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Just. One. Book. Class Set Needed

So it’s probably a good time for an update. I’m in Southern California visiting my 95 year old grandmother, going to appointments with her etc., but my mind is never far from our project.

Our Amazon Wish List is now empty. Wow. You all just completely blew my mind this summer. I have volunteers sorting on site and trying to get things ready for school to start next week.

Did I tell you because of you I was able to make class sets for the two schools plus others in the area?

I made two class sets of Book Thief.

I made three class sets of I am Malala.

I made two class sets of Persepolis and one of Maus 1 & 2.

I made two class sets of Diary of a Part-Time Indian

And about 10 different sets of classics as well.

We have a teacher who wants to do March by John Lewis. We only received a couple of copies of that.

I told him I would throw it out here and see if anyone would be able to help build 30 class sets of the wonderful series.

Here’s our list if you are still interested in helping us.

Also your comments helped, btw. I think bureaucracies have no idea how inhuman they sound until faced with criticism from outside their sphere of power. Keep up the good work.

Also. I had a great conversation with my cousin who lives in La Habra, CA. Her daughter said she was a little jealous because last year her school put books from the library in dumpsters in favor of the One-to-One program ipads with ebooks. That’s fine she said, but when 1/2 of the kids don’t have the Internet at home , it’s hardly fair for the schools to be assigning internet based homework and readings. Our school district Plumas Unified, also is aiming to do that on each campus despite the fact that the Internet goes down without warning even for the households that have it several times a day –at least once a day. And despite the fact that not everyone has it here either.

Sometimes I wonder if school administrators ever met a poor child? Or a family? And why create an uneven playing field and why take books out of the hands of children?

Okay. Grandma and I are on to appointment number 2 today. Then tonight I get to interview someone really fascinating for my book. Tomorrow I will be back on a train headed north. Talk to you soon.

Also. If you’re in LA soon? Do take in the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at LACMA. Definitely worth it.

 

 

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Just. One. Book. The Night Before a Train

I worked for 10 hours today in the library and I can no longer feel my legs.

It feels like it will be worth it.  Kids were coming in to get their schedules today at Indian Valley Academy. I’ve never seen so many heads pop into the library before. Come in! Come in! This is for you guys.

WHOA!  Even the faces of the haggard 4-H kids who just sold their livestock at auction after a 45 day fair week —kids who looked damn exhausted. As soon as I clean the pens, I swear I’m coming to help. And I don’t feel alone. I have you all and Indian Valley Academy who have been stellar through all of this.

My dealings with the Plumas Unified School District had me going southern Gothic. Let me explain. Some of my all time favorite writers are indeed the southerners. I gravitate toward them when I’m feeling isolated and feel guilty about expecting the worst in people (because thank’s a lot Flannery O’Connor). But in order to not be completely frustrated and pissed off at the gaul of the school district to somehow try and take both ownership and credit for the library I had to go to Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams. Ever read Reflections in a Golden Eye? The Tennessee preface/introduction? He nails it. He tells us you know what? We artists? We people who feel things? We live on this one plane of existence.  And these officious drones who try and run our lives? They live on this other one.

They have no real jurisdiction over us. We don’t have to answer to them. The only thing I’ll never understand is why so many people who clearly hate children work in the field of education. I just don’t fundamentally get that.

You all sent books to the library project in care of me. And I aim to get books into the hands of children. Whatever that looks like.  Today I set aside 5 books –books that we had in duplicate to give to one particular girl who comes from a family of non-readers. She reads anything she can get her hands on. I gave her my own copy of Michelle Serros’ Chicana Falsa once. Because that girl so needed it.

So it wasn’t a bad day. Tomorrow my son and I take off for a week to see my grandmother and friends and family in Los Angeles via Amtrak. I’ll be interviewing a couple people for my book down there as well. And get this. My short story collection has found a home! Yay! It will be in print finally. So good things. ALL GOOD THINGS.

To the writers who have been sending your books. Thank you in particular for being gutsy and putting yourself and your work out there. It takes a certain tenacity that I greatly admire that I don’t always have. To the agents and the publishers sending books–thank you for the array of work that I wouldn’t have thought of but am glad is here. Great job!

We will make this happen. It may not be the complete original vision but it will be amazing. I’ve already had a glimpse. This is going to be one helluva literate town. THANK YOU.

And here. Enjoy some cookies. I made them tonight when I was supposed to be packing.IMG_8638

 

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AudioBook coming soon…

First of all for the library project followers. Things are looking up! School starts in two weeks and while we aren’t where I’d like to be yet we will be open in some semblance while we let the district comes to terms with itself.  We are forging ahead.

MEANWHILE BACK ON PLANET CREATIVITY….

I’m kind of excited about other things. My little quiet horror short story collection Mary of the Chance Encounters was scheduled to be published in June 2016–but the tiny publisher started being a horror story instead of publishing one,  so we mutually dissolved our project which left me free to strike out on my own (still looking for print publisher for that one). In the mean time  I’d done some work with Heidi Moore at Wretched Productions –a small indie film based in Northern California. In fact one of the films I’ve worked on with Heidi is coming out any day now.: Dolly Deadly

She was in between projects and had some time and Im a wanna be actress sometimes performance artist so……

8 of the stories from Mary of the Chance Encounters (arguably the weirdest , quiet horror ones) will see the light of day as a cool little audiobook cd this September! Also I love the cover art—taken by Los Angeles artist Ross Amador in November of last year. Who wants a copy? Pre-sale begins soon.

What’s it about? Ghost stories and other stranger creatures of quiet horror take place in and around Whittier, CA (my homelandia).

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See? I’m not all doom and gloom. The Library will open. The audiobook WILL come out. Hopefully we find for the print or ebook collection soon.

Also I’m happy to say that all the bureaucracy is becoming great fodder for a new Sad Girl zine. Haven’t written one in a year. It’s time.

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Just. One. School. A Saga Continues…

Junior High Section w Kids Hello Library fans. I’m of two minds as I write this but only one school. You’ll get what I mean in a second. Back at the start of this in June I told you what I knew to be true: we are two schools in one building. Greenville High School and Indian Valley Academy. We’ve always had the full support of Indian Valley Academy and its leadership at Plumas Charter–the umbrella charter that IVA operates under. At GHS however, we had the principal’s consent, the superintendent’s consent, buy in of perhaps 3 teachers. What am I missing in this scenario? A school board and a ‘curriculum director.’

For those of you well versed in bureaucracy you can probably tell where this is going. But just play along for the story.

Last night I attended a monthly board meeting of Plumas Unified School District in Quincy, CA. I don’t normally attend such meetings as I thankfully as a reporter do not have the school board as my regular beat. I attended because I got last minute word that the Library Project was an agenda item. I’d received no phone call or email from the district, no inquiries whatsoever. As this was my idea and I’ve been heading up the volunteer effort (we’ll let my 17 years experience as a college instructor + knowledge of books, music, and film go at this point). So I show up there because um…my library, OUR library is on the agenda.

So I address the school board and give them a brief history of the project. As the board only has one member who regularly engages online, they were not all completely aware that we exist.  So I spend my five minutes of public comment time on facts of our project and I answer a few questions.

The curriculum director–who has never set foot in our library, nor called me or emailed me to ask questions–gets up and makes a brief presentation whereupon she states that she’ll “approve” students to check out books as soon as we produce a list of titles so that she can decide whether they belong in our library.

[THIS IS THE POINT IN THE STORY IS WHERE MY MIND TRAVELS BACK IN TIME AND STARTS REMEMBERING ALL THE BULLIES OF CHILDHOOD AND EARLY JOBS. IT’S WHERE I DAYDREAM AND WONDER WHAT BOOKS ARE ON EVERYONE IN THE ROOM’S SHELVES AT HOME–I’M IMAGINING BOOKCASES THAT HOUSE PRECIOUS MOMENTS STATUES AND INSPIRATIONAL PLAQUES.  I BET SHE LOVES EISNER ERA DISNEY. SEE? MY MIND IS JUST GOING THERE. IT’S THE MOMENT WHEN I THINK ABOUT MOVING BACK TO THE COAST TO PAY $5K FOR A STUDIO APARTMENT FOR THE FOUR OF US AND TWO CATS. IT’S THE MOMENT WHERE I REALIZE WHY HARRY POTTER’S ORDER OF THE PHOENIX RESONATES SO MUCH MORE THAN SOME OF THE OTHER HP BECAUSE THE DOLORES UMBRIDGES OF THE WORLD UBER ALLES. MY MIND DRIFTS TO THE ELECTION OF TRUMP. HANDMAIDS’ TALES.  TO MEAN GIRLS WITH BEADY EYES AND CLEAR SKIN SMILES. WAIT. I’M SORRY. DID YOU SAY SOMETHING?]

