Monthly Archives: April 2010

I’m sorry.

I lost count of the number of mistakes I made in the past week or so, mostly in the “Oh no, I forgot…!” category.  (Did you miss our posting last Thursday, or wonder why there was one on Saturday?  Oops!  My mistake!)   Thank goodness for the phrase, “I’m sorry.” 

I used to be one of those people who apologized if you tripped on the sidewalk 10 feet away from me.  Although I’ve gotten less extreme in my expressions of remorse, I still find that owning up to my mistakes is a helpful, if sometimes difficult, practice.  If you want to learn what apologizing can do for you, or find the perfect way to ask forgiveness, you can read one of these titles:

If you just want to hear someone sing ‘I’m sorry’ to you, you can listen to:


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Words, Words, Words: Best Writing Guides for Poets

Well, National Poetry Month is almost at a close, but we all know that poets work all year long. If you’re a writer, here’s a list of my most highly recommended books about writing poetry:

The Elements of Style – William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
Generations of writers have relied on the simple, clear grammar and style guidelines of the Strunk and White guide. Even if you’re going to subvert the rules of grammar, it helps to know them well.


Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within by Kim Addonizio
Addonizio is an accomplished poet and prose writer, and her second guide is loaded with creative poetry writing exercises and examples from her own and other poets’ work.

The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
The two authors set out to go beyond the maxim “write what you know” to figuring out what that is, how to write it, and what to do when doubt sets in.

The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn
This book compiles articles, essays and exercises on myriad aspects of poetry from dozens of experienced poetry writers and teachers.

On the Level Everyday: Selected Talks on Poetry and the Art of Living by Ted Berrigan
Berrigans’s humor, humility, and passion provide encouragement and inspiration in this series of his transcribed lectures.

The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing by Richard Hugo
In Hugo’s opinionated lectures, he maintains that the poet is her own best teacher, but he offers plenty of guidance and personal experience from his own self-taught lessons.

The portable MFA in creative writing The Portable MFA in Creative Writing: Improve Your Craft with the Core Essentials Taught to MFA Students by the New York Writers Workshop
With a poetry section that includes a self-driven eight-week lesson plan, this book provides instruction, inspiration, and tips on everything from what to write to how to workshop.The Art of Attention

The Art of Attention: A Poet’s Eye by Donald Revell
More of a meditation than a guide, this slim book explores the element of attention and presence in a poet’s consciousness. (from the Art of… series of books in which writers discuss parts of the craft)

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
This heartfelt advice from a tremendously important poet has earned its place as a classic in thousands of poets’ hearts.
2010 Poet’s Market. Cincinnati, Ohio : Writer’s Digest Books
Poet’s Market publishes its comprehensive guide yearly, including detailed submission and publication information on thousands of literary magazines and several essays and articles with advice for poets seeking publication.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie GoldbergBird by bird : some instructions on writing and life
Brief, quirky chapters offer advice on the process and writing in general.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Highly recommended. Lamott’s clever, funny guide is down-to-earth and encouraging, with practical advice on finding your voice and writing it down.

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See
The author outlines strategies for connecting everyday activities to your interior life and aspirations, from the decision to write, through the process, and after you’ve published.

The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes
Writing can be full of scary pitfalls like rejection, angering people, and revealing your innermost thoughts. This guide examines those fears and offers ways to use the fear and write through it.

How I write : the secret lives of authorsHow I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors edited by Dan Crowe with Philip Oltermann.
This gorgeously illustrated collection of writer’s talismans, tricks, superstitions, and lucky chairs will send you clamoring for your own equally eccentric writing ritual.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron 
Cameron offers a perspective on how to nurture creativity, regardless of the medium of expression.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh gathers poetry discussion info, books, web resources, and information specific to Pittsburgh on these pages.

Duotrope’s Digest gathers information on litmags and submission guidelines and allows you to track your submissions.

Part of the database, these pages offer practical and beginner’s tips on writing, publishing, recording, and performing poems.

The Poetry Foundation publishes Poetry magazine and manages this comprehensive site loaded with poets’ biographies, poems, interviews, essays, and podcasts and audio files.

Pittsburgh Poetry Calendar is a public calendar that lists poetry-related readings and events in the city. Anyone can submit events to be listed by emailing

Accomplished Slam poet Rachel McKibbens posts her creative poetry exercises on her blog.

