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World Book Night 2014

World Book Night 2014

It was delightful to give away twenty copies of Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet on World Book Night 2014. At times, I was reminded of Renée Zellweger’s line in Jerry Maquire, “You had me at ‘hello,’” when I began my elevator pitch with, “Today is World Book Night and I have free books.”

I wish I could’ve captured the expressions of the Hellgate High School students’ and recorded snippets as they listened and responded to my pitches. “I’ve heard about this book,” one boy said. “He had to wear a button that said, ‘I am Chinese,’ didn’t he?”

Another said, “I love this book!” adding, “I have a copy,” which freed the remaining book for one of his friends.

Along with a brief chat about Hotel, I told the students that Jamie lives in Great Falls (one hundred seventy miles away) and that “he’s a big deal”—having recently traveled to cities across the U.S., Italy and Norway with his newest book, Songs of Willow Frost. I told them he was in Missoula last fall for The Festival of the Book and I had the pleasure of meeting him.

Some were duly impressed.

They laughed when they heard about Jamie’s “Houdini” dog, Dexter, and the YouTube video that had garnered more than twenty-seven thousand views. In the ensuing days, Dexter has become even more famous. As of today, his viewing audience has escalated to 40,670.

For those I didn’t capture at “Hello,” something in our conversations closed the sales for most of the students I encountered that afternoon. Once books were in hands and I’d received permission to take and post photographs, I took out my camera. For the third year running, my favorite part about being a World Book Night giver?

The smiles.

World Book Night 2014

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World Book Night 2014

World Book Night 2014

World Book Night 2014

World Book Night 2014

World Book Night 2014

Jamie penned a letter two weeks ago, though I didn’t discover it until yesterday. To those who received a copy of his book, this letter’s for you. To those who did not, read it anyway. His letter—and the above tweets—prove what a cool guy Jamie really is.

1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti. Then...

Forty Years Later

It is the time of year when many high school seniors are immersed in college applications. Some have ideas about what they want to pursue after graduation. Others do not.

As I worked my way through my final year of high school forty years ago, I knew I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. A Butte Central classmate, Janet Finn, was planning to study pre-med. Another classmate, Leah Joki, had plans to undertake a fifth year of high school in Belgium, then come back and become a film critic. None of us envisioned that, years later, we would be authors.

1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti.
1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti.

Last month, the three of us took a road trip back to our roots to read from our most recent works. We read at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives at noon and at the Finlen Hotel Copper Bowl Ballroom that evening.

Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Buley.
Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Buley.
MINING CHILDHOOD: GROWING UP IN BUTTE, 1900-1960; JUILLIARD TO JAIL; NANNY ON THE RