Off The Wall News and What’s Coming Next

140160476013331Yesterday, I met with my Off The Wall compatriots for the first time in nearly three months. After the launch of Into the Woods, summer scattered us to cottages and holidays. We came back together to get a handle on our anthology, and to plan another one. Yes, we will have another. This time we will do an ebook. While putting together the physical book proved interesting, and educational, ebooks allows a little more flexibility on format and colour pictures. We are working on getting Into the Woods into an electronic format, with hopes of launching later this month.

As for our next anthology, we have a theme. Now to write with the theme in mind. A writer’s group is only as good as the variety of people in it. We have a some already published, others published in academic journals, and those not published-yet. I can say this experience finally broke down a wall in my creativity. Suddenly, I meet a blank screen with less fear. When NaNoWriMo rolls around on November 1st, it’s with a few under my belt, with the mistakes I made in time and words, that will get me to 50,000, and a draft to revise. Those are my two goals.

The next set of goals revolve around this blog. I started it in 2011 as a sort of sandbox after my Introduction to Creative Writing course ended. I wrote about a lot of things, but I seem to do best with pop culture, writing, and libraries. My life only comes in if related to any of those things, most of the time it’s pretty ordinary. Most people say ‘boring’, but I prefer ordinary. It means going to work, filling the creative well, and hanging out from time to time.

Today I keep my tv shut while I catch up on laundry, and try to outrun a possible cold/flu. The weather feels unseasonably nice here in Winnipeg, but the germs don’t know it. Keep your eyes peeled for future off the wall developments.

Inspired Doing: Canadian Support Staff Day 2014

People ask me what I do. I reply, “I work as a library technician at a college.” They respond, “But I thought everyone working in a library is a librarian.”  I patiently explain it’s not the case. We have clerks, those with on-the-job experience, I have a diploma in Library and Information Sciences from Red River College as a library technician, while others take the plunge and go for their Masters In Library Science, or some other named degree, so long as it’s ALA accredited.

Yes, I have mulled over getting my master’s degree.

After considering time and money, I discovered one important ingredient in going back. It’s inclination. I enjoy what I do at this moment to get up, uproot everything, and go back to school. I have a job doing the daily interactions with staff and students. I also do collection development, and I do one-on-one instruction on how to search library resources. From time to time, I take that knowledge into a classroom as per an instructor request.

Library Technicians in schools do story time, pull resources for teachers, and usually are the only game in town as school librarians dwindle. Others do cataloguing if no central department does it for them. They process, do the scholastic book fairs hoping to raise enough money for books other students can’t buy. The students they know need a library the most.

Some Library Technicians, cracking good ones, do dazzling PowerPoints and brochures to entice users to come through the doors. Others sit on committees depending on the workplace. Librarians look at library technicians and clerks as their right arm. In other case hands, legs, feet, and one half of a brain hemisphere. The really smart librarians, like the really smart clerks and technicians, know some initiatives do not hinge on one person. Some people, scared by experience or just plain insecure, see division everywhere between librarians and support staff. The ones who don’t are too busy helping people, advocating, and working shoulder to shoulder. The stakes at this time are simply too high.

Also, our users really don’t care.

They want to feel comfortable with the person helping them. They want to find their book, their article, or how to download an e-book. What piece of paper a person has is the least of their worries. They quality of the help speaks louder than a credential. I plead with library technicians and clerks. Please do not put ‘just’ in front of what you do. To a landed immigrant, a mature student out of school since libraries had card catalogues, to the child wanting to read The Hobbit on his/her own; what you do out grows that word.

Today raise your glass, eat a special cupcake, buy a round, do anything. Celebrate what you do. Have a great support staff day. Keep inspired.

The Road to National Novel Writing Month Brick By Brick

No sooner will Canadian Library Month finish, National Novel Writing Month will start. For the month of November I will take the month off from blogging. However, keep an eye on my Twitter feed as I will resurface to give some sort of word count. I discovered my limits, and it’s time to put some focus back into my writing.

