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  • Apr. 13th, 2014 at 12:37 PM
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As I've told you before, I am the librarian at the American School of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. One of my favorite aspects of my jobs is choosing books to buy for the coming school year. I keep a list throughout the year and add to it all along, buying when I can and saving the rest for one big purchase during our June/July break. As many of you are compiling your own lists for purchase and others of you are looking for a few books to buy for Christmas presents, I thought I would share the Escola Americana de Belo Horizonte (EABH) Favorites list as well as the books we can't wait to receive on our next book order. The two lists are divided by target age groups. 

I hope you find this list useful!



Books EABH Can’t Stop Talking About

Elementary:

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick Press)

Z is for Moose by Kelly L. Bingham; ill. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Greenwillow Books)

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo; ill. by David Small (Dial)

All Pete the Cat  books by Eric Litwin (Harper Collins)

All Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

All Fancy Nancy books by Jane O’Connor (Harper Collins)

All Ladybug Girl books by David Soman (Dial)

Marty McGuire and Marty McGuire Digs Worms By Kate Messner (Scholastic)

All Lunch Lady graphic novels by Jarrett Krosoczka  (Knopf)

All Babymouse books by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House)

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost (Candlewick)

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, ill. by Erin Stead (Neal Porter
            Books)

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, ill. by Erin Stead (Neal Porter Books)

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills (Schwartz and Wade)

Middle grade:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Candlewick)

A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Hound Dog True by Linda Urban (Houghton
            Mifflin Harcourt)

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom
            Angleberger (Amulet/Abrams)

It’s Raining Cupcakes and Sprinkles and Secrets by Lisa Schroeder (Aladdin)

The 39 clues series by various (Scholastic)

Orca Sports series by various (Orca Publishing)

How to Steal a Dog and The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis  and  The
            Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester
by Barbara O’Connor (Farrar, Straus and
            Giroux)

The Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce (Harper Collins)

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Harper Collins)

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (Dial Books for Young Readers)

Young Adult:

Orca Soundings series by various (Orca Publishing)

Bitterblue and Fire by Kristin Cashore (Dial)

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegan Books)

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater

Looking for Alaska and The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The Story of a Girl and How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel)

Non-fiction:

The Lego Ideas Book by Daniel Lipkowitz (DK, 2011)

Steve Jobs: the man who thought different by Karen Blumenthal (Feiwel and
            Friends)

The Kingfisher Soccer Encyclopedia by Clive Gifford (Kingfisher)

Hitler Youth; Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
            (Scholastic)

Temple Grandin: How the girl who loved cows embraced autism and changed
            the world
by Sy Montogmery (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin)

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized graphic biography by Sid
            Jacobson (Hill and Wang)



Books EABH Is Anxiously Awaiting

Picture Books:

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, ill. by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf)

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, ill. by LeUyen Pham (Hyperion)

Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley, ill. by Dan Santat
            (Abrams)

Little Elephants by Graeme Base (Abrams)

Hit the Road, Jack by Robert Burleigh, ill. by Ross MacDonald (Abrams)

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown (Viking Juvenile)

Extra Yarn by Mac Burnett, ill. by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray)

House Held Up By Trees by Ted Kooser, ill. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)

This is not my hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)

Otter and Odder by James Howe, ill. by Chris Raschka (Candlewick)

Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty and other notorious nursery tale mysteries by
            David Levinthal, ill. by John Nickle (Schwartz and Wade)

Oh, No! by Candace Fleming, ill, by Eric Rohmann (Schwartz and Wade)

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, ill. by Erin Stead (Neal Porter)

Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Hogue, ill. by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin)

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)

Unspoken by Henry Cole (Scholastic)

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills (Schwartz and Wade)

Ball by Mary Sullivan (Houghton Mifflin, April 2013)

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea (Hyperion, May 2013)

A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead (Neal Porter)

Middle Grade:

The Watch that Ends the Night by Alan Wolff (Candlewick)

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books)

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton)

Son by Lois Lowry  (Houghton Mifflin)

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne
            M. Valente (Feiwel and Friends)

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull (Dutton)

Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver (Dial Books for Young Readers)

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech (Joana Cotler Books)

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March
            2013)

The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash (Candlewick)

Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly (Henry Holt)

The Secret Prophecy by Herbie Brennan (Balzer + Bray)

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds (Viking)

