#BYOBooks: Ravenous

One of the perks of being a librarian (besides getting to go to the library often) is that most libraries give their employees a card whether or not the employee lives in the library’s “boundaries.” And that card often doesn’t carry late fees.*

I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty sweet deal.

However, it does a number on my ability (and honestly, my desire!) to read my own books for the #BYOBooks2016 challenge.

But, of the 16 books I’ve read in January and February, there was ONE that I owned. So let’s talk about it.

25394547Ravenous by MarcyKate Connolly is the companion novel to her 2015 debut title, Monstrous, which I loved.

Now technically, I don’t own this book. Technically, I own an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). See, I follow the author on Twitter (and Tumblr and Instagram…) and entered for a chance to read an annotated ARC of her second novel… and won!

Not only was it awesome to read this book before it hit shelves, but reading the author’s comments on how things were named, the connections to the first book, and more.. was eye-opening both in terms of the story itself and the writing process. I’m so grateful to have had that opportunity.

But, being that this is a challenge about reading what you own, and that the difference between an ARC and an officially published copy of a book is (in the best circumstances) very slight, Mary at Literary Distractions put the green light on ARCs counting toward the #BYOBooks goal! Huzzah!

Now, to a review. Or something like it.

16181516I call Ravenous a companion novel although I believe that it is technically a sequel. In Monstrous, the main character, Kymera, is the revived being of a young girl fashioned together with parts of her old body and some of the most fearsome magical beasts in the land. Her creator, who she calls father, sends her out on a mission to save the girls of Bryre from the evil Wizard who is kidnapping them for grave reasons. Knowing this (and Kymera’s ultimate ending) is an advantage going into Ravenous, as Greta’s story takes place in the same world after the events of Monstrous. Reading Monstrous isn’t necessary to wholly understand Ravenous, but I would certainly recommend it for a deeper appreciation and enjoyment.

Ravenous is about one of the very girls Kymera was sent to rescue, one eventually taken by the Wizard: Greta. Now, Greta’s parents have gone missing, her brother has been kidnapped, and her ultimate goal is to find them, dead or alive. The fairytale breadcrumbs lead Greta back to the very place, Belladoma, in which she was held by the Wizard. Battling a witch inspired by Baba Yaga, meeting and befriending magical beasts thought long extinct, and finding the courage deep within herself to achieve her goal despite the post traumatic stress moving forward triggers… Ravenous is truly a one-of-a-kind middle grade fantasy that has strong roots in an already-familiar-seeming realm.

And that is my first #BOYBooks2016 read!

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*I just want to note that although employee library cards don’t carry late fees, we are encouraged to “play by the rules” when borrowing materials. We don’t check things out for extended amounts of times, we don’t renew past the allotted number of times, and we don’t keep books weeks after their due dates. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

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Bring Your Own Books – Shelf Tour

In my last post (you know, way back in January) I declared my intentions for the new year. While I have goals and ambitions, per usual, I also mentioned the notion of getting to things when they felt right.

Well, January and the first part of February were more whirlwind months for me- I reviewed 3 books in January alone (see one set of those reviews for a cool Battle of the (YA) Books competition here!) and spent the rest of the time enjoying the end of the holidays and gearing up to find, and then start, a new job.

More on that part of my life later. For now, I’ll just say that blogging amidst all that commotion just didn’t feel right.

But it feels right today.

And today, we’re talking books. Specifically, books that I own and haven’t yet but want to read. The challenge is Bring Your Own Books (#BYOBooks2016) hosted by Literary Distractions and here are my specs (and shelves!):

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My lovingly curated library

My book cases hold an array of books (though, not my whole collection- some still live at my parents’) and nick knacks. The bottom shelves (not pictured) hold CDs, DVDs that don’t fit with the rest of our collection, and bins to hold random art supplies and power cords.

And not on the shelves themselves? A pile of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies- the perks of working at a library!) and a stack of outdated Runners World magazines (these won’t count toward my reading goals, but I paid a whole quarter for each copy so I better read them!).

So, now you’ve seen them, but what does it all mean?

All together on these shelves, I have 90 books (not counting picture, travel books, or my review ARCs).

I have read 63 of the books pictured.

And I plan to read 36 books on these shelves (9 rereads, 27 new reads).

And it’s that easy!

For more specific info. and up-to-date tracking on my #BYOBooks2016 goals, friend and follow me on Goodreads where I have a whole #BYOBooks bookshelf. I’ll do my best to blog my progress here, but, you know, only when it feels right.

