Almost and Missed Opportunities

I lost a world the other day.
Has anybody found?
You’ll know it by the row of stars
Around its forehead bound.
A rich man might not notice it;
Yet to my frugal eye
Of more esteem than ducats.
Oh, find it, sir, for me!
Emily Dickinson
Almost
Within my reach!
I could have touched!
I might have chanced that way!
Soft sauntered through the village,
Sauntered as soft away!
So unsuspected violets
Within the fields lie low,
Too late for striving fingers
That passed, an hour ago.
Emily Dickinson
 Last week was a difficult one and when I found these poems after a disappointing movie about Emily Dickinson, they captured how I felt. A possible world is suddenly farther out of reach, I don’t know what’s going to happen. As I’ve been reading my various friends’ lists and hearing the fear and worry and knowing that I’m a fairly privileged position which means I need to find ways to step up. For me as an educator and librarian, that means teaching young people to be highly critical of the world around them, think about what sites they get their news from and to do all I can to promote and consume diverse media.
These past two weekends and week were the Rehoboth Film Festival and this year, many of the films felt like missed opportunities; not horrible, but not great. I’m going to start with the two films that actually made me incredibly happy and hopeful.
Fire Song is a film that felt like watching an incredibly well made contemporary YA novel come to life and was a perfect example of own voices. Fire Song happens within a small town in Northern Ontario with a focus on a hurting community of Anishnabe youth with at its center, Shane, a gay young man who’s sister recently committed suicide. This wasn’t an easy film to watch as it deals honestly with poverty, addiction, suicide, homophobia and sexual assault but the ending was hopeful.

The other film that made me smile was about the creation of Austin City Limits, a wonderful movie called A Song for You. This movie was made with the full cooperation of everyone involved in Austin City Limits and is full of music and wonderful pictures. One of my favorite aspects was how much the actual archive was highlighted as they showed where all the episodes are stored away. It made me smile because its a reminder of how a local show can become national while still having at its heart sharing good music.

A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story SXSW World Premiere Trailer from keith maitland on Vimeo.

The third film that I want to talk about is one that felt full of missed chances and also in some ways hit too close emotionally to what happened with the election. A Quiet Passion is a biographical movie about Emily Dickinson and it was frustrating. According to the Emily Dickinson Museum, she didn’t travel far from home throughout her life but carried on long term correspondence and did become reclusive in her later life. The movie takes this information and turns Emily into an unhappy and tragic figure with dialogue that feels recited.

Making a movie about a major author is always complicated and using their own words can be a wonderful way to let them speak for themselves, but how the words are spoken effects everything. A Quiet Passion uses Dickinson’s poetry along with what seemed to be inspired perhaps by letters and other writing, but seems to have forgotten that even in the 19th century, people don’t speak how they write. Becoming Jane was able to show a vibrant world and capture some of the life in Austen’s writing as Shakespeare in Love did as well. Both of those movies took inspiration from the words but didn’t use them as strictures. I left the movie wishing that Emily Dickinson’s life hadn’t been presented as so narrow, it felt a great disservice to her. The reason that it made me think of the election is that the movie was written and directed by a man who seems to have only chosen to see Emily Dickinson through one lens and not presented someone who feels real. This happened with Clinton who had articles written about her likability which didn’t seem balanced by her competence. I’m planning on reading Emily Dickinson biographies and more of her wonderful poetry to find out all I can about this amazing woman poet.

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Finally seeing my fact checking in person

Scholastic booth display at ALA Annual 2016 with two book covers: Pope Francis and Switzerland

Pope Francis and Switzerland, two books I fact checked at the Scholastic Booth

This year when I went to ALA Annual, I had a chance to see my fact checking work in person and talk to people who know the work. When I walked by the Scholastic booth, I spotted covers of two books that I’d recently fact checked and stopped and stared. They’re in the picture; Pope Francis and Switzerland. When I struck up a conversation with the people at the booth, one of them actually knew Editorial Directions, the company I work for. It was one of the most gratifying moments for a job where the distance between my work and the product is huge.

The next day when I stopped at the booth, I had a longer conversation with another person from Scholastic about fact checking and was able to see and hold two books that I’d fact checked; Vultures and Cybercriminals. Then on Sunday, I think I had a wonderful bonus because for all of these books Scholastic has a website with added information and ebooks providing new ways to access the information.

I’m still smiling when I think of seeing and holding books that I played a part in. Every book that I fact check leaves me with knowledge of new sources and nuggets of facts. I love the process of learning and having a role in the reference materials that students use.

