Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: Neighborhood Libraries by Cetywa Powell

Welcome back to the 2018 edition of the Summer Library Series. Every Thursday this summer, a guest writer will be sharing childhood memories of reading, books, and the library. Should you panic while waiting for the next Thursday, please enjoy past contributions here:

Today's piece is an excellent reminder of both the importance of books and neighbors who read, and how a library can become a neighborhood, not just serve one. Please enjoy today's reflection by Cetywa Powell.


Neighborhood Libraries
Cetywa Powell

Cetywa's membership card, used with permission
Libraries didn’t play a large role in my life until much later. My father’s work took him to Sweden, where he got his Ph.D., and later Africa, where he researched a disease called “Sleeping Sickness.” 

In Sweden, where I did half of my kindergarten, I didn’t speak the language and spent much of my class time in silence. The next half of kindergarten was spent in Hawaii, where my mother is from. I don’t recall ever frequenting the library there.

My father’s research then took him to Nairobi, Kenya. I read voraciously, but the books were from neighbors and friends, never from the library. In fact, in those days, Nairobi’s library had books that were so old and outdated, I felt they had been there from the colonial days (Nairobi was an English colony and got its independence in 1963). I visited that library once and had no desire to go back.

My reading came from the neighbors’ libraries. Our American neighbors introduced me to the Noddy series as a kid and later the Anne of Green Gables books. From down the street, I borrowed the Chronicles of Narnia series. And from someone else, I read George Orwell’s novels: Animal Farm and 1984.
Cetywa Powell, photo used with permission

When we returned to the U.S., we settled first in Denver and finally in New York, where my father was from. Denver was a difficult year so I spent a large part of my time reading. Although I don’t recall where my books came from, I do remember every book I read.

My love for libraries started in New York. There are two libraries that come to mind: the small New York library that I walked to from our apartment to borrow books and my college library at Columbia University. Although Columbia’s main library, Butler library, is one of the largest libraries in the United States, I was impressed only with its interior architecture, not its manuscripts. I spent many hours studying there, looking up between breaks to stare at the room(s) in awe. I’m ashamed to say I never actually thought to borrow any of their books.

Now, I’m a member of the Los Angeles public library, and my fondness for libraries extends beyond just books. I appreciate their free classes, their up-to-date movie collection, their free computers, and their monthly book sales where books cost just 25 cents. They’ve saved me when my computer crashed, when my printer ran out of ink, and I when couldn’t find a movie online. We even got free solar eclipse glasses from them for the solar eclipse in 2017.

Butler Library, Columbia University: more here
Los Angeles Public Library, photo from DryWired

Today's Library Writer: Cetywa Powell is an editor, photographer, and filmmaker. She runs the small press, Underground Voices, which features new, hard-hitting work by award-winning writers in its magazine, e-book series, and book line. As a photographer, Powell's work has exhibited in galleries in France, New York, Los Angeles, Maryland, Virginia, Hungary, Florida, the Trieste airport in Italy, Vermont, and Texas. She is based in Los Angeles. Learn more about Powell and her visual work here:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Story: Valentine's Day in Willow Springs #82

I have a new story, a long story--in fact, we should probably call it a novelette--in the new issue of Willow Springs. The name of the story is Valentine's Day, and it follows the story of three brothers on a winter night, six years after their father's death.

Willow Springs is a publication of the MFA program at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. It's rare for a journal to take on a work of this length, not only because very short fiction is the rage, but also because of the printing space involved. Valentine's Day is fifty pages long. That's a genuine risk the staff took in accepting the story.

Please support their decision and read the story by purchasing your copy of the journal for only $10 from their website

It will be several years before this story/novelette is collected into a book, and this is likely true of the work by other writers in the journal. Don't wait. Pick up a copy now:

And follow the magazine on Facebook while you're at it:

P.S. Literary journals make unique and awesome gifts. It's true. They're cheaper than brunch or a movie, last longer, and are better for you and everyone you love.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: How Many Libraries by Azaria Podplesky

Summer Library Series 2018 

Child sketching, child reading (c. 1795, France)/photograph by Sharon Mollerus
used under CC license

The Summer Library Series has officially returned this year. Every Thursday, all summer, writers will share reflections of their childhood libraries. Should you panic while waiting for the next reflection, please enjoy past summers here: 2015, 2014, 2012.