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin (Little Brown)

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)

Crow by Barbara Wright (Yearling)

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Young Adult:

The Diviners by Libba Bray (Little, Brown)

Every Day by David Levithan (Knopf)

Origin by Jessica Khoury (Razorbill)

League of Strays by L.B. Shulman (Amulet)

Because it is my Blood by Gabrielle Zevin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon (Harper)

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)

Splintered by A.G. Howard (Amulet)

Skinny by Donna Cooner (Point)

Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis (Random House, December 2012)

The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown)

Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer (Little, Brown)

Survive by Alex Morel (Razorbill)

Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams (Little, Brown)

The Art of Wishing by Lindsey Ribar (Dial Books, March 2013)

Pivot Point by Kasie West (HarperTeen, February 2013)

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Speak, May 2013)

Mother's Day

  • May. 13th, 2012 at 2:28 PM
Gosh, it's been almost a year since I posted here in my blog. I haven't forgotten. I've just been taking a break, filled up with all that life has been offering and feeling satisfied with the opportunities to touch lives in my day-to-day world. 

But I thought that I would peek in today to share my love for my mother, how grateful I am for her investment in my life and how much I hope to be like her one day. 

A Poem for my Mother

By Kristy Dempsey


If I were with you,
I would hug you 
and ask you to hold me close
and tell me how some days are hard,
like the day you rocked me in the wooden chair
and you cried too. 
I would say, “tell me again 
about the night I was born.”
And you would repeat the words
I’ve heard before, how the doctors said
I was dead, and how daddy prayed
and how when I finally came into the world at sunrise, 
I cried, and the whole room burst into tears with me.

If I were with you,
I would sit close 
and lay my head on your shoulder,
and think about all the threads used to knit me
in my mother’s womb,
how I am just like you in so many ways. 
A lover of words and story, 
coffee and pajamas,
salty air and seashells,
Autumn trees, 
grace and forgiveness and hope. 
I would think about broken knick-knacks,
broken hearts,
April Fool’s surprises,
and trips to the Emergency Room,
I would honor all the sacrifices
I didn’t honor back then. 

Today if I were with you, 
we would sit without speaking, 
because we would already know
what our hearts are saying. 
Those threads that run from you to me, 
those threads that are still knitting me into who I am
would speak the truth.
I would hold your hand 
and we wouldn’t need a single word.

© Kristy Dempsey 2012

Highlights for me from this School Year

  • Jun. 18th, 2011 at 11:34 AM
As many of you know I began working last August as a teacher and a librarian at an international school here in Belo Horizonte. This has been a challenging and rewarding experience and has been completely worth it.  There were moments that made me laugh, moments that made me cry, moments that reminded me why this work is important. I took time this morning to write down some of the highlights of my year. I'll continue on at the school but I don't want to forget these people and moments that made up my year:

