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#MHYALit: Puzzling Through Teen Mental Health, a conversation with Emily Franklin and H.A. Swain

MHYALitlogoofficfialHA SWAIN: I love how Last Night at the Circle Cinema is constructed as a big puzzle in which you expertly lay down clues for the reader. It’s the kind of book you finish and then need to start again immediately to figure out everything you missed on the first read. Understanding one’s own mental health (or that of a friend’s) can feel equally puzzling, especially because life isn’t a story you can reread. Was this set up a conscious decision on your part as a way to comment on mental health?


Emily Franklin: Yes, this book is about muddling through the puzzle of life. How often do we have clarity on our feelings? It’s tough to recognize a tough day versus a really tough stretch, or to translate this into a needing help situation. Therapy and talking to an empathetic listener really can help untangle strands of stress or unhappiness, not only to make change in our lives but just to unload. But our society still has such negative feelings and stigma with mental health which then creates tension about asking direct questions. We wouldn’t hesitate to ask a friend how their broken leg is healing, but it feels tougher to ask if they are struggling with depression or grief. Issues without clear solutions or quick fixes are sometimes uncomfortable for humans to muddle through.


HA SWAIN: I really appreciated that you never explicitly state that Bertucci struggles with a diagnosed mental illness. Was that a conscious choice and if so, why?


last nightEmily Franklin: I don’t know that I ever sat at my desk and thought, you know, I just won’t say anything direct about this. The whole book is a puzzle, as you said, and part of the puzzle for all of us is figuring out the pieces of ourselves and how they fit with our world. Also how our friendships fit together and how even close friends have secrets or hide parts of themselves. And I think there’s an over-statement thing that can happen in fiction – both YA and adult – and I’m more a fan of quiet.


HA SWAIN: How much do you think Codman and Livvy understood about Bertucci’s situation? And what advice would you give to young adults who are watching a friend struggle with mental health issues?


Emily Franklin: I think Codman and Livvy – especially Livvy as she grew closer to Bertucci and helped care for his mother with him – were aware of his illness. At first they probably thought he moved in extremes but they liked his grandiose ideas and pranks, his energy. But I think Livvy knew he was unwell and certainly knew he’d stopped taking his meds. But like many close friends, she didn’t feel able to confront him about this, mainly because she hoped he’d be okay and also because it is easy to feel as though we are intruding in terms of mental health. I’ve learned as an adult that I will risk a friendship or relationship to ask if someone needs help or to speak up, but these actions are not risk-free. It’s even harder for teens to do because it’s a learned skill that we don’t teach.


HA SWAIN: I love how Bertucci is not defined by a diagnosis. He’s not just “the depressed guy” or “the bipolar guy.” Like any real person, he’s a wonderful conglomeration of character traits, some which make him incredibly interesting, enigmatic, fun, and endearing and others that are deeply troubling. What’s the importance of creating nuanced, realistic portraits of teens who have mental health issues?


Emily Franklin: When I set out to write this novel, I was coming out of the darkest period in my own life. One of my kids had been in the hospital and my dear grandfather had died, leaving a big hole in my heart. The thing is, I was still me. I was sad and depressed and yet I still cooked and helped my friends and did homework with my other kids and made weird jokes. But my best friend in the world knew I was only half-myself. So as I wrote CIRCLE I really had in mind the selves we present to the outside world, the self we show to the mirror, the self we share with our partners and this self we reserve really and truly for our best friend. I think Livvy and Codman and Bertucci are whole, nuanced people because I didn’t want make one the anxious guy and one the stressed girl and one the plagued kid. They are all entwined and, for Bertucci, I wanted him to straddle the line between inventive, brilliant, and wacky on one hand and unbalanced on the other.


HA SWAIN: We’ve talked a lot about Bertucci’s mental health, but let’s chat about Livvy and Codman. So many teens struggle with undiagnosed mental health issues at different times in their lives. How would you support a teen like Livvy who may be struggling with her own anxiety or dealing with a friend who’s going through a hard time?


Emily Franklin: I think Codman uses humor to gloss over his feelings – something I’ve certainly done. And Livvy is pretty stressed – her parents are about to separate and using her as their go-between. She’s a high-achieving person and probably spends more time taking care of others rather than herself. Livvy needs to be able to talk about her feelings – and I think she and Codman finally do in their confrontation at the end of the book. But I also chose to have these missed connections between Livvy, Codman, and Bertucci as well as their parents because it felt real. So often we WANT to speak or to connect but we hold off, and the moment is gone. In this case, to tragic consequence. With my own kids, we urge open communication, and to have this there has to be no judgment. I think a lot of parents are so afraid of what they might find by asking their kids deep questions that they say nothing and hope for the best. 


