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Library Update

Well there’s good news and bad news on the library front. I’m not too worried about it and I think we will al persevere just fine.

Indian Valley Academy and Greenville High School and the districts that run them have decided to dissolve their partnership. My editor did a brief editorial on it: Schools head toward divorce.

It seems that the partnership dissolving also means that our beloved Library Project might also face a precarious future.  I have rounded up library volunteers again and can report the following.

Next year Greenville High School–with its less than 70 students will be at the Plumas Unified School District property alone.  The Charter school simply could not afford the rent (which went up to 5 times the amount paid in previous years this wear). Indian Valley Academy will be in two locations: A sixth through eighth grade about a block away from the current location with the high school going to nearby Taylorsville.

Which means my library volunteers and I will be making not one but THREE libraries all connected to each other. Because of duplicate donations this looks very promising. There are some books donated that went specifically with various programs—like GHS ‘s culinary program and IVA’s drama program. Those books will be centered where the programs are both located but with access for any kid in the valley.

Whew. Lots of work cut out for us but we are up for it. Indian Valley Academy has a wonderful new (and much cheaper) space to rent in Taylorsville the cheaper rent means more money for programs! We foresee about 100 students at this location (they also take classes at the local community college).  The IVA junior high likewise has a great room for us to set up in and a good chunk of students as well (Im counting at least 50). We have much material thanks to all of you readers! Enough to go around.

One exciting thing I will post about soon (writing an article for it) is Indian Valley Academy’s sister school Great Lakes High School in Uganda. Nine students from Plumas County just went to Uganda for 3 weeks on a project based learning trip to start three projects that are off to a terrific start. Their library was even worse of than ours was so we’re getting in touch with those in charge of the library there to tell us what they need. Stay tuned.

Thank you so much for all you’ve done for us and please know that we are still in transition, still sending thank you notes, still processing this great generosity.

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Two Nights and Morning in San Francisco

Last night I had the pleasure of doing a reading of three short stories at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. The audience of mostly students were amazingly attentive and after the reading came up and asked great questions, talked about their own struggles with writing, and told me about how the details of my Latina characters meant something to them.

I knew what they meant. I’ve grown very fond of a few characters in my short fiction  that are loosely based on the old grumpy Mexican grandfathers in my life and their various eccentricities (like wearing socks with flip flops around the house , for example).

I also enjoyed the eclectic presentation and reading of my former professor and friend Zack Rogow, for making me revisit some poetic masterpieces that I’d not heard in awhile. It was a great evening over all.

I was struck by comments students made about my stories and their interest. I then woke up as we do these days to Trump America and campuses being raided by ICE agents for DACA kids. I just don’t understand the fear these luddites have over brown kids getting an education. What’s it to them? In my town of Greenville so many are proud to NOT get an education–so it’s not that brown kids are ‘taking’ an education away from white kids. What is it then? I needed a break from Greenville.

It was a great thing to witness such a diverse student body.  It’s hard to even fathom the hatred right now.

It’s Thursday morning. The wind whipped itself through Northern California something fierce. I’m waiting out the storm with coffee and a view out my friend’s window in Russian Hill. I really needed an infusion of San Francisco——even though SF is only a shadow of its former self–still it was enough to make me feel whole and hopeful.

North Beach coffee and breakfast awaits.

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The Last Thank You of 2016 — Library Project

….and it is two days late!

Much has been made of the disaster of 2016, with its notable take down of artists and musicians and cultural points of light and hope.

I kept thinking of Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time when the kids are with the Happy Medium and she is forced by one of the Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which etc to show the kids a happy planet, and a dark planet and then–she shows them Earth. Darkness of course, has  a strong hold on Earth. There is death and suffering and fascism reigning –but there are also those who fight the darkness.

It’s not that part that threw me as a child. I was well aware of darkness. But when the Mrs. W ensemble explain to the children that one can fight the darkness through love and through creation and through art is when my mind was opened up as a kid. There’s that paragraph were L’Engle mentions a sampling of darkness fighters: Jesus. Buddha. Shakespeare. That was it. Writers fight darkness. Teachers fight darkness. I was hooked.

Fighting Evil Through Art and Creation.  I think of that a lot these days. That’s why David Bowie’s death or even Carrie Fisher’s hits people so strongly. Because their art fought the darkness. And there is so much darkness. That’s why Leonard Cohen was the patron saint of my family. Because he offered a path of light through the dark forest.

