In the bigger world, I see the despair. The need to move on to the new, and anticipate that better things are waiting in 2017. But before we jump ahead, I feel a strong need to reflect back personally and prepare for the coming year. I promise myself all the time that I'll do more reflecting on this blog, but when I don't on a regular basis, I recognize it's mostly because I jump from one thing to the next. And I'd rather fill my downtime with READING - duh.
and yes, I recognize this post is for me, not for a wide audience, but still.
Here are the shining moments I'll remember from 2016...
The year of the librarian
I received a $1,000 scholarship to travel for PD and used that to attend a conference I'd not be able to attend otherwise; Book Expo America in Chicago. It was such a thrill to experience that book joy as a reader and be reminded of how our students should approach reading. The powers that be have mandated all these benchmarks, assessments, and force students to fit in a level... many schools still use AR or another form of monitoring... and I hear, too often, of students no longer having free choice when it comes to reading. It's a battle I fight in my own school, with teachers whom I deeply respect - they tell their kids to get a certain type of book, or level, and I am constantly restating our library's belief in allowing students to choose (but I do encourage teachers to check out to their classroom or give students choice and an additional "teachers choice" if necessary). Chicago had a lot of moments of pleasure for this librarian... meeting Mo Willems and having him thank me for my work is something I'll never forget. Hearing Dav Pilkey talk about writing the Dog Man character as a student who hated school and reading (for some of the aforementioned reasons) reminded me that getting a student excited about books is far more important than the content of the material. Getting early copies of titles that my students love such as: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier, The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, When the Sea Turned Silver by Grace Lin, Return to Isle of the Lost by Melissa De la Cruz... and showing them photos of these author rockstars made ME feel like a rockstar librarian. Chats with Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander, Jennifer L Holm, JAMIE LEE CURTIS, and seeing some of my favorite YA authors like Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, Jennifer Niven... it was the best bookish librarian conference a girl could hope for. Oh, I also introduced myself to the incomparable Mr. Schu, Librarian Extraordinaire. I was the most nervous about talking to him! I mean, he's pretty much what librarians aspire to be like :)
Also, we went to Wrigley to see the Cubs, whom I've loved since my first visit in '05, and they *finally* won the World Series. I'll take a smidge of credit :) Hah! Seriously though... the Cubs winning the series might be the best thing of 2016. But that's not why you're reading my blog.
Leading PD was also a big part of 2016 for my professional achievements. In March, I lead a session at NCTIES on Social Media with my partner-in-crime, Tavia. This was a huge reach for both of us, as this conference has a big draw from diverse educators across NC and beyond. Some big-shot keynote speakers, presentors, and workshop instructors were on hand and it's always inspiring as an attendee. Though we were at the end of a long day, and up against some impressive names leading at the same time, it was a great experience and I expanded my PLN that day by meeting some awesome educators who dropped in to see us! In August, we presented together on tech tools for teachers in Currituck County at their tech conference. We also teamed up for a virtual session with New Hanover County #FutureReady Librarians, where we talked about being librarian soulmates. I highly encourage other librarians to check out this incredible series, organized by the one and only Jennifer LaGarde. Finally, we rocked a 4 hour workshop at the NC School Library Media Conference in October called Social Media Bootcamp! This one was bittersweet -- after several years of teaming up for these presentations, I knew things would change because.... Tavia got her *dream job*! Now working for the Friday Institute, she's retired her librarian cardigan and doing amazing PD for educators across the state on a daily basis! I'm so so incredibly proud of #TheTinaToMyAmy and all she's doing for education in NC.
... but the best PD?
(or anything the Friday Institute provides educators).
Mollee's love post about NCCAT // Mollee's love post about NCDLCN
The Year of the Reader
When I look back on the 100+ books I read this year, it's obvious how much the #YearofYA themes have influenced the diversity of what I read. Graphic Novels that taught me about missionaries in China. A fat girl from Texas embracing who she is and reminded me that insecurities are usually outward forces. Voices of transgendered kids, and homeless kids, and immigrants, and refugees. So many stories that speak to today, even if they're set in the past. or the future. or in space. It's amazing to me how the more diverse I read, the more my eyes are opened to the challenges and beauty of the world I live in today. I re-lived the magic of Harry Potter with a re-read of the series by audiobooks, which I started long before news of Cursed Child. That magic lives on, to which I'm eternally grateful. Another post with details of my favorites from 2016 will be shared separately, but two lines from this years' reads will carry me into 2017:
"But how do I move forward? I have no idea."
"Sometimes you just have to pick a direction and make mistakes. Then you use what you learn from your failure to pick new, better directions so you can make more mistakes and keep learning."
The year of the writer
There's an online movement called "One Word 201_" and each year, I can't come up with ONE word. I applaude those who share theirs, and think it's a worthy idea - if you focus on that word, you're more likely to achieve what it means to you. Much easier to remember than multiple resolutions. But I don't want one word. I want many of them, strung into thoughtful, resonating sentences, and paragraphs and chapters... I want a book. Agented, edited, published.
For the last several months, I've let negative thoughts pervade my mind about my goal to publish the manuscript I've worked on since 2009. 7 years! And another year gone by without getting it published! I got some rejections. And I read a lot of great books that made me question whether I'm good enough to actually be a writer. I met so many inspirational authors who gave great advice, much of which I've taken to heart, but I still see them on a pedastal. So much doubt. So much negativity. Exactly what stops a hopeful writer from becoming a real author. Because if there's one thing I've learning in talking with Alan Gratz, Matthew Quick, Melanie Conklin, Laurie Halse Anderson... listening to Sarah Dessen, Jason Reynolds, Julie Murphy, Victoria Aveyard, Sabaa Tahir.... following the tweets of Jeff Zetner, Shannon Hale, Lin-Manuel Miranda... it's that persistence is what gets you there. Yes, you need to write. You need to write well. And edit and research and edit some more. But you cannot give up. That's how to ensure it absolutely won't happen.
I need to give myself more credit. As I wrote back to Shannon Hale when she posted the above tweets/photo, my rejections are proof that I'm trying. I wanted 2015 to end with at least several queries out in the world, and I got a reply at Christmas that one agent was interested in a full! It took several rejection letters, a partial request (and subsequent rejection) before I heard back from the Christmas agent. She was complementary about the story, characters, and foundation but ultimately, a rejection. Each author I spoke with this year about the difficulties of getting an agent has mentioned how you can't sell a bad story, but if you have a good idea, you can always work on your craft. I need to take more time, apply the amazing advice I've recieved this year, and keep working on that craft.
I also need to give myself credit for starting manuscript #2 . In my time on Okracoke this summer, a story came alive in me and I made contacts and uncovered material that have helped me start the research. I wrote ferociously over summer break and ended with nearly 30,000 words. I've stalled out with the librarian busyness, but 2017 is the year I will find a better balance. 2017 is the year where I focus on my true goals and leave the distractions behind. As the late Carrie Fisher says, the confidence will come. I need to apply the effort. And of course, I gotta believe.