Small Press Pittsburgh gathers information about local small presses including publishers, publications, bookstores, reading series, venues, and events.

– Renée


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Healthy is as Healthy Does

Webster’s Dictionary defines “health” as “the condition of being sound in body, mind and spirit.” Other definitions include “being free from physical pain and disease” and “the general condition of the body.” Therefore, good health includes not just one but many facets of positive living.

We all know health is important. But in our multitasking society, life pulls us in many different directions. Work, family and friends become intertwined and business can take over our lives. It is difficult to find the right balance. As a patron of the Library, we have some opportunities to assist ourselves in the right direction.

Currently, I am obsessed with exercise videos. Without spending a dime, they provide a way to incorporate daily workouts at home. Exercise produces endorphins that benefit body, mind and spirit. Here are a few that have maintained my interest (and yes, they are available in our local libraries).

Leslie Sansone’s Walk At Home-Five Day Slim Down– In our catalog, type “Sansone, Leslie” under “Author” and 72 titles appear. This is one of my favorites, with something for everyone. Choose to walk a mile a day or complete the entire video in one session. During each mile, you’ll focus on a particular body part, such as arms, legs, or tummy. Includes easy breakfast ideas as well. Request a copy as soon as possible!

Leslie Sansone’s Walk Slim: Fast Firming!– Another favorite. Strengthen arms as you walk. Plus, see progress with a mile marker on screen. Its fun, and unlike the gym, the video can be turned on at your convenience.

Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred– If you desire a more intense workout with a strict trainer, Ms. Michael is your choice. Known for her tough regimen on the TV program Biggest Loser, she can make anyone cry. If I need motivation, I put this video in for a full body workout. Of course it is not for everyone and on some days (gasp!), I cannot finish without taking breaks.

We all know that exercise plays a role in good health but eating well is just as important. Here are some titles for further thought:

Nutrition for Dummies by Carol Ann Rinzler- The book begins with a simple definition of nutrition and lists everything you might want to know about vitamins and minerals. It also includes basic diet plans.

Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting by Bethenny Frankel with Eve Adamson- Offers tips on how to eat anything and stay thin. The authors have a simple solution: watch portions and eat in moderation. Although this saying is as old as the eleventh stack itself, interesting analogies drive the point home.

Eat Your Way to Happiness: 10 Diet Secrets to Improve Your Mood, Curb Your Cravings, Keep the Pounds Off by Elizabeth Somer- A handy dandy, self-explanatory tool for those who want to feel they are not on a diet.

As you can see, the Library offers many resources for exercise and diet education and inspiration. They remind us that we can continue our search for good health despite life’s temptations. I must end this for now because I have an appointment with my personal trainers, via video, in five minutes.

 -Melissa H.


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Stamp Collection

If you enjoy finding history in unexpected places as much as I do, then you’ll love this collection of old stamps from the Music, Reference Services, and Customer Services departments. Some of them are still in use, while others are from departments that don’t even exist anymore!
One of my very favorites is on the bottom of the page – it’s the stamp that warns of the fine increase that took place the year I was born. Frequent library users will probably recognize that stamp, and many of the others. I remember seeing quite a few of these in the books that I checked out from my bookmobile stop long ago.
A favorite pastime among library staffers (or at least the ones that I hang out with) is marking coworkers with the “WITHDRAWN FROM COLLECTION” stamps. This happens most often on Friday afternoons or whenever we run out of shelf space. Librarians aren’t always serious, you know.
– Amy

Click on the image to see a larger version with notes.


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Up Late, Reading

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the words “yawn” and “coffee”

Lately I’ve been reading some truly gripping fiction, the kind of novels you simply can’t put down for an archaic, old-fashioned notion like “bedtime.” If you’ve ever tried to resist the power of a page-turner, you know that the temptation to finish “just one more chapter” frequently leads to bleary-eyed, yet satisfied, book-finishing, usually around 3 or 4 a.m. And while you may find yourself at a temporary disadvantage the next day, the satisfaction of having read an excellent story usually makes it all worthwhile.

Here are a few of the books that have recently kept me up late, reading:

VeracityVeracity, Laura Bynum. In the wake of a pandemic, the government places electronic implants in citizens’ necks and shocks anyone who utters forbidden words. Fueled by the mythic “Book of Noah,” a resistance group struggles to create a government where speech is truly free again. Caught between her lofty government position and her daughter’s freedom, Harper Adams decides to flee. A must-read for fans of dystopian sci-fi and freedom of speech.

