I Need a Librarian

Outtakes 202

I Need a Librarian

by Cait Collins


I love books and I have a fair sized home library. I own everything from Peanuts to the classics; religion to Dummies books. I read reference books and romance; kids literature and true crime. I have out-of-print volumes and new releases. I have kept books autographed by writer friends who are no longer with us. Trouble is I have a horrible time keeping the shelves organized.

Every few months, I go through the shelves, pull out the items I will never reread, and box them up. Eventually, I’ll load the boxes into the car and donate them to the library. Then I rearrange the shelves, putting the non-fiction on one end and filling the empty spaces with favorite authors and fiction. Within a month it’s all out of order as I’ve added new volumes and misplaced others.

My friends and family suggest I get an e-reader or tablet for the books I will only read once. It’s a logical suggestion, but I prefer a real book. You know, bound volumes with pages I can turn. Besides I’m not comfortable reading a tablet while relaxing in a bubble bath.

I guess I have a couple of solutions. I can hire a part time librarian to shelve my books and keep the book cases organized. Or I can enjoy going through each shelf looking for that new release I have yet to read. My conclusion; there is something to be said for reacquainting yourself with your personal library.

Hooray for Banned Books

Hooray for Banned Books

By Natalie Bright

Children’s Literature celebrated Banned Books Week Sept. 21-27. Hooray for that because I’ve discovered many wonderful books from these types of lists. Take for example the news that a large school district in Texas has banned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Written in first-person “diary” format, it’s the inner thoughts of a teen so it’s raw, realistic, inappropriate; just like teenagers. The main character faces bullies, alcoholic parents, racism, abusive adults, sex, cuss words; just like life.

It’s written for YA (young adult) audience which means this is a story for older teenagers. As the mother of two teenaged boys, I absolutely believe in the power of parents to control the materials our children have access to. (What parent hasn’t cringed at the mention of internet?) I understand how inappropriate teenagers can be and how shocking some of their questions are, but they’re also funny, charming, and crazy smart. Kids today continually amaze me. It doesn’t mean every teenager is into any of the topics covered in a YA novel. Sherman Alexie’s book doesn’t promote a certain kind of life style. These topics exist in our world, in a teens world. This book is for high school aged teens and, in my opinion, should not be in grade school or Jr. High libraries.

Based on the author’s own experiences, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is about a main character who leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white high school 22 miles away. It’s a story about following your dreams, finding acceptance, facing adversity, and coming through as a winner. It’s a story with loads of HEART. I loved this book.

Opinions are subjective. For as many people who hate a book, you’ll find just as many who love it. I’ve discovered so many wonderful stories through these kinds of lists, so hooray for banned books! Let’s work together to promote the joys and privilege of reading a great story. Let’s broaden the world view for our children and open the dialogue. Let’s do more talking, reading, learning, and less judging.

Writers Take Action:

1) Post an online review of one of your favorite stories from childhood. Ask your kids what’s one of their favorites. Post an online review of that book too. By promoting each others work, we’re also promoting the joys of reading.

2) Choose one book from a Banned Books List and read it.


Fixin’ to Act Ugly – Using Slang and Dialects in Stories

 Fixin’ to Act Ugly

By Natalie Bright


Using Slang and Dialects in Stories

A visitor from Florida pointed out that everyone is “fixin’ to” do something or go somewhere. I’d never noticed that the term was used that often in the Texas Panhandle.  However, I am conscious of a Southern habit of using “ugly” as a verb. My mother always said, “We don’t say ugly things.” or “Stop acting ugly.” I cringed the first time I repeated those exact words to my sons.

As writers, the question is how much regional slang is too much in a novel? And if we use such terms, will our stories seem dated or be offensive to future generations? Granted there are many noteworthy books with regional dialects or patterns of speech to aide characterization. When it’s done well, it really enhances the tale. What about your work in progress? Will the words you write today stand the test of time?

The Wonders of Wilbur

In answer to this question, I consider the classics in children’s literature. The ever popular story about a pig named Wilbur in CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was first published in 1952. In fact, the first paragraph is still used today for character development studies in writing courses.  And now with three films and a video game to it’s credit, the story continues to appeal to new generations of kids. School Library Journal named it as one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time in a 2012 poll. As an adult reader, I’m come to appreciate this book even more.

Consider the Classics

I’m reading my way through the Newberry Winners list and these stories are amazing. I recently finished the 1968 winner, FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER.  The thought of two kids running away from home and hiding in a museum still peaks the imagination, even in today’s world. I find myself going back to these classics to carefully study the dialogue, plot structure and characterization. What makes them so magical?

In mainstream fiction, dialogue referencing “calling a cell” or “tattooed hunk” makes me wonder if that is the best choice of words. And exclamations of “Jesus Christ” or “Oh, God” just makes me cringe.

What I ‘d like to do in this blog post is keep gushing over the amazing award winning books in children’s literature, but I’ll stop here and encourage you to discover the stories from your childhood.  Used book stores are filled to the rafters with such titles, and some of the older classics are FREE as eBooks. Even though kid lit may not be the genre you normally read, take a minute to ponder how a story about a pig and a spider continues to entertain readers after 60 years.

What are some of your favorite characterizations using patterns of speech with slang or specific dialects?

Happy spring and happy writing!