Spine Poems

spine poems

In honor of poetry month, create a “found” poem by stacking books.  This is a great and easy display for a library, and a mind-stretching exercise for writers and other creative types.  Try to use spines that are easy to read from a distance, and don’t have the author’s name hogging too much space. There are some great examples at 100 Scope Notes and Pinterest.

spine poetry 2

Knitted Braided Ball

Gevlocten Bal- Braided Ball

knit braided ball

The pattern is on Ravelry.

This is a great “on-the-road” pattern, or a way to get rid of leftover yarn.  I used the basic worsted weight acrylic yarn (Red Heart) that I’d had sitting around from other projects.  It’s best if all the yarn you use is the same thickness, otherwise, use whatever you have. All you have to do is make six strips in stockinette stitch.  They naturally curl into tubes.

knitted strips

On my first attempt, I made the loops too large.  This ball can be salvaged by stuffing the middle.  The pattern gives an equation using pi to determine the length of the strips, and I ignored it.  The second time, I made the strips seven inches long, and that was just right for my yarn (12 stitches on size U.S. 3 needles).  The hardest part of this project is placing the last two strips- make absolutely sure you’ve got it right before sewing them together.

braided ball mistakebraided ball good and bad

You could make this into a cat toy by putting a jingle-ball or catnip (or both) in the middle.  It’s also a nice baby or toddler toy.

Gauge Matters in Knitting



I made two sets of baby booties for two different babies.  It is a perfect illustration of why gauge is important.  When you are following knitting patterns, the yarn and needle size can complete change (or screw up) your project.  It took me so long to realize that!  Yarn is yarn, right?  Wrong.

So here I used the same yarn, the same exact pattern, with only one adjustment, I used larger needles.  Booty number one is done with U.S. size 1, and booty number two is done with U.S. size 3.  So takeaway point here is that you shouldn’t substitute anything in a pattern without adjusting for this difference.

These are done flat (I really struggle with knitting in the round) and then seamed.  Here’s the pattern from Ravelry.  The one problem I had with the pattern was understanding that the increase stitches were included in the count, once I figured that out, it was much easier!


My Creative Friends


Today is AMOK, the Annual Melee of Kindness.  Go forth and perform random acts of kindness.  Even if all you do today is avoid being mean, you will make the world a better place.

This made me start thinking about my creative friends.  I hope they won’t mind me mentioning them (I don’t think any of them are in witness protection).9220483454_324bde1580_z

I’ve already mentioned Aprilsongstress, who does amazing red work embroidery.

Then there’s Sandra Quigley of Quigley’s cakes.  Her superhero wedding cake (which has gotten a lot of attention on my blog) was one of her first!

10274154_798282253549763_3371614770224901029_nMy friend Scott is an artist and does amazing murals and comic book art.

Wayne’s latest creative endeavor is to invent his own table-top roleplaying game, including a new rules system, called Modern Tomes.

Julie is a playwright and her plays have been performed locally, and last year she won Excellence in Writing for her play “Luc” by the Theater Association of NY State.

Kathleen is a multiple award-winning journalist who is becoming a historical novelist.

Missy is a member of my online writing group, Carpe Libris, and has sold many stories.  She has mastered flash fiction and is a regular contributor to Daily Science Fiction.

Some friends need to send me their creations for me to showcase here, like Jay’s woodworking or Carl’s Jedi costume.  I haven’t read any writing from Laura, Manna, Asha or Elizabeth.

I realized as I was writing this that some friends will read my blog and think, I’m not on here, I must not be creative.  Robyn, I’m looking at you.  Yes, you are creative, I’ve seen you working on stained glass projects, ceramics and painting projects…. Anyway, everyone is creative somehow.  Lillian put together an amazing Pi day party and is a creative cook.  Crystal jumps into her characters while gaming and brings them to life. Christie is not only a talented cake artist, but she also embodies the spirit of AMOK and practices random acts of kindness all year. Thank you all for being my friends, for being loving, kind people who improve the world by living in it.

What I’m Working On

griffin smallWriting Progress

I’ve set aside my Librarian Craft project to focus on my second draft of a fantasy novel called “Other People’s Magic”.  It was a tangled mess, as I had somehow shuffled four chapters.  With the help of my writer’s group, I’m deciding what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to change.  Feedback is really helpful, as I was allowing my character to wander around encountering magical things instead of having an urgent goal.  I’m cranking up the tension while trying to keep the playfulness and sense of wonder.

The hardest part of writing is not getting distracted by the internet, housework, reading, tv, children, husband, friends, family, work….ok, mostly the internet.

seekingclaritycover2 small


My ebook, Seeking Clarity, is now available to purchase at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble,  Kobo, and more.  Lucy meets Jack, a burnt-out dream-seller hiding from the world, and together they must stop the King of Dreams from putting the world into permanent sleep.  The key to the puzzle is Clarity, but who is she and how will she shape the future Jack and Lucy are hurtling toward?


