Posts Tagged Jane Yolen

Celebrating Little Free Libraries and Their Founder

You’ve seen them, right? Little boxes on poles, filled with books, and standing in the most unexpected places.

Brunswick, ME has a Little Free Library down the street from the Brunswick Inn.

The Little Free Library movement began just nine years ago in Hudson, Wisconsin when founder Todd Bol crafted the first book box from an old door. Less than a decade later, there are more than 75, 000 Little Free Libraries in 88 countries.

Of course, Bol’s vision had everything to do with books and reading, but what many don’t know is that building a sense of community was Bol’s ultimate goal. Connecting people to books is one thing. Connecting people to people through books is what makes each Little Free Library so very special.

Ashlyn doesn’t wait to get home to start reading. The Little Free Library in Monroe, Indiana is one of her favorite places to visit.

Last week, Todd Bol died following a very brief illness. He leaves behind a successful non-profit organization that employs 13 people and has more than 75,000 volunteer stewards who maintain the Little Free Libraries around the world.  Author Miranda Paul and illustrator John Parra have been working on a picture book about Bol and his Little Free Library movement. The book is titled “Little Libraries, Big Heroes,” and will be released in 2019.

Listen to Miranda discuss the upcoming book and Bol’s legacy on NPR’s All Things Considered.

 

Little Free Libraries have sprouted up everywhere. They can be found in parks, neighborhoods, outside of businesses and on country roads. Authors Sherri Duskey Rinker and Jane Yolen have placed them in front of their homes.

One day, Sherri’s neighbor called and told her to grab her camera and look at what was happening outside. Sherri snapped this picture.

THIS is exactly what Todd Bol envisioned. Not book boxes on sticks. Hubs of community, sharing, reading, memory-making.

 

This Little Free Library stands outside the Exploration Station at Perry Farm Park in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

 

Recently, my daughter discovered a Little Free Library near her college campus in Illinois. On a rainy day, she placed copies of my books inside, snuggled next to Sharon Creech’s Heartbeat. Knowing that a young reader could wander by and find a story to enjoy there made my day.

 

The Little Free Library at Phoenix Farm, the home of author Jane Yolen.

At some time, I’d like to place a Little Free Library myself. I live on a sprawling, working farm, so my own property would only attract cattle and hogs. I will think of the perfect spot and I’ll carry on Todd Bol’s amazing legacy by signing up to become a Little Free Library steward. You can, as well, by clicking here.

Until then, I’ve resolved to keeping a box of books in my trunk. I won’t pass a Little Free Library without adding my contribution, in memory of and in celebration of Todd Bol.

Dreams and Rejection in the Writerly Life

Last night, I dreamed I was at a resort. There was some sort of reception on a beach, and people from my high school were there. Everyone spoke to me, even the ones I had perceived as more popular, more attractive, more intelligent, more likeable than me in high school.

Someone called for the group to move toward the restaurant, and we did. Once inside, the tables filled quickly with groups of friends, chatting, taking seats, and saving chairs for others.

I couldn’t find a seat.

I asked at one table, and the friendly chatter ceased. A woman shook her head “No” and placed an arm over an empty chair, guarding it. Not quite sure how to deal with this shifted level of acceptance, I went to the buffet, where instead of a plate, I was handed a brown paper bag.  I filled the bag with fruit, cheese, and bread, and then took it outside to sit alone on the grass. I fed the bread to the birds nearby.

Now, I know where this dream originated.  It came from two fresh sources.

First, I had a book launch this past week. A high school classmate, who was and still is a dear friend, came the book signing, which happened to be in her town, two hours from where we both grew up. We posted pictures of us together on social media, and as a result, high school friends commented. Even ones I had perceived as so much more popular, attractive, likeable … you get it.

Second, a writer friend this week posted a research question on a writer’s group page. She asked, “At what age do you think children start being exclusionary when it comes to allowing others to sit at their lunch table?”

So, the dream – with its themes of acceptance and rejection – had solid origins. Still, when I awoke, I was amazed by how very real, raw, and current old feelings (and I mean old; high school was a long time ago) could be. As a writer of books for young readers, I feel fortunate that I can recall what it felt like to be thirteen, fourteen, even ten.

And then it occurred to me that maybe it’s because I am writer that I’m still able to connect in such a visceral way with feelings of rejection. Rejection, after all, is a large part of every writer’s life. If it’s not, you’re not putting your writing out into the world.

