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In which I run my mouth on someone else’s blog

I am part of the latest roundup on Sean Taylor’s Bad Girls Good Guys blog (and shush, I’m totally a good girl.) 

We’re talking about reading as children and how it affects us as adult readers and writers. I ran my mouth for a while (I know that shocks you) and I may expound on this topic as a column later this month. I’m really amazed by how many of my students report that they never read anything for fun, only what’s required for school…. but they eat up stories in various other media forever, from movies and TV shows to TikTok. It’s not imagination they eschew, it’s the act of reading, and why is that? An educator I interviewed once said the majority of kindergarteners coming to his district had never been read to a day in their lives. How does that happen?

At any rate, enjoy the answers of many other fine people besides myself here, and feel free to share in the comments: Did they read you books as a child? Did you devour books the way I did? What was your favorite book as a kid? 

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May Linkspam: Graduation Edition!

Cue the pomp and circumstance, don the World’s Silliest Hat. I am graduated.

This, by the way, is why the newsletter is a week late. As you know, it was right up the wire catching up all my schoolin’ after my illness in order to graduate in time. When I got out of hospital, I had ten significant pieces of academic writing that needed to be completed in five weeks. I defended my thesis on Monday, turned in the final seminar paper on Wednesday, taught my last class on Thursday and graduated on Friday. On Saturday, there was barbecue and laughter and more than fifty friends and family gathered to celebrate with us. 

In short (too late), it’s been a hell of a ride.

Below is the usual list of appearances and publications, but graduating was pretty much the highlight. Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that’s it’s been five years, fourteen semesters, an M.S. in media studies, an M.F.A. in creative writing, a plethora of students, a myriad of classes, more than 130 books, a gazillion papers and an infinite number of Starbucks Tripleshots. It’s been quite the journey over the last five years, learning to be a teacher while re-learning to be a student again, and launching a full-time freelancing and creative writing business from my “side gig” all these years. 

But the best thing I’ve learned on this ride is that we’re always students. Graduation is an accomplishment, to be sure, and hopefully a gateway to better things. But there are always new things to learn, new perspectives to consider, new books to fall into, new ideas to try on for size. We never graduate from that lifelong journey, and we are the better for it. I know that I am. 
 

Publicity/Appearances

I canceled most of April’s appearances, but I did keep a couple of them! I spoke at the annual SIUE Mass Comm Week on April 20 for my usual ethics discussion, which this year featured A.I. and its implications for journalism. My thoughts on this subject continue to evolve, and I imagine I will be writing more about it in the months to come. Mass Comm Week also featured the First Amendment Free* Food Festival cosponsored by the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists, as well as many other panels, roundtables and events. 

I also took part in a group reading for this year’s edition of the River Bluff Review, which accepted two poems, a short story and a photo from me this year. It was a great reading and a lot of fun to hear the diverse voices in this year’s edition. The video is available on Patreon.

I was also honored to speak at the Second Life Fantasy Faire, a two-week event in metaverse that raised money for the American Cancer Society. I gave a short craft talk and read a short story, which was very generously received. I was asked if I would consider returning to do a writing workshop, and I informed them that VRaze The Bar will be scheduling me for an in-world workshop in the near future, rescheduled from the one that was canceled when I was in hospital. I’m really enjoying the events in Second Life and look forward to doing more in metaverse in the future. 

No formal readings or appearances are planned for May – still trying to take it easy – but June will kick off with three weeks on the road, so that makes up for it! Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you wanted to see the graduation for some strange reason,the livestream was saved here.

In addition, the Banned Books Roundtable in the last week of March was uploaded to YouTube as well. If you can overlook my pneumonia voice, I thought it went off very well. It was also posted to Patreon.