HA SWAIN: So true! And yet, even though we hear so much about the importance of talking to teens about mental health, you had a hard time placing this novel with a publisher because many of them felt the story was too dark. What does that say about society’s level of comfort of talking openly about mental health, especially with young adults?


Emily Franklin: If I had a dollar for every time I had to read a rejection letter from an editor saying they loved my writing but wished my subject matter could be lighter…well, I’d have a lot of dollars. Carolrhoda is great because they take risks and Andrew Karre, my editor, immediately recognized the triangular friendship and the darkness being balanced with humor and love. As a society, we like to think of childhood as trouble-free. So it’s tough when issues arise – either from circumstance or biology or both. Being a human is a beautiful, difficult thing and we all need supports— young adults especially. Asking for things to be “easier and lighter” as these editors asked (one actually cried at the end and yet still asked me to make it “less sad”) is a fantasy. Not that every day or every page contains within it such heartbreak, but we can’t dismiss the pain or feelings just wishing it away. We have to acknowledge and accept. Sometimes, just getting it out there – to a reader, a therapist, or a best friend or a stranger on the bus – can make all the difference.


About Last Night at the Circle Cinema (Lerner, 2015)

Olivia, Bertucci, and Codman are a trio-an impenetrable triangle of friendship. Beyond friendship, they share a love of the Circle Cinema, a once thriving movie theater now facing the wrecking ball, about to be forgotten forever-which is, as far as Olivia and Codman can tell, what’s going to happen to them after graduation.

Bertucci convinces Olivia and Codman to spend their last night before graduation locked inside the Cinema’s concrete walls. None of them can open the box before sunrise. The trio is then forced to face each other, the events of the past year, and whatever is to come when the new day dawns.


Credit: Lou Rouse

Credit: Lou Rouse

Emily Franklin is the author of a novel, Liner Notes and a story collection, The Girls’ Almanac. She is also the author of sixteen young adult books including Last Night at the Circle Cinema, selected by the American Association of Jewish Libraries as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2016, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and an ALAN Pick. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio and in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and in numerous literary magazines. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and four children and is at work completing a new novel and another story collection.



autor-close-upH.A. Swain writes books for children and teens. She is the author of the young adult novels Gifted and Hungry. Her illustrated children’s book, All Kinds of Kisses and How Many Hugs will be published in 2016 and 2017. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her @HeatherASwain or stop by her Facebook fan page to say Hi!

Middle School Monday: Embracing our Book-ishness.


Last week, I wrote something review-ish. It was frankly more of an ode to a book than a review of one and I am happy to own that fervent love of a book. I’m also proud to own (and advertise) the consuming love I have for MG and YA books in general.

It was striking that several times last week, I came face-to-face with the idea that school librarians today don’t really know a lot about books—aren’t really expected to know a lot about books. That we are primarily focused on technology—either integration or fixing equipment.

An aside: Surely this started when we started calling ourselves media specialists? Anyone else cringe at that term? It sounds like we work at a big-box TV store. Even worse, it doesn’t connect what we do to the public libraries that our students can visit for their entire lives and the academic librarians that they will encounter when they go to college. I am a LIBRARIAN. I work in a LIBRARY. That library is housed in a school. Yes, of course, we deal with technologyjust like our fellow librarians in other library settings.

That was a long aside. Back to the story. In several, separate incidents, fellow educators expressed surprise that youth literature was a huge part of my life or thought that I was unique in our profession. Why is that surprising? When—as school librarians—did it get less obvious that we love and know books?

Another aside: I know several wonderful school librarians who freely admit that books are not why they became a school librarian. They are more focused on access to information or the excitement of good research. That’s awesome, too! A major plus of the school librarian role is that it can look different for each of us.

But, I know, I know that there are many of us who are here because, for us, kids/teens + books = paradise. I’m beginning to think that perhaps we make this obvious in our individual interactions with teens, but that when we are speaking to staff—because of the role that many of us find ourselves in—we are passing on information about technology, copyright laws, equipment purchases, software fixes, and a million other things that aren’t literacy, books, or reading. Our love of books is getting lost under all the other information we’re distributing. Have people forgotten that we know books? That we are focused on reading, engagement, and literacy?

What’s the fix? Just as we advocate for our libraries and ourselves, I think we also have to make our ‘book-ishness’—and our knowledge about literature and literacy—more public. Not just with our teens or a few colleagues, but throughout the school.

I’d love to hear how you are a public beacon for reading at your school—not with your students, but with your colleagues. :) Do you have a teacher/staff book club? Do you do (novel) book talks at staff meetings?

Would anyone like to write a review—or even an ode—to an ‘under the radar’ book? I’d love to publish some on this blog. You can then link to your review on your library website or school newsletter and advertise in your school. You know. To show off your ‘bookish-ness’. And expertise.

[I’m serious about the reviews. Contact me at @BespokeLib if interested!]