If I have any resolution for 2017 it is to step up the fight against the darkness. I am needed now more than ever. You are needed now more than ever.

In between the mass shootings and the mass “post-truth” lies and the mass denial of the humanity of refugees, and the declaration of a party in our country to declare war on an already decimated environment there is hope.

There is Standing Rock.

There are all the kid drawings and paintings my kids leave on the dining room table.

There are mayors and cities declaring themselves sanctuary.

There are women getting ready to help women in dark states protect their basic rights.

There is defiance. There is resisting.

I look at 2016 though–the middle of the year, the summer, and there is you. Thousands of you. Who heard a plea for books and donated books to a strange woman in a forgotten town so that she could build a library for kids–to get books into the hands of kids.

That is what I’m looking to as encouragement. As my bright and shiny example of lightness in the world in need of defiance. You who read this and who donated a book. You participated in an act of defiance in a culture hell-bent on being proud of its own illiteracy, its own ignorance. You. Gave. Books. You. Made. Readers. I can’t stress enough how important and profound that is. Fighting the darkness.

Life has moved on beyond the summer. We opened. We checked out so far roughly  500 some books to students and an additional 400 to teachers and about 100 to community members and parents. There are waiting lists for some popular titles (Hamilton Soundtrack/Harry Potter Cursed Child, for example).

We gave bags of books away to foster kids who may not come back to our school district. We gave books to 7 schools other than our own. I officially have a box in the back of my car of duplicate titles to give away to kids who look like they could use them.  Lightness.

The school district is leaving us alone finally. Religious parents are going on to fight other battles. Slowly things are shaping up.  I am in the library five hours a week as a volunteer. I meet with students then, make recommendations, shelve a bit–put out new titles that are still coming in . I make displays.  And I always leave there feeling like I am fighting the darkness. This world is often not a place where writer/artist mothers of limited means feel successful. But because of our thousands of donors, I feel successful every time I walk in the library. Together we have brought light into a world.

It’s January 2nd.

I am at my father-in-law’s in Santa Monica with my kids. We are going museum hopping today and tomorrow and later on we’ll go to my aunt’s and visit my grandmother. I love bringing my kids back to the homeland of Los Angeles so we can soak in the best of southern California for a week. I love the Deep North in spite of itself. It really is beautiful (and currently filled with much needed snow). The environment is, if not pristine, as close to it on the planet as you can find. Lightness. Strength. Beauty.

But I also love  Los Angeles, the city of my birth. Yesterday on New Year’s Day my kids’ godfather and I saw Rogue One at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood (IMAX 3D because, of course) and then topped it off with a nostalgic trip to Canter’s on Fairfax for a Brooklyner and a black and white cookie. Lightness. Strength.

Today we head out to the Museum of Tolerance and later to LACMA for the Diego & Picasso exhibit. Tomorrow the California Academy of Science Pixar Exhibit and then my sister in law will whisk them away for fun while I catch up on work and a double feature of films that will never reach the north in a theater.  I will interview a couple of people as I wrap up my book proposal I’ve been working on.

Meanwhile my husband and mother are in the north keeping the house warm from winter and managing their own fights against the darkness.

It feels like we are all gathering strength for 2017.

I haven’t said it in awhile but –Thank you, again.  Know that you are appreciated daily and have provided one small town with a shining example of hope and humanity that we see and feel every time we walk through the door of the library. You decided to fight the fight (along with me) against boredom and ignorance and despair. I will always be grateful for that.

Happy New Year.–Margaret

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Just. One. Book. It’s Starting.

Enthusiasm has taken hold. I’m gone for the rest of the week in the lovely town of Green Bay, WI. visiting my dad– the other person in my family who gave me a love of books. My dad got that from my grandma who used to drop my dad and his brother off at the library for hours on end. Some of my favorite books over the years came from my dad. No rhyme or reason, just every now and then a book he thought a young person should read–and as I’m older now he still does it. Some of my favorite non-fiction comes from him. He came from a family that while, uneducated in its humble beginnings in New York, used libraries. His mother didn’t graduate from high school; my father has a PhD as well as a medical degree. We call him ‘double-doctor.’

I still look to him for book recommendations. And Packers gear. And cheese. Go Packers.

Meanwhile focus in Greenville say packages are still arriving. More kids who are in town for the summer are showing up to help discard old debris, make recycling runs, and the exciting part—opening boxes. One student yesterday remarked to Sue Weber, “I don’t even want to go to classes next year. Can I just sit in here and read?” Book contraband.

