Librarians Between Cultures: A Call To Celebrate and Cultivate

I was honored to present the  keynote at the Massachusetts Library Association's Teen Summit on Monday. I introduced myself as a survivor of life between cultures, and then invited the 100+ librarians in the audience to see themselves along the border as well. You won't get to see the powerpoint or hear my bad jokes, but here's the gist of my speech:

Librarians Between Cultures: A Call To Celebrate and Cultivate

What does it mean to be "between cultures"? You're ...
  • Trapped on the margins between an old world and a fast-changing new one.
  • Stifled by old world customs and overwhelmed by new world expectations.
  • Worried we might be losing more than we’re gaining.
But you learn to fuse—to celebrate the best of the new world and cultivate the best of the old.

How can teen librarians celebrate the best of the new world when it comes to stories?
  • teens still need and want stories—in songs, video games, movies, television, books, online
  • teens expect and demand diversity in stories
  • new technology engages a generation that thrives on connections
  1. facebook
  2. formspring
  3. vYou
  4. youtube
  5. skype
How can teen librarians cultivate the best of the old world when it comes to stories?
  • books make better sense (all five, in fact)
  • authors of books share collaborative power with readers
  • the magic of the re-read
How can teen librarians celebrate the best of the new world when it comes to writing? Teens are ...
  • finding a voice through new media
  • building community and justice with words
  • showcasing humor and storytelling via video
  • contributing to collaborative fiction (
How can teen librarians cultivate the best of the old world when it comes to writing?
  • writers still need silence and solitude to create beautiful poetry and meaningful prose
  • the depth and shared power of traditional-length books can change the world—and our lives
  • the brain needs time to rest from multi-tasking,
In the film clip below, count the catches made by the white team. Then keep watching to see how our brains like to focus on one task at a time.

How can teen librarians celebrate the best of the new world when it comes to research?
  • teens feel confident about finding information
  • the internet is fast and user-friendly
  • flattening of access to information
How can teen librarians cultivate the best of the old world when it comes to learning and thinking?
  • serve as trusted curator in a chaotic world of information overload
  • serve as champion of teens without digital access
What's the secret to a successful vocation between cultures?
Master “new world” innovations and language and stay fluent in “old world” customs and values to serve teens with the best of both worlds.

Celebrating Spring at the Massachusetts Librarians' Teen Summit

Tomorrow I have the honor of addressing librarians serving teens across our great state at the third annual Teen Summit sponsored by the Massachusetts Library Association and the Massachusetts Library System.

I'm nervous—there's something about the word "keynote" even though I won't be addressing a huge crowd. To counter the fear, however, there's the reassurance that I already know many of these dear librarians. Also, we're jointly sharing the wonder of spring in New England, so everybody's bound to be in a good mood, right?

Giddy with the demise of winter, I've been re-reading some of my favorite books of the season. These include the Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright; here's a lovely description of this time of year from The Four Story Mistake, for example:
The world seemed to expand with spring. It was larger, newer. The woods became thick and deep; and familiar vistas were hidden, made secret by thousands and thousands of opening leaves. Grass rose up tall and soft on the fields like fur on the back of a cat. Everything had to be explored all over again, for suddenly all had been created anew.
Think of me tomorrow morning, and enjoy the beauty that is the end of April.

For You: A Good Friday Poem

For You
by Mitali Perkins

for you,
whose Hand made salty water swell
and burst upon the sand, shaping mountains into shells,
here is the hand that slapped you.

how dusty, clumsy, weak
this hand, twisting thorns into a crown for you,
whose Head imagined panther, peacock, pomegranate,
here is the head that screamed with rage
when Pilate brought you forth.

how frail and dull
this skull, these eyes, this mouth of spit for you,
whose Face set like flint to see
my fist
my sneer
the crooked iron sharpness of this heart
for you.

