Monday, September 30, 2013

KEEPER OF WONDER: An Interview with Tiffany Wells

Today on the blog I'm interviewing Fancy Nancy! Kidding, but it is school librarian, Tiffany Wells, dressed as Fancy Nancy. Cute, right? Find Tiffany on Twitter at @FEBLibraryGirl (Because her kindergarteners last year called her Library Girl and the name has just stuck!) (When I was teaching the little ones, my name was "Hey Miss Art Teacher" so I totally understand!)

Tell us about your library? (Where, what, anything quirky or cool?) What's your job title and description?    

I work at F.E. Burleson in Hartselle, Alabama.  Last year our system restructured and added an intermediate school so we are now only K-4. We also gained a PreK program for the first time this year.  This is my second year as Library Media Specialist.   It is my duty to maintain the collection, collaborate with teachers, assist with technical needs, and help students gain literacy skills and a love for reading!   (Helping kids gain literacy skills! We authors love you!)

What was the most recent book request?  My most recent book request was for the Cajun version of Little Red Riding Hood, Petite Rouge.

What was your most recent book suggestion to a patron?  

I suggested one of our brand new ghost folktales books to one of my third grade boys.  He loved it!

What was your most recent book suggestion to a friend?  

This summer I read the first 10 books of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series. I just couldn’t put them down.  I’ve suggested them to lots of friends over the summer!

If you could sit down to your favorite beverage with any current kidlit author, who would it be? And why?    

Oh wow.  What a tough decision.  I saw an interview with Tomie dePaola one time and I just loved him. He’s so funny and tells great stories from his past. I would love to sit and just chat with him. 

What book do you wish you had in your library (professional or personal or both) but don’t? (this can be something written or something you’ve never seen)    

I wish we had more children's books that were stongly “southern”, more in the way that adult fiction can be.  I love living in the south and the unique things that makes our region special. (So fortunate that in our area we have picture book writer, Gloria Houston, who spotlights the Appalachian area where we live - Southern voice in writing is one of my faves, too.)

What about you would make us say, “REALLY? But you’re a librarian!” ?   

I’m Loud.  Really LOUD. Ha! And my favorite subject has always been math.  I was a 5th grade math and science teacher before I started my position as librarian. (this is where our paths split - me no do numbers!)

Five favorite books of the past five years.   (My favorite 5 children's books since becoming a librarian…sorry I’m just changing your questions!)

1.  Is There Really a Human Race by Jamie Lee Curtis.  Found this last year and fell in love.  Such a strong message of the bigger meaning of life!
2.   Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham.  Its just funny to me!
3.   Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
4.   Diary of a Wimpy Kid – the series…love those!
5.   Me…Jane – Quirky book I got this summer with gorgeous illustrations.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Celebration with GIF's

Because, I FINISHED MY EDITS! And I'm pretty sure next stop is copy edits. So at first I was all like,

And then as excitement settled in, it was a bit of this

Followed by some of this

And then I had to say to myself

And realized that YES! I met deadline while working full time which is a big old slice of

So thanks for cheering me on friends! Now I get to read and play on the Internet and ride my ponies and go to SCBWI Carolinas this weekend to see writer friends! Whoohoo!

Monday, September 23, 2013

KEEPER OF WONDER: An Interview with Jessica Stork

Let's give a big Keeper of Wonder, hello!, to Jessica Stork. Jess is one of the librarians I hunted down on Twitter and arm wrestled into telling us her deepest darkest shelving secrets. And she agreed! You can find her on Twitter at @jessstorkwrites.

Tell us about your library? (Where, what, anything quirky or cool?) What's your job title and description? 

I work at a Public Library. Even though it's brand new, we still have comfy chairs and fireplaces that are great for curling up next to with a book. I am a Library Associate and I work in the Children's department, doing art story times, running a Young Writer's Group and trying to match up readers with the right book

What was the most recent book request?  

The BFG by Roald Dahl… he never gets old! (I love to read this one aloud to kids - doing the voices is great!)

What was your most recent book suggestion to a patron? 

I suggested Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine to a teacher who was looking for a book with a really unique voice and narrator.

What was your most recent book suggestion to a friend? 

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. One of those rare cases in which I loved the movie so much, it led me to the book, and the short story the book was based off of. A lonely zombie who wonders if other zombies are lonely too, or if they just want to eat brains… what's not to love about that? (If it has zombies, I'm in. I put the movie on my Netflix queue. Sounds like books should go in my TBR pile)

If you could sit down to your favorite beverage with any current kidlit author, who would it be? And why? 

