Quote Round Up: Martin Luther King Jr.

Last year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I did a button flash piece about our trip to the MLK historic site in Atlanta and how a button caught our attention as we were leaving Ebenezer Baptist Church.

My traveling companion and button spotter in front of MLK Jr's church

My traveling companion and button spotter in front of MLK Jr’s church

This year, I’d like to share my favorite MLK quotes.  I still remember getting chills listening to King’s recorded voice that day, and I’ve grown to appreciate how many wonderful quotes can be traced back to this powerful orator.  I can’t pick a single favorite, but here are my top five:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

I’m always looking for more great quotes, so if you have a favorite, please share!

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The Advent Calendar of Literature: Day 3

An Advent Calendar of Literature~what could be more perfect?

 

The Advent Calendar of Literature: Day 3.

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Introducing The Literary Button, my new Etsy shop

I’m happy to introduce my Etsy shop, The Literary Button!

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Here you may find vintage button bookmarks featuring text and calligraphy. Each bookmark is bundled with a signed copy of The Button Collector and can be customized for holiday giving. I have only a few listings at the moment, but more will be available soon! Contact me if you would like more information.

You can see a couple of examples below.

Making these was fun because they incorporate another one of my favorite things:  paper arts!

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Various words are available.  The buttons on the bookmarks are from my own collection.

 

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This is still a work in progress.  Let me know what you think!

 

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Good Job, Community Colleges

One of my students in the continuing education class on blogging wrote this well crafted post on the disparity of support in higher education. I think she hit a home run with it! I especially love the idea of the Pushy Moms Club….so perfect.

Multifocal Lens

Multifocal Lens is the product of a continuing education class on blogging offered by Blue Ridge Community College in Hendersonville, North Carolina this fall. We have been sharpening our writing skills as well as learning how to put up and maintain a blog on WordPress. Class members have come with mixed motives. A few of us are just looking for the fun of having a soapbox.

Blue Ridge Community College Blue Ridge Community College

With this on-going experience hovering in the background, I read a long feature in the Sunday, November 16, issue of the New York Times, headlined When Alumni Pockets are Shallow. The article centered on LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, New York, which it referred to as the most ethnically diverse college in America, one which serves 50,000 students annually. The campus consists of four buildings overlooking elevated railroad tracks, a far cry from the pastoral setting of…

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Check Out MULTIFOCAL LENS–my students’ awesome blog

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This fall I’ve been teaching a continuing education class on blogging at Blue Ridge Community College.  The experience reminds me of when I was the advisor for a creative arts journal at a girls’ boarding school–it’s so much fun to see how the different contributions come together to create a distinctive whole.

And while I have a couple of things on the blog, most of the posts are by the students.  They’ve put up some compelling, entertaining and informative pieces.

Check out MULTIFOCAL LENS.

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MY LITTLE BOOK BLOG offers a fresh perspective

Anyone who’s ventured into the big wide world of the blogosphere has probably stumbled upon tons of book review blogs.  As an author, the problem I’ve found is that most of them are either awful or they have a very narrow point of view–they only look at vampire books or smoking hot romance or Christian or historical or horror or mystery . . . .  Now I love a juicy zombie book as much as the next reader, but this situation is frustrating since The Button Collector is a book that is hard to pin down in a single genre.  It’s part short story collection, part Southern fiction, part women’s fiction, part family drama, part literary, part commercial.

That’s why I’m always excited to find a book reviewer who reads books that are simply good, compelling stories regardless of genre . . . reviewers like MY LITTLE BOOK BLOG.  I was even more excited to see my book reviewed this morning!  Head on over and see what you think: MY LITTLE BOOK BLOG’s review of The Button Collector.

MY LITTLE BOOK BLOG

MY LITTLE BOOK BLOG

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An Ode to Libraries, Part One

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The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Dear readers,

Here’s a shocker for you: new authors published by small, indie presses don’t go on big publicity tours.  We don’t have fancy ad campaigns.  And we certainly don’t make gobs of money.

Which is not to say we don’t have perks….I’m totally jazzed about the great authors who endorsed my book. I get a thrill when I see The Button Collector selling in other countries.   And I get a nice shot of warm-and-fuzzy whenever I get a call or message from a happy reader.

But my current favorite ego boost is seeing my book in our local library.  Thanks to the mysterious magic of the internet, I can click-click and view its status any time I want.

Why don’t I do that right now?

Yay!  There it is right along with War and Peace and The Odyssey.  And look at this—War and Peace isn’t checked out today.  Hmmm.  Neither is The Odyssey OR Huckleberry Finn OR Moby Dick.  But The Button Collector … oh yeah, CHECKED OUT, baby.

