Tuesday, July 22, 2014

College, sorta redux

I'm spending a week in Amherst, "where "only the 'h' is silent," at the NEH's Emily Dickinson summer camp....and it is bringing back a tidal wave of memories. It was 23 years ago this summer I landed on another rural New England campus for freshman year...

I haven't spent time in this part of the world in the summer for a while, but it seems remarkably unchanged. Some things I'd forgotten:

  • Food SO bland, you have to add pepper bite per bite. 
  • The intensive upkeep of these old campuses, how many people are involved, and how early the grounds crews get started.
  • Tap water that tastes of chlorine. At the Emily Dickinson House Museum, our guide said the early water closets had poisoned the ground water in New England villages -- maybe that's why. 
  • The wry and twisted sense of humor that some of the natives have -- an affect so different from the norm at home. Our Professor Boghosian poked fun at anyone he found writing letters, "Tell them ALL about it." That sort of encapsulates the attitude around here, too.
  • What it feels like to wake up shivering on a mountain summer morning.
The workshop experience itself is terrific, well-organized and run, bringing in some real heavy-hitters in Dickinsoniana. My final project is looking at Dickinson as a proto-modernist, so I get to think about capital-L Literature for a while... Dickinson has been a touchstone for me, and I'm really appreciating moving beyond a "Belle of Amherst" superficial understanding of the poet as a eccentric and towards a fuller understanding of her place in her family, community, and world. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

After ALA annual...

Has it really been a month? 

So, ALA was incredible -- incredibly hot, incredibly dry (well, Las Vegas midsummer -- can't expect much less, can we?), but also incredibly invigorating.

I pretty much debriefed what I keyed in on here and here for SLJ, but the commonality between the two pieces is this palpable member-driven groundswell of self-empowered sharing and collective action -- something to warm the heart of any idealistic librarian, however beleaguered she might be by interdivisional and organizational politics. And the fact it's coming from youth services quarters is best of all. 

My tangible takeaways:

When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

Have *you* read this funny, sad, smart, enlightening bit of YA fiction published by Bloomsbury yet? If not, go find a copy, and don't let the mildish kerfluffle about realistic language put you off. I've written up Brian's USBBY program talk for Bridges, the organizational newsletter, but suffice if to say, he's as beguiling and sweet as his book's hero, Dylan Mint, and the book's stream-of-conscious narration and whip-smart Glaswegian dialogue reach levels of Joycean lyricism. I really hope the Printz and Schneider, and USBBY's outstanding books for children with disabilities list committees all have their eyes on this one. 

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsey Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta

I was lucky enough to get to see Julie's terrific sneak peak of this forthcoming work in April at the President's Program luncheon at ALLA, but I was happy to see the ARCs in full effect at Annual. Regaling us with some lesser-known wrinkles informing the personalities and titles that tend to be sugarcoatted today, I think Wild Things! would be a great addition to any children's literature course syllabus. But so far from dry, it's also a must-read for any kidlit enthusiast, and this very humble piece of the interwebs will be part of the blog tour in August, so stay tuned.

And, from Harper Collins, I snagged the book I was most thrilled about coming out this fall, How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran -- it's bawdy, funny, wise, and liberated, and I think anyone who has read Moran's two terrific earlier books will notice its more than a wee bit autobiographical. And I really hope the Alex committee has its eye on this one 

Notice all three have this sort of antic graphic design going on for cover art. A little fey, but I like it!

I rolled off of ALA Council, which was bittersweet. I am so glad I served there the last three years, peeking behind the organizational curtain at the behemoth that is ALA and networking with librarians with radically different concerns. Oh, I have other things going on -- the Odyssey, Freedom To Read Foundation unit liaison for YALSA, EMIERT board, and another two-year stint on the USBBY board of directors, plus ALLA, of course -- but I am looking forward to being able to attend some sessions Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday mornings of Conference and Midwinter, go to those fab publishers' breakfasts, or just sleep a little later...

I did a little bit of a panel presentation the Monday of Annual. It was YALSA's Teen Spaces 201, organized by the dynamic Maureen Hartman, with maker space and at-risk youth from Minneapolis PL and visionary architect Margaret Sullivan. (My slides.)

In other news, I've been working on my departmental revisions for my dissertation, after passing my defense last month...so much work done, lots left to do, so I pushed back graduation for another semester, meaning time to get both departmental and university reader changes in by the end of October. There is daylight at the end of this tunnel, fingers crossed just a few months ahead, too, but you can go ahead and cal me Dr. Stephens...

I left for my actual non-working, non-conferencing vacation just after the Fourth, to Key West, my favorite island, with its forested state park beaches, bicycle transport, independent movie theater, vegetarian-friendly eateries, top-notch new-and-used bookstore, and populations of roaming chickens and six-toed cats. The literary history there is pretty fascinating as well -- we're already planning next summer's trip down.

I'm in DC right now for the #anew14 Annenberg-Newseum Educators Workshop. It's fun to meet some new people, especially teachers as into history and current events as I happen to be...then next week I'll be in Amherst, for what my husband has been teasing me is "Emily Dickinson summer camp," an NEH workshop on the poet and her life and times. I am reconsidering all future enterprises requiring you to bring your own linen, though -- logistical nightmare. 

Summer learning FTW!