New Year, New Challenges

I spent last year in a kind of haze. The haze consisted of getting used to my new job, my new house, my new puppy, and planning my wedding. While it was a productive, fun, and sometimes stressful year, I definitely fell off the goal-setting + blogging train.

What better time to catch that train again than a new year? And in typical, how-things-are-going-to-go-in-2016 fashion, I’m not posting this on the first day of the new year. Or even the first week. I just got to it when I got to it; I got to it when it felt right.

So, now that the time is right, let’s talk about what the time is right to do this year:

30 by 30
I made some good advances in my 30 by 30 goals, and wrote nary a word about them. In this new year, I’m hoping to address my 30 by 30 achievement backlog and also chart my progress as I hit new things. I’ve got the better part of three years left, so let’s DO this!

Reading
As part of my 30 by 30, I want to read 50 books a year and have done so since I began the challenge. Last year my ultimate goal was to read ALL THE THINGS so that I would have a good, solid base for my readers advisory*. And it went so well: I read 122 books! Now, I’m a children’s librarian and read a lot of children’s literature (but it all counts! more on that on a later post) but I only counted books that are 150+ pgs of fiction or 75+ pgs of nonfiction toward my goal… but that’s still a lot!

The thing is… I’m kind of burned out on reading. What? A librarian?! Burned out on reading?!?? Yeah. It happens, I hear. And it’s happening here.
So I’ve flipped things. I’ve decided to stick to 50 books as my goal, but I will focus on books I want to read instead of books I think I should read. Granted, I am sure I’ll be reading a ton of things I think I should (the Youth Media Awards are just around corner…), but I have so many great titles on my TBR list that have nothing to do with my work (in theory), but I always feel so fulfilled when I finish a great memoir or can chat up a mom about a best seller or Tweet @MindyKaling about her lolz.
Something that’ll help me on this reading journey is my friend Mary’s 2016 B.Y.O.B. Reading Challenge (#BYOBooks2016) over at Literary Distractions, which I’ll talk more about SOON(ish).

*the fancy, technical term for what happens when you ask a librarian to recommend a book.

General
My 30 by 30 really covers a lot of ground in terms of my personal and professional goals (run more, write more, be social, etc.), but in terms of general goals?

  • Blog more.
  • Keep an offline, handwritten journal.
  • Slow down and appreciate.
  • Take more pictures (with my amazing new cameras).

And that’s it!

So now, continuing in my 2016 just-go-with-it style, I’ll say farewell to you and to Chicago because tomorrow it’s off to New Orleans for my Bachelorette Party Weekend: Take 1 (#ItsBrittanysBachNOLA).

Birth of an Idea

Some days are just good for having epiphanies. And today seems to be one of those days.

It also happens to be my 27th birthday.

What’s this epiphany I’ve had, you ask? Well, it’s about the fate of this here blog.

In the months, well, almost year, since I finished the marathon, this little site I started has been in limbo. I built such a home here, and I didn’t want to leave it. It had such a great run as my training blog and I tried to transition it into my writing/author website which just.. never felt quite right. I didn’t want to blog here like I had before, lest I look unprofessional. But I wasn’t quite a professional yet, so what did it matter what I did in the time between now and if when I am published?

Cue conundrum. Cue uncertainty. Cue silence.

With a whole lot on the horizon -the dawn of a new personal age and just shy of 7 months from literally becoming someone new when I get married (but what’s in a name, really?)- I’ve been sorting out today to pave a better tomorrow. And in doing that, I figured it out; I figured out what I want for this blog.

I am back to Briterati: setting goals, achieving them, blogging about it.

A new writing website will launch sometime. But for now? I am just fine and dandy enjoying the present. And sharing it here, with you.

So bear with me while I get this site back to its good ole self, and remember that it’s never too late to start something new or to change your mind, whether you’re 27, 87, 17, or anything in between.

Set Backs: Not Always Negative

Life progress: exorbitant
Novel process: non-existant

You might remember that just about a year ago, my life got flip turned upside down: I got off my lazy butt and ran a marathon. Celebrated two years with the dude of my dreams and got engaged weeks later. Accepted a full-time position in the career I went to graduate school for. Moved from the city of Chicago to the unfamiliar Western suburbs.

All in a three-week period.

I was reeling then, as one might expect. But still, I expected this year, 2015, to be somewhat low-key despite the inevitable wedding planning and life-work-balance adjustments. I thought that I’d be able to get back on a reasonable running schedule, and that I’d be able to easily pound out the novel that’s been growing hot brewing in my brain.

How wrong I was.

I’ve missed 2 out of 3 races I signed up for this year. And that was after decided not to sign up for another 3 races I really wanted to run. #runnerproblems

Oh, and my soon-to-be family of two became a most definite family of three.