I'd love to ask Lisa Yee how she gets into her character's heads so well. And I'd really enjoy hearing more about why Marley thought the Star Trek Original Series was superior (when Next Generation was so amazing). (I think Cheryl Klein talks about Lisa Yee in her writing book.)

What book do you wish you had in your library (professional or personal or both) but don’t? (this can be something written or something you’ve never seen) 

Lego poetry? Perhaps it's out there somewhere and I just need to find it. (!!!!!!)

What about you would make us say, “REALLY? But you’re a librarian!” ? 

Hmm… does an intense love of Star Trek and Star Wars count? I don't really have any other unlibrarianesque traits, as I can't dance, and I often wear my hair in buns.

Five favorite books of the past five years.  

1. Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (The true power of facial hair) 
2. Warp Speed by Lisa Yee (Fighting against bullying… with Star Trek)  
3. Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown (Luke Skywalker as a toddler!) 
4. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (Amazing Poetry and a beautiful story about life after Vietnam) 
5. Kel Gilligans Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley and Illustrated by Dan Santat (Jumping through a flaming hoop is child's play compared to what this daredevil can do)

Thanks so much for stopping in, Jess!

Monday, September 16, 2013

KEEPER OF WONDER: An Interview with Amanda Coppedge

Photo by Mark Ignatowski

I'm so pleased to welcome Amanda Coppedge Bosky to the blog today. Amanda is another Blue Boarder and Twitter pal (@amandacoppedge), who is also a librarian. And I love this sweet photo! Here's Amanda to tell us about her librarian life!

So you’re a librarian, how’d that happen?

My name is Amanda Coppedge Bosky (I write under Amanda Coppedge, I "librarian" under Amanda Bosky). My mom instilled a love of reading and the library at a young age. I was that kid who went once a week and staggered home under the weight of a ton of books. When I was in high school I had a few student jobs at the library and realized that was where I belonged! I got hired as a full-time associate in the Children's Department literally the day after I got my B.A. in English (I am an English major success story!) and went on to get my Masters in Library Science to become a librarian.

Tell us about your library.

For the first 13 years of my career I worked in Palm Beach County, Florida. I moved to Madison, Wisconsin recently and have been working in a smaller town nearby for the past five months. I adore my new library. The original part of the building was a Carnegie Library built in 1904. It still has all the original wood shelving and smells like the quintessence of library. The children's department has a fish tank full of very friendly, curious fish--I love looking at them every time I walk by. 

What was the most recent book request?

Middle-grade mystery. I recommended the Red Blazer Girls series by Michael Beil and the Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley.

What was your most recent book suggestion to a patron?

SUGAR by Jewell Parker Rhodes. ("In 1870, Reconstruction brings big changes to the Louisiana sugar plantation where spunky ten-year-old Sugar has always lived, including her friendship with Billy, the son of her former master, and the arrival of workmen from China.") I love the cover! We got this one in early June and it's already gone out four times. 

What was your most recent book suggestion to a friend?

I recommended THE RUINING by Anna Collomore to a co-worker who loves thrillers. She told me this was her first YA and she is eager to read more. I suggested April Henry for her next foray. (Obligatory booktalk for THE RUINING: Over-the-top psychological suspense about a nanny in peril, highly recommended for fans of April Lindner's retelling of JANE EYRE.)

If you could sit down to your favorite beverage with any current kidlit author, who would it be? And why?

Oh, goodness. Just one? I think I would have to pick Sara Zarr. Her books speak to me so deeply, and they also speak to the person I was as a teen. I usually read her books and think "Why wasn't this around when I was a teen? This book could have saved me so much heartache!" Which leads me to hope that there are teens who are reading her books now, who are living vicariously through her characters and learning via their trials and tribulations. I would love to just chat with her about life, the universe and everything.  (One of my faves! Can I join y'all?)

What book do you wish you had in your library (professional or personal or both) but don’t? (this can be something written or something you’ve never seen)

This post about the lack of African-American male main characters in middle grade fiction really got under my skin:  (One of my favorite reads of recent years is Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri - MG with a black male protagonist)

What about you would make us say, “REALLY! But you’re a librarian!” ?