 

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New Lewes Library and Pokemon Go at the old

I’ve joined the masses who are hooked on Pokemon Go and so far its helped me discover places I didn’t know about and start up conversations.

This past Monday,  I was volunteering at the beautiful new Lewes Public Library which officially opened on June 20th. Every time that I’ve been in either to help out or to look on my own, the library has been full. On this Monday morning, I began by sharing some of the wonderful posters I picked up at ALA Annual Conference to help decorate the space and discuss Pokemon Go. It turns out that there are two gyms near the library, two PokeStops across the railroad tracks at the old library, one was even at the Children’s Learning Garden where Maureen was headed to for a storytime.

Once Maureen went out to run the storytime, I didn’t have time to think of Pokemon as the Children’s section was busy. In the midst of shelving books, I was answering questions and seeing what the right space can do. There was a group of tween girls discussing book series that they love amid exclamations of ‘Have you read this one?’ Little kids were picking books by pulling them out and finding ones they enjoy. I love a busy library and it did take a while to get the shelving done but it was more important to answer every question.

When I finally left, I stopped by the library sign to check out the PokeStop and got into a conversation with two women in scrubs. I showed them where the PokeStop near the sign was and pointed out which was the Children’s Learning Garden was from where we were. After that, I walked around for a while, catching a few Pokemon before lunch then later stopping behind a motel to find a mural and a PokeStop. I think a lot of the set up of the stops is slightly random other than being in public places but for me, they’re getting me exploring. I’m looking forward to seeing how this game builds interaction in other places.

 

A lovely mural I never knew about but thanks to #pokemongo I found it. #mypictures #instagram

A photo posted by Kate K.F. (@ceitfianna) on Jul 11, 2016 at 12:06pm PDT

 

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Talking books online and in person

As part of this gorgeous labor day weekend, I volunteered at the book stall run by the Historic Lewes Farmers Market and sponsored by Daedalus Books. All of the books were connected to the market from cookbooks, books about raising animals, children’s books with plants and grown up coloring books. This year the market’s in a new setting as the park its been on for years on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society is closed for renovations. Due to being in a park with a pond and paths, new people who might not have found the market were walking through. I love all the various connections that grow up around books as people comment on how they have that one, wondering about age level for others and their laughter as my father called out, “Get your red-hot books!”

Due to the partnership, there’s an element of surprise to which books will be there as the market doesn’t choose instead the bookseller does. As the table with the books was near the main entrance, it was a way to see the diverse community that comes through the market from visiting families to people with houses all drawn by berries, bread and oysters.

This year for the third time in a row, I’ve participated in the RITA Reader Challenge on Smart Bitches Trashy Books a romance website that is a wonderful community to discuss books and media. For the first time this year, the books I reviewed generated conversation in a way they haven’t before. I loved that as part of why I love reading this site is how the comments are always full of thoughtful talks of what people liked and didn’t like. A large number of the books on my phone are pulled from their recommendations and I’ve discovered new genres and authors from these conversations.

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden was a novella that I reviewed and I liked it, but the second reviewer detailed major issues of Orientalism and racism within the story. The connection between the hero and the heroine is that both of them read Marco Polo’s adventures as children and it gave them a desire to travel to Asia.  As I’ve often found online, this was a major moment for me to be quiet and listen to someone who felt a personal impact from the writing. This second reviewer showed how context is important as the novella was set in the 1890s when numerous conflicts between Europeans and countries throughout Asia happened creating scars that still remain. The comments were full of thoughtful discussions of how writers of historical fiction can balance the truth of history with an understanding of their readers.

The Marriage Contract by Katee Robert was my second review and this was a book focused on three Irish families involved in organized crime. In the comments of my review, it was interesting to see how others were put off by that aspect as well as the style of writing. I found it a gripping book which took on difficult topics and also had a charming romance, but not one for everyone.

I love how the internet has allowed for book discussions to grow from conversations at a market to online and how they continue and move off in unexpected ways.

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Good Book Days and Boston

One of my favorite parts of being a librarian is seeing when someone finds the book that they’ve wanted and needed. As an educator, I adore seeing how there isn’t just one place that a person can learn. In the past two weeks, I’ve seen kids falling in love with science and put the right books into the best hands.

