Wednesday, June 23, 2010

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Betsy Bird (aka Fuse #8)

Two of the three TEXAS SWEETHEARTS (Jessica and PJ) are heading to ALA this week, and in honor of that, we're thrilled to feature one of our very favorite librarians. Actually, all librarians are our favorite, but that's what makes them so special.
Anyway, this week, we're so excited to have Betsy Bird, the genius behind the Fuse #8 blog and NYC librarian extraordinaire.

*Thanks to James Preller for the image!


TXS: Fuse #8 is a fantastic blog with a great reputation and following. Can you please tell us a little bit about how your blog got started and what your goal for it is? Also, how has your vision changed since its inception?

Fuse #8: Well, it's a funny story. On August 1, 2005 School Library Journal printed an article by one Eric Oatman called "Blogomania!". The piece wasn't written with me in mind, since I was just a newly formed public children's librarian and not a school librarian, but it still spoke to me. It got me to thinking about blogging. That sounded like fun. What if I made a blog for my library branch in Greenwich Village? Oo! What if I updated it with information about cool programs and great books and all kinds of stuff? That would be so delightful! Mind you, this was in the proto-days of the blogosphere and when I proposed the idea to NYPL they politely declined. "Fine!", I think to myself. "Then I shall create my OWN children's literary blog." Of course I had no idea how to go about making one. Seemed to me it should make use of all those reviews of children's books I'd been merrily posting onto Amazon for the last two years or so. So I stuck those in there. Then I thought that maybe some news items would also be fun. So that went in. Slowly, and over time, I managed to create a rough approximation of what you see on my site today.

Now the goal has ever, and shall always be, simply to promote information about the children's literary sphere. Since its inception I have become a little more precise in my goals, though. In a way, I would love to unite the different spheres of children's literature. The children's literary magazines, children's publishers and creators from other countries, the theatrical adaptation world of children's books, and the film world as well. I want agents and authors and illustrators and editors and librarians and teachers to all talk to one another, get crazy ideas, and create create create. And if blogging is the connecting thread, so be it.

TXS: What is the biggest surprise you've had since you started blogging?

Fuse #8: That the blog got any attention at all. Truly, I expected a little notice. I'd gotten feedback from folks because of the Amazon reviews, and that was nice. But if I had walked into it all with the goal of enticing School Library Journal into purchasing me, I can't imagine it would have been any good. I started blogging with no expectations and then got hit repeatedly by a series of lovely surprises. That surprised me. What also surprised me was the fact that it wasn't just librarians reading me. That was great, but also deeply unnerving. It's much harder to write a critical review of a book when you know the author probably has the title on Google Alert and is going to be personally aware of every word you write.

*Thanks to Just One More Book for the image!

TXS: You write. You blog. You read. You're a fab librarian. What is one (or more) of your favorite memories in getting kids to love books?

Fuse #8: Boy, that's a toughie. There's nothing sweeter on this planet than turning a kid onto a book you yourself love. Books like A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz sell themselves from page one onwards, but other titles need a little bit of a kick. One of my favorite memories actually has very little to do with me getting kids in love with books and everything to do with their teacher. I remember a class of third graders coming into the library once. I did my presentation, got them set up with library cards, and then it was their chance to find some books to read. I was watching them vaguely, helping out, when I hear one voice clear across the room say, "Oh, SNAP! Edward Eager!" Suddenly this stampede of children race to the source of the voice and I see them exchanging copies of everything from The Time Garden to Magic By the Lake. Apparently their teacher had been reading them some of the books in school and they'd all become addicts. I had nothing to do with it, but I got to reap the rewards of seeing kids dive bomb one another for something I loved.

TXS: How do you think reading for kids has changed over the years. People talk so much about kids needing to share their attention with texting, TV, and video games. Is the challenge greater now for getting kids to read?

Fuse #8: I'm not so sure. Certainly there are more electronic doodads and whizbangs luring our youth away from books. At the same time, it doesn't look that different from when I was a kid. I'm young enough to say that when I was growing up I spent my time playing my GameBoy, killing spaceships on my Commodore 64, and watching copious amounts of bad Hanna Barbara cartoons on the USA network. All that and I read too. It's not hard to simply swap out "Hanna Barbara" for "Hannah Montana", "GameBoy" for "texting", and "Commodore 64" for "XBox". It's all about managing your kids' time. We're not dealing with the first generation to deal with such distractions, after all.