The library purchased my book over the summer.  It’s shelved with New Fiction and it’s pretty much been circulating since they got it (or at least since I’ve been stalking checking on it).  One time, there was even a request for it.  In other words, people were waiting in line to check out my book.

Can I get a BA-BAAM?

I’m not sure all authors get this much pleasure from seeing their books in the library.  After all, people who check out my book are not generally buying a copy, which some more materialistic, crass, and generally less noble human beings may view as a missed money-making opportunity.  But to me, knowing that my book is in the library is about the most awesome thing in the world for one simple reason.

I’m the original library fangirl.  I love everything about the library—the books, the quiet corners, the collective search for information.

In fact, I realized a little too late in life that the best career path for me would have been to become a librarian.

In fact No. 2, I did actually start a library degree program when I was pregnant with Firstborn.  Then a debilitating condition called parenting reality hit and — bam — I dropped out

In fact No. 3, I sometimes go through life pretending that I am a librarian.  I not only volunteer in my kids’ school libraries, I don’t hesitate to force suggest books to people.  This is my attempt to make up for the fact that I am not an actual librarian.

A Man Named Andrew

I believe I’ve made the case that to me, libraries are among the most wonderful inventions of mankind, right up there with penicillin and baked Cheetos.  So you can imagine the Cosmic

~~~~~~DING~~~~~~

that went off in my head last month when it was time to take Firstborn to college and I found myself at Carnegie Mellon University.  Carnegie Mellon, as in ANDREW Carnegie.  Carnegie Mellon, as in the school named after The Patron Saint of Libraries, the dude responsible for more than 1500 libraries throughout the United States.  Carnegie Mellon, as in the college that just happens to be right next door to THE MAIN Carnegie Library in the universe, the lodestar, the epicenter of all things library.

Be still, my nerd-girl heart.

And so, after dropping off Firstborn, co-parent and I visited The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  We went in through something called the Portal Entry, which, despite its cosmic name, turned out to be a side basement hallway that dumped us Alice-in-Wonderland-Style near the magazines, where we stood dazed, trying to get our bearings.

“Can I help you find anything?” a thin young man with a rad red haircut asked, seemingly accustomed to strange people popping in without a clue.

“We’ve never been here before,” I explained.  “Tell me your favorite place.”

Now, this is what I like about librarians.  A non-librarian would have said something like, “Hmmm…I’ve never really thought about it.  Why do you ask?”  But this young man didn’t skip a beat.  “Second Floor Reference Room,” he said.  “The marble staircase is nice, too.”

And so we explored and it was great…the marble staircase with its steps rounded from more than a century of use; the second floor reference room with its lamps, wooden tables, and elaborate ceiling; the crowded, slightly spooky stacks.  But even though the building was beautiful and historic and inspiring, the best part about the main Carnegie Library was the fact that it was so incredibly similar to every other library I’ve ever been in.  There were moms with strollers and pre-schoolers heading for the children’s section.  There were flyers about concerts and readings and signings.  There were people using computers and browsing magazines and checking out the latest DVDs.  The place was not a museum—it was alive.

At some point we went out through the main entrance just so we could come back in the way the designers intended.  I felt all tingly standing on the sidewalk looking up at the names of literary lions carved into the stone—CHAUCER, DICKENS, SHAKESPEARE.  Above the door, in large letters, was the phrase free to the people.

~~~~~~DING~~~~~~

Back Home

On the long drive home through the Appalachians, I thought about the impact Andrew Carnegie had made on our country.  He immigrated from Scotland as a young boy with virtually nothing  and proceeded to work his way up to become the richest man in the world.  He then gave away the vast majority of his fortune, largely to fund libraries for communities that didn’t have one.  According to a story on NPR, the man paid to build 1,689 libraries so people would have free access to information.

Holy Batman!  Talk about a superhero.  If librarians are the generals in the war on ignorance, this man must be Patton, Charlemagne, and Genghis Khan rolled into one.

Somewhere in the back of my disjointed mommy/writer brain, a little flame flickered to life. . . some foggy memory about our very own library, the library with my book in it … something about that library originally being a Carnegie library.

That couldn’t be true, could it? In the early 1900s, when Carnegie was doling out dollars, our little town’s population wasn’t much more than 2,000 people.  But when I checked the list, there it was, one of only ten Carnegie libraries in the state of North Carolina.

I went to our library’s website and found their historical timeline.  Yes indeed, in 1911 council members entered an agreement with Carnegie and on a rainy September day in 1914, our town’s very first library building opened its doors.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.

