Monday, February 24, 2014

Interview with Rachel Strayer

This is a continuation to an article published in the Library newsletter, "From the Stacks" (Spring 2014 edition) Click here to read.

Rachel Strayer earned her Master of Arts degree and her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing/Playwriting at Wilkes University. She is a writer as well as a professor, teaching classes at Keystone College and Marywood University. Every summer, Rachel teaches playwriting classes for teens here at the Library. Also every summer, her company Ghostlight Productions produces Shakespeare in the Park at South Abington Park. This year? Macbeth!

How is Shakespeare still relevant today? What will modern audiences appreciate? 

Shakespeare is relevant today because his plays deal with the same themes we see in life; from the common emotions of love, jealousy, anger and joy to the news-worthy tragedies of murder, revenge, and abuse. This year's choice of play is no different. For a modern comparison, if you liked watching the downfall of Breaking Bad's Walter White, the character of Macbeth takes a similar (albeit, drug-free) descent. He starts as a good, moral man who just wants to provide for his family (in this case, the devious Lady Macbeth). For the sake of his ambition, however, he constantly compromises his morality, slowing evolving into a completely different man. It's a fascinating process to watch, and while we may not face such dramatic ethical quandaries in our own lives, most of us know what it's like to face a moral compromise for something we really want. If we give in, how does that change us? I think modern audiences will find a lot to connect with in this production. 

Why do you believe community theatre is important? 

There are too many answers to this question! When all is said and done, quality community theatre brings people together. Local theatre artists gather to share their gifts, we're supported financially by local businesses, and everyone is welcome to come to a free show in our beautiful community park.  From start to finish, this production is created by the community, for the community, and it allows us all to bond in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible.

How can community members get involved with Ghostlight Productions? 

We are always looking for new people to audition! But even if you've never desired to be in the limelight, there are still ways people can help out. We are looking for individuals who are willing to help with fundraising, set building, set painting, and so much more. We are also looking for people who are business-minded or who design websites and would like to offer their time and services to make Ghostlight a stronger company. We thrive on having people involved who are passionate about theatre and who want to use their talents. And as always, we're looking for anyone - businesses and individuals - who would like to support Ghostlight Productions financially. We love being able to offer free Shakespeare in the Park to our community, but of course, no production is actually free to put on. We're extremely grateful to those who help us with the financial burden. Anyone interested in getting involved in any capacity should email us at: info@ghostlightproductions.org 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

They're AWEsome!

Have you visited the children's area and seen our new AWE learning stations?

One was purchased through the efforts of a grant writer.
One was purchased using funds raised at the 2013 Dorothy Boccella Holiday Marketplace.

Both are self-contained computer systems designed to be dynamic experiences for kids to get creative and learn at the same time. Dozens of games, interactive characters, music, art, math, science, & more!

Bring your kids and have them give these computers a try. Use the mouse and keyboard, or switch to the touchscreen! The AfterSchool Edge is designed for elementary-age kids, while the Early Literacy Station is meant for preschoolers. However, kids of all ages have been enjoying either one!

Check out this great Abington Journal article for more info.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

GET YOURSELF ORGANIZED IN THE NEW YEAR

Are you resolved to research your family genealogy? Visit the Library and use our edition of ANCESTRY.COM and other resources! Here's an article to get you organized... Happy Hunting!

Your Most Important New Year's Resolution - Get (and Stay) Organized," by Carolyn Barkley
(This article was written for the blog, www.genealogyandfamilyhistory.com on January 6, 2012, by the late Carolyn Barkley.)

I find it hard to believe that it's once again time for my annual get-organized-article. Facebook has recently been full of genealogists working on their goals [for the past year]. Are you one of them? If so, I hope that one (or more) of your goals has to do with organization of your papers and files.

