Real Friends

Some things in life come easy to me. I’m excellent at pattern recognition, reading way past my bedtime, functioning on very little sleep (could these two things be related?) falling up the stairs instead of down (always fall up), and having reflexes that work way faster than my brain. I didn’t have to work too hard at honing these skills and I’ve probably always taken it for granted that I don’t have to think about the process when I’m using them. There’s no concentration involved and things just seem to magically fall into place.

That’s never been the case with making friends. That’s always been something I’ve struggled with. If you met me today you probably wouldn’t guess that I was an extremely shy child. I didn’t approach strangers, would sometimes not even approach extended family members, and preferred to hide in my older brother’s shadow while he made things happen for me. However, he was never able to make friends for me; that was definitely a solo-Carol job, so when I did stumble into a friendship I held fast even if, in hindsight, it was unhealthy.

Reading Real Friends by Shannon Hale slammed me right back to that playground where I made my first friend who also later turned out to be the most unhealthy thing for me.

Real Friends is the story of a young Shannon, who recounts the series of friendships she had growing up and the impacts each made on her life. I was surprised to open the book and discover it’s not a graphic novel but actually a graphic memoir. As Shannon recounts her early school years through a series of friends she had, I was thrown back in time to the mid-late 80s when I was going through the same things Shannon did in the late 70s/early 80s. Some things are just universal. While this book is aimed at middle-grade readers I think anyone can find relatable moments.

I found myself in different friend roles growing up. Sometimes I was an Adrienne. My family would move or I would change schools and I would lose touch with my friends and have to start over again. Sometimes I was a Jen, although I never made people line up and be ranked in the order of who I liked the best (what a cruel thing to do!). Once or twice I’m sure I was a Wendy. I was the only girl in my family and sometimes I just couldn’t take the nonsense and would totally snap and lash out at my brothers. Then there was exactly one time I was a Jenny. To this day I regret acting the way I did, but nothing can change what’s in the past. We can only move forward and learn to choose kind.

But for the majority of my childhood I was a Shannon: shy, quiet, not sure how to make friends but knowing that I really, truly wanted someone to talk to and experience life with. I also made up games and was sometimes bossy or just oblivious when others were bored or left out completely when I became self-absorbed in the creative process.

I realize the name-dropping I’m doing here isn’t very helpful if you haven’t yet read the book, but it does illustrate the vastly different characters, aka real friends from Shannon’s past, that leap off the pages of this book. It’s amazing to me that within just a few panels the reader can get a deep sense of what kind of friend each girl was and the reader has a chance to see a bit of herself (or not) in each, too.

You’re gonna get the feels and if you’re lucky enough to still have a bestie from childhood you’re gonna want to call them as soon as you’ve finished reading.

And the Librarian Said, “Read This!”

How’s your summer reading challenge coming along? One of this year’s challenges is to read a book recommended by a librarian. Since I know you don’t always have time to chat when you stop in, I asked my colleagues to offer up some suggestions for you.

Dazzling insights, well researched and footnoted, lots to learn, with sparkling prose style, this is one of the best book I’ve read on the subject. Love for Sale: Pop Music in America by David Hajdu covers pop music from the era of song sheets in the late nineteenth century to contemporary digital delivery. Compulsively readable, it works for every level of reader, from a scholar interested in how pop has evolved in content, style, and delivery over the years to those who want to relate to Hajdu’s observation of cultural and personal connections. Highly recommended.
From Alan, Evergreen Branch Manager

If you have a taste for historical fiction, speculative fiction, and are open to reading Young Adult novels, I’ve got a couple books that may be right up your alley. Front Lines is the first book in a new series by Michael Grant about what World War II would have been like if women had been included in the draft. I really enjoyed the character development, and found the plot to be exciting and unique.
I’m waiting eagerly for book 2 to come out, but in the meantime I started another series called Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. Wolf by Wolf revolves around the idea that the Nazis and Imperial Japan emerged from World War II victorious, and that the United States never became involved. Yael escaped a Nazi medical experiment with an unusual new ability and has joined the resistance. Yael’s assignment is to infiltrate the annual Axis Tour – a motorcycle race that spans Nazi and Imperial Japanese territory – win, and kill Hitler. This book reads like a spy novel and an extended car chase all wrapped up in one.
From Lisa, Northwest History Librarian