Until a few years ago, I considered myself someone who did not like historical fiction. I loved books such as ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY or THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND but I hadn't read much new historical fiction in years. DEADLY by Julie Chibbaro jump-started a new passion for historical and now I actively seek it out.

Five favorite books of the past five years.
    2009: MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork (such a brilliant book)
    2010: STARCROSSED by Elizabeth C. Bunce
    2011: HABIBI by Craig Thompson
    2012: PLANESRUNNER by Ian McDonald
    2013 so far: RAPTURE PRACTICE by Aaron Hartzler

    Thanks for stopping by, Amanda!

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    KEEPER OF WONDER: An Interview with Natalie Lorenzi

    Today I'm pleased to welcome school librarian (and author), Natalie Lorenzi, to the blog (@NatalieLorenzi). My CP and friend, Kip Wilson, connected us but I realized I "knew" Natalie from the Blueboards and the small kidlit world already. So without further ado, here's Natalie!

    1. So you’re a librarian, how’d that happen? 
    I decided to become a school librarian in November of 2010, a few days after Charlesbridge offered to publish my manuscript. I’d been a classroom teacher for ten years and was then in my seventh year as an ESOL teacher (English for Speakers of Other Languages). When it hit me that I would finally be a published author with revisions and edits and first page passes and book promotions to do, I was a bit overwhelmed. Happy, but overwhelmed. 

    Since quitting my day job wasn’t an option (my husband is also a teacher and we’ll eventually be putting three kids through college), I sat down and took stock of what I loved about my job (working with kids, reading and writing) and what I didn’t love (paperwork, grades, standardized tests). Teaching is not for the faint-hearted; it takes lots of energy, which left my creative brain empty at the end of the day after my own kids’ homework, soccer schedules, etc. I wanted to find a way for my day job to feed the creativity I needed for my new job as a children’s author. And then it hit me: I’ll be a librarian! (Each subsequent interview has me wondering if one day I might leave the art room for the library!)

    It was the perfect solution—I’d be around books all day, I could observe what kids love—and don’t love—about reading and stories, and part of my job would actually be to read new books. It took over two years to complete the coursework I needed for my LMS endorsement, but it was worth it. When our school’s population grew, my principal asked me if I’d like to be a part-time librarian (and part-time ESOL teacher) and work alongside our full-time librarian. I said YES! and fell head-over-heels in love with the job. This fall, with my courses completed, I’ll finally be a full-time librarian. (congrats!)

    2. Tell us about your library.
    The school where I’ve taught for the past five years is about a 40-minute drive from my house, so I made the hard decision to change schools for next year. I’ll now be 10 minutes from home at the school where my husband teaches. While I’m looking forward to that, I haven’t even seen the library there yet! My other school, though, was very diverse—over 1,000 students from over 50 countries and 39 languages spoken. Most (75%) were on the free/reduced meal program and 88% are immigrants. The library has a substantial collection of books in several different languages (Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean). We also have a large section of hi-lo books that we call “Quick Reads” which have older protagonists (upper elementary/middle school) but are written at a second or third grade level. With so many of our kids learning English, most read below grade level, and the Quick Reads section and the Graphic Novels shelves were the busiest by far.

    3. What was the most recent book request?
    Right up until the last day of check-out this year, we had requests for princess books, shark books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Bone graphic novels and Justin Bieber biographies. (Ah, The Biebs.)

    4. What was your most recent book suggestion to a patron?
    I’ve done a lot of Quick Reads book talks and recommendations—the Field Trip Mystery series, Jake Maddox series, and the Library of Doom series were all huge hits—I was always handing them out to kids. I’ve also had lots of requests for scary books (I often recommend Breathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish) and a lot of 5th grade girls ask for books with a main character who has a crush on someone (Wendelin Van Draanen’s Flipped and Audrey Vernick’s Water Balloon are both good picks.) (That made me smile - so kids DO use books to figure out their own issues.)

    5. What was your most recent book suggestion to a friend?
    My principal is an avid reader with sons of her own, so we’re always swapping book recommendations. I’m reading one of hers now, Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario. It’s the true story of an illegal immigrant’s journey into the US to find his mother—a situation that we see with many of our students all too frequently. I just read that there’s a young adult version of Enrique’s Journey, and I’ve passed that along to the high school librarian where our students will eventually be going. 

