Monday, September 24, 2012

TRUE COLORS for MMGM -- and why the blog looks different

I rarely get personal on this blog. But I'm about to. So if you'd rather scroll down for my MMGM recommendation, TRUE COLORS by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, feel free.

Now that summer's over, I can tell you it wasn't the happiest of seasons.


For the past ten years, I worked in the Children's Department of Chester County Book & Music Company.

(Taken in September 2010)


A lovely young woman named Suzanne hired me and trained me (in fact, I was the only one there all these years who was hired and trained by her).  Everything I know about bookselling, I learned from this wise and funny gal.  She left the bookstore in 2003 to move on in her career, even owning her own store at one point.  I had dinner with her in Portland, Maine, where she was then working, in 2007. Years went by and we lost touch.

Suzanne and me in 2007

In mid-June of this year, I learned that she had passed away suddenly, senselessly, tragically, at the age of 39.  The family had a private funeral and promised a memorial service in Pennsylvania at a later date.

Then in mid-July bookstore employees, followed quickly by the public, learned that the bookstore has been operating on a month-to-month lease since January. A fitness center is interested in the space and it's only a question of time before the deal is completed and the bookstore will then close.

These two seemingly disparate events combined in my mind to make this a difficult summer.  I learned that some people in authority will stoop to nefarious means to find out what people said on their facebook page.  I learned who my friends were ( You know the ones who ask how your vacation was? Those are your friends).

I realized that life is too short and what I really want to do is write for kids.

So that's what I'm doing.  And yes, I am blessed to be able to afford to do this.  I gave notice at the bookstore and timed it so that my last day was Friday, September 14. The next day was the memorial service for Suzanne. It seemed entirely fitting to me that my career as a bookseller should both begin and end with Suzanne. Rest in peace, dear friend.

*   *   *   *   *   *

What will I miss about the bookstore?

I will miss meeting people who love children's books.  I will miss recommending books to my favorite customers and talking about books with enthusiastic book lovers. Luckily, I can still do that with this blog!   I will miss unlimited advanced reading copies at my fingertips.


I will miss this:

(But I can still meet wonderful authors like Richard Peck at book signings anywhere)


I will miss this:




and this: 




and this:






What won't I miss?



I definitely won't miss this:

Yes, we were still using DOS computers


or this:

The ceiling leaked when it rained



I won't miss selling toys.  I won't miss shrieking toddlers.  I won't miss checking the public restrooms at closing time. And I won't miss working every Saturday for ten years. I won't miss that at all!

I'm now self-employed and loving it.  I figured the blog needed a facelift, so that's why it looks different.  And next week I'll be having a giveaway to celebrate my new status!

 *   *   *   *   *
Now for today's MMGM.  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants, see my sidebar.  I think my friend Suzanne would have enjoyed this book about family and friendships and one summer of self-discovery for a sensitive girl.


True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock (Coming November 13 from Knopf, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): One girl's journey to find the mother she never had, set against the period backdrop of a small farming town in 1950s Vermont. For her entire life, 10-year-old Blue has never known her mother. On a cold, wintry day in December of 1941, she was found wrapped in a quilt, stuffed in a kettle near the home of Hannah Spooner, an older townswoman known for her generosity and caring. Life with Hannah so far has been simple—mornings spent milking cows, afternoons spent gardening and plowing the fields on their farm. But Blue finds it hard not to daydream about her mother, and over the course of one summer, she resolves to finally find out who she is. That means looking through the back issues of the local newspaper, questioning the local townspeople, and searching for clues wherever she can find them. Her search will change her life forever.

Why I liked it:  This beautifully-written novel is a true middle-grade in the purest sense. There's not a lick of romance. Instead there's adventure and mystery. There are fascinating characters. And historical fiction fans will love this -- it's the summer of 1952, a time period not often treated in children's literature. It's also one of those quiet books I'm so fond of (see this post about another).  The synopsis doesn't tell you that an important part of the book is Blue's friendship with Nadine or that Nadine has trials of her own. It doesn't mention Raleigh, a man who suffered a brain trauma and now can only say a few words.  And it doesn't mention Mr. Gilpin, the newspaper editor, who offers Blue her first paying job.  Along with Hannah, all these people are important to Blue, for varying reasons. The only drawback is that this book won't be published until November! So add it to your TBR lists.

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock is the author of The Canada Geese Quilt, Gifts From the Sea and many other wonderful books. Her website seems to be under construction, but this link should work.

Thanks for sticking with me. What middle-grade books are you looking forward to?


28 comments:

  1. Congrats on acheiving a goal to do something that makes you happy! Best of luck!

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  2. Times like you've gone through are hard. And you know I can so relate to it all, facing the same outcome, just in a few years. It's good to see how you've taken a hard situation and used it to follow your dreams. Hope I can do the same, though I'll still need a new job.

    Love the new blog look.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! I know you can relate. And in some ways it must be harder, knowing so far in advance that your job will end.

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  3. Love the new look!! Sometimes things happen for reasons and soon you may find out why. Change can be good.
    I'm so sorry for your loss.
    One day your dreams will come true. Now, get writing. :)

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    1. Thanks, Christine. I do believe that things happen for a reason. Hope it doesn't take forever to learn the reason.