  • Putting a book into one of my 6th grader's hands (Eighth Grade Bites from The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer), which he didn’t return immediately after he moved on to the next book because one of his four brothers (a 9th grader) co-opted it. Then it still didn’t get returned. I couldn’t figure out why until the 11th grade brother came in to pre-empt his other brothers on checking out the rest of the series because he had been reading the books when he could sneak them from his brothers. None of these brothers had checked out books to read for enjoyment since who knows when, if ever. It mostly made me happy because it was the 6th grade brother who influenced his older brothers.
  • Setting a goal of 20 books in the second semester for my 6th grade English Language Arts students to read and watching many of them read at least that many or more. One student read over 40 books in just 16 weeks. In fact, he implied with a smile on his face that I might have been responsible for his grades falling a bit in other classes because he couldn’t stop reading when he left English class.
  • Watching ELL 2nd graders K and C and ELL 1st graders H and W grow so much in their reading/English abilities this year. This is not my victory because their teachers (Ms. K and Miss R) deserve all the credit because of the individual instruction they gave these students, but I had the privilege of watching these students begin to check out more and more difficult books and to see them truly excited about reading in English.
  • Hearing from one of the high school girls: “Miss, no one ever knew or cared about interesting library books for the older students until you got here.”
  • Having my 9th grade students ask one day, “Miss, where is *title of book *?” and when I pulled it off the shelf, they dissolved into whispers and giggles. Then one of them piped up with another request, “Miss, where is *title of another book *?” and when I pulled it off the shelf the same thing happened. Whispers and giggles. I began to get suspicious. The third time they asked me for a book, I’m sure I had a confused look on my face, but I grabbed the book, handed it to them and heard one of them say, “15 seconds.” I demanded to know what is going on. They laughed and replied, “Miss, you know where EVERYTHING is.” They were timing me to see how long it took me to find books. Cute, huh?
  • Reading the 10,000 word stories my 9th and 12th grade Creative Writing students completed in the last quarter of school. Their stories were not perfect but they were entertaining and several of them were exceptional. I was particularly proud of Ing. and K (one of the brothers mentioned in the first highlight above), both English Language Learners, for not only completing the assignment (a huge undertaking that they did NOT believe they were capable of back in August when I presented the syllabus for the year) but for also surprising me with well-paced stories full of detail, setting and characterization that proved they had internalized many of the things we had studied throughout the year.
  • Reading NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry aloud with the 5th graders during library class while they were in the middle of a government unit of inquiry. We asked questions, we researched the answers, we laughed, we held our breath, we cried. There is one moment toward the end of the book when I was reading with tears in my eyes and I glanced up to look at the students’ faces. The emotion in their faces, the expectation in their eyes, the connection we felt in that moment over this book, this experience, is something that will define my role as a teacher and a librarian and a reader and a writer for the rest of my life.
  • Reading all the Pigeon books by Mo Willems with every class from preschool to 2nd grade and being amazed at how well they work for so many different ages. One of the 2nd grade moms came in on the last day of school to finally return The Pigeon wants a Puppy book for her 2nd grader S (for whom English is not her first language). She said S read the book over and over to her family, didn’t want to return it and that they would be buying their own copy.
 
  • Connecting with one of the high school students over Looking for Alaska and also over his talent and need for creative expression, which he often hides from others as well as from himself. If this is the only year of influence I’ll have in his life, I hope and pray he continues to look inward and to find a way to express how he sees the world on the page. I think it could be not only life-saving/affirming for him but also meaningful for others. P, I hope you never stop writing.
  • Taking joy from Ing. and F and Iv. and V and B as they reminded me what it was like to be a teenage girl and feeling hopeful about the promise for their futures.
  • Connecting with 12th graders B, L, M, C and G as they prepared to begin life on their own. I have had no higher privilege this year than participating in the lives of these women. 
 
 
  • 9th grade L’s constant ribbing over my Southern accent, his determination to make my day a little brighter every day, and his humility and ready acceptance when I’ve had to pull him aside for a serious conversation or when I’ve given him advice

It’s no small thing when you can finish one school year already looking forward to the next. See you in August, EABH!

Wonder

  • May. 3rd, 2011 at 10:54 PM
My cousin is dying of cancer.

This is not the first death or long-term sickness in the family that has taken place since I've lived overseas -- my grandmother and grandfather both passed away during the time we've lived in Brazil -- but this has been the most painful. And the distance has served to prick at the pain through myriad ways.

My cousin is young and vibrant and full of a wild-eyed wonder at life. (She would smile at noticing that I didn't write *wide* eyed. She is not naive, nor innocent, and yet she is not jaded or proud or guarded.) She is a giver of grace because she has been a receiver of grace. She is above all full of hope. She laughed at the future and welcomed each day with open arms. She was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and she has fought the good fight. Then, just when we all thought she was into a fingers-crossed-forever remission, the doctors found cancer in other places. She went through all the rounds again and this time nothing helped, not even for the short term. I saw her again after this second diagnosis in November when I was in the US for a quick weekend for the wedding of a friend. We said goodbye then, even though neither of us wanted to, even though we both knew that this was *the* goodbye.

And so, my cousin is dying of cancer and there is absolutely nothing I can do for her . . . or for my mom or aunt who have been her primary caregivers in these last months. I've often thought, as I've been reading stories to my students in the library, that if I could I would sit by Lisa's bed and read her stories and poetry and bible verses. We would steer our focus away from the pain, away from her coming last breath and we would escape together, wild-eyed, into the wonder of life and the glory of creation for but a few moments. And it would be something. It would be the small something I could do for her.

And so instead, I read stories for my wide-eyed innocent students, for these little ones who are still learning the grace and truth of life, who for now are only rehearsing through story the sting and sorrow of pain. It is never just rehearsal for very long.