America. This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why Holden Caufield whines about how every time you see something beautiful someone else has scrawled an OBSCENITY upon it.

None of this comes out of my mouth however. I do remind however that we are two schools, not one. That all summer 98% of my volunteers have been from community members and Indian Valley Academy students and parents and that we have no such stipulations concerning censorship and approval. Our goal –which we had thought and hoped was shared–was to get kids reading–especially kids who don’t read. And we’ve already been achieving our goal.

In the photo you’ll note 5 kids. The two boys on the right? Are not typical readers. But the manga and comics attracted them. And so the two kids whom I’ve worked with that one would never see just sitting for 40 minutes and reading are now sitting for 40 minutes and reading. They just came in to do so. No summer reading gimmicks. Just interest and curiosity and cool colorful stuff. But the curriculum director would not, could not appreciate this. Whatever they are reading is not on her ‘approved’ list.

I left after my brief presentation as I had a services district meeting to cover for the newspaper which IS on my beat. In the audience of that meeting were some of my library volunteers. We talked during the break. Shaking our heads.

So you know how this blog is called Throwing Chanclas? I’m throwing it right now. In Latina households, the mother takes off her house shoes and either threatens or throws the shoe at your head (you’re supposed to intentionally miss the head and just be firing a warning shot as I understand it). Why does mama throw the shoe in the first place? Because someone did something out of line and needs to be called out for it. Because someone is acting entitled to something they should be grateful for. Because someone needs to feed mama a hard liquor with a low glycemic index. [I’M TOTALLY UP FOR TAKING DONATIONS OF WINE OR VODKA. JUST KIDDING. MAYBE I’M NOT].

Right now? I’m super thankful for Indian Valley Academy and for all their teachers , staff, and administration do to put kids learning and kids experiences in education first–above egos, above titles. I love knowing that I can drop my kids off and know they will be challenged and thinking and having fun and learning how to reconcile their idiosyncratic quirks with the outside world and be embraced for it not chastised for it.

But I digress.

After I left the board meeting and after I got home after my second meeting, I learned that the school board is playing a familiar Californian real estate move: price gouging.  They want IVA to pay four times the amount of rent it currently pays to remain in the building with no authority to put up so much as an inspirational poster in the space.  What school could possibly do that when school starts in two weeks?

I write to you this morning a bit crestfallen and dumbfounded. My mind races again. Will there be two libraries? One vibrant in a nearby rented building, while another one languishes in a giant space with 200 hundred “approved” books? What child ever wanted to read something ‘approved’?

[SIGH. SILENCE. SWIG OF COFFEE WHICH WILL NOT ADD TO MY WEIGHT WATCHER POINTS. EXPLETIVE. EXPLETIVE. I CAN HEAR MY KIDS WAKING UP AND PLAYING PANIC! AT THE DISCO. DUDE. I BREASTFED YOU TOM WAITS. WTH? MORE COFFEE. FUCK. STOP THINKING ABOUT CHEESECAKE AND WHISKEY IT’S BARELY 8 AM. AND DAMN MY OPTIMISTIC AND TRUSTING NATURE].

So…I’m going to keep plugging along and my volunteers will keep checking in books. I keep shelving. Worst case scenario is me slipping real books to  1/2 the students in the dead of night like a superhero, while maintaining a smaller library for the other 1/2.  Best case scenario is  that the centaurs teach Umbridge a lesson that sinks in (although from books 6 and 7 we know that’s not the case).

The real best case scenario? Both schools and their supporters  compromise in a reasonable fashion to the benefit of students in both schools. IVA should have a sane rent increase instead of a San Francisco/DTLA-style one.  The curriculum director needs to remember the goal for us  is literacy and a curious, questioning mind –and that if she can’t embrace our goal she should at least respect it.

I’m headed for another cup of coffee and then a walk over to the library to meet up with today’s volunteers. It never ceases to amaze me how a few people can try and hold the rest of us hostage. But then again–witness the American election. The macro. The micro. I am craving silence and serenity so my mind can focus. Like the kind you can find in a library.

