All Over the Place with Geraldine DeRuiter

Dearest Reader, I have a special treat for you today. I caught up with Seattle-based blogger Geraldine DeRuiter, aka The Everywhereist, and asked her all the things. Not only is her first book, All Over the Place, currently making its way through the holds queues, but you’ll have a chance to meet her June 13th at 6pm at the downtown library! As you count down the days to her Everett debut, you can read this interview where she tells me everything from what she’s reading now to what it takes to get published, not to mention some sweet mustache styling tips from her husband, Rand.

You have a lot of fans on staff at the library! When we chat about your blog posts, the ones that keep coming up are deeply personal. How do you tackle writing about such personal things? Which we love. Please never stop!
Honestly, writing about personal things helps me process a lot of what I’m dealing with. Sitting down and typing out those experiences – particularly negative ones – helps me exorcise those demons. The other thing to remember is that I share a lot – but it’s still only what I’m comfortable sharing. I still have some strong boundaries, despite the personal blog posts.

How do you cope with so many strangers knowing so much about your personal life? Was that just a part of blogging you accepted or did you/your family have to get used to it (or can you ever truly get used to it)?
My husband, Rand, is very open about his life online, so I think I became acclimated to the idea long before I was sharing my own stories. Still, it sometimes catches me by surprise when someone knows something personal about me that I shared on the blog. My initial reaction is, “How did you hear about that?” And then I realize: “Oh, yeah. I posted it on the internet.” As for my family, they seem to have accepted it, though they keep threatening to write their own memoirs.

Like all of your readers, we followed your health scares with worried anticipation. What’s it like knowing thousands of people are more curious about your health than their own?
The response to my posts about my brain tumor were incredibly supportive and loving – I’m still in awe at people’s reactions. And while it felt a bit overwhelming to have shared the experience with so many people, it was also a great distraction from the surgery itself. A big part of why I wanted to write about it is that I found a complete lack of material online about what it was actually like to have brain surgery. So I wrote the post that I wish I’d had beforehand – and I’ve found that those posts still get lots of traffic and comments from people facing the same thing.

Obviously, the internet is full of blogs and it takes something special to truly make a blog stand out from the crowd. Do you have any advice for someone thinking about starting a blog?
When starting out, consistency is key. It doesn’t matter if you blog once a day or once a week, just make sure you do it regularly, and that your audience can rely on it. And pick a specific topic. I meet a lot of bloggers who don’t want to tie themselves down to one subject, but doing so really helps you to focus and develop an audience. Once you’ve got regular readers, you can start to branch out into other subject areas.

I always ask authors what the publishing process is like. Did you just decide to start writing a book, were you approached to write it, or did something else start you down the road to publishing?
I knew I wanted to write a book, but I was feeling frustrated with the hunt for an agent (and you need an agent if you are going to go the traditional publishing route) so I just told myself that I’d start working on a manuscript and see what happened. I managed to secure a small publisher who was interested in my book, but they folded, and I was left with a near-completed manuscript and no idea what to do next. So I decided to take a break and get back to freelancing. I wrote an article about my husband dressing me for a week and it caught the attention of my now-agent, Zoe. And it ended up going to auction, with multiple publishers bidding on it. Which still feels sort of miraculous.

One of my favorite things is when a favorite blogger writes a book. Does your new book cover topics similar to those you’ve blogged about or are you taking readers in a totally different direction?
One of the hardest things I had to learn is that writing a book is not the same as writing a blog. And while fans of the blog will [find] the voice, tone, and personality of the book familiar, the content is all new. So I’d say it’s the same Geraldine, but a new format.

Do you have a dedicated office or writing space? Please describe it; I’m obsessed with workspaces and how people work!
I have a little lofted space at the top of the townhouse that we rent, and I have a standing desk (which helps to mitigate my headaches – even after my surgery, I still get them, and spending hours at a computer does not help). While I’m a pretty neat and tidy person about most things, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that my office is constantly a disaster, so I usually avoid showing it to people.

Can you offer any advice for writers aspiring to become published? I bet you get that question a lot but it seems like everyone’s experience is unique.
Build an online platform and audience. I can’t stress this enough. Publishers want to know that you’ll be able to sell your book. They will want to know your Twitter follower count, your blog’s traffic, even how many Instagram followers you have. You can get published without an online following, but as my editor put it, “You’d better be a damn literary genius.” And even then, she noted, it’s still a hard sell.

