You Have a Book?

officialcover

Why Yes, I do, and I’m very excited and humbled to finally share my writing with readers.

What’s it about? (from the back cover)

Stump the Librarian: A Writer’s Book of Legs is a diverse collection of creative writing that explores Alan Samry’s life as a congenital below-knee amputee and a public librarian. Alan’s cross-genre writing in creative nonfiction, poetry, essays, satire, and experimental writing weaves fascinating mythical, historical, and literary figures into his own absorbing story of being a “born amputee.” In the book, with chapters organized as though the reader were exploring a public library, Alan writes about his experiences in an open, insightful, and humorous way. In his search for other leg amputees, Alan finds a new way of seeing himself, and the world around him.

When is it coming out and where can I buy it?

The book, published by Intellect Publishing, will be available for purchase locally, on Amazon, and for libraries through Ingram in mid-October in print and as an e-book.

Stump the Librarian Book Launch Party

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Fairhope Public Library-Giddens Auditorium

501 Fairhope Avenue, Fairhope, Alabama 36532

6:00 PM

More details on the launch party and other author events coming soon.

 

 

It’s the Holiday Season?

Library School

I’ve finished! 6 semesters + 12 classes = 1 Masters of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) from the University of Alabama.

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For the final two classes I created a Libguide and digital exhibits. Check out my digital exhibits using Omeka on the history of the Fairhope Public Library and the Fairhope Public Librarians.

For the Humanities Reference course I had the opportunity to create a Libguide. For those who don’t know, a Libguide is a one-stop shop online subject guide created by librarians for researchers and students.

The Libguide for Fairhope focuses on how the Fairhope Public Library, Fairhope Single Tax Corporation, and The Organic School were responsible for the city’s unique and Utopian beginnings.

Family

I created two more photo boxes for family members. Three nieces, a nephew, a close family friend, and now I’ve added an aunt and a newfound cousin. The photo boxes  are curated and usually handwritten. This time, I’ve created two videos using some of the skills I learned in a Digital Storytelling class last summer. I’m still new to iMovie, and the sound mix is not good at all, but they do capture some wonderful memories in words, images, and video.  My cousin Charlie Walouke found me through this space when I mentioned my grandmother Mary Walouke. I’ve rounded up some family photos, documents, and even a video for the Samry-Walouke Digital Story.

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My mom took this photo in July, 1955. Left to right: my dad, Francis, his dad Joseph Samry, Joe Walouke, Janet Midura, Mrs. Stonkas (Anna’s Mother), Stanley Midura, Evelyn Midura, Anna Stonkas Walouke, Sophie Walouke Midura, Rose Walouke, and Mary Walouke, my dad’s mom.

The other digital story I created was for Aunt Dolly’s 80th Birthday. It’s a video scrapbook of the gift we created for her. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Legs

One of my coworkers, the one who wears many hats, always gifts us with these wonderful handmade trees. One year it was a tabletop version, a small base and a stuffed red tree.

This year she really stepped up her game.

She and her husband created a tree “from a staircase in a historic home which was torn down in Selma, Alabama.”

Here’s a picture of it on my mantle.

I took one look at this tree and knew exactly what to do with it.

Stump’s Christmas Peg!

Thanks for reading and Season’s Greetings.

 

 

 

Need a Hand?

Up until a few days I was skeptical about public libraries hosting maker spaces and 3D printers. That all changed after I began reading articles about 3D printers and prosthetics. Most of the articles mention the e-NABLE community. Enabling the Future is a global nonprofit that provides open source software that lets users custom design functional prosthetic hands.

Anyway, it’s all here in a 7 minute video or text. It’s the story of a man who wants to give people (especially librarians) the tools to imagine, design, and build affordable functional prosthetic hands. It completely changed my perspective not only on 3D printers, but it’s a powerful message about our compassion and our innate need to help others.

Print

The Fairhope Public Library is getting a MakerLab for adults and teens! Complete our interest survey. We already plan to get a 3D printer, 3D scanner, robotics equipment (Lego Mindstorms, Arduino and Raspberry Pi) and Silhouette.

 

Do you know Annie Easley?

 

On Saturday, I had a high school student come up to the reference desk with her mom.

Her mom said, “Go ahead, ask him.”

“Good morning, can I help?”

“I’m looking for information on Annie Easley.”

Do you know Annie Easley? If you do, I’m impressed. I have never heard of her.

So we went to the OPAC, or Online Public Access Catalog and typed in the name.

0 results

“I found some things on the internet, but I need a book source,” she told me.

So I asked the student, who I will call J, what she had already found out about her. Easley was a scientist, and a mathematician.

