For Librarians

Journaling in the Time of Covid-19

Six months ago if someone had told me I’d be writing a blog post titled “Journaling in the Time of Covid-19” I would have said, “What’s Covid-19?”

We could all start sentences that way now… “Six months ago, if someone had told me…”

“… schools would be closed for months…”

“… I would not see my parents for months …”

“…. Zoom would be part of everyday life…”

“… a mask would be part of my wardrobe…”

“… people would run out of (WHAT?!) toilet paper…”

Times are rapidly changing and that means we are all having new and unforeseen experiences. There’s no better time than now to be journaling. I have written in diaries and journals off and on since this date:

Friday, June 13, 1975 – I’m nine years old. I got my diary today. I should have gotten it on the 1st of January. But then I never even wanted one.

Not long ago, I shared the following story in a Facebook post:

In February of 1977, I was a fifth grader in Westerville, Ohio when the Energy Crisis coincided with weeks of unusually cold weather. Today I found this diary entry from that very strange winter. We were out of school for two weeks and when we returned, we could not go back to our own buildings. Instead, the district utilized the newest buildings with electric heat, and closed the older ones with big fuel oil furnaces. So we went to school half a day, every other day, in order to allow four elementary schools to use the same building. I don‘t recall how long that lasted. I do recall how unsettled I felt.

Okay, here you go. Straight from the mouth of fifth grade me:

Feb. 1, 1977 – No fair! I really don’t think it’s right. For the past month there has been a gas shortage. It’s awful. The weather is down to 20 degrees below zero and sometimes the chill factor is between 40 and 50 below. Our heat is down to 60 degrees inside. School has been closed for 8 days. Don’t people realize children NEED schooling? More than 1,000 workers are laid off. This is a mixed-up world and I wonder if I have to grow up in such a crazy place.

No photo description available.

Some of my memories of that winter are fuzzy. Some are crystal clear. I remember sitting in someone else’s desk at someone else’s school building. I was glad my teacher was the one standing in the front of the room, and I was happy that my friends were sitting in the desks around me.

I’m really glad I was keeping a diary during that unusual time in my childhood.

Parents, teachers, librarians, anyone with a young person in their life: Gift a child a blank notebook, an empty journal, or even a diary with a lock and key. Tell them to fill the pages.

“With what?” they will most certainly ask. “With words,” tell them. “With words only you can write.”

Then, help them out with this list of questions that pertain to our current world situation.

Do you miss going to school the usual way?

What do like about having school online?

What’s the best thing about staying at home most of time?

What’s the worst thing about staying at home most of the time?

How do you feel about wearing a mask in public places?

Who do you know that has gotten Covid-19?

Are you worried about getting sick? Are you worried about someone you love getting sick?

What do you think it’s like for people in other countries?

What activities have you missed because of the pandemic? How did you feel about missing them?

What have you done to stay busy while at home?

Who do you miss spending time with?

What is different about the grocery store now? The library? The movie theater? The playground? The street where you live? How you and your family go places?

Journal prompts on many general topics are easily found online. Hopefully, they’ll want to write about more than just life in the time of Covid-19. And, hopefully, like me, they’ll find that journaling is fun.

Here’s a bit from Day 2 of my diary-keeping life, 1975 (third grade grammar and all!)

Sat. June 14, 1975 – Lisa doesn’t no how personal a diary is. She wants to no what I write. But, Mom had a talk with her. We staked tomato’s in the garden. The second night I’ve written in my diary – it’s fun! Jackie’s got 10 pups and a knew calf!

Who knows? Forty-five years from now, your youngster could be reading from their first journal. All they need to get started is a nudge from someone who cares. (Thanks to Mom for giving me my first diary and apologies for calling out sister Lisa, who was only a first-grader at the time.)

 

Make This Book Series into a TV Series, PLEASE!

Stay-At-Home orders, pandemic response, hand-washing, and social distancing. These are interesting times. Life has changed. It has been interesting but challenging. The science life will soon call me back full time, so I’m trying to make the most out of this period of my life and simplify my world moving forward.

With so much sudden creative free time for a creator who normally struggles to find creative free time, I must admit I’ve struggled. Not quite a Jack Torrance-level struggle, although I did catch myself writing, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” twenty or so times in my journal the other morning.

The Shining (1980) - All Work and No Play Scene (3/7) | Movieclips ...

Here has been my main writing problem. With so many new and old writing ideas streaming through my head, I have often felt like Lucy and Ethel on the chocolate candy wrapping line. 

That’s no joke. A lot of me wanting to write but with a healthy helping of spinning the wheels.

On a positive note, I started drawing again last year and this work-from-home period has given me time to take some online art instruction. I’m enjoying the process and have combined the writing life with art into attempting a couple of graphic storytelling projects (one is a STEM informative fiction!).

It’s all going to work out in the end. I’m 100% sure of that.

