Posts Tagged Louise Galveston

Little Library on the Prairie


Caldwell Public Library, Caldwell, KS

A library in a little town is more than just a library. Many of the small-town libraries I visit for author talks are at the heart of their communities, serving as a hub for all manner of events. But what has impressed me most about these libraries are the amazing people who lead them. Please join me in talking with Tina Welch and Lisa Moreland, who connect kids with good books and so much more in rural Kansas. Just be sure to park your muddy boots outside!

How long have you been youth librarians?


Tina (in white) in her element!

Tina: My job title is Library Director. We do not have enough staff to “delegate”
so we are all children/youth librarians.  I have been at Harper Public Library for 10 years. I love reading and thought I could really serve my community through this job.

Lisa: I have been the Director at the Caldwell Public Library from 2006 until present. The “official” size of Caldwell is a little over a thousand so I order books and lead story times and change toilet paper. 🙂

What other services do your libraries offer that benefit the community?

Tina: We have a conference room that people can rent, we offer DVD’s, GED
testing, Kill-a-watts, display room, a notary service, our teen club
(service and fun, not a book club) and we bring in various speakers and
presentations from a retired NASA Astrophysicists to a Bee Keeper.

Lisa: Some of the things we do to reach out to the community are host Parents as Teachers, Legos Clubs, and art exhibits. We also host local performers and news and weather personalities, as well as bring in other interesting professionals.

What are some of the challenges and advantages of libraries in small towns?

Tina: Smaller budget, smaller staff, often have to pay extra to get speakers out
here. The same small set of people do the majority of volunteering or
fundraising for everything in town and are often “tapped out” by time it
comes to the Library.  Everyone knows where I live, what car I drive, my
home phone number and family members – often  have to literally leave town
to get “away” from work.  Returned books show up on my front porch or in my


Harper Public Library, Harper, KS

The small things that can be a disadvantage can be an advantage.  Because we have less money to work with, we are appreciative of what we do have. The staff is so small, that cross-training is a must.  Because we can’t afford Big Name – out of town people, we highlight the ones that are here. Even if people watch to see my car go to the library, they are also the first to ask if I am sick or my husband or my youngest son (Type 1 Diabetic) anytime I am not at work.

Lisa: Yes, I think it IS harder to be a children’s or ANY librarian in smaller towns because, in my opinion, the unemployment rate seems to be higher due to the smaller amount of jobs available.  A  librarian is serving not only his/her patrons’ literary needs, but also their spiritual and emotional and DAILY LIVING needs. I have been known to bring in food from my pantry for patrons or buy them lunch . . . as I say, “I don’t work for the money.” Of course, I need to be paid something to cover my own expenses, but I really do believe that working at the library is my ministry, however small it may be . . . fortunately, my husband agrees!

How does being in a small town give you the opportunity to reach at-risk children?


Tina and her fellas.

Tina: Big opportunity!!! We work with the school on many projects such as: Battle of the Books, AR books, presentations.  I have even had teachers that would call me at the Library to let me know about a kids’ homework so that I could help them here and would not let them play games on the computer until the homework was done (parents agreed to this arrangement). We are the closest thing to a “Latch Key” program our little city has.  We often have kids after school until Grandma, Mom, etc. pick them up after they get off work.  In the summer we get kids that cannot afford the pool and sometimes do not have air conditioning at home. The school often sets up tutoring for kids to take place at the Library. In the summer many of the kids eat the free lunch provided by local churches downtown and then come to the library until a parent gets off work or until the heat of the day is gone. As I stated earlier we are a safe place and we would not let anything happen to one of our “kids.”  Heck, we even go to 8th grade and high school graduations for some of these kids because we are so glad they stayed in school.

Lisa: I’ll give you a couple examples: Todd (I’m making up that name, per your books:) is a twin and he and his twin brother will be in the 5th Grade next year. Their parents have recently divorced and both parents have re-married. His twin brother mows lawns with his new stepbrother, but Todd doesn’t and is therefore at the library a lot.

To be honest, last summer, Todd was a problem and would often be disruptive. This year, I kind of “took him under my wings” and gave him various volunteer projects. He tells others that he “works for me” and has “worked at the library for about a year.”


Story time with Miss Lisa and Friends.

