Have you ever wondered what it’s like to actually write a TV show? We have an excellent book on the subject at the library!
Just the Funny Parts by Nell Scovell talks about how the author went from college to a few years in New York and then began a career writing for television in Los Angeles. The highlight of her career (so far!) was being the showrunner (head writer and all around show boss) of Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
It’s not exactly an “anyone can do it” type of story. She went to college at Harvard and freely admits that the connections she made there had a lot to do with her success. I still found it fascinating to read about how writing for a television show actually works and to follow her personal journey, especially since she is a woman in a very male-dominated business.
She says the career of a television writer has four stages:
Who is Nell Scovell?
Get me Nell Scovell!
Get me a younger, cheaper Nell Scovell!
Who is Nell Scovell?
There’s some fun name-dropping in the book as well (she’s been close friends with magicians Penn and Teller since she was young).
The great virtual programs just keep coming here at the library. There are so many in fact that we wanted to point out two author talks you can attend next week so you wouldn’t miss out. The presentations are part of our Writer’s Live series, which is dedicated to highlighting talented writers and their works. Both programs are free, open to the public, and you can register to attend on our Crowdcast channel. Read on to find out more.
Why is there no Native woman David Sedaris? Or Native Anne Lamott? Humor categories in publishing are packed with books by funny women and humorous sociocultural-political commentary—but no Native women. Well, it’s time to meet Tiffany Midge, the author of Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Midge’s book is a smart and funny collection of essays on life, politics and identity as a Native woman in America. Spend an evening laughing, thinking, and talking about anything and everything—from politics to pumpkin spice—as Midge shares stories and insights from her book.
Madeleine Henry is the author of two novels, The Love Proof and Breathe In, Cash Out. She has appeared on NBC, WABC, The Jenny McCarthy Show, and Inspire Living. She has been featured in the New York Post, Parade, and Observer Media. Previously, she worked at Goldman Sachs and in investment management after graduating from Yale.
Madeleine will be joined by Jennifer Bardsley for a conversation about The Love Proof. Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.
Jennifer Bardsley lives in Edmonds, Wash., and her newest book, Sweet Bliss, will be published by Montlake Romance in 2021. Jennifer also writes under the pen name Louise Cypress. Jennifer has written the “I Brake for Moms” column for The Everett Herald since 2012.
One of the very few good things about these challenging times is the explosion of virtual events that are now available. What you loose in the ability to be ‘in person’ you gain in the sheer number and variety of programs to attend virtually. But how to choose? Let the library be your guide.
Here at Everett Public, we have teamed up with CrowdCast to host many excellent programs. We are especially excited about the program we are hosting on Thursday, Oct. 15th at 6 PM:
If after the program, you feel inspired to learn more about the Purple One, why not browse through our many other books about his life and times? And of course, we have plenty of his music and films as well.
There’s a reason that the nightly news ends with a ‘good news story,’ we need hope. Hope gives us energy. Hearing and watching stories of how others have triumphed over the odds inspires and helps us to think better of others and ourselves.
We had our own good news story live last evening when we looked out our living room window and spotted a young couple setting up a Covid 19 style birthday party in our neighborhood. We stood in awe as decorations went up in the pouring rain and the little family waited a good 40 minutes until a trail of young families, including the 32 year old birthday girl, arrived dressed to party. We joined in from our deck as everyone sang happy birthday.
Last evening was remarkable, but other days it’s been a bit like searching for diamonds in the rough. I’ve found Cloud Library the easier of the two online ebook apps to use when doing a subject search. I began my search on self-care and health but, landed on inspirational books and stories of courage. I encourage you to do your own search. Cloud Library has an extensive topic search although some titles overlap.
I don’t want to die, however in my more broken and vulnerable moments I feel like I need to be fixed. Author Anna Mehler-Paperny tracks her quest for knowledge and her desire to get well. Impeccably reported, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a profoundly compelling story about the human spirit and the myriad ways we treat (and fail to treat) depression, a condition that accounts for more years swallowed up by disability than any other in the world.
