March 28, 2012

Día Author & Illustrator Ambassadors

Next month we'll be celebrating Día's 16th Anniversary. Friends ask me what it's like to have a teenager again (I'm the mother of three grown children), and I laugh and say, "My teenager belongs to a huge national family of Día advocates. Like any teenager, she still needs her family to grow into her full potential."

Today we're saluting our first Día Author & Illustrator Ambassadors, talented and busy artists and literacy supporters who have generously agreed to promote Día, to promote linking all children to books, languages and cultures. I'm grateful to each of them for sharing bookjoy, and I encourage you to savor their books.

Our third Díapalooza, a Día Month on this blog, begins April 1. We hope you’ll visit us often during April and bring friends! Throughout the month we’ll feature:

News about Día events throughout the country by guest posters
Día Reflections by Pat
Videos made by some of our Día Author & Illustrator Ambassadors
A New Alphabet -- Día Advocates A-Zing!
Book Giveaways
          … and Surprises!

So stop by during Díapalooza--or simply subscribe to Bookjoy and receive new posts automatically. Celebremos!

March 23, 2012

Gracias to Con Tinta and UNLV

Thanks to poet and Pilgrimage editor and publisher Maria Melendez and her Con Tinta colleagues, I enjoyed a wonderful day in Chicago, March 1. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) was having its annual conference, and Maria et. al. had organized a 2012 AWP Tribute for me that they’d titled: “Eloquence & Bookjoy.” I read from published and new writings, and Diana Garcia, Beatriz Terrazas, John Drury & Xánath Caraza generously spoke about my work. A special memory.

Photo by Xanath Caraza

Photo by Xanath Caraza
That evening Con Tinta, hosted a Pachanga at which I saw writing friends and met new writers. Paloma Martinez-Cruz provided guitar music, and poets Irasema Gonzalez and Diana Pando read some of my poems to the audience. I received the Con Tinta Achievement Award for Literary Activism and a wonderful statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Oaxaca. Maria and her colleagues are all busy people, and I wish to express my deep thanks to her and all who created two special memories and who deepened my commitment as a writer and literacy/literary advocate.

Con Tinta is a coalition of Chicano/Latino cultural activist poets and writers who believe in affirming a positive and pro-active presence in American literature. Con Tinta's mission is to create awareness through the cultivation of emerging talent, through the promotion and presentation of artistic expression, and through the collective voice of support to its members, communities, and allies.

Photo by Xanath Caraza

On March 17, I had the good fortune to be part of the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ first Gayle A. Zeiter Children's Literature Conference. My friend, Dr. Cyndi Giorgis chaired the friendly group of UNLV colleagues and students who created a day with lots of helpful strategies for promoting books for children. I again enjoyed listening to talented illustrator and writer James Ransome and was glad to also meet and listen to his wife, the writer Lesa Cline-Ransome. Each is mighty talented and as a duo presenting their work and ideas, they are mighty funny.

Children’s Literature Conferences are an effective strategy for gathering librarians, teachers, professors, etc. who want to share their commitment to children and literacy and for motivating attendees and presenters to re-commit to this challenging goal. I enjoyed speaking about my writing, Día, sharing bookjoy, creativity, and the art of teaching and writing. As always, I enjoyed chatting with attendees and was inspired by their commitment to students and young people. Congratulations to Cyndi and her colleagues on initiating an important tradition and for including me in their inaugural event.

March 19, 2012

Women's History Month

People sometimes ask: do we really need annual observances such as African American History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children's Day/Book Day, International Women's Day and Women's History Month? YES.

Do we see our national diversity when we look at our computer, TV and movie screens? Newspaper and magazine editors and reporters? Publishers' lists, book reviews and reviewers? Politicians and national leaders? Also, our complex national diversity is not yet appropriately recognized and celebrated in the sciences or the arts.

The theme for this year's National Women's  History Month Project is Women's Education: Women's Empowerment. This past week I was asked questions about the role of education in my life. I am a first-generation college graduate, and in answering the questions, I was remnded how grateful I feel and how important it is to motivate girls and young women to invest in themselves. I wrote, " My college education was an important factor in whatever success I’ve had as a parent, teacher, administrator, writer and speaker. For a student interested in new opportunities, a college education can be transformative. It dramatically enriches a life."


March 12, 2012

Creativity Salon: David Fernández-Barrial and Jill Garcia

A few years ago, my escort at the National Book Festival in DC was gracious David Fernández-Barrial. I was intrigued by the specific work he does at the Library of Congress and am delighted that he agreed to participate in our Creativity Salon. I'm also pleased that he invited his colleague, Jill Garcia, to join us too.

1.What is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and what are your roles?

David: The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (also known as NLS) is the national library program for persons with blindness, physical limitations or print disabilities that prevent the reading or handling of standard print. NLS ensures that people who have difficulties reading standard print are still able to have access to reading. We are a part of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, which is the world's largest library!

Jill: I select the young adult and kid’s books that will be recorded as an audio book and/or read in braille. The titles we choose are for patrons across the entire U.S.

David: And I am the foreign-language librarian at NLS, responsible for selecting books in Spanish and other languages.

2. Do you consider yourself a creative person? If yes, how does your creativity affect your work?

Jill: Strangely enough, I never really thought about it. But I do get to be creative when I write the annotations for the books I select. We write short descriptions about the books for our patrons. And what really thrills me, is trying to create a summary that entices a person to read a book they normally would never pick up. Now that is pretty cool.

David: Yes, I think we are creative people. Our jobs involve creativity, but we also love words and book culture and actively participate in it. If you are a creative person, it is not as though you come to work and push that creativity aside: it informs everything you do. Outside of work I love to write, and have dabbled in different things like novels and short poems. And within the hallowed halls of the Library, I actively problem-solve, open my mind, and breathe in the centuries of human knowledge. Being creative is a lifelong process: it is about participating fully in the world and being aware of things. Being a librarian makes you hyper-aware of the larger, expansive, and active, volcanic world all around us. A world of becoming.

3. What are your two or three key challenges in the work you each do?

David: One challenge is that things happen very, very slowly in our workplace. We try to accomplish many things, yet they take time and much negotiation. What makes it so rewarding, though, is knowing that your job has such a positive impact on people’s lives.

Jill: My biggest, heartwrenching challenge is being limited on how many books I can select for the collection. I love them all, but I can only pick a small amount of what is published.

David: Yes, there are so many good books out there.

4. What were you like as a child? Were you a reader?

Jill: Given the amount of toys laying about at work, I think we both never grew up. Yes, I was a happy, lunatic reader as a child … I carried books with me where ever I went. I had a burning need to be surrounded by the magic of stories. I think that is why I grew up believing that anything is possible, if you just believe.

David: I was a gloomy and morose child, trapped in the world of imagination … no, I am joking. I still am a child. I loved (and love) to read, which is why being a librarian in the world’s largest library is really a kid’s dream job.

5. Día is one way I promote bookjoy. Do you see possible connections between your work and Día?

David: Día is about promoting bookjoy and inspiring the love of reading. We at NLS help provide access to all readers, including those who are multilingual or multicultural or just want to read books in other languages.

Jill: I agree. We love books and love to make people aware of the great diverse literature out there.

Pat: Many thanks again for your time.

David: It is our pleasure, Pat. It is an honor to talk about our program to let your readers know about how reading, literacy, accessibility of learning materials are a right for every person, including persons with disabilities. And that creativity and love of learning are alive and well in corridors of the temple of knowledge that is the Library of Congress.

Jill: Thank you, Pat. One very nice thing about our jobs is that we can meet great people like you!