November 28, 2011

Creativity Interview: Father Murray Bodo, OFM

Father Murray Bodo, a fellow Southwesterner though he has lived in Cincinnati for many years, is a treasured friend. All of us lucky enough to know Murray personally treasure him not only as a fine and prolific writer but as a raconteur who makes us laugh, and as a wise, compassionate and devout man. Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon, dear Murray!

1. Little Louis Bodo who grew up in Gallup, New Mexico, now annually spends time in Italy. How did that happen and how has it affected your life and your writing?
MB: The first time I went to Italy was on a mission from my Franciscan Province to write a book about St. Francis. That was in 1972, and the book was Francis: The Journey and the Dream. A fortieth anniversary edition of that book is now available from St. Anthony Messenger Press. Then in 1976 I began leading pilgrimages as a staff member of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs. I’ve been going to Italy for a couple of months in the summer or fall for 35 years now; it’s like a second home to me, especially Assisi where I continue to be inspired by the life and times of St. Francis and by the beauty of the Umbrian countryside and the enchanting streets of Assisi.

2. You were a teacher and professor for many years. Now you lead retreats. Do you miss teaching and what is the challenge of leading a retreat well?
MB: I do miss teaching. I taught for 36 years and loved my years in the classroom. But in 2002 I asked to be relieved of that ministry to devote my time to writing and leading pilgrimages. Interestingly, the challenges of a good retreat or pilgrimage are much the same as those of teaching: thorough and ongoing preparation, interesting delivery and lively inter-acting with the group; and, for me, prayer – my own and those supporting me and the retreatants, or pilgrims, with their prayers.

3. I believe I met you in 1989 in Cincinnati. During those 22 years, you have always been writing new poems and working on two to three books at a time. You amaze me. What keeps you writing at such a pace?
MB: I was asking myself that same question lately. For one thing I love writing and don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t write. And secondly, because of my age, I may be writing against time, trying to be an instrument of God’s Spirit while I still have it in me to create. But most of all, it is because writing is something I just have to do to be me. It’s intimately a part of my identity.

4. Have you always thought of yourself as creative? How do you nurture your creative life?
MB: I was the kind of kid who, as far back as I can remember, was always performing improvised skits for whoever could endure my extemporaneous plays. But it wasn’t till I was in high school that I discovered poetry as a creative outlet for me. Poetry, both reading it and writing it, gives me life; and I nurture that creative outlet by reading poets who stimulate my own writing and by walking, observing, meditating on the world around me and within me. I wait for a line, an image, or word to come to me.

5. What are your new writing projects?
MB: At present I’m completing a new book of poetry, Something Like Jasmine, which will be released by Tau Publishing in early 2012. I’m also working on the introductions for a St. Francis Day Book, which I’m co-authoring for St. Anthony Messenger Press with Pat McCloskey, a Franciscan confrere. In addition, I’m writing a small pamphlet on Pilgrimage that will be published by Abbey Press in their Prayer Notes series.

6. What makes Father Murray laugh?
MB: Usually, its human nature and the goofy, inconsistent things we all do, especially when we’re trying to be serious, and instead we tickle someone’s funny bone. But animals and birds make me laugh even more. I love to observe their antics, their play, and their inexhaustible curiosity.

November 21, 2011

Creativity Interview: Dr. Monica Rosas-Baines

I’ll begin by saying: I’m the proud aunt of one niece, thus my favorite niece, Dr. Monica Rosas-Baines. Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon, dear Niki! I’ve been so impressed by your work with Latinas Juntas.

1. When and why did you decide to become a psychologist?
NR: I wish I had a romantic answer, like all my life I knew that I wanted to work in mental health but truthfully, it was somewhat by accident. I started off as a biology major, thinking maybe I’d be a vet. I took Abnormal Psychology as an elective and fell in love (well that’s romantic, I suppose). I was completely intrigued by the different disorders and theories of psychopathology. I began taking more courses in psychology and eventually changed my major. I decided to become a psychologist because I enjoy studying people and helping them understand the reasons they think, feel and behave as they do. It’s extremely rewarding to help people. I’m lucky that I can say I really love my job.

2. How did Latinas Juntas begin?
L: Dr. Denna Sanchez; R: Dr. Monica Rosas-Baines
NR: My dear friend and fellow campus psychologist, Dr. Denna Sanchez, and I observed that our Latina patients reported similar cultural pressures that often made their academic journey more challenging… issues like family and gender role conflicts, lack of role models, isolation on campus and personal insecurities. These clinical observations as well as our own identification with these issues inspired us to design a program to offer support and mentorship. We know that not every Latina is interested in personal counseling so we wanted to develop a forum where we could address these issues and help them create a supportive network.

