Monday, October 29, 2012

Stormy Weather

This morning, the beautiful and talented Jean Gralley posted an old poster of the Lena Horne and Bill Robinson movie Stormy Weather, which I loved when I first saw it as a little girl. So in honor of Jean, Lena and Hurricane Sandy, here's my Stormy Weather playlist that I'll have plenty of time to listen to as work's been cancelled today with a possible closure tomorrow as well.

"Stormy Weather" by Lena Horne
"Lightning Crashes" by Live
"It Blew a Living Gale" by David Baumgarten
"Rainy Day Women" by Bob Dylan
"A Little Fall of Rain" by Les Miserables Cast
"Downpour" by Brandi Carlile
"Come Rain Or Come Shine" by Billie Holiday
"Butterflies & Hurricanes" by Muse
"Drops of Rain" by Carbon Leaf
"Don't Rain On My Parade" by Glee Cast
"Ill Wind" by Billie Holiday
"She Gathers Rain" by Collective Soul
"Blow the Man Down" by Stan Hugill
"Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan
"Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind" by Spring Awakenings Cast
"Us Amazonians" by Kirsty MacColl (from Tropical Brainstorm)
"Darkshines" by Muse
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Ella Fitzgerald

Stay safe, stay dry and stay inside!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Teen Me: Embrase Every Opportunity

Dear 14-Year-Old Kathryn,

What amazing adventures you are about to have! From this side of high school, that might be difficult to believe. You've had the worst summer of your life (trust me, the next 17 summers will truly be a vacation in comparison), and you don't feel particularly intelligent, beautiful or friendly enough to make any kind of difference. You won't be valedictorian, voted homecoming queen or give the commencement address, but you are about to meet some of your best friends, discover your biggest supporters and figure out who you are.

Freshman year will start off better than you expect. You'll be cast as Patty in a local production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and you'll enjoy singing, dancing and acting with a group of people who will continue to be a part of your life for years to come. Enjoy every minute of your time in the spotlight.
14-year-old Kathryn sings "The Book Report" in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.
As you begin your sophomore year, you'll be asked to take on a bigger role in the high school band. Let's face it, you won't be an amazing clarinetist, but you'll do just fine as the second-clarinet section leader in marching band, and you'll get to play percussion—chimes, xylophone, glockenspiel, cymbals and even timpani. At the end of the year, when you're asked to switch to the bassoon, be brave! It will lead to a college scholarship.
15-year-old Kathryn marches in the West Aurora High School homecoming parade.
You've always been pretty good at math and science, so junior year, when you're invited to participate in Saturday Morning Physics at FERMILab, don't hesitate to say yes. You'll learn from Nobel Prize-winning physicists and get a peek inside the particle accelerator where the down quark was discovered. You'll also have a conversation with Leon Lederman that will change the way you look at the universe and your place in it.
16-year-old Kathryn walks through the particle accelerator at FIRMILab.
Your senior year will be incredibly challenging, but you are up to the task. How many 17-year-old students can say they've worked in the governor's press office? You will. And you'll watch as he becomes the first governor since the Kennedy Administration to go to Cuba, you'll be a part of a moratorium on executions, reform of handgun laws, implementation of children's health insurance, review of zero-tolerance policies in schools, and yes, even be there when an old scandal resurfaces. The governor will later go to jail for his crimes, but you will continue to make politics a huge part of your career.
17-year-old Kathryn meets with other internes on the steps of the Old Capitol Building.
Not everything that happens during the next four years will be exciting and fun. You'll experience death and illness on a very personal level, and your faith and abilities will be put to the test. But the thing about opportunity is that it makes you better, stronger, more equipped to handle trials.

Right now, you look at yourself as an awkward girl in thick glasses and too much fat who doesn't know how to dress or do her hair. Your family's not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, and you can't imagine being able to afford to go to college. Well, those things won't really change, but your perception of yourself will. You'll soon realize that it's the experiences you have that define who you are.

So grab every opportunity that comes your way and live a life well lived. I promise, you won't regret a thing.