Julie Stivers


Tech Talk: The Ongoing Quest for iPad/iPhone Printing, Or, How I Fell in Love with a Printing App

At home and in my Teen MakerSpace, I find myself on an endless quest to figure out how to print from a mobile device like a tablet or smart phone. This is particularly true when it comes to Instagram pics. For a while I was quite happy using an app called Print Your Insta, but when Instagram updated the app was no longer compatible. Thus began a new quest for wifi printing options. My quest was arduous, but I managed to find an even better app that opened my world to new possibilities.

The Wireless Printing Service

If you work in a public library, the most reasonable suggestion is to use a wireless printing host, such as PrinterOn. One of the library’s that I worked at used this service and it worked fine for us (most of the time). It can have some issues, especially if you have an IT department who is concerned with security issues. This service can be open to the public, which is great for patrons who bring their own devices and need to print.

For something like a Teen MakerSpace, you do not need to have an open wifi printing network, you just need a wireless compatible printer. Sometimes these are called AirPrinters. Whatever they are called, they allow you to send a print job over a wifi network.

The Polaroid ZIP Printer

You can also buy and use something like a Zip printer if you have a small Teen MakerSpace, like I do. The device itself works fine, but the paper is expensive – and small. It’s great for doing something like a remote photo booth and printing off quick pics to send home with your teens, but not ideal for a long term situation.


The Print to Size App


Even with a wireless printer, Instagram is not set up to print. It’s one of the main flaws with the app in my opinion. So you have to use a printing app to get your Instagram pic from your device to a printer. Some of the various apps I have tried include HP Snapchats, PhotoPrint LT, and Print to Size.

The best app I have found is an app called Print to Size, which appears only to be available for Apple products (sorry). It allows you to pick your paper size, easily drag and size your pictures, and to place multiple pictures on one sheet of paper. It’s quick, easy and incredibly versatile. You do have to have a wifi/airprint printer to use your mobile device to print over a wifi network. This app is not just great for printing your Instagram pics, it is a one stop app for all your photo printing needs.

Insert and size your image

Insert and size your image

You can then send your image to the printer or export it as a PDF or JPG

You can then send your image to the printer or export it as a PDF or JPG

You can easily print your Instagram pics at a 3.5 x 3.5 size on a 4×6 sheet of paper, trim the edges, and have an old fashioned looking Polaroid picture.

Print, trim & make a classic looking Polaroid image

Print, trim & make a classic looking Polaroid image

You can print in a variety of sizes or make your own collages

You can print in a variety of sizes or make your own collages

This quest has also served as a great reminder to me that sometimes it is a good idea to go out and try new things even if you think you are happy with what you have. I loved my Print to Insta app, but it only allowed me to print my Instagram pics. Now I can print any of my pics, in any size that I want. Being forced to try something new helped me find a better product.


justagirlDuring the 3rd and final debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump called Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman”. Many women have remarked that this is the sexism that powerful women face on a daily basis. If being a strong, confident and powerful woman makes you a “nasty woman”, what YA lit books would a “nasty woman” read I wondered. So I asked my friends on Twitter. So here is a list of recommended YA lit titles for “nasty women” to read. You can add your own recommendations in the comments.

nastywomenread book list

Friday Finds: October 21, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Win 5 from Merit Press

Middle School Monday: A Review. Of a Book. That is Fire.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Spring 2017 Showcase and Giveaway

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Dealing with Minors and Pornography

NerdCon: Stories 2016

Video Games 101: What you need to know about Lego Dimensions

Privacy in the Digital Age, A Look at IN CASE YOU MISSED IT by author Sarah Darer Littman

Around the Web

American Academy Of Pediatrics Lifts ‘No Screens Under 2′ Rule

Texas May Be Denying Tens Of Thousands Of Children Special Education

Montana Judge Faces Call For Impeachment After Incest Sentencing

Teen Suicide Prevention Efforts

Gugu Mbatha-Raw Joins Ava DuVernay’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Agree to Disagree


Privacy in the Digital Age, A Look at IN CASE YOU MISSED IT by author Sarah Darer Littman

What if you kept a diary and suddenly everyone could read what you had said in private? That’s the question posed in IN CASE YOU MISSED IT by author Sarah Darer Littman. Today she is here to talk about her latest book and the idea of privacy in an increasingly open and online world.


Did you ever keep a journal in middle school or high school? My teen diaries provide a wealth of humor, insight, and sometimes, deep embarrassment when I read back on them through the lens of longer life experience.

Even now, the thought of those journals being made public in anything other than a deeply disguised fictional form is mortifying.

My teen diaries were hand written, but even though I tried to hide them, they were vulnerable to discovery by my siblings and parents.  Those discoveries had negative consequences, but nothing like what happens to Sammy Wallach, the main character in my latest YA novel, IN CASE YOU MISSED IT.