Last night when I finally got to talking with my son, he’d asked his friends on FB if there were books they wanted to have in the library.  Every recommendation my son and his friends threw at me I got to answer with, “Yup. Have it. It’s coming.” His friends were amazed. He was amazed.

My daughter revised the summer plans for when we get back. “Okay so, in the morning we work the library; in the afternoons, we go to the pool.” Yes, indeed. Sounds like a sweet summer plan.

Both the Washington Post and Feather River Publishing (the newspaper I work for) have asked me to do stories on the library project.  Yay! And we have teachers working on a donorchoose.org campaign as we realize we will need a designated computer for the library–something we don’t have now. The former Greenville High School library was never digitized.

Also we have a name now for the new library. Since it is for both schools and since the community is so intrinsically involved (and we envision them using the library too) we’ve named it the Indian Valley Collective Library.

Hope you’re having a good day. I know we are.

Green Bay!

 

 

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Just. One. Book. Thoughts from the Airport

Greetings from the Sacramento Airport 5:35 am.

That’s mountain life. If you need to go somewhere, you have to leave the night before to get there. So I’m at the Sacramento Airport waiting on a flight for Minneapolis to go to Green Bay to visit my dad and his lovely wife and…pick up my tween and teen. They just got into social media range as they’ve been cabin camping in the North Woods of Wisconsin. Wait. Mom did what? Started a library?!

My daughter starts 7th grade in the fall; the son starts 9th grade. Because of you? They’ll get to experience a well-stocked library (other than their mom’s office which is arguably a bit poetry/drama/women and early 20th century focused. Now they will have variety to chose from as will their classmates.

Yesterday, before going “off the mountain” to the flatland below, I checked in at the post office (who called me saying they were drowning in boxes) and the library. The director/principal of Indian Valley Academy, Sue Weber was there along with a few community volunteers, and students.  Pam Lyman, the IVA office manager had put a call out to students in town and not off visiting grandparents or at camp to come down and see what was happening–and to help with the breaking down boxes for recycling and making lists of who to thank for boxes with addresses.

The 2016 Silver Buckle Rodeo Queen, Hannah Lambach, stopped by for me to interview her for the local paper. She’s 16 and a Greenville High School student. Her words, “You mean we will finally be able to check out a book?!” She stood there amazed. Then went and got her truck to back up to the building and haul the recycling to Evergreen Market which employs students. The store owners Centella and Ken Tucker are volunteering to pick up boxes while I’m gone and bring them to the library. Ken told Hannah to have the students who work for him help unload the recycling. Hannah promised to come back and tell others to come help.

IMG_7821  These were the bags from Saturday’s UPS haul. That’s not counting the Fed Ex afternoon bags, or the post office which had 5 rolling carts of boxes.

IMG_7824Sue (on the left there) instructed Jazmin how to orderly open and sort. Jazmin was sort of dazed for the first few minutes. “These books are for us?!” As I was unloading the UPS bags Jazmin opened a box and stared at the book inside. You could tell she wanted to pick it up and go to a corner and start reading.

“It’s impossible to open the boxes and not want to read everything,” I said. “Oh yes,” she said.

Then more students started to arrive to help as I was leaving. I was nervous about my trip to Wisconsin for a few days, but one of the things I love about Greenville is that when there’s a project, everyone is all in–doesn’t matter whose idea it was, or what your affiliation is. If there’s something that needs to be done, someone is there to help. Weber wants the students active in this. There’s a whole lot of thank you cards to write.

This attitude is why I like this little hamlet of a town. Despite it sometimes not quite being in the 21st century, despite the Internet going out in the middle of the day, despite the crumbling sidewalks rolling up at 5 pm (hey they have a grant from the state to fix our potholes and highway and sidewalks!), it’s a great place to teach kindness and breathe fresh air. It’s a place where there is always something that needs to be done and there are people willing to show others how to do those things.

Many of us are not from here. I’d say maybe half the town is originally from somewhere else California. We all found our way here from one place or another. I lived in San Francisco in my 20s and early 30s and have become one of the SF economically exiled. I had a hard time visualizing raising a family in a studio apartment for 2K a month, so I moved up here so I could stay home with my kids when they were babies and have them grow up near their grandmas ( my moms live 5 miles away). The moms aren’t from here either but good friends of theirs were. Mom 2 found this place in the 60s when she was the then Methodist minister’s wife. She lived in the parsonage which became the thriftstore and never lost ties to the area and its people. That’s how we are up here now.