Under the Dome, Stephen King. Those of you wondering whether or not it’sUnder the Dome worth even beginning such a hefty novel can take comfort in King’s familiar style and delivery. Cut off from the rest of Maine by a mysterious, transparent dome, the people of Chester’s Mill begin to reveal their worst natures in ways that are all-too-plausible. King delivers a scathing commentary on the decline of both liberty and civility in American culture in the guise of a horror novel…or maybe it’s just a book about capricious aliens.  Either way, you won’t be able to put it down.

Catching FireCatching Fire, Suzanne Collins. Having burned through The Hunger Games in several hours, I picked up the sequel with high hopes. Happily, I was not disappointed. Katniss Everdeen gets to return home after the Hunger Games, but even though the cameras have been turned off, the real games are just beginning. As accustomed to dystopian fiction as I am, I was completely shocked by Katniss’s further adventures, and mightily impressed with Collins’s plot twists. Grab these now, immerse yourself in Katniss’s nightmare world, and then jump in line for the third installment, Mockingjay, which will be released on August 24, 2010.

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. Experimental fiction soars to newHouse of Leaves heights in this multi-layered novel about a mysterious house in Virginia, the documentary its owners made about it, the book about the documentary, and the diary of the young man who found the book. Confused yet? It gets better, as the physical text mirrors the narrative by playing with visual representations that frequently force the reader to flip back and forth, turn the book upside down, and engage in other contortions. Replete with footnotes, color-coded text conventions, poetry, madness, nightmare and heartbreak, this is truly the novel to end all novels (sorry, James).

One person’s meat being another person’s poison, what constitutes an up-all-night read for me might not be your cup of tea! When was the last time you had a close encounter with a book that simply wouldn’t let you sleep? Leave us a comment and let us know what kinds of books you simply can’t put down.

–Leigh Anne


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On Administrative Professionals

Today is the last day of  Administrative Professionals Week (formerly Secretary’s Week), a period which recognizes the secretaries, executive assistants, clerks, and other office workers who support and/or share in the management of office-related operations.   Societal changes precipitated the need for a large number of office workers.    This need presaged the rise of the occupation.   Annual recognition of the workers, beginning with National Secretaries Week in 1952, is a culmination of the work of the Department of Commerce, “various office supply and equipment manufacturers,” and advertising publicist, Harry F. Klemfuss.   Today more than 18 million persons comprise this group of professionals.  Information about the  prospects of administration professionals is available online in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and in other media such as  Opportunities in Administrative Assistant Careers and  Business Management and Administration at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh .


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On Babies and Bebop

This post commemorates a special event in my life: this morning, perhaps just as you’re navigating your way to Eleventh Stack for your daily dose, I will be joining my wife at an ultrasound to learn the sex of our first baby. Don’t worry, I’m not going to blather on about the joys of fatherhood and recommend baby care books. No, this post is actually about jazz drumming.

Though the baby is sort of included.

You see, I picture myself telling my grown up kid this story some years from now: “While your mother was busy gestating, I was doing what I could to help out, but was otherwise helpless with worry about your future. Like any other sensible father-to-be, I found an escape from the worry by teaching myself jazz drumming.”

Max Roach, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Max Roach, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“I played drums for years before, mostly John Bonham-inspired rock and assorted heavy metal, and I was a bit out of practice. But just a couple weeks before I learned you were going to be a boy/girl*, I heard your heartbeat and it sounded like a bass drum keeping a steady 140 beats per minute. For whatever reason, it made me think of great jazz drummers like Max Roach, Art Blakey and Roger Humphries, and inspired me to pick up my sticks and play something new. So, I borrowed a copy of John Riley’s The Art of Bop Drumming from the Carnegie Library Music Department (thanks, Tim) and started swinging.”

“It was akin to relearning how to ride a bicycle. But fortunately I stuck with it, and as you know my quintet has now sold enough records to pay for your Ivy League education.”

Ok, ok, fine, I’m daydreaming a bit. I’ll probably never be a world-renowned jazz drummer and sell lots of records.

But my kid will.


*Check back later to see which one I’ve crossed off.


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Bringing Your Child to Work Tomorrow?