2023 calendar:
• ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. June 2-4 (guest author)
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis. July, TBA. (presenter)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 14-16 (guest author)
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. Aug. 31-Sept. 4 (guest author)
• SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1 (presenter)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1 (LitUnd only)
• ContraKC, Kansas City, Date TBA. (guest author)

Journalism/Blogs/Essays

• Documenting family’s immigration leads to discovery, award for author (Highland News-Leader)
• Historic hotel is ‘hopeless,’ will be torn down (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo!Sports for some reason)
• Paid leave is now the law in Illinois (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Repeated complaints lead to charges against Highland man (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland schools struggle with staffing problems (Highland News-Leader)
• Ten tips for attending AWP (Medium)
• Once more unto Second Life, dear friends (Elizabeth Donald)
• RBR reading (Elizabeth Donald) and SL reading (Elizabeth Donald and Patreon)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

 

Fiction

• The Good Samaritan (Patreon)
 

Patreon/Medium

• Review: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (Patreon)
• MFA Reading List (Patreon)
• River Bluff Review reading video (Patreon)

Note: Recently I indexed all the entries I’ve posted on the Patreon going back to launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.

Photography

Nothing new in the art department, so you get silliness from the graduation!



 

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SL reading set for April 29

I’m delighted to announced that I have been selected to join the Second Life Fantasy Faire as a guest author, and will be reading an excerpt of my work on Second Life at 4 p.m. SLT (that’s 6 p.m. CST, if I calculated correctly).

Fantasy Faire is a weeks-long celebration of all things fantasy in Second Life, and it is a benefit for Relay for Life. Those of you who have read me for a while know that I am a Relay for Life team captain, and my team has raised more than $50,000 for the American Cancer Society over the past 15 years or so.

My own Relay for Life just got postponed from this weekend to sometime in June, but my team has already met its goal for fundraising (not that we’re stopping). It’s bittersweet as always, because there are far too many good, close friends who are no longer here because cancer took them too soon. Most recently I lost my Uncle Brian to cancer in October , and earlier this week honored my dear friend Andy, who was a year younger than me and lost his fight in 2020. 

It’s a delight and an honor to be selected to join the authors reading for this important cause, in the hopes that someday we can stop adding names to the list of those cancer has taken from us. 

Fantasy Faire opens up on April 20, and when I have more specific information and landmarks for you, I’ll be sure to share them. In the meantime, my team’s progress is being charted here

Now to pick something to read…

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A house built with love

Now that all the relatives have been informed, I am free to share the sad news that Violet “Pat” Byrd Stribling has passed away.

Grandma Pat died a few days ago, peacefully in her sleep and in the company of family. She was my mother’s stepmom and my last surviving grandparent, so the sadness I feel at the time of her passing is a selfish one, as a generation of my family is now gone, their stories continuing only in our memories.

But as Uncle Mark points out, Grandma Pat is now reunited with the love of her life, Papa Ivan. They were married in a chapel in Yosemite National Park, which was Papa Ivan’s favorite place. An Eagle Scout, he led generations of Boy Scouts to their merit badges in the shadows of Yosemite’s mountain cliffs, and took me and my sister on our first camping trip in Yosemite, if my long-thin childhood memory serves me. I remember the chill of the morning sunlight, and Papa Ivan showing me Half-Dome. 

 

Papa Ivan and Grandma Pat lived in Merced, California, the city of my birth. Whenever we would return to the hometown to visit my mother’s family, there would always be a day of adventures with Grandma Pat. I remember she had a dog that scared the heck out of me, as most dogs did when I was young. My sister remembers her ice cream floats with Tab soda, which is a memory I cannot recall, honestly. Her house was eclectic and fun, and she showered us with love. 

Pat was fond of miniatures and dollhouses, a fascination she imparted upon me. When I was three years old, she built me an amazing dollhouse – easily as tall as I was that year, three stories and entirely from scratch – no kits for Grandma Pat! 

That dollhouse became the center of my childhood imaginings. It was home to legions of Barbies throughout the 1980s, and in the 1990s became the setting for a dozen haunted-house games where I would make up “choose your own adventure”-style stories for friends and babysitting kids. It got dingy, a door vanished, the staircase disappeared, but that just added to its mystique. As I grew up and learned about miniature construction, I always had big plans for restoring it, but life and starting my own family got in the way.