May we all stop and pay attention to the wonder around us. Mary Oliver said it best, I think:

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

National Poetry Month

  • Apr. 6th, 2011 at 8:23 PM
I did an exercise with my 12th grade Creative Writing students (all girls!) today where we wrote a poem about a time we felt angry and then took phrases from it to write a scene in our longer piece of fiction we are working on for the end of the year. It was cathartic and difficult all at once, but it was a relief to take our own feelings and let our main characters "borrow them". Here's my poem:


You used your power like the tip of a knife
     enough to wound
                    to cause me pain
                    to leave a scar

And yet, you said it all with a smile
            as if you knew
            (but could care less)
my feelings were hurt, I felt small.

Then, when I was proven right
        (you were wrong)
you didn’t even apologize.

Now I’m the one with the secret smile.

Apr. 3rd, 2011

  • 3:11 PM
I'm a a little late jumping in this year to celebrate National Poetry Month on LJ. I've been at an Educator's Conference in Campinas, Brazil. It was refreshing and overwhelming all at once and I know it will impact my students and my teaching practices and perspective from here out. This conference was made up of educators in American Schools from all over South America. It was a privilege to meet colleagues and directors of schools, to spend extra time with those I'm honored to teach with every day and to spend some time thinking about the hows and whys and the whos of what we do and the wheres of the future and how it is changing. Truthfully, I am exhausted but in other ways I feel settled and directed and ready for the Monday morning bell to ring. 

This poem wasn't written for either Poetry Month or as a poem about my weekend but I did recognize the unexpected graces that came my way this weekend and I'm grateful.




Unexpected grace colors 

air, trees, ears, cheeks, 

creeping surprise 

with delight settling close

to warm a soul, remind

a heart of its reasons.

--Kristy Dempsey © 2011 (all rights reserved)

AASSA

  • Mar. 31st, 2011 at 2:56 PM
I'm currently in Campinas (near São Paulo) at the AASSA (Association of American Schools in South America) conference. I'm choosing to focus mainly on the librarian and literacy tracks. I'm also looking forward to meeting other American School librarians and teachers. This is my first year teaching and serving as a librarian so I've never been to a conference like this before. The only thing I have to compare it to is a writer's conference. Right this minute I'm sort of missing my writer friends, looking around to see if someone can help me brainstorm some plot possibilities for my WIP, but I think once we get started there will be plenty I can apply to my professional teacher life . . . and maybe even a few things I can apply to my writing life. I'll keep you posted!

Friday Five

  • Mar. 4th, 2011 at 10:52 PM
 1. Things that prove I sometimes have the maturity of an 8 year old boy: I *barely* held in my giggles this week when we were talking about the truism "Don't tell me the sky is the limit. There are footprints on the moon" and a student leaned over and quietly asked me  -- with complete sincerity --, "Are there footprints on Uranus?"

2. Preparing for Book Fair on March 19. The theme is SuperReaders/SuperHeroes. I painted a stand alone superhero girl today and will paint a superhero boy next week. I am not an artist but I am a very good copier/imitator. My superhero name shall be Xerox. 

3. So-wonderfully-happy-making-news this week as one of my poems was accepted for a forthcoming found poetry anthology.

4. In other good news, DIZZY DINOSAURS, a Lee Bennett Hopkins Easy Reader Poetry Collection in which I have two poems, just received a great review from Horn Book and they printed one of my poems IN COLOR with the review!

5. Best news of all: We have a week-long break from school for Carnaval. No school until Monday the 14th. I shall relax and enjoy. Even superheroes/superlibrarians/superteachers need their rest. 

Learning from students

  • Feb. 17th, 2011 at 2:27 PM
If I ever needed motivation to pick up a book I thought I'd NEVER be interested in, I now have a new one. After 6th grade J recommended the Young Sherlock Holmes series (by Andrew Lane) to me, I decided to read his favorite one just to have a point of connection with him. But oh-my-gravy, guess what? I love it! The action scenes keep me hooked and the historical connections have provided me with MANY examples to share with students when referring to our Reader/Thinker strategies. I'm hooked. And of course, J is a little giddy that HE was the one to rec it. 



Then today when I was looking over the Spring IndieNext list, guess what I found? Apparently (which I hadn't noticed until I saw the list and looked at the copyright info for the book in my hands), the series was first published overseas and is just now being brought to the US. Lucky you! And lucky me too. Because now I can be giddy that I'm the one to rec it to you. 

