WRITERS AT WORK: Loving Libraries, Part 5

Hi everyone,

As Sandy Asher and I have discussed, there being five Tuesdays this month gives us a chance to add a 5th post to the November WRITERS AT WORK series, “Loving Libraries.” We’ve invited blog visitors to pitch in some of their own experiences and we’re delighted to feature them today. With thanks to our contributors, here we go.
Although my first real job (not counting babysitting) as a teen was working Saturdays at the county library, my big library experience started when I was a mother and took my boys to story hour on Wednesday mornings. Of course, the other mothers were readers or they wouldn’t have corralled their kids and hauled them to story hour. Through three moves to three different towns, I took the boys to story hour. In each library, I met women who became lifelong friends.

Veda Boyd Jones
New ebooks:
The Ranger’s Christmas Treasure
That Sunday Afternoon
Hey, David and Sandy — here’s my library story:

Back in my days as a children’s librarian, a girl about 12 asked me if the library had a copy of The Jellyfish Season. As I led her to the shelf, I wondered if I should tell her I wrote it. I handed it to her, took a deep breath, and asked her if she knew it was my book. Looking me in the eye, she said, “I thought it was the library’s book.” Already sensing I’d made a mistake, I told her I meant I’d written it. She stared at my library name tag and said, “Your name is Mary Jacob. The writer’s name is Mary Downing Hahn.” She held up the book and pointed to my name on the cover. “Well, yes,” I said, “but I remarried and my last name changed to Jacob.” Giving me a look that clearly said she wasn’t born yesterday, the girl walked away, leaving me to wonder why I felt compelled to tell a 12 year old stranger my marital history. After that, I never told any kids I was the writer of a book they’d chosen. This turned out to be good decision the day a boy asked about Wait Till Helen Comes. When I started to tell him the plot, he said, “Oh, yeah, I read this book, but you’ve got it all wrong.” As I stood there listening to him tell me about my own book, I was very glad my name tag said Mary Jacob.
Mary Downing Hahn

I have been involved with the Baxter County Library (1999-2016), then continued when the new Donald W. Reynolds Library was built in Mountain Home, Arkansas. I was a member of the Friends of the Library (FOL), hostess, and served as a board member. I have helped for several years with the FOL yearly auction, book sales, as a volunteer elsewhere when needed, helped bring authors and illustrators in the children’s library, and sometimes performed as photographer. The library supported my different writers groups and the yearly “Holiday Authors Book Sale.” I have spent a lot of time at this library and if I had my way I would live at it and be one happy camper.

Mary Nida Smith

I was visiting a school in Evansville, IN and a little boy was crying outside the library. When I asked the librarian what was wrong she told me he was upset because Eddie, Melody, Liza, and Howie were not visiting. He had been expecting the characters from the Bailey School Kids series-not one of the authors. It really brought home to me how beloved story characters can be and how important our stories can be to children.

Debbie Dadey
Debbie Dadey is the author and co-author of 162 books, including The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series and Mermaid Tales

Our thanks again to today’s contributors to WRITERS AT WORK. Sandy will add your post to our ongoing and growing portfolio so be sure to look for this series and all the previous Writers at Work conversations at http://usawrites4kids.blogpost.com.

All the best,


WRITERS AT WORK: Loving Libraries, Part 4

Hi everyone,

Here we are on the fourth Tuesday of the month so it’s my turn to add my concluding thoughts to this WRITERS AT WORK series: Loving Libraries. Thanks to Sandy Asher for her contribution last week. Please don’t forget that we have one remaining Tuesday and we want to include as many of your own stories as we can in the final post. If you plan to get in touch, now would be a good time.
Loving Libraries
November 22, 2016
Part 4: David

Sandy, I love your celebration of libraries event and its potential to be duplicated and spun off in other towns and cities. You’re a shining example of how authors and libraries are a perfect fit. I hope your idea catches on and is picked up by authors and illustrators elsewhere!

In this segment I want to touch on the mutual benefit of presentations and programs that bring kids to the library. Libraries already have all sorts of excellent programs on their regular menus to do just that, but adding an author to the mix can be fun for everyone concerned. These days I take advantage of our district’s beautiful facilities every chance I get. The meeting rooms are available for speakers so when a new book, NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON’T, came out earlier this year I chose to introduce it first with a program at The Library Center on South Campbell here in Springfield.

