Meeting Authors at Boston Book Fest

Last weekend was Boston Book Fest. Being a free festival, and me having a Saturday with nothing planned, I drove down to amble among booths with a friend and sit on on a couple of panels.

The best one I sat through was a middle grade panel, The Power of Friendship, featuring panelists Jo Knowles, Ali Benjamin, and Paul Griffin. All three of them talked about some great things: where ideas come from, keeping your child character in danger as long as possible, and the pain of childhood. And the kids in the audience asked some dang good questions at the end.

What hit home for me was when Ali Benjamin (The Thing About Jellyfish) brought up the idea that got stuck in her head that there was an “other world” of writers that she could never be a part of. Now she’s written a book, and is even nominated for the National Book Award. She discovered that there is no other world.

Before leaving, I grabbed a copy of Ali Benjamin’s book to have her sign. When she asked me about my interest in children’s literature, I answered: it’s what I’m trying to write. She got very excited and interested then, even when I brought up the struggle of getting my work noticed, and of comparing my progress with others. “I didn’t get my first book published until I was 40,” she said, and Jo Knowles, sitting right next her, chimed in that it had taken her 10 years before anything happened with her work.


“Trust yourself,” Ali wrote in my copy of her book, right about a quick sketch of a jellyfish. And I will, whether that means genre hopping (I think it’s time to go back to that contemporary story of mine) or tossing out something old to work on something new. I’m going to keep doing what I think is right, and maybe someday it will be.

Things Books Made Me Want to Do

Books can inspire you to do a lot of things: learn a new topic, go somewhere, or eat something you’ve never heard of before. Or they can just make you wish that something existed so you could actually do it.

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, here are a few of the things books have made me want to do.

  • A Ring of Endless Light by Madleine L’Engle made me want to go to school for English. This is all because one person that the main character, Vicky, meets tells her that if she’s serious about her writing, she shouldn’t major in creative writing in college, but she should major in English so she can study stories. I may have been the only person I knew in middle school who knew what she was going to college for.


  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George made me want to live in the woods. If I could get my own peregrine falcon, even better.

  • Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss inspired me to fill my childhood journal with awesome doodles.


  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis gave my a lifelong desire to try Turkish Delight. (It didn’t work out so well.)


  • And, of course, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling made me hope, hope, hope that I would be a witch. Still waiting on that owl…

Check out The Broke and the Bookish for more lists! What have books made you want to do? There are still so many other foods books made me want to try…

Weekend Links: Bucky and Books

Here are some fun things I’ve seen around the Internet recently.

On the blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) author Meghan E. Bryant describes her long process of getting her picture book, Dump Truck Duck, published. That she kept at it for so long is inspiring in itself, but I find it really fantastic that she was able to get publishing deals for several books right afterward, because of the simple fact that she never stopped writing. I think about all the stories sitting in my drawer right now, waiting to be polished, and the ideas swimming in my cluttered brain waiting to be written while I  query other things, and I have hope that if I can get one book published, maybe something else will start.

Women Write About Comics published an article, The Feminization of Bucky Barnes, where they parse out why the Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier character is so particularly popular among female fans. I’ve really liked that character for a while, mainly because of the angst (I’m a horrible person that likes to see my favorite characters tortured). But the writers on WWAC bring up other points, like how Bucky replaces the “girl” character, which rang true for me as far as why I feel so attached to that character. (Chicken or egg: which came first, my love of Bucky or my love of Sebastian Stan? Both evolved so closely together…)

Maggie Stiefvater drew a diagram of what her character Gansey from the Raven Boys series looks like when “His fingers lightly touched his temple and his cheekbone, and his eyes looked off at nothing”. I laughed for one full minute.


A Library Book Sale is a Dangerous Place (Still Battling Tsundoku)

When I used to work at the used bookstore, I had a real problem — too many books! Every day new (to me) books passed through my hands, so it was inevitable that some of them never made it to the sale shelf, winding up in my house instead.