TXS: If you could make a wish for kids and reading in the future, what would it be?

Fuse #8: Well, I'm a librarian, so my wish is that communities around this country realize how important it is to support the fantastic children's librarians we have in our schools and our public libraries. With funding being slashed left and right, a lot of great children's librarians are finding themselves without jobs in communities that desperately need them but don't realize why. My wish is that we continue to give kids the best books from the best writers, regardless of where they live or who they are.

TXS: Thank you, Betsy! We are so happy to feature you! And Happy ALA!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


We’re so thrilled and honored to present our newest Featured Sweetheart, Lexie Ziolkowski!
She’s making a difference by coordinating a book drive for kids in need.

Here is her bio:

Hi, my name is Lexie Ziolkowski and I am doing a book drive to collect books for the Kyle Busch Foundation which supports children's homes across the United States. I'm 11 years old and I love to read, and I want to share my love of books with kids who have gone through some tough times. This is my second book drive for them. Last October I was able to deliver 2,177 children's books to the Foundation's headquarters in Concord, North Carolina.

I am collecting new and gently used books appropriate for children ages 5-18. I will be delivering the books to the Foundation in October, 2010. This time, I am hoping to collect at least 4000 books.


TXS: What inspired you to start the book drive?

Lexie: I was looking through the books on my bookshelves one night and realized I had a lot of books that I was done reading and enjoying. I remembered reading about the foundation run by Kyle Busch, my favorite NASCAR driver. I saw that they were collecting books for the children’s homes they support across the country. These homes are for kids who have been through some tough times. Books are extremely important to me, so I wanted to share my love of reading with kids who don’t have many books.

TXS: With all of the books you have collected, and plan to collect, how do you stay organized and balance your time?

Lexie: In-between school and theater, I wrote letters to people such as NASCAR drivers and politicians asking if they could donate a copy of their favorite children’s book. My teacher, Mrs.Baltzersen, helped me organize a collection through the school. As books come in, we keep them in our dining room. About once a month, we will count the books and box them up.

TXS: Could you share what you've learned from this experience?

Lexie: I have learned that people are enthusiastic about reading and helping these kids. I’ve learned that it feels really good to make a difference, and anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it.

TXS: Do you have any favorites books? Also, what or who has inspired you to be a future author?

Lexie: Favorite books, where do I begin? I think my favorite author has definitely got to be Meg Cabot. I first fell in love with her book, Jinx, and haven’t been able to get enough since then. My other favorite author is Rick Riordan and his book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Rick Riordan and Meg Cabot have been huge inspirations, but I really got the writing bug back in third grade. The story I wrote for Young Authors won a contest, and my story was performed in front of the entire third grade. When I realized that I was good at writing and people enjoyed what I wrote, I decided to start writing more.

TXS: If our blog followers would like to help you reach your goal of donating 4,000 books to the Kyle Busch Foundation by October 2010, how can they do so?

Lexie: Any help would be really great. Anyone who would like to donate books can send them to:

Lexie Ziolkowski
P.O. Box 446
Huntley IL 60142

For more about my book drive, check out my website at:

TXS: Thank you, Lexie! We are so happy to feature you!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Monday, June 14, 2010

WriteOnCon—Paying it Forward in the Best Possible Way

In case you haven't heard, there is going to be an amazing event in August. Yes, it's an online writing conference with authors and agents and editors.

And the best part: It's free.

To thank for this awesome event, we have:

Elana Johnson
Casey McCormick
Lisa and Laura Roecker
Shannon Messenger
Jamie Harrington

And to learn tons more about it, visit the home page and watch the following awesome video!

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Goals and Plans

Summer is a great time to make fun plans and set some goals. So here's what The Texas Sweethearts have to say on the matter.

Have a great week! And thank you for your support!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The Texas Sweethearts are so excited to announce the famous Critter is our Featured Sweethearts today. Critter is the creation of artist Ian Sands and started his journey across the blogosphere via Christy Evers.