Well, apart from the whole IndieNext list pick, anyway. :)

Also, my sweet friend, Kim Marcus, made the list to with her awesome novel debut EXPOSED. Those Indiebound people are smart cookies, don't you think? And Kim is even smarter with this gripping novel in verse. 



More later on all the fun and celebration my friends (and strangers) have doled out for me over the release of MINI RACER (my latest picture book ill. by Bridget Strevens-Marzo) this past week . . .

Interview Alert

  • Feb. 5th, 2011 at 11:15 AM
 An interview with yours truly just went live here. But really, you're going to want to click that link because there's a day's worth of clickability right there on Christie Wright Wild's site. Maybe I'm the only one who's easily distracted and gets lost because I click from link to link and look up random bits of information I run across, but my advice is to leave yourself some bread crumbs along the way. You might forget next week's doctor's appt. 

Looking Back 2010

  • Dec. 31st, 2010 at 8:03 PM
I'm loving all these retrospectives and it's made me go back and think about this past year in my life. I tend not to do that. Think back. It makes me see all the missed opportunities or times when I could have accomplished more, if I'd just done it. But this was a big year in our lives and when I look back, I'm willing to give myself a little grace and also, I'm really really proud of and grateful for some of the things that were accomplished.  

January

January was spent in a blur of emotion. We were still in the US for what was supposed to be a six month sabbatical. Then my 41 year old husband had a heart attack three days before the beginning of 2010 and we were spinning with shock almost through the whole month. I did several school visits to share ME WITH YOU at schools, a couple of poetry workshops, and took a four day trip to NYC with one of my dearest friends in the world annemariepace  . We met with editors, saw our agents, and ate some really great food. It was renewing. 

February

More school author visits, family visits, doctor's appointments, kids basketball practices and games, and homework. I do not remember writing in February. 

March
Had hand surgery. Made significant strides on my middle grade novel thanks to the encouragement of writing friends.

April
School visits, coffee with writing friends, continued working on novel (slowly) and took a trip to NYC with my hubby for a church conference. Saw WICKED and had a backstage tour. Ate with Bobby Flay. Took long walks in Central Park. Renewed again.

May
School visits, family visits, NE SCBWI Spring Conference in MA. Flew to Vermont, rode down with lurban  . Remembered (through many conversations with Linda) why I wanted to write a novel. Felt filled up to overflowing. 

June
Had gallbladder surgery. Applied for a job teaching at the American School in Belo Horizonte in order to have a way to provide for our kids' education once we returned to Brazil. Moved back to Brazil. 

July
Got the job, began working as the Librarian and Creative Writing Teacher at The American School of Belo Horizonte. Feel right at home.

August/September
Writing Lesson plans, settling into working full-time, helping my children adjust to a new school. Overwhelmed, a bit.

October
Husband in America for three weeks. Buckle down and tell myself if I don't finish the novel I never will. Finished the novel. Promptly decided a whole thread would need to be removed when I revise it.

November
Quick weekend trip to America for dear friend's wedding. Began to research Masters programs related to Reading and Writing Instruction. Hosted a massively wonderful Thanksgiving Day lunch with 39 people. Ate too much. 

December

Sang at a wedding. Entered school break. Created a book trailer for my forthcoming picture book, MINI RACER. Realized I had a small window of opportunity to revise my novel. Began revising. Cut 5,000 words. Added 2,000 new ones. Continuing to revise. Will spend New Year's Day (or part of it) writing. Go back to work on January 3rd. Doubt I'll be finished revising by then but will do as much as I possibly can. 

Here's to 2011. I welcome you with hopeful arms. 

National Book Award

  • Nov. 18th, 2010 at 6:43 AM
 Kathryn Erskine received the National Book Award for Young People's Literature last night for MOCKINGBIRD! 

This week's gem

  • Oct. 30th, 2010 at 11:41 AM
Elementary school K, speaking as if he were letting me in on a "secret":
 

Ms. Kristy, did you know that you are a "fake blonde"?  Because I can see the darker places at the top of your head. 


Putting aside that even with highlights no one would consider me a "blonde," I pretended to have no idea what he was talking about. :)
 
 

Congratulations, Kathy!

  • Oct. 13th, 2010 at 10:20 PM
I'm so happy for dear Kathy Erskine, author of MOCKINGBIRD, and newly announced National Book Award Finalist. Such a deserved recognition for this fabulous book!