Another thing I thought I’d do was stream a bunch of TV shows and movies. You know, catch up on all these shows people are talking about. I haven’t. Maybe it’s not a bad thing. I can still nod my head and act like I know what the person raving about a Netflix series is talking about, right?

That said, I’ve put a considerable amount of thought the past few weeks into a question that was posted a few months ago during a Twitter chat. 

If you had complete control over the production aspects, what MG/YA book or book series would you sign to be made into a movie or streaming series?

A couple of book series I’d make into TV series or movies are technically considered YA but I’ve always believed they have great appeal to upper middle grade readers as well.

First, Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series. I’m currently almost through rereading the entire series again

The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching #1) Cover

A Hat Full of Sky (Tiffany Aching #2) Cover

Wintersmith (Tiffany Aching #3) Cover

I Shall Wear Midnight (Tiffany Aching #4) Cover

The Shepherd's Crown (Tiffany Aching #5) Cover

 

 

 

 

Second, Johnathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series. I might reread this series next!

The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) Cover

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) Cover

The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) Cover

 

 

 

 

In my humble opinion, these are two great books series that both pop visually in the reader’s mind and would translate well to the big or small screen. I invite and implore you, dear readers, to share your dream book-to-movie projects in the comments below or link to this post on social media with your suggestions. 

Who knows? Maybe a producer will see your ideas and put the wheels in motion.

Take care, MUF friends!

Be safe.

Be kind.

Learn something new.

 

BONUS: Here’s a couple of MG books to movie pieces by Mindy Alyse Weiss and Andrea Pyros post on the MUF blog:

Movies Inspired by Middle Grade Novels by Mindy Alyse Weiss from 4/17/2015

10 middle grade books made into movies by Andrea Pyros 12/14/2016

 

Diversity in MG Lit #16 Celebrating Shorts, April 2020

Friends, one thing I’m hearing these days from everyone is how hard it is to focus in the stress of this pandemic. The last thing I want to do is fire out a list of books so that you can feel bad about not having the energy to read them.
This month I’m going to celebrate short stories and traditional tales highlighting some books which have been out for a while, some which are forth coming. I hope that they will be points of comfort in these weeks of sorrow and places of connection and validations where all children can feel seen and understood.
The beauty of the short story is that it can be read in one sitting, and is ideal for reading aloud. It’s a great way to discover new authors or try out a genre that you don’t usually read.
I’m going to start with The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp (LittleBrown, 2018) which is now available in paperback. It’s a collection of writing prompts or story exercises contributed by more than 40 MG authors. Each of them shared their favorite creative spark and worked a prompt given by another author. These are short and sweet. Meant to fire the imagination. If I was still teaching I’d definitely lean on these exercises as a way to keep even my most reluctant writers motivated.
Perfect for the times is the short story collection Hero Next Door edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. (RandomHouse 2019) This book celebrates courage in all its disguises, and features characters trying their best to make the world a better place.
In a similar vein, Kid Activists: True tales of childhood from Champions of Change by Robin Stevenson Illus. by Allison Steinfeld (Quirk Sept 2020) honors a group of activists dedicated to changing the world. There’s a nice mix here of historical figures like Alexander Hamilton, Helen Keller and Frederick Douglass and contemporary heroes like Malala Yousafzai, Autumn Peltier, Iqbal Masih, and even Emma Watson. There are illustrations throughout and the text is geared toward the younger end of MG readers. While you are waiting for this title to arrive in September, take a look at others in the series Kid Scientists, Kid Artists, Kid Authors and Kid Athletes.
This one comes out in October and is written with a YA audience in mind, but there’s plenty for a mature MG reader to enjoy. Come On In: 15 stories about immigration and finding a home  ed. by Adi Alsaid. It would pair well with Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros or the graphic novel When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed which comes out this week and chronicles the childhood of Omar Mohamed in a refugee camp in east Africa.
Funny Girl: Funnest stories. Ever. by Betsy Bird (Puffin 2018) is my go-to recommendation for reluctant girl readers— a collection of funny stories with girls at heart. It’s not the usual “burp and fart” fare that is squarely targeted at boys. This is a collection of short stories and graphic shorts by women for girls. It’s a great way to keep things light and introduce a new favorite author. Clear back in 2010 Waldon Pond Press started a Guys Read series edited by Jon Scieszka. The first is Guys Read: Funny Business. Its a solid  collection too.
And finally, here are two collections of folk tales to sweep your mind away to far off times and places. A Whisper of the East: tales from Araibia by Franziska Meiners (North/Suoth 2018) has a retro feel with two color printing and an art style reminiscent of woodblock prints. In the back endpaper there is an ABC with words written in Arabic. Spellbound: tales of enchantment from ancient Ireland by Siobhán Parkinson illus, by Olwyn Whelan was first published in the UK. It’s a vividly illustrated collection of fierce and funny stories from an era when fairies and dragons were as common as fish and any child might on a whim turn himself into a bird.