Bangor

A post on gratitude

It is almost Thanksgiving, and two weeks have passed since an election that made me feel less secure in this country. When I think about gratitude this year, these events cannot be separated.

I am grateful.

I am grateful for my immediate family. They keep me grounded, and make me smile and laugh every single day.

I am grateful for the friends and family in my life that are expressing their outrage over the president-elect’s dangerous appointments and calling their congresswomen and men to ask them to take a stand against individuals who represent prejudice and hatred.

I am grateful that people who voted for Trump number among these friends and family making calls to protest Stephen Bannon’s appointment, grateful that they mean it when they say they are concerned, they are listening, they are trying.

I am grateful that people who didn’t vote for Trump who said “let’s wait and see” number among these friends and family making calls, because they have seen enough and do not want to wait to see the policies that follow such harmful appointments.

I am grateful for government employees and members of congress who speak out against racism, xenophobia, religious prejudices, homophobia, sexism and the appointments that would carry representation for all of those prejudices into the White House. Who refute or dismiss those that say, “white privilege is imagined.” Thank you for being ready to fight for and with us.

I am grateful to live in a country where dissent is allowed, where it is tradition, where it is a right. I remind myself of the many places around the globe where this is not the case and appreciate the ability I have to speak out and be heard.

I am grateful to live in a country where the people have a say in the government. Yes, it’s a democratic republic, and not a true democracy, and no, the election outcome was not the outcome I wanted, and there is a lot of fear for good reason right now. But still, I am grateful to live somewhere that there is a process in which the people have the right to be heavily involved.

I am grateful to live in a community that cares. I spent yesterday speaking to over 20 businesses in Bangor, and almost all of them contributed to a care package to deliver to an individual, a person of color, who was assaulted last week. I am grateful to live somewhere that comes out in force to say, “This is not okay.”

I am grateful for theaters and performance spaces. Theaters have formed the safest of spaces in so many people’s lives, including my own: the space where you can make yourself uncomfortable and step out and speak or sing or play or dance, and know that you are supported, the space where you can make your audience uncomfortable and it is expected and appreciated. It is part of the unspoken agreement, the invisible contract between an audience member and a performer.

I am grateful to teachers: those in my life, those in my children’s lives, those in my readers’ lives, and those all over this country, this world. I am grateful that there are people who fulfill that most precious of tasks, educating our children, and do so eagerly, willingly, and lovingly, despite the amount of time and energy involved, which goes far beyond the realm of other jobs. I am grateful for teachers who do not view the use of that time and energy as a sacrifice, but as an opportunity. I am grateful to those teachers and professors who taught me to push at the seams and pull at the strings of the narratives that pad our history, to ask, to listen, to respond, to create, to read, and read, and read.

I am grateful for libraries and librarians. I am thankful there are places I can go, more safe spaces, to seek out information and stories that help me undo those narratives and build my understanding of our society, our world. I am grateful to those librarians who actively build their collections and set out displays to allow me to do that, and to read, and read, and read.

I am grateful for children’s books. I am thankful I can return from the library with bagfuls of books to share with my children. I am grateful those books show brown and tan and pink and yellow and rainbow people making peace, making friends, making music, making signs, making rebellions, making adventures. I am grateful for the mirrors and windows and empathy in those books. I am grateful for nonsensical, nonhuman, fantastical books, too. They also offer mirrors and windows, but perhaps those mirrors came from a funhouse, and maybe the windows from a moving high-speed train.

I am grateful for the children’s book community. I am grateful to belong to a community that creates stories children and young adults (and let’s be honest, adults, too) can disappear into and/or absorb into their skin, after which they feel more visible. I am grateful for We Need Diverse Books and the conversations they push, and for The Brown Bookshelf and the commitment they’ve cultivated “toward the goals of equality, justice, and peace.” I am grateful to belong to a community that is able to self-reflect and critique and revise.

I am grateful for readers. Oh readers, I am above all thankful for you. You give us our purpose. You move our goals. You inspire us every time we type a word. You bring our stories to life. Your voice matters. You are powerful. We care. I care. Thank you for keeping us accountable.

 

 

photo of Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs signing books at The Briar Patch in Bangor, ME

Book signings, reviews, and teas, oh my! Plus a note on teachers.

It has been a busy couple of months around here. Thérèse Makes a Tapestry officially launched on March 8th, and I’ve been thrilled with the response. From positive reviews to feature articles, and even a t.v. interview, people have been receptive and excited. The biggest treat has been the events with family, friends, and new readers.

In Bangor, ME The Briar Patch hosted a launch party and book signing, complete with a collaborative weaving project thanks to the generosity of One Lupine Fiber Arts. It was so well attended that the bookshop sold out of copies of Thérèse! (Never fear, they’re back in stock!)

photo of young girl weaving at book launch for "Thérèse Makes a Tapestry"

Photo courtesy of The Briar Patch

The finished weaving. I love the colors and textures!