Do you love historical fiction? Do you love dragons? How about a series that combines them?? Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series begins with His Majesty’s Dragon, in which Captain Will Laurence is serving in the Royal Navy right in the thick of the Napoleonic Wars. His ship captures a French frigate bearing precious cargo…an unhatched dragon egg. You see, dragons have been domesticated (to the extent that’s even possible) to serve with the Aerial Corps, allowing Aviators to attack from above, dropping bombs and other projectiles onto the ships battling on the high seas. The Pilots – chosen by the dragons and not the other way around – develop tight bonds and steadfast partnerships with the powerful and capricious beasts. When this particular dragon hatches, it chooses Will. This is a problem. A big problem. Will has been in the Navy since boyhood and therefore has no training to be an Aviator, plus he is on the point of becoming engaged, and his new calling renders marriage virtually impossible. His first adventures with Temeraire take them to China and back against the backdrop of a volatile international conflict, and there are nine books to enjoy filled with more exploits and intrigue! I love Jane Austen and fantasy, so this is basically the perfect series for me.
From Sarah, Youth Services Librarian

I first read The Ha-Ha by Dave King in 2005 and recently came across it while browsing the main library’s top-drawer fiction collection. This is a graceful, measured debut both sad and funny. The plot circles round middle-aged Howard, who is unable to speak, read or write due to head injuries suffered in the Vietnam War. He lives in the house he grew up in with an assortment of entertaining boarders and spends his days tending the gardens of a convent. When Sylvia, Howard’s ex-high school girlfriend, heads for rehab, she saddles him with Ryan, her taciturn nine-year-old son. With many heartwarming passages that don’t turn sappy thanks to King’s prosaic writing style, it’s a heckuva ride for both of these quiet souls.
From Joyce, Adult Services Librarian

I couldn’t limit myself to just one, so here are two titles for your listening and reading pleasure this summer. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey does have the dreaded Z word in it, zombies that is, but there are no maniacal governors or hordes of decaying extras here. Instead you get an intense five person character study set in a ‘post incident’ Britain that keeps you guessing and makes you actually care about who survives and who doesn’t. The ending is also top notch and quite unexpected. I listened to the audio version and the narration was excellent as well. Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain by Charlotte Higgins is also about an imagined Britain but this one in the past. The author travels the country on foot and in an unreliable VW Camper van visiting what remains of Roman Britain. Admittedly, compared to the European continent the ruins are a tad sparse, but that only adds to the mystery. The result is an intriguing travelogue that is as much about how we create the past as it is about the physical structures themselves.
From Richard, Adult Services Librarian

Do you love fantasy and enjoy resilient female characters, strong family bonds, and fast paced adventures? You should read Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren! Online, this book is described as equal parts Prison Break and Frozen. I see the resemblance! Valor’s twin sister, Sasha, has been sentenced to life in prison at Tyur’ma for stealing a diplomatically-important item from the royal family. Valor knowingly gets herself sent to this harsh and freezing prison so she can attempt to free them both; never mind that nobody has ever escaped in the 300 year history of this prison!
While it’s true this book is aimed at middle grade readers I’d definitely recommend this for fans of any age who are into The Hunger Games or Princess Academy.
From Andrea, Youth Services Librarian

When taking lunch-time walks in north Everett, I have occasionally seen people’s belongings strewn across front yards, looking abandoned and pathetic. Although I do know that Everett residents are poorer than people living elsewhere in Snohomish County and I have read about the high cost of renting and the scarcity of available affordable units, I knew next to nothing about the eviction process and how it affects the lives of tenants and landlords.
Matthew Desmond’s book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, caught my attention when I was thinking about possible authors for our Everett Reads: Beyond the Streets series. Desmond, a Harvard sociology professor, was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2015 for his work on the impact eviction has on the lives of the urban poor. His research sounded both interesting and relevant.
We couldn’t afford Professor Desmond’s speaker’s fee, but I read the book, and I would encourage you to read it, too. This is no dry sociological study. Rather Desmond uses the stories of real people to introduce the reader to the economics and politics behind eviction—and the consequences suffered by the adults and children who find themselves at the mercy of a process that disrupts lives. Evicted is essential reading for anyone trying to understand the lives of the urban poor and the importance of stable housing.
From Eileen, Library Director

