The World’s Strongest Librarian

Josh Hanagarne is a strong, courageous and inspirational character. He is a proud dad, a public speaker, a Mormon, a librarian, a weightlifter and a published writer. He does all that whilst battling with an extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome.  His memoir; The World’s Strongest Librarian was published by Gotham Books on May 2, 2013.

The book takes a look at some of the challenges he has had to deal with facing Tourette’s syndrome, and how he has coped.  More than that; he tries to encourage, inspire and support others.  He is heavily involved in helping people with special needs and regularly speaks publicly to groups of people with disabilities.  He is dedicated to helping other people like him to discover their full potential.   In his book, Josh talks openly about his own neurological disorder and how writing and weight training have aided him.  Before undertaking these two very different activities, his ticks and uncontrollable movements caused him physical damage such as broken teeth, a dislocated thumb, and even caused a hernia.

As a librarian, Josh admits that literature is an obsession with him.  He did not start writing his own books until his Tourette’s hurt him so much that he couldn’t leave the house.  His screaming became irrepressible.  He needed botox injections to paralyze his vocal chords leaving him unable to talk.  As a social person, Josh turned instead to writing to continue communicating with people in the absence of voice.  Writing became a way to keep up with social discussions.  He wrote his first novel The Knot during this time.

For Josh, literature and writing is not only something he enjoys, but something he needs.  Writing is a way for him to have control.  Tourette’s often takes control of his body.  Writing and literature allows him to be in control of his mind, to see progress that he can measure and demonstrate.    It is in literature where he finds some stability.  And as an author, a creative person, he finds a larger purpose.  As with writing, weightlifting gives Josh a sense of accomplishment and control.  Extreme physical exertion began as a way to suppress the pain often caused by Tourette’s, but he continued to lift to be strong, to be healthy, and to take control of his body.

Josh also discusses his religion in his book.  He is satisfyingly neither fervent nor reproving.  His church is simply part of his heritage.  What he takes from the Mormon church is a way of life which he learned from his father; that is, the Mormon Church is the church of “don’t be a dick”.

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Unfinished projects

I find it impossible to stick to one project with all the ideas floating around in my mind.  As soon as I get them out I want to start work on them, even though I have a thousand other things to do (creative or otherwise).  I have a bank of unfinished stories, rough draft poems and half-formed ideas, and only a small handful of completed works.

Maybe if I finished something I would have to let someone read it…

 

Finishing off…

The teacher said:
Come here, Malcolm!
Look at the state of your book.
Stories and pictures unfinished
Wherever I look.

This model you started at Easter,
These plaster casts of your feet,
That graph of the local traffic –
All of them incomplete.

You’ve a half-baked pot in the kiln room,
And a half-eaten cake in your drawer.
You don’t even finish the jokes you tell –
I really can’t take anymore.

And Malcolm said
… very little.
He blinked and shuffled his feet.
The sentence he finally started
Remained incomplete.

He gazed for a time at the floorboards;
He stared for a while into space;
With an unlined, unwhiskered expression
On his unfinished face.

Allan Ahlberg Heard it in the Playground 1991

Measuring time by library loan due dates

In academic libraries there are numerous loan categories ranging from overnight loans (or even shorter – I studied at a university which issued hourly loans with hefty fines for being minutes overdue) to six week loans.  The six week loan category is a rare one for the school resources used by our trainee teachers.

I am often reminded of important upcoming dates by the due dates of the books I issue.  For instance if I stamp teaching practice books for Mother’s Day I know it’s time to start planning on buying a gift.  If that date appears a few weeks later, on the weekly loans, I know I’m cutting it a bit fine.  If I stamp an overnight loan book with that date and I still haven’t posted the card, I know I’m in big trouble.

Sorry mum 😦

You don't have to be in primary school to make your own Mother's Day card!  I made this for my mum last Mother's day.
You don’t have to be in primary school to make your own Mother’s Day card! I made this for my mum last Mother’s day.

25 Vintage Photos of Librarians Being Awesome

Flavorwire

Librarians, in case you hadn’t heard, are essential members of society — likely to expand minds wherever they go — and, as such, are fully worthy of hero worship (whether they’re among the coolest librarians alive or just pretty cool). That’s at least part of the impetus behind My Daguerreotype Librarian, “[a] tumblr dedicated to literally or figuratively hunky and babely librarians from the past.” Inspired by the website, here’s a little extra literary goodness: 25 awesome vintage photos of librarians from ages past.

