Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Jeanette Larson


THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS are thrilled to feature Jeanette Larson this week as our featured sweetheart! Jeanette lives here in Austin and makes every event more enjoyable with her vivacious presence.

Without further ado, here's Jeanette!

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TXS: That’s impressive you worked in the libraries for thirty years! Could you share some of your most rewarding experiences with us?

JL: There have been many. I think probably some of the most rewarding experiences have been when parents bringing their children to storytime would tell me that they had also come to my programs. Of course, that also made me feel kind of old! I also was thrilled to learn that two young people who had been my patrons and volunteers went on to library school. One young man stood in front of me at a library school program and asked if I recognized him. It took me a few seconds but I did! I can think of few other careers where I would have had the influence I've had on so many young people. I also have had so many personal rewards--meeting Maurice Sendak and Robert Ballard (who found the Titanic), becoming friends with many of my favorite writers--only a few other professions offer those kinds of perks.


TXS: In addition to your experience as a librarian, you also teach, write, and do freelance jobs. How do you structure your schedule and stay motivated?

JL: I'm probably one of the most disorganized librarians you will ever meet! I enjoy having a variety of tasks to attend to and I do love planning but I'm a bit of a slacker so I have to really keep motivated. The teaching is probably the most structured part of my week but I don't teach every semester. When I do, my students have to be the priority. I teach entirely in an online environment, which means my students can be anywhere in the world and they are on different time schedules themselves. So I usually try to check in on them first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. Other than that I work by deadlines and try to mix in some fun activities, like writing and answering questionnaires, with the more mundane stuff, like compiling bibliographies. Feedback from people who have read my articles, or used the information I provided them keep me motivated. I also love that I can take breaks to read a novel, walk my dogs, and do other fun things--like have coffee with writing buddies--when I feel like it.


TXS: Congrats on your forthcoming book, HUMMINGBIRDS: FACTS AND FOLKLORE FROM THE AMERICAS! How did you get the idea, and what was your writing process like for this book?

JL: It's a cliché that librarians want to be writers so I always said I didn't really have a book in me and had no interest in writing for kids. But...I had worked with my friend Adrienne Yorinks on her book Quilt of States (I wrote the Texas part and compiled and edited the entries for the other 49 states) and we wanted to do a book that would be a true collaboration. I wanted a topic that would work well with her fabric art. My husband and I were in Rockport, TX for a weekend getaway and it happened to be during the hummingbird migration in September. I walked out of the hotel and literally was surrounded by hummingbirds! Then I started thinking about some of the folklore I had heard while studying anthropology at the University of New Mexico. That led to some research where I learned that hummers only exist in the Americas. Many native cultures have stories about why hummingbirds do the things they do and why they are the way they are so I decided to mix facts and folklore in the book. It's a great opportunity to show the connection between facts and fiction and the birds are amazing little creatures.


TXS: Do you have any writing tips to share? What about tips to get kids and teens motivated to read?

JL: I think I'm too much of a novice at writing to have many tips. A lot of my other writing has been more technical, for librarians and educators. The research is important but I've also had to learn to stop researching and start writing. I guess one tip is to just write. You can edit and revise and refine later but get the thoughts and ideas down. Until I learned to do that I would often forget some of my best ideas before I could get them written out. Oh, also don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Experts want to share their expertise so pick up the phone and call them for the information you need for your writing. I also keep a notebook for ideas, thoughts, things to follow up on, and other things I don't want to forget. Going back through my notes can be very helpful in my writing.

As for helping motivate kids to read, it's important that adults show young people that reading is fun by talking about books and sharing books. Read children's and YA books if you want your kids to read. Ask for their recommendations. Kids are motivated by what the adults around them spend time and money on. So buy books for kids! Read books with them. Listen to audiobooks in the car. I also recommend that parents of teens surround them with books. Teens are so over-scheduled that reading may take a back seat for awhile. Check out books from the library and leave them around the house. When your teen has a little time to read, books are right there. The worst thing that happens is they go back to the library unread.


TXS: What is your hope for reading and libraries in the future?

JL: Reading will always be a part of our lives. We read for fun and for information. The format, and the ways in which libraries collect and share information, has always been changing. We've seen a resurgence of interest in libraries in the current economy. While many of us want to "own" all our books and information, we can't and that's where libraries come in. My local library prints out my "savings" on the date due slip. I can easily save thousands of dollars a year by using the library. It's the best bang for our tax bucks! I also hope that libraries continue to grow as meeting places and literary, cultural, and intellectual hubs for our communities. I'm thrilled to see young people wanting to be librarians--information specialists and professionals who help people find exactly what they need to know or want to read. The dean of a library school told me that I couldn't retire (nor could other librarians of my generation) until I had "replaced myself." It gives me great hope for the future of libraries that I have replaced myself with a couple of real hot-shot librarians! Now I'm looking forward to adding to their "work load" by creating more books that will hopefully land on the shelves and in the hands of readers.


TXS: Thank you, Jeanette!

*****

Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Friday, September 10, 2010

TLA 2011, Here we come!

Texas Sweethearts PJ Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, and Jo Whittemore are thrilled to announce they are going to be on a panel at TLA 2011 in April here in Austin, Texas!
We'll be on the panel with author Phil Bildner and two Texas librarians. Our session title is:

"Librarians+Authors+Students=A Great Writing Workshop!"