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan
I’d recommend this fascinating biography to anyone interested in American history, photography, or Native American cultures. Edward Curtis, a brilliant Seattle photographer, spent decades crisscrossing the country to capture and preserve images and language from the “dying race” of Native Americans in the early 20th century. The book reads like a fast-paced adventure story, and readers travel along to locations as diverse at the Puget Sound, the Great Plains, the Grand Canyon, and even Teddy Roosevelt’s White House. This book did what all great narrative non-fiction does: it kept me enthralled with a strong story and piqued my curiosity about new topics and ideas. It would be a great choice for fans of authors Erik Larson and Gary Krist.
From Mindy, Northwest History Librarian

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain
Bar none, one of the best books about music ever put together. I say “put together” because these are the real words from Iggy Pop, Joey Ramone, Jim Carroll, Malcom McLaren, Danny Fields, and many other artists and impresarios collected and used to define punk by the creator of the legendary Punk Magazine from that era. Comprehensive, you’ll thrill to Punk’s prehistory in the early 70’s (Stooges, Velvet underground) to its late 70’s heyday (Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones) through to its last gasps in corporate eighties rock. Highest possible recommendation. Bonus: the 20th anniversary edition includes new photos and an afterword by the authors.
From Alan, Evergreen Branch Manager

To recommend a book to you, I would need to know your particular interests, taste, and what you’re in the mood for at the moment. But if you’re stretching yourself by doing our reading challenge anyway, I might as well suggest a challenging book. And I get to take the easy way out by recycling a review I’d written for Alki, the state’s library journal, many years ago.
Nathaniel Mackey is a renowned poet who has also written a sequence of novels called From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. The review below is for the third book of the series, and you can just as easily start here as at the beginning. These books won’t appeal to every reader, and the library’s copies have gone largely unread, so I challenge you to get off the beaten path and to dive into the extraordinary language of Mackey’s jazz-band world.
Atet A.D. by Nathaniel Mackey
This epistolary novel covers the goings-on in a jazz band immediately following the death of Thelonious Monk in 1982. The language is superbly jazz-like as Mackey riffs and improvises on words and phrases – playfully filling his sentences with homonyms and syntactic variations, and parsing words to find others underneath or contracting them to build new ones. N., the narrator, is a musician and composer in the band, and through his letters we learn of his creative processes and critical insights as he attempts to push boundaries and build upon the works of the jazz greats that have preceded him – especially those from the post-bop and free jazz eras. The band’s musical drive and determination take them, at times, beyond the confines of the everyday world into one that countenances telepathic and metaphysical communication. While some of this certainly strains credulity, Mackey’s linguistic flights compensate as he transforms language into an instrument of amazing semantic agility and linguistic power (a chapter in which the band plays in Seattle has Mackey in peak form). This is not your standard plot-advancing or character-driven novel, but if you like both your jazz and fiction improvisatory, challenging, and playful, this might be right up your alley.
From Scott, Adult Services Librarian