The finished weaving. Love the colors and textures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of book signing for "Thérèse Makes a Tapestry" in Princeton, MA

A good natured crowd in Princeton, MA! (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

 

In my hometown of Princeton, MA the Cultural Council and Princeton Public Library sponsored yet another launch party and book signing. I felt stunned by the turnout of family, friends, those friends who have become family over so many years, and teachers.

A special note on teachers. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful teachers over the years, the kind that every child and young adult deserve to have. The kind that taught and pushed and guided and applauded and listened, and most of all believed. The kind that made you want to be and become your best self. The kind that not only witnessed some of your darkest moments, but that buoyed you up rather than giving up. I felt overwhelmed to see those same teachers come out and support me years, even decades, after I’d left their classrooms.

Poet Susan Roney-O'Brien with Alexandra Hinrichs (

Poet Susan Roney-O’Brien with Alexandra Hinrichs (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

One of those teachers had organized the book signing that day. When I was in fifth grade, my soon-to-be sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Susan Roney-O’Brien, took me under her word-feathered wing. She and a fellow local poet, the late (and oh so great) Juli Nunlist, ran a series of workshops for young writers out of Juli’s red barn studio. Together they nurtured my writing. They taught me lessons in storytelling and friendship I’ll never forget. Mrs. O helped me publish a chapbook of poetry in eighth grade, and put together a reading and book signing then, too. She said yes to any project I brought forth to her over the years, and has always been ready to listen, read, and talk. It is in large part thanks to Mrs. O’s guidance and mentorship over the years that I am an author today. Her poetry is remarkable. Read her new book, Legacy of the Last World, and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Photo of Alexandra Hinrichs making the finishing touches before guests arrived

Finishing touches before the guests arrived! (photo courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Bangor)

This past weekend I designed a table for the 2016 Annual Literacy Tea held by the Literacy Volunteers of Bangor. What a fun event! Every table is themed around a children’s book, and I thoroughly enjoyed designing a table for Thérèse Makes a Tapestry, not to mention seeing the enormous creativity among all the other tables. Over 300 people attended the tea, including volunteers and students. Lest there be any doubt, children’s books and tea parties are meant for each other. The fact that this one could help raise money (nearly $20,000!) for an organization that does such important work made it that much more fabulous.

In other news, I wrote all winter and have a couple of picture book manuscripts to show for it. Fingers crossed for next steps.

Listening to Mark Scott Ricketts read his book "Adventures in Vacationland."

Listening to Mark Scott Ricketts read his book “Adventures in Vacationland.” You should have seen all the table designs. They were outstanding! (photo courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Bangor)

photo of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry themed table

A peek at my Thérèse Makes a Tapestry-themed table

 

MLA Engage 2015

Image of Engage word cloud used for Maine Library Association Conference 2015I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week at the Maine Library Association’s Annual Conference: Engage 2015. This was my first time attending, and my first conference in the last five years. My conclusions were: librarians are the best. MLA welcomed me with open arms. In fact, they actually sponsored my attendance. I had called to see if they might be willing to still give me the early bird discount even though I had missed the deadline given that I’m looking for a job and finances are a bit tight. Their response was incredible. They quickly replied that they would be delighted to sponsor my attendance this year and in exchange I could volunteer at the registration table. Well, really, that was the best thing I could have done anyway. It immediately put me at ease talking, and I met so many people right away. From this whole experience I learned that a) it never hurts to ask and b) librarians are awesome. I already knew both of these things, but boy did this confirm it for me. Oh, and c) volunteering is a great way to network.

It felt good to be back among librarians. Here were some of the highlights:

Maine State librarian Jamie Ritter spoke about democracy in libraries and the importance of maintaining our shared core principles of intellectual freedom and privacy. He described silence as an incredible phenomenon, and despite the stereotype of librarians with a ready “shh” on their lips, the reason and importance of quiet is for thinking. As he explained it, “libraries are deliberate in providing opportunities for [the experience of thinking].” The library is a place to exercise our right to think and the right to our privacy in those thoughts.

Of course, I (and I’m sure other youth services librarians) could not help thinking of the youngest patrons who often think out loud and process through noise. Thankfully the two thought-provoking experiences can peacefully coexist in a library!

Another noteworthy session featured Gardiner Public Library Director Anne Davis (winner of this year’s Outstanding Librarian award) and Belfast Free Library Director Steve Norman as they discussed advocating for libraries. They championed local advocacy as the best way of creating change. By attending community meetings, getting involved with local organizations, and making your library a site for civic debate and civic events, you gain allies and establish yourself as an active and vocal member. Other suggestions they made: Always have a story to tell, and when possible have someone else tell your story. When advocating at a state level, contact your representatives. They
don’t hear from people about most bills, and when they do, it matters! Go to the state house and testify. Likewise, to advocate at a federal level, contact your legislators! It makes a difference.

alschiMy favorite speaker was ALSC President Andrew Medlar. He transformed us, a tired audience (it was
the last presentation at the end of the day), to singing, clapping, laughing, and feeling playful and inspired once more. He mentioned that the majority of the kids being born this week are expected to live into the next century. He spoke about ALSC’s big mission — ensuring that libraries are recognized as vital to all children and the communities that support them — and some of its initiatives towards this goal (“Media Mentorship”Every Child Ready to ReadBuilding STEAM with Día, and Día! Diversity in Action, for example). He concluded by asking us to think of one person we’d reach out to in the next month to tell them how awesome libraries are — and you, if you’re still reading this post, should do the same!