Sammy thinks she’s being smart by keeping her journal on her laptop, so her parents and little brother RJ can’t read it. What she forgets is that her laptop is set to automatically back up to the cloud. Her most private thoughts become public as “collateral damage” when hacktivists target her father, the CEO of a major bank. Sammy has been keeping secrets from her parents – but they’ve got secrets of their own. When everything becomes public, can they all learn to trust again?

One thing for which I’ve become increasingly grateful as I’ve watched my kids grow up in the Internet age is that I was able to make all the many, many mistakes I did in relative privacy.  Most of my worst offenses are hazy memories in the heads of middle school and high school friends. I didn’t have to worry about them being  documented on social media.

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that a great proportion of adults have difficulty with using social media responsibly.  Yet we put this technology in the hands of younger and younger kids, whose frontal cortexes (the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps with rational decision making) haven’t fully matured and developed, and we expect them to behave in a way many adults still have been unable to master and model.

As with all of my books, I hope IN CASE YOU MISSED IT helps to start some conversations, especially about online privacy and personal responsibility in the social media era.

Publisher’s Book Description

Everyone has secrets—until they go viral.

Sammy Wallach has epic plans for the end of junior year: Sneak out to the city to see her favorite band. Get crush-worthy Jamie Moss to ask her to prom. Rock all exams (APs and driver’s).

With a few white lies, some killer flirting, and tons of practice, Sammy’s got things covered. That is, until the international bank her dad works for is attacked by hacktivists who manage to steal everything in the Wallach family’s private cloud, including Sammy’s entire digital life. Literally the whole world has access to her emails, texts, photos, and, worst of all, journal.

Life. Is. Over.

Now Sammy’s best friends are furious about things she wrote, Jamie thinks she’s desperate, and she can barely show her face at school. Plus, her parents know all the rules she broke. But Sammy’s not the only one with secrets—her family has a few of its own that could change everything. And while the truth might set you free, no one said it was going to be painless. Or in Sammy’s case, private. (Scholastic, October 11, 2016)

About Sarah  Darer Littman

Sarah Darer Littman is the award-winning author of CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, PURGE, LIFE, AFTER, WANT TO GO PRIVATE? and the upcoming CHARMED, I’M SURE and IN CASE YOU MISSED IT. In addition to writing for teens, she is a columnist the website She lives in Connecticut, in a house that never seems to have enough bookshelves.Tweeters follow Sarah @SarahDarerLitt

Video Games 101: What you need to know about Lego Dimensions

Lego Dimensions is the first toys-to-life video game of its genre.  It is also one of the coolest video games that combines popular fandoms all into one video game. I mean, just look at this list!


Sounds cool right? Before your library jumps on this bandwagon, you need to know a few things.


Platforms: PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Single or Multiplayer: Both but only up to 2 players at a time

What is this game about?  The plot begins with an evil villain Lord Vortech and his robot sidekick X-PO trying to find the “foundation elements”, known as the cornerstones of time and space that can merge all of the different universes [franchises] together under his control.  Each foundation element is the trademark of each universe, like The One Ring from Lord of the Rings.  Players simply save the universe by defeating Lord Vortech with Batman, WyldeStyle, and Gandalf the Grey.

The game is a typical Lego game in terms of gameplay, but what makes it great is the ridiculousness of the plot/pop culture references.  Right in the beginning of the storyline, players have to navigate around The Land of Oz with Batman, Gandalf, and WyldStyle trying to find Robin and Frodo.  The game makes sure every Lego character keeps in character, and it’s almost like watching a fun new Lego movie as they navigate areas that exist outside of their own fictional world.



What are the Legos used for?  Lego Dimensions is unique in how players have to build and customize Lego structures in real life, and then scan them into the game.  First, players have to construct the portal that will be used for the whole game.  The portal’s platform is where players construct and scan in different Lego figurines, which can either be characters or items. For example, early on in the game players have to build a Batmobile out of Legos, and then scan the Batmobile with the platform on the bottom.  Technically, the figures don’t need to be built.  All you really need is the platform scanner, but what fun is that?


Unlike Nintendo’s amiibos, the Lego portal is used in order for players to progress in the game.  Players have to use problem solving skills to figure out which area a certain character needs to be scanned on the portal, and they will then appear in the game.  Basically, players will be interacting a lot with the physical Lego portal, adding a really cool new gameplay element to the video gaming world.


Expansions Packs: Players can purchase expansion packs that range from new characters, story packs, to level packs and fun items.  If you’re considering purchasing Lego Dimensions, you’ll have to consider buying expansion packs in order to keep the game popular.  The starter kit will give you about 10 or so hours of gameplay, and I guarantee people will want to purchase their favorite fandom expansion packs.


