Different styles in MG novels!

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I’ve been trying to branch out and read other types of books, aside from contemporary/realistic and fantasy. Middle grade is a universe and there is so much of it that I HAVEN’T even touched!!! There’s so many wonderful stories in the backlist and I think it’s worth going back to them to find how just how far kidlit has come in terms of diversity and the variety of stories available to kids now.

Language of Spells by Garrett Weyr is a fantasy with dragons! It’s about a two-hundred year old dragon who has been trapped AS a teapot and seen his fellow dragons trapped and the number of his species dwindle.

The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta is a story of about a group of queer witches in the California redwoods. It’s so atmospheric. However, the story is confusing. It was hard to follow, and while I do enjoy magic and magical realism, I can fall into the story better if I don’t need to decipher where the story is going. I’m a fan of linear storytelling. I did not finish this but I will check out the author’s other works.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina is my favorite kind of MG lit right now. I love stories about Latina girls and teens who are being themselves and finding their way in the world. It dealt with Alzheimer’s and the confusion of being in middle school as a scholarship kid. I found myself cheering for Merci because life is always in transition but if you know who you are at the end of the day, nothing can get

The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett comes after Chasing Vermeer and before The Calder Game. I think Chasing Vermeer is still my favorite, followed by this one. The focus on architecture and the play between art and artist was really nice. Also, Tommy is awesome. He and his goldfish are adorable!

Pieces and Players by Blue Balliett – I have not read this yet!

What MG genre is your favorite? Which ones are you least likely to read?

 

Writing about POC and bias

Before I joined Twitter, I didn’t know that print journalists were celebrities. Journalists seemed anonymous to me.

It got me thinking about a style of journalism I see a lot today, where the journalist’s voice/tone is a big part of the article. The journalist becomes a selling point, if they’re popular. It makes sense in the age of “brand” publications that personality would become a big part of journalism as well.

I’m also reading “A World Without Whom” by Emmy Favilla, the copy chief of Buzzfeed and the creator of its famous style guide! The book has chapters about “getting things as right as possible” in reporting. Despite personality becoming a big part of web publications, there is still a responsibility to be accurate and get as close to facts as possible.

Writing about people of color and stories about bias is where this is tricky, and few publications really get it right. So I looked at some pieces that maybe do a good job of being descriptive and put the story at the center, rather than the journalist’s commentary.

1. PHOTOS: Drag Queens In South Africa Embrace Queerness And Tradition

This is such a great paragraph! It starts with a topic sentence, then goes on to describe how words to describe queerness actually DON’T exist, rather than making up a name for it. Then it closes with a quote from a source. Very nice!

The limbo they live exists even in the terminology for their identity. There is no word to describe queerness in Xhosa, the indigenous language widely spoken in South Africa. The words that do exist are often insulting to the queer community, describing sexual behavior and denying queer people dignity. “When I came out to my family, I couldn’t find the appropriate word in Xhosa to explain my queerness,” Ka-Fassie says.

2. For A Black Woman In The Military, Harassment Was Its Own Battle

Sometimes the best thing to do is to let a source tell the story because the experience is theirs. In this case, quotes are powerful and they do the heavy lifting. The quote sandwich with a sentence in between to transition/explain is just sublime!

“The guys loved watching women walk away from them, and they would make their comments,” she said. “So I made sure I wore a foundation garment so nothing moved. It was just the way we women handled it then.”

She wanted to be a role model for younger women below her rank.

“I tried to be — for some of my young people coming up — their person that they could look to to see someone who led with integrity.”

3. Twitter Removes Thousands Of Accounts For Manipulating Their Platform

I’m such a big fan of NPR’s short paragraphs and really clear sentences. I am heavily influenced by their articles ^^. Here’s an example of what I mean– it’s just so sensible and easy to understand.

So far, the companies’ progress has been slow, said Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington, D.C.

She said shutting down disinformation campaigns will take both tech-based solutions and educating people through digital literacy.

“It doesn’t matter how many of these accounts we delete, they’re just going to keep cropping back up,” Jankowicz said.

Basically, I’m a big fan of quotes and letting them do the talking, literally! 😀

Crafts and grounding

Job hunting is a tremendously stressful experience and one thing that’s kept me sane throughout this process is crafting/playing instruments. I picked up viola again and I’ve been making a bunch of miniatures.

