July 23, 2016

IMG_6095Book Spine Letter Holder

(Before anyone gets upset about ruining books, this was made from a Reader’s Digest condensed book, by definition not a first edition, rejected by most book sales, unwanted and unloved.  ***Documentary voiceover*** “The  Librarians of the Northeastern region use every part of a book..”)

Supplies needed:
  • Book spine
  • Ribbon
  • Stapler
  • Sheets of felt
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Strong glue- I used Elmer’s Extreme School Glue, Tacky glue would also work. ( Or a glue gun, if you are coordinated enough not to burn yourself every time you use one.)

If you haven’t removed the inside of the book yet, it is pretty straightforward, just use an Exacto Knife to slice it out .

Make a loop of ribbon.  This will be how your piece will be hung up on the wall.  Staple the 2 ends of the loop to the inside corner of the book.  Make a second loop and staple to the other corner.

IMG_2322Measure your felt against your book, and cut a piece that is the length and width of the inside of the book when it is laid flat.  Then cut two rectangles that are the width of the spine of the book and the length of one side.

Find the center of the long side of the large rectangle and sew the short side of the small rectangle to it.  Repeat on the other side.  IMG_2324Now is a slightly tricky part- if you try to put the pocket together now, it will look like the sides are too short!  Don’t worry, just line up the two tops, leaving a little pinch of fabric in the corner. Sew all seams, making the same pinch in each corner.


IMG_2325Turn the project inside out.  Then apply glue to the inside spine and press the felt pocket down onto the glue.  Apply glue to each side, and press the felt into place, making sure to cover up the staples on your ribbon loops.  IMG_2328Hold the felt in place with paper clips until the glue dries.


Now you have a nice receptacle for outgoing mail for your office or home!

IMG_5983Zombie Party Planning

I almost left my brains in the fridge, but fortunately my clerk reminded me.  I think we all had a great time, and I only had to scold someone for throwing body parts once.

We’ve had several zombie events at our library over the years, and I have learned what works and what doesn’t.  We bring in professional make-up artists.  While it is possible to do DIY, you need to know what supplies to get, what makes what effect, and be comfortable getting right in people’s faces.  Also, having a IMG_5955professional in is a learning experience- the teens see a career in action, see what it takes to make the shows and movies they love, and get to talk with the artists about acting and costumes.

How to make your zombie event successful:
  • Have everyone under 16 have a permission slip signed by a guardian agreeing to make-up and videotaping.  All over 16 must state they have no known skin allergies.
  • Provide a secondary activity while makeup is being applied- we played Plants vs. Zombies on the x-box
  • Have lots of snacks
  • Have costume options- men’s button-up shirts from a rag-bag are best.  The fake blood is hard to get off of clothes.
  • Be prepared to take lots of pictures and video- this means planning a backdrop, scripting a simple scene or making sure your battery is charged.
  • Set up the makeup station with two chairs, a table, a garbage can, a plastic tablecloth on the floor and lots of room to move around.
  • Plan for an event that lasts at least 2 hours.

What do you do once all the participants who want to be are made up like zombies?  Some places do a charity walk.  Others hand it over to students to make their own film with their own equipment.  This time, we took pictures in front of a green screen, then filmed some basic scenes of mayhem in our small library.  The one that worked the best was the horde of zombies trying to get into the library, pressing against the glass door.  Remember that in film making you can take shots out of order.  I’m still looking for actual looks of horror from the “victims,” there was too much giggling going on.  The kids also just had fun pretending and live-action roleplaying (this was where I had to supervise, to make sure no one actually got hurt when they “attacked”).

zombie brainsWe served pizza, soda and Jell-o brains.  At the end, one of the boys apologized for any bad behavior he had ever done at the library, and wanted to come back for our weekly teen time.  Mission accomplished.

My daughter and I then stopped by a cemetery on the way home for a photo shoot.  I was able to sneak in some history lessons,  as well as a philosophy discussion, without being too obvious, as we walked around the tombstones.  She drove us home (on her learner’s permit) and I really hoped we didn’t get pulled over- I didn’t want to explain why I was letting a zombie drive my car.

Pokemon Party

The event of the week was our pokemon party.  I got a lot of ideas off Pinterest, of course.  There are so many creative people sharing what they do for their own children’s parties.  We had cupcakes, cookies, and drink boxes, because I ran out of time to make themed food.P1120771

Who’s that Pokemon?

