Quotable Tuesday-E. Kristin Anderson

E. Kristin Anderson

A year ago, I didn’t know E. Kristin Anderson. Even now, I wouldn’t say I “know know” her but because I read her blog regularly and I’ve spoken with her at a couple of Austin kidlit events, I know her voice. She has a strong voice. Whether she is exhorting me to write every day or singing the praises of a new book she has absolutely fallen in love with, EKA’s voice is fiercely her own. Passionate. Funny. Smart. I feel lucky to know her even a little bit.

When I asked her what was her favorite quote about writing, this is what she said:

“Okay this is sort of nontraditional (shocking, I know, coming from me), but one of the quotes that has guided me since I was a teenager is: It works if you work it. Taylor Hawkins (drummer for Foo Fighters) said it in an interview for, I want to say, Nylon magazine when I was in high school.  It applies to so many things — bad days, fashion mishaps and, of course, writing.  It’s about turning something that might not work, might not be perfect, might even be considered wrong or bad or disappointing into something awesome — an opportunity, a new friend, a new dress (I used to sew a lot using recycled fabrics, still do sometimes), a new story.  And to hell with anyone who thinks you’re crazy.  You’re not crazy, you’re eccentric!”

You see what I mean? Her voice is inimitable and ferocious and, again, funny.

Because we’re writers, we often can’t narrow our favorite quote to just one so she gave me another that bolsters her spirits as a writer.

“I also adore this quote from literary agent Jennifer Laughran: There’s always a market for awesome. She’s said that a few times on Twitter and on her blog in response to writers asking about trends and saying, “My book is about x but I heard x won’t sell.”  Laughran’s quote inspires me to write the best book I possibly can, to kick ass and take names when it comes to my writing.  Because even if I’m working on a near history right now — notoriously tough to sell — if it’s awesome, I can totally make it happen.”

Yes, EKA, you can totally make it happen.

School Visit Friday

I’m off to do a school visit today.

YEEHAW! YippieYiO!

Really, I love school visits.  I love them because I love writing and I love getting out of my writing cave to be with students and share my excitement. Today I will give a presentation of how my book, Snuggle Mountain, became a book. From Inspiration to Hardcover.

One of the things I love to tell students is there are no right or wrong answers with writing. There’s spelling and grammar. But writing is about imagination and letting it go wild. To illustrate, I hand them a pack of word cards and ask them to pick three words. They tell me the words. Say: ‘banana’ ‘pickle’ ‘splendid’ and I write them on the board. Then I give them the challenge: write a three minute story using all three words and one of the words has to the first word. I set the timer and do a two minute version in front of them. Then it’s their turn. We pick three more words and GO!

It’s hilarious and fun and I gotta go.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming…

To say Happy Birthday to my Dad. He turns 90 years old today.

Me and Dad dancing

Me and Dad Boating

Me and Dad talking

Me & Dad

Just Dad

You would not believe how many words are churning around inside me, wishing to fill up this screen. I could tell you a zillion stories about my dad. Really, a zillion. But if I did that, I’d be here for days and I still need to call him and then turn my attention to this young adult short story cycle I am writing. Here’s what you need to know about my dad: The best parts of me come from him. My blue eyes, my love of good friends, music, dancing and my absolute certainty that smiling makes the day better.

You danced me off to bed when I was small. You gave me advice when I got tall. You answered the phone no matter how late I called. You were big and strong, my everything, my all. I love you Dad. Happy Birthday.

Quotable Tuesday will return next week.

Snow in Texas

Snow in Texas is rare and ephemeral. With a mere dusting, schools are closed and we are commanded to go outside in this special white quiet and listen to our own hearts beat.

Librarian Love

In case you’ve been under a rock, librarians are under siege.

Not just in Austin, Texas. But world wide.

Writers know the value of librarians. Not just for our livelihood but also how they affect our readers, our children, our very fabric of society.

As Phillip Pullman says ”I still remember the first library ticket I ever had…I was thrilled. All those books, and I was allowed to borrow whichever I wanted! And I remember some of the first books I borrowed and fell in love with…what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination. And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?”

My friend and colleague, Liz Scanlon, initiated a week of Librairian Love at her blog. I am chiming in with a bit of my own…

Where I grew up we didn’t have a library. We had an Atheneum. It was big dark and scary. I never went in it. We had lots of books at home. I’d read those. When I got college, I was, shall we say?, a little intimidated by research. I did it but I was definitely behind the curve.

Fast forward a zillion years. I am a mom. I go to the Austin Public Library with my wee daughter. We bring home stack of books. I read her all the Caldecotts. After she goes to bed, I read all the Newberys. With every trip to the library, I notice how my daughter expands her selection of books and books on tapes. This environment becomes like second home. Books are her friends. Librarians, the keeper of these books, become her guides. By the time she goes off to Zilker Elementary, she looks forward to the library days and story time with one of the most extraordinary librarians I’ve ever met:

Jackie is next to Nacho

Ms. Jackie Kraal.

Jackie is a woman who knows 400 students by name and what they like to read. She loves and respects each of them and she expects the same in return. Especially when it comes to taking care of books. I watched every child come into her library with confidence. I watched her coach them on the computer, find books they needed and point them to new books they might not choose. I knew that every child would leave Zilker with a good feeling about libraries and an aptitude for reading as well as research. My child certainly did.

Kathi Appelt & Jeanette Larson

When my first picture book was about to be published, I turned to a librarian for help. Jeannette Larson. She was in charge of childrens services for the Austin Public Library at the time. I asked her for a few suggestions in putting together my presentations for my book. It was amazing. In ten minutes, I had songs, coloring templates and a hundred tips about reading to wiggly 3-5 year olds. Every time I go out to talk to kids, I think of Jeannette and silently send her my thanks again and again and again.

Julie Lake

My friend Julie Lake works as a clerk at the high school library in Austin. Over the past year, I have witnessed Julie’s dedication to helping kids find the perfect book that will turn them on to reading. Her boss sets this kind of tone and it is her job that may be cut. Says Julie, “She basically transformed the library from a place kids didn’t go because the staff didn’t like kids ‘messing up the books’ to a place where students hang out. Currently, we get a thousand kids in a day. We spend a lot of time talking with the kids about books. Got one of the guys on the wrestling team who likes graphic novels to check out Maus. Asked another boy how he liked The Knife of Never Letting Go and he said, ‘It made me feel every emotion from A to Z.’ Yes, a 16-year-old boy actually said this…”

Finally, the Writer’s League of Texas has a fantastic program called Project WISE(Writers In Schools for Enrichment). It is coordinated through librarians and funded by the City of Austin and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Because of this program, writers are paid to visit schools. It is a win-win for writer, librarian and child. I thank each and every librarian who has invited me to their school through this program.

Librarians touch all our lives. I am sure you have your own stories. If you would like to take action and stand tall for librarians, The Texas Library Association has a few suggestions on what to do.