Like most kids, he would always “push his luck” and try to “get” more and more out of me, whether it be a drink from the fridge in the break room — or even the library’s digital camera! He said that his camera needed batteries…. The next time I worked, I made a point of bringing in a new pack of AA batteries and when he saw them, Todd said, “Are these for me?!” with the biggest grin on his face. You would have thought I was Santa Claus! It’s amazing how the littlest things to us can be the biggest things to kids who feel unloved or unappreciated at home.

Another young patron (same age as Todd) said that his mother “wouldn’t let him” fill out his summer reading chart because she couldn’t find any pens. . . . who knows if that was the truth, or if she just didn’t have the motivation or interest in helping out her son . . . so SAD! Of course, I still gave this patron reading prizes because I know he is a reader, given the books he asks me to order for him. This young man has diagnosed mental illness issues and can become quite agitated. One day, when I knew he was about to break down (he starts yelling and/or crying), I gave him $5 and said to go to the gas station and buy a treat for himself. He told me the next time I saw him that he used the money to buy presents for his younger brother and sister. Now, Lou — THAT’s why I do what I do!! And because I have always loved people and books!!!

Thank you ladies for all you do to build up your communities and your patrons!

Please tell us about YOUR favorite library or how a librarian has touched your life in the comments below.

Louise Galveston is the author of By The Grace of Todd and In Todd We Trust (Penguin/Razorbill.) 

Oh, the Drama! Novel Writing from a Playwright’s Perspective


Images are from a recent production of Peter Pan which I directed, but unfortunately, did not write.

As a director and resident playwright at my local children’s theater, I came into novel writing from a script writer’s background. There are drawbacks of coming from the stage to the page. But there are benefits, too. I think the lessons I’ve learned and am still learning apply to writers from all backgrounds, and I look forward to reading how you deal with these areas when writing.


Seeing the Scene: “Could we have a little more description of this location?” My editor wrote this several *cough* times in my first novel manuscript. I call it the plague of the playwright: I “see” all my scenes as if they’re on stage or in a movie, often forgetting the reader can’t see them as well. I’ve had to make conscience decisions to describe “the set” of each scene, realizing that setting is what grounds the reader in the character’s world. This usually happens during the second draft.

Disoriented: “Orientation.” That’s another comment that occasionally still pops up in edits. Related to the first pitfall, in a script, I’d put the character’s position and movement on the set in parenthetical stage notes. I see it in my head when I write, but have to remember to help the reader see it by describing it for them.

Lost in Transition: As a director, I’m used to beginning and ending scenes via light cues and curtains. But that won’t work in fiction. It doesn’t always take much, just showing the passage of time or giving a character some internal dialogue (another thing it’s easy for this playwright to forget to include), but it’s the difference between a confused reader and one who can suspend disbelief.


PP2 (1)What’s That You Say? Dialogue is probably the playwright’s number one vehicle, and most of my first drafts consist of the characters talking. If I’m writing a script, I will often hand a copy to my husband so I can hear how a scene sounds aloud in comparison to how it sounded in my head. A strong internal ear is valuable for a novelist, but when in doubt, read it out!

Hands Free: I recently saw a contest for a short story written entirely in dialogue-no tags allowed. If I weren’t working on other projects, I’d probably enter for the fun of it. Body and dialogue tags aren’t a bad thing, and I use them often, but they can clunk up an otherwise snappy conversation. Playwrights have to rely solely on words in a script and let the actors fill in the rest. I think a stretch of dialogue without any tags gives the reader a chance to connect with the characters in a deeper way, utilizing the imagination to fill in the blanks. Jane Austen was a master of this. A conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice:

“Of what are you talking?”

“Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy. Lizzy declares she will not have Mr. Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say he will not have Lizzy.”

“And what am I to do on the occasion? It seems a hopeless business.”

“Speak to Lizzy about it yourself. Tell her you insist upon her marrying him.”

“Let her be called down. She shall hear my opinion.”

Now, I would have been tempted to at least used one physical description of Mrs. Bennet flailing about or pulling at her cap, but Jane trusts that she’s painted the characters well enough for us to see it all in the theater of our minds. Also noteworthy is that she doesn’t use a single exclamation point.

I’m Hearing Voices: Nobody wants to see a play with characters who sound like echoes of each other, and the same holds true in fiction. I like to give characters varying sentence construction and one or two key words or phrases that they say without thinking, especially in conversations.