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Yep, we rescued a puppy.
His name is Mac, he was born on May 20, 2015, he is a black lab/Weimaraner mix, and we (all three of us!) couldn’t be happier.

And while every day of the past three weeks since we brought our boy home have been completely filled, none of the filling has been running or writing. Well, that’s not true. I’ve been running after a not-quite-housebroken puppy and writing down questions to ask the vet. That kind of thing.

My idea, my novel, it’s still brewing inside me, as strong as ever. I’ve never had an idea I’ve been so passionate about, so sure of, for so long. I think that’s where my frustration comes from with this project: I’ve had so many false starts with writing this story, and I keep getting stuck and having to pull back and reevaluate the plot, the characters, my intentions and goals…

And my running, well… I’ve been putting it off to spend more time with my puppy, with my family. Granted, we go on lots of long walks (all the better for a solid, 8 hours of sleep… we hope… one day…), but none of the quick 3 mile jaunts that kept me feeling fit and energized around this time last year. #marathontraining

So even though my goal was to reach “the end” by 2016, and to keep my running less-than-sporadic, I don’t think I would have been happy with the end product in either case. Taking the route I did, letting my creativity and workouts take a backseat to living my life, I know when things finally settle down at home and I get serious about my running and writing goals again, it will be a fast and furious sprint to the finish.

But for now, I am enjoying building my family, planning my future, and letting my ideas simmer, take shape, and become the best versions of themselves; letting my family bonding walks be what get me through until, one day, I can take the pup with me on a quick 3 mile jaunt.

I can’t wait for those days to come, and I won’t stop thinking about it.

And now, in a nod to the old days of this blog, a song for you: one about hope, about dreams, about looking forward and staying positive.

Also, the inspiration for my dog’s name.

Kings of San Francisco

I spent this past weekend in sunny San Francisco.

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Yes, you read that right. Sunny. San Francisco.

But let’s back up a minute.The American Library Association’s Annual Conference is being held in San Francisco this year. No, I did not attend the conference (some day!), but I was there for related festivities.

The American Library Association gives out awards to books at the Midwinter Conference, and holds banquets at the Annual Conference to honor the winners and honorees. Most people are familiar with the Youth Media Awards; the Newbery, the Caldecott, and maybe even the newer Printz may ring a bell.

But there are other, quieter, but perhaps more important, awards, too. Ones that honor writers and illustrators of diverse backgrounds and topics such as the Batchelder, the  Belpré, the Coretta Scott King. To read these books is an eye-opening experience; to attend one of the award banquets held in their honor is otherworldly.

I follow a lot of writers. On Twitter. And Tumblr. And Facebook. One such writer, Kwame Alexander, who wrote this year’s Newbery Award Winning and Coretta Scott King Honor novel in verse, The Crossover, held a contest for a ticket to either the Newbery/Caldecott Award Dinner or the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast. Write a rule, he asked, that applies to both basketball and life.

It’s not the
size
of the dog in the fight
but
the size of the
fight
in the dog. 

was my winning entry.

What did I win? A ticket to the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast in San Francisco as Kwame’s guest. The practical part of me wanted to pass the opportunity to a coworker or friend already scheduled to attend the ALA Conference. The budding author and #WeNeedDiverseBooks librarian in me said “LET’S DO THIS!” and a few airline credits and hotel points later, hell-oooo San Francisco!

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This wasn’t my first time flying alone, but I’ve always had someone waiting for me on the end leg of my journey. Not this time. And I must say that for my first solo excursion for business/pleasure, it went as well as it could have:

  • An early check in courtesy of the Mosser Hotel, located right in the thick of the San Fran action.
  • Opting to hoof around to the different must-sees of San Fran in lieu of a tour bus or other means of transport – I wanted to get up close and personal with this awesome city on a perfect, sunny day (so un-San-Fran like! hence my forgetting to pack sunscreen and subsequent sunburn…).
  • Six hours of unadulterated sight-seeing.
  • A dinner meet up with coworkers (in town for ALA) at a local pizza/pasta joint.
  • An early night filled with reading and the sounds of the city.

And that was just the first 13 hours!

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Jason Reynolds, who took a deeper look at the Electric Slide because “like in writing and art, we all have our own flavor, but we’re all going in the same direction”

The next morning, I woke bright and early for the 7am breakfast. Having read all the Coretta Scott King Honorees (sidenote: librarian level up!), I was so excited to hear (and maybe meet!) the authors of the amazing books I read. All of the books were so wonderful and spoke so confidently and realistically about the African American experience of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Given that so many high profile, racially charged events have happened in America in the past year (#BlackLivesMatter) I was so honored to have the chance, the privilege, of seeing these amazing writers accept awards that honored their culture, their history, their present, and their future.