Ever since the New Yorker published an article in 2015 about the long overdue major earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, I’ve spoken to a lot of patrons at the library who were hoping to learn more. Full Rip 9.0 by Sandi Doughton is the perfect book to learn more about the science behind these dire predictions, as well as how much (or how little) you need to be concerned about this event depending on where you live. More importantly this book helps outline very simple things that you and your family can do to help you ride out the aftermath of a major event, whether it’s Cascadia Subduction Zone related or otherwise.
A very useful book that makes a good companion to Full Rip 9.0 is The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley. Ripley looks into several different kinds of disaster scenarios, from natural disasters to man-made ones, and dissects the steps taken by survivors, and those who perished. While on the outside this might sound like a macabre book, it’s actually pretty reassuring, because it reinforces the importance of planning ahead for the unthinkable so that your instincts are ready to guide you to safety should the need ever arise. Ripley also delves into the psychology of survivors, debunking some common misconceptions about how people react in disaster scenarios, and who may be more likely to fare well.
If these two books whet your appetite to learn more about how to be prepared, I also highly recommend looking into the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training offered periodically for free for Everett residents and workers. Even if you don’t ultimately register to be an emergency response worker, attendees walk away with some very useful information that can be used to prepare their households and neighborhoods.
From Lisa, Northwest History Librarian

So there you have it. Another challenge is in the books! [See what I did there?] Stay tuned over the next several weeks as I bring you more books to help you conquer your summer reading challenges!

No Cape Required: Graphic Novels for the Uninitiated

Hey there, summer readers! Have you accepted our summer reading challenge? While the summer reading program for kids and teens has always been popular, I’m not convinced everyone has heard about our summer reading program for adults. We have eight challenges for you–and you only have to complete seven of them before August 31st for your chance to win prizes.

The challenges are pretty self-explanatory but I’m here to offer you a helping hand. Over the next several weeks you’ll be hearing from me a bunch as I break down each of the challenges and offer reading suggestions to help you meet your goal.

Since you don’t have to do these in order, I won’t be blogging about them in order. As a cataloger I put things in order all day long so it’s a bit thrilling to deliberately get a little random.

This week I’m tackling the read a graphic novel challenge. Graphic novels can either be a series of single issue comics that have been published into one volume, or they can be a standalone story that has only ever been published as one volume. For the sake of our conversation here, I will be referring to both as graphic novels.

Good graphic novels can jolt you out of a reading slump. Have you ever been in a reading slump? Often it happens after reading a particularly disagreeable book (or series of books) that almost makes you not want to read ever again. It sounds pretty extreme, but a lot of voracious readers find themselves in a reading slump at one time or another. [This is not to be confused with a book hangover, which is what happens when you read a book so amazing that when you’re done you cannot imagine any other book being halfway as good as the one you’ve finished.] I’ve found that something as simple as a change of format from a regular novel to a graphic novel is enough to get my brain and imagination engaged enough to pick up another novel and try again.

Great graphic novels will do all of that and also show emotion and nuance through the illustrations, sometimes even contradicting the conversation to the point that you wonder if you’re solving a mystery or watching a character have a complete breakdown.

The only way to find out if a graphic novel is good or great is to pick one up and start reading! Here are just a few graphic novels I’d recommend to someone who is new to the format. Spoiler alert: you won’t find any superheroes here. There are amazing superhero comics out there, but many require you to have some understanding of the worlds in which they exist and I didn’t want to bog you down with all of that. If you end up reading these and want to try your hand at superheroes, you can check out this comics post, these graphic novels posts, or leave a comment below and we’ll chat.

Black History in Its Own Words
Compiled & illustrated by Ronald Wimberly
In this colorful and bright graphic novel Wimberly expertly brings together quotes and vibrant portraits of Black luminaries. I’ve used this book as a jumping-off point to discover voices I hadn’t heard before and then read books that they’ve written or that were written about them. I guarantee you that if you bring this book to the information desk and ask a librarian to find you more information about any one of the people listed they will happily point you in the right direction. And then maybe you can schedule some time off of work or away from your regular daily life so you have time to fully immerse yourself in these dynamic voices.
Recommended for: readers who want to learn more about Black history, culture, and perspectives.