Should libraries buy this for circulation collections? As of right now, I am going to say no.  The issue is how the game relies on having an in-tack Lego portal, as well as all of the figurine scanners.  If one piece goes missing, then players cannot progress in the game and right now there isn’t a way to purchase replacement parts.  My other concern is the game’s availability on FIVE different platforms, and you cannot try to crossover a Wii U kit with a PlayStation 4 kit because for the sake of fairness, libraries would have to purchase multiple kits, catalog them as kits, and constantly check them at circ to see if they have all of their pieces.  It’s simply too much work for my library system, but if you’re willing to try it, let me know how it goes!


Should libraries buy this for Teen Game Night Programs? My library did, and we just set it out for the first time last week.  One teen somehow exploded our Batmobile, so little pieces went flying everywhere and he had to clean them up.  But, they did like the game, and many sat or stood behind our two players to watch.  I’m going to wait a few more weeks before I give a definitive yes or no for Teen Game Night programs, and I’m also curious to see if teens will beg us to buy expansion packs.


Price: $80 original price but often on sale on Amazon

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

NerdCon: Stories 2016

img_1492I had the good fortune to attend NerdCon: Stories 2016 October 14th and 15th in Minneapolis, just a handful of miles from my house. This year, they opened programming up to attendee-led sessions. I presented on Friday morning on Mental Health in Young Adult Literature. More on that later.


The convention was an absolute blast and, if there is a convention next year (you can read this piece about why NerdCon really needs to happen again), you should really go if you can. I left feeling absolutely inspired (and exhausted—for an introvert, it was a lot of extroverting). My face hurt from laughing so much. I’m going to give you a rundown of who I saw/what they were presenting on so you can see just how wide a range of great people were there. For more on what the agenda included, hop on over to their website.


I attended the following sessions:

Friday morning variety show

Hosted by Dessa Darling and Darin Ross
– A welcome video from Hank
– Poetry by Rachel Kann
– A reading by Saladin Ahmed
– A reading scored live by Daniel José Older and Kevin MacLeod
– Juvenilia read by Cindy Pon, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paul DeGeorge
– A talk by Julián Gómez
– Leslie Datsis and Patricia Wheeler in conversation
– A talk by Kate Rudd


Self-promotion: Getting the Word Out with John Scalzi, MariNaomi, Saladin Ahmed, Joe DeGeorge, and Zak Sally

Lightning Panels with Storm DiCostanzo, Paolo Bacigalupi, Wesley Chu, Joe DeGeorge, and Mary Robinette Kowal

Afternoon variety show

Hosted by Jenn Bane and Sandeep Parikh
– A talk by M.T. Anderson
– A performance by Dessa
– A reading by Cindy Pon
– A talk by John Scalzi
– Stagecraft: Tips, Tricks, & Cheats by Rives
– A talk by Saladin Ahmed
– Paul Sabourin and John Scalzi in conversation
– A talk by Katrina Ostrander
– A live comic reading by MariNaomi


A librarian and library enthusiast meet-up

Superfight (From the program description: Superfight is a card game that’s all about arguing your way through ridiculous fights. Players are given cards with choices of characters and attributes to use to create their fighter, then must convince everyone else why they would win in a fight against another player’s fighter. But not all of the attributes are good, and not all of the characters are strong, so imagination, persuasion, and storytelling skills will be your real weapons in most fights. Watch these masters of storytelling battle it out to see who can spin the better fighting yarn!) With Darin Ross, Karen Hallion, Sean Kelley, John Scalzi, and Mary Robinette Kowal


Saturday Morning Variety Show

Hosted by Liz Hara and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph


– A talk by Patricia Wheeler

– A performance by Rives

– A talk by Storm DiCostanzo

– A talk by Mikki Kendall

– Patrick Rothfuss and Wesley Chu in conversation

– A talk by John Darnielle

– A reading by Ben Acker

– Who Killed Hank Green? – a puppet murder mystery written by Mary Robinette Kowal, featuring Eli Mandel, Kate Rudd, Keef Cross, Liz Hara, Mikki Kendall, Saladin Ahmed, and M.T. Anderson


The Moral Responsibility of the Storyteller (From the program: We’re back with this panel for a second year! Books are banned and movies are rated with the understanding that information, ideas, and narratives are occasionally dangerous. What responsibility, if any, do storytellers have to their audiences? Is it hubris to assume a narrative can influence people at all? Join us for discussion, friendly disagreement, and potential descent into an ethical quagmire from which we may not emerge unscathed.) With Leslie Datsis, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Sydney Freeland, MT Anderson, and Max Temkin


Storytelling in Tabletop Games (From the program: Role-playing and other tabletop games are a fantastic catalyst for collaborative storytelling. Creating narrative frameworks and game rules that allow players to have enough control over both story and interaction can be a tricky business. How do game designers do this, and what makes a game truly great?)  With Jonathan Ying, John Darnielle, Karen Hallion, Katrina Ostrander, Darin Ross, and Michael R. Underwood.