Tomorrow, Thursday April 22nd, is the date for the annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.  According to the sponsoring foundation’s website,  this event has been going on for over 16 years.  My son informed me that this year, since he is now 10 years old, he would like to accompany me to my place of employment for the day.  He asked in the nicest way possible, even inquiring if the library would allow him to come.
The short answer is yes and now we are both looking forward to spending the day together.  He told me on Monday morning that he can’t wait to come to work with me this week and see what I do.  He then promptly asked me, “Mummy, what DO you do all day?”  I gave him the short answer I think any librarian would give.  I sit at the reference desk and answer people’s questions, I shelve books, I work on statistics and reports, I plan programs, and I attend meetings.  He should get to see me do all of these things tomorrow, as well as help with some of them.
I feel that ultimately, not only will this experience expose him to job possibilities and options for his future, but it will also give him a greater understanding of what actually happens when Mummy says she has to go to work.

Websites offering ideas for planning this day and activities for children you may be bringing to work: Working Moms 
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation Activity Page

Book suggestions for those looking to balance their family and work lives:
Flex TimeFlex Time: A Working Mother’s Guide to Balancing Career and Family
by Jacqueline Foley



Ask the ChildrenAsk the Children: What America’s Children Really Think about Working Parents by Ellen Galinsky



The ComebackThe Comeback: Seven Stories of Women Who Went from Career to Family and Back Again by Emma Gilbey Keller



Life MattersLife Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time, and Money by A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill



Stop Living Your JobStop Living Your Job, Start Living Your Life: 85 Simple Strategies to Achieve Work/Life Balance by Andrea Molloy



The Daddy ShiftThe Daddy Shift: How Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family by Jeremy Adam Smith


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Super Without the Power

The new film Kickass tells the stories of seemingly normal people in the “real” world who put on costumes and fight crime. This gritty, hard-edged journey into the superhero genre reminds me of some of my favorite older graphic novel titles that feature low, or no-powered characters.

Here’s a short list of some of my favorites:

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley

–This is the seminal work that helped to transform comic books into graphic novels.

Birds of Prey by Chuck Dixon and Greg Land

–Great DC title featuring three low-powered female leads: Black Canary, Huntress, and Oracle (formerly Batgirl). These ladies can really bring it, and their adventures take them to every corner of the DC Universe.

Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazucchelli

–Actually better than Dark Knight, although less well known. Miller and Mazucchelli utterly destroy Daredevil’s life, only to build him back up to greater heights. At once dark, gritty, and uplifting.

Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morisson and J.H. Williams III

–What happens when you give a twisted talent like Grant Morrison seven “low-rent” heroes to play with? Genius. This wonderfully weird and offbeat series of graphic novels borrows its title from a group of old Golden Age DC heroes, but deals with new characters and carries a quirky, post-modern sensibility.

Top Ten by Alan Moore and Gene Ha

–Not really low-powered supers, but in a city where almost everyone is super-powered, Moore still manages to tell gritty police stories.  Mr. Moore’s brilliant writing meshes beautifully with Gene Ha’s tight artwork.

Just like in real life, sometimes the most powerful comic book stories can come from the most unlikely of places.


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My favorite holiday

St. George’s Day is coming up this Friday, April 23. I first heard of this holiday several years ago, at a used bookstore where I worked at the time. One of our regular customers came in with roses for all of the ladies working in the store, explaining that in Spain it’s a tradition to celebrate St. George’s Day by giving gifts of roses to women and books to men (although I think that personally, I’d be just as pleased with a gift of a book!) Any holiday that celebrates with books and roses is okay by me.

In Barcelona, books are a central part of their St. George's Day celebration.

The aspect of giving books on April 23 is a way of commemorating two giants of literature who died on this day in 1616, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.*  And incidentally, the library has loads of materials by and about both authors– look here, or here, to see our selection.  (History lovers might also be aware that although technically Cervantes and Shakespeare share the same date of death, because of the difference in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, Cervantes actually died ten days earlier than Shakespeare.)

After hearing about this St. George’s Day tradition, I started keeping an eye out for a few of my favorite books when at used bookstores or book sales, so that I would have gifts to give to people on April 23.  What about you?  Any favorite books that you’d like to give to someone this St. George’s Day, or a favorite holiday with unique traditions?


*UNESCO was as besotted with the idea of celebrating St. George’s Day as I am, and promote April 23 as World Book and Copyright Day.

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