Last May I blogged on depression. No one was more surprised than me on the response I received, which attests to the importance of mental health. More recently co-worker Linda blogged on the subject as part of her Did You Know series.
I’ve enjoyed and shared my enthusiasm for Lamott’s candor in a previous post. I can’t think of a better time to revisit her in Almost Everything. In this profound and funny book, Lamott calls for each of us to rediscover the nuggets of hope and wisdom that are buried within us so we can make life sweeter than we ever imagined. Her work is divided into short chapters that explore life’s essential truths. Candid and caring, insightful and sometimes hilarious, Almost Everything is the book we need and that only Anne Lamott can write.
Whimsical comes to mind when reading this short summary: From the revered British illustrator, a modern fable for all ages that explores life’s universal lessons, featuring 100 color and black-and-white drawings. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the mole.“ Kind,” said the boy.
Eric was 150 pounds, overweight, depressed, and sick. After a lifetime of failed diet attempts… sound familiar?…Walking with Peety is for anyone who is ready to make a change in his or her life, and for everyone who knows the joy, love, and hope that dogs can bring. This is more than a tale of mutual rescue. This is an epic story of friendship and strength
A powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening, award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor shows that what we think are our limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths.
We’ve heard it, and we’ve said it a thousand times over these past weeks “We’re in this together.” Author Philip Yancey once wrote “We don’t get to choose the family we’re born into.” So much of life is about not having control, yet seeing a spontaneous birthday party outside in the rain and finding books with amazing stories and insights helps us along our way. A bit like finding a diamond in the rough.
One of my favorite parts of my job as a History Specialist at the Everett Public Library is doing programming that teaches people about local history. Some of these programs are lectures on historical topics, while others are hands-on workshops that discuss how to work with family collections of photographs and other records. One thing that I try to stress over everything else is that we are always living through history, and are always part of history. In the most average of times, it’s very hard for many people to receive this message. How could my Facebook wall, emails, or my Instagram posts possibly be historic? They don’t seem to have the same gravitas as those sepia toned pictures of great grandma, do they? So what happens when we find ourselves living through a series of events that one can’t help but recognize as being historic?
I’m sure those of us who were living during September 11th, 2001 could tell us a little something about where they were that morning. Do our voicemails or emails still survive from that day? Perhaps some of us have a forgotten Livejournal post or two floating around the internet recording our thoughts and fears from that period of time, but it’s unlikely that many of us documented what was going through our minds and kept those fleeting, likely digital records.
We currently find ourselves living through a period of time that will undeniably be viewed decades from now as historic. While COVID-19 is a different disease with its own trajectory from the Influenza pandemic of 1918-19, there is much that can be learned from how people documented their lives during that time, and how historians put those pieces back together over 100 years later. In this excellent article that was just published in The Lewiston Tribune, you can see a similar pattern of spotty information, varying local responses, public disbelief, and waves of infection. The author used a variety of sources to put this account together: published books on the pandemic, interviews with a woman who lived through the pandemic, local poetry and children’s rhymes, contemporary news accounts, archival images, and so much more. All of these documents survived to be used by a mixture of chance, and people taking deliberate action to make sure that their records would be saved.
There are a couple of local resources that I have been fortunate to work with that talk about how Everett families coped in 1918-19. In a journal loaned to me by Everett historian Neil Anderson, I read about Doris Bell’s life during the influenza pandemic. At the time Doris worked as a teacher in the remote town of Alpine, Washington (between Skykomish and Scenic). Her journal entries document the life of a young career woman who seemed peripherally aware of how influenza was impacting the larger population centers, though the remoteness of her teaching position protected her from being exposed to the worst of the pandemic. Her life in Alpine was most affected when her school was closed temporarily in October of 1918, though it appears that there was not a serious outbreak in her area.