Photo courtesy of Andy Coan
via Creative Commons

Girls Who Ignite Change in Boston

Last Tuesday, I was thrilled to be a guest at the IGNITE Change Awards Banquet hosted by Boston GLOW, a girl-power organization founded by several dynamic twenty-somethings, including my friend A.C. Gaughen, a YA author.

Along with Deb Sloan, Sarah Aronson, Anna Staniszewski and Angie Frazier, I served as a panelist to judge the essay contest. It was delightful to be in attendance as Boston Glow distributed $5000 in scholarship prizes to the winners, a group of gorgeous, strong, smart young women. Enjoy the videos created by Nacie Carson, founder of The Life Uncommon, to get a taste of the event.

The IGNITE Change Essay Contest Awards Banquet was held on April 12, 2011,
and awarded $5000 in scholarship prizes to Boston-area teen girls.

Meet the finalists and glimpse a bit of their vision to improve life in their communities.

Rock The Drop 2011!

Are you Rocking the Drop? Thanks to readergirlz and Figment Fiction, here's what many of us are doing all around the planet today to support Teen Lit Day:
  • Download the banner above, created by David Ostow (who blogs hilarious cartoons here), and add it to your website or blog, linking back to this post on readergirlz, and proclaiming that you will indeed ROCK THE DROP!
  • Print a copy of the bookplate below and insert it into a book (or 10!) that you'll drop today in a public spot (park bench, bus seat, restaurant counter?).
  • Take a photo of your drop and email it to readergirlz AT gmail DOT com — pictures of drops happening all over the world will be posted at the readergirlz blog, and the amazing folks at Figment will also be featuring the event.
Can you imagine people around the globe finding copies of amazing books in unexpected places, given in honor of great stories for teens?

Rock the Drop

Just For Fun: The Weasleys

This three-minute clip made me want us to be just like Molly and Arthur, keeping an eye out for any Harrys in our life (sorry for the 15 second ad, but it's unavoidable):

Made From Awesome YA/MG Lit Mega-Chat 4/13-14

If you're on Twitter, don't miss this week's Mega-Chats hosted by YALITCHAT. I'll be there on Wednesday night. Won't you join us? Here's the full scoop from their blog:
That’s right, YALITCHATTERS, mark your calendars because April 13th AND 14th we’re having a party and it’s MADE FROM AWESOME! This year our giveaways include books, beauty products, promotional bags and other swag! YES! We are excited! Notice all the exclamation points! And did we mention this year’s line-up? New this year–we’ve invited middle grade writers to hang with us too! See drool-worthy line up below.

Night I April 13 @ 8:30 - 9 PM EDT: Pre-Show squee-chat!

9-11 PM EDT: Nancy Holder, Jason Henderson, Coe Booth, Malinda Lo, Mitali Perkins, Melissa de la Cruz, Karen Healey, Jaclyn Dolamore, Kierstin White

Giveaways: signed copy of The Guardian of the Dead from Karen Healey, goodie bags and copies of Bloody Valentine from Melissa da la Cruz, signed copy of Bamboo People from Mitali Perkins, signed hardcover of Huntress from Malina Lo, ARC of Huntress from Malinda Lo, signed copy of Crusade from Nancy Holder, signed copy of Alex VanHelsing from Jason Henderson.

11 PM - midnight EDT: Afterparty on Mundie Moms! Post-chat mayhem, fun and giveaways. Join us with special guest authors and more fun at a literary virtual afterparty than you can imagine.

Night II April 14 @ 9-11 PM EDT: Julia DeVillers, Beth Revis, Claudia Gabel, Helene Boudreau, Cyn Balog, Brenna Yavonoff, Sarwat Chadda, Andrea Cremer

Giveaways: signed copies of books from Julia DeVillers, signed copies of Romeo and Juliet and Vampires from Claudia Gabel, signed copy of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings from Helene Boudreau, signed copy of Fairytale or Sleepless from Cyn Balog, copy of The Replacement from Brenna Yavonoff, signed copy of Dark Goddess from Sarwat Chadda, goodie bag from Melissa de la Cruz.