3. What have been the key challenges? The rewards?
NR: Fortunately, our campus administrators, faculty and staff are very supportive of our efforts. However, the budget for these kinds of student support events is shrinking.

I can’t say enough about the rewards. Every year I get to help create a sense of community among our Latina students and staff. Evaluations from student participants invariably include comments about how they are inspired by the faculty, Dr. Sanchez, and me. However, I’m not sure that our students are aware of how much they inspire us. Their perseverance in spite of cultural pressures and personal challenges is remarkable and it is an honor to work with them. By the end of the day, there is a palpable sense of unity, empowerment and cultural pride in the room. It’s a very special day.

4. Do you think of yourself as creative? How has your creativity and that of your colleagues strengthened this initiative?
NR: I would say that I’m creative, and my creativity is enhanced by working with a partner who is enthusiastic and creative as well. Our event is annual, so we try to make it so that students can get a different experience each year. This event has really stretched my creative muscle because we’re always thinking of new and fun activities that will inspire dialogue and sharing. It really helps to work as a team because we can bounce ideas off of each other regarding large and small group activities, guest speakers, art projects, etc.

5. Do you know of any other campuses in your area or in CA who are following your good example?
NR: Yes, in fact it was our participation as small group facilitators at the Latina Connection Conference (offered through California State University, Long Beach) that inspired us to create a similar program on our campus. I am unaware if other college campuses provide similar programming although I have provided consultation to staff members at Washington and Texas campuses that are interested in creating programs for Latinas.

6. I know you’ve always been a reader. What kind of books do you enjoy?
NR: My husband always teases me that I only like tragedies. I will admit that I am drawn to novels, particularly memoirs, about people who have survived difficult challenges, whether it’s abuse, poverty, loss, etc.

Click here to read an article about Latinas Juntas.

Attendees at the Latina Juntas conference listen as a student reads "University Avenue," a favorite poem of Niki's, written by her aunt, Pat Mora.

November 14, 2011

Creativity Interview: Monica Brown

I’ll begin by saying: I’ve had the pleasure of occasionally spending time with warm, energetic and talented Monica Brown. Congratulations on your eleven wonderful children’s books, Monica! Welcome to Bookjoy Creativity Salon!

1. You are an author, presenter, professor, friend and inspiration to many, and a family member. Wow! Do you enjoy your academic life?
MB: I do enjoy being a professor—for the decade before I started writing children’s books I had the pleasure of teaching and writing about the most amazing Latino/a literary works and introducing college students to new worlds of literature. I think the best preparation for writing is reading, so I had the best training of all. First, teaching, researching, and talking about Latino/a literature and then I began creating Latino/a literature for children, inspired by the birth of my two daughters, Isabella and Juliana. I wanted them to know who Gabriela Mistral was, who Celia Cruz was.

2. Is there a connection between that life and your work as an author for children? Has being a writer changed your teaching?
MB: The two are intimately connected, in mostly positive ways. For example, when I was researching my book on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I decided to develop a new class—a comparative literature of the Americas. I taught a senior seminar that compared magical realist texts by U.S. Latino/a authors such as Luis Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God, and Marie Arana’s Cellophane to South American novels such as Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s seminal One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book that changed the direction of my life. I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was a senior in high school and it captured me as no other, perhaps before or since. This teaching and writing led me to the publication of my very own magic realist text for children, Chavela and the Magic Bubble.

3. Tell us briefly about your publishing journey and your newest books.
MB: My publishing journey is long in that it started, I think, long before I published my first children’s book, and even before I published my first scholarly book. My mind, even as a child, was never quiet, for better or for worse. In some ways I had a fairy tale journey into children’s books because the first manuscript I ever wrote, on Gabriela Mistral, secured a publisher and the first book I ever published, My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz (and the second I wrote), was honored with awards. But I like to say that I spend years honing my craft—first as new graduate working as a journalist in Guadalajara in 1991, and then through my scholarly writing in graduate school and beyond. I was very lucky to meet my agent, Stefanie Von Borstel and her partner, Lilly Ghahremani, who were two amazing women of color just founding Full Circle Literary. So in addition to having a supportive husband and family, I had an amazing Latina agent who had my back and shared my vision.