    My last few recommendations to her were R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, and Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now

    6. If you could sit down to your favorite beverage with any current kidlit author, who would it be? And why?
    This is a hard question! I’d love to sit down and chat with John Greene, but I’d better not drink anything during the chat—I think he’s hilarious, and laughing while trying to swallow a beverage? Not a good choice. Ditto with Jon Scieszka.

    7. What book do you wish you had in your library but don’t? (this can be something written or something you’ve never seen)
    Books with characters from a wider variety of backgrounds. Multicultural literature is growing, but not fast enough or widespread enough. We have a significant Somali population at our school, for example, so Katherine Applegate’s Home of the Brave is a book I recommend to kids time and time again—not just for the Somali kids to see themselves on the page, but for non-immigrant kids to see a snippet of life from a Somalian refugee’s eyes. There are more and more books with Hispanic characters, Indian characters, etc. But I’ve yet to come across a middle grade book about a kid from Pakistan or a picture book about an Afghan family. (If anyone knows of any, I’d love some recommendations!) 

    8. What’s the biggest librarian stereotype? How do you fit snugly within it? What makes you bust wholly out of it?
    Aside from the horn-rimmed glasses on a chain (which I don’t have...) the biggest librarian stereotype that I’m guilty of is always having my nose in a book. Whenever I had hall duty after school during dismissal time, I’d take a book with me to read in between the waves of kids heading out to their school buses. 

    As far as busting out of that stereotype, I don’t just read books; I blog about them and interview authors on my blog, I share book trailers, and I host author visits at our school. As an author myself, I visit other schools (in person and via Skype). In the library, I’m always trying to match books with kids and teachers—making connections from story to reader, from book to curriculum. 

    9. Five favorite books of the past five years.
    Only five?! *sigh*    

    Okay, here goes, in no specific order:

    1. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
    2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
    3. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
    4. Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
    5. Unspoken by Henry Cole

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Natalie!

    Saturday, September 7, 2013

    Focus on First Drafts as a Pre-Pub Author.

    With my second round of edits on NO PLACE TO FALL back in the hands of my lovely editor, I'm once again in a space where I'm free to work on something else. Last spring, I started a historical MG and managed to get about 18k into it before my debut needed my attention again.

    But now, with time on my hands, I'm finding it so hard to get cranked back up. #5amwritersclub has helped me. I wrote a new 2.5k this week on the MG and it felt great to pass 20k, but I feel so scattered.

    For me, I work really linearly. I write the story from beginning to end and over again with each subsequent pass. In drafting, I did once scrap over 30k words and start fresh, but this book doesn't seem to need that. It's just PLAIN OLD DIFFICULT to make myself go.

    I think it's because I know an e-mail could arrive at any moment with line edits on NO PLACE TO FALL and I'll have to stop again and switch focus. So my brain is resisting committing to the drafting process. But my inner editor is telling me to get over myself. If I'm going to do this author thing I'm going to have to learn to work differently than in the days of pre-agent or even agented without a deal yet. I don't have the luxury of my time being all my own anymore. Then throw in the fact I'm back at school and my newly trained horses need to be ridden and the bedroom needs painting and there are blogposts to be done, and, and, and....

    Then there's the other voice saying "What are you doing writing a MG and a historical at that?" You see, my contract is for two YA books with the first option on whatever 3rd book I write. It would make sense that the 3rd book be another YA. But in my head I'm telling myself, MG equals 50k max. You can finish the first draft by October or November and then draft another YA to be the option book. (Yes, you are allowed to laugh at my bright-eyed optimism)

    All of this makes me very happy I still have a day job because otherwise the second guessing would be debilitating.

    Anyway - what about you? What's your drafting process like? Do you have trouble stepping back to a project after you've stepped away for a couple of months?

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    KEEPER OF WONDER: An Interview with Deena Viviani

    Today my lovely Keeper of Wonder is Deena Viviani. Deena and I have been hanging out over at Verla Kay's Blue Boards together for a while, so it's fun getting to know her better in her librarian hat. She tweets for her library @bmlkidsteens

    So you’re a librarian, how’d that happen?

    My full title is Circulation, Programming, and Young Adult Services Librarian (yes, it's a mouthful!), and I first must say I LOVE my job and feel so fortunate to work with J, YA, and adult materials and patrons and my awesome coworkers. 