With Love,
30-Year-Old Kathryn

This post is a stop along the Dear Teen Me Blog Tour. The Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves anthology by editors E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally will be available from Zest Books on October 30. Don't miss this amazing book that features insights from some of my favorite YA authors, including Tom Angleberger, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Carrie Jones, Kekla Magoon, Jenny Moss, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Sara Zarr and more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Welcome to My House

Yes, I saw all 13 pitches of Jayson Werth's walk-off homer live at National Park this evening. This is a game I will not soon forget and a team worth remembering.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Annual Fall Conference: Children's Publishing in 2012

There are only a few more days to register for the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Annual Fall Conference on October 19-20, in Sterling, Virginia. The keynote speaker is Karen Cushman, author of Will Sparrow’s Road and the Newbery Award-winner The Midwife’s Apprentice. Other faculty includes Tracey Adams, Kwame Alexander, Mary Amato, Ellen R. Braaf, Cynthia Cotten, Kelley Cunningham, Lezlie Evans, Amanda Luedeke, Emily Meehan, Daniel Nayeri, Anne Marie Pace, Valerie O. Patterson, Mary Quattlebaum, Candice Ransom, Joan Waites, Tina Wexler and Carolyn P. Yoder.

Visit for more information and to register.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Don't Forget to Vote

Please forgive the following political post. I'll try to keep it as non-partisan as possible.

I am one of those people who is going into these elections totally undecided. While I don't like watching the debate and pretty much hate all campaign commercials, what is said and how the campaigns are handled will make a huge difference in how I vote next month. And as a voter in a pivotal swing state, I understand how much my vote matters.

If you live in Virginia and have not registered to vote, you must do so by October 15 to be able to cast your ballot in November. To register or change your address, download the Virginia voter registration application here.

If you aren't sure if you're registered or think you might be registered in the incorrect district, check your record here. You can also use this link to find the polling place where you are assigned to go.

If you live in another state, check with your State Board of Elections to find out how and when your registration must be completed. Everyone over 18 has the right to vote in the United States, and we should never take that for granted.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Third Grad School Reading List

This reading was very research focused. I wanted to look at books popular during the time period I'm writing about and books that write history in creative ways. I continue my journey in exploring poetry and novels in verse, and I collected a few odds and ends along the way. This eclectic list makes me wonder what books I'll discover in October.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel: The Disney version of Alice freaked me out as a kid, so I've never felt any desire to read the book. However, in recent years I've fallen in love with books like Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, which made me want to give this one a try. While I wasn't a huge fan of Alice's Adventures, I was amazed by the nonsensical meaning in Looking Glass. It's the type of book that makes you look deeper and think more about the meaning of every detail. And Carroll seems to do it so effortlessly.

My Antonia by Willa Cather: I wanted to read a book that explores more about the immigrant experience, and I knew this one was set in Nebraska. While it it's earlier than my piece takes place and about a rural experience, it’s truly beautiful novel. I hope that I can portray the same kind of hope and sadness, fulfillment and disappointment in what I write about the turbulence of Eastern-European immigrants in America.

The Whispering Rabbit by Margaret Brown: I often think of Brown as an author of "quiet" books, so I almost laughed when I found this one. While this bed-time book probably wouldn’t get published in today’s market if this was a first-time author (it’s far too long, the plot is slow, the writing lacks rhythm), I can see how it would appeal to nostalgic Brown fans.

One of the Family by Peggie Archer: This book is a good example of the highlighting family dynamics. Though to story centers on a new baby just beginning to show her personality, you get to know her through the distinct personalities of her older brothers and sisters.

Thomas and Beulah: Poems by Rita Dove: I read this book in about two hours and immediately turned back to the first page and started reading again, slower this time, so I could savor the imagery and beauty in the simplistic details. This is the far superior precursor to the modern novel in verse. It is a story woven by poetry rather than a story forced into poetic form. No wonder it won the Pulitzer.

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot: I usually read Cabot's books for mindless fun, and I was surprised to find myself annoyed by the final installment of one of my favorite series. Cabot might be funny and romantic, but her writing lacks finesse. I found large chucks of the exposition repetitive, and her rambling stream-of-consciousness style is at times difficult to follow (i.e. I’d find myself forgetting what was happening in a scene because of so much random internal dialogue). But for what it is—fluffy, mainstream fiction—I still liked reading this book.

Who Was Louis Armstrong? by Yona McDonough, illustrated by John O'Brien: This was a good introductory biography to Louis Armstrong, and hopefully it will lead readers to more advanced biographies on the musician. When I read books like this, I can’t help but think, "I could totally do that." And with my love of history and research, it would be a lot of fun.

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Nobleman, illustrated by Ross MacDonald: One of my favorite parts about this nonfiction picture book is the use of real quotations to create dialogue within the story. It’s also a great subject matter that holds a cross-generational appeal.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell: There is a wonderful story somewhere within this mess of free-verse poetry. I’ve long been fascinated by Arthurian legend, and "The Lady of Shalott" is probably my favorite Tennyson poem—both of which Sandell uses well and honors with a unique perspective. However, the dialogue speaker-tags were difficult to follow in this structure, and there were so many words that it read more like prose with funny line brakes.