Kathleen O’Dell, the district’s Community Relations Director, worked with me at each step of the planning. We contacted Melinda Arnold, then Public Relations/Marketing Director for Dickerson Park Zoo and arranged to have several animals represented in my book to be brought to the library. We contacted Donna Spurlock, Director of Marketing at Charlesbridge Publishing and asked for black and white pictures from the book that the young set could use for coloring. Donna contacted the artist Giles Laroche and asked him to take some of his glorious full color paintings and render them in black and white outline for my event – no easy matter. We sent copies of poems to neighboring schools with a challenge for students to write poems of their own. We encouraged students to be prepared to read poems aloud with me. The library set up panels to display the kids’ poems and coloring sheets for a week after the event. We featured a musical group that plays arrangements of my poems. The newspaper published a notice about the event. Barnes & Noble provided books for those who wanted to purchase copies. The evening was publicized in the library’s Bookends program of coming events. I must say a fine time was had by all.

I’ve done a number of programs like that over the years. In one variation, students bring poems and are prepared to perform them individually or in groups. Sometimes the fun is having them stand beside me and read with me. We’ve invited singers to perform and actors to read. There are many ways to celebrate books and libraries and kids and their families. When librarians and authors put their heads together and combine their resources, the result can produce memorable events.

We have talked about school libraries and the vital role they also play in the lives of children. In homes where there are no books or few and getting to a public library is a challenge, the school library may provide a child’s only chance to hold a book. Many districts across the country recognize the value of bringing authors to their auditoriums and libraries to inspire students to read more as well as to write. But last year I sat in a school library and didn’t have to say one word. I was there as a guest. The entertainment was presented by student actors at Missouri State University, coached by actor/teacher Michael Frizell, as part of a program that traveled from school to school (eighteen of them) throughout the year to perform readings. They had selected poems and stories from my work to feature so I got to lean back and hear my words brought to animated life by a group of talented and energetic actors. Michael and a group of his peer equity actors performed my work at two of our public libraries too.

So, Sandy, do I love libraries? Oh, I do!

WRITERS AT WORK: Loving Libraries, Part 3

Hi everyone,

Last Tuesday I added my thoughts to this month’s WRITERS AT WORK conversation: Loving Libraries. Now it’s back to Sandy Asher. Hi Sandy!
Sandy Asher
Loving Libraries
November 15, 2016
Part 3: Sandy

Recently, I spearheaded a gala that brought county-wide librarians and patrons together in the beautiful atrium of Millersville University’s Ware Center in downtown Lancaster City. This was my culminating event as the county’s first Children’s Laureate, a two-year appointment by the Lancaster Literary Guild. My goal, and the name of the gala, was “Celebrate Libraries!”

While this event was specific to Lancaster, I wanted to design something that could be duplicated elsewhere. Maybe where you live? With high hopes, I’ll share the details here.

It all began with a poem about using the library that I’d written for the Poetry Friday anthology CELEBRATIONS. And then there was my soon-to-be released picture book, CHICKEN STORY TIME, inspired by story time visits with my grandchildren and set in a library. Also, I’d discovered Jerry Spinelli’s short story collection, THE LIBRARY CARD. And I’d come across a Facebook post showing a meticulously decorated cake depicting a reading room, complete with shelves and shelves of tiny books.

So . . . you could write, draw, and bake libraries. How many other ways could they be celebrated?

I was invited to put the question to our county librarians at one of their meetings. It generated an enthusiastic response. The game was on! Here’s part of the follow-up letter I wrote to clarify our plan:

This is meant to be a “celebrate libraries in any creative way you like” project. My poem may be used as inspiration, a jumping-off point, but poetry is not the only possibility. The challenge is to see how many unique and wonderfully creative ways we can come up with.

My hope is that each of you will respond to this challenge in a manner that is comfortable for you and fits your community. Perhaps a group of young people will want to get together and create a short play or video or collection of photographs or a dance, musical number, or puppet show, or maybe a scroll with all their reasons to love the library written on it. Perhaps families will want to put together their own books of writing and/or illustration or create a poster or a performance piece of their own. Perhaps individuals will want to write a story or song or take photos or draw pictures or build dioramas or sculptures or – yes – even write poems.