Did you, like me, promise yourself last January that you would organize your research files and the piles of related papers decorating your work area floor, or perhaps your dining room table?
How successful were you in keeping your promises to yourself? Did you actually buy the office supplies, only to leave them sitting in the original store bags that you regularly step over and around? Have you piled more research paperwork on top of them? Are they still in the trunk of your car?

I know I have made similar resolutions every year for many years, but many of the offending piles are still under the eaves calling to me in increasingly strident tones in the wee hours of the morning - but I don't have any supplies in the back of my Jeep. I actually accomplished a filing and organization project last spring, prior to attending the National Genealogical Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. In preparing for research into the Rowell family (of Charleston, and Marion County, South Carolina), I decided that it was a perfect time to put my organizational suggestions into action. The end result was a three-ring binder organized into almost twenty Rowell family groups. Preceded by a pedigree chart summarizing the family relationships, each separate section included a family group sheet, copies of census records and other documents, and applicable pages from the Find a Grave website. While researching in the South Carolina Room at the Charleston County Public Library, I was easily able to move from family group to family group, locate all pertinent documents, and add information as needed. (Yes, I could have taken a digital version with me, but sometimes I find it easier to have the printed page when I'm researching and to make the updates to the electronic files later). Based on that experience, I plan to create several other notebooks, perhaps one in anticipation of my research trip to Salt Lake City later this month. The Rowell notebook experience allows me to feel virtuous enough to share, once again, the following tips with you as you develop your 2012 genealogical resolutions.

Before you file the first piece of paper, develop a clear and easily understandable organizational scheme for your files. My choice was family group sheets, but how you organize your files should be based on what best supports your research and your work methods. You might choose to file by surname, by generation, by geographical location, or by time period.

I suggest that you create and maintain your family research files digitally, printing them as needed for a specific research trip. (Some of us exist without paper better than others, and that's okay.) If you are keeping the files on your computer, make sure your file names are not cryptic (you'll want to know what they contain at-a-glance later) and group them in equally well-named folders. (And always - backup, backup, backup!) If you are keeping the files in printed form, decide whether you will use notebooks, as I did in the Rowell example, or hanging file folders. If you choose the latter format, in addition to labeling the main folder, clearly label individual file folders within each hanging file. This combination of files and labels will allow you to make adjustments in your filing scheme as your retrieval needs increase or become more sophisticated.

Take time for some fun. Visit your local office supply store to see what types of organizational software is available, as well as what physical folders and storage systems are available for print materials. While at the store, invest in a good label maker to produce consistent, readable labels for your physical files. If you lack space for a file cabinet - even a short narrow one - look for stackable containers that will accommodate your folders and that will fit under your desk or table, on book shelves, or in your closet. You should also buy a portable hard-drive to keep your backup files safe, or consider moving them to a storage utility such as DropBox or iCloud.

As you begin to set up your files and folders, pace yourself over several sessions. In order to keep from being discouraged, set yourself an attainable goal for each "cleanup" session. Tackle one pile of unorganized documents at a time, and place each document in its appropriate folder, or scan it into an appropriate file and folder. IMPORTANT: Handle each document ONCE. Do NOT separate the pile into separate piles and then even more separate files until you have no more floor space and can't reach the file container. To repeat - pick up a document ONCE. Analyze its contents and decide where it belongs. Place it or scan it into its appropriate file and folder. If you are scanning, decide if you must keep the original document. Ask yourself if there is anything intrinsically valuable in the physical copy, or is the information contained in it the most important thing.

If the latter, you may wish to discard the print copy. Repeat these actions, over time, until you have completed all of the piled-up papers and the carpet/chair/desk/table you forgot you owned can be seen once again. When you are finished, congratulate yourself on a job well doneand admire the new spaciousness of your room. Treat yourself to chocolate or wine - better yet both - BUT...Make a new resolution to prevent the dreaded piles from returning. This resolution will not be as difficult to accomplish as you might think if you employ one basic strategy in the future. As soon as possible after every research trip, write a research report "for the file." In the report, set out your research findings, analyze their impact on your project, and set new goals for any future research on this person or topic. Attach to the report all the documents that pertain to the research just completed and immediately scan or place in the appropriate file or folder. Voila! No piles of stray documents on the floor, no lost documents. Instead you have an easily retrievable report that will provide you with all of the information what you need for future research.