PP3It’s All About the Timing: There’s no time for lags in action or dialogue in theater. If you’ve ever been to a play with a seemingly eternal scene change or worse, where an actor forgets lines, you know how it pulls you out of the show. Pacing is priority in fiction, too. Varying sentence structure, giving readers time to “breathe” after intense scenes, and knowing how to end a chapter with a page turner will all keep your audience fully invested in your characters’ journeys.

I’d love to hear from other script writers on how you make the transition from script or screenplay to story, and from anyone else who has insight on how to improve a novel’s setting, orientation, and transitions.

LGBioPicture copyIn addition to writing, directing, and occasionally acting in plays and musicals, Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD and IN TODD WE TRUST (Penguin/Razorbill). She resides in Kansas with her large family and a noisy parrot, who supply plenty of comedy and drama. 




Keep Em’ Wowed When You Read Aloud

I blame it on Mrs. Clarke. My fifth grade teacher opened new worlds to us-turning our room into a functioning trading post, taking us to see a traveling Broadway show, reading HARRIET THE SPY aloud with such zest that I may have filched the classroom copy to read it again over the summer. Sorry, Mrs. Clarke!


It was the first of those three that made me long to teach, the second that spurred my theatrical dreams, and the last that inspired me not only to want to read, but to be a writer of books that could grip kids the way Harriet had gripped me.

I was already an avid reader. It was the way Mrs. Clarke read aloud that really connected me to that book and the power of good writing. I’ll never forget when my teacher shouted “FINKS!” a la Harriet with such passion. It was as if the middle-aged woman who taught us dry subjects like math and spelling had been transformed into a conflicted girl who was neglected by her parents and misunderstood by her friends. I was addicted.

“The reading” is one of my favorite parts of school visits and book signings. It doesn’t matter how self-conscious I feel standing up in front of a crowd, the second I start to read and become the characters on the page, all of that lifts. I happily make a fool out of myself, morphing into a lisping, retainer-wearing bully or an evil genius toddler for the reward of giggles or hearing a student cry, “Don’t stop!” when I close the book.

Whether you’re a parent, teacher, librarian, or an author, employing some of these simple techniques can enhance the read aloud experience for you and your listeners.

When Possible, Practice Aloud Ahead of Time This is the single most helpful thing you can do to improve your reading. While not always practical for teachers or parents reading aloud a chapter a day, even having read the material once will improve your chances of not tripping over difficult phrases and knowing where to pause and change voices. Before I have a school visit, I always rehearse the material several times, highlighting pauses and character changes. I forgot my reading glasses at my first book’s launch, and having rehearsed so much saved me some serious embarrassment!


“Reading” during my first book’s launch at Watermark Books.


Ba-Dum-Ching! Build tension by pausing at ellipses and speeding up during action scenes. When reading funny material, comedic timing is essential. If you’re not certain how comedic rhythm works, study funny plays and listen for those moments when the actors pause and how they deliver punch lines. I use dramatic pauses and ba-dum-ching! moments to give the audience a significant glance, drawing them into the moment.

Eye Contact Speaking of significant glances: use your finger to keep your place in the text so you can look at your listeners occasionally. It will do wonders to keep them engaged. Here practicing ahead is especially helpful.

Animate Your Body and Face A gesture now and then keeps things exciting for your audience. When I’m reading from my TODD books, I like to wave around a “dirty” sock when I’m doing those portions. If I’m especially familiar with a passage I will walk back and forth, depending on the crowd size and location (I’ve been known to nearly fall off of stages-so use caution.)

I try to animate my face when I read, within reason. There’s no need to channel Jim Carrey, but do try to be entertaining if the text calls for it.

Be Heard If your voice is naturally soft, use a microphone in larger settings or practice projecting by breathing from your diaphragm muscle rather than just your chest. Pop your consonants and don’t drop the end of your sentences, letting them trail off.

Put Your Heart Into It Even if you’re reading a passage that is more contemplative and doesn’t require as much animation, be sensitive to the nuances of the prose and dialogue. There are times when “less is more” while reading aloud, and being subtle is the best method. But whatever you’re reading, your listeners will know right away whether or not you’re wholly invested in the material. If you are, be prepared to be begged for more!

Can you think of any techniques I might have left out? What are your favorite books to read aloud? Any childhood memories of being read to that impacted your love of literature?

LouGbiopicLouise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD and the newly released IN TODD WE TRUST, both from Penguin/Razorbill. She directs children’s and community theater and tweets @LouiseGalveston. Find out more about Louise and her work at