Saturday, February 21, 2009

school visits & school libraries

Hey, I'm one post shy of 500 posts! That's quite a landmark. I'll have to think of something awesome to blog about for my next post, but what? (The pressure!) Maybe this: I am expecting the Lips Touch ARC in the mail in the next day or so -- can't WAIT!! Imagine me skulking by the front door, on the lookout for delivery trucks! Ha ha. Actually, I haven't been home to skulk because the past two days I've been doing school visits with absolutely delightful kids. It was great to get a dose of kids as I'm not around them very much. I love the way the kindergartners ask the most literal questions, like, "How do you make the covers of your book hard like that?" and how they wave their hands around frantically to tell me the most serious things: "There really are devils, you know."

Urk? Not going to explore that statement in depth!

Got to be careful with that literal-mindedness too; they entirely believed that my brother looks like this:
I could see they were quite concerned for him, tee hee hee. The older kids, to whom my presentation is geared (3rd-5th grades) are more savvy, and call out, "Photoshop!!" Can't dupe them!

Oh, when the principal was introducing me to one group of 3rd - 5th graders, she asked them if anyone could tell her what an author was. The boy she called on answered something like this: "Someone who writes books and sends them to an editor, and if the editor doesn't like it, he throws it away." ha HA! Turns out his father is a writer! There was a girl in the same group whose mom has written 42 Harlequin romances. I told her her mom is a much faster writer than me!

In an older version of my presentation I used "elephant poo paper" (not toilet paper for elephants, but paper made from elephant poo) as a prop, and the last image in my slide show was of an elephant, um, pooping. So I learned that all questions thereafter would be about elephant poop! Well, I've since run out of that marvelous resource, so now the last picture in my slide show is of Boba Fett holding my book.
So you know what the questions were about? In one session anyway: all about Star Wars! "Did you meet Luke Skywalker too? How about Darth Vader? Han Solo?" (Answers: no; yes; no; stormtroopers and Princess Leia: yes; yes. Not the real ones, mind you. Comicon versions.)

Anyway, it was MUCH FUN. You know how I was recently talking about storytelling, and about wanting to work on that? Well, after doing my presentation a few times and getting into the groove, I began to feel more ease with the storytelling aspect of it, especially the part where I'm telling what my book is about. I mean, it lends itself well: it's a tale of the Devil Wars, narrowly won thousands of years ago by the faeries, and what the faeries did with the devils they captured, and how now a new creature (humans) is unwittingly releasing those ancient foes from their prisons. Eek! I got so I was having So Much Fun telling that story and seeing the totally attentive eyes shining back at me, wide with the suspense of it all. It's addictive, and really deepens my resolve to work on storytelling as an art form.

Besides the fun of being with the kids, there were two days in a row of getting up early and making myself presentable, then driving to "work" with the other folks -- it was a change to my stay-at-home routine. It makes me appreciate my stay-at-homeness, but it also makes me think that being a teacher would be a much more pleasant reason to drive to work in the morning than many alternatives. The teachers and principal were also extremely nice, and I met a librarian who was visiting from the school district office as part of an ongoing effort to bring all the school libraries up to a standard.

I learned that many of the Portland public schools do not have librarians, which made me greatly appreciate the school just over the border in Washington where my friend Jone has been the librarian for many years. There is, let me tell you, a great difference between the libraries in the two schools, as you can well imagine. The visiting librarian said that she thinks Washington has done a better a job of keeping librarians in schools than Oregon has.

I have said this before: some kids grow up with a great fondness for libraries, but despite my book-love, libraries were never a big part of my life. Living overseas much of my youth, we didn't have access to public libraries in English, and our school libraries were indifferent at best. But even at the not-great Department of Defense elementary school I attended in Gaeta, Italy, we had a full-time librarian. What is a library without a librarian? A haphazard collection? At the school I was at yesterday, brave parent volunteers have made the place a workable space, and it's a nice library -- I can't speak to the collection, because I am not a librarian, but can you imagine the work? That's no job for a volunteer.

Sigh. It's a sad state of affairs when librarians are considered a luxury.

Speaking of sad states of affairs, we are awaiting the arrival of a plumber. Nice way to spend a Saturday morning! But we've gone eight years in this house without having to call one, and that's something. Hopefully this won't prove a case similar to how we went eight (or ten) years with scarcely ever having to spend money on veterinary care and have been making up for it in spades in our dogs' old age!


Anonymous said...

It is a sad state of affairs. For the first time in my 30 years in the school district we are faced with severe budget cuts. Like ones that will affect my program if they go through. Thanks for the shout out. I am sure the kids loved your presentation.
Congrats with 499 post.

Lexi said...

My favorite thing about my school is getting to dictate to the librarians which books to buy next! It's weird to imagine what it'd be like without librarians... (And also I love author visits.)

And I'm so excited for lips touch! I'll have a hard time waiting until fall to get a copy.

Amber Lough said...

So glad you had wonderful school visits!

Wyman Stewart said...

I agree about school librarians. I did not grow up in a library either, but school libraries provided me with many books to read in my childhood. Plus, there was always a librarian to turn to if I needed help.

When I look around today to see librarians being cut, art, music, and other things being cut from schools; things I took for granted as a normal part of a human's education and people assumed was normal...well, I am left at a loss to understand how decision makers can think so abnormally. Worse, many in the public seem okay with it. Yes, I find it puzzling, despite the fact I have no kids.

Sorry, I am baffled by this and at a loss for words. Thanks for bringing this up. Librarians certainly have my support.

lkmadigan said...

Love the new header!

I was telling a friend the other day that if I ever got rich, I wanted to start a foundation to keep librarians in schools!

Katie Anderson said...

Loving the new Banner!!!!!

Amber said...

Wyatt's school has had no open library all this year. At first we parents tried to open it and work it ourselves...And then we were told by the teacher's union here that we couldn't do that because we were somehow showing that the schools didn't need a Librarian? So the kids just get no library. Fab.

In Wyatt's class, we have tried as parents to build a little class library. It's not the same.


Gina said...

Losing libraries is a great tragedy. When we lived in California the school district literally gave books away (prior to just tossing them in the landfill) because they didn't have the resources to keep track of them. In Washington things are much better but as Jone pointed out in her comment, we are facing cutbacks now too.

Suzanne Young said...

If my son saw that Star Wars picture... man. He would have stayed close to you all day--hoping to get a glimpse of your super cool friend.

I bet your visits are awesome. My daughter is dying to meet you. Or rather, see your hair. hah. Seriously, though.