11 PM - midnight EDT: Afterparty on Mundie Moms! Post-chat mayhem, fun and giveaways. Join us with special guest authors and more fun at a literary virtual afterparty than you can imagine.

A Little Skype Goes A Long Way

I've been enjoying a lot more virtual visits this year into classrooms like the one pictured above. They're cheap and fun and (usually) hassle-free. In case you're wondering if they can be as effective as in-real-life visits, check out this note from Mr. Kelly, a teacher at Patton Middle School in Pennsylvania (reprinted with his permission):

You spoke with my creative writing students through Skype earlier this school year (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania) and connected a little bit with an 8th grade student named Nikita. I wanted to share with you something she just said as she just left class:

"Speaking to Mitali Perkins made my year. I still think about it—an actual Indian author! I couldn't believe it. I still can't. I went home that day and yelled it throughout the house that I got to say (an Indian expression I didn't quite catch) to a real Indian author! I've been on her website and read her books and I think I'm going to enter her writing contest...I just...(shriek)...I love her!"

She had so much emotion flowing out of her I wish you could have seen it. We read some poetry today of Vikram Seth—I think that it is what stirred up her emotions again to wait for everyone else to leave to share what she thought of you and her experience with you.

Thank you again for being so warm with young people. Clearly, Nikita will continue to carry her experience with you for many years.

The credit goes to you, Mr. Kelly, and to so many other stellar educators who are using everything and anything you can think of to connect stories to young people.

Writing Advice From Chimamanda Adichie

I loved Ms. Adichie's TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, so I was thrilled to find this Girls Write Now interview with the author. Enjoy.

Hat Tip: Carleen Brice, White Readers Meet Black Authors

Gathering For Afternoon Tea? Have I Got A Book For You.

Cloud Tea Monkeys (Candlewick) by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham is a tale about a compassionate, spunky, animal-loving girl about nine or ten. Know any girls like that? Then please invite them for afternoon tea and biscuits and read Tashi's story aloud.

More than a fairy or folk tale (even though it was an accolade book for the Aesop prize), this engaging child-centered story depicts clearly the source of our tea. Set in a Himalayan community, neither the story nor illustrations stint on the labor required from women and children to grow a product that many of us take for granted. Let your guests savor the glowing, gorgeous illustrations by Juan Wijngaard as you're transported to the faraway world of tea gardens, but you might also ask questions about how hard the women have to work and why Tashi isn't going to school.

One also wonders what might have happened to Tashi and her mother if monkeys hadn't come to the rescue.  Real life doesn't have as many happy endings. How we consume in America makes a huge difference in the lives of girls like Tashi who don't have access to magic. (For example, Honest Tea buys 100% fair trade tea, Lipton is moving to this by 2020, but Snapple is far from that goal.)

Encourage children to learn about fair trade tea—it's a concept most of us can grasp at a fairly young age. Here are some free curriculum and great teaching suggestions from Equal Exchange, and enjoy this video from the people at Art of Tea.


Happy Book Birthday to my long-time pal and critique group leader, Karen Day! Her third middle-grade novel, A MILLION MILES FROM BOSTON, releases today from Wendy Lamb Books / Random House.

"A well-paced, realistic 'summer of change' story," raved Publishers Weekly.  "Day (NO CREAM PUFFS) sympathetically portrays Lucy's overriding sense of responsibility for everybody's happiness, especially her father and the kids in the informal 'day camp' she runs ... and persuasively renders Lucy's uneasiness with her complex shifting emotions and memories."

If you're looking for the perfect read for a thoughtful 8-12 year old girl, it doesn't get better than this. Thanks to Karen's masterful creation of a sense of place, she'll be transported straight to the beauty of Maine in the summer. Congratulations, Karen. I'm so proud of you.

In the Boston area? Join us to celebrate at Newtonville Books, Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m. I'll be there in full party mode.