      Yes, ma'am! I've been writing every day since I left the bookstore!

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  4. Joanne, I love your more personal posts, and now I celebrate the new stage of your life! I imagine it was a brave decision for you, and whatever happens, at least you'll know that after ten years of a satisfying career, you're giving your real dream every chance.
    I'm with you in this -- hip, hip, hooray!

    Katia

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  5. Thank you for sharing from your heart and being so honest. I loved the photos of what you will and won't miss! You have had to adjust to some difficult changes this summer, but instead of letting it destroy you, it sounds like you are really trying to make the best of things. Congrats to you.

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    1. Hi Susan! Thanks so much for your kind words.

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  6. Ohhhh. I love everything about this post, Joanne. Not that I love your being sad or encountering change that is difficult, but I love that you put it all together in one blog post -- change, new direction, endings, beginnings, and what you love and don't love. Blessings of the very best kind as you move forward in this new phase of your life.

    And this book sounds like something I would love. I'm adding it to my to-read list.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara! You understood what I was going for here. Change is good. And yes, you will love this book.

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  7. Joanne- It's sad to see that another bookstore will be closing, but I am glad that you can take the good from this situation. If nothing else I hope it gives you the time you need to finish and polish your own book. That's just awful about your friend Suzanne. 39 is so young. Your post is a reminder that we touch so many people throughout our lives, sometimes in ways we might not understand or realize.

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    1. Thanks, Kat! I'm diving into writing something new now, but I do need to work on revising the old. Time is now something luxurious instead of moments snatched here and there. I feel very lucky.

      And thanks for the kind words about Suzanne. Yes, it was a shock. I wish I had had the chance to let her know how much she meant to me.

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  8. You are a lovely lady and wonderful writer! I hope to see you again soon.
    PS How was your vacation??

    Sandy Green

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    1. Ha ha! Sandy, you're a gem! Yes, I count you as a friend. My vacation was a lovely respite in the middle of an awful summer, and I came back determined to take this leap. Hope all's well with you. Keep in touch. I miss seeing you at Fall Philly.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your story and good luck as you embark on self-employment. I write full-time myself. It was strange to give up the paying day job, but I'm so glad writing is now my priority. Best of luck!

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    1. Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for this comment. I love hearing about others who've made that leap. Yes, giving up my job means cutting back in some ways (I won't, for instance, be buying very many books!)but you're absolutely right: writing needs to be a priority if I'm ever going to be successful.

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  10. Ditto what Barbara just wrote! Sorry for your sad news, and thank you for your honesty. I just wrote a more personal post than I usually do too, and it made me feel better, see things more clearly - I hope for you, as well. All the best, and thanks for the giveaway!

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    1. Thank you as well, Kristin. I just went over and read your very moving post. It's always worse when a child dies, and I feel for your daughter in losing a classmate. You expressed it all so beautifully.

      The giveaway will be next Monday, so tune in then.

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  11. Joanne, I had no idea until now that this was going on in your live, and that your summer was so difficult. (Apart from your vacation; that looked lovely.) Your retirement from bookselling is bookselling's loss. (It must have been wonderful to be a "Joanne's Pick," and I see you've picked a number of my faves, including MAY B. and Beth Kephart, who I hugely admire.) But you are doing the right thing, seizing this opportunity and doing what you love and feel called to do. From what I know of you, I am convinced that you will write a wonderful book that will be published. And for that moment, I cannot wait.

    My thoughts, too, are with you at the death of Suzanne, who left this world far too early.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. Yes, the vacation in the midst of all this was a welcome respite (and I actually came back resolved to do this -- it just took a few weeks). There was even a moment outside Portland, Maine, where I stood in a library Suzanne had worked in not too long before and took a deep breath, knowing she'd been there. Then I spoke for about 15 minutes to two lovely librarians who knew her. It was one of the highlights of my trip, for reasons that are now obvious. They were glad I stopped in.

      You don't know how much I appreciate your vote of confidence, especially as all I'm collecting right now are rejections. I have the feeling we'll be seeing YOUR book before too long. And I can't wait for that!

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  12. I'm happy and sad for you, at this bittersweet moment in your life. Very cool, though, that you're able to write full-time now! I'm sure this new road in your life will be filled with adventure!

    Love your pick for today, I'm adding it to my to-read list.

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I hope life is full of adventure and not just rejection letters. For you too.

      But I'm not getting any younger, so it's now or never.

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  14. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and that your time at the bookstore has come to an end. I am a firm believer that God always has a plan and I'm excited to see what He has in store for you. :)

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  15. I can tell you, as you well know, that pulling up you socks, packing your stuff, and leaving a job can be the best thing ever. I never ever regretted for one moment leaving H&R, though I did miss some of the lovely folk I left behind. And I have absolutely no doubts about you and your future. Write on, dear friend!

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    1. Thanks, Jo! I well remember when you packed up and left H&R (sniff, sniff). But I was proud of you for taking that step and doing well.

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