Think like a kid

Getting Inspiration From Kids (or what to do when you have cabin fever)



We were homebound for a week during the winter break.  Cabin fever was setting in.  When I had a chance I was woking on my writing, but I was struggling to make progress.  I was rescued by my 6 year old.  He climbed into my lap when I was listlessly browsing Pinterest, and demanded activity ideas.  He loved the cardboard creations I had pinned, and we worked on making a castle together.  He drew where he wanted me to cut windows.

When the castle was finished was when the real creativity began.  I sat back and watched.  The castle was populated, becoming a bustling place.  They were having a jewelry show.  The people were having issues reaching different levels of the castle, so they invented different “inators” to help them to get where they wanted to go.  A rockinator to go up, a bananainator to go down.  They had a movie theater (his Kindle) to watch movies.

The next day, a bad guy attacked the castle.  I came in the room to hear “say goodbye to your beautiful castle!” as the walls tumbled around the unlucky gem merchants, movie goers and soldiers.  It was a sad day for the people, but they will rebuild and recover from this tragedy.






Steampunk for Teens


Steampunk at the Library

First, a definition.  Steampunk is not only a fiction genre, it is a fashion trend, a type of crafting and a maker movement.  It is hard to pin down, but steampunk blends together science fiction and fantasy to create a world of advanced technology in a quasi-victorian setting.  I was asked, if you aren’t into steampunk, can you still put together a library program?  Yes!   I bet if you looked into your interests, you will find something you can apply to Steampunk.

Library program Ideas:

Altered books- Keep some of your weeded hardcovers and make purses, sculptures, book safes, journals or spellbooks.

Steampunk Tea party-  Host a fancy tea party, using the good china. Make cucumber sandwiches, scones and cookies.  Costumed characters make this event special.  This would blend well with a themed mystery party kit.

Costuming program-  Bring in a costuming expert- it could be someone who does historical re-enactments, a stage costumer or a hobbyist.  Have the expert talk about using sewing patterns, altering clothing and creating costume accessories.

Book-talks- Introduce a pile of new steampunk books to your audience with a brief introduction to each.  Invite your audience to share their favorites and start a discussion.  Spark a debate on what is and is not steampunk.

Steampunk crafts- create a gadget, an imaginary invention.  Ask your participants to come up with what it does.  Talk about movie props as you make something from plastic, foam, cardboard and paint that looks like it is made of metal or leather.

Jewelry making- make an unusual necklace or bracelet. Our group made pendants using resin and gears. (Caution: resin needs a well-ventilated area).

Rube Goldberg machine- challenge your teens to create a chain reaction machine using found objects, pulleys, string, dominoes and more, then film a succesful run for your website.


steampunk people

Teen Steampunk Movies: (Note: Chosen for fitting genre, not for excellence)

  • 20,000 Leagues under the Sea
  • Castle in the Sky
  • City of Ember
  • Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • League of Extrodinary Gentlemen
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  • Steamboy
  • Three Musketeers (2011)
  • Wild Wild West
  • Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Tv shows: Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Doctor Who


Teen steampunk Books:


1,000 Steampunk Creations, Grymm, Dr., Quarry Books, 2011, ISBN: 9781592536917.  An art gallery of visual art, sculpture and fashion.

Steampunk Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos, Willeford, Thomas, McGraw Hill, 2012, ISBN: 9780071762366  For highly advanced crafters or browsing.

Steampunk Style, Mizobata, Mitsugu, Titan Books, 2014 ISBN: 9781781168479 Japanese steampunk art and costuming.  The second half includes a highly advanced how-to guide.

Steampunk Tea Party, Hewitt, Jema,  FW Media, 2013, ISBN: 9781440232954  Includes alcoholic recipes and drinks, but it has a lot of inspirational photos.

The Steampunk Users Manual, Boskovich, Desirina and Vandermeer, Jeff Abrams Image, 2014, ISBN:9781419708985. Covers all aspects of steampunk- visual art, crafts, fashion, music and books.


Airborn, Kenneth Oppel

Airman, Eoin Colfer

All Men of Genius, Lev Rosen

Dead Reckoning, Mercedes Lackey

Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare

Etiquette  & Espionage , Gail Carriger

Girl Genius graphic novel series, Phil Foglio

Girl in the Steel Corset, Kady Cross

Hunchback Assignments, Arthur Slade

Incarceron, Catherine Fisher

Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld

Mark of the Dragonfly, Jaleigh Johnson

Worldshaker, Richard Harland

Kinda-sorta steampunk…

Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson

Dinotopia, James Gurney

Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman

Steampunk  ancestors

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne

The Time Machine, H.G. Wells


steampunk books

Let me know how your program goes!  Good luck!

Blackout Poetry is Not as Easy as it Looks

Blackout Poetry attempt

After seeing examples of Austin Kleon’s work, I decided to make an attempt at blackout poetry.  It looks pretty simple, you start with a newspaper article and then cross out words until you get a poem.  Right.  Just like when you write a regular poem, you just have to write words down.