During the school closure Doris returned to Everett to visit her family. From what can be gleaned from her journal, life went on fairly normally, with no cessation of casual social activities. This would not have been unusual at this time, as there were not any formal prohibitions on visiting other people. On October 8th the Everett Health Board had banned all public gatherings such as school, dances, and church, but day-to-day life went on. According to notes in the Northwest Room archive on Everett Tribune coverage from 1918, it appears that people were cautioned to stay home, but that downtown Everett showed little sign of change other than the darkened theaters. In the cigar stores it was business as usual, with people gathering to socialize and smoke.
Nurses at Providence slowly became overwhelmed throughout October, and many became ill. The Tribune reported that volunteers were coming in shifts in to sterilize and pack bandages; no nurses could be called up from Seattle because there were none to spare. The old wooden Bethania College building on Broadway, near what is now Compass Health on Broadway, was returned to hospital service and the Red Cross put a call out to the public for bed pans and any other medical supplies that could be spared.
Doris’s routine daily entries were occasionally punctuated with mentions of people in her social circle succumbing to influenza, and in one jarring instance, a fellow passenger dying on a train she was aboard. Because Doris was limited to a mere four lines per day, her mixing of death and mundane daily tasks can feel a bit jarring, but that was a result of the format she had available rather than a reflection of callousness. There are occasional references to masks (the State Health Board started requiring the wearing of gauze masks in public on November 4th), but her entries are dominated by her more-or-less normal life: going for walks, seeing friends, and thoughts about her work. Reading Doris’s journal doesn’t feel much different from reading friends’ Facebook walls, where incredibly serious news is mixed with the kinds of content we’re used to sharing. People are aware of the bigger picture, but most are still living their lives albeit in a very modified way.
Another window into local life during the influenza pandemic comes from the minutes book of the Everett Woman’s Book Club. According to this record, October and November meetings were cancelled due to the influenza, and the December meeting account was peppered with mentions. A gold star was added to the service flag for a local soldier who passed away in France of influenza, and member Ida Coleman asked her colleagues to help with the eradication of the disease. Both Doris Bell’s journal and the Woman’s Book Club minutes mention working in the gauze room; it’s unclear if they were helping sterilize and pack bandages for the local hospitals in need, or if these efforts were intended to help troops abroad.
So what are the journals and club minutes of today? How do we preserve our altered daily lives so that someone looking back in 100 years will understand the decisions we made and the actions we took? It is important to recognize that the future of our daily records like Facebook, or Instagram, or any other social media are less than secure. Changing trends in social media may see many of these platforms fall out of favor and disappear over time (see Friendster or Myspace).
The best way to help ensure that our historical record doesn’t have gaps during this time period is to intentionally document your experiences and look for the organizations that are trying to preserve these kinds of records. Preserving digital materials is a problem that still hasn’t been solved, but archives and museums are doing their best to have plans in place to prolong their lives.
At the Everett Public Library, we have launched the Community History project, which aims to collect people’s images and thoughts during this time of social distancing. To participate, you need only to email your content to CommunityHistory@everettwa.gov – we will be monitoring this account for submissions to be considered for inclusion in our archives. If you are keeping a written journal, keep the library in mind for a future donation either of the original or a copy if you would rather keep it in the family. The Northwest Room has already been building an archive of news clippings, city records, and documents related to how local businesses and organizations are reacting to COVID-19, but we are very interested in preserving what life was like for our community members on an individual level. I encourage you to consider sending your thoughts, pictures, poetry, or art as emails to the future.
Do you like your historical biographies bold and unapologetic? Do you want to learn something new from a set of seemingly old and exhausted primary sources? Want to hear the tale of a person constrained by crushing societal forces, but striking out in an unconventional and incredibly effective way? Finally, are you o.k. with expletives and current cultural references while learning about the ancient world? If so, let me recommend to you the thrilling, fascinating, well researched and bitingly funny Agrippina: The Most Extraordinary Woman of the Roman World by Emma Southon. Read on to find out more.