Storytelling (a late Poetry Friday post)

  • Oct. 10th, 2010 at 11:47 AM
Most of you know I have been working at an international school as the creative writing teacher and the librarian. Although it's been pretty much a perfect fit for me, so much about this job has caused me to stretch in my abilities. I do not consider myself a performer (those of you who remember me from middle and high school are laughing now, because you think of me as a drama queen) but in this job I have had to revert back to some long dormant skills of performing and entertaining. 

I have not enjoyed it. 

To be clear, it is only *that* part of the job that I haven't enjoyed. I've loved the rest, but having to perform and entertain makes me insecure and it makes me realize how much I rely on external affirmation. And it's sort of kinda a terrible thing to feel like you're relying on others' approval. And yet, I want to do a good job, so it's a catch-22. 

This past Friday, for our Children's Day celebration at school, I had to dress up as a character (cowgirl for the younger set, spooky witch for the older set) and tell stories for 15 minutes to each group. I was terrified. It is one thing to hold a book and sit in a circle and tell a story to children. It is entirely another to perform those stories for them. I barely ate anything at lunch because I was afraid I'd throw up. 

Thankfully, it went very well, though I'm not sure I'll feel any better the next time I have to do it. (I'm still hoping there won't be a next time!)

I spent some time this morning trying to put what I felt into poetry, my favorite way of reflecting:


Telling Stories

I told stories the other day
to children sitting patiently on blue
carpet, waiting to be entertained, wanting
me to mesmerize them. God, what pressure, I
thought and wished it were all over with –

the storytelling, not life in general, though at that moment
I wasn’t feeling picky.

I spoke of ghosts and ghouls,
cowboys, robbers and chickens, hoping the
children would laugh their wise little belly
laughs and their eyes would shine effortless.
God, I thought, I MUST be good, for children
are not easily lied to, their wide-eyed
innocence runs deep with doubt.
The crinkles in their noses say, Prove
yourself to me. Make me believe your silly
little words.


And so I spoke my silly little words, telling
tall tales as if they were truth, magicking
my own doubts into belief, trickstering
insecurity through bravado. And it worked.
The children laughed until it was all over with –

at the stories thankfully, not at me, though at that moment
I wasn’t feeling picky.

-- Kristy Dempsey (2010, all rights reserved)

Speak Loudly

  • Sep. 23rd, 2010 at 11:07 PM
I'm joining the chorus by singing the same verse others have sung before me, because they said it as well or better than I ever could. I am a sincere fallible Christian, a sometimes-doubting-Thomas who on my best days struggles to articulate this faith that redeems this life for me and on my worst days wishes I could knock some ranting, raving blockhead-in-the-sand who claims to be a Christian off his soapbox. 

If you haven't heard yet, Wesley Scroggins, a college professor in Missouri, has called for SPEAK to be banned. SPEAK is an honest raw novel full of Truth and Story that depicts a character who chooses not to speak after she is raped. She keeps quiet about what happened to her.

I need to be careful. I don't want to imply that I believe Mr. Scroggins is not the Christian he claims he is. It's not my judgement to make. And if Mr. Scroggins sincerely feels led by God and His word to make this call for banning, who am I to stand in his way? BUT I would caution him that a million and one misguided, perverted and abusive things have been done in the name of God. Are those abusive things done in the name of God reason enough for me to abandon my sincere desire to follow God and His word? Do those abusive acts done in the name of religion actually glorify God or my faith, just because someone says their intent was to glorify God? No they do not, just as a book portraying an abusive act of rape does not glorify sex just because someone says it does.

Frankly it's perverted thinking to even imply that a depiction of rape glorifies sex.

 
We cannot be motivated to action by what we have fashioned as truth in our minds. We cannot create God in our own image. We cannot hide Truth. We have to Speak. Loudly. And we have to Love even more Loudly. Because rape happens. Abuse happens. And Jesus would not have been ranting and raving about the sex. He would have quietly had his arm around a hurting girl, showing her True Love and Acceptance in the face of her shame and insecurity. (In fact, he DID just that in John 4:7-24 for the Woman at the Well.)

My favorite quote from the posts I've read so far on this subject comes from Veronica Roth:

"Do you want your kids to understand just how beautiful the grace of God is? Then they have to understand how crappy the world is. It's not just 'a good idea.' It's necessary."