Scholastic Book Fairs have a magic about them, the ones I attended in elementary school were held in the library. Weeks before, I’d fill out my form, debating which books I wanted and then they’d arrive, beautiful new books. Then I’d wander around the school library staring at all the other books, the erasers, the pens and pencils, the bookmarks, there waiting for me to choose them. Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to stand behind the register at a book fair and watch kids have that same experience. The shapes of the erasers have changed from fruits to smartphones and video game controllers, but the love of finding just that one is still there. I was impressed by how easy it was to come in and run the fair as well as how reasonable the prices were for books, 1 to 3 dollars for new paperbacks. The range of options from encyclopedias to every genre and pens that lit up or allowed secret writing.  I know I was tempted by the Star Wars’ stickers and three dollars for the new Misty Copeland autobiography, but this time left with nothing for myself other than the joy of seeing kids buying what they wanted from the fair.

The second book day was an aftereffect of the Lewes Library preparing to move. Over the past few months, I’ve been helping Maureen, the head of Youth Services to weed the children’s library in preparation for shifting to the new space. I’ve found this a fascinating process of looking at what books don’t make sense to keep because they’re out of date nonfiction ones, there are multiple copies or they haven’t been taken out recently. Yesterday all thirty boxes of books ranging from board books to juvenile nonfiction were piled on tables and educators in the area were given a chance to take what they needed. In the course of the afternoon, teachers left with boxes and bags full of free books to help new families, fill classroom libraries and preschool libraries. It was wonderful to wander among them and see some of the kids who came along and recommend books I knew were good. Everything was free which made it even better as the teachers realized how these books could help their kids and then there would be space for newer copies and better editions in the library. At the end of the day, there were only eight boxes left which will find better homes and a few came home with me. I didn’t have a copy of The Queen of Attolia and picture books to send to my nephew.

Last week, I went to Boston as I’m planning on moving there in the near future. Southern Delaware is wonderful but there’s an energy in the Boston area along with many friends that will help me to do all that I want to do. Many of my favorite moments in Boston came from being in a place where people were excited to learn and share the joy of knowing something new. At the New England Aquarium, I heard kids and parents pulling each other to different exhibits and talked with a woman who loves her membership to the Aquarium. She was talking about the fur seals and how well she knew all of them. As I wandered into the bookstores and the gorgeous main Cambridge Public Library branch, I was reminded of the energy that comes from being in a place where everyone is looking at the world around them with the mixture that comes from the past and future alongside each other. Below is the wonderful Greenway carousel which was inspired by children’s drawings and connects science and fun.

2016-04-12 15.53.49

One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was walking around Boston Common and seeing the preparations for the marathon, the booths waiting and what would be the starting line lying on the ground. Boston is a great city and one I plan on exploring more. As I keep looking for jobs, my net is still open wide and if a school or a library comes together in another city, I’ll grab it, but I’m planning on finding a way to live in the Boston area.

 

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Where I don’t have to explain: Yuletide and Chessiecon

As I look forward into this new year, I keep thinking about how powerful it is to have places where I don’t have to explain what I love or why. I’m lucky that for me, most of the times when I have to explain are related to my hobbies but there are times I find myself defending online life, young adult literature and that genre media has value. This is tiring but I feel that its important especially for young people, being told that something that fills you with creativity doesn’t matter can be crushing. As a librarian, I strive to provide this for my patrons whenever I can, taking on the role of explaining to adults that this is why fandom matters.

In my personal life, I miss being close to people of like minds and find myself happiest when I find these connections. In the next year, I’m hoping to move to a part of the country where I don’t have to explain as much and so I can be an advocate for young people feeling as if their likes aren’t seen.

In November and December, I had two experiences where I didn’t have to explain myself that revitalized me. One happens every year, Yuletide, the multi-fandom fanfic exchange that occurs every holiday season, this was my fifth year writing in it and its become a big part of my holidays. The main reason I love it so much is that every story is written as a gift to a stranger in a fandom that’s shared by writer and giftee. This shared knowledge allows for stories that might not normally be written and when the archive is open and all the authors are anonymous, new fandoms are discovered. Every year that I’ve done Yuletide, I’ve stretched myself in terms of my writing as I examine a form of media I love from another angle and find others who adore the same characters and worlds.

After Thanksgiving, I went to Chessiecon, a science fiction/fantasy convention and as soon as I walked in the hotel door, I began to smile. Around me were all the signs of modern fandom; clothing, jewelry, costumes, small and large markers saying I love this world. I was slightly nervous as I’d never attended this con before but I knew that I would meet friends and one of my favorite authors was there. Once I was settled, I sat down to hear first Seanan McGuire and later Tamora Pierce read and answer questions from their fans. Among all these strangers were words and worlds created by authors who cared and I loved it. Later, I met up with my friends and throughout the con there were these moments of sharing and discovering fandoms. A step that’s often present of explaining the love for something was gone because the question was a matter of which fandom and which part and what do you create? I discovered authors, artists and heard discussions that wouldn’t feel out of place in the librarian community.