If you haven’t heard of Agrippina before (technically Agrippina the Younger but, as Southon points out, the Romans were super unoriginal when it came to giving a child a name) you have probably run across some of her notorious relations. She was the granddaughter of the first emperor Augustus, the sister of the emperor Caligula (yes, that one!), the wife of the emperor Claudius, her own uncle (Ewww), and the mother of Nero (oh, my!).
So with an interesting pedigree like that, why haven’t you heard more about her? Well the elephant in the room when it comes to telling the story of a woman in the ancient world, and much of history alas, is who does the telling. The two primary surviving historical accounts of her time are written by two senators, Tacitus and Suetonius, roughly a hundred years later. Both had a major axe to grind when it came to the idea of a woman stepping out of her ‘proper’ role and, heaven forbid, wielding a little power for herself.
Southern does an excellent job of demonstrating how Agrippina only shows up in the historical record at all as a foil or reaction to a male protagonist. Because of this, there are huge gaps when it comes to trying to form a cohesive narrative of her life. Most historians look at the gaps and just give up on trying to tell her story at all. Not Sothern. Instead she embraces the ambiguity and speculation with gusto and produces a convincing and entertaining account.
It is really hard to do her style justice by just describing it, so I’ll just quote a great passage here concerning Agrippina’s mother, yet another Agrippina, and her return to Rome after her husband’s death:
Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome in 19CE with two symbolic middle fingers raised in Tiberius’s direction, while Tiberius sulked in his palace. The atmosphere went slowly downhill from here. But they were family, and – like Michael Bluth – the Julio-Claudians put family first. They couldn’t just avoid one another and get on with their lives, and Agrippina the Elder didn’t want that anyway. Agrippina the Elder wanted revenge.
So clearly this is not your father’s ancient history. But if you give this excellent history a chance, you will be thanking the gods that it isn’t when you finish.
Writing of a personal nature— sharing a part of my life, I take the risk of allowing myself to be exposed.
I grew up in a big family and as a kid I felt loved and secure, but once I got into my teens my world turned upside down. During those years music and books impacted me. The spellbinding music of the 60’s and 70’s coupled with books like Go Ask Alice, published anonymously in 1971, and I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, published in 1964, fueled my young easily-influenced brain, tightening the tentacles of darkness. I experienced a deep depression and was ripe for self-destruction. I considered thoughts of taking my life.
Sadly, there are many people (young, old and in between) who out of desperation view suicide as the only solution to their pain. Depression is a tough subject to discuss, yet it’s a conversation that cannot be ignored. Consider the character of Eleanor in Gail Honeyman’s debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The reader quickly discovers that Eleanor is not fine. She fastidiously maintains her Monday through Friday job keeping to herself, then on Friday night with equal purpose she stops off to pick-up a frozen pizza and 2 bottles of Vodka which she proceeds to drink over the weekend.
It is easier to discuss a complex character in a book than it is to admit you may be struggling with depression or suicide. It’s awkward, no one knows what to say, so often nothing is said at all — It is my sincere intent to open up the dialogue in hopes that lives may be saved. Indeed it is a hard subject to discuss because those who suffer feel stuck and weighed down by the stigma of shame.
Today more and more resources are becoming available, which is encouraging, because the truth is that mental illness comes in a multitude of manifestations, depression being one of them. I recently came across two books in the Library’s collection that offer insight and hope.
Last October my daughter-in-law, who bravely admits her own struggle with depression, received grant funding to develop a forum bringing light on the subject of suicide. She used the medium of photography to convey a message of hope and healing dubbing the project Survivor Series. The photo essay was compiled into a book of individuals who had either lost a loved one to suicide or had contemplated taking their own life.
