One Lovely Blog Award

I’ve been nominated for the One Lovely Blog award! 

Nobody seems to know where it started, but it’s been brightening bloggers’ lives and carrying messages of support across the internet for years.

Here’s how it works:

  • Post about the award
  • Thank the person who nominated you and leave a link to their blog
  • Share 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate up to 15 people
  • Tell your nominees the good news

Blogging can be lonely. There are hundreds, thousands, millions of us all flinging our ideas and dreams, our joys and sorrows into the cacophonous void of the internet. Some days we wonder whether the world really needs one more blogger. 

That’s why the unique friendship and support among us is so important. Only other bloggers understand the occasional feelings of futility, and only other bloggers understand the occasional elation of recognition and encouragement. 

So a huge thanks to Becca and Kate for passing some of that encouragement my way!

In accordance with the rules, here are 7 fun facts about me:

  1. I prefer to be barefoot but have also walked across Manhattan in five-inch stiletto heels. 
  2. I prefer British spellings but American punctuation, especially as regards the Oxford comma. 
  3. I spent chunks of my childhood engaged in the philosophical consideration of whether I liked pink because of ballerinas or whether I liked ballerinas because they wore pink. In a plot twist of life, I no longer like pink. (Ballerinas are still great though.) 
  4. I own a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Russian but haven’t gotten past the third chapter. 
  5. I read The Lord  of the Rings five times in sixth grade.  
  6. I don’t like cheesecake. 
  7. I’m fascinated by the effects of memes on our culture and communication—we’ve developed an impressive ability to convey huge amounts of meaning in a few sarcastic words. Hit me up if you want to discuss/rant about how interesting that is. 

I’m nominating these lovely people, and you should all go check out their blogs if you haven’t already:

  • Amy, for always making me laugh and think at the same time
  • Maggie, for her adventurous spirit and impeccable sense of humour
  • Sara, because I can’t imagine anyone has a more beautiful smile or soul (or voice) 
  • Cece, who challenges me with the lessons she learns and the love she shares with (super cute) kids in Zambia
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Lessons from the Children’s Section

Shelving is the neverending story of library work. You can unload cartful after cartful of books in the stacks, and when you turn around, there will be another shelf of returned books waiting.

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The easiest books to shelve are reference materials; they’re enormous, so you can spot the five-inch-wide empty space waiting for any given book practically from across the library. Of course, reference books all weigh a couple of tons, give or take, so perhaps the best books to shelve are adult fiction—small enough to carry in one hand, read often enough not to kick dust in your eyes, and interesting enough to distract you with cover blurbs while you’re searching for the right spot on the shelf.

But my favourite books to shelve are the juvenile fiction.

They can’t stand up on their own, so you have to keep a hand on the cart to stop the whole row from toppling. The shelves are a mess, because children are happy to chuck Dr Seuss, Patricia Polacco, and Eric Carle all together on the same shelf, never mind alphabetising. You spend more time rearranging chaos than actually shelving, but there’s something magical about the children’s section—something that doesn’t extend to the rest of the library.

In the children’s section, you never know what you’ll find. Jumanji might rest against Goodnight Moon one day and Cinderella the next. Books meant to teach children about serious topics—handling death or loving people with special needs—press against books meant to trigger unbridled imagination. Animals and children and monsters mingle together in a colourful blend in which the population is too diverse for stereotypes and the lines between truth and fiction blur. Illustrated historical fictions make friends with the wildest fantasies, and yet the whole colourful mass whispers one unified message, telling children to love, to learn, to dream.

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In my twenties, I still love children’s books. Over the years, I’ve grown from sounding out The Cat in the Hat to analysing Anna Karenina, but I can still hear the picture books telling me to explore thoroughly, live kindly, and dream vividly.

Green Eggs and Ham still reminds me to give new experiences a shot.

The Grouchy Ladybug still tells me to show compassion.

Harold and the Purple Crayon still promises that creativity can change the world.

No matter where I go, no matter what I learn, these incongruous worlds of colour and rhyme are with me. They underlie the jokes I tell, the choices I make, the dreams I pursue. They live in my memories and shape my ideas. And returning to them now, even if it’s just to put them in order after tiny hands have set them in disarray, feels like coming home, like visiting old friends who welcome me with love and send me back out with that one simple reminder that’s so easy to forget in the chaos of growing up:

The world is big, but not too big for you.

Remembering Why I Write

“Sometimes I think I should quit writing and do something simple, like neurosurgery.”

I give this answer from time to time when people ask about my writing or when I’m faced with a insurmountable writers block. Sometimes I say “rocket science” or “quantum physics” instead of “neurosurgery,” but the gist remains the same.

It gets a laugh out of people. More importantly, it deflects attention and saves me from admitting I feel inadequate.

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This never happened before I became a writing major. Back in high school, I remember constant excitement as I switched between drafts, writing whatever caught my fancy at any given moment. I could ramble for hours about my ideas, and I proudly finished draft after draft and filed them away for revisions. Publishing hovered in the future somewhere, waiting for the day I had edited something to my satisfaction and found an agent, or whatever it was you had to do to get published. I didn’t know. I was happy and confident.

Now I’m a writing major. Professors expound on the near impossibility of getting published and preach the importance of racking up bylines—any bylines, in any genre—because nobody will take an unpublished author seriously. My files are stuffed with scrapped drafts, “need five more revisions” novels, and short stories with long rejection notes.

My files are also filled with publications—but not as many as I’ve learnt to need. More people read my writing now than ever before in my life, but I’m less content than ever before. I’ve been taught I need more, always more. And someone else always has more impressive numbers or more exciting bylines than I do.

This week, a couple people wrote to tell me they appreciated my writing, and suddenly I saw my life in perspective. I don’t write for faceless numbers. I write for people—people I care about.

I write because words are a gift I want to pass on. Because other writers gave voice to my own fears and dreams. Because if I can touch one person’s life in even the minutest way—if I can bring about a single smile or let a single person know they’re significant—I’ve accomplished my purpose.

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Writing isn’t about getting published or developing a fan base. It’s not about being the best or having the most bylines. Writing is about loving words and sharing ideas, working out impossible dreams and inspiring conversation. My writing is an extension of me, not the other way around, and that’s a vital difference. I define my work. My work does not define me.

I write for the joy of the language.

So this post is for the artists who crave recognition: someone sees you. Even if it’s one person, you serve a purpose. Your efforts are valuable if you inspire a single new thought, even if the new thought is your own.

It’s for the writers who face rejection slips: your words matter. Remember why you write.

Don’t write for a byline. Write for the joy of the language.