Critter was born a poor slab of foam board and has 499 brothers and sisters. He likes to take hikes, bake cakes and talk about world domination with Wammy, his wooden articulating artist mannequin friend. He hopes to one day have a water proof bathing suit so that he can go swimming, but his greatest desire is to give back to the world by raising money to help the kids of St. Jude.


TXS: Critter, you've been all over the world. How did you get started? Can you tell us where all you've been? Also, if you could pick your dream spot for your next visit, where would it be?

CRITTER: I’m not sure how I got started. All I know is one day I woke up and this lady was stuffing me in an envelope. Then everything went black. Next thing I know, I’m in Texas!

I've been to Texas, North Carolina, South Korea, New England, California and right now I'm in Montana. I’m going back to Texas again and then to the Virgin Islands at the end of May.

Wisconsin! Please somebody send me to Wisconsin! I hear they have cheese.

I think I might like to go to Wonderland. Maybe Never Never land. Narnia would be good too. I'd love to go anywhere, except Jurassic Park. I don't have a good history with dinosaurs. They want to eat me.

TXS: How did you get created, Critter, and why?

CRITTER: I have 499 brothers and sisters. We were all part of the public art project called The Lost Critter. At first I was just a piece of installation foam board sitting on the shelves of Lowes, waiting to be part of a house. Then this art teacher bought me, took me back to his lab, and he and a bunch of his students started painting and cutting and gluing. Before too long there were 500 of us critters.

The art students took us to downtown Apex, NC and hid us under benches and put us in trees. All over the place. Each of us critters held a sign that read, Help! I’m lost. Please take me back to.... And then there was a name of a store. There were ten different stores.

I was tied to a pole. Some kids found me and brought me back to my location where I was placed in a lost and found box. I thought that was the end of my adventures . . . ‘til the whole envelope incident started this new one.

TXS: Have you had any great experiences with kids or reading on your journeys?

CRITTER: I hung out at the Lowes bathroom department with PJ's kids (I was born in Lowes, so going back made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.) I inspired PJ's daughter to make a Critter of her own, which was really cool. Everybody needs to make a Critter.

Christina Farley’s kids made me my very own special Korean outfit called a hanbok. We also went to an ancient Korean palace, sipped hot chocolate and went shopping in a Korean marketplace where there was squid.

I Hung out with Nandini Bajpai's kids and helped pick them up at the school bus and went sledding with Kelly Polark’s kids in Illinois and got to go crowd surfing at a concert.

My experience with reading: since I’ve been in the home of so many writers, I stayed up all night reading their manuscripts and may have even made some edits. If things go my way, there will be a Critter showing up in PJ’s next book. I hope she doesn’t mind. I got to go book shopping. And Nandini took me to the ALA conference in January 2010 and I rubbed elbows with lots of authors. They all love me. I’m a rock star. I also got to visit Louisa May Alcott’s home with Nandini too. I’m pretty sure that if Louisa May Alcott had known me, she would’ve put a Critter in her books.

TXS: You are going to be auctioned off once your world tour is done. Tell us all about the auction. When? Where? And who will it be benefiting?

CRITTER: I have 8 more places to visit. I feel like a rock star! I figure it may be the fall or winter of 2010 when the auction will take place on E-bay. The full amount of the winning bid will go to the super cool kids of Saint Jude Hospital. For updates on when my world tour is over, you can follow me on Christy's blog or become a fan on facebook.

TXS: If you could make a wish for kids and reading in the future, what would it be?

CRITTER: Get a library card and read, read, read!

All the kids in the world should get as many copies of any book by PJ Hoover, Jo Whittemore, Jessica Lee Anderson and Ian Sands :)

TXS: Ah, you are so sweet, Critter! Thank you a million! You have been so much fun to feature!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hey, it's a contest!

To win these two awesome ARCS!

For your chance to win follow this blog, and then head over to PJ Hoover's blog (because that's where the contest actually is)!

LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater (the sequel to best-selling SHIVER)
MATCHED by Ally Condie (pitched as the dystopic TWILIGHT)