Let’s talk books. What are some of your favorite authors?
I read a lot of non-fiction, and in particular a lot of non-fiction by women writers. I’ve recently cracked up over Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair, Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? and Negin Farsad’s How to Make White People Laugh. My friend Nora Purmort wrote a beautiful book called It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too.) When it comes to fiction, I really enjoy the work of Tana French, Jeffrey Eugenides, Maria Semple, and Michael Chabon.

What are you reading right now?
I’m actually reading a lot of books by people I know, which is a very new experience for me (being a published author is weird). I just finished Losing the Light, by my friend Andrea Dunlop (I devoured it over the weekend, and I’m a notoriously slow reader, so that says a lot). And I’m about to crack into Jo Piazza’s How to Be Married. She’s hilarious, so I suspect her book will be, too.

Do you have any upcoming projects or adventures you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m talking to my agent about my next book, but that’s a long way off (and I have a lot of research I’ll need to do for it). I’ve got some promoting to do for All Over the Place so I’ve got some travel planned around that, and I’m trying to get back to blogging.

One of our staff bloggers, Jennifer, has a final, burning question: does Rand have any mustache tips for the dapper among us?
Jennifer, are you sitting down? Okay, are you sure you’re sitting down? Because … Rand shaved off the handlebar mustache. I mean, he still has a mustache, but the handlebars are a thing of the past. I know. I know. But honestly, the upkeep was crazy – he spent more time on his ‘stache than anything else. So the advice I’d give anyone who’s considering growing one out: buy some mustache wax, and leave yourself a lot of time.

Thanks, Geraldine!

Reader, if you have burning questions for Geraldine you can bring them Tuesday, June 13th at 6pm at the Everett Public Library Auditorium, 2702 Hoyt Avenue in Everett. She’ll be reading some passages from her book, All Over the Place, and answering questions about writing, travel, and blogging. Copies of her book will be on sale that night, too. Hope to see you there!

To Boldly Go….Remotely

When it comes to space travel, both real and imagined, all the attention tends to focus on human expeditions. We see ourselves in a snazzy space suit, preferably with a laser blaster at our side, exploring and colonizing the moon, the planets, and the galaxies beyond. In reality, except for a brief foray to the moon, we haven’t gotten very far. Robots, on the other hand, have been tooling around the solar system and beyond for many years now, dutifully beaming back invaluable information and images for us to enjoy.

A current and spectacular example of robotic exploration is the Cassini mission to Saturn. Cassini has started the final phase of its almost 20 year mission, which has been dubbed ‘the grand finale.’ The probe will be doing a series of tight orbits of Saturn, being the first probe to go between the famous rings of Saturn and the planet proper before ‘completing’ its mission by plunging directly into the planet itself. I was hoping Cassini would be getting a nice retirement, maybe to a farm upstate somewhere, instead of a fiery death, but science is not big on sentimentality, alas.

After gorging yourself on Cassini information, you might want to take a step back and explore the other missions, the importance, and the history of robotic space exploration. The library, as always, has your back. Here are a few resources to get you started on your journey to the final frontier.

Dreams of Other Worlds: the Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration by Chris Impey and Holly Henry
The number of robotic missions in the past 40 plus years makes for quite a long list. Thankfully the authors of this excellent work don’t simply try to run down that list in telling the tale of unmanned space exploration. Instead, they focus on a few key missions and their importance. The Viking and ongoing MER (Mars Exploration Rover) missions to Mars are each given a chapter as well as the Stardust mission to collect samples from a comet. The less glamorous but scientifically invaluable space telescopes Spitzer, Chandra and Hubble are also covered. Throughout the authors impart a sense of wonder and demonstrate the way these missions continue to change our view of the universe and our place in it.

Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Curiosity Rover by Roger Wiens
While the incredible results of robotic missions are rightfully lauded to the skies, the actual nuts and bolts of getting the mechanics to work and the mission to succeed are often glossed over. Red Rover is a great corrective, with the author giving you a fascinating behind the scenes view of several missions that he has worked on. With the shift away from manned missions beginning in the 1990s, primarily due to cost, robotic missions had to be nimbler and rely on more creative engineering to get off the ground. Wien’s experience demonstrates the triumphs and failures of this endeavor and the general DIY spirit of the teams themselves. If this book piques your interest about the Mars Curiosity Rover, definitely check out some of the other works the library has on the mission.