Housecleaning:

I’ll work on an Amazon list (thank you for making all those items on the list enter our library) from the Minneapolis airport.

We accept gently used.

It’s a 7th-12th grade library. Some kids a little behind , some a little ahead.

If we get duplicates we have two other area libraries that we think could use help—they weren’t in dire straits like us but nor did they have a lot of new books either.

Okay. My plane is boarding. Have a lovely day.

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Just. One. Book. (Your Questions Answered)

Hi. I don’t know how many writers have been reading this but you know how sometimes you write yourself into a corner on a project and you think I need to get up and move around some and think about what’s going to happen next. Where is this character going? Is she really going to do what I think she’s going to do?

So if you are like me, you get up and fold laundry or take a walk in the campground (I literally live right next to the campground in our town which means when I say I live in a forest, I totally mean I live in a forest).So that’s where I’ve been on my new book project. And while it’s non-fiction this time around there’s many places it could go so I fold laundry, clean out the kids rooms, write an article for the local paper, or speak with you all and add books/films/cds to round out what I hear is coming or that we have at the library. And all and all this system I set up for myself this week was so smooth that I was thinking to myself —look at you managing all this. The house is clean. Articles are written!  New chapter worked on! You even made killer breakfast burritos for the husband.  And then I log into my email and amazon and think OH MY GOODNESS! 200 people emailed me while I slept and the Amazon wish list which I culled from wants and needs of teachers and students and my own idea of what a library should have has gone from 700 items to 5.  Holy shit.

So now I feel inadequate. THANK YOU for making me feel inadequate and humbled by the great power of a collective voice of people who want to see more books in the hands of children and young adults. YOU are seriously rocking our world right now in the most positive way possible.

I realize that this morning before taking my car in for servicing I could 1) try and answer every single email and get a list back up or 2) I could write this blog post and try to include as much as possible to address concerns and questions.

So I’m doing the latter.

  1. We do accept lightly used books. I’m totally down for that and I don’t think any of the students mind.
  2. We do have people on my wee small committee looking into all your great suggestions regarding places that do grants. THANK YOU for the heads up and referrals.
  3. We are accepting classroom sets but are scrambling to figure out what next year looks like at the same time so please, hold that thought!
  4. We aren’t accepting old National Geographics as that’s the one thing we already have plenty of which I think was the last local donation made a few years back along with bodice ripper books. Since the kids didn’t have much in the way that was targeted to their age group, we really want YA fiction and literary classics over adult romance.
  5. YES! I know that the Amazon Wish List is down. You all were so much faster than me. Thank you for your generosity. I will (after work today) add to the list with the teachers lists and recommendations others have been giving me.

If you’ve been on the Amazon Wish List you may have thought my lists were a bit whacky. They –in a large part– reflect what our programs are as well as our interests. In a small town you get to know the kids and their interests. Am I a little concerned about my own son’s fascination with The Walking Dead? Sure but he also love’s the Howard Zinn books so. What’s more I birthed a next generation Nick Cave/Leonard Cohen fan so I’m good.

I thought you might want more details of what we do well. So here it is:

  1. As with many small towns—the schools’ extracurricular programs reflect available resources (people) who teach or volunteer teach/support/coach activities.
  2. Indian Valley Academy is a progressive school that focuses on 21st century skills and channeling student interests and abilities whether they are academically inclined or not.We have kids who have not succeeded in a traditional academic setting but we’ve channeled their interests to make things happen for them. We have kids who were bored in the traditional setting and need a place that doesn’t place boundaries on them. So our dyslexic student who loves to build things gets an opportunity to both catch up on his reading and build his inventions at the same time. Our programs include a chess team, a maker design class, a philanthropy group, a theater program, a wonderfully fun choir named “Puberty’s High Note”, film/video production, and traditional classes.
  3. Greenville High School is a traditional school and also has some programs that are top-notch given our puny size and strength. It has a strong band program with a teacher who has been with us 39 years and a culinary arts program that manages to win competitions through out the state. The schools are integrated for sports and in particular a rodeo program–four students i fact just competed on the state level in rodeo. With the help of the Sierra Institute and Feather River College’s Outdoor Rec Program, our students have been able to go on hiking and water based field trips. In the 6th grade all area tweens go on a series of field trips from the top of the Feather River watershed to where it ends in the San Francisco Bay to give them a better understanding of water and its importance.  Yeah, not the kind of field trips I got growing up in Los Angeles.

