Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bye Bye Butterfly

Butterfly Books in De Pere, Wisconsin announced that the independent children’s bookstore will close its doors by mid-July, after 20 years in business. Hard economic times and absolutely no purchase orders from local public schools helped contribute to the store's demise. My fear is that throughout the upcoming years we will continue to see the same trend, especially with e-books, online distributors and bookstore giants like Barnes & Noble. And what I dread more than anything is physical publications disappearing altogether.

Whenever I bring up this thought, most also share that they prefer a book in hand. But we grew up having our parents reading us bedtime stories and fiddling through the card catalog at the public library (yes, I know, I just showed my age). I also grew up with no cell phones, records, and no home computer. So, sometimes it takes me awhile to jump on the new electronic bandwagon. But when a new generation starts off with the new wave, there's nothing for them to miss. And with the cost savings and technology continually improving making color and graphics better than ever, then why would a publishing house waste lots of money on something that may never even breakeven in sales?

My hope, my dream, is so that a young child can feel the joy of holding the book in hand, turning the pages, reading the words and interpreting the vivid pictures...but maybe there's joy in holding an e-reader. I haven't given in yet, so I don't know.

keep reading alive,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I love this video, this message, and, yes, I love my hair

Black, Bi-racial, Multi-mixed, and anyone else with nappy, curly, kinky or frizzy hair....come together and unite!

If only I had this inspirational diddy to sing along with while watching Sesame Street. Instead, I sat for hours with searing hot chemicals relaxing my unruly, misbehaving curls. Maybe, just maybe, I would have liked my hair and not have felt the need to try and look like my blond, blue-eyed best friend.  Did I really think I could feather my hair? But what the hell did I know? I was only around 9 years old and just wanted to be like everyone else in school. Imagine, running around outside in the rain or swimming with my head under the water, not caring what it did to my hair! Total freedom.

Now it's many, many years later...and I really DO love my hair. I haven't had a relaxer or any other type of chemical reaction applied to my locks in almost 10 years. Just my natural, curly - sometimes kinky, sometimes frizzy, but always fun - hair.

C'mon everyone...whether straight, buzz, braids, curls, waves, bald...and the list goes on, just sing along...."I really love my hair....I love my hair!"

lots 'o love,

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Do young adult novels go too far?

After reading the article "Kid Lit World Responds to WSJ Attack on YA Fiction", I paused and thought, "what's my honest opinion on whether or not contemporary young adult fiction goes too far to expose the dark sides of life?"

In a nutshell, Wall Street Journal's June 4 article, "Darkness Too Visible" by Meghan Cox Gurdon, questions the reason that YA fiction need be filled with such explicit violence and detailed darkness, such as abuse, rape, and suicide. A revolt by authors, librarians, publishers and teens screaming free, creative expression and ban censorship literally happened the same day the article published thanks to Twitter and the internet.

I disagree with Gurdon's view, but now as an adult, and despite not being a parent, sometimes I agree (gulp - is this what grey hairs do to my brain?). To me, it comes down to intention. If the author is conveying an "uncomfortable" situation that they or someone close to them went through and their hope is that they can help a teen in a similar situation no longer feel so alone or to reach out and get help, then this is authentic writing and the reason I want to be a young adult author.  Case in point, Laurie Halse Anderson's amazing novels, Speak and Wintergirls.

The truth is that teen years are filled with darkness, pain and despair, for some more than others; and it doesn't matter whether you grew up in the '60's, '80's or today. Every generation has it's own unique characteristics, but EVERY person encounters dramatic downturns. And for every dark story (eating disorders, date rape, physical abuse, bullying, etc.), there's an author with a different point of view to share with the masses.

But, what about the intention to just make big bucks? You know the movies, video games and literature that continue to top itself with more violence, gore, sex, and profanity. When the only point to the darkness is pure shock value or to spark curiosity within the dark side in all of us, this is when I believe that the author (and publisher, distributor, etc.) may have gone too far.  The author has sacrificed art and authentic voice for a well padded bank account. But shouldn't every person have a right to expression, regardless of opinion?

I would never in a zillion years advocate censorship or take away someone's right to read, write, watch, paint or listen to what they want. But, every parent does have a right to police and dictate what's allowed for their own child. I feel this is a great opportunity for parents and guardians to open a dialogue on some of the distasteful occurrences in our society. But this also means that publishers need to let the public know what the content contains (like the movies rating system from G to NC-17). 

But even I admit that it's hard to determine when one has crossed that line of art to shock value, which is different for every individual.  I personally enjoy scary flicks, not so much the gory ones, but rather psychological thrillers. My mom would argue that (some) of these films go too far. So, who's opinion is right? And who makes that determination?

Your guess is as good as mine...