I printed out pictures of pokemon, put them on a foam core board and numbered them, then gave out guess sheets.  At the end of the party we announced the answers.  The kids enjoyed this one, and even started using the books on display to help.


My volunteer made a Pokemon pillowcase, which we raffled off.  We also let the kids select 3 mini figurines from a large batch set I bought off of Amazon.  Having the kids choose what they got was more time consuming and contentious than I had anticipated.  I had them choose by age, with youngest first (the party ages ranged from 5-13).  My wonderful volunteer was able to identify each figure (I kept asking her dumb questions like “what’s this monkey with broccoli on its head?”) She also made origami Pikachus.  If you can find a volunteer who is an enthusiastic fan, grab them and make sure they’re appreciated.

Pokemon scavenger hunt

I decorated a large box of ping-pong balls as pokeballs, using red paint, black sharpie marker and ring binder reinforcement stickers.  If you plan to do this for your party, be aware of the number of participants.  A box full of these looks like a lot, but if you have 13 kids searching, they only get about 3 each.   I think I should have hidden the mini figurines we gave out as well.  We did have two specially marked balls that meant getting a special prize.

Make your own cardIMG_0133

There’s a great website for customizing your own pokemon card.  I took pictures of the kids using our iPad, then a volunteer sat with each kid and entered their powers, abilities and descriptions.  I then saved the picture and emailed it to my desktop.  I happened to have postcard paper left over from another project, which was perfect for this.  The website says to print it out and paste it to an actual card, we did not do that.  If we had, we would have to fuss with the exact sizing.

I had expected the kids to bring their cards and play and trade, but only 3 out of the 22 kids did.  If I do this again, I will get the local game store involved to help run a mini tournament with the 10-12 year old crowd.

4353114920_e23c078835Library Olympics

We started off the summer reading program with Library Olympics! This year the theme is “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” with an emphasis on sports.



First, opening ceremonies.  I really wanted the high school band to play, but they were not able to make it.  We settled for a parade around the library with a decorated book cart, ribbon streamers and music.  We hired a balloon twister who made us all fabulous hats.  The Friends of the Library served hot dogs, lemonade and desserts.


  • book cart race
  • boat races
  • badminton
  • figure skating
  • obstacle course
  • hula hoop challenge
  • balloon challenge
  • javelin throw
  • figure skating

Figure skating was a craft.  Using stock paper, we made a figure, then attached it to a magnet.  With another magnet underneath a sheet of paper, you can move your skater around.  For our rink, I repurposed a buffet heater stand.


P1120696The boat races were in a kiddy pool .  We made pool noodle boats with straw masts and foam sheet sails.  I sliced the noodles up ahead of time, so the only tools needed for this craft were scissors and a hole punch.

Note: if you plan to play badminton in a library, buy lots of birdies.


The javelin throw target was a small hula hoop suspended between the shelves.  The javelin was half a pool noodle.  (I use a lot of pool noodles!)

For our book cart races, we put golf and ping-pong balls on the cart (after fashioning a cardboard rim for the edges).  When testing it, I wondered if I had made it too easy, nothing fell off when I zipped around.  No fear.  Apparently the corners were the tricky part.  We had our athletes do four laps around the shelves while we timed them, with the best time being the winner.


We gave out trophies and medals to all our athletes.  All in all, I think everyone had a blast!  A good way to start the summer.

For Librarians Who Secretly Wish it was “S.T.E.A.” and not S.T.E.M…

When I was asked to do a math-related program as part of a S.T.E.M. grant, I freaked out.  Math has been my nemesis since third grade, when I realized that I could not do quick calculations in my head, or for that matter, slow calculations.  Science, I could do- fun experiments, facts about animals, space and machines, that was easy.

Do a story-time for preschoolers, my grant coordinator urged.  Basic math, like shapes, counting…  I remembered to breathe.  Ok.


I did a little research, and my eye stopped at a picture of dice.  Dice?  That was math?  I slapped my forehead.  Hello!  Gamer!  Reading dice uses a skill called subitizing, where you can look at a collection of items and know the number without having to count each one. Jane's Folly Library Race boardgame  I put together a take-home kit for the kids (I visited our local pre-school) with a printed game-board* I designed, one die, and a flyer about our library.