One of the oldest, launched in 1977 no less, but still ongoing robotic mission is the Voyager program. Currently the Voyager 1 & 2 probes are hurtling through the heliosphere in interstellar space sending back invaluable data and pushing the boundaries of human exploration. For a rundown of the mission itself and the team that continues to work on it, take a look at The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Mission by Jim Bell. For a wider view of the mission and how it fits into humanity’s continual quest for discovery definitely check out Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery by Stephen Pyne. If you are more visually inclined, take a look at the DVD produced by the BBC titled Voyager: to the Final Frontier. One of the most intriguing aspects of the Voyager mission is the message that was put in it to be discovered  by any extraterrestrial life that might happen upon it. The contents of that gold-coated copper phonograph, it was the 70s after all, can be found in Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record put together by the people who selected the items meant to represent us, including Carl Sagan.

While it is a bummer that most of us will not be heading to the stars anytime soon, it is a great time to enjoy all the great discoveries and images that our robotic proxies are beaming back to Earth. Plus it’s nice not to die of radiation poisoning. Just saying.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month

In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, the Northwest Room—the library’s local history collection—is highlighting two notable Jewish families in Everett’s history and their stories.

The first Jewish settlers arrived in Everett in the early 20th century. The Michelson family was among the first to arrive. Abe Michelson first emigrated from Latvia to Tacoma. In 1906, Abe and his wife, Etta, relocated to Everett. Abe and his brother, Sam, opened a second-hand store on Hewitt Avenue, the Riverside Junk Company.

The Michelson family was active in building Congregation Moses Montefiore, in a house-turned-synagogue on Lombard Street. There were about 60 Jewish families in Everett in the 1920s and 1930s, who participated in Orthodox services and organized religious classes for children. Attendance declined with the construction of Highway 99, which made it easier for Everett’s Jewish community to attend other synagogues in Seattle.

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(Moe Michelson portrait, Northwest Room Collection, Everett Public Library)

 

Abe and Etta’s eldest son, Moe Michelson (1908-1996) is remembered as an active member of Everett City Council. He served in position #2 from 1968 to 1989. Find more pictures of Councilman Michelson in the Northwest Room Digital Collections.

The Glassberg family was also familiar in Everett and its Jewish community. The Glassbergs—Maurice, Susie, and children Abe and Ruth—moved to Everett from Salt Lake City, Utah, in the early 20th century. They operated a pawnshop at 2905 Hewitt Avenue.

While a student at Everett High School, Abe Glassberg (1898-1994) began writing for the Everett Daily Herald. He became the newspaper’s managing editor in 1937, and held the position until retirement in 1963. In 1975, Glassberg was recorded for a brief interview, which is part of the Northwest Room’s Oral History Collection.

 Recommended reads:

Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State, by Molly Cone, HoFoSward Droker, and Jacqueline Williams (2003)

Jews of the Pacific Coast: Reinventing Community on America’s Edge
by Ellen JofPCEisenberg, Ava F. Kahn, and William Toll (2009)

The Northwest Room has many resources to help you research and explore your history at your library.

The Race for the Roses

I’m not much for holidays and birthdays can kick it, but the first Saturday in May? That’s a day to celebrate.

I grew up in Saratoga Springs, a small city in upstate New York famous for it’s “Health, History and Horses.” Just outside of town lies Saratoga Battlefield, where the turning point of the American Revolution was fought. Throughout town there are natural springs with water famed for its restorative properties (if you can get over the rotten egg smell) that once brought celebrities, socialites and presidents to town. But Saratoga’s proudest reputation is as the Graveyard of Champions. Our racecourse, which first opened a month after the Battle of Gettysburg, is known for producing some of the most shocking upsets in racing history. This is where a horse fittingly named Upset beat the great Man o’ War, where Secretariat fell to Onion, and the latest Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah was defeated by Keen Ice. Like I said: health, history AND HORSES.

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My sweet Saratoga home

All of this is to say that I am very excited for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby when 20 spoiled three-year-olds will sprint a mile and a quarter vying for a blanket of roses, a spot in the record books, and a cool 1.425 million dollars. If you want to catch Derby fever, it’s not too late! We have plenty of great books to help you dive into the proud, storied, and often shady world of racing.

I can’t possibly start this list with anyone other than Dick Francis. Before becoming a prolific and celebrated mystery writer, Francis was a champion Steeplechase jockey in Britain. He even had the distinction of riding the Queen Mother’s horses for several years. After retiring, he brought his deep love and extensive knowledge of the sport to his writing, crafting clever mysteries with plots orbiting the world of racing. What truly sets Francis’ novels apart is his devotion to research. Whether his protagonist is a meteorologist, a lawyer, a veterinarian or a photographer, Francis clearly did his homework and I’ve always learned new and interesting facts from these fast-paced thrillers.