Networking is very important but applying for jobs ultimately happens online and it’s a numbers game. All your hard work seems to go in a void. It’s so therapeutic to do tactile activities like sewing, sculpting, and playing instruments.

When life feels out of control, it’s gratifying to follow directions, work with what you are given, and have the product come out the way it is supposed to. (The opposite of real life.) I love DIY and recipes because of that. (My theory is that tutorial videos are so satisfying to watch for the same reasons!)

The more time I spend online or in front of a screen, the more fulfilling I find it to do tactile activities. Even doing a yoga pose and touching the grounding is literally, grounding! Sensory experiences are great and I hope I get a job that involves production / consumer products. If I do not, crafts and playing music is still going to be a big part of my life.

I love crafts and creating forever! ❤

Dress codes

I never thought much about dress codes when I was in school or at work. It seems like a given and not something to argue with or get in trouble over. But when I started teaching middle school I found out that dress codes do matter and they are kind of tricky.

The biggest thing I discovered was that dress coders breakers do not mean to break dress codes. When you are a teen, you are definitely NOT interested in breaking a stupid dress code on purpose. (There are so many more worthwhile things to get in trouble over.)

So it’s weird when schools are policing what girls wear, mainly that what they’re wearing is too revealing. Revealing is a code word for too sexual, which would be distracting for boys. *rolls eyes* When girls have to go home or change so that boys don’t see their bare shoulders, it is just ridiculous. (I shared this with a 7/8th grade class and the students got the point of it right away.)

Teen Girls Flip The Negative Script On Social Media

“When you interrupt a girl’s school day to send her home because her shoulders are exposed, you’re telling her that making sure that boys have a distraction-free learning environment is more important than her education,” says Bay Area student Rhea Park, 15.

No matter what the rationale is, punishing girls for what they wear is misguided. Covering a girl up has never stopped a rapist or creep. At the end of the day, people still seem to see creepy men as a given, and the only people expected to be proactive and change are the girls.

When a ref yanks a teen swimmer’s victory because her school-issued suit shows too much skin, girls are told their bodies are sexual above all else

Is the double-standard rooted in some desire to protect girls from the Larry Nassars and the Jeffrey Epsteins of the world? Is it a tacit acknowledgment that we’ve not done enough, will continue to not do enough, to believe girls and protect girls from monsters?

I’d rather we police the creeps than the girls’ bodies.

Lastly, dress codes have so many layers of associations. Clothing can never just be clothing–it’s a class indicator and signals a bunch of things. When clothing gets this complicated, it’s no surprise that some schools decide to do away with it and go with uniforms.

On the other hand, can we please move on from making girls responsible for not distracting boys?  It starts way before adulthood, and this kind of messaging is exactly the thing that gives boys a pass.

When School Dress Codes Ban Students’ Bodies

These punishments interrupt girls’ educations while sending dangerous messages to the school community: how a girl looks is more important than what she thinks, and girls are ultimately responsible for the misbehavior of boys.

 

Friend or foe, and success

I Was Caroline Calloway

This story has been the talk on the internet over the past three days and I, too, am fascinated by it. (For one, it is a real life version of My Year of Rest and Relaxation.) It feels very personal and you definitely identify with either Caroline or Natalie. I want to say most people will identify with Natalie, just because so few people get to be Caroline. There have been many stories written from Caroline’s point of view, because after all, they tend to be the protagonists in life. The fact that Natalie got to tell her story was really different. I also loved that it was such an honest look at the history between two women. Yes, men definitely have a part in the dynamic between them (making them into the archetypes of the desired vs. undesirable), but it ultimately is about the relationship between women.

I’ve felt that this kind of story was missing from feminist discussions! I’m a strong believer that a woman’s best ally is another woman, before men ever enter the picture. (Men are kind of a distraction. Feminism should not be centered on women in relation to men… but that is another long post!)

Anyway, so much can be said about this story. I love that it resonated with so many people and it’s one of those rare stories that actually strikes an emotional chord. If you’ve ever been a woman, you know you can’t make that stuff up.

Metrics of Success

Oh my gosh, this is so validating to me as an unemployed person and someone who has failed from a career T_____T. The biggest thing is not to see this failure as my personal failure and all that I am.