Regular newspaper seemed too small to work with, so I grabbed our local weekly paper.  There’s too many pictures.  Ok, I’ll use this piece on the evaluation of the state of the state address.  Here’s a collection of words.  Oh dear.  Not exactly a masterpiece.P1110607

improved on
the new
plans for
the creation of
from cautious to concerned
“we have some concerns
with understaffing
that the way is one for all, all for one”
members believe
value of the work
plan to expand
access and more
manner that allows
to produce
need to get
our priorities straight and
protect our generation
responsibility to
every child
parents know
the consequences of
their actions.

What I learned about creating blackout poetry:

  • experiment by using a pencil to mark off different words before jumping in with a sharpie
  • what article you choose effects what you can say
  • don’t sniff the sharpie while working
  • use a clipboard to hold your work in progress
  • poetry isn’t my thing

If you are going to do this as a project with students, start ahead of time gathering articles with potential, ones that have lots of expressive language.  Make copies of them, so that mistakes are not project-enders.  It would also be interesting to compare how different students create widely different poems from the same piece.  Practice making a bunch so you realize that the finished pieces will be a bit abstract.

Take Your Child to the Library (that’s an order!)

Take Your Child to the Library Day


Actually, most children’s librarians would elongate that to “Please take your child to the library every week or at least once a month because that’s the way they become lifelong readers and learners”, but TYCttLD is plenty long enough.  It’s the first Saturday of February, this year February 7th.  The idea came from Nadine Lipman, a children’s librarian from Waterford, CT.  Now it’s celebrated in over 600 libraries in three different countries.

This event is an open house, encouraging parents to see what libraries have to offer.  Yes, books, of course books.  That’s usually not a surprise.  What many parents are not aware of is the “everything else” of libraries.  The other materials, such as videos, music, e-books, games, magazines, audiobooks, and even devices.  The events, such as Zumba classes, movie nights, story-times, employment help, computer classes, health programs, cooking sessions, book clubs, tax help, citizenship classes, performers and lectures. We can do faxes and copies, usually cheaper than an office supply store.  Not to mention providing meeting space for other community organizations to hold their programs.  Then there’s the educational toys for the little ones to play with, the internet-free computer for the elementary kids to use, the internet connected computer for older students to complete assignments with, and the free wifi.  Oh, and we have books, too!

As a parent with kids who are getting a little stir-crazy, having a place to go that doesn’t involve buying something is wonderful.  Some of the parents that come in are timid, afraid of the library.  They see it as a place to be quiet, to be serious, a place only “A” students go.  That’s unfortunate, since we are more like a community center, a hub providing local resources and referrals.  Your child doesn’t have to whisper, and we understand if they wander off during story-time.  We want you to feel welcome.  Every day is bring your child to the library day, it’s not an exception to a rule like “take your child to work day” is.

TYCttLD Facebook page1902738_896099660435355_5492608685765151268_n



Librarian Crafts- paper crafts


Paper Crafts that work for Library classes

When I need to pull together a crafts class for the library at the last minute with little money, I usually do paper crafts.  There is a paper project for all ages and abilities.  For preschool crafts, just practicing with the scissors is important.  Sometimes, if the project is too hard for them to cut out and it has been done beforehand, we just cut up scraps to practice.


Don’t just assume since you have instructions in front of you that you can teach folding a shape.  Practice!  Make at least five or six so that you get a feel for how it needs to go together.  For a thirty minute class for children, have three shapes of progressive difficulty.  Have step-by-step instruction hand-outs, but don’t give them out until you start each shape. Ideally, you should have demo pieces in different stages of completion. Start by explaining the difference between mountain and valley folds, an important concept in creating origami.  Do the project along with your students, so instead of taking their project away from them, you show what to do on yours.  Don’t explain the next step until your slowest student completes the previous step.  The advanced students can go ahead by looking at their instruction sheet.  Have a display of origami books on hand for your students to check out when they’re done, and let them take home paper to keep practicing!http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-talking-dog.html

You can purchase origami paper at most craft stores.  For absolute beginners, I often use squares of colored copy paper, which is thicker and bigger, so easier to learn on.  To create a square out of letter-sized copy paper, take one corner and fold it down until the corner lines up with the opposite side edge, making a triangle.  Cut off the excess (which can be used for bookmarks).

I love making jumping frogs out of index cards.  Use colored index cards if you can.

Paper Models

There are some great free printable paper model sites out there.  My go-to site is Canon Creative Park.  Again, practice first.  Use the thickest paper that you can run through your printer, because regular copy paper doesn’t stand up as well.  Gauge your audience.  Can they cut around complicated edges?  Do they have the patience to hold pieces together until they are set?  If you are having a drop-in craft with mixed ages, be sure to have something simple as an alternative.


Most of the time I use glue sticks when doing paper models.  This has the disadvantage of not having a strong hold, but is less messy than liquid glue.

Paper Dolls

Everything old is new again.  My go-to site for paper dolls is Making Friends, which has a lot of choices for both genders.  I like being able to make a scientist doll.f_science


There are great books of craft ideas, especially in the juvenile section.  Stock your craft storage shelf full of paper, and keep a file of ideas on hand.  Take notes when you finish a class as to what worked and what you would do differently.

Today at the library we’re doing snowflakes, but I’m not running this one.  I think I will make some Star Wars ones at home, though.