I already prepped some short posts, or asides in WordPress, with sage advice from writers. I discovered this handy little function:

Wordpress Bookmarklet

At first it only says ‘via whatever the title of the website or post.’ I wrote around it. Then I discovered highlighting a quotation, then doing the pressing the button. Either way, a little pep talk, and a way to take a closer look at their sources. I have one more to do, but those will appear in the last week of October.

At the moment it’s idea mode. I scribble a few things down like a character here, a snippet of plot there, while taking putting the daily word count into my Google calendar. So, yes, I am very serious about trying to not only get 50,000 words, but a first draft to take until the end. You might say Diana Gabaldon kicked my ass without knowing she did.

She actually completed Outlander in 18 months. She wanted to write a novel, and she figured the only way to learn was write one. While I understand MFAs, writing workshops, and other handy things to help writers, NaNoWriMo means letting things go. Letting go is not one of my strong suits. No doubt an avalanche of posts will happen over the next few months about NaNoWriMo being the greatest thing, or not. Rather than add to the oncoming storm, I intend to shut a few things out and get down to it.

Thorin Screen Shot

Thankfully, a short work week after food overdose known as Thanksgiving long weekend. Sadly, I return to a Xerox printer/photocopier not working. After staring at John Proctor for a while, time for a new Armitage character and one with possibly worse troubles then a Xerox machine.

A Little Pick Me Up

The Outlandish Sunday of The Walking Dead

After Thanksgiving with the family, I headed over to S’s place to watch the season première of The Walking Dead. It’s safe to say what I will say next, and it applies to Outlander, will contain spoilers for both shows. Why write about both? On one hand, it represents two sides of my tastes. I like a good period drama, even those with a twist. Outlander has tension, romance, spicy sex, and a good dose of time travel thrown in for good measure. The Walking Dead also deals with a main character torn away from the world he once knew. No standing stones here, just a mysterious illness and a load of decomposing mobile corpses.

After patiently waiting, The Walking Dead premiered their first block of 8 episodes with a rip-roaring opener, written by showrunner Scott Gimple. Everything suspected about Terminus as too good to be true turned out to be as bad as we thought. The ‘Termites’ (thank you Andrew Lincoln for that term) really did lure people to their sanctuary, kill them, and use them as a food source.

And people thought the walkers were bad. (They still are, but they remind me of mosquitoes now. Flesh eating, entrail-tearing ones swarms to kill via the head.)

We sat watching the episode as characters nearly turned into smoked meant, but viewers also saw a glimpse into a new foil for Rick and his group. The Termites did set up a sort of sanctuary until a group of individual took over, raping and killing their inhabitants. Scott Gimple gives viewers a portrait of tormentors once tormented themselves. Unlike the a group, functioning in the same way as Joe’s ‘claimed’ gang with their chaotic brutality in earlier episodes, Mary and the Termites emerged with protocol and procedure as their underpinning. “Be the butcher,” said the memorable line “or be the cattle.” In one scene, Gareth the ring leader emerges with a book, casually asking the resident butchers for their shell count. One apologized saying it’s his first round-up as if he forget to file paperwork.

After a breathless season opener, it’s time to turn our attention to a mid-season closer-Outlander. While Starz closed out the season two-week ago, Showcase (the channel showing Outlander) just broadcast ‘Both Sides Now’, complete with a raft of commercials as only Canadian television can do.

Rant beginning in 3, 2, 1…

I said it before, people have commented before, and we will say it again in a different way. Canadian stations have to justify their costs by selling advertising. While The Walking Dead breaks for commercials on AMC, the writers can pace the story to allow for such times. They know AMC has commercials breaks therefore plan according. Outlander broadcasts on Starz, a premium channel without commercials. Showcase must have paid a pretty penny for the show as they show commercial after commercial, usually for their network shows. Their breaks disrupt the momentum of a show not given to commercial breaks. Why Outlander was not picked up my Movie Channel, or SuperChannel, sits above my pay grade.

And it’s Thanksgiving Monday today.

