyd (2012) 
Tripped upon this one in a Waterstone's in the West wonderful to see mature love portrayed so realistically, with palpable and explicable desire.

The house on fortune street by Margot Livesy (2008) 
The overlapping layers of lives of the individuals in Livesy’s novel are stunning.

The third wife by Lisa Jewell (2014) 
An intricate thriller with Jewell’s trademark individualistic characters, exploring crazy complex family relationships and the oblivious self-centeredness of middle aged men.

The one plus one by JoJo Moyes (2014) 
A slowly blossoming love story, told over the course of an ill-fated road trip, involving four idiosyncratic characters with foibles all their own. This may be my very favorite of the year.

The sopranos by Alan Warner (1999) 
Not David Chase, it’s schoolgirls on the loose before a choir competition in Edinburgh. These girls are shocking. There’s a follow-up, All the bright stars in the sky (2011), too. 

The last anniversary by Liane Moriarity (2006) 
Like everyone else stateside, I read The husband’s secret (2013) first, but this one is my favorite.  It also has a killer postscript. I want more Australian books. It’s terrific to read genre fiction from a different but not dissimilar culture. 

Compared with 2012 and 2013, it's been an overwhelmingly female, overwhelmingly British reading year...maybe I'll shake things up a bit in 2015.