Category Archives: online life

Summer haze

Moving to Boston has kept me busy as I worked until the end of the school year at Cambridge Friends School as a substitute. Finding that school made this move feel right as I found a community where teachers and students welcomed me and I was able to reconnect to my Quaker background.

After the end of the school year, the majority of my family came to visit me, everyone fitting into my tiny apartment as we spent time together in parks watching little boys run around and seeing my growing nieces take care of them. In Boston, I’m constantly looking at more ways to find my community in terms of theater and other job opportunities as my friends in Boston have welcomed me. My fandom life has been full of Star Wars and Rogue One, where I’ve been writing fanfiction and finding the strength to look for ways to push against the dangerous currents in our government. A major sign for me that this was the right move is how creative I have been feeling, when I’m in a place that I feel I can grow, the words flow.

One of the pieces of writing that I’m happy to share is from the annual Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, RITA Reviewer challenge where I read Lone Heart Pass by Jodi Thomas. I found it to be a pleasant read but it didn’t really stick with me. What I did enjoy was reading the other review of the same book and the conversation in the comments. Communities and people where its possible to talk about the good and bad of the media we’re consuming are places I want to create and love being in. Boston has helped get me closer to people who I can have these discussions with as well as finding schools and libraries to help young people find communities for themselves.

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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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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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Books, reaching out and learning

Life for me has been full with substituting and fact-checking, both of them are constantly teaching me new information about kids and the world out there. My last fact-checking job ended up being more emotionally draining as I was working on a book about Yemen, which has amazing history and so much turmoil. I’m glad to have learned what I did so I can better understand what’s happening but searching through images for illustrations was difficult. The juxtaposition of beautiful buildings and then rubble of the same area captured the damage being done left me shaken and scared for everyone who lived there. In terms of the substituting, every day is different, which is exciting but tiring as I want to be a good teacher and para for these kids though I’m only there for one or maybe two days. When I connect and see that I’ve helped a student understand is wonderful but other days, I wonder if I made any difference. Most days are a mixture of seeing what’s possible in a great classroom and not knowing all of the context to be as much help as I could be.

I’m also doing what I can to become more involved with ALA by volunteering for some committees. ALA is so important and daunting to me, that I’m trying to put myself out there and do what I can to support all libraries and find where I best fit within ALA.

What I finished reading

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I love Rowell’s books and Carry On was fantastic as she really understands what it is about the Chosen One stories and fantasy that draw people in and how to turn it all on its head. This is a book about two boys who take control of their story even though the story isn’t encouraging them to and their friends who are along with them. I would recommend this book to everyone who loves Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but wishes for more.

What I’m currently reading

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. I always enjoy Riordan’s books and this one isn’t disappointing, he’s got a great ear for dialogue, action and how kids behave. I appreciate that he’s gotten much better about putting diversity into his casts and understanding that diversity covers a wide range from being homeless to being Deaf.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. At this point, I’m not terribly far into this book and I’m not completely sure how I feel about it. I enjoy the setting and the main character has a good voice but so far, she seems fairly passive. I’m hoping more will happen as so far, there’s not much of a conflict or romance, but I like the author’s style.

What I’m reading next

One of the books I’m reading next is for Yuletide so I’m not going to list it but I’m looking forward to it. Yuletide is a wonderful fanfiction exchange that’s tied to small fandoms and is a major part of my holiday season. I love writing for other people and how Yuletide always ends up stretching my sense of what I think I can write. I also have the newest Jonathan Stroud Lockwood and Company book to read, which should be fun and creepy. The Rehoboth Film Festival is coming up next week, so far this year I’m not seeing a huge amount of films, I know there will be one or two that really stick with me.

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Unexpected Connections through fact-checking

The kind of fact-checking I do where I sit at my computer and research for reference books can be fairly lonely work.  I’ve rarely come across many other people who know too much about fact-checking, whenever I meet someone I find myself reminded of other experiences of mine with places not everyone knows such as my small all woman’s college or New Zealand. There’s this moment of mentioning something like that where I don’t expect any reaction except curiosity, which can be nice as I can talk about what I love. The best though is when another person says, ‘Yes, I know about there or that.’ Suddenly I realized I’ve found another connection to one of the many communities I’m a part of and it has me beaming. This happens more quickly online where you can search out your people but in person, there’s still a great rush to that moment of connection.

In the last two months, I had two wonderful connections where I met someone who had worked in fact-checking and I was struck by how through this unexpected job, I’ve acquired another community of people. The first meeting happened when I was in the midst of pursuing my other profession, at an interview for a school librarian job. I arrived at the school early and started to talk with the administrative assistant who had fact-checked for her local paper. We had this lovely conversation about how when you’re fact-checking, you start out learning the sources you need and then they become comfortable and in her case, people she knew. For me, its been more learning the ins and outs of various sites particularly government then sometimes finding a whole other realm is needed. I had to do this with my latest job that was taking on a book about a foreign country, all my knowledge of United States government sites wouldn’t work, I needed to make sense of another government. I loved that discovery aspect which was something she shared as well, the joy of finding what you need.

Then the second conversation happened at a family party where I was actually working on my fact-checking while all the cooking was being done. Once I reached a finishing point, I met a cousin of my sister-in-law who turns out to be a librarian who has also worked as a fact-checker. His fact-checking was from a different angle as he worked on copy that was connected to historical collectibles. He also gave me hope that I would find the library where I fit as it took him a couple of variations on the library world before he found a job that worked for him. I appreciated that reminder as I keep myself open with substituting, fact-checking and applying to various library jobs, but it can get hard at times.

Next week, I’m going to get a chance to do one of my favorite local library activities as I’m running the first story time in the Lewes Children’s garden on Monday. This story time is wonderful as its set in this beautiful vegetable garden run by Lewes in Bloom on the edge of Stango Park. That means that families bring picnics with them as there are always lots of vegetables, everyone goes home with something fresh along with the fun of hearing a story outside. The focus will be on strawberries as a local jam maker will be there, I only hope that the weather isn’t too hot.

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