I will leave with one other thing, and I have a feeling I am not the only one to say it. Both shows run on 16 episodes, broadcasting in block of 8. Gale Ann Hurd, executive producer of The Walking Dead, revealed the date for the next batch in the new year.

It’s February 8 2015. (Everyone else follows suit on February 9th so most countries will not have to wait.)

Outlander will show its next block on April 4th next year, with Showcase not giving a date for a Canadian première. I can write a whole post about the logistically stupidity of such a move in today’s climate. The shows are largely ‘in the can’ as the industry put it, and the only theory I have makes my blood boil. The only other show premiering in April is Game of Thrones. Chicks dig a little bit of fantasy with lots of romance, someone must be thinking, broads will watch Outlander, while bros will take in Game of Thrones. Seriously, why else for the long wait? When will networks stop putting their viewers in neat little boxes.

I like my walkers, my scots, the strong women, and men standing shoulder to shoulder with them. Pirating, while many do not like it, provides a way for people to call the shots on their programming. Why not? Execs don’t listen anyway unless a dollar sign is attached. Netflix has a target painted on their back for the sole reason its model captures the moment in this new television golden age. Meanwhile people do still turn off the tv and go to where all good ideas come from-books.

An Outlandish Sunday

After attending an anniversary dinner and dance, I woke up at 9 and immediately made coffee. Most of my morning involved drinking said coffee, and continuing to read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. My friend C dropped off her copies of the books, and it allowed me to re-read the first one. I read the novel a long time ago with bits of detail still sticking in my head.

When I worked at McNally Robinson Booksellers in 1997, the book continued a strong print run, people asked me breathlessly about the next book, and I put Ms. Gabaldon in the same mental file as Jean Auel. It’s basically a file for authors with meticulously researched books with no release date. I even put ol’ George R.R. Martin in this category as he also doesn’t go by publishing timeline.

(Digression: Let’s give these writers a bit of a break, shall we? I think any writer putting that much care into their work deserves some cut slack.)

I stood at the farthest cash register in the semi-circle known as point of sale. It means the line forms at the centre, then disperses to an open clerk. I stood at a semi-open spot, and this lady came with a rather thick paperback. I politely informed her the line formed in the centre. Her response?

She (literally) threw the book at me. That book was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I saw the cover as it whizzed past my head. I recall thinking I should really read this book. I had friends who read it, loved it, and hoped one day James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser would one day incarnate in actor form. I remember reading the book, hearing the names of proposed actors, and thought do they have enough actors in Scotland to cast this thing?

*Cough* I was wrong *Cough*

I believe the midlife crisis I ordered just arrived.

Mr. Heughan comes from the same clan as Mr. Armitage. You know, clan momma-raised-you-right for lanky sweethearts. While the show brought renewed attention, one fact caught my eye in some author interviews. Diana Gabaldon wanted to learn how to write a novel, and figured the only way to learn was to write one.

While I breeze through novels, I thought this time I would pay careful attention to what page the action kicks up a notch, among other things. I attended my fair share of writing workshops, and one thing they always say-read. It’s hard with my hamster brain, but I managed to gently call it to the present as I read the novel. At the same time I remembered the sheer joy of just reading a barn-burning novel. I pay attention to the right use of sentence fragments, the way things flow, the details used to describe setting or character.

It’s T-minus 20 days until National Novel Writing Month. I hope to not just get, but actually hit the mark with something I can revise. Here’s to paying attention and fingers crossed.

Finally, the Thorin Poster


Yowza, Yowza, Yowza, Yowza, Yowza, Yowza, Yowza…and at some point blasted idiot as he makes reckless choices in the last movies. In a way this was the Thorin I waited for since I read the books. The guy under the make up made us remember it’s not always that way, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
And now back to yowza, yowza, yowza, yowza, yowza…

Originally posted on Armitage Agonistes:

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My CMHR is not a Museum


I do not use these words often: This post is kick-ass. Short, honest, and well-structured, this essay makes a case for a Library of Humans Rights. Wait, we do it’s called a public library.
It’s safe to say this falls under ‘Inspired Ideas’. Bravo!

