Lack of fREADom Sucks…No More Banned #Books

21st Centuryville

Sept.27th -Oct 3rd 2015 is Banned Books Week and this year I’ve been lucky to have an interview with senior librarian of 21stCenturyville, Ms. Viva Libriani.

Viva Libriani, head librarian of 21stCenturyville. Original drawing by Kathy Andrew,,writers notebook

Viva Libriani, senior librarian in 21stCenturyville. Original drawing by Kathy Andrew

Ms.Libriani will be seen this year leading the march with her trademark chant Lack of fREADdom sucks…No More banned books!

But she was not always a champion for this cause. Viva was raised in the town of Sittingonthefenceville  and with little opportunities open to her, she won a scholarship to University at UNM (University for the Narrow Minded) in Uberconservativetown. During her time at university and she expanded her own reading material and things started to feel uncomfortable. It all came to a head after she’d worked for several years as a librarian in Uberconservativetowm. When I spoke with her, she talked of her time there.

“At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Everyone was pretty much the same as folks from Sittingonthefenceville.  But the more I read, the more I had difficulty with decisions that were being made. Then three young girls changed my life. The first asked me why there were no books that made her think. A couple of months later, the second asked why we never carried books that questioned life. The final straw for me was when a ten year old girl with her blonde pigtails flying checked out some books and said  ‘You know Mom’s right, ignorance is bliss.’ The girl gave a little wave and left the building.”

Ms. Libriani paused for a moment to wipe her eyes.

“I couldn’t stand it anymore. I gave my notice, went home, cut off my long hair I’d kept tied up in a bun and went straight to Inky Pinky’s and got a tiny tattoo on my ankle of a book with wings.” Viva laughed as she looked down at her arms . “I guess I picked up these once I got to 21stCenturyville.”

Viva Libriani has become a heroine for many of us who’ve struggled with the idea of being limited as to what we can read, particular books banned in schools and libraries, where children and young adults have no choice in acquiring them elsewhere. I like her too because she wanted to be different and broke an old-fashioned stereotype of the straight-laced and judgmental librarian. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, but loads of librarians live in 21stCenturyville these days.

Back to Reality

Viva Viviani may only live in my imagination, but the threat to everyone’s right to read what they want in the USA is real: there were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom this year. Here are links to the 10 most challenged titles of 2014. Thanks for this list goes to my local bookstore Copperfield’s Books who also sell new, used and rare books online.

1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10)    Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: sexually explicit

I thought it was interesting that 7 of these titles had an issue with sexuality. Does no-one see what’s on TV these days? If you want more information about the issue or how to get involved, check out the American Library Association or my post Should we Ever Ban Books. Who knows, maybe Viva will answer your call or email.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association,ak.k. andrew,

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Have you had any experience of not being able to get books you wanted in the US , or another country. How do you think we should deal with this issue? Should any books, other than perhaps ones that might put people, particular children, in physical danger, be banned?

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Muse Media: Change and Junot Diaz

 Muse Media: Change and Junot Diaz

#Muse Media is a series of  simple posts, looking for our muse by mixing prose with other media.  If this was in the form of a Haiku with an image, it might be called a Haiga. For the moment,  let’s enjoy the prose of some wonderful authors.


Change (Photo credit Rickydavid)

“She would be a new person, she vowed. They said no matter how far a mule travels it can never come back a horse, but she would show them all.” 
Junot DíazThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


I love this gutsy quote. The “in your face ” style epitomizes Diaz work.

Change is often hard, and I wonder how the woman in the quote going to succeed? 

In what ways do you manage change?


Junot Díaz (born December 31, 1968) is a Dominican-American writer, creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and fiction editor at Boston Review. Central to Díaz’s work is the immigrant experience. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, in 2008 followed by  This Is How You Lose Her, in 2012. He is reported to be working on another novel, entitled Monstro. He is a 2012 MacArthur Fellow.

English: Writer Junot Díaz at the Mercantile L...

Writer Junot Díaz at the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction’s Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner,  Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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9 Famous #Authors Rejected by Publishers

I have been submitting my manuscript to agents over the past few months so I thought this was a great post to reblog from  Bridget Whelan Writer to include on my site. Enjoy.

Bridget Whelan Writer

9 famous authors rejected by publishers (comfort for emerging writers)

Heart of litrature...I enjoyed reading the article published by The Writers Circle website about famous authors who were not only rejected (in one case 800 times), but also had to suffer crushing criticism and they don’t even mention J.K.Rowling’s numerous rejections. I wonder if there are publishers who still wake up in the middle of the night remembering that they once held the manuscript of Harry Potter in their hands.

How well would you have coped if you were told:

“…an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” (It has since sold  more than 14.5 million copies and helped the author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.)