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Frank Morrison, on the importance of challenging stereotypes and breaking the mold

If these authors and illustrators are great writers, they are even better speakers and humans. Every single honoree moved me in some way: some to laughter, some to reflection, some to tears both happy and sad. To see this group of people with a talent for storytelling I so identify with candidly share their triumphs, their joys, their struggles, their tears in their acceptance speeches completely blew me away.

It made me see more clearly. It made me feel more keenly. And although it gave new depth to my very real despair for the future of our world, it also gave me new hope.

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Kwame Alexander, who hushed the crowed with his profound and powerful poetry outlining his young daughter’s fears sprung from current events

These authors and illustrators; their work inspired me in and of itself. And their personalities and realities gave me new life as a librarian and a writer. More than ever before, I feel a real and raw responsibility to go forward and put these important works into the hands of young people, to pass along and create a hopeful narrative for our collective future.

As if the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast wasn’t enough to restore my hope in humanity, walking down Market Street through the joy of the first Pride Parade since the SCOTUS ruling in favor of Marriage Equality was the rainbow sprinkles on a very, very sweet Sunday.

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Marilyn Nelson, whose works of poetry about growing up in the 1950s outline how far we have come and how far we have yet to go

Today, despite landing in Chicago at 10pm and tossing and turning all last night despite my exhaustion (read: sunburn!), I am filled with energetic adoration for the authors I heard speak, even more for the ones I was able to meet, and am so very excited to see what these brilliant minds do next. Not to mention, I’m kind of ready to get my own voice out there, too!

In the words of Christopher Myers, “I sometimes feel like giving up on the world, but I refuse to give up on the world I have yet to create.”*

Let’s create a good one, guys.

*full and more accurate quote from Myers’ acceptance speech (as well as Jacqueline Woodson’s) will be printed in July/August 2015 edition of Horn Book Magazine, at which point I will update and credit.

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It’s Friday, Get Happy: Unplugged

It’s been ten years since I had my first “piece” of writing published. It was a poem titled “Cleanup on Aisle 11” in my high school’s art magazine, Mosaic.

Does reading it make me think a million awful things about myself and my talent? Certainly. It’s a writer’s natural response to seeing/reading most of her work in the wild, I’ve heard. But doesn’t that same reading, seeing my work in a bound magazine on semi-gloss paper, make me proud and determined to do it again? You bet.

Writing, being published, working toward being published again… that gets me happy.

But that’s not today’s theme. Because I’ve been working on a YA novel here, an essay there, some book reviews and blog posts in between. And I keep coming back and wondering why I haven’t gotten anywhere with any of it yet.

Distractions, that’s why.

Even though writing makes me happy and I spend hours at work or during family gatherings or on my commute or as I’m falling asleep wishing I could be writing instead… I spend so much of the time that I could be writing indulging in distractions. Some of which are necessary evils (cleaning, cooking, and generally being a presentable human), some of which go hand in hand with writing (reading novels or even books on writing), and many of which are onerous diversions that include, but are not limited to:

  • perfecting that witty Tweet before it becomes untimely
  • scrolling through my Tumblr feed, liking, queing, and reblogging posts
  • jotting down ideas for a new blog post or even penning and scheduling a new one
  • taking the perfect picture in the perfect lighting from the perfect angle and applying the perfect filter for Instagram
  • making sure I am up to date on all of my Facebook friends

My name is Brittany, and I am addicted to social media. Especially when this social media follows me around everywhere, courtesy of my iPhone.

I love technology, and I love social media. I’m not ashamed to admit it, even as a book-sniffing, printed-word-worshiping writer and librarian. But, when I find myself at a point where I am so involved in technology that I don’t have time or am too tired to reach my goals?

Oh, hell no!

I’d never unplug completely. Not only is it unfeasible, but it truly wouldn’t do me any good. However, I am making small steps to delete certain apps from my phone, limit myself to x amount of time on certain websites a day, and otherwise freeing myself for some down and dirty writing.

Maybe it’ll go toward my novel’s word count. Maybe it’ll turn into a NYTimes Modern Love essay. Maybe it’ll become a blog post.

I know that writing will make me happy. I see what’s standing in my happiness’s way. And I gotta do what I gotta do to get me the happiest I can be.

So with this, I’m unplugging.

You know, until next time :0)

Have you ever had to step back from technology?

What are your current writing goals? Any other personal/career goals you’re working on?