The myth of meritocracy tells us that some people have “better” jobs than others because of their behavior alone, and not due to any societal factors or institutional biases. That is: obedient, hardworking individuals get the best jobs.

One frustrating thing I’ve realized this year as I’m applying for entry level jobs is that I feel EXACTLY like that employers are asking for–hardworking, responsible, and organized–so it’s EXTRA frustrating to not get any leads. I know I am not alone in this feeling. You could do everything right in this job market, and still not come out on top simply because there are soooo many qualified and smart people out there.

Work can be fulfilling and character-building. But it is not the only way to become an adult, to grow, to become your whole self.

This was the other part that really resonated with me. A custodian at my first school had actually told me that the hardships I was facing as a teacher “builds character.” At the time, I could only listen and accept it. I guess that’s *one* good thing out of this terrible time I am having? It’s building character? Things did not get better, and I ended up having to give myself a pep talk everyday. I realized that I did not want work to be the thing that builds my character. I want to become my whole self not through workplace bullying, but through failure, experimentation, and as corny as it sounds, what makes my heart sing. I don’t feel proud about the awful things that happen to me. I would never tell a victim that what happened to them “builds character,” as if they should be glad it happened or is even helpful??

When I think about the most formative moments of my childhood and teen years, they had nothing to do with the career I did not yet have, or grades I was or wasn’t getting.

This part also stood out to me because the most formative moments in my life (it’s literally in my Notes, year by year) have little to do with my career. My job got me to the place I needed to be, but it was what I chose to do that formed my worldview and the people I met that shaped who I am, and what kind of person I now aspire to be.

If I was asked what kind of person I would like to be when I grew up, rather than what job I would like to have, I would have thought about my identity, existence, and behavior beyond a career.

This is the exact thing I am asking myself right now. Without a job, what AM I? What am I worth, and in what ways am I valuable? I think this is the real question of adulthood and the real work is coming to an answer you feel good and solid about. ❤

 

Fear itself is less powerful

I have been thinking about fear . It’s probably the biggest theme of my life the past few years. I’ve thought about it in terms of speaking out, but there is also another kind of fear. It’s plain phobia and it can feel symbolic–will you overcome it? Are you a brave person? But what if overcoming doesn’t matter as much you think it does?

I haven’t seen a lot of writing on this topic so I was glad to come across this one.

Who Agrees That Swimming in the Ocean is Scary?

I relate to this piece about overcoming a singular fear. It can feel like that fear defines you. No matter how many things you have overcome, if you still have not done that one thing, you are deficient.

But maybe that one fear doesn’t deserve so much power. Even if you never conquer that fear, it doesn’t make you less. The catch-22 is that you don’t learn that until you conquer your fear.

I loved this piece about going swimming in the ocean. One bad experience can traumatize you and make you never want to go in there again. This sentence captures how I feel about going in a classroom or going on a drop tower.

There’s a reason I feel so much dread, like an instinct that recognizes my eventual end.

It might sound too dramatic to bystanders but it truly does feel like you will die. If not die, then it is deeply uncomfortable.

However, I didn’t want this one thing to define me, no matter how irrational it is. So I went and did it. And it was scary and empowering. But it also didn’t feel amazing or good to conquer your fear. At the end of the day, fears are probably not all that powerful.

This moment, squinting and chilly as I bob and float, is pretty anticlimactic. It’s fine. It’s kind of fun. I’m glad I did this, and yet I don’t feel as if I’ve accomplished anything. I’ve checked a box, I suppose, proven to myself that I won’t succumb to fear, at least not today. I just thought it would feel more significant. After a few minutes—five? fifteen?—I swim-run back to the shore, timing my departure Frogger-like so I won’t be knocked down when a wave comes in. I didn’t love it.

 

Climate change, education, and misogyny

These are the topics that have been on my mind lately. All of the topics I am interested in are blending together!

The Misogyny of Climate Deniers

In college I helped a professor who was studying eco-feminism. At the time I didn’t really understand how the two intersected–how could ecology be gendered? As time went on it became more clear how women are the ones caring for the environment and they are most affected by it. Men see caring about the environment as feminine, and this leads to laughable beliefs like recycling is gay. But it also leads to outright harmful attacks on women, including girls like Greta Thunberg. There’s “a huge gender gap in views on climate change” because men fear change and don’t want to be seen as feminine.