33a80220-c935-0132-4594-0ebc4eccb42fYou can’t really go wrong with any of Francis’ novels, but I’d suggest starting with his first. Dead Cert follows Alan York, a young jockey who witnesses the death of a fellow rider in a mid-race fall. York believes that this death was no accident, and he is determined to bring his friend’s killers to justice, no matter the cost. This cagey mystery in not only a wonderful introduction to Francis’ writing, it also features one of my all-time favorite chase scenes.

But enough with the Brits, you say, the Kentucky Derby is an American race! Fair enough. There are plenty of racing stories about desperation, cruelty and corruption at the racetrack. Jaimy Gordon’s National Book Award Winner, Lord of Misrule, is proof of that. Gordon brings you into the world of Indian Mound Downs, a run-down racetrack in 1970’s West Virginia. This novel follows a cast of hard-luck characters as they strive for their small slice of racing glory, be it through hard work, wisdom, deception, or methods far more sinister.

For even darker fare you can head to Kentucky, the heart of the American racing industry. The scope of C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings makes it difficult to summarize. This work spans the latter half of the 20th Century telling the story of a cruel and wealthy horseman determined to make racing history, his willful daughter, and a groom who helps tend to their horses. The picture Morgan paints is often ugly and does not flinch from confronting the lingering legacy of racism and bigotry in both the world of racing and America at large. This is a gut punch of a novel and goes far beyond the world of horses, but it’s also a fascinating look inside racing’s troubled world.

Scorpio-paperback-websiteIf you want your racing stories with a supernatural flare, try Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. On a small island surrounded by cruel stormy seas, lives revolve around a yearly race. But these races use no ordinary horses. Instead the jockeys ride on water horses, wild and unpredictable creatures that are herded from the sea and ridden by only the bravest, most reckless young men on the island. That is until Puck enters the race. Puck is the first female rider to ever enter the race, and many would love to see her fail. This is not an option for Puck, however; her family’s house and land depend on the outcome of the race. If this pressure is not enough for a young orphan trying to support her siblings, Puck must also fight to ignore her growing feelings for the race’s returning champion, a quiet young man with his own haunted past.

exterminator_cover_0Finally, I’ve got something for the history buffs. If you ask a casual racing fan about the winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby, Exterminator, you are likely to get a blank stare. I’ll admit, I had never heard of him before reading Eliza McGraw’s Here Comes Exterminator!: The Long Shot Horse, the Great War, and the Making of an American Hero. Exterminator was a fascinating horse, a long-shot turned hero who raced an astounding 99 times in his career. McGraw expertly weaves Exterminator’s story into a larger saga that captures a snapshot of the United States in the years surrounding World War I, a traumatic time filled in equal measures with ebullient glamour and puritanical temperance.

Hopefully you are now feeling some small sliver of my excitement for Saturday’s race. And if you want to know who I like to win, you’ll have to find me in the Library.

#Squadgoals: Fellow Fat Girls

Every body is a real body. Let’s get that straight right away. Often I see people online describing “real bodies” as if there is only one type of body that counts. Counts for what, exactly, I’m not sure. That’s not my jam and if you clicked on this post chances are it’s not your jam either. If you’re here looking for any body-shaming, be it against fat, skinny, tall, short, or any other size-based smack talk: you have come to the wrong place. But I hope you do stick around, because I’m here to talk about some books that feature people who look like me and maybe you’ll find something that speaks to you, too.

I’m fat. There. It’s on the internet forever! I choose to use the word fat because it’s honest and a little shocking to people who are more used to euphemisms like “big” or “curvy.” Not all fat women have curves, or curves where you’d expect them.  I started out life as a skinny kid but over time I developed the trademark family hips, thighs, stomach, and double chin. Even when I drop weight these are always going to be my problem spots, as hundred-year-old family photos will attest. I can either obsess unhelpfully over how I’m shaped or I can learn to accept my lines and still work toward a goal of a healthier me. Here are the books that are inspiring me, whose photographs of bodies that look a lot like mine inspire me, and whose text give me the tools to keep pushing forward.

When it comes to loving fashion and living life for yourself I turn to books written by women who have been there, done that, and are calling me to join them in living my life at full volume. This all started with Lindy West’s Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, which I read in a fit of joy last summer and immediately told everyone multiple times about how much I loved it. Reading Lindy West was the first time someone was telling me that I was enough. That I not only didn’t have to justify myself or my choices to anyone, but that there is absolutely nothing wrong with my body nor how I choose to dress it. I’m not exaggerating when I say it completely changed my attitude toward myself. Shrill led me to so many great books sitting on my nightstand right now that I’m rotating between: Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: a Handbook of Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker, Hot & Heavy: Fierce Girls on Life, Love & Fashion edited by Virgie Tovar, Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin…Every Inch of It by Brittany Gibbons, and the very recently published Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have by Louise Green. Just reading the titles gives me goosebumps! But checking out the covers, all featuring fat girls with positive attitudes makes my heart swell. I’ve found my support group and I’m never looking back.