Tuesday began with ALA President Sari Feldman — a fellow UW-Madison SLIS alum (woohoo!). She spoke of the ways libraries transform people and communities, and of librarians as change agents. We need to take calculated risks. We do change people’s lives! She pondered how libraries can tap into the sharing economy more. She too emphasized the need for libraries to continue to protect the right to privacy and freedom of inquiry when there is so much before Congress right now chipping away at those ideals. One of the most interesting points came out in the Q&A (doesn’t it so often happen that way?), and that was that in traveling around the globe, Feldman has come to understand and appreciate that libraries are very American institutions–the large number of public, school, and academic libraries all over this country are unique and greatly respected around the world.

The last session I’ll talk briefly about was on Whole Person Reader’s Advisory, and included many useful suggestions, but in particular was the tip to say to a reader, “Tell me about the book,” that they have read or that they are looking for even if it is a book you know. Doing so gives them the opportunity to relive their experience of the book and helps them connect to you, but chances are their choice of words will also tell you something more about what exactly they liked about the book and offer clues towards the next book they’ll love.

And on that practical note, I will end my MLA conference recap. Okay not quite. I have to say again: librarians are awesome.

Photo of an icy shrub on a sunny day in Bangor, Maine

Hello 2014

It’s a brand new year! I didn’t stay up until midnight, but that turned out to be a good thing since a certain small fellow in my household woke me up at 2:45 a.m. and didn’t go back to sleep until the sun began to rise. Photo of Alex and her son on New Year's EveSo really, I just observed the turning of the year with the west coasters! Prior to middle-of-the-night wakings, we had a blast celebrating New Year’s Eve in downtown Bangor. Our evening was complete with Indian food, admiring the festive lights adorning the trees and streetlights, running around the Discovery Museum (after-hours at museums are the best), and attending a great New Year’s Eve Party at the Bangor Public Library. I am thrilled to live somewhere with such family-friendly activities and festivities! Sometimes having a very young child makes me feel…not like we’re missing out, that’s not right, because we’re partaking in a different kind of excitement at this stage of our lives, but it makes me miss staying up late and being out and about in the evening. So it felt great to be out with other families after sunset! It was also fun to see restaurants filled to capacity and everyone preparing for the street party later on. The sidewalks were buzzing, and I suspect that crowds might have been thinner this year even given the sub-zero temperatures. As we scurried from our car to dinner, the little one managed to lose a mitten. We had strategically parked closer to our final destination, and decided not to trek back looking for the too-big mitten. It was just too cold. When our bellies were full and noses warmed, we retraced our steps. And here’s what makes Bangor fabulous. Someone had picked up the mitten and placed it high up on a snow bank, balancing it on the cuff in a little wave so that it would be easier to see. We found it effortlessly. The reason I know the Hinrichs family in front of the holiday tree in downtown Bangor on New Year's Evethis is a trait of this community and not just a coincidence is because this was the third time I have lost something belonging to my son (yes, I know…I really shouldn’t admit that. But honestly, how do babies and toddlers lose articles of clothing that quickly and quietly?!) and found it again thanks to the good graces of caring individuals. To me this was the most impressive instance because somebody stopped in the freezing weather and thought about where a worried parent might look. It would have been so easy to just continue walking. Thank you to that somebody. To all the thoughtful somebodies out there. You make parenthood a bit easier and more forgiving, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

At one point a news crew asked my spouse if he had any New Year’s resolutions (I was too busy trying to cover the little guy’s mitten-less hand to respond), and that got me thinking about resolutions in general. I’ve never been one to make specific resolutions. In some ways I stash them away in the same category of my brain as diets — things that seem temporary and often unpleasant and/or unrealistic– perhaps because diets are so often included in resolutions. It occurred to me that I shouldn’t do that, though. Where I dislike many specific resolutions because I think I would just set myself up for disappointment and dissatisfaction, I do find vague resolutions in the form of broad goals helpful. Last year was the first time I really made one, very casually, by saying out loud that I wanted to become a more organized and neater person. I feel like I achieved this, but given the level of organization I was at to begin with, that wasn’t hard to do! Our house is still a disaster most days, ha. Still, though, I feel satisfied that I made some improvement in that category of my life. Now rather than dirty laundry piling up, the clean laundry piles up! I should probably just keep organization and neatness as my resolution this year, too, given there is so much more room for improvement, but I think there are more urgent things in my life at the moment.

Namely, I would like to work on growing my patience. And I would like to size down my stress triggers and habit of worry.

So there you have it. My shiny new resolution that leaves me plenty of room for missteps and backwards steps, making me feel confident that I can fulfill it.

Happy New Year, everyone! May the year bring much joy and laughter. And, of course, many wonderful children’s books to read.