Male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap, the three reactions feeding off of one another.

Elena Poniatowska: The Mexican Polish Writer & Anti-Princess

Elena Poniatowska is a Polish Mexican journalist who came from a privileged background and writes about the lives of ordinary people.

She writes about the common Mexico better than most local writers. Whilst other authors troubled themselves with the idle lives of the nouveau riche, busy misappropriating the ideals of the Mexican Revolution, she was busy turning México popular, with its neglected streets and rundown neighbourhoods, into poetry.

Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong

To use a lot of education cliches–this article was such an a-ha moment for me! The idea of empowering kids by teaching them to read, so they can learn for themselves, has always been appealing. As a teacher I really bought into that. But what if teaching them WHAT is just as important as teaching them HOW?

In the meantime, what children are reading doesn’t really matter—it’s better for them to acquire skills that will enable them to discover knowledge for themselves later on than for them to be given information directly, or so the thinking goes. That is, they need to spend their time “learning to read” before “reading to learn.”

I also love the research method mentioned in this article. The “baseball study” by Donna Recht and Lauren Leslie found that prior knowledge makes a huge difference in reading comprehension–which seems obvious, but is something that is acknowledged very rarely in education. Prior knowledge is a given, and not a variable we can control, so I guess we just don’t talk about it. I think the rationale is we can’t do anything about prior knowledge, so let’s just pick a starting line for everyone and start building skills there. However, what if we work on closing the gap by teaching knowledge rather than skills?

Recht and Leslie’s study also found that when high and low readers are reading something made up, a topic where there is no “prior knowledge advantage,” there is little difference in their performance. In other words, even if you are the best reader, reading something you have no idea about is still going to be confusing. I think my biggest takeaway from this is that knowledge and the “what” is still important and skills are not everything.

It turned out that prior knowledge of baseball made a huge difference in students’ ability to understand the text—more so than their supposed reading level. The kids who knew little about baseball, including the “good” readers, all did poorly. And all those who knew a lot about baseball, whether they were “good” or “bad” readers, did well. In fact, the “bad” readers who knew a lot about baseball outperformed the “good” readers who didn’t.

Schools really push higher-order thinking skills and Bloom’s taxonomy, and teachers are encouraged to assign tasks where students evaluate and think critically. Rote learning and recall get a bad rap, but there is value is repetition and laying the ground work too.

I find this super fascinating! I wonder if there will be an argument to be made against focusing entirely on skills? Super interesting.

Interview!

Earlier today I was feeling super nervous about an interview I have. My heart was beating fast and I couldn’t concentrate. It was the same feeling I get after breaking up or being in trouble. It was a fight or flight feeling, and how I felt whenever I was in the classroom and things were out of control.

It is the worst feeling of my life. When I feel that way for prolonged periods, I get physically sick.

But I had a mock interview with an old friend, and after that I felt a lot better and freer. I realized there are things I can do to prepare, but ultimately interviews are not only about who can do the job, but who they want to work with every day.

Once I realized that, I came upon these other conclusions:

The person I’m best at being is myself.

I can’t adopt a new personality in order to get a job. When I do, I’m not going to do a very good job because the job would be a poor fit for me. I can only present the best me and hope that the employer likes that person. But it is never a winning idea to try to be someone else, BECAUSE EVENTUALLY YOU HAVE TO BE YOURSELF!

Life goes on whether I get this job or not.

Even though it is an incredible opportunity, I’m not going to become a different or better person if I get this job. And even if I don’t, life goes on. It’s not the last interview I will ever go on, and it’s not the only job in the world. It’s not even the only job in publishing or in the company. I can reframe the interview as something that can only help me because there is nothing to lose

An interview is a chance to see if you’d work well together.

When I was interviewing and just desperate for jobs in the past, I always thought I had to impress the interviewer. But now that I’ve landed myself in some truly miserable and poor fit jobs, I realized that an interview is not only about winning the employer over, but about finding if you’d be a good addition to a team. In that case, it truly is a two way street! At this point in my life, I am looking for a place where I belong too.