Here’s the link to Plumas Unified School District if you’re interested. Here’s the link to Indian Valley Academy.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

Just. One. Book.

IMG_8504 Many of you have written in the dog days of summer to ask me if I’ve received your book yet. I can’t believe my mind works this way, but some I know off the bat and others I have to look up. Still others have not been processed. This is an unprocessed table’s worth (and floor. and under floor).

So again! Thank you! Thank you! We love what you’ve done for us! But we’re kind of human and there are only so many of us so we aren’t that fast at processing everything yet.  Stay tuned!

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Wayward Writer Retreat

I am bone tired and weary. I have biceps I haven’t had since my kids were toddlers. I am happy to say we have only 20 more boxes to open at the library–and hopefully none will come tomorrow. We are few people and we need to catch up. The generosity is overwhelming.  Thank you. Thank you cards have begun and imagine they will take the better part of the fall semester to complete. I hope a thank you here is also enough as some boxes came in damaged in parts and addresses were not always readable. Please be patient. I’ve had a few emails from people thinking perhaps that we have 200 people and a sophisticated technology set up to respond. Alas we have a couple dozen people who donate time when they can. And we have one very exhausted me who has some reinforcements coming this week thank goodness.

I also have something wonderful to look forward to. The 5th Annual Wayward Writers Retreat begins on July 29th to July 31st. Writers I know and their children hang out and share food and writing prompts and talk writing for three days. There’s no cost except to get here and share what you can. One just has to be part of the community (pitch in with food, camp stuff, booze–etc). All of us at one point or another took online classes at at Ariel Gore’s Literary Kitchen.

Ours is a different sort of retreat….so many workshops and retreats for writers are really based on the premise that writers remain childless with disposable income. There are very few conferences with options for childcare  ( I can’t think of any actually). We bring our kids. And they hang out –these children of writers (honestly, my daughter has quipped before that it’s pretty much a support group for children of writers).

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This was taken at the 4th Annual Wayward Writers Retreat.

This year the lovely and wonderful Michelle Gonzales will be doing a reading and book signing at Musicland in downtown Greenville on Friday, July 30th at 6 pm. Her book The Spitboy Rule came out this Spring on PM PRESS. Musicland is located in downtown Greenville on Main Street.

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Then on Saturday, July 30th, Lasara Firefox Allen will be doing a book signing and reading at Epilog Books in Quincy, CA.

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Fresh off the presses! Lasara Firefox Allen’s Jailbreaking the Goddess.

Then on Saturday night at 7 p.m. all the writers from the retreat get together for a public reading at the Main Street Lounge in downtown Quincy. It’s open to the public and free and always a treat! And afterwards a swanky mid-century loving band called The Glides all the way from Phoenix is playing in the Sports bar downstairs.13502068_1035695323185494_8744355131614990132_nIMG_7974 Doesn’t this just look divine?

 

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And of course when we aren’t reading and writing we’ll be immersed in all things beautiful Plumas County. I’m hoping for a trip to Indian Falls and one to the hot springs in Twain if it isn’t too hot. And of course there’s promise of a ride on a private carousel.

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We may be a tiny town in the mountains without many amenities–but we do know how to put on a decent little retreat for some amazing writers who really need more people reading them. If you’re in town, come to the reading on July 30th. It will be quite a treat.

 

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Just. One. Book. One Month In.

Just. One. Book. is still here! Yes. We are still here! OMG are we still here. But I didn’t post anything this week because I kind of needed a bit of a break–to start shelving books in earnest. And then my knee gave out (long boring story of life-long knee issue) so then I’ve been sitting and directing and sending out thank yous–as many as I can muster. But I haven’t been blogging–I have been working on my book though so yay me!

Much has happened. The boxes keep coming but thankfully less than before. We can almost catch our breath. We have promises of shelving coming in. We de-commissioned much of what was left of the old library and are having a book sale of them.

We have sections now! The kids can actually visualize what’s in my head.IMG_8098Sio this happened last Friday. My friend and teacher over at Quincy Junior High School came and got a class set of books + some other materials we had duplicates of. Adrienne is fighting the good fight to get more diverse readings selections in over at QJHS.