The only “rule” I’d offer is that folks take into consideration that whatever they create will need to be brought to the Ware Center on April 1 to share with others. We can certainly arrange wall space, tables, a stage, computers to show DVDs, and so on, once we know what that creative outpouring will include. Perhaps we can set March 10 as the deadline for declaring project entries, so we’ll have time to plan how best to share them? They wouldn’t need to be finished then – unless that would fit YOUR needs. A list from each library with brief descriptions would do for planning.

Please note: It’s important that this NOT be a competition in any way, but one, big, inclusive and joyous celebration of libraries. Everyone’s enthusiasm is welcome!

Finally, I am happy to visit each library for an hour in January or February to inspire and brainstorm responses to the challenge. If your patrons particularly want a writing workshop, I can do that, but not everyone will want to celebrate with writing – and that’s fine! Also, if you want to do a local culminating event to display projects before the Ware gala and you’d like me to participate, I would be delighted to do as many visits of that sort as I can fit in.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Library System of Lancaster Youth Services office if you have any questions and they will pass any needing my attention on to me.

The results were delightful, and so was the gala evening of viewing and visiting. We had displays of artwork, black-out poetry, a hedgehog fashioned out of book pages, puppets, and more. My favorites included a multigenerational project in which teens interviewed and recorded the stories of older neighbors about historical photographs donated to their library and an animated video created by a first grade class depicting their brilliant group story about a librarian’s unusual day of chaos and pizza.

Sound like fun? It was! Let me know if I can help you and your community celebrate libraries!

WRITERS AT WORK: Loving Libraries, Part 2

Hi everyone,

Last Tuesday Sandy Asher led off with this month’s WRITERS AT WORK conversation about the relationship between authors and illustrators with libraries. Today it’s my turn so off we go.
Loving Libraries
November 8, 2016
Part 2 – David

Thanks, Sandy. When I was in elementary school we didn’t live close to a public library and my school didn’t have a library except for a modest collection of books that my mother and other volunteers placed on shelves in a converted storage closet. A bookmobile came on certain days of the month and I remember waiting in line for my turn to mount the steps and enter between floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with books. Then as now I loved anything about wild animals, from the smallest insects to exotic forms found a continent or two away. I had books at home to feed my need for fiction and adventure. The Hardy Boys were a particular favorite. But my link to learning about snakes and birds and butterflies – interests that would lead me one day to college degrees in biology — was that bookmobile.

Writing came later for me so as a kid I had no dreams about becoming an author. Public libraries were my trusted source of knowledge. During my astronomy phase I checked out books on the solar system and marveled at the complexities of the universe. Later on I haunted library shelves to identify the latest addition to my collections. To a 12-year-old entomologist it’s important to know if the swallowtail he just captured is a large blue swallowtail or a variation of a female giant swallowtail.

Flash forward to my mid-thirties. Sandy and I returned to Springfield to live. By then I had published a number of books for children. I ran for the school board and won. And right away I learned that libraries in Springfield public elementary schools were in dreadful shape. The board and the superintendent worked shoulder to shoulder convincing the community to pass an enormous bond issue to pay for new school libraries throughout the district. Later on, when construction was completed, it was a great pleasure to walk into an elementary school to visit students in their brand new libraries and know that an author had something to do with making that happen. I’m sometimes credited for leading the charge but of course it took the whole board, the superintendent, and key people throughout the district to get it done. If to some extent I became a spokesman for the cause, I have to think that the kid who used to get his books from a bookmobile had a sense that it was time for the community to do better.

And of course one thing leads to another, Sandy. In 1996 you and I teamed up to create MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS with sponsorship support from Drury University and library support from Springfield-Greene County Library District. We featured a lot of books by good writers and always ended our programs with the tag, “Check it out at the Library.” Six years after that I found myself co-chairing a successful campaign to pass a 5-cent tax levy increase for Springfield-Greene County Library District, its first increase in 22 years.

Sandy, you mention how busy librarians are with their responsibilities and I want to second that. Children’s librarians put in busy days and not all of them think to initiate contact or generate programs with authors. And not all of them understand the dynamics (financial and otherwise) of inviting an author to come in and present a program. I’ve received e-mail invitations from a state or more away asking if I would consider driving to their location to talk to a group of children for story hour. But it’s really a two-way street and the author can certainly be more active in reaching out to his/her libraries within a working distance. More about that in my next segment on November 15. I’ve never met a children’s librarian who wasn’t extremely helpful. I’m with you, Sandy. We do love our libraries.

