Life has been busy at the Schreibenfreude house: I’m a coach for my school’s Speech & Debate team which has recently wrapped up a very successful season, winning awards at States and qualifying two students for Nationals, my kids (and the ones I teach) have been busy with school projects, and if that weren’t enough, we’re currently looking to get a dog– which has taken up a good bit of research time that’s normally spent researching my writing! On the bright side, this is school vacation week here in Maine, and that means more time for writing and reading picture books! Let’s go!
So, writers: ever get the feeling that it’s pointless to write because surely everything worth writing has already been written? Do you ever get a feeling of existential dread in bookstores or libraries (which are supposed to be such heavenly and inspiring places) wondering why you should write, because there are already enough books on those shelves to last a lifetime? Just me?
My husband is from Canada, so every other year we spend the holidays with his family in Ontario and usually take some of that time to sight-see with the children in Toronto. This year I asked Twitter for some good Independent bookstore recommendations and of those, we were able to visit “Mabel’s Fables” on Mt. Pleasant, a true gem of a bookstore specializing in children’s books. To give you a brief review, I’ll adapt my normal “picture book review” categories:
Hi Blog readers!
It’s been a few weeks since I posted– the life of a teacher who is also a parent and a writer gets that way sometimes! Today I’m excited to share with you a piece of a wonderful writing project spearheaded by a good friend of mine. It’s called “Letters from the Heart,” and the concept is simple: if you could send an anonymous letter to someone (even to yourself), who would it be? What do you want to say that you can’t bring yourself to say or write? A great group of writers (and me) have contributed letters so far. The hope is that these letters will not only be cathartic for those who write them, but even more that they will resonate with those who read them and recognize similar feelings in their own lives. Maybe some of you will even be inspired to write your own letter– whether you send it to this project or actually send it to a real recipient.
Those of us writing for the project have decided to undertake a “Blog hop” to promote the letters– each of us has chosen a letter we did not write but which we found personally significant to publish in our blogs. I hope you enjoy this one (which has special meaning for me as I know many cancer survivors– you probably do too) and that you will go check out more at heartshapedletters.wordpress.com. To contribute your own anonymous letter, contact G.K. Sihat at email@example.com.
And now, I bring you, “Letter to my bald head.”
And now, a slight break from my typical posts:
There’s a movement on Facebook and Twitter right now for women to come forward using the hashtag #metoo if they have been sexually harassed or assaulted and the volume of posts is staggering– from all ages and walks of life. It’s heartbreaking. I stand in solidarity with all women and men who are harassed for their gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. I am lucky enough to come from that tiny bit of the population who actually has never been sexually harassed or assaulted. Never. At least not in any way I can remember. So, while I am really not trying to make this “about me” it’s inevitable for me to think about that. We all relate movements to our own lives and experiences. So here are some thoughts:
It’s not about me, but…every man that degrades women by valuing them for their looks also degrades those whom he does NOT explicitly speak to by implying they are not worthy of being paid attention to. How many jobs did I not even get an interview for because I didn’t look pretty enough? How many times did I feel dejected for not getting “special attention,” naively unaware the costs of that attention for those on the receiving end?
It’s not about me, but…when I see the hundreds of “me too”s, I have survivor’s guilt– no one deserves to be treated that way, and I am certainly no better a person for escaping it. This is just another way that I am privileged.
It’s not about me, but…would my experience be different if I weren’t overweight and a somewhat shabby dresser? I think that a lot. I’m not the kind of person people generally flirt with, let alone harass. I didn’t have my first real kiss until my senior year in college. And yet, I also know sexual predators frequently take advantage of young girls (and boys) with low self-esteem– people who are so happy to have attention they convince themselves negative attention is the only kind they are worthy of.
It’s not about me, but…could it have been? Could I have been harassed and not even noticed because I assumed they weren’t talking to me? Has our body-shaming and looks-based society come to the point that women practically harass themselves?
If you are one of the many “me too”s, I’m sorry. I promise to raise my two sons to respect all individuals and to avoid making judgements based on looks or sexuality. I will call out harassment and abuse when I see it.
And if you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m here.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog about words and writing. Because creating beauty is what makes the pain worth it.
Four years ago, I founded a monthly critique group for children’s writers and illustrators in the seacoast Maine/NH area. We met in the “Roast & Crumb,” a lovely coffee house just off I-95 and easily accessible to our members, some of whom traveled over an hour to attend. Although we’re a small group, I have always looked forward to setting aside two hours every month to focus on my writing and help guide other writers and artists. The coffee house was an important cornerstone to our group, providing a warm and inviting space to meet with friendly faces, especially our dear barista Albert (behind the counter with the hat!) At our meeting today, we learned that the Roast & Crumb will be closing as of November 17th. The owner had been there for 15 years and had been working in the business for 40. It was time, he said. Thankfully, not due to any economic or health crisis. Just time.
I wish the owner and employees all the best, but it’s hard to say goodbye. I have a lot of great memories of that place– the enthusiastic greeting when you see friends walk through the door is the closest I’ve felt to “Cheers” (where everybody knows your name). Not to mention the joy with which I always looked forward to leaving the boys at home with my husband, grabbing a 10 dollar bill from the cookie jar (they only take cash), and indulging myself in a coffee and one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had. Even on days like today, when I spent part of the morning by myself writing, I still felt surrounded by friends.
For now, we’re planning to move our meetings to the local public library. It’s a wonderful space, they have a meeting room right next to the children’s area, we can bring coffee from a neighboring shop, and there’s wi-fi. We may even get new members. But it won’t be the same. Go patronize your local coffee shop this week and not just for a take away cup. Sit there and soak in the atmosphere of a small local business. Starbucks is nice on occasion, but it just can’t beat the charm of a good neighborhood haunt.
We’ll miss you, Roast & Crumb.
I haven’t had a new blog post in a bit, and if you have been following me, you know why — not only am I a high school teacher busy with new classes, but I also just wrapped up a poetry exhibit at the local library. (More on that later…) So, it was great to dive into the children’s literature world again for a while and immerse myself in some great books I’ve been wanting to read.
My focus in this blog is on recent books, often those which have had a bit of Twitter buzz. I try to avoid books by big celebrities (no offense, Chelsea Clinton, Ree Drummond, or Nathan Lane– your books are awesome, but you hardly need my press!). So, in deciding to pick books today by authors who already have big bestsellers I love, I have to apologize to all those folks with their very first books out — I’ll get to you next time!