“There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.” (One of the most celebrated and admired writers of her generation)

Stick to teaching.” (The publisher who offered that advice has been out of business a long time: she hasn’t been out of print for 150 years.)

Read the article in full HERE. Might be worth printing it out and sticking it on the wall somewhere so you can see it when you look up from the keyboard.

photo credit: 120/365. A Light Shines In My Heart. via photopin (license)


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10 Ways to Be Creative in the Summer

Does summertime make you feel creative and want to try new things? Or do you just like to have fun in the sun? I like both, so while I’ll be posting all through the summer, I’m taking a break from blog commenting until after Labor Day. Some of you may remember this post from last year, but I felt it needed repurposing!

What will You be Doing for Creative Fun this Summer?

Summer is a great time to try things you might not normally do. Here are my suggestions for being creative this summer.

1.Build a Sandcastle or a Sand Painting


Brighton Beach by A.K.Andrew

Building sandcastles are one of my favorite childhood memories as we always had beach holidays. Some of the ones you see are amazing, not just the fill a bucket and turn it upside down kind. I love making a moat with a sand castle too, all that foamy water rushing in. And then at the end of the day you can make it disappear with one sweep of your hand or wait for a wave to do the same thing. Creative things don’t need to be permanent. Sand paintings are fun for that very reason. Do one on the beach with a stick or your finger, or buy a sand painting kit.

2.Write a Short Story

This is the time to let go, have some fun with it. And remember no-one but you will see it, unless you want them to. Write about an unexpected sexual encounter. Try out a different genre you don’t usually use. Never written about vampires? Now’s the time. Write in a different point of view, or from the point of view of a different gender, or sexual orientation. Hey, this is supposed to be fun right?

3.Go see a Film or Make a Movie

When was the last time you went to a cinema? No, not your home theatre, but a big screen-Dolby stereo-popcorn-selling cinema. Treat yourself. If you’re a regular cinema goer then try a different kind of film. For me that would be a horror film. Of course, I’d have to take something to hold up in front of the screen though! Maybe you’ll be inspired to make a short movie on your phone or camera. One of the best shorts I’ve ever seen was made by a guy who was stuck in his house in Minnesota one winter, and he used himself as the subject. It was so imaginative, and best of all, hilarious.

 4.Take a Photograph


Sonoma Cowboys by A.K.Andrew

We all spend so much time on our mobile phones these days, but do you use your phone camera for anything other than selfies or groups of friends laughing together? I love those photos, but it’s great to capture even simple things you see that give you a memory of the place you’ve been and the good time you had.  Better still, take an actual camera!You remember those right? I must dust mine off. I happened to catch these cowboys with my phone while driving home last Sunday morning – I wasn’t driving:-)

5.Try a Poem

Lots of people, myself included, sometimes find poetry intimidating. But if you think of poetry as being just the essential information you need, it’s not so threatening. Of course, the arrangement and choice of words is what makes poetry beautiful, striking and memorable. Play around with words that come to mind, and put them together in a bizarre order. See what happens.

6. Watercolors and Painting

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew

Grasses by A.K.Andrew

I used to think water colors had to be twee little scenes of cottages with roses round the door. They can be if that’s what you want, but you can paint anything you want with watercolors including abstracts. Look at the beautiful watercolors from Leora Wenger she painted during a blackout. It’s a brilliant medium to take on holiday. I have a little Winsor Newton box that is about 3″x  5 ” with a telescopic paintbrush inside. The paints are little squares like a kids paint set. I’ve had so much fun with that little box. The key to both drawing and painting is really looking at your subject. And don’t try and get the whole thing in the painting. Just pick a small section, like a doorway not the whole house, or a single plant, not the whole garden etc. If you really want to be adventurous, try acrylics or oil paints. The textures are delicious.


A.K.Andrew,http://akandrew.comKids have so much fun with drawing , and there is no reason why adults can’t either. If you want your drawings to look as if you were classically trained, good for you. But if like me, you don’t have that skill, then draw whatever it is you see. If it’s stick figures – fabulous.  You know who they are, and I can guarantee that if you forget about it having to look realistic, you will have fun with it. Think simple , but creative. Look at the work of Keith Haring. I used to think drawing was an innate skill. Some people have more of a natural talent, but it can basically be learned by anyone. So you might want to elaborate on your stick figures, and give it a shot. Drawing your own hands is a great way to practise. Or look in a mirror as I did above for this self portrait. Drawing images from photographs is much easier than from real life, so that’s a good place to start too. Pencils are great, but charcoal or pastels are also really fun too. The important thing for me is the process.