For the culmination of her yearlong project, she hosted an event inviting the community and those photographed for the project. Photos were on display with a brief synopsis of each story. A portion of the evening was an open mic in a second building where a poetry group kicked things off, followed by anyone who wanted to standing up and share their story.
The evening was successful and affirming for those in the infancy of their grief as well as for others who, like my husband who lost his brother 20 years ago, have been grieving for a much longer time. It also was a catalyst for change in the Spokane community. The exhibit is currently on display at the Spokane Public Library.
Next month my husband and daughter will team up with hundreds of people to walk through the night on the streets of San Francisco in the Out of Darkness Overnight. The walk serves to raise money and bring attention and support to our nation’s increasing number of suicide deaths.
Thank you for reading this blog. It takes courage and honesty to admit the need for help. We’re not meant to walk this life alone. If you want more information on suicide prevention, there are people who are trained to help at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
What’s the key thing writers need the most? Raw material of course. Author Robert Anthony Siegel has a goldmine of raw material living in a New York City duplex with his parents, Stanley and Frances, and trying to make sense of his childhood.
Dad is a charismatic criminal defense attorney, bringing all kinds of questionable characters home. Young Robert accompanies his dad to Hell’s Angel’s clubhouse parties and dines with drug dealers and possible murderers.
Mom takes Robert to MoMA and the Whitney to show him paintings by Motherwell and Rothko, to counterbalance Dad’s lowbrow Brooklyn background and make sure there is art and culture in his life.
Complex doesn’t begin to describe Dad. The reason his clients love him is that he is an old-school lawyer, with a gift for story telling in front of the jury and throwing in Shakespeare quotes to boot. He rescues his clients time and time again. Dad’s depression is eased by lots of antidepressants, consuming huge quantities of food and spending money as fast as he gets it – even a duffel bag full of cash (a gift from a grateful client). His depression is especially intense after the DEA bring charges against him and he goes away to prison for a year.
Told in a personal essay style, this memoir is one you can’t put down. At first you feel like you’re careening around roads on the edge of a cliff, but the author’s skillful writing keeps you grounded, entertained and delighted right up to the book’s end. This is a reading experience like no other.
And where does the Haiku come in? Toward the end of the book Robert, who has spent years learning to speak Japanese and to learn about Japanese culture as a way of coping with his life, explains it best in the very touching chapter “Haiku For My Father.” As his father stumbles toward the end of his life, Siegel is reminded of the last haiku of Basho Matsuo, helping him make sense of not only his father’s life, but his own as well. Maybe it even explains the reader’s life also.
David Sedaris brings you into his life and adventures with his 9th and probably best book yet, Calypso. The 21 stories and personal essays will amuse, shock and lead to an understanding of the family and brilliance of Sedaris.
He’ll take you to Tokyo where he and sister Amy buy absurd clothing (clown pants with suspenders, a trio of hats meant to be worn together) that ‘refuse to flatter.’
He’ll show you what he goes through in his attempt to make a wild fox his friend.
He’ll take you to the post-dinner dining room table of his youth where he and his 4 siblings would vie for their chance to either light their mom’s cigarette or tell her their daily story. Mom Sedaris would give helpful notes to each (“lose the part about the teacher….” or “cut to the chase here…”)
You’ll go with him on his Fitbit-induced walks from his countryside home in Sussex. By the time he works up to 60,000 steps a day, he’s sporting a grabber in one hand and a big garbage bag in the other. He imagines stories to go along with each piece of interesting garbage. Neighbors report to his long-suffering boyfriend, Hugh, such things as “We saw David in Arundel pick up a dead squirrel with his grabbers” or “We saw him outside Steyning rolling a tire down the side of the road.”
Hugh, seemingly in permanent eye-roll mode, has a lot to contend with when the rest of the Sedaris clan are around. And they’re around a lot after Sedaris buys a beach house off the coast of North Carolina. The vacation home, purposefully without any TV, gives Sedaris and his 90+ year old father Lou, brother (plus sister-in-law and niece) and four sisters a place to be together on holidays. The four sisters become three in the aftermath of the youngest one’s suicide. This fact is dealt with off and on throughout the book in the inimitable fashion of Sedaris.