I began The Summer Library Series after a deep longing to take part in a Summer Reading Program like those I participated in as a child every summer. I loved the suspense created by the librarians covering the new books with sheets. I loved even more the day of the great unveiling when the sheets were pulled back in front of a crowd of us kids, and there was always a crowd because every school teacher had dutifully marched her students from school to the downtown library so that the librarians could remind us to visit the library all summer. I loved the stickers on the inside, all blank on that first day, and slowly filled with the names of whoever read each book first. What an honor to write my own name in a book!

In addition to the reading, I remember the events. I remember hurrying from the front of the library to the back, where the daily or weekly events were happening. I remember sitting in the back of the library on the floor, watching The Red Balloon off a projector, and another time The Snowman, whose music haunted me into my adulthood and I finally found again and now watch every winter. I remember librarians sitting above us, reading stories.

When I was back home visiting my childhood library, I found several books still holding the names of children I'd grown up with. One name belonged to a girl in my grade who died a few years ago, but her careful cursive in the front of that book brought back her face from when we darted among the shelves searching for glossy new books to check out, read, and inscribe--always flipping open covers to discover whether someone beat us to the first read.

I may be an adult and I may have technically aged out of the bracket of readers who take part in Summer Reading Programs, but I have found that the Summer Library Series brings with it my love for libraries and the thrill of finding new writers and stories.

Without further ado, please enjoy this week's reflection by Azaria Podplesky.


How Many Libraries Can One Childhood Hold?

Azaria Podplesky

Azaria Podplesky and sisters
(Azaria is in the front)
During my consistently inconsistent childhood, libraries were one of the few constants. As an Army Brat, growing up involved moving across the country every two to three years. In my 27 years, I’ve lived in four states and attended 10 schools. (But who’s counting?)

Being in a military family also meant having to navigate a new school and city and make new friends on a fairly regular basis, which was a challenge at times for my introverted younger self. Knowing there was a library at my new school or near our new home, however, always made moving easier.

There was the library at Greenwood Elementary School on Fort Lewis, now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where I attended school for second, third and much of fourth grades. Helping the librarian, Mrs. Santuff, reshelve books during recess filled me with so much pride, though I admit the weekly reward of gummy bears also had something to do with my willingness to help.

And then there was the library at C.C. Pinckney Elementary School on Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, where I remember checking out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to see what all the fuss was about, four years after it was released.

Better late than never, right?

I also remember using Accelerated Reader points, which were earned by taking a test after finishing a book, to buy trinkets from the school store. My proudest purchase came at the end of sixth grade, when, after saving up my A.R. points for months, I bought a disposable camera, which I used to take pictures of my friends and teachers on the last day of school.

My family still talks about the beautiful main branch of the Richland Library, also in Columbia, with its wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that let in an abundance of natural light. Also of note to a younger Azaria: the library’s huge children’s room, which research has told me is 20,000 square feet, that features a 40-foot mural of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

Richland County Main Library
Inside of Richland County Library
Then there was the Lacey Timberland Library in Lacey, Washington, and, during our second stint on Fort Lewis, the Grandstaff Memorial Library, which was within walking distance of our house. I felt like Matilda, sans little red wagon, every time I walked home with an armful of new books to read.

I, clearly, could go on.

But no matter what state I lived in, the libraries I visited were comfortingly familiar.

Timberland Library

The Bailey School Kids books, by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey, were always going to be near Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series, which were never too far from My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater, or The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, three of my favorite books growing up.

Every time we moved, getting a library card was high on our list of priorities, and, if we moved during the summer, we always signed up for the summer reading program. It gave us kids something to do, for one, but the presence of books all over our new space always helped make the house feel more like home.

Now, as an adult, I still find myself letting out a contented sigh when I walk into the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library, almost as if to say “Ahh, I’m home.”

Looking at the library card I keep safe in my wallet, I think my younger self would be happy to see that I’ve continued to keep libraries close to my heart. I can assure her that no matter where the future takes me, a visit to my local library will always be at the top of my to-do list, most likely before I’ve even finished unpacking.

From a site with every WA library card: here


Azaria Podplesky,
photo used with permission
Today's Library Writer: Azaria Podplesky works as the entertainment writer at the Spokesman-Review. In the past, she has freelanced for the Inlander, Seattle Weekly and the Oregonian. She graduated from Eastern Washington University with degrees in journalism and communication studies in 2012 and currently calls Spokane home. Thanks to her Army brat upbringing, she finds the idea of growing up in just one city, or visiting just one library, nearly impossible to comprehend. Follow her on Twitter (@AzariaP) for writing updates and everything entertaining in Spokane.