See you there!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Terri Clark

Our first featured sweetheart for the fall is not only a librarian, but an author PJ Hoover had the huge pleasure of working with during 2008 in The Class of 2k8. We're thrilled to feature author/librarian Terri Clark!

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TXS: Can you tell us a little about your path to being a librarian? Did you know you wanted to write at the time? And how do the two balance together?

TC: I'd been writing for quite awhile when I started working for the Smoky Hill Library. Writing was always my first passion, but I hadn't sold yet and I needed to do something to help with the family finances. Over the last 6 years I've worked my way up through the library. I've been a receptionist, material handler and circulation assistant. Now my official title is Teen Patron Services Specialist II. I do reader's advisory, work with the YA collection, develop and host teen programs, lead the Teen Advisory Board and more, but I don't have my Master of Library Science. My two jobs melded together when a friend encouraged me to start reading and writing YA. I'd been trying to break in with romance novels and I got really close to publication, but something was missing and I didn't know what it was. For a year I read nothing but YA and then I started to write it. I'd found my niche! At the same time I told my bosses I wanted to work with teens and they let me make the switch. I'd found yet another passion. My two jobs work beautifully together. I adore my teens and they inspire me on a daily basis. I'm lucky because they say I inspire them too.


TXS: What is the biggest surprise you've had since you started working with teens?

TC: I was really shocked at how many people don't like teens and want to have nothing to do with them. They're often looked down upon and dismissed as trouble makers or unimportant. I know from my teens that they're amazingly creative, smart, candid, sympathetic, humorous, affectionate, giving and loyal individuals who've bettered my life and me as a person. Working with them is my favorite part of the job. They've brought so much laughter and light into my life. My goal is to write full-time, but leaving my kids will be crushing. I'll find ways to volunteer with them as much as I can when I finally reach that goal. People need to take the time to get to know teens and they'll see our future is in great hands.


TXS: What is one (or more) of your favorite memories of getting kids to love books?

TC: I had a mother come find me in the stacks and say her daughter was a reluctant reader who wanted to try some romances, but her mom wanted to be careful of content. I immediately introduced her to the sweet Simon Pulse romantic comedies. I handed her one of Jennifer Echols novels and a couple more romcoms. A few days later the mom called me and said her daughter had blown through all the books and wanted more. She couldn't believe it! She asked if I had any more books by Jennifer and I hooked her up. When she came in I also showed her how to recognize the SP covers on the shelf so she could find them herself when she came in. Her daughter hasn't quit reading since. In fact, she's working her way through the 3 page vampire bibliography I put together!


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

TC: I think today's teens are lucky because there's so much more available then there was when I was their age. The market is booming in a huge way and they can find books in any genre they're interested in. I'm actually seeing more and more adults gravitate to YA because they know what high caliber fiction there is. As for having to share their attention with the media, I still think you can get any kid to read if you match them up with the right book. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes it's more difficult. But I love that challenge and I feel like I've won the lottery when I get it right! Because today's teens are used to instant gratification I think fiction today is much faster-paced and immediate so it can grab their attention from the get-go. Movies are the same way. Watch the original My Bloody Valentine or Friday the 13th horror movies and then their recent remakes and you'll see what I mean. Big difference! To be honest, I sometimes think the greater challenge to getting kids to read is bypassing the burn-out from school. During the school year I see very few of my teens. They're so overloaded with homework they don't have any time for pleasure reading. When I compare what I was required to do as a freshman with what my son just had to do...I'm blown away. The work and pressure is intense. Some teens simply refuse to read for pleasure because they associate it with "work." I wish more teachers would encourage teens to read popular fiction in the classroom, because I think it would help them develop a greater love of reading. When I do school visits I see teen after teen say they hate reading and it's often because of the things they're required to do. Don't get me wrong I love and respect teachers and teens should read the classics. I didn't want to read to Kill a Mockingbird when it was assigned to me and now it's one of my favorite books. However, I'd really love to see classes offer a better blend of literature and what I call popcorn fiction. I know some teachers who've done this and they've cultured voracious readers.


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

TC: That every child knows how to use a library and has a card they use for checking out books (not just DVDs). That they know what great programs, clubs and classes libraries offer for free, and even more, that there are librarians there waiting to help them find books they'll fall in love with. Lastly, it's my wish that every child knows how to read and finds the pleasure, escapism and knowledge books offer.


TXS: Thank you, Terri!

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Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer is Over (almost)!

It's been a great summer here in Texas, and we've enjoying a brief hiatus from our Featured Sweetheart posts. But we're back and have some great sweethearts lined up for the future. And we're always looking for more. So please, if you know someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty in getting kids and books together, nominate them! We'd love to feature them!

Happy Labor Day, and hope your fall is filled with wonderful things!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Kind of Review Authors Love


We loved this review for BORDER CROSSING by Jessica Lee Anderson! Lisa Gibson has an amazing book review blog over at YA Literature Lover, and if her kiss rating system isn't the cutest thing we've ever seen, then we aren't sure what it.

You can read the whole review here. And thank you, Lisa!