Sherlock: A Study in Pink
Adapted from the Sherlock episode A Study in Pink
Show of hands: how many of you watch the BBC modern-day interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, aka Sherlock? Now how many of you are completely obsessed with said show, lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch, and/or anything even remotely related to this reimagining of the world’s most favorite consulting detective? The episodes of Sherlock have been created in manga format in Japan and then translated back into English. I picked up A Study in Pink in 6 single-issue comic books when it first hit the states last year and was so happy to find them bound into one book I can recommend to people at the library. I love me some Sherlock, some Cumberbatch, some world’s most favorite consulting detective, and so this was an obvious choice. However, the bonus is that since I already know how the story goes from watching the show I am using this to train my brain to more quickly and easily follow the back-to-front, right-to-left so that I can start reading some of the awesome manga that the library has collected.
Recommended for: readers who love Sherlock and/or want to become familiar with the manga art style and format.

Hostage
Written & illustrated by Guy Delisle; translated by Helge Dascher
Hostage is a graphic memoir, which means that the events depicted really happened. While I have read other graphic memoirs none of them moved me quite like this one. In 1997 Doctors Without Borders administrator Chrstophe André was kidnapped in the Caucasus region by Chechens and kept in solitary confinement for months. The isolation is nearly insurmountable, but Christophe pushes through the days, trying to keep himself sane and hoping for either his ransom to be paid or for a chance to escape. The art and colors really play into the sense of loneliness that comes with solitary confinement in a place where you don’t speak the language and you could be killed with no warning.
Recommended for: readers who want to dive into a real-life psychological struggle with an unlikely hero.

Dept. H
Written & illustrated by Matt Kindt
Full disclosure: I probably never would have started reading Dept. H if it hadn’t been included with a comics subscription box I used to get (RIP Landfall Freight!).  Reader, this is a straight-up murder mystery with a huge dash of survival adventure featuring a brave woman fighting her memories, a rapidly collapsing structure, and the press of time. Mia is hired to investigate her father’s death at a science lab at the bottom of the ocean.  Oh, and his killer is obviously someone also in that science lab because no one could have come or gone without a specialized transport. The artwork is dark and moody and I didn’t think it was to my liking. I was so incredibly wrong. Matt Kindt is renown in the comics world for being innovative and for weaving stories and worlds that defy traditional comics, where the story tends to be pretty much laid out on the surface with nothing much required from the reader than to follow along. Kindt is the name you pull out at nerd parties when you want to impress a fellow nerd or drop when you go to a comic book store on vacation and they give you the “there’s a girl in the comic book store” side eye. [For the record, when that side eye happens I drop my Kindt knowledge and leave without purchasing. Misogyny doesn’t fly with me and it doesn’t fly at Everett Comics–Hi Dan and Brandon!] I’ve since started reading other Kindt creations and find myself loving getting lost in each multilayered world.
Recommended for: readers who are into mysteries, survival stories, unreliable narrators, and/or strong women. Also fans of Jacques Cousteau because ocean exploration!

Spell on Wheels
Written by Kate Leth; illustrated by Megan Levens
Kate Leth is another huge name in the comics world. And while she’s written quite a range of stories and characters, including Patsy Walker aka Hellcat (a, gasp!, superhero), Spell on Wheels has instantly become my favorite story of hers yet. Three friends who also happen to be witches are making their way in the modern world while still honoring ancient rituals. But then one of their jerk ex-boyfriends steals an immensely powerful spell and several of their magical artifacts. Andy, Claire, and Jolene refuse to sit around and wait for the upcoming disaster. They meet it head-on with a road trip across the East Coast, following the trail of their stolen goods and racing against time to stop the jerky ex from unleashing holy hell on the world. Along the way they’ll make new friends and share the adventure of a lifetime. At the heart of this story are the strong bonds of friendship these ladies have with each other, and I just can’t get enough friendship stories in comics. More, please! This was a 5 issue run from Dark Horse that I really hope gets picked up for an ongoing series because seriously, once you meet these characters you won’t want to say goodbye either.
Recommended for: readers who love a good road story, female friendship, and/or Charmed.