Sedaris finds his always critical father has been replaced by a nicer more agreeable one. And while Sedaris admits it makes a better story to hang onto the cantankerous Dad he remembers from his youth, he still makes a good case for holding a grudge. David is the only one taken out of Dad’s will after a particularly spectacular argument.
Sedaris writes beautifully about the moment the two found common ground. “Just Listen,” his dad commands the 15 year-old, as he goes about playing John Coltrane’s ‘I wish I knew” and Betty Carter’s “Beware My Heart.” I won’t spoil it for you by quoting the ending here. You’ll just have to read the book for yourself. And, when you get to page 141 and 142, you might want to que the music and JUST READ!
As of this writing I’m number 28 in a holds queue of 38 for the most-requested book right now at EPL. Don’t worry–I’m not here to complain! I do believe that good things come to those who wait. But I also believe that waiting shouldn’t be boring. I want to share with you some other rad books out there that those of us waiting for Michelle Obama’s Becoming can read while we wait patientlysomewhat patientlykinda impatiently–okay, totally impatiently but at least we’ll have fab reading material in line! There’s quite a mix of books and audio here, certain to help keep you busy and keep you satisfied while you wait just a teeny tiny bit longer for your copy to come in.
Audio that lets us listen to Michelle
First of all, if you would rather have Michelle read her book Becoming to you, you should get yourself in the holds queue for that. But while you wait you can still hear Michelle and other First Ladies give important speeches by listening to Great Speeches by First Ladies of the United States. In addition to Michelle you’ll also hear Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, and many more. There’s also Ibeyi’s Ash, in particular the track No Man is Big Enough for My Arms, which features clips from Michelle Obama’s speeches.
Two amazing books packed with photos of Michelle
Michelle Obama is one of my style icons. Not only does she always appear stylish and put together, but she often wears affordable, off-the-rack items that regular Janes like me can pick up. Chasing Lightand the children’s adaptation Reach Higherare compilations of photos of Michelle taken by former official White House photographer Amanda Lucidon. You’ll catch Michelle tobogganing in China with a Secret Service agent, taking a selfie with a member of the armed forces, greeting heads of state (sometimes with her dogs Bo and Sunny), and harvesting vegetables from the White House Kitchen Garden. Yes, I’m inspired by her style, but I also love seeing how active and engaged she is with folks of all ages and from all walks of life.
Books that tell us more about Michelle
Biographies are popular, and as such we’ve got plenty stocked on the shelves to satisfy your need to know more about Michelle. Try one of these books that delve deep into her background, family history, and home life. You’ll also find books where other people talk about why they admire Michelle, and those are worth a read, too.
Books that show us how to be a leader
Want to be more like Michelle? One of my favorite types of books to read are books on leadership, especially ones that focus up on how leadership challenges can be very different for women and non-binary folks. These books each take a different track but all of them show you a way to grow your leadership skills and be the boss. There are also stories of women who succeeded despite the odds, and they inspire me every bit as much as Michelle Obama does.
One very special bonus book
When I’m missing someone my heart hurts. Like, really badly hurts. One remedy for heartache (even the good kind) is to curl up with a book that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For me there’s no better pairing than the characters Heart and Brain, and Heart and Brain: Gut Instinctsby Nick Seluk of The Awkward Yeti is one of the best compilations. Brain is the pragmatic character, the one who remembers deadlines and obligations. Heart, by contrast, is all about living in the moment and enjoying life. Together they bring together the qualities of common sense and empathy that I respect Michelle Obama for having in great quantity.
So what do you think? Can you get by a little while longer in the holds queue? I know I’ve got a full TBR and while I still very much want to read Becoming, I feel better knowing I have other satisfying reads to occupy my time in line.