Gardening  is a fantastically creative pursuit and I’m often amazed the effects people can get from very simple things eg. putting a plant in an old metal jug, or combining flowers with herbs. It’s hot and dry in the summer where I live, and I’ve seen some of the most amazing succulent gardens in our neighborhood. Years ago I thought they were a very boring plant, but once I saw them in the US, and particularly the ones that bloom, I’ve come to love them. They’re great for needing little water too, which is always a good choice. Watch your back though – gardening is addictive, and it’s easy to forget how much work you’ve done. If you find this is the case then try using raised beds. Here’s one surprise I found in a neighbors garden….


Pig in a Garden by A.K.Andrew

 9. Music

How many times have you heard people say, I can’t sing? Nonsense! Everyone who does not have vocal chord issues can sing. Some voices are more pleasant to listen to than others, but we’re talking about having fun here. Sing at the top of your lungs, and who cares what it sounds like. Or pick up a musical instrument you haven’t tried before. Harmonica’s and tin whistles are inexpensive. Ukulele’s can be very cheap these days. The chords are very simple,  – some only use one finger. It’s all about having fun.

10. Cooking


Wrapped Buffalo Mozzarella by A.K.Andrew

Cooking does not have to be complicated, and in the summer, many of the dishes we eat are cold. Some people are so creative in what they make. Check out Susan Cooper’s site She has lots of great recipes, and you can tell she has fun in her cooking. I like simple dishes in the summer. There’s nothing more beautiful than a caprese salad – luscious heirloom tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, sprinkled with chopped basil and dribbled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Talk about a treat for all the senses.

What else do you like to do creatively? Welding, sculpture, making jewellery, beading, rockhounding? Try something new this summer, and whatever it is, make sure you enjoy yourself.
Have a fantastic summer everyone and don’t forget, comments have “Gone Fishing” until after Labor Day!
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Do You Keep A #Writer’s Notebook?

I’ve recently been taking a free online poetry class through the Iowa Writer’s workshop, and it reminded me how useful – essential even – a writer’s notebook is. After all I did name a whole website after it!

What is A Writer’s Notebook?

Any kind of notebook that you jot down ideas, words, stories, poems or drawings if that helps you. You don’t need the classic Moleskine notebook, any notebook will work. Sometimes the more ordinary it is the better. Fancy notebooks can make us feel overly precious about what we write.

 A Writer's Notebook,,A.K. Andrew

A.K. Andrew’s Notebooks

Who Would Benefit from Using A Writer’s Notebook?

Any kind of writer, or anyone who wants to record their thoughts. It’s not important to give yourself a label to use a useful tool.

What Are the Benefits?
1. You won’t forget your ideas

When you overhear a conversation where someone says something memorable, what are the chances of remembering it word for word ?  Nil of course. But beyond whole conversations , even small details, in fact particularly small details, are things that will be lost but have the potential to enrich our work. Red shoes on a subway station. The bird had a pinkish head with a pale underbelly. “I could ‘ave bloody well killed ‘er” I overheard on a cell call on a bus one time in England.

2. Developing Ideas without Pressure

The important thing about a writer’s notebook is that it is totally private – unless of course you want to share it. This in itself lets you write down ideas you might never consider sharing with anyone. Which is liberating, because you can jot down things you might think are stupid but once followed through lead onto to a kernel of something worth running with.

A.K. Andrew,
 3. Brainstorming is productive – one idea leads to another

Whenever I’m thinking of a title of a piece I start with one word, which leads to another, letting them lead on until I have a whole list of words. Inside that list I can usually find a title. The same goes for character traits, or descriptions – words to describe the wind blowing against a pane of glass for example. Lashing, hurl, pebbles, slanting rain, rain heavily, heaving against the glass, pouring, slash, ripples, windswept, sweeping torrents etc. You will likely go through a number of options before you get to something you like.

4. Writing words makes you write more words

When you start writing, something becomes released. Almost as if to put it on a page lets it go and you can move on to the next thing. Often when we have writer’s block all we need to do is write. Jotting something down on a piece of paper, is a very low threat way to get back into the flow of one word following another.

5. Writing down rather than typing makes for a strong connection

Although I don’t find it feasible to write a whole novel by hand, I’m a big believer that writing by hand taps into the subconscious more readily than if you type it. There are studies that have proved that people learn better if the exercise has been written by hand.

English: Moleskine notebook. ??????????: ?????...

English: Moleskine notebook. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. All your Ideas in one place

I know you have “notes” and “evernote” and a myriad other ways of keeping information on a computer and obviously I do, but there’s nothing like picking up a notebook, flicking through it’s pages and having your information all in one place. If you don’t want to carry a notebook with you, carry a post-it pad or other little pad to jot things down on. You can consolidate it later. Paste it in with Scotch tape if you dont’ want to rewrite it. My particular favorite is a notebook that has a little envelope at the back where I can keep either scraps of notes, or say a ticket stub to remind me of an exhibition or a train ride.

Do you keep a notebook of any kind? How do you like to organise your thoughts, memories or experiences?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

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