That is a time when my tsundoku got really out of hand, so that many of the books I gave away when I moved had never been cracked open by me.

But, I work at a library now. Things are better now. Right?

Well, a little better. Now when I get out of hand and bring home a huge pile of books I’ll never read, they go back to the library a couple weeks later with nothing missing from my wallet, and my shelf space still intact.


Of course, being a library, people like to give donations, these donations being piles of books they don’t want anymore. Sometimes these donations are…less than savory (Encyclopedias from 20 years ago! Worn out mass markets that reek of smoke, and sometimes cat pee!) But sometimes these donations are great. Really great. Like, books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages so maybe I should bring them home in case I get a chance to read them great.

DSC00465So, maybe tsundoku’s not as bad when you work in a library. But I love books — I love to touch them and smell them and have them in my home, almost as much as I love actually reading them. So if I’m unpacking a dirty box, and something shines out at me, or if a coworker picks up a donation and presses it into my hands telling me I must read this, then you can bet I’ll put a crumpled dollar in the money drawer, stuff the book into my purse, and sneak it onto my shelf or into my pile, where it will wait for me.

“A Sense of Comfort” :: On Bringing a Book Everywhere

Debbie Tung
Debbie Tung, Where’s My Bubble?

This post is inspired by a comic by Debbie Tung. Check out her Tumblr, she’s really amazing!

“You’re bringing a book on a date?”

I looked up, startled. It was senior year of college, and I was in the common area shared with my three roommates, getting on my coat and packing up my purse before going out for dinner with my boyfriend. My last step — taking the paperback I’d been reading, and nestling it in beside my wallet in my old beat-up purse.

It’s never been unusual for me to have a book crammed into my bag whenever I leave the house. Dinner with the in-laws, party with friends, a half-day at work that doesn’t include a lunch break — there’s a mass market, or a full hardcover, or now a Nook or even something downloaded on my phone, ready for me to read at the first sign of five free minutes.

I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, back to Animorphs books in my backpack, back to Dr. Seuss on car trips. That paper brick right within reach is a comfort, a security blanket, ready to help me out at a moment’s notice, to pull me free from boredom, keep me company if loneliness surrounds me, to cheer me up or calm me down if depression or anxiety worm themselves into my brain.

While I don’t know too many people who insist on this practice (I was the one in my family curled up in the back corner of the minivan on road trips with nothing but a too-loud Disc-man and an R.A. Salvatore novel) but I’d never been made to feel weird about it. Until that day, in my dorm, with my friend. Though loads of my friends love to read, this friend was pretty close to last on the list of people I would have expected to question me. My fellow bookworm, the one who ALSO made time for pleasure reading during finals week, who rambled on about stories and characters with an enthusiasm so bright it blocked out the glazed expressions of everyone who was forced to listen. I looked at this person, expecting her to realize the logic behind carrying a book you would never crack open, just because you wanted it there.

And she looked back at me, confused, like I was an indecipherable nerd, like all the passages in my brain were turned around and broken.

“Uh, yeah,” I answered lamely. “Just in case.”

All my good reasons, rooted in emotion and vague-but-real feelings of comfort, became suddenly inexplicable, particularly in the face of a person who should have understood. It all seemed weird, and silly, and maybe a little bit messed up.

I’ve left home without a book before, because I was distracted or rushed, and managed to forget. But for the first time that I could think of, I consciously, purposely, removed the book from my bag, placed it on the table, and left without it.

I didn’t need the book that night. Really, it’s rarely necessary all those other times. But I’ve always liked having that backup plan, that comfort. “Because it feels like I’ve got a good friend by my side,” Debbie Tung writes in her comic. That’s exactly right, and it’s why I’ve never left a book behind since, if I can help it (it’s hard to fit a paperback in those tiny purses I use at weddings). I always keep a book in my bag, even if I wind up with a twenty-pound purse, even if someone gives me a weird look because they don’t understand.