Yesterday, the Youth Media Awards were announced at ALA Midwinter and as the winners were a diverse mixture, I’ve thought of panels I attended at Chessiecon. One of the best panels was about diversity in young fiction with a focus and to begin with, the authors came from a mix of ethnicities and discussed that there are its important to use all types of diversity and make certain every character feels like a true person. At the moment, I’m dipping in and out of a wonderful anthology of ya lit about girls being engineers that was edited by one of the speakers called Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets and so far all the stories are great. Another panel that was intriguing but didn’t work as well as I think was expected was about young adult literature and what does it mean and how is it changing? The highlight of this entire panel was hearing Tamora Pierce talking about the history of young adult literature as she’s experienced it. It was a big reminder of how many of these distinctions are created publishers and that authors don’t have as much choice as it might seem. Another panel that has been in my mind due to discussions around Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was about the idea of a Mary Sue. Much of what came out of that panel was that Mary Sue is an awkward label, that has outgrown its origins within the Star Trek fandom and the part that matters is to create well rounded and complicated characters.

I hope in the next year to find places where I can be among people that I don’t have to explain and where I can discover new angles on the world. A reason I’m a librarian and active in fandom is because in both places, there’s a joy in sharing what’s loved and an openness in finding something new that someone else loves.

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Rehoboth Film Festival

The film festival was quieter for me this year than others partly because there wasn’t the big tent and also not as many films caught my eye. I ended up seeing five films with three of them I would highly recommend, one that left me thoughtful and a last that I didn’t like.

Unlikely Heroes is a movie that is appropriate for the holiday and incredibly powerful. Its set in Switzerland over the holiday season with a story line that seems trite but never falls into that trap. What happens is Sabine, a prosperous but sad Swiss woman ends up volunteering to help a home for asylum seekers over the holidays. The plan is to put on a play and it ends up being the story of William Tell, the great Swiss hero. The power in this movie comes because every single character is respected and their story taken seriously. There are no true heroes or villains, there’s simply the world in all its complexity as well as the power of theater.

Unlikely Heroes trailer

Landfill Harmonic is a story about musicians who live next to a landfill called Catuera and the film is about the instruments made from recycled materials, the children and their community. Here on their website, there’s detailed information as well as a link to the orchestra’s website which is in Spanish. The movie follows them over the course of a number of years and is a great reminder of the power of music.

The third film that I enjoyed was called Passion of Augustine, a slow moving and lovely story of a convent school in Quebec during the 1960s with a focus on music. This is a story all about girls and women who are trying to figure out how to do their best by each other while working within a shifting time when what it means to be a nun is changing. The way the relationships between the students and the nuns felt familiar to me from my experience at an all woman’s college and as a teacher. This film doesn’t back away from how trapped by society women were in the 1960s.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine on the other hand was well made film that I found frustrating. Alex Gibney, the film maker narrates and talks about trying to understand Jobs who created devices with such power for connection and isolation. The parts of the documentary that are a biography are fascinating, I enjoyed the range of people that Gibney talked to and learning more of Jobs’ life.

What I found less satisfying was that he started out intrigued by why so many young people mourned him as if he was a friend and asked what’s the power of these devices? Yet the film itself didn’t actually interview many of the young people who’s lives are intimately involved with Apple instead he spoke to Sherry Turkle and those of his generation who knew Jobs. Then he made pronouncements and thought more about his own connection while using video of young mourners from youtube or other places to be the only way those voices came through. It was a very personal documentary and his own meditations on Apple devices were beautifully presented and if he hadn’t asked a question he didn’t answer, I wouldn’t have felt frustrated. I’d be curious to discuss this film with other people to know what came through to them.

The Grandad, an Icelandic film was disappointing for me. It was one of those films that couldn’t seem to decide on its tone. Was it a comedy that made constant jokes about prostate cancer or a serious drama about a man growing older? There were parts of it that almost worked for me, but none of it really held together. The way it was filmed showed off Iceland which is a beautiful place that I wish to go someday. I wonder if some of the issues I had with the tone came from differences of humor from Iceland to the US. I enjoy watching films from other countries and sometimes it happens that they don’t work for me, but I experienced them and caught a glimpse of a place I don’t know.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/104290479″>Afinn ( The Grandad) Trailer</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/gudni”>Gudni Halldorsson</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Overall it was a different feeling for the Film Festival, there were more days and venues. Some of them worked and others didn’t. I still had wonderful unexpected conversations and came across movies that touched me but not as many as in other years.

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