“Follow me,” I said, confident that I could find a reference book with her name in it.

I pulled some subject encyclopedias on science, and women in science. Nothing.

Bound and determined to find J. some print on paper, I conducted my reference interview, then grabbed some sources. J and I scanned and skimmed alphabetical entries and indexes. Still nothing.

I learned more about Easley along the way, interviewing J about how she learned about Easley. J was African American, and so was Easley, and it’s February (African American History month), but she was not on a teacher’s list of people to research. Easley was also born in Birmingham, Alabama.

Earlier in the day, I had messaged a fellow student about what librarians without a master’s degree are called.

“Feral Librarians,” Ginny remembered.

I was a feral librarian rabidly interested in finding a book source for this shy, yet curious young student.

“They called her the Human Calculator,” J said, and added that Easley worked for NASA.

Doesn’t she sound like a woman who should be in book about mathematicians and scientists?

J also called her a “programmer.”

I told J, her mom, and now her younger brother, who had joined our tour of reference, that I just learned about this new documentary called, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap.

This documentary shows the large gender and minority gap in the world of science, specifically, computer science. Sadly, our collection was helping prove their argument and this student had done her homework. She knew Easley’s middle initial, “J.” I learned later that Easley actually developed code for NASA.

Walking back to the catalog I asked J to check the general encyclopedias. She confirmed my initial doubt and there was no mention of her in Worldbook, or Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Who is this lady?” J’s little brother now wanted to know, as we grabbed two more books from the stacks. From then on, he joined us in our search.

J’s dad came by, and seeing the stack of books, suggested to his daughter that maybe she needed to find another person.

She was thumbing through a book, and looked over at him. I could tell she was ready to give up.

“No way,” I told the whole family, then looking at J I said, “You need to champion Easley.” I’d gone feral, and decided book sources be damned. “No book sources from the public library, well, use that in your paper,” I said. I smiled, she smiled. Not a Cheshire smile, but the kind of smile that said, “I’m not sure if this librarian is crazy or just more curious than a cat.”

 Some books without Annie Easley

“I’m sorry,” I said, frustrated and angry that I could not find a print source for her. This young woman had found a person, an African American like herself and a mathematician, programmer, and NASA employee and my resources failed. The whole family and I went back to the computer and found Easley’s Wikipedia page.

“You stumped the librarian today,” I told them, and was disappointed I did not have a book sources.

J knew about Alabama Virtual Library, but she hadn’t looked at Wikipedia’s sources.

Easley’s Wikipedia page linked to a 55 page PDF from NASA’s “Herstory” Oral history project. The document was the transcript of an interview with Easley about her life.

“That’s better than a book,” I said pointing at the screen, That’s a primary document. This is her own words.” J, and everyone in her family, thanked me. Her dad shook my hand. As they headed to circulation to check out some items, I realized that Wikipedia, libraries, and librarians do not compete. They compliment.

My name in a Textbook

It happened February 13, 2016 at 6:23 Eastern Standard Time. In my second semester of online library school at the University of Alabama.

I was reading Reference and Information Services: An Introduction by Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath (2013).

On Page 115 it states:

In the past, the stouthearted librarians of the New York Public Library

would prove this time and time again as they ventured into schools to

play the game, “Stump the Librarian.”

 

 

 

 

2015 Recommendations

Books

Nonfiction

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, Neil White

Scorsese: A Retrospective, Tom Shone

Steal like an Artist, Austin Kleon

Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck

What we See When we Read, Peter Mendelsund

Picture Books

The Book with No Pictures, B. J. Novak

The Day the Crayons Came Back, Drew Daywalt

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, Lindsay Mattick, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

USS Alabama: Hoorah for the Mighty A! Karyn W. Tunks

Graphic Novel

Demise of the Spirit’s Guiding Lady, Megan Redlich

The Odyssey, Gareth Hinds

Fiction

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Poetry

Next Door to the Dead, Kathleen Driskell

Movies

Big Eyes

Big Hero 6

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Boyhood

Cinderella

The Cobbler

Dolphin Tale 2

Gone Girl

The Help

Ida

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

Night Crawler

A Night to Remember

Noah

Pixels

Rushmore

St. Vincent

Selma

Star Wars *In Theaters

The Theory of Everything

Wild

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Documentaries/Nonfiction

Evel Knievel’s Spectacular Jumps

Fed Up

Ivory Towers

Open Sesame

Television/Streaming

American Crime   

Boardwalk Empire Season 5

House of Cards

Nashville

Red Oaks *Amazon Prime

Survivor : Cambodia-Second Chance

Happy New Year!

Do You Write in a Library?