A Whole New World (From the program: Worlds that are not ours — how do we make them real and believable? Authors’ imaginations and skills with the written word have created some of the most incredible, scary, shocking, and fascinating worlds in literature and other mediums. Learn about the art of worldbuilding from these creators of universes.) With Paolo Bacigalupi, Ben Acker, Nalo Hopkinson, Daniel José Older, Katrina Ostrander, and MT Anderson.


Afternoon Variety Show

Hosted by Paul & Storm


– A rapid-fire Q&A with Chris Rathjen, Eileen Cook, Joe DeGeorge, Jonathan Ying, Karen Hallion, Kevin MacLeod, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paolo Bacigalupi

– Daniel José Older and Nalo Hopkinson in conversation

– Ms. Pacman vs the Patriarchy – a talk by Paul DeGeorge

– A reading by Michael R. Underwood

– A lip sync battle with Blue Delliquanti, John Scalzi, Paul Sabourin, Matt Young, Mikki Kendall, and Darin Ross

– A talk by John Green (Please, please, please go read John’s talk about mental illness and creativity)


Breaking Into Publishing (From the program: You’ve got a story to tell, a poem to share, an essay to change the world. But how do you get it OUT THERE? How do you break into publishing? These panelists–traditionally published and indy authors, paper and digital–will talk briefly about how they broke into publishing and will answer questions from audience members about how publishing works today.) Michele Bacon, Steve Brezenoff, Kate Gorman, H.M. Bouwman, Katie Kennedy, May Lee-Yang, Chris Santiago, and Sal Pane.


img_1459My presentation on Mental Health in YA Lit was well attended. My room was set up to hold 100. There were at least 150 people there by the time I started talking. Every inch of space was taken up. It was an amazing turnout. I talked about how our project originated, where to find the archives, who has contributed, and why we chose to focus 2016 on this important topic. I talked about my own experiences as an undiagnosed/untreated/unmedicated teenager. I went over the shocking statistics that drive home the point of just how important open dialogues and awareness about mental health are.




img_1467I spent a little time talking about my path to treatment, my teenage self, my experiences raising a child with anxiety, and how far YA literature has come in its depictions of mental health issues. I read from a few recent YA books and then spent the remainder of the hour reading excerpts from posts from our #MHYALit project. Afterwards, I had so many people come up to me to share their stories or reinforce how important this topic is—librarians, writers, mental health professionals, teenagers, and parents all waited to talk with me. It was amazing.



img_1466While I tried to make my way through my line, all of a sudden a reporter from KARE 11 was sticking a mic on me and saying, “I filmed your presentation–really cool. Talk about it, but don’t look at me! Go ahead!” Um… so, as someone with fairly debilitating anxiety who just got done doing a thing that made me fairly anxious, I wasn’t *exactly* ready to be coherent enough to be filmed. But film she did. I watched the bit last night through my fingers and, while I don’t like watching/listening to myself, I am so happy they chose to share my presentation with a wider audience. You can go here to see that bit from the news.  It helped having the smiling faces of TLTer Heather, author friend Michele Bacon, and my husband, Matthew, all in the front row. I was glad to be included in the convention and glad when my part of it was over with! For more on NerdCon, check out the hashtag #nerdconstories on Twitter and their own Twitter account. It was a blast to see so many friends and sit in on so many wonderful discussions. Hope to see everyone again in 2017!


Here are some details from my presentation. An awful lot of it was just me talking.























Things I Never Learned in Library School: Dealing with Minors and Pornography

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolDoes your library have a plan for what to do in case a patron is caught viewing child pornography on your public computers? What about if you suspect that a child or teen in your library is being subjected to pornography, such as receiving nude pics?

In my library career, I have had a couple of extreme instances that I have had to deal with. In one, we caught a patron using our public computers to search for and view child pornography. In the other, we learned that an adult was sending inappropriate pictures to one of our teens. Here’s what I’ve learned from the police and legal counsel about dealing with these situations. Please note, this is not legal advice.

Both incidents occurred in different libraries and we were told both times that we were not only right to call and report the criminal activity, but that there would be severe consequences for us had we not (Duty to Report Suspected Child Abuse Under 42 U.S.C. § 13031). Those statements have always stayed with me. To be honest, I wasn’t clear what to do because I never imagined being in these type of situations. So I’m sharing with you what I have learned in order to help you better prepare. Although to be honest, I hope that you never have to face a situation like this if you already haven’t. If you have additional thoughts or experience, please share them in the comments. And again, let me stress, this is not legal advice, I’m just sharing with you what I was told and what I have learned.