Books read:
  • One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Sayre- counting by feet.  A snail has one foot, and a crab has ten!
  • How Many Jellybeans? by Andrea Minotti.  Could you eat a million jellybeans?  You might change your mind after you see
    how many that really is!

one is a snailHow many Jelly Beans?






*Sign up for my newsletter to get a PDF of the board game.


649718I’m reading Secret Societies: Inside the World’s Most Notorious Organizations by John Lawrence Reynolds to help me develop my own evil organization for my story.  I recommend this book- I’m not usually a fan of history books, but this one was fascinating.  It covers the league of assassins, Templars, Illuminati, the Priory of Scion and Freemasons, explores the myths behind Kabbalah, Wicca and Rosicrucians, and explains the origins and organizational structure of Triads, Cosa Nostra, and Yakuza.

I’m most interested in how they develop and what methods they use to find and bind members to their cause.  The Assassins used elaborate staging to make members think they’d died and gone to paradise so they could “come back from the dead” and recount what they saw.  The Yakuza punish members by making them cut off their own pinky finger (which is needed for master swordsmen).

Reynolds also talked about how many organizations became secretive to avoid prosecution, but that very secrecy made it easy for their enemies to make up stories about their practices, such as claiming early Christians ate babies.

I’m coming up with a name for the group in my story.  They were established to protect cultures from outside influence and contamination from other worlds, but over the years they’ve built up rituals, beliefs and  practices that will lead them to try to destroy the connections between worlds, even though that will sever their communication to each other.  I started out with “the Order” but I don’t want to look like I’m copying Star Wars.

Here’s some possible secret organization names:
  • Oathbound
  • the Pact
  • Lock
  • Wall Guard
  • Protectorate
  • Portas
  • Alliance
  • Guild of Smiths
  • Borders Union
  • Cleaners
  • 21
  • Council of Order
  • Venn Diagram
  • Root and Leafhailhydra

Hail Hydra. 😉


April 17, 2016

e7948dbfec4c04117327f52d819ba94a(art by Luke Carvill

Fighting Despair When You’re Not Selling or Getting Acceptances

The next person who tries to comfort me by telling me Van Gogh only sold one picture in his lifetime will get an ear in the mail.  He is not my role model.  I love my family and friends and their warm, loving support, but it is not the same as commercial success or peer recognition.

I want to be paid for what I write.  This is not to say I am in it for the money, or have unrealistic expectations of success.  I just want to sell my self-published works to strangers, and I want an agent to be interested enough in my manuscript to want to represent it.  I want a publisher to accept my novel.  My goal is to have enough earnings to pay for a nice vacation.

Creativity for its own sake is an enjoyable hobby.  I have no interest in starting a craft business for sewing or paper arts.  While I share my creations on this blog, it’s not in hopes of finding a patron of the arts to put me in a gallery.  Nope, just “hey, look at this, it was fun to make.”

For me, writing is different.  While it is fun, it is also connected with my hopes and dreams.  It is hard to keep pushing along, especially with the hard, serious stuff of revision, without knowing that a goal is attainable.  It is difficult to receive rejection after rejection and still believe that you can be published, that maybe your next work will have readers.  It is nearly impossible to keep your ego out of the equation, and to keep writing with confidence.  Your brain wants to avoid pain, and if you start associating pain with your goals, you hit resistance.  Instead of writing, I’m cleaning, watching tv, surfing the internet, starting a craft project, reading, arguing with people inside my head or thinking about work.  It’s like trying to put magnets together the wrong way.  Part of me is straining to reach my project while  another part is shoving away with all my strength.

Strategies for Fighting Writer’s Block
  • have an established writing time every day, and don’t do anything else during that time (turn off internet, block other distractions)
  • read books about writing
  • research topic you are writing about
  • break large goal into smaller goals, and reward progress
  • write for one person, either imaginary or someone you know, as your target audience
  • join a writer’s group and get feedback
  • make a game out of sending out queries to agents
  • make your writing spot a pleasant place to be, and only do writing there
  • find a role model who’s done what you want to accomplish
  • keep finding ways to push past the resistance

Any of you having the same struggle?  What keeps you going?