For two hours on the last three Mondays I was in my element teaching a class on creative writing at Fairhope Public Library.

Nine wonderful library patrons paid the $20 refundable deposit and showed up for “Great Readers Make Great Writers: A Crash Course in Creative Writing.” It was a true crash course as each two-hour session covered creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

Creative Nonfiction

In the first class, we got to know each other a little. My students ranged in age from thirty to ninety. The ninety year old is writing a gossip column for her community newsletter. The youngest is a coworker, sculptor, and installation artist. Many were retired, including several teachers, but I also had a stylist from a local salon.

Students enjoyed “Somehow Form a Family,” a personal essay by Tony Earley, and learned some lessons on craft from “On Keeping a Notebook,” by Joan Didion, and “This is What the Spaces Say,” by Robert Root.

The writing exercise I gave them for the first class was to skim through their notebooks, journals, or diaries, find an entry (a word, fragment, sentence, paragraph etc.) that interests or intrigues them and start writing.

“Reading fuels writing,” I said. When we read we are consciously and subconsciously learning and absorbing things we like and dislike. In this way, I believe each writer gleaned something from the readings and incorporated that little something into their writing, whether it was pop culture, a small detail, a setting, or a historic moment in their life.

For the next writing exercise, I handed out postcards from my collection and asked students to write to someone. After they finished writing, I told them to give the postcard to the person on their left. I instructed them to use the postcard given to them by a classmate as inspiration for a fictional writing journey for the next class.

Fiction

The fiction reading list included major amputee characters, a subject near and dear to my own heart.

“The Ironworkers’ Hayride,” from Robert Olen Butler’s collection Had a Good Time, was enjoyed by all the students for its humor but “Good Country People,” by Flannery O’Connor drew mixed reviews, mostly for being a bit too depressing. They did enjoy O’Connor’s ending.

We read aloud Chapter 3 from The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. “The story of a turtle.” I told my students, but it’s so much more. I called it “Steinbeck’s three-page metaphor for living.”

The flash fiction I assigned left most readers confused. Perhaps this was due to my selections, or the newness of the genre. In very short fiction you have to be able to make leaps in the reading and that’s something difficult to do, even for me.

The fictional pieces from postcards, which is how Butler wrote his collection of stories, Had a Good Time, were fabulous.

They used the postcard images (Cape Cod and Tiffin Motorhomes) or the words on the back to write an account and most of them responded to the writer in a letter, but with a fictional spin about blacksmithing, dieting, and traveling.

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Poetry

Students gave mixed reviews on a chapter from The Odyssey, by Homer and translated by Robert Fagles, and the nature poems by Robert Frost.

“Facing It,” by Yusef Komunyakaa and a “Poem Guide” from The Poetry Foundation, is where we spent the most time. Having the guide helped students understand the depth of poetry upon a close reading of a few lines.

In addition to Homer’s epic poetry, the nature poems of Frost, and the ekphrastic poem of Komunyakaa, I chose works from two actual amputees.

“Invictus,” Latin for unconquered, by William Henley was written from a hospital bed after doctors believed Henley, who already had one leg amputated, was at risk of losing the other. They saved the leg, and Henley went on to achieve what I can only dream of. With “Invictus,” he became a one-hit wonder, but to his friend Robert Louis Stevenson he was much more. Henley became the inspiration for Long John Silver in Stevenson’s classic pirate novel, Treasure Island.

Jillian Weisse’s poems of her amputee childhood brought back some memories of our experiences in “Below water,” and some humor in “Holman, Age 10,” from her collection, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex.

Read, contemplate, imagine, think, reflect, write.

Many said writing the poem was the most difficult exercise but they used song lyrics, humor, civil rights, rhyme and repetition to discover how writing is a form of artistic expression.

These never happen in order, but having a few steps to get the creative writing process going is useful to all artists, including creative writers.

I heard recently that creative writing is no longer offered at many public schools. While this saddens me, I would like to keep creative writing classes alive in the public library, an idea that dovetails with my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing.

Let me tell you how fortunate I am to offer these programs. The leadership of Fairhope Public Library, recently named a “Gold Star” library by the Alabama Library Association (ALLA), encourages staff and patrons to share their expertise, hobbies, and passions with their communities. Sharing knowledge and information is the cornerstone of public libraries and I believe growing these learning, artistic, and continuing education opportunities is the future of public library programing.

Do you agree? If so, check out  Fairhope Library for what’s happening soon (Phil Klay author of Redeployment), and watch the “Events Calendar” for my summer creative writing series. I love sharing what I’ve learned with others, but there’s nothing more rewarding than hearing those voices read writing they have created.

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