Believe it or not, I still have it. It’s in my basement, carefully propped up on blocks so it doesn’t get wet in our occasional floods, and probably home to more than a few spiders by this point. Many times when living in places too small for storage and especially when moving from place to place, I’ve considered donating or getting rid of it – it really is a big dollhouse. And while I never have ascribed to gender norms and would have happily rehabbed it for my son, he never showed any interest.

But I have never been able to let it go. To do so would be more than giving up a part of my childhood – it would feel like giving up Grandma Pat. Only as an adult did I realize the work that must have gone into designing and building that dollhouse from scratch for a three-year-old granddaughter. It was a work of love, and such things can’t be cast away.

Papa Ivan and Grandma Pat had been married at least 40 years by the time he died in 2007, and she’s been on her own ever since. I have not seen her in several years, as it’s been some time since I returned to Merced. We exchanged Christmas cards and emails, and she joined Facebook along with the rest of the family, but like many in her generation, she rarely posted or responded. 

Now she is gone, and I think my mom put it best when she said, “She was simply awesome, a very unique person, a wonderful stepmom, a good friend, and she and my dad shared a beautiful marriage for many decades. How wonderful that she’s dancing in his arms once again! It’s as it should be. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this delightful human being who was part of my life for 60 years.”

And now I am able to cry, but it is really our loss for which the tears come. 

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Helping books find a home for the cause

As most of you know, I’ve been a Relay for Life team captain for more than 15 years, raising money for the American Cancer Society. For several years, my team has organized a used-book sale at Leclaire Parkfest, a local festival celebrating the history and culture of this little village (which was swallowed up by Edwardsville sometime in the 1930s, I think?) 

It’s not a small undertaking. The books are set aside all year long by the volunteers at the St. Andrew’s Book Sale, which has about 20,000 volumes offered in a quarterly sale. For Parkfest, we have to load all the books into trucks and vans, haul them to the Park, set up at least a dozen tables and set out all the books. Then at the end of the festival, we pack up the remaining books to donate to other nonprofits.

This year books went to the Head Start program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, to SIUE Phi Kappa Phi to distribute to area Little Free Libraries, and to Metro East Literacy Project. The volunteers came from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Phi Kappa Phi and SIUE Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society foolish enough to elect me as president this year.

We had a fabulous time, and our volunteers were awesome. Want to know how awesome? Some of the books left over last year had been stored in a church member’s barn, and when we were unloading, we discovered that several of them had brought unexpected visitors. To be more specific, we opened a bin and a mouse jumped out onto a volunteer’s arm!

We have since dubbed Olivia “The Disney Princess of Sigma Tau Delta,” as clearly she can charm the wildlife.

The mice apartments, as we started calling them, were taken to a nearby wood and set free by the students. The damaged books had to be thrown away, of course, and I supposed I’m going to have to get used to sacrificing books when I take over running the St. Andrew’s sale next year. But my philosophy has always been, every book should find a good home – and we did that this year, with all but two boxes of books sold or given away to literacy causes that will make good use of them in our ongoing efforts to celebrate the written word.

The gross total for the sale was $946 for the American Cancer Society, which was actually higher than I anticipated while not quite meeting the amount last year. It will be reduced a little by expenses, but not many; now that we have Frodo the Bookmobile, we don’t have to rent U-Hauls anymore for hauling large quantities of books.

A million thanks go to our terrific volunteers, who didn’t just endure the mice and keep hauling books. They stayed, they came back to pack up, they hauled tables back to the church, and three of them even followed us all the way to O’Fallon, Ill. to deliver the last of the books to Metro East Literacy.

Here’s a few pics from Leclaire Parkfest, with my thanks to everyone involved. It’s a great start toward our fundraising for 2023, and I’m happy so many books found a home.

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