1. You need to have a plan and train staff BEFORE something happens

Our staff made several missteps along the way because we didn’t know what we should do. Both times we went back and formulated policies and trained staff, but it would have been better for everyone involved if we had already done this. In order to create your policies and plans, consult with your local police and legal counsel. Know what your legal obligations are.

2. Know that pornography involving minors is a crime and you are legally obligated to report

This is not the same as being a mandated reporter. This is about being aware of criminal activity and failing to report. And since your library devices are used for the transaction of criminal activity, you can become complicit if you fail to report. Not only is pornography involving minors against the law, but it is my understanding that so is viewing pornography with minors or sending/receiving pornography to and from minors. But I can not stress it enough, talk to your local legal counsel to help staff better understand what is illegal activity and what to do about it.

Citizen’s Guide To U.S. Federal Law On Child Pornography

3. Preserve the evidence

It’s uncomfortable, but staff needs to preserve the evidence. This means taking screen caps, printing pictures, etc. If you can, unplug the device and remove it from the public so that the police can investigate it. Do not log out of any accounts if it can be avoided.

4. Have staff fill out a detailed incident report ASAP

The police will show up pretty promptly, but you’ll want to make sure that you have as much detail as you can to give to the police. You’ll have to make sure and understand your state’s privacy laws and incorporate that into your policy and staff training, but there are often exceptions in the laws regarding criminal activity.

Defining Child Pornography | Stop It Now

5. Take detailed notes during the process

Get the name of any reporting officers. Ask for case numbers. Keep in contact with your library’s legal counsel.

6. Advise staff on how to talk with the public/press

Should the information get out into the public, you’ll want to make sure and advise staff in how to handle the situation. Give staff a scripted response that basically says, “You’ll have to talk to our library director about this.” Let them know that they should avoid talking with other patrons or the press about the situation. Also, you’ll want to remind staff not to talk about the situation in a public space where patrons can overhear. Your goal here is to protect any victims, prevent misinformation from getting out, and to prevent staff from making any statements that can be misconstrued and garner negative PR for the library. And again, your goal is also to keep the library free from any legal issues.

Sexting & Child Pornography Laws in the United States


After you have written a comprehensive policy and procedure on what to do in the event of pornography involving children, train your staff on how to implement it. Have all staff and department meetings, especially for those departments that work directly with children on a regular basis. Make sure all staff understands what to do, who to contact, and when in the case of suspected pornography involving children. For example, do you want staff to contact their immediate supervisor or call the police themselves? That should be made clear. I think that in this type of scenario you always want to make sure the director is contacted ASAP, this should also be made clear.

8. Invite the police and your legal counsel to come train your staff

Get the people who deal with these situations on a more regular basis to come do the training and answer any questions. They best can explain the law and your library’s legal obligations. And I can’t say it enough, train your staff.

Guidelines and Considerations for Developing a Public Library Internet Policy | ALA

9. If you have an incident, do a postmortem

If you have an incident, meet with staff to make sure that all of the steps in your policy and procedures manual were followed. Also, use this as an opportunity to clarify any questions and refine your policies and procedures.

10. Know that you may never know what happens after the fact

In the case of the minor who had been sent pornographic images from an adult, there was not follow up with the library. We reported it to all the appropriate authorities and then we just had to trust that they were doing what needed to be done. Because of privacy issues, they don’t really come back to you and say x, y and z happened. In the case of the patron caught viewing child pornography, they had enough evidence that the library wasn’t really involved.

I will be honest, it is scary and stressful when this happens. And I definitely hope it never happens again. But having policies and procedures and a well trained staff in place can help staff should a situation occur. And although I’ve mentioned that this isn’t legal advice (seriously, I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice), I do want to give you this one piece of advice: don’t wait until it happens to figure out what you’re supposed to do.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Spring 2017 Showcase and Giveaway

img_1097Beyond the people I work with and the people this blog has led me to get to know, by far the best aspect of blogging for TLT is the constant influx of books. All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.

Today I’m sharing with you a few titles from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Spring 2017 list. All annotations are from the publisher. They have kindly offered to do a giveaway with us. They are offering 2 copies of Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik and 2 copies of The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks to our readers. Enter via the Rafflecopter between now and October 23rd. Winners will be notified via email. US entries only, please. Winners will win one book.



dog-caveA Dog in the Cave: Coevolution and the Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg (ISBN-13: 9780544286566 Publisher :Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/14/2017)

We know dogs are our best animal friends, but have you ever thought about what that might mean?

Fossils show we’ve shared our work and homes with dogs for tens of thousands of years. Now there’s growing evidence that we influenced dogs’ evolution—and they, in turn, changed ours. Even more than our closest relatives, the apes, dogs are the species with whom we communicate best.