Early on, writers face lots of rejection. Nearly every book published was once (or twice or twenty times) rejected. We’ve all heard (various versions of) how many times J.K. Rowling was told “No, thanks” before the Harry Potter series was published.  We’re rejected by editors, by agents, we don’t win contests, we send our work out into the world and … crickets.

But even amid success, published authors continue to hear that their work, or sometimes worse yet, they are not wanted or needed. We create brilliant proposals for workshops, we apply for faculty positions at conferences, we hope to be invited, included, asked, or needed. And sometimes, we get what we hoped for. And often, we don’t.

The inimitable Jane Yolen – you might know that she’s now published more than 365 books in her career, hence #Yolen365 – frequently posts her rejections on Facebook. Yes, publishers reject Jane Yolen. Even today. She reminds us that you’re never too successful to cease the hard work that made you successful in the first place. You must put yourself and your work out there. Often. Even if it means you’re rejected more often.

So, in Jane’s spirit, I’ll give you a glimpse into my year so far: I’ve had 5 manuscript rejections and 2 offers. I joined a stellar cast of authors to create a well-thought-out STEM-related panel proposal at a major national education conference – and we were rejected. I’ve applied for faculty positions at four writing conferences – and I’m happy to say that I’ll be on the SCBWI Regional Fall Conference faculties in Ohio and Wisconsin, but not in two other states. I applied for a prestigious children’s book festival and was rejected. I admit, it was a little difficult seeing fellow authors post their pictures from that festival, but I am invited to four other book festivals in 2018. I applied for and was accepted into a select program for published picture book authors. I’ve stretched my wings with a submission in a brand new genre (for me), and I’m patiently, but realistically, waiting to hear about that.

If I could go back to sleep and reenter that dream, I’d confidently approach another table. I’d find someone else who looked alone, I’d smile and introduce myself to someone. In other words, I’d try again.

We can’t let rejection isolate us. We can’t let self-doubt creep in. Writers must persevere even when it feels easier to give up. Otherwise, we find ourselves alone, feeding our dinner to the birds.

 

 

 

Never Too Old for Back-to-School

It’s Back-to-School month for many students, teachers, librarians, and parents. Summer is at its peak, and yet the supermarket aisles are filled with crayons and notebooks and lunch boxes. It’s time to get back to the business of learning.

As authors, we never stop learning, really. At least we shouldn’t. Even though I teach workshops about writing, mentor new writers, and critique others’ work, I still seek out opportunities to learn from those who paved this road I’m lucky to travel.

The best teachers are perpetual students. I believe that with all my heart.

Walking with Jane Yolen at her home, Phoenix Farm, during Picture Book Boot Camp last spring.

It’s important for authors to look for learning opportunities and find ways around all the reasons why we can’t pursue them.  Too far, too expensive, too time consuming, maybe in a few years. Of course, some of those are valid reasons, and no one can do everything their heart desires, but if each of us sought out one mentor encounter a year — attended a lecture, went to a book signing, signed up for an advanced workshop — all opportunity would not be lost on “maybe next year.”

Have you ever been in the presence of someone and I thought, “This is golden. I need to remember everything about this moment?” I look for moments like that. Sometimes I find them among hundreds of people in an auditorium, listening to a speaker. Sometimes, it’s just me, face-to-face with a beloved author, feeling the warmth of their handshake and trying desperately to form words in my mouth that make it sound like I made it past third grade.  That was me at this moment:

Standing on Ashley Bryan‘s front step, Little Cranberry Island, Maine, June 2015.

Here in rural Ohio, I don’t exactly live in a literary hotbed. But, I do live within driving distance to The Mazza Museum, the country’s largest collection of art from children’s literature. I’ve made the trip there to hear dozens of authors and illustrators speak. I’ve sat mesmerized by Tony Abbott, had a conversation with Gary Schmidt. and listened intently to Michael Buckley.

Last winter I drove two hours in the other direction to hear what Kwame Alexander had to say, and one piece of advice he gave the audience made a beeline to my brain and has changed the way I think. “Say yes,” he said. Be that person that says, “YES!” to opportunities.

So what Back-to-School opportunities will our Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors bloggers say “YES!” to this year?  Maybe sign up for that amazing out-of-state-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Take a road trip to hear someone speak?  Attend a presentation at your local bookseller? Listen to a podcast?  Read that craft book on writing you’ve been putting off reading – you know, the one everyone says is “magical?”

It’s time. It’s time to get back to school.