To help with your organizational process, as well add to your knowledge of research methodologies, you may want to consider the following titles:

Managing a Genealogical Project, by William Dollarhide. Updated and Revised Edition (1999, reprinted 2001).
Handybook for Genealogists. 11th ed. (2006, but currently out of print).
The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood. 3rd ed.
(2000, reprinted 2005).
Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians, by Elizabeth Shown Mills. (2001, reprinted 2010).
Evidence Explained. Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, by Elizabeth Shown Mills. 2nd ed. (2009, reprinted 2010).
How to Climb Your Family Tree: Genealogy for Beginners, by Harriet Stryker-Rodda. (1977, reprinted 1995).
Organizing Your Family History Search, by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Betterway Books, 1999).
The Organized Family Historian, by Ann Carter Fleming (Rutledge Hill Press, 2004).

The Family History Research Toolkit: Forms & Charts for Genealogical Research (CD-ROM), by Michael Hait (2008, repr. 2012).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Author Spotlight: Jeanne Moran (Part 2)

Local author Jeanne Moran has just published RISKING EXPOSURE, a novel featuring fourteen-year-old Sophie: amateur photographer and member of Hitler Youth. We asked her what the writing process was like, and she answers below.



The one step which helped me the most was writing a log-line or a pitch, sometimes called a story in a sentence. Mine was "When fourteen-year old amateur photographer and Hitler Youth member Sophie Adler contracts polio, she unintentionally starts a journey from which there is no return, one that changes her status from Nazi insider to Nazi target." I taped it over my computer and referred to it every time I wrote. That sentence kept me focused on my overall plan for the novel and kept my ever-wandering imagination in check. So I learned that a writer can plan and outline, but has to be open to change during the first draft. And as we go through the editing process we have to be merciless, cutting beloved characters and carefully crafted scenes that don't advance the story.

During the course of researching the setting and the historical details, I read 60+ books and quite a few articles in era magazines and newspapers. I watched dozens of documentaries including interviews with former members of Hitler Youth. I also researched polio, the symptoms and treatment and aftermath that so many thousands of people around the world endured. I corresponded with an archivist at the March of Dimes (formerly called the National Polio Foundation) and he shared a wealth of information about polio and its rehab. I contacted the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and with a few days’ notice, they pulled original Nazi newspapers and photographs from off-site storage and brought them to the main library. What an amazing experience, to don white gloves and handle the actual items from 75 years ago. I used their scanners and my own digital camera to photograph what I needed and brought home over a hundred images on my memory stick.

 I traveled to Munich Germany (yes, I went to Munich to research my novel!) and walked the streets where Sophie would have lived. I figured out where she would have gone to school and to church and walked through the English Garden Park where some key events in the novel take place. While there I also visited the Munich city archives, where the librarian allowed me to view 1930s city maps and photos and shared copies of them. Above all else, the trip to Munich helped me create what I hope is an authentic feel for the setting. I also did some less typical research. On ebay, I bought a 1938 Sears Roebuck catalog to see what products were in common use at the time. Since Sophie is an amateur photographer, I also bought a 1930s German camera that she might have used so I could describe its use accurately. Amazingly, I found a video on You Tube of the actual Nazi procession which figures in the final scene of the novel. Who knew?

Join us here at the library for an Author Talk featuring Jeanne on Tuesday, January 14 at 6:30PM. Please register.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Author Spotlight: Jeanne Moran (Part 1)

Local author Jeanne Moran has just published RISKING EXPOSURE, a novel featuring fourteen-year-old Sophie: amateur photographer and member of Hitler Youth. We asked her what the writing process was like, and she answers below.