Slam!
Written by Pamela Ribon; illustrated by Veronica Fish
Roller derby! I could probably just write that phrase over and over to fill in this space because seriously, if you love watching jammers score and blockers maneuver and maybe even know someone who skates or you yourself skate this book is for you and I really don’t need to say much to convince you. But I’ll try anyway! Slam! follows Jennifer and Maisie, two women who each live somewhat secluded lives but meet each other at the Fresh Meat (term for newbies in the derby world, keep up!) Orientation and immediately become best friends. Unfortunately, they’re drafted to different teams in the derby league. Not only will they guaranteed have to some day skate against each other, but the huge time commitments with their respective teams make spending time together really tricky. Can their friendship survive the season? This is another great story about the power of friendship and how sometimes you have to make tough choices in life where either direction makes you feel like you’ve lost something important.
Recommended for: readers who love roller derby and those who haven’t yet discovered its magic. Also anyone looking for a great friendship story.
Side note: this book doesn’t come out until August so if you don’t get to read it in time to count for your summer reading challenge you can still read it afterward.

Stay tuned over the next several weeks as I bring you recommendations to help you complete your summer reading challenge!

Non-Beach Summer Reading

As summer arrives in our neck of the woods, the library and publishing worlds are already knee-deep into summer reading season. Here at the library we think reading is great for all the year round, but if the sun coming out and temperatures rising inspires people to crack open a book or power up an eReader, we are all for it. The one thing that has always puzzled me though is the long lists of ‘beach reads’ that come out this time of year purporting to be the ideal summer reading choice. The whole idea of what a beach read is, usually ‘light’ and ‘not requiring a lot of brain power,’ seems insulting to both the reader and the authors of said works quite frankly.

I say reject the convention and just read what you want during the summer months. For me, dense but rewarding nonfiction is the name of the game. Perhaps I don’t trust the utopian promise of extended hours of sunlight and warm temperatures and feel the need for a reality check. In any case, here are a few titles that are well worth your summer reading time.

The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German History by Thomas Harding

How do you try to examine, let alone explain, the complex, frightening and dramatic history of Germany in the 20th Century? Thomas Harding accomplishes this herculean task by telling the story of one summer home and its occupants on the outskirts of Berlin. In the process he humanizes the broad sweep of German history. The author’s interest is personal: his great-grandfather built and owned the summer house in the 1920s and 30s before fleeing Germany for the United Kingdom due to the rise of the Nazi party and its anti-Jewish legislation. Visiting the house in the present day, he finds that it is in a dilapidated state. He brings together the people of the village and former inhabitants of the house to find out more about the history of those who have lived there and begins an effort to try and save the house from demolition. During the cold war, the house was just inside the borders of East Germany and the former occupants have fascinating tales of life behind the ‘iron curtain.’ This book is an example of social history at its best and provides an ultimately hopeful and humanizing view of an often dark corner of European history.

Looking for the Stranger: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic by Alice Kaplan

With one of the greatest opening lines in literature and growing to become a virtual rite of passage for disgruntled youth everywhere, The Stranger by Albert Camus has had an undeniable impact on society and culture. But how exactly did this come to pass? Alice Kaplan has crafted an excellent history of The Stranger’s creation, publication and influence to answer just that question. Kaplan delves into Camus’ early life in colonial Algeria and his career as a journalist covering criminal trials. Then it is on to the improbable circumstances of The Stranger’s publication in occupied France and its early critical reception. The most fascinating details come out after the war when The Stranger becomes an international best seller and takes on a life of its own. I certainly never knew that part of its popularity in the United States was due to the book being a good text for French language classes because of its easily accessible language and style. Finally Camus’ complicated relationship with The Stranger after its publication, and with the label of Existentialism itself, is examined. This is a truly fascinating book that will appeal not only to those who have been affected by The Stranger themselves but also to those interested in the history of literature and ideas.