Class sets. Because of you. Indian Valley Academy’s junior high are doing I am Malala in the fall as a class. They’re deciding a few others but they are so thankful that you helped with that! I think another class is doing The Book Thief.  My kids and their friends had fun searching for duplicates and making up sets of books for the teachers to come in and see.

We’ve also received a grant from the local rotary to order carousel computer desks for the computer area so that they feel more like individual work spaces.

Right now the library kind of looks like semi-ordered chaos. Thankfully our staff of volunteers has many an admitted organizational freak (self-included). I will post photos as soon as it looks like something other than chaos.

If you haven’t sent a book, please don’t! But alas where should you send them?

In honor of us? Please send them to rural America. Every state has their rural America. It’s fully of half empty towns whose kids are languishing.

I went to the neighboring town of Quincy last week and found out that 19 students in the 4 high schools run by Plumas Unified School district are pregnant as we speak. Given that our graduating classes combined of the four traditional public schools are only about 100 students that’s  A LOT.

I’m hoping too that the diverse books you sent will help our students grasp both their own place in the world and instill a sense of empathy in what they don’t know and what they don’t see.

You have helped with all this wonder. Thank you again, you’re amazing.

 

 

 

 

Just. One. Book. Thoughts and thanks.

IMG_8095 This is the very sweet Natasha Griffin. She came out to Greenville from Portola to pick up some books for Portola High School. Many of our duplicates went home with her. Portola is the only incorporated city in our county and is home to a more diverse (in terms of Latinx) population of students. I hand picked some books that my daughter and I thought the kids would love over there from our overflow.

So I’ve been reading about banned books because you know there are always a few people in every community who start running around like Chicken Little and think the world is going to end because a student read……well anything really.

I’m trying to wrap my head around the violence from the news, and the TV, and the video games where the point is always to shoot something. I’m trying to wrap my head around teen and tween conversations which seem to always conclude with talk about farts and other bodily functions. What I’m trying to say I guess is do people who want things banned—have they ever even talked to their own kids? Been around kids? Listened to pop music? Geez.

So THANK YOU all again because you know what you guys did? You’ve sent me every book that was on the challenged or banned book lists of the last few years. We have every book that’s been challenged some place in the USA. I LOVE THAT.

I mean we all have our thresholds with out kids. My kids haven’t seen some films because I deemed the screenwriting shitty and as a writer I WANT GOOD SCRIPTS AND THE WRITERS PAID. My son sometimes tries to explain that when other kids ask, have you seen that? And my son groans, “No, can’t watch that with my mom around. It has a bad script…”

I remember being a kid and sneaking around “bad” books too. It’s what kids do. Do censors realize that some things just go over kids’ heads and that also it’s a thrill to see a ‘bad’ word on a page?

So, no banning on my part.  Parents get to sign a form at the beginning of the school year stating whether or not their kids can check out books and how far up the ladder of maturity they can go. But we only have 200 kids in about 120 families. It’s not that hard to keep track of stuff.

Meanwhile my 13 year old and my 11 year old are still reading whatever they can get their hands on.

I’m betting if I ban something though, I could probably ensure that every child reads it. Because that’s how bans work.

I used to work in a record store in college. Moms were always coming in FREAKED out that we’d just sold some rap or heavy metal tape to their precious angel.  The parents who went apeshit wound up with kids who listened to that stuff even MORE because it bothered the parents.  The parents who  were okay with it saw their kids move on to other stuff. It’s a time honored tradition really—kids only want what their parents don’t want them to have.

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind Senator Amanda Chase that her hatred of the Eleanor & Park book just helped clinch the deal that every kid in her district will now read it.

Have a good day. Go read something banned.

Poetry Saves Us

I am a romantic at heart.

In that twisted way where you read a great book and you enjoy crying at the end because everything went to hell and the lovers don’t wind up together because one of them is dead, or married to someone else, or a war has broken out.

My students used to say, Ms. Garcia are you aware all of your books you assign have tragic endings?

Do they? Oh shit. I guess they do.

I think I got that way through poetry. It was the first thing I ever read and the first thing I ever wrote.

So as I’m starting to organize the school library and finding all the poetry books that have been checked in I’m just amazed. There is so much here. So many voices. So many observations. So many perspectives. So many sorrows. So many joys.

I want to crawl into this shelf–disappear into the shelf. Disappear into your gifts.

And I’m doing that now.