4. Are you connected to sharing bookjoy through Día?
MB: I am connected and committed to sharing bookjoy through Día! I’m not sure that folks who haven’t been to a Día celebration can fully understand the joy and delight on the faces of children. There are worlds between the pages of books, and when I’m reading and working and playing with children at a Día event, I am bringing them on an adventure to these new worlds.

5. Did you always want to be a writer?
MB: I always wanted to express myself creatively, and that took different forms. Theater was probably my first venue of creative expression, and then books and writing. Believe it or not, being an English major seemed a lot more “practical” than being an actor or director! For this reason, I enjoy the performative aspects of working with children and Día and during presentations, I involve children in the music and dance of my books. I joke that my presentations are up and out of the rocking chair.

6. Have you always thought of yourself as creative? How do you nurture your creative life?
MB: My mother was an amazing artist and she nurtured me and inspired me. I also grew up in a home surrounded by incredible art, which I feel helped me think visually and helped me to better write for artists. The picture book is the meeting place of text and art, after all. My mother also instilled confidence in me, something that any writer needs, because no matter how good you are, rejection becomes a regular presence for writers. But in the present, the way I nurture my own creativity by be open to the magic and sometimes craziness of each and every day. Laughter is a big part of that, and also searching out new experiences. I often find inspiration and renewal in the works of my fellow artists—in writing, film, theater and music.

7. Are you working on other writing projects?
MB: I am working on several projects—in my mind at least. Part of the work will have to wait until I go on sabbatical next year. The hardest part about being an academic as well as a children’s author is simply my lack of time. I want to write, but during the semester, my students need to come first, not to mention my daughters, my family, and my community! With so much negativity going on in my state around issues of immigration there are some things that are politically pressing. Luckily, when I do have the time to write, I can be very focused. My most immediate plans are to finish a middle grade novel based on the character in my new picture book, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match.

8. What is a favorite time of your day?
MB: I like different times of day for different reasons. Afternoon naps are delicious, but so is sharing a cup of coffee with my husband in in our backyard underneath the ponderosa pines. When my daughters were little, there was no greater joy than Saturday and Sunday mornings when they tumbled into bed with us. Now that I have a teen and a tween, I look forward to picking them up from school and hearing about their days—they usually both talk at once in a jumble. As for writing, it really only ever is the mornings for me, when my energy is up and things are at their most hopeful.

 View book trailers.       

See teacher resources for Monica's books on her website.
Read a  downloadable bio and brochure.

ALSC's New Dia Website

Great news! Today the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC) launches it's new Día website. Congratulations! In addition to information and resources you can view a short welcome video from Pat on the new site.

November 7, 2011

Meet the 2011 Mora Award Winners

I'm so pleased that the contact personnel at the two 2011 Mora Award winning libraries agreed to a blog interview. First we'll hear from Sylvia Cisneros, Senior Librarian, Youth Services at the Santa Ana Public Library (CA.)

1. How did you first become interested in Día and how long ago was that?
SC: I had the privilege to live in Mexico for eleven years, between the ages of one and twelve. During that time, I learned and lived everything about the Mexican community like never imagined. Día de los Niños has been one of the most important celebrations within my family and the Mexican community. Schools, businesses and large organizations close every year on this day to dedicate it to the children in Mexico. This was not an exemption in our small town, called El Granjenal in the state of Michoacan. This celebration stayed with me all my life, and therefore, when I started conducting Spanish storytime in 2002, I always had the desire to incorporate Día as part of my themes. It wasn’t until 2007 that I decided to celebrate, and without knowing that Día already existed within libraries, I created my own program. It was a simple program, with games, stories, and cupcakes for the kids.

Sylvia's school
2. When did you begin to plan your 2011 celebration? Did you work with a team and who created the team?
SC: Our planning for our 2011 celebration began in November of 2010. This was going to be our 3rd year celebration and we knew we wanted to have a greater celebration than what we had in our previous years, therefore Lupita Vega (Youth Services Principal Librarian) and I, decided that we were going to have all the youth services staff involved in the project.

Sylvia and her team
Top row, L to R: Michelle Loera, Linda Hanks, Lupita Vega, Olga Gallardo, Rose Navarro
Bottom row, L to R: Elvia Hernandez, Sylvia Cisneros, Kevin Le
3. What do you think made your 2011 celebration special?
SC: The enthusiasm from our team members and the community was great, and this made the entire planning process and the event itself to come out as expected. The invited authors, book sale, and special performances made this celebration especial!

