Saint Dolly and Literacy

It’s rather an open secret that Dolly Parton is a champion of children’s literacy. Her “Imagination Library“, which started in 1995 with only her home county in Tennessee in mind has grown to spread across the United States and abroad to Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. Partnering with local organizations, the Imagination Library has managed to give millions of children books.

I was so happy when I learned that the Imagination Library was going to partner with a local nonprofit in my county here in the PNW because I finally had kids of my own who could benefit from the program. I’ve been so pleased with the books my two littles receive every month. There has been a wide variety of topics and features a diverse cast of protagonists with authors of all kinds of backgrounds. The stories range from The Little Engine that Could to Hair Love to This Beach is Loud! to A Father’s Love. Again, so pleased with the variety and diversity, especially because I work to ensure my kids read widely and not just about children who look like them and have their same experiences.

Have you ever been a recipient of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library? What do you think of it? What other ways do you know of to get books to children? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Isolation Reads

You know how sometimes you pick up a book and it’s the exact right book for the moment? It doesn’t have to be deeply meaningful or change your life forever, but maybe it fits a mood or scratches a hard-to-reach reading itch or…? Y’know? Well, somehow, I’ve stumbled across a few of these since the beginning of March when my corner of the world succumbed to C19.

Photo by Jess Bailey on

In no particular order:

  1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (audiobook)
  2. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao (sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns)
  3. Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic by Michael McCreary
  4. The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
  5. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (audiobook)

The two audiobooks have been especially comforting, and I think the narrators’ voices have a lot to do with that. The material covered in both is somehow nostalgic and cozy, and I honestly can’t put my finger on why. I’ve seen The Neverending Story movie, but of course, the book goes into a great deal more of the narrative, and this is my first time reading it. It was also my first time reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, so again, not sure about the nostalgia factor there. Regardless, they both gave me the feeling of being wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket, drinking tea, near a fire–probably with a good chocolate biscuit on hand. (Why my idea of coziness must include a British sweet and not an American one, I don’t know.)

I’m curious. What books have you enjoyed lately? What else are you watching, doing, etc., that gives you that feeling of cozy nostalgia?


Merry Christmas!

I have to admit that I am a fan of the following short story by David Sedaris–“Six to Eight Black Men”–which a classmate shared with me this week. I listened to it while at work and kept having to stifle my giggles while my coworkers shot me perplexed looks.

And, if you’re looking for more writing/holiday related material, maybe you should check out this short story “Nicholas Was” by Neil Gaiman. It also made me laugh, but then…I have a dark sense of humor.


First Drafts and More from Neil Gaiman

The following short video includes some of Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on writing, especially on the importance of writing in order to become a writer. He also touches on reading, first drafts, and more. The audio is from a Nerdist podcast, but the video was put together by YouTuber Brandon Farley.

How do you go about writing?


Narrator and Narrative

I know what you’re thinking… Two blog posts within 24 hours. What could this mean?! (#doublerainbow)

I think I’ve hit a long awaited writing episode where all I want to do is write. Additionally, my thesis course has been inspiring me, and that makes me want to post here as well. I have two related items to share here. The first is about narrator, and the second is about narrative.

This last week in my class, we were looking at POV and narration, so our professor gave us a link to Steve Almond’s article “Once Upon a Time, There was a Person Who Said, ‘Once Upon a Time’ | The New York Times” (The New York Times Magazine, January 2013). I won’t do Almond the injustice of trying to summarize his article, but do go read it. I felt that it was especially poignant in light of the chaotic world events of this last week.

In turn, this article made me think of Chimamanda Ndozi Adichie’s 2009 TED Talk called “The Danger of the Single Story |” I rewatch Adichie’s talk every other month or so and never tire of listening to her wisdom and experience. I will embed the video below in case you don’t want to click through to the link.

I hope you enjoy these two perspectives on narrator and narrative. Let me know what you think in the comments!


Why Writers’ Search Histories are Odd

I’m working on my thesis right now, and since I am majorly revising a prior draft, I have been including many more details and fleshing the story out as I go. As a direct result of this slowed down process, I have been doing a lot of research. Tonight, I have searched for and learned more about the following things:

  • morphological traits of predatory fish
  • fish eyes (and octopus and shark eyes)
  • color names of opal variations
  • how long it takes for blood to dry or congeal outside of the human body
    • This search resulted in subsequent searches about rigor mortis, which led to further discovery of “lividity” and an understanding of what congealed blood inside the body looks and feels like. (Apparently, it’s like red currant jelly?)
  • how far a “league” is
  • how far the human eye can perceive a candle flame
    • Fun fact: a league is about 5.5 km, and a human eye can see a candle flame at about the same distance because any further away would drop the flame below the horizon due to the curvature of the earth.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why writers’ search histories are odd.


Reading in 2015

On a whim, I decided to undertake a reading challenge for 2015. It only makes sense to do it because sometimes I get caught up in other narratives (ah, Netflix, my sweetest downfall…I loved you first. I loved you first…) and honestly forget how much I enjoy reading. There’s something magical about the written word, and it’s quite a different experience to watching a story visually unfold.

reading challenge

This is what I’m aiming for this year…

Just as I had a really good reason to tune out the world in favor of Doctor Who (reboot) marathons, I also had a really good reason to pick up this reading challenge. Writers need to read: it’s as simple as that. Need. Not should, ought to, probably would be better off if they did, but need to read. So when I stumbled across a reading challenge, I decided, “Why not?” and committed to reading 50 books in a year. For someone who reads slowly, this is no small commitment, so I’m trying to balance my more serious reading with lighter fare.

I’m trying to plan my reading according to my “to read” list on Goodreads to see if I can hack away at it a bit–a Sisyphean task since I only keep adding new ones to the list. Ah well. Currently, I’m one book ahead of my reading schedule, although I was several books up earlier this year. Then life caught up and Doctor Who became my companion. (Heh.)

Without further ado, the list of books I’ve read so far this year:

  • Description and Setting by Ron Rozelle
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Arcanum 101 by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
  • Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn
  • Fairest by Chanda Hahn
  • Fable by Chanda Hahn
  • Reign by Chanda Hahn (These four were a YA series that I ate up.)
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (SO good!)
  • The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (breathtaking)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (highly recommend)
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth (This was a fun romp, but not as much substance as I’d hoped for in the end.)
  • Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
  • What was Lost: a Christian Journey through Miscarriage by Elise Erikson Barrett*
  • The Taming of the Chew by Denise Lamothe (ok)
  • Everblue by Brenda Pandos (like a mermaid version of Twilight…DO NOT recommend)

So this is where I’m at so far in the challenge. I’ve read a decent chunk of YA lit, but I’ve also read several good nonfiction books and dabbled in the classics. I only regret a few books on this list, so that’s not so bad, eh?

Until next time!


*If you or someone you know has suffered a miscarriage or other pregnancy loss, I highly recommend this book.

Criticism and Grace

Trigger Warning: discussion of body issues (self-esteem, eating disorders, etc.)

Way back in January of this year, one of my aunts posted on Facebook about picking a word for the year. The idea was that you pick a word that becomes, more or less, your year’s theme. Some people picked thankfulness, others picked joy, I chose the word grace. My thinking going in was that I would work on extending grace both to others and to myself. Now, as we are on the eve of the new year, I think it’s a great time to reflect back on the year and see how it went. Continue reading