I had published articles and short pieces in national magazines, but before Risking Exposure I had never attempted a novel-length work. In order to learn how-on-earth-do-I-write-something-that-long, I took two novel-writing courses a couple years apart. Both helped enormously at different stages of the novel’s development, teaching me about research, planning, outlining, and self-editing. But like most things, I didn't really know how-to until I jumped in feet first and did it, made mistakes, and learned from them.

I started jotting down ideas for this novel about six years ago, and originally planned for it to be part historical fiction, part fantasy. I wrote each planned scene on an index card, and taped each card in sequence on the long roll of postal paper which was my storyline. My idea was to take down one index card, put flesh on that scene through narrative and dialogue, then flip it over - scene written. Do that a few dozen times, and my novel would be done. Right? Wrong. By scene 2, my characters felt restricted by the plot. By scene 3, my characters began to rebel and I'd find a scene was moving in a direction I hadn't intended. The whole work suddenly became an undisciplined mess, especially the fantasy elements I’d planned - they just didn’t work at all. By scene 4, my characters were on strike and my entire novel was stuck. I had to step back and analyze this train wreck.

By reading lots of books and articles about the writing process and with the help of the Writers Group at the Dietrich, I realized the characters had become pawns in my plotline and weren't living, breathing humans. So I ditched the structure of index cards and postal paper and sketched out fuller character arcs. I spent more time planning each character's growth, allowed them room to breathe, show their own weaknesses and develop their own strengths. Then I began to write scenes involving character interaction, not worrying about where exactly the scene would fall in the final product. Somehow, the plot reorganized itself in a more organic way. The fantasy elements went into a ‘deleted scenes’ folder and the novel became pure historical fiction. I plan to use those fantasy pieces in another novel, so they won't be wasted. 

Stay tuned for more from Jeanne! And, join us here at the library for an Author Talk featuring Jeanne on Tuesday, January 14 at 6:30PM. Please register in December.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Not Just for Kids

Hey, adults!

Library programming isn't just for kids.

We know you're busy. We know you have other things to do.

But why not check out our info table full of programs just for you? Take advantage of a variety of free events that will instruct and inspire you.

Looking to make smarter food choices this holiday season? Register for Eating Well (Despite the holidays!) to hear from a dietitian and get ideas for family dinners. Thursday, December 5, 6:30-7:30PM.

Need some theater in your life? Check out Barrymore's Ghost, a dramatic reading of the play presented by actor Robert Hughes. Sunday, December 1, 3PM.

Want to make some new friends and play games at the same time? Try Mah Jongg on Tuesdays at 1PM, Bridge on Tuesdays at 1PM and Wednesdays at 10AM, or Scrabble on Thursdays at 1PM.

Don't forget to check our table as soon as you come in the library (on your left). Register for these programs and others by stopping by or giving us a call at 570-587-3440.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scare Yourself Silly @ Your Library

Looking for something spooky?

Want to lose yourself in a story that makes your skin crawl?

You've come to the right place!

Take a look at our new display case in front of the dvd section. Each month we will be featuring a new display of materials.

In October, the shelves are full of fright!

The classic Hitchcock film, The Birds, may have dated special effects but is still plenty unsettling. Why are birds attacking Bodega Bay?
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Can't get enough of vampires? Try Dracula: The Undead, sequel to the original novel. Written by the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, Dacre Stoker, along with Ian Holt, Dracula documentarian, this story is sure to chill you to the bone.

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Visit a remote island along with sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau, as she tries to discover the truth about her father's dangerous experiments on animals. The Madman's Daughter is a Gothic thriller by Megan Shepherd that was inspired by the H.G. Well's classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau.

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When the snow started, the group of teenagers stuck at school never could have imagined the blizzard that would keep them isolated for days. After the power goes out, a seemingly innocent snowfall turns into a battle for survival. Trapped by Michael Northrop.

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