It’s worth it, to feel secure, and to know my friends are close.

What I’m Reading: Science Fiction and Lady Comic Books

I’m still working my slow, deliberate way through Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. I still think it’s a good novel, but it gets so dense, and there are such long parts of the novel without breaks, that I have a hard time reading it for long stretches. Plus, I keep falling asleep on the couch while I’m reading the book…

I also started reading Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. I bought the mass market at Barnes and Noble after reading the back and realizing it was a futuristic science fiction story, AND a detective murder mystery story. I really love it so far. Hamilton’s writing is accessible, and the super technological bits don’t make me go cross-eyed. I did almost roll my eyes right out of my head when he spent an entire paragraph describing how hot the main character’s wife is: “slimmer than anyone who’d had two children should reasonably expect”; “she was enticingly fit”; “the dark hair…still as lush”. Blarg. But I powered through it! And I still like the book.

Comic Book Run: Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat and Zodiac Starforce

A trip to the comic store got me…some comics! I picked up the first four issues of Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat by Kate Leth, because I love Kate Leth and I’ve heard good things about it. I’ve read the first issue so far, and it’s super, super cute. I do wish that super hero comics had looked like this when I was a kid.

On top of that I grabbed some issues of Zodiac Starforce, which is colored like Steven Universe and sounds like Sailor Moon. So, really, probably for me, I figured! I read issue #2 (they didn’t have #1 at the store), and it turns out yes, I was right, this comic is my kind of deal. I’ll have to find the missing issues next time I’m in a comic shop.

What are you all reading? Anything nerdy? Anything smart?

Also, I think I’m going to frequent my comic shop more often (it is right next to the grocery store, after all). Any suggestions of what I should get?



Recent To-Read Pile Additions: SciFi, Roller Derby, Serious, and Fun

I add books to my To-Read list faster than I can actually read books. I know at least half of what I want to read will go unread forever — but here are some that I’ve recently become interested in that I really, really hope I can get to someday.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I don’t know too much about this book, except it’s about humans colonizing Mars. Recently I’ve wanted to read more science fiction, and I’ve heard good things about this series from multiple sources. Plus, there’s apparently going to be a TV series of it in a couple of years, because everything is a TV series now (thanks, Game of Thrones, you started a trend!) so I better leap on that bandwagon before it gets too overloaded.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein. I just read the first book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and I thought it was a fun book with good characters and really fun puzzles. (Probably helped that the puzzles made me think of Gravity Falls…sigh.) I want to stay on top of what’s pretty popular for kids books, too, and this is a quick read, so I hope to get through this one soon.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. A kid’s graphic novel about a girl who joins roller derby to get over losing touch with her best friend. This has been out for MONTHS, I have no excuse, I should have read this long ago.

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. This is a contemporary young adult novel about a girl who survives trying to commit suicide. I’ve read Stork’s other young adult book, Marcelo in the Real World, and I was floored by his complex characterization of Marcelo and the way that character grows by the end of the book. I’m so positive I’ll love this book, I’ll probably fall into a fit of rage if I don’t.

Will I get to these books? Probably, maybe, someday, we’ll see!

What’s on your list?

What I’m Watching: BookTube and the Art of Book Covers

Over the last few days I’ve been watching a few more book-centric YouTube channels, partly from the couple of channels I actively subscribe to, and because more have been showing up in my suggestion screen.

One person I follow is Sanne on Books and Quills. Her channel is really interesting, since she actually works at Penguin Random House in the UK. Recently she’s put up a couple of videos I found highly, nerdily fascinating: book covers. Specifically, how the art is designed so that you specifically will pick it up, and what the different kinds of finishes on a book cover are called.

This first video, How Do Book Covers Work, gave me the sense that it’s OK when I pick up a book mainly because I enjoy the way the cover looks. (I did that recently, actually.) Publishers want their covers to appeal to the people who would probably want to read the book, after all. So, if the cover grabs me, perhaps the book will, too.