Looking for a job is an extremely ordinary thing.

My parents always make it seem like I’m in trouble or something is TERRIBLY WRONG with me/my life/my fate when I’m looking for a job, but job hunting is actually extremely mundane. Millions of people all over the world, every day, are looking for work. They include students applying for residency, migrant workers looking for their next seasonal job, artists looking for their next gig, career changers looking for entry level jobs. It can happen in one day or it might take months to a year, and one thing I realized is that there’s no hack to it. (If there were, there would be no unemployment.) Unless you have extraordinary skills or connections, job hunting is just the pain that it is. Embracing that has been freeing. I’m still responsible for APPLYING and INTERVIEWING for jobs, but I’m no longer responsible for GETTING a job because that doesn’t have on my end. Only an employer can hire me. 

When you think it’s in your power to win a job, that only leads to misery and a lot of frustration (AKA feeling like a loser and wondering what’s wrong with you)

Be proud of your history and who you are. 

Having said all that, I think one way to embrace the job hunting process is to be proud of who you are. I think the hardest job hunt I had was after college because I had no work experience. I simply had nothing to talk about. But now, I have SO much to talk about because all those things really happened to me, and I don’t have to make up stories. I can wear my failures as badges of honor and signs that I have worked and lived life.

Probably my biggest takeaway from all of this is to embrace the process and not fight it. Also, be yourself and know yourself well! Job hunting is a way to bring your skills to a place where they’ll be put to good use. It’s really about alignment rather than winning.

 

Job Interviews!

How to Answer ‘Why Are You Interested in This Position?’ in a Job Interview

  1. Your answer must reflect an accurate understanding of the job. When that doesn’t happen, it’s usually because the person has talked about how excited they are to do X, when X is only a tiny portion of the job, or not likely to be part of it at all.

  2. Employers appreciate when people are excited about the company, but they generally want to hire people who are invested in and enthusiastic about the job they’ll actually be doing.
  3. Typically, a good answer to “why does this job interest you?” will not only explain what appeals to you about the job, but also explain how it fits in with your career path. That’s especially true if the job is very different from roles you’ve had in the past, in a new field, or a sideways or downward move.
  4. Your interviewer wants to make sure that you’ll be satisfied doing this job for at least the next couple of years. If you sound like you’ll be itching to move on quickly, that’s a negative.
  5. Does it use skills you’ve spent time building? Try to imagine someone who really does love the job and what they might be responding to about it, and think about whether any of that resonates with you.

How to Answer ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ in a Job Interview

Interviewers who ask this question are generally looking to get a broad overview of how you see yourself as a professional.

A good answer will summarize where you are in your career, note anything distinctive about how you approach your work, and end with a bit about what you’re looking for next.

“I originally got into ____ because I really wanted to work with ____. Pretty early on, I found that my ___ background was especially helpful in being able to ___. I love being able to ___. For example, last year I (accomplished) by doing ___. I’m excited about this role because it would let me continue to use my ___ background while ___.”

Don’t drag yourself.

“What are you currently working on improving on, and how are you going about it?”

“I used to be ___, and now I’m ___ by doing ___.”

They’re looking for a short explanation that makes sense and doesn’t raise red flags about your professionalism or ability to get along with others.

When you talk about challenging pieces of your current and past jobs, do you sound intrigued/excited/driven by the prospect of solving problems and accomplishing something? Or do you sound more like you’ve chosen to just stick to the bare minimum?

“The role turned out to be ___, and I found that I really missed working with ___.”

What do your former managers and co-workers say about you?

How to Prepare for an Interview: The Ultimate Guide

The more you can think of an interview  as a collaborative business meeting where you and your interviewer are both trying to figure out if it makes sense to work together —  the less nervous you’ll probably feel.

“The culture of a company is really important to me, and I realized I wanted to work somewhere that’s more team-focused with more opportunities to collaborate. Not only do I get a lot of satisfaction from that on a personal level, but I also think it generally makes the work stronger as well.”

10 Impressive Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

“How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”

“What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?”

“How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to really thrive here, and what type don’t do as well?”

“What do you like about working here?”

 “What’s your timeline for next steps?”

Your goal is just to give a good interview that shows why you’d excel at the job and what you’d be like to work with day to day.