    My library career started when I was 15 at the Parma Public Library in Hilton, NY. Going back even before that, I attended the story times and kids' summer reading programs at that same library where Sue the Librarian (as I knew her then) "hired" me and my sister as teen volunteers to help with those same summer programs that we had attended for years. Then when I turned 15, I was hired as a Page, and I remained there through the rest of high school and undergrad, moving up to Page/Processor and helping at the Reference/Circulation Desk, finally leaving at the age of 21 when I graduated from college and got a full-time job at a legal publishing company. I swore I was sick of libraries and would move forward with my new career and degree, whatever that may be!

    Um, yeah, after about 3 months in my cubicle office job, I missed the library. I went back to grad school that summer and got my MLS in 2 years. I also realized at that time that I wanted to be a YA Librarian. It took me 3 YA interviews in 3.5 years to get hired in my current library, but it was worth the wait to find the right fit for me. (sounds like an ideal job!)

    Tell us about your library?

    I work at the Brighton Memorial Library in Rochester, NY ( It is part of a 30-library system in Monroe County (MCLS; Our cool fact is that in the summers, we are the only library of those 30 that is open on Sundays, and we get about 800 people through the doors in the 3 hours we are open. Phew! (that is a big library system!)

    What was the most recent book request?

    The most recent books I purchased for my YA collection were titles for the local schools' summer reading lists. These books go fast and I always want to make sure we have plenty for the teens to read! The most recent YA titles I had patrons asking for were also on those lists, namely DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner, and BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX by Laurel Snyder.

    What was your most recent book suggestion to a patron?

    Oooh, I love when patrons ask this question! Before I left work on Friday a patron (adult male) asked for "something fun." I recommended REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi (our copy was out so we put it on hold), and BOY NOBODY by Allen Zadoff (the author is a Brighton HS grad). 

    What was your most recent book suggestion to a friend?

    Oh man, I am always pushing books on my friends! I gave my husband WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks, told two girlfriends about DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay, and handed another MONKEY MIND by Daniel Smith. I gave another friend PALACE BEAUTIFUL by Sarah DeFord Williams to give to her daughter.

    If you could sit down to your favorite beverage with any current kidlit author, who would it be? And why? 

    I have been very fortunate to have met, chatted with, or heard present a number of kidlit authors because of my job (I have been to 3 YALSA Symposiums, numerous SCBWI conferences, and am so lucky to have the head of the Rochester Teen Book Festival as a colleague ( But I keep saying that the three authors I need to meet/hear/see live before I die -- in order from 1st through 3rd choice if I had to choose -- are Sarah Dessen (my YA writing/librarian career inspiration), Cynthia Lord (for her lovely way of looking at the world), and John Green (for bringing YA fiction to the forefront of literature in general). (Do you like how I refused to pick just one?) (I'm all about doing what you need to do ;0))

    What book do you wish you had in your library (personal or where you work or both) but don’t? (this can be something written or something you’ve never seen)

    My library budget for YA materials is a good size, so I can buy mostly everything I really want that is published. What I want to buy that I don't see so much of are hi-lo novels (high interest topic for older/ESL teens with lower reading levels), and non-fiction on topics that read like thrillers/adventures/etc. (more in the style of Steve Sheinkin and Jim Murphy). 

    What about you would make us say, “REALLY! But you’re a librarian!” ?

    I don't own tons of books, and I don't collect autographed copies despite my opportunities to do so. I live in a 1200 square foot house with my husband and try to keep down on the clutter, and I don't really have sentimental attachments to physical books. I also don't re-read much because I am always being introduced to new titles so I feel like I don't have time. But the irony is I LOVE books and am obsessed with my YA collection at the library. (Right? Why have your own collection when YOU HAVE A LIBRARY!)

    Five favorite books of the past five years.

    Oh come on, you're killing me here! Only five??? I read about 160-200 books per year (go to to see all my reviews), most of them YA, and oh my gosh this is hard. OK, here goes:

    1) READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline (Crown, 2011) -- wide appeal across ages and genders. I recommend this book to almost everyone.

    2) GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (Crown, 2012) -- the reveals of each character and the ending were brilliant, even if you end up hating both characters. I could not put it down.

    3) OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) -- amazing writing, amazing characters, with so much emotion. My heart still warms when I think about this book.

    4) BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin, 2011) -- I read this on a hot day and still shivered during the Siberia scenes. A painful look of a lesser-known Holocaust.

    5) ASK THE PASSENGERS by A. S. King (Little, Brown, 2012) -- the love, hope, and magical realism are beautiful and still make me teary.

    Thanks so much for stopping by to talk to us, Deena!