Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's Not "If"

Today, the intern i'm mentoring told me he wants to find out "if" he can work. I immediately told him that the word isn't "if" it's "how."

The thing is, this is a question I've asked myself a million times. if I can work. If I'll ever get published. If this illness or that wound will get better. Telling my intern that he was using the wrong word made me realize that I"M using the wrong word, too.

How means that you have control. How gives you a to-do list to check off. It encourages you to do your best, rather than leaving everything up to The Powers That Be. And so even if one "how" doesn't work out, there's always another.

Just a little reminder on a Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You've Got Change

I woke up this morning at 5am and couldn't go back to sleep. So, I rented You've Got Mail on my iPhone. Like you do.

I'm not sure why my comfort movie is a film that is a two-hour advertisement for an internet service provider no one uses anymore. You've Got Mail is only fourteen years old, but world has changed so much. The war isn't about chains and indies anymore. Things that changed the face of publishing--Amazon, ebooks, Harry Potter--don't exist yet in the film.. Sure, the inspiration for Fox Books (Barnes & Noble) still provides challenges, but it's certainly not the untold champion anymore.

 Only Starbucks is as ubiquitous on the Upper West Side today as it was shown in the movie. Even Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan's character, the defender of indie purchases her morning coffee there. Surely, the store she stops out bought out an independent cafĂ©, but she doesn't consider this. As is proven by the end of the film, she cannot stop progress.

 The love story between Joe Fox (Fox Books) and Kathleen (The Shop Around the Corner) is supposed to be Romeo-and-Julietesque. However, I find it bittersweet that, really, he--representing the corporate conglomerate-- gets it all. Progress, the film states, wins.

I do love that the film is a love letter to New York, where I want to live some day. It's a city for the generations. Of change, and of tradition.

And, here's the thing, in the non-fictionalized city, The Shop Around the Corner still stands. There is a children's bookshop, Books of Wonder, around the corner from the 18th Street Barnes and Noble. The independent bookstore isn't dead. I like to think it's resurfacing. Sometimes tradition can win over, something I think the film tried to portray, but forwent in favor of the plot arc.

You've Got Mail came out when I was nine. I remember seeing it in theaters (Mom is a big Sleepless in Seattle fan), but I really fell for it while I was studying at Oxford. I loved the anonymous online letter writing, something I don't think could happen on today's Interwebs. It takes me back to the dial-up days (oh the nostalgia in that sound), and makes me wonder if I have modeled my life, my children's book love, on Kathleen. But most of all, I think it gives hope that in these days of exponential progress--while I play spot the out-of-date tech in a fourteen-year-old film--there could be someone out there to guide me. To be a constant when nothing else is.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Accessibility in the Literary Sense

In this week's Thoughts from Places video, filmed mostly at Book Expo America, John Green quotes fellow-writer MT Anderson. Anderson defends intelligent characters in literature, which is a topic I'm passionate about.

I've praised John before for making it okay to write about intelligent characters. Some people argue that there isn't a shortage of smart YA characters--I've been told that there, are, in fact a disproportionate amount of them. In writing classes and literature classes, I've seen characters who use words like "bucolic" and quote Shakespeare be called out for being "inauthentic" or "inaccessible" or "unrealistic".

And maybe there are a lot of "average" teens reading. And maybe they need to see themselves in books they read, the same way "everyman" needs Updike's Rabbit.

But here's the thing: Smart teens exist. Teens who read John Donne, and do Calculus, and obsess over Neil Gaiman. They are out there, they can appreciate references to these things in their books. And authors can write to them, they can write about them, and they shouldn't be criticized for wanting to, just because not every tenth grader would appreciate a metaphor mentioning Oedipus. Some will.

My friends and I would have.

We wouldn't have appreciated a sports reference, but some readers will. And it's okay to write a book that some people will appreciate and not others. "Adult" authors do it all the time without being unduly criticized for it, YA authors need to be allowed to as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Disclosing (My Failure as a Blogger)

I have NEVER been this lax on blogging, but it's been a crazy couple of months. I finished my second year of grad school, went home for two weeks, did a family road trip up to Boston, moved into a new apartment and started my summer job. I'm still in the throes of starting up this new(ish) life, but I want to make sure blogging is back in my routine.

So, let's talk about something I've been thinking about. Not to give too many details, but this summer I'm working with a program that helps youth with disabilities attain internships, and learn to advocate for themselves in the workplace. I'm a job coach--meaning I'm the one who goes to work with them in the beginning of the program and helps them figure out what adaptations they need to do their best work at the job. Job coaches also help the program supervisor with materials for the mandatory weekly workshops the interns have to attend. Most of what we're doing is that until Boston Public Schools get out next week.

Yesterday, we were working on the module on disclosure--telling employers/colleagues/friends about one's disability. This is a difficult thing for me, not because I'm hesitant to disclose. In fact, the opposite. I can't think of a time when I didn't readily admit to being disabled, in life or online. In a book I was reading today (one of Lennard J. Davis's tomes on disability studies) he mentions that people with disabilities do not have to identify as disabled online, but it never occurred to me not to. The effect my disability has on my life has always seemed too steady and influential to deny it. I've never been aware of stigmatization, either. For instance, I've always had to sit in the front row thanks to my low vision, but I never felt I was treated differently because of it.

But then, I'm the type of student who would have been in the front row anyway. Would things have been different if I'd have preferred to be in the back, and known that admitting to my visual impairment would mean being told to sit up front? There have been times during my secondary education when I've chosen to compensate in order to sit with my friends. (Often these days I won't be able to see no matter where I sit, thanks to classroom configuration, so I ask a friend to tell me what's written, or trust that the professor will repeat what they've copied onto the powerpoint).

Also, I've never, ever had a chance at "passing" (denying disability), so I don't quite understand doing it. All the literature we've read on disclosure for work implies that the reader will err on the side of hiding disability. In my opinion, that kind of attitude leads to shame and self-sabotaging attempts at compensation.

And maybe I need to think harder about that the next time I think I can deduce what's on the board.