I’ve never been much of an athlete but lately I’ve been obsessed with the idea of doing yoga. Because my balance is worse than a newborn goat’s and I’m insecure about the potential for a gas explosion (my own) I have never sought out a yoga class. Countless friends have told me yoga will change my life, and did I want to try one of their classes? Nope! Nothing against you, you rad woman you, or your yoga class, which I’m sure is taught by a patient and knowledgeable person. But I’m only prepared to tackle this challenge from the comfort and safety of my own living room. That’s where these yoga books are going to come in very handy: Yoga Bodies: Real People, Real Stories & the Power of Transformation by Lauren Liption and Jaimie Baird, Curvy Yoga: Love Yourself & Your Body a Little More Each Day by Anna Guest-Jelley, and the library’s most recent acquisition Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body by Jessamyn Stanley. Notice a trend? Even these very yoga-focused books also include a very healthy dollop of body acceptance and an infectious “Rawr! I can do this!” attitude.

Fat girls love themselves and have moments of insecurity just the same as women of any size have. We’re all in this together. Let’s start celebrating our differences while still finding common ground with which to bond: books!

To the Bright Edge of the World

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey is as picturesque as the title suggests. This novel will trigger a desire to witness firsthand the rugged wilds of Alaska. It is a mesmerizing story of adventure, mystery, historical fact, and folklore. I didn’t want the book to end! The epic journey begins at Fort Vancouver in Washington Territory and ends in the uncharted territory of the Yukon. Ivey’s book is rife with detail depicting Native American culture, the era of fur traders, and the pioneers.

The year is 1885 and Lieut. Col. Allen Forrester of the U.S. Calvary is commissioned to lead an expedition exploring the uncharted land beyond the Wolverine River. The journey will nearly cost him his life. He leaves behind his young wife Sophia. Sophia had planned to join the men but discovered she was pregnant shortly before the company was set to sail out of Portland harbor. Unwillingly, she takes the doctor’s advice and will not make the journey until many years later. Vibrant, curious, and not given to convention, Sophia discovers an inner strength and talent for wild life photography.

Through a series of letters written as a journal between husband and wife, the most intimate expressions of the heart are revealed: fear, frustration, loss, and the deep longing to see each other.

Set in the present, another series of letters giving an account of the historical expedition are exchanged between Walter Forrester, whose great-uncle was the colonel, and a young museum curator named Joshua living in the remote town of Alpine, Alaska. Through their correspondence a relationship is formed and the details of past and present come to life with actual photographs included.

Ivey’s reimagining of the Forrester’s story, which began over a hundred years ago and briefly describes their short time together, is followed by a beautiful story of courage, endurance, and the power of love. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed being transported to a different time and an unforgettable place.

How Cycling Can Save the World

You may think Peter Walker, author of How Cycling Can Save the World, is engaging in hyperbole with the title of his book. But he actually makes a case for cycling curing everything that ails us and the world (and perhaps even washing the dishes when it’s done). Does this seem too much like ‘As Seen on TV?’ Wait, there’s more!

Think roads are too crowded and traffic is too heavy? Imagine if more of us were cycling how much volume in steel would be removed from the roads.

Worried about the environment? Fewer car trips equal less consumption of fossil fuel and improvement in air quality because of the reduction in emissions. Fewer cars need fewer asphalt parking spots leaving more green spaces.

Have you put on a few pounds and need some exercise but don’t feel you have the time? Cycling can use time you spend driving somewhere already, so you arrive at your destination and you’ve had a workout. No worries about going to the gym!

Feel unsafe on a bicycle? More bicycles on the road bring more awareness of cyclists, making the roads safer. Pedestrians become safer too. Walker compares death and accident statistics in countries including the US, the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark. As you can guess, ours are not good. And I hate to tell you, but eating junk food and sitting in front of the tv (and, of course, zombies) are more likely to kill you than a bicycle accident.

Want to get to know your neighbors or build a sense of community? Cycling allows you to see and engage with your surroundings in a more intimate way than glimpsing them out your window as you speed by. You can make more friends, too.

Interested in cycling but maybe a little nervous or hesitant? There’s a group ride this weekend: Tour de EFD. You might enjoy it so much, you’ll be selling your car on Craigslist next weekend.