WRITERS AT WORK: Loving Libraries, Part 1

BULLETIN: November Word of the Month will be announced tomorrow, November 2.

Hi everyone,

Today WRITERS AT WORK introduces a new 5-part set of conversations about the relationship between authors/illustrators and libraries. If you are new to the idea or want a refresher, here’s the link to our collected series. http://usawrites4kids.blogspot.com . Leading off is Sandy Asher. As always, we welcome your comments. Because there are five Tuesdays this month, we’ll save the last one for your own stories about our subject. Please send them to me if you’d like to be included in the wrap-up segment on November 29. Thanks in advance! Here’s Sandy.
Sandy Asher
Loving Libraries
November 1, 2016
Part 1 — Sandy

You’d think it would be a natural partnership: local authors and neighborhood libraries. But it’s not. Many libraries don’t reach out to local authors. Why not?

Certainly, librarians are busy people. In addition to everyday services, they organize numerous special events of other kinds. Perhaps authors slip their minds?

Or maybe they’re hesitant to approach authors, figuring they, too, are busy?

Oh, and there’s the money thing. Librarians don’t have massive discretionary funds at their disposal, and authors do prefer to be paid for presentations. They don’t earn salaries, after all, and time at the library means time away from the computer.

Still, there’s the gratitude thing. Hard to imagine an author who doesn’t feel it. There is a debt to be paid.

When I think of the library, I get a feeling that’s close to worshipful. A source of books? Sure. A research center? Absolutely. A fount pouring forth surprise, delight, inspiration, and encouragement? Always. But also a sanctuary, a safe place to think, wonder, dream, be still . . . and just be.

I’ve felt that way since childhood, when I spent hours in the Children’s Reading Room of the Free Library of Philadelphia at Logan Square, deposited there by parents needing an afternoon with adult relatives or friends. Left alone, I was not lonely. The library was my shelter, companion, nanny, teacher, and mentor. Sitting on the floor between stacks, I’d breathe in my favorites: well-worn editions of fairy and folktales of every kind, all dog and horse stories, any book written by Louisa May Alcott or L. Frank Baum. Peter and Wendy. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. A host of friends as near and dear as any of the flesh-and-blood variety.

I dreamed of returning to that children’s reading room as a grown-up and seeing my own books on those same shelves, nestled among my favorites. I’ve lived that dream. And I remain ever grateful.

So how do I love the library? Let me count the ways:

Most recently, I’ve set my latest picture book, CHICKEN STORY TIME, and its stage adaptation, in the Children’s Reading Room of a library. Granted, I all but bury a librarian in chickens, but she prevails, and the love shines through.

Back in Springfield, MO, where I lived for 36 years, and now in Lancaster, PA, I’ve been involved in creating many programs for the library. David, I’m not sure how many years you and I ran MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS and AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS together, but we certainly shared a lot of happy visits to the TV studio to spotlight our colleagues’ books and invite viewers to “Check it out at the library!”

Then there have been on-site writing workshops and story-hour readings, plus visits to schools to encourage first graders to sign up for library cards, and events that have brought other authors and illustrators in for workshops, book signings, and presentations.

Also, Springfield libraries provided free space for performances of my plays, “Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy” and “In the Garden of the Selfish Giant.” Another script, “Walking Toward America” packed the community room and served as a fundraiser for the system.

Talk about win-win situations! Libraries, patrons, colleagues, and I have all benefitted.

So I encourage reaching out — in both directions. Local authors are available for writing workshops, presentations, readings, signings, fund raisers, special events, and to help create unique programs. Neighborhood libraries are ideal locations. For libraries looking for authors, a Google search will lead to their websites, and many are listed on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators site at http://scbwi.org, which links to regional SCBWI websites as well. For authors looking for libraries, the Public Libraries site provides contact information state-by-state at http://www.publiclibraries.com.

If ever two groups should be on the same page, it’s authors and their libraries! And if ever an author has served his library system well, it’s David L. Harrison. Tell us all about it, David!