Originally posted on Readers' Salon:

In our modern world of consumerist culture, superficial sentimentality and instant gratification, we ask ourselves, how do we eliminate bullying, racism and war? A museum dedicated to Human Rights may help achieve such lofty goals, but in reality we already have such a museum. It is called a library. The price of admission is a free card and it holds every idea in the world. According to the Greater Good, in order to learn empathy, we must practice active listening, look for commonality in others, pay attention to faces, and above all READ FICTION.

In my dream Library for Human Rights, Canadian women play a prominent role. The foundation of my dream library was laid by Nellie McClung, prolific author, mother of five, and champion of the right to vote for women.

Upon entering the Beatrice Culleton Mosionier Lobby , one would join the circle and watch the Royal Winnipeg…

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Inspired Thinking: Ken Roberts, Facing the Future

We now realize that knowledge and creativity add economic value. We understand that future
jobs will place less value on a strong back and more value on a strong mind. Libraries give us
the chance to maintain a literate, creative society.

-Ken Roberts, FACING THE FUTURE  A Vision Document for British Columbia’s Public Libraries

Last weekend, Peter Mansbridge hosted a special edition of Cross Canada Check up about the future of libraries in an age of Google. The podcast itself warrants a listen as callers, and guests, talked about libraries as maker spaces, people places, and creative collaborations. The program itself came from the University of Waterloo, Stratford Campus. They don’t have a classic definition of a library as most of the programs  revolve around digital humanities. The students still get access to book from the main campus located 40 minutes up the road, but it’s all part of the changing nature of libraries. Before hearing about this place, the most notable non-library library came Tampa Florida.

A few words about the new Florida Polytechnic University. It’s so new it does not have any accreditation at this time. The school actually looked at a similar library at NASA. I have a couple of favourite bits from this story:

  1. The school’s titles allow the students to browse on one click, then purchase the book on the next click. I had to read the sentence twice as library usually allow for unlimited browsing. I know most people use libraries as a try-before-you buy option. This approach seems less library and more bookstore to me. To be fair, The Guardian says it applies to books the library does not own. I have a ‘but still’ feeling about all this.
  2. Instead of a traditional reference desk, students learn about managing digital material via a ‘success desk’. This moniker provoked a few laughs by its mere name. (As opposed to what? A ‘stupid desk?’ I recall one person saying.)

Both instances show the future of libraries has begun now. Reading Facing the Future encouraged me to look at not only my assumptions about information gathering, but also how the future will affect the students I help now. More and more of our orientations involve connecting people to information, and enabling them to think about the information they gather for a given project. What they look at as just ‘school work’ will have an impact down the line. If a student simply accepts information as fact, or truth, if it’s online, that person may not know the way search results get manipulated by a number of factors, chiefly search engine optimization (SEO).

As we head beyond this year’s Canadian Library Month, it’s time to find some ‘inspired thinking’. Mr. Roberts vision document isn’t a heap of wishful thinking. It actually tries to put together the kind of future libraries, in this case BC public libraries, now face. It’s hard to visualize a future as it’s not some big event, but a series of smaller events adding up to really big changes. I already see it now as we move deeper into databases and ebooks, while still providing physical materials as well. Even student prefer having a hard copy of the article they found, and not opening the PDF they saved or email. Mind you it’s from my experience and mine alone just like this document forms from Mr. Roberts own research. It’s like links in chain as one person may add their own yet they connect all the way back to the origin point.

Take a good look at the document, I hyperlinked it through the title in the opening of the post. While I linked a number of articles about Florida Polytechnics new ‘bookless’ library, Library Journal has an article entitled New Florida University Unveils Bookless Library By Sharon Riley. While articles linked to this post from two UK papers, and Yahoo, hit the highlights this article delves a little deeper into materials used in the new space. It also has a few more details about similar libraries, the ones Florida Polytechnic consulted, at the end to round out the information.

Can these libraries succeed? Do they build a successful, more literate society as Mr. Roberts stated. Sound off in the comments, or ponder a little more offline.