What we don’t have as the other posts have indicated–is a strong grounding in the written word.  What we don’t have is a better appreciation of diversity. You are helping to provide that. You are giving these kids access to other worlds outside our great but narrow focus. You are providing your own perspective and in doing so opens up our minds and hearts.

SO THANK YOU FROM A GRATEFUL & OVERWHELMED LIBRARY ORGANIZER. THANK YOU FOR HELPING US OPEN UP THE WORLD FOR OUR KIDS. Stay tuned. There will be an updated list.

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Just. One. Book. Updates and Observations.

Honestly, folks. I do write about other things. I figured if you’re following my posts lately that I should let you know that. Tales of a Sierra Madre is my blog hub with links to all the esoteric creative things I wind up doing in this beautiful but strange place called Plumas County. Since I’m more of a writer than a blogger, things over there tend to go looong. I started Throwing Chanclas to be fun! Short! Photo driven! Light hearted and airy. Or something like that.

Anyhow, I’ve received a few emails on here wanting to know if I am a real person and if this book drive is real, etc. Yes. I am a real person. I write for a newspaper by day. I’m also a fiction writer. And I write and produce a play every once in a while. Also? I love books, I have too many, and I’m constantly giving them away. As I think many of you are too.

IMG_7340So this is me. Margaret Elysia Garcia. When I do modeling or anything of that nature I use Greta Garcia. Because ‘Margaret’ sounds like someone’s aunt in an old folks home. Not the sexiest name. And for the reporting gig and when I have to write something innocuous and boring I go by Maggie Wells whom I assume is my doppleganger sorority pledging, well-married twin with no student loan and a much larger house.

But then there’s you! You’ve been sending books. You are amazing. Sunday was hard. I’m from a very gay family–as in lesbian mothers, lesbian sister in law,  raised by gay men in the 70s, etc. My best friend from junior high was off  at Pride in DC with his new husband and we were doing that FB thang  and then bam. Orlando. And it reminded me of the kid in my daughter’s class who always tries to tease the one lesbian girl in class. And I wonder sometimes is there a way that I can personally offset this madness and hatred? Can I give the bully a book ? Will it open her world? Maybe. Maybe not. But I have to try.

And then it was Monday and  I stopped by the post office to mail a package and the post master lady said can you pull your car around back?

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And then I drove to Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy and the secretary looked up from her computer and said, “WHAT DID YOU DO?” I walked into the library and saw this:

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So thank you. You restored my faith in humanity. And the cool English teacher and our awesome special Ed teacher and the culinary arts teacher–who is used to getting all book requests denied  all stood there at different times with their jaws dropped.  We are so used to being ignored that it is taking awhile to sink in. I started crying when I opened books. I sniffed in the books. If anyone was watching I’m sure it looked weird. I also cried when I read some of the notes with the books. Full disclosure: my dad and his wife  flew my kids out to Wisconsin to visit him and go kayaking in the North Woods so I’m a little weepy this week anyway. 

But you people are beautiful. Here are three themes going on in the notes.

  1. Retired librarians (and current ones ) get really pissed off at closed libraries. I am picturing some kind of librarian march on Washington where you all just shame Congress for continually gutting arts and education.
  2.  You remember where you came from. So many people are writing “I grew up in a small town and books SAVED me. I can’t imagine not having books. Here’s my favorite.” To this I say I know what you mean. I was a very shy army brat and it always took me six months to say hello to people. Meanwhile I just made friends with books.
  3. You care about the nation’s children and rural America. You send books to open up worlds to them. I opened up a box for LGBTQ teens and cried yet AGAIN. 

So from the bottom of my very real heart. THANK YOU.

Tomorrow is my day in the big city–the neighboring town of Quincy (population 5000) but I’ll be back on Thursday–stopping at the post office and the library. I can only imagine what the table will look like then.

So Thank you! And I’m so sorry if I’m slow in answering email. As all people who live here do, I have like six part time jobs (think Northern Exposure). So I can only get to so many at once. Here’s the current wish list for those asking:

Amazon Wish List.

And to whomever ( I think it was a few people) sent kindles YOU ROCK SO HARD THANK YOU. My husband the IT guy will be setting them up this summer so they’ll be ready to go come fall semester in September!