Polish Classic Recipes by Laura and Peter Zeranski: Some of my best childhood memories are of sitting in my ciotka’s kitchen while she made pierogi and kielasa z kapusta, but long ago I stopped caring about these traditional Polish foods. However, the same day I received this book in the mail, and I read it cover to cover, and the memories and smells and tastes flooded me all at once. I especially loved the authors’ stories about the history of each food and the family that helped them create each recipe.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October Baseball

In case you missed the memo, I'm a bit of a baseball fan. I grew up watching and loving the Chicago White Sox, and baseball came back to DC the summer I did my internship here.

Because they're in two different leagues and 700 miles apart, I've never felt divided by my duel-fandom. When the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, I didn't have to feel sad that the Nationals barely eked by with a .500 record. When the Nats hit the very bottom in 2008, the Sox still had a post-season run. I will admit, 2009, 2010 and 2011 were some dark baseball years, but this season makes up for a lot of that.

This year has been amazing. Though the White Sox didn't quite make it to the post season, they were still a team to watch. With Philip Humber's perfect game early on and fighting to the bitter end, I'm proud of my Boys in Black. After all, they started the season with a new, untested manager in Robin Ventura. I remember watching Ventura play through my teen years, and I was anxious and excited to see his return to Chicago.

And the Nats. Wow, the Nats have blown me away this season. I've fallen a little in love with Gio Gonzalez, and I'm kind of in awe of how Stephen Strasburg and his coaches have handled his rehab. I feel like I've watched Bryce Harper grow from a moody teenager to...well, okay, he's still a moody teenage. I've seen the Nats win and lose, gotten sunburned and soaking wet. At Nationals Park, Teddy won his first President's Race (although I was working when it happened), the Shake Shack opened, and I attended my first sell-out game in Washington. This Nats team has become my team.

It was seven years ago I pulled a Tom Cruise and jumped up and down on my couch and screamed so much that my down-stairs neighbors came to make sure I was alright. Good thing I live in a townhouse now, because I see a lot of couch-jumping in my near future.

I love baseball in the fall.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Meeting My Rock Stars

It doesn't matter how many authors I've met or how famous they are, I go all fangirl with each one.

During George Mason University's Fall for the Book festivities last weekend, I got to meet Neil frekin' Gaiman. Granted, it was in a room with 1,500 other people, but there were only four rows between me and the author of Stardust, the creator of The Sandman comic series, the writer on Doctor Who, the bad-most-baddest bad guy on The Simpsons.

"The [books] I enjoy writing the most I also hate writing the most... I ask my agent, 'Why did you let me do this? I could have been a gardener!'"

The week before, I also attended The National Book Festival. I caught bits and pieces of several talks, including Walter Dean Myers, James Dashner and Lois Lowery, but the crowds were insane this year and I couldn't get a seat at anything.

My YA librarian friend came down from Pennsylvania, and we caught the end of Maggie Stiefvater's talk. And because we're both a bit gaga for The Scorpio Races, we bought copies of her new book, The Raven Boys, and spent the rest of the afternoon waiting in line to get the signed.

I guess I'll have to watch the presentations once they're post online. If I go all fangirl in my living room when no one's around to see it, will that still make me a nerd?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Last week, a second mistrial was declared in Prince Okorie's murder case. I'm a bit torn by this. No innocent person should have to suffer for a crime they didn't commit, but there also needs to be some kind of closure for everyone involved.

I look at the evidence presented in this case, and all I can think about is how I want justice for Prince and his family. I want the streets to be a little safer and fewer kids put in the horrible situations both Prince and this young man on trail found themselves in.

If this case is dropped or this young man takes a plea or he's found innocent, perhaps he gets away with murder, or perhaps an innocent man goes free. I'm almost ashamed to say I want him to be guilty--I want this to end. But I'm not judge nor jury in this case, nor am I God. I don't know what happened on the 800 block of Fifth Street NW the afternoon of November 30, 2010, and I probably never will.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What will you be reading?

It's the American Library Association's Banned Book Week. Every year there are fewer and fewer books on this list that I haven't read, but this year I think I'll pick up some of the picture books. Censorship abridges freedom of speech, which is against the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. By reading banned books, you can decide for yourself what you believe.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."