Visual and Verbal

  • Sep. 13th, 2010 at 7:04 PM
 I keep a commonplace book/journal that holds thoughts, quotes and the occasional drawing. 

(Stop laughing, those of you who know I cannot draw a straight line.) (Seriously. I mean it. You're distracting me from telling my story.)

Anyway, I've been trying to paint, just to stretch myself, and for each thing I paint I write a poem. Again, a disclaimer. I am not an artist. But something about taking time to focus on something long enough to paint it lights my desire to use words to describe it. So I'm stretching myself. It's good for me. (It might be good for you, too, this mix of the visual and the verbal?)

I like the way things with words turn out better than the things with paint. But I keep on. And I wanted to share with you the most recent entry. Here is the painting:



Here is the poem:

Do spotted hens
lay speckled eggs
that nest between
their spindly legs?

And do those chicks
have spots that match
the speckled eggs
from which they hatch?

And do their moms,
those spotted hens,
grow dizzy when
a hatch begins

and spots begin
to blur and mix
into a bunch
of scrambled chicks?


--Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)


In other news, I am loving my job as a librarian and creative writing teacher and feel like I am reaching in all the ways I need to. But I'd love to know how you all feel you're stretching too. I need to be reminded I'm not in this yoga class alone. :)

Tags:

Things that make my days

  • Aug. 16th, 2010 at 8:25 PM
1. After helping cute little 3rd grader find the book he was looking for (on fashion, no less, of which we only had a few and the only promising one was more on costume design than fashion), he came back up to me and said, "Miss? I really do not wish to make you a crazy person, but this book? It is not quite my favorite."   Oh dear L, you do not make me a crazy person. I hope to find a wonderful book on fashion design for you soon.

2. Finding sci-fi books for 10th grade sci-fi fan. Oh how I can think of so many new books we don't have that I know he'd love. It makes me want to spend my own money to buy new books for the school. Which I can't do right now.

3. Snack time. I love snack time. We have good snacks at our school. For free. Things like homemade cheesebread. Ham and cheese croissants. Yummy natural sandwiches with whole wheat bread and lettuce and tomatoes and fancy cheeses. The kids have two snacks and lunch a day. I just take the first snack and lunch. Yum. I am spoiled.

4. My 12th grade and 9th grade creative writing classes. This year is going to change their lives. And mine. 
Yes, I know it's been too long since I posted. Just be glad this isn't Smell-o-vision. I haven't showered since exercise. But I'm really just popping in to say hi and to say I am loving my librarian/ creative writing teacher job. So many books still to log into the system but school is in full swing now. It will happen as it can. 

Writing? Do I have to answer that? Okay. I'm writing. Writing a little. But a little is more than none, right? It will all add up eventually. Right?

Sofa Rules

  • Jul. 25th, 2010 at 10:20 PM
We have just recovered our sofas. Or rather, we've PAID someone to reupholster and reinforce sofas we bought seven years ago brand new. Seven years? Do your sofas wear out that often? We have three children, and during that time have had two different pets, so it's entirely possible that we are quite hard on our sofas. We also live in a city of four million people with no central heat or air, so the windows are often open, which leads to pollution and dust, which leads to a layer of black dust on just about everything. We'd also been fairly lax in our enforcement of any kind of no-eating-the-vicinity rules. Oh, there were rules. We were just lax. 

So all that to say, now that the sofas are freshly reupholstered, NEW RULES. And my funny-bunny husband typed them up for us and has them ready for all of us to sign. Here, for your amusement:

Sofa Rules


To show our respect and honor to God for what He has given us and to value not His gifts but to value Him we will abide by the “sofa rules” and understand that there will be consequences and punishment for any choice to violate said rules.

Rules:

· No feet on the sofa (attached or un-attached; actually, especially un-attached)


· No jumping on the sofa of any form (jumping up and down, flying through the air to land on it, double-twist lay out triple helix back flips, etc.)


· No food or drinks on the sofa. (I’m referring to pre-digested food but now that I think about it I am declaring the sofa a “no-hurl” zone.)