Fallen Glory: the Lives and Death’s of History’s Greatest Buildings by James Crawford

This intriguing book is all about the strange fascination we have for buildings and spaces that were once considered great and are now obliterated or in ruins. The author chronicles the rise and fall of twenty-one buildings, from the Tower of Babel to the Twin Towers, and their impact on history and society. This is far from a simple chronological account of each building, however. Instead this book is an exploration of why we are drawn to each site and the meanings we create for them. The chapter on the Library of Alexandria is a great example. Founded in 300 BC and tasked with collecting all the knowledge of the ancient world, the Library of Alexandria was truly a wonder. But what happened to it exactly? The story of its demise varies depending on who you want to believe and what agenda you might have: It could have been Julius Caesar as he dallied with Cleopatra in 48 BC, Christian fanatics trying to stamp out paganism in 391 AD, or during the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 642. One thing is for certain, a new library of Alexandria has been created by UNESCO and it is currently hosting a backup edition of the Internet Archive which is tasked with storing every website that has ever existed. Clearly the idea of accumulating knowledge is what the Library of Alexandria represents more than any one building.

So read what you want this summer season. Intriguing nonfiction included.

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!

#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!

Video Games, Seriously

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m pushing 50 and I play video games. There I said it. For those in a younger age cohort there is no shame in admitting and even championing the fact that they play.  But for those of us who remember playing Galaga at the arcade when it first came out, there tends to be a strange self-imposed stigma of seeing video games as childish or a waste of time. Also, back in the day it was definitely NOT an activity you mentioned if you wanted to hang out with the cool kids. If you suffer from this ancient malady as well, you will be happy to learn that nowadays there are plenty of people who take video games seriously and even write about them. Here at the library we have a great collection of books that examine the history, meaning and impact of video games on society and the people who play them. Here are a few to get you started.

Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade by Carly Kocurek

Part history and part cultural critique, Coin-Operated Americans is the story of the rise and fall of the video game arcade phenomenon in the late 1970s and early 80s. The author is particularly interested in how the early arcades and games came to be seen as the almost exclusive domain of young men despite ample evidence that girls and women participated as well. She leaves no cultural stone unturned, examining the games and films of the era that came to shape people’s perceptions of video games and those who played them. She makes a particularly convincing argument that these attitudes persist today not only in the realm of gaming but also in the larger digital culture created by the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell

This work is no paean to video games as the ‘next great thing’ that will usher in a shining future with benefits for all. Instead the author, an admitted video game addict, boldly tries to apply critical tools often reserved for traditional art forms (plot, characterization, dialog, meaning) to video games. The results tend to raise more questions than they answer, but they are stronger for it. While video games are visual, they aren’t passive like watching a film, with the player’s participation altering the outcome. While many video games rely on plot, characterization and dialogue, it is undeniably a fact that some games lack almost all three and are still very popular and fun to play. Despite there being no easy answers, Bissell isn’t afraid to wade into the fray and look at video games with a critical eye. After reading this book, you might as well.

Death by Video Game: Danger, Pleasure, and Obsession on the Virtual Frontline by Simon Parkin

As you can probably guess from the title, Parkin isn’t afraid to deal with the obsessive, and sometimes lethal, fascination people can have with video games. Starting with an investigation into how an individual literally played an online video game for so long that he died, the author then begins to ask questions that examine the impact games have on individuals and society as a whole: What is it about video games that can produce such obsessive fascination? Are virtual worlds more appealing than the real? If so, what does that say about the way ‘real life’ is structured? While examining these issues, the author intersperses his personal experiences with interviews with game designers who are trying to push the medium into new areas. The result is a work that is much more than a simple pro or con argument about video games and it is all the better for it.

Gamelife: A Memoir by Michael Clune

This affecting and intimate memoir chronicles the impact of video games on the author’s childhood and early young adulthood. Each of the seven chapters is devoted to a specific game Clune was obsessed with from the second grade to the eighth and how it affected his emotional development. Clune’s formative years were in the 70’s and 80’s so the games described are definitely old school and mostly text based. This work could have easily been swamped by nostalgia and become an overly technical explanation of the games he played. Instead it is a genuine examination of how the game experience helped the author navigate the treacherous waters of gym class hazing, cafeteria politics and all the other ‘joys’ of early adolescence. By focusing on his emotions and experiences, Clune gives his memoir a much broader appeal and relevance. No knowledge of how a Commodore 64 worked is necessary to enjoy this book.

If you want to continue to explore the topic, definitely check out the many other titles we have about video games and their impact. It is far from game over.