Combining history, paleontology, biology, and cutting-edge medical science, Kay Frydenborg paints a picture of how two different species became deeply entwined—and how we coevolved into the species we are today.

bullBull by David Elliott (ISBN-13: 9780544610606 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/28/2017)


I think you may have heard of me,
but might not know my name:
Half man.
Half bull.
Ruler of the Stars (in younger days),
Monster of the Maze . . .

Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology’s most infamous monsters.


gone-campingGone Camping: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger (ISBN-13: 9780544638730 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/28/2017)

Hiking in the great outdoors, catching fish, watching the stars come out at night—camping is fun. Until it’s time to sleep. Then, Lucy wonders, what kinds of creatures lurk in the dark? With only her brother and grandpa as tent-mates, will Lucy be able to face her camping fears?

Filled with a variety of poetic forms—from aubade to haiku—as well as exuberant art and helpful writing tips about rhyme and rhythm, this entertaining companion to the award-winning Gone Fishing is packed with family humor and adventure. So grab a flashlight and get settled in to experience the joy of campfires, s’mores, and storytelling!



things-i-shouldThings I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik (ISBN-13: 9780544829695 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/28/2017)

From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy. Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.



definitionsDefinitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor (ISBN-13: 9780544805040 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 04/04/2017)

Reggie isn’t really a romantic: she’s been hurt too often, and doesn’t let people in as a rule. Plus, when you’re dealing with the Three Stages of Depression, it’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy. When Reggie meets Snake, though, he doesn’t give her much of a choice. Snake has a neck tattoo, a Twizzler habit, and a fair share of arrogance, but he’s funny, charming, and interested in Reggie.

Snake also has an ex-girlfriend who’s seven months pregnant. Good thing Reggie isn’t a romantic.

Definitions of Indefinable Things follows three teens as they struggle to comprehend love, friendship, and depression—and realize one definition doesn’t always
cover it.


journeyJourney Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst (ISBN-13: 9780544706798 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 04/04/2017)

The traditional Emperor’s Journey is meant to be uneventful. But as the princesses Seika and Ji-Lin—twin sisters—travel to pay respects to their kingdom’s dragon guardian, unexpected monsters appear and tremors shake the earth. The Hidden Islands face unprecedented threats, and the old rituals are failing. With only their strength, ingenuity, and flying lion to rely on, can the sisters find a new way to keep their people safe?





year-ofThe Year of the Garden by Andrea Cheng (ISBN-13: 9780544664449 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date:04/11/2017 Series: Anna Wang Series , #5)

When Anna is gifted a copy of The Secret Garden, it inspires her to follow her dreams—maybe she can plant ivy and purple crocuses and the birds will come. Or maybe what grows from her dream of a garden is even better: friendship. And friendship, like a garden, often has a mind of its own.
In this prequel to The Year of the Book, join Anna in a year of discovery, new beginnings, friendships, and growth.




how-to-makeHow to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (ISBN-13: 978-0544815193 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 05/02/2017)

Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.

One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again.
How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.



unicornThe Unicorn in the Barn Hardcover by Jacqueline Ogburn (Author), Rebecca Green (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 978-0544761124 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 07/04/2017)

For years people have claimed to see a mysterious white deer in the woods around Chinaberry Creek. It always gets away.

One evening, Eric Harper thinks he spots it. But a deer doesn’t have a coat that shimmers like a pearl. And a deer certainly isn’t born with an ivory horn curling from its forehead.
When Eric discovers the unicorn is hurt and being taken care of by the vet next door and her daughter, Allegra, his life is transformed.
A tender tale of love, loss, and the connections we make, The Unicorn in the Barn shows us that sometimes ordinary life takes extraordinary turns.



witchtownWitchtown Hardcover by Cory Putman Oakes (ISBN-13: 978-0544765573 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 07/18/2017)

When sixteen-year-old Macie O’Sullivan and her masterfully manipulative mother Aubra arrive at the gates of Witchtown—the most famous and mysterious witch-only haven in the world—they have one goal in mind: to rob it for all it’s worth.
But that plan derails when Macie and Aubra start to dig deeper into Witchtown’s history and uncover that there is more to the quirky haven than meets the eye.
Exploring the haven by herself, Macie finds that secrets are worth more than money in Witchtown.
Secrets have their own power.


van-goghThe Van Gogh Deception Hardcover by Deron R. Hicks (ISBN-13: 978-0544759275 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 08/29/2017)

Dan Brown meets Jason Bourne in this riveting middle-grade mystery thriller. When a young boy is discovered in Washington DC’s National Gallery without any recollection of who he is, so begins a high-stakes race to unravel the greatest mystery of all: his identity.

As the stakes continue to rise, the boy must piece together the disjointed clues of his origins while using his limited knowledge to stop one of the greatest art frauds ever attempted. Digitally interactive, this breathtaking museum mystery offers QR codes woven throughout the book that bring renowned paintings to readers’ fingertips.