So. I love touching books. Not just the paper, or the weight and shape, but the feeling of a matte cover beneath my hands, embossed letters and designs bumping up beneath my fingers… This is one of the few downfalls of working in a library, that most of the books come to me pre-wrapped in the protective library covers, so I can’t always feel the texture of the cover. (Though sometimes I can stick my fingers under the plastic and touch the cover underneath, which, yup, oh boy, that sounds dirty.) Some of the terms, like “super matte” and “debossed” I’d never heard before, so maybe now I’ll sound like I know a little bit more like I know what I’m talking about when I talk about books.

These videos have gotten me thinking about what I like in my book covers, so maybe I’ll write a post about some of my favorite book covers that I own. And also I watch a lot of YouTube, probably more than I read blogs, so I will feature some more of my favorite videos soon.

What are you watching? And do you love book covers as much as I do? (probably not.) Let me know!

Clearing Out: Classics and Criticisms

I managed to ditch quite a lot of books while I was moving, but even now, after I’ve dragged those books to storage and out again, I’m noticing things I really could have done without.  I want to stave off completely overloaded shelves for as long as possible, so if the book doesn’t bring me any kind of joy, it’s gone. Here are a few more things that made it into the donation bag.

Literary TheoryThese too books, Falling Into Theory and Literary Theory, are leftovers from my senior college English course. I haven’t cracked them open once since I stopped taking that class, and I don’t see myself doing so any time in the future.

Mrs. Dalloway and The HoursMrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and The Hours by Michael Cunningham are also leftovers from that same English course. I enjoyed both of them, but I barely had the brain capacity to ready Mrs. Dalloway the first time, and I was getting graded on it! So I don’t think I’ll be reading that one again.

Characters and ViewpointThese last two I debated on. Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card and Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress are both writing books that I used in my final craft essay for my MFA. They were really useful at the time, and both are full of highlights and sticky notes. There is the chance that someday I’ll want them for writing advice, but I never felt the need to flip through them like I do with Bird by Bird or Steal Like an Artist, and there are other writing books I’ve still yet to read if all I’m looking for is the inspiration.

Those are what’s going. What do you think? Am I making a mistake? Are there any books you decided to ditch recently? Let me know!

January Book Haul

I’ve been doing a better job of not buying so many books, knowing that I can get a lot of what I need from the library, which I work at. But, I’m still me, and sometimes I just have to buy stuff.

Dragon Keeper, The Dispossessed, Stich 'N Bitch, Giant DaysStitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller is the knitting guide (suggested to me by a coworker) that I used to basically teach myself how to knit. It has a lot of basic patterns, and some more complicated stuff. I think I checked out and renewed this book from the library about 12 or so times, so it seems right that I would just buy my own danged copy.

Giant Days by John Allison is another library read that I decided to just buy. This collection of the first four issues of the comic was one of the best things I read last year, and buying a copy of it only cost $10, minus my B&N discount.

The next two books I bought on whims, particularly The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I don’t really know much about this book, except that it’s science fiction, but the spine was so handsome, and the cover pulled on me.

The Dispossessed

Finally, on my last bookstore trip, I picked up Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper. I have never read a book by Robin Hobb before, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a thick fantasy mass market about dragons, so I thought this would be a good one to snag. I’m actually about a third of the way through it now, and, well…I thought I would like this more. There are some aspects of it that have become cliche in stories now, like one of the main characters describing her appearance as she looks in a mirror and judging herself to be oh-so-plain. And as much as I love character development, I feel like I’ve read a lot of book for such a small amount of plot to have happened so far. Maybe I’ll like it more as I go? But really, I’m starting to think this is something I’d have been better off snapping up at the library.

That’s all I bought last month. But hey, I’m going to Harvard Square with a friend this weekend, so chances are I’ll have quite a few more books to talk about at the end of February.

Any thoughts on these purchases? What have you bought for your bookshelves, and do you have any regrets?