· No fighting or wrestling on the sofa (with the possible exception of some low-impact thumb wrestling)


· No pens, pencils or crayons or paint on the sofa. (this rules out any planned paint-ball wars that might ever exist in the apartment)


· No un-humanoids on the sofa (this would primarily refer to any future pets that we might have but also could refer to future ET friends or lower life-form boyfriends)


· No sharp instruments on the sofa (primarily pencils, scissors, screwdrivers or knives but also would include swords, battle-axes, machetes, or spears)



“I understand these rules and will hereby agree to them, seek to abide by them and acknowledge that any failure to do so will result in punitive actions being taken that might be unpleasant and undesirable to my person.”


Signed:_______________________________________________________________________________


Signed:_______________________________________________________________________________


Signed:_______________________________________________________________________________


Signed:_______________________________________________________________________________


Signed:_______________________________________________________________________________

Oh, Gravy. Good Gravy!

  • Jul. 12th, 2010 at 9:04 AM
Look at that! It's been three weeks since I've posted. Oh the shame. Rather than allow you to believe I've just been sitting around eating bon-bons (ahem.) let me catch you up to speed on what's gone down in Casa Dempsey over the past three.

1. We are actually back in our home in Brazil after being away for almost a year. We had a great number of bags to unpack and an entire house to organize. Bags unpacked, check. House organized? Moving on . . . 

2. I have written several thousand words on my WIP since our return. I have an August 1st deadline to show something to my agent, but um, I'm getting sort of shy about showing it to her. I'll be finished by then, I'm positive, with the first draft. But it is a messy draft. There are gaps and threads that I just dropped. And it's not the book she thought I was writing. (Or at least it doesn't need to be once I start revising this draft.) So I'm wondering if I need to do a revision before she sees anything. You know, a book only gets one chance to make a first impression. 

3. EXCITING NEWS!!!!!! Did I get your attention? I am so excited to announce that I have accepted a job as the librarian at The American School of Belo Horizonte, an International Baccalaureate Pre-K through 12th grade school. You are hereby invited to visit! And be sure to point me toward books that I need to include in our collection. I have lots of planning, preparing, organizing and development work ahead of me. I will be surrounded by books! I will be surrounded by children and teenagers! I have a feeling I'm going to love it.

What I am up to

  • Jun. 21st, 2010 at 11:03 PM
 Taking a cue from lgburns   Monday post, here's my own WHAT I AM UP TO:

1. Packing to return to Brazil after spending a year in the US. We have 8 bags, 2 boxes, 5 carry-ons and six personal items (backpacks or purses) plus one extra bag for someone to bring to us later. 

2. Finishing a novel. Inching closer to the end. My goal is to be finished with this draft and a quick first run-through revision by August 1.

3. Preparing for the hopeful possibility that I will be working this fall as a librarian at an international school in our city in Brazil. (Keep your fingers crossed for me!)

4. Feeling overwhelmed with the returning and settling back into Brazilian culture but oh so ready to be back home there.

5. I am the guest of the day at Lindsey Leavitt's Month-long blog-o-ramo of Impact Initiative posts. Stop by lindsey_leavitt   to check out the post and while you're there take a gander at the inspirational posts she's had so far. They have each made me want to make a difference in my own little world with the hope that it would make a ripple in the bigger world. Don't miss Lindsey's new book, PRINCESS FOR HIRE, a perfect read for anyone who's ever dreamed of escaping her own life for something better. Funny how it always ends up being not so much better, huh? But in the process, you just might figure out how to make that something better happen for yourself AND for others. A fun, FUNNY summer read.

Peeking through the cracks and fissures

  • Jun. 3rd, 2010 at 9:27 AM
I've gone mostly dark due to reading and writing and an untimely surgery, but I wanted to stop by to share this quote from Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris, because it has everything to do with the novel I'm working on, and also because I think there are many of you who would like to hear this today:

"...in a sense we are all seeking the same thing. We want to prepare a good soil in which grace can grow; we want to regard the cracks and fissures in ourselves with fresh eyes, so that they might be revealed not merely as the cause or the symptom of our misery but also as places where the light of promise shines through."

I'm moving toward that light of promise and hope you are too. 

NESCBWI 2010 #1

  • May. 18th, 2010 at 12:12 PM
 I'll have much more to share about the NESCBWI conference in days to come, but for now just let me say that thanks to lurban  , I learned a new way to wrap a scarf around my neck this weekend. And since I'm feeling particularly puny at the moment, even here in the South I need a scarf wrapped warmly around my neck today. 

A bit later I'll look for a tutorial but it involves short side, long side, wrap around and over and under, then pronto you look stylish and feel good. Got it?