It’s September right now.

Not only that, it’s September 2014.  And while I’m not a math whiz, I’m pretty sure this means that this month marks the 100 year anniversary of our library.  That’s a whole century, which, as Joe Biden might say, is a big book-reading deal.

Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, my library is having its 100th Birthday.

And my book’s in it–

~~~~~~DING~~~~~~

###

If you too are a library fan, be sure to check back soon for An Ode to Libraries, Part Two, which will tell all about the shenanigans my hometown  library has been involved in during the past 100 years.  Read about the outrageous librarians who have served our little mountain town over the past century.  See what wildness went down at their 100th birthday bash.  You don’t want to miss it!     

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Apalachee Review on The Button Collector . . . .

Two things caught my attention this morning. One was an interview with Stephen King in which he revealed his most hated expressions, things like “some people say” and “at the end of the day.” This made me cringe a bit since I’ve been known to use such phrases on occasion.

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The other thing made me smile–discovering that The Button Collector is reviewed in issue 64 of Apalachee Review. Why does this make me happy? Because at the end of the day, my book is a bit like my third child and I like to see it get recognition. Also, some people say that Apalachee Review is one of the finest literary journals around!

But seriously (and I’m sure that one is on King’s list as well) I love to see what other people find meaningful in my book, what parts they choose to highlight. Mary Howard Trammell chose this passage as one worthy of attention: “…besides the sound of the ticking clock, is a vague feeing of unease, a restless stirring of feelings—like wolves pawing and scratching at the edge of my mind. I can almost see them lifting their noses, trying to find a scent of weakness, an angle of attack. The heaviness of night leaves me more vulnerable to them, and I can’t help but shiver as I try to shut them out.”

This isn’t the first time readers have highlighted the wolves metaphor, which I find interesting. Originally the wolves were primarily used in the final section, but in the editing process they gained strength and became a more pervasive part of the book.

Apalachee Review always has deep, gutsy, moving prose and poetry. Definitely click worthy!

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Button Flash 11: The Midway

My eleventh Button Flash features a cheerful button that reminded me of a person who always finds beauty and creativity in life, a person who enjoys seeing what each day will bring . . . a person who would stubbornly see the glass as half full even if there were just a few drops left.  The colors reminded me of a carnival, so I wrote a little character sketch based on a seamstress for a troupe of aerialists.  So here it is–a sunny flash story of 250 words written in one hour, inspired by a button from Fran H!

 The Midway

Buttons by McAnaraks

 

Sylvia had been with The Aerial Angels for ten years. It wasn’t exactly like being in the circus since they sometimes retreated to a double-wide owned by Simon’s father when there was a lull between gigs. There weren’t elephants at the small-time fairs they frequented, but often there would be a seal show or a camel ride, sometimes even baby tigers for pictures. These shortcomings weren’t enough to stop Sylvia from pretending.
There were always neon lights, loud music, cotton candy…. It was close enough.
Sylvia’s job was to take care of all the little details—cooking, cleaning, shopping, mending. . . but whenever she could, she retreated to the sewing machine in the back of the trailer and worked on costumes.
Her attention to detail was remarkable. Today she was hand painting a button with a spatter design. Simon watched as she focused on the task, taking advantage of the sun spilling through the trailer’s window, somehow filling the space with contentment and quiet even in the midst of the morning’s packing up chaos. He noticed how cheerfully and artistically her space was arranged.
He sighed, wondering what she would do now.
“Sylvia,” he said again. “Last night was our last show. Forever. You understand, right?”
She smiled at him. Silly man. Of course she understood, but why worry when better things could be on the horizon? They always were. Maybe a real circus this time.
She dipped her paintbrush back in the paint and kept on painting.

~~~

Do you have a button with a story waiting to be told?  Email an image of it to ej@elizabethjennings.com and I’ll do the rest.  Click here for details and for a great summer reading idea, don’t forget to check out my book, The Button Collector.

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A Day on the Swamp Rabbit

Earlier this year I did a story for our local paper about The Swamp Rabbit, a rails-to-trails project in Upstate South Carolina.  The original railroad was a short line used for various industrial purposes in the former mill town of Greenville, but after decades of abandonment followed by seven years of activism and community building, it was transformed into a jewel of a greenway for walkers, bikers, runners and more.

 

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My newspaper story focused on the history and economic impact of the trail, but as preparation for writing, my two traveling companions and I spent a beautiful spring Saturday exploring it for ourselves.  Even though it has nothing to do with buttons or writing per se, the experience was so positive and hopeful, I thought I’d share the story of our day here on my blog.  Continue reading

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