Sewing T-Shirt Quilt Project

I  love t-shirts.  They are wearable momentos , silent announcements of your personality and a way to share what you love.  They are also damn comfortable.

However, over the years I and my husband accumulated many shirts that for one reason or another, we didn’t want to wear anymore, but couldn’t bear to throw away.  Add in t-shirts that my children outgrew, and you have quite a pile.  So I’ve been meaning to make a t-shirt quilt for several years now.

T-shirt material is stretchy, thin, and tends to curl in on itself when cut into squares.  The way to get around that is to use fusable stabilizer, which you can get in sheets or bolts at a sewing store.

IMG_2278Designing the Quilt

Apparently there are two schools of thought about t-shirt quilts.  One group design blocks, attaching the neatly cut squares of precisely sized t-shirt cut-outs into larger blocks using other fabric, then strip the blocks together using a symmetrical design, sometimes with borders, dividers or symbolic motifs.  These are actual quilters. Then there’s the “hey, I’ve got some t-shirts here, let’s sew them together into a big thing!” crowd.  The problem with the latter (ok, ONE problem) is that it is hard to determine how big your quilt will end up, and whether it will be even on all sides.  Do you just want to hang it up on the wall, or actually use it as a blanket?  If it’s just a display and sewing’s not your thing, consider putting your shirts over thin cardboard squares, pinning them smooth, then connecting them together to cover your wall.  If you’re determined to plow through to a finished, usable work of art, pick up a book on quilting so you can learn about batting, backing fabric,  layout and fixing common problems.  I’ve been cutting out squares and stabilizing them as I go along, and then I thought about design.  Yeah.  Wrong order.  So I’m going with the “willy nilly” style, but probably putting in a border around the outside.

I’ll keep you updated with my progress.  If a t-shirt quilt is too intimidating (or you only have a few shirts you want to use), check out this t-shirt scarf by Rachel Hobson on Make.


10 Recommended Books to Help Your Creativity

  1. The Artist’s Way By Julia Cameron.  A classic, talking about coaxing out the battered, gun-shy artist from within, using artist dates, morning pages and supportive people.
  2. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty.  The NaNoWriMo creator who sparked a world-wide phenomenon that has inspired thousands.  The concept?  Write 50,00 words in a month.  Because you can.
  3. Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  A year in the life of a woman pursuing happiness.
  4. The As If Principle: The Radically New Approach to Changing Your Life by Richard Wiseman.  Scientific studies that pretending can actually lead to success.
  5. I know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam.  Stop saying “I’m too busy” and buying into the cult of overwhelm.  There is time in the day to do what you love.
  6. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.  Nothing is truly original, and that’s ok.  It’s more than ok, it’s wonderful.
  7. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  I need to go back and read this again, a dreamy exploration of creativity and writing.
  8. Wishcraft by Barbara Sher.  How to figure out exactly what you want and make goals.
  9. You are a Badass by Jen Sincere.  You are.
  10. Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins.  I almost didn’t write this one down, the author is controversial, but I listened to his motivational tapes through the 90’s and I still use some of his ideas daily.
  11. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi.  I admit, I’ve never actually read this influential work, but I swear, every self-help book written in the past fifteen years mentions him (I listen to a lot of books in audio, and the poor authors struggle so with his name.  “knee high chick sit me high” is what it usually sounds like).

What books would you recommend for a struggling creative person?

colored in

Sometimes Mommy is the one that needs a time out.

So I made a coloring book for frazzled moms.  Whether you have another job or are at home with your kids,  being a parent is not for wimps.  Art therapy can help you relax by going into a trance-like state, focusing only on the project in front of you.  I certainly found that when I started making this coloring book- I hadn’t drawn so much in years, and I found it fun, even exciting, to create these designs for people to color.watermarked sleep wand
Some of the designs are wishful thinking, like a sleep wand, a hammock in the woods, a sunny beach or a clutter-cleaning robot.  Some of the designs are abstract.

I, being a librarian, started studying different types of patterns, artists and cultural designs.  I got out a book about art deco artist Alphonse Mucha , went back to one of my favorite artists, Escher, and created a tessellation of socks, researched rangoli and henna patterns, and pulled out books about zentangles.  MOMMY COLORING TIME is available at Amazon.

Are you into adult coloring books?  What designs do you like best?


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