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The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

THE TAILOR OF GLOUCESTER

In the time of swords and periwigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets—when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta—there lived a tailor in Gloucester…

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…”One-and-twenty button-holes of cherry-coloured silk! To be finished by noon of Saturday… Alack, I am undone, for I have no more twist!”

…the poor old tailor was very ill with a fever, tossing and turning in his four-post bed; and still in his dreams he mumbled—”No more twist! no more twist!”

…From the tailor’s shop in Westgate came a glow of light… There was a snippeting of scissors, and snappeting of thread; and little mouse voices sang loudly and gaily…

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…”Alack,” said the tailor, “I have my twist; but no more strength—nor time—than will serve to make me one single button-hole; for this is Christmas Day in the Morning! The Mayor of Gloucester shall be married by noon—and where is his cherry-coloured coat?”

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…But upon the table—oh joy! the tailor gave a shout—there, where he had left plain cuttings of silk—there lay the most beautifullest coat and embroidered satin waistcoat that ever were worn by a Mayor of Gloucester…

…The stitches of those button-holes were so small—so small—they looked as if they had been made by little mice!

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Excerpt from The Tailor of Gloucester By Beatrix Potter 1901.  Full story here.

Photos by taken in Gloucester 2013, Hannah Meiklejohn.

REALLY good ways to REALLY make your writing REALLY good…

5 Ways to Deal With Word RepetitionIMG-20130504-00229

Ben Yagoda, author of How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them.

1351538829d58e341. Develop Your Ear

I believe “word rep.” is the comment I write most frequently on student papers. That’s because word repetition is a telltale-maybe the telltale-sign of awkward, non-mindful writing, whether by students or anyone else. The writer has presumably gotten the pertinent information onto the screen, but has not taken the time to read the sentence to herself, silently or out loud. If she did, that word rep. would sound like fingernails on the blackboard. Consequently, “listening” to your sentences with the sensitivity to pick up word repetition is a strong first step to grappling with the problem. (There are a lot of other benefits to reading your stuff out loud-in fact, it’s my number-one writing tip.)

2. Choose Your Battles

There are some nuances to my unified theory of word repetition, which boil down to: the more common the word, the more leeway you have in repeating it, and vice versa.
In the previous sentence, I repeated “to,” “word,” “more,” and “the” (twice, for a total of three times). That is not ideal, but it’s okay; readers are not likely to notice. On the other hand, I know I would have to wait at least a few more pages (if this were a multi-page article) before reusing the expressions “vice versa” and “boils down to.” Words like “repetition” and “common” would be somewhere in between. No matter how long the article is, I would not be able to able to use the notion of “unified theory” again.

3. The Pronoun Is Your Friend

I once had a student submit something very close to the following in an assignment: “Johnson is the youngest representative in the legislature.  When he was twenty-three, Johnson defeated the Republican incumbent.”
For some reason, a lot of people tend to needlessly repeat proper names, forgetting that they have at their disposal the very useful pronouns “he” and “she.” They have the added value of being in the category of common words, mentioned above, that can be repeated with near impunity. So the passage above could become:
“Johnson is the youngest representative in the legislature. At the age of twenty-three, he defeated the Republican incumbent.”

4. Just Say No to Elegant Variation

H.W. Fowler, author of the great early twentieth-century book Modern English Usage, coined the term “elegant variation” (which I’ll call EV) to refer a synonym, near synonym, or invented synonym used for the express purpose of avoiding word repetition. In Fowler’s view, and mine, elegant variation is not a good thing. Your efforts to avoid repetition are too clumsy and obvious. Take a look at two examples (EV in parenthesis):

“Hartnell read the newspaper. When he was finished with (the periodical), he got up and went outside.”

“Spence hit a home run in the second inning, his fifth (circuit clout) of the campaign.”

In both cases, as is often true, the simplest solution is just to take out the EV (along with the word “with” in the first example).  Incidentally, perceptive readers may have noticed that the second passage contains another EV: “the campaign.” Mediocre sportswriters are elegant variers to the bone, and they will reflexively seek to avid a common word, even if they haven’t used it yet! However, “season” is better than “campaign.”

5. Make Word Rep. Work for You

Let’s go back to something I wrote earlier:

“The more common the word, the more leeway you have in repeating it.” The repetition of “more” is okay and maybe even good—not only because it’s a common word, but because the repetition is deliberate, and helps create a strong rhythm. (The same is true of “because” and “repetition” in the sentence I just wrote.)

The key is using repetition deliberately, consciously, and strategically. If you don’t think it can be effective, imagine if Shakespeare had had Macbeth say: “Tomorrow, and the next day, and the one after that, creeps in this petty pace from one twenty-four-hour period to another.”