4. How do you and your library feel about winning the Mora Award?
SC: Día has become our most attended event in our library and therefore the most important. Winning the Mora Award is very satisfying; it brings us joy! Most important it lets us know in that we are doing a wonderful job promoting literacy, cultures and celebrating children all at the same time.

5. What did you learn from your celebration this year?
SC: I have learned that Día can really bring families together and that it can be an event that not only promotes the importance of reading but that it informs our community on different services that they probably are not aware of and from which they can benefit from.

6. What three key pieces of advice would you give to those ready to plan their first Día celebration in spring 2012? Advice to those who have celebrated before?
SC: For those libraries that will be planning their first Día, my advice would be:

1) Start planning and promoting early 2) Always work with a team 3) Don’t be afraid to go big and ask organizations for help.

For those who have celebrated before, my advice is to continue with the celebration, and to find ways of making their event larger and better each year.

7. Do you think of yourself as creative?
SC: I believe everyone is creative. As we start imagining, ideas come out. When I plan any events, I think of originality, and look for alternatives and possibilities, but I always think about the audience we will be serving in the program. I focus on the words FUN and EDUCATIONAL and proceed from there.

8. Why are Día and sharing bookjoy important to you?
SC: Día is very important for me and the staff here at Santa Ana because we are not only celebrating with the community an event that they respect and believe in but because we incorporate and make it stronger by promoting the joy of books. We try to promote the pleasure of reading, the outcomes of a good reader, and the importance of sharing books as a family.

My name is Emily Ziglinski and I am the Latino Liaison for the Springfield Public Library (OR.) I have been working in libraries for about 8 years and with the Latino community for over 20. Being a librarian is the best job in the world. I am soooo lucky to do what I do.

1. How did you first become interested in Día and how long ago was that?
EZ: My first library job was with Multnomah Public Library in Portland, Oregon. I was hired as a bilingual clerk and worked at the St Johns branch. I started working for MCL in 2003, the year after they had won the Mora Award. We had a wonderful bilingual Library Assistant who was in charge of organizing our Día event. I learned a lot from her in how she involved our community and really made it a neighborhood celebration. My contribution to the event was helping with the table activities, which were literacy based. My experience helping with and observing the Día events at MCL during my three years working there, definitely helped me be prepared for organizing the event here at Springfield Public Library.

2. When did you begin to plan your 2011 celebration? Did you work with a team and who created the team?
EZ: I had a small, but dedicated team for our Día event; our wonderful library volunteer, Faviola Arceo Garcia and the Latino Liaison for the Girl Scouts in our area, Martha Morales, and myself. We started working on ideas in January. I have already had community members and organizations asking to be involved for Día 2012!

3. What do you think made your 2011 celebration special?  EZ: Community involvement

4. How do you and your library feel about winning the Mora Award?
EZ: We are ecstatic! We are pleased as a smaller library to be recognized for our work reflecting and embracing our entire community. The monetary award also triples our program budget for Día, for this we are VERY thankful.

5. What did you learn from your celebration this year?
EZ: I need to schedule more people to help with clean-up! This is true, but seriously, I think that the thing I learned most from Día this year is that once you have your base program plan in place, it is easy for the event to generate excitement and grow on its own. This was my second year planning Día for SPL and so I had a general idea of what the day would look like. I could then concentrate my energy on bringing more people to the table. With each person that gets involved more energy and ideas are generated. It becomes organic – growing and blooming with only a little care. It is fun to watch and to be a part of.

6. What three key pieces of advice would you give to those ready to plan their first Día celebration in spring 2012? Advice to those who have celebrated before?
EZ: First Día – 1) Know your community: who will come, who can help, what languages and cultures do you need to consider when planning, etc. 2) Give away books in the different languages of your community if you can. We did not have enough for every child, but we had a raffle. Kids were so excited to have a new book. I think it also helps tie the whole day together – a fun day dedicated to BOOKJOY! 3) Take good notes to build on your base for the future.

To those who have celebrated before: One of the goals of Día is promoting literacy, be open minded about what can be considered a literacy-based activity. Some parents have a low literacy level, so including crafts & activities that they can participate in with their children is important. For example we had a piñata making workshop as part of our celebration. Parents and children talked about designs and parents shared stories with their children. These narratives are a part of literacy.

7. Do you think of yourself as creative? EZ: Yes, but not when talking about myself. (smile)

8. Why are Día and sharing bookjoy important to you?
EZ: I believe in the power of knowledge and the power of community, I guess that is why I became a public librarian. Día and bookjoy are really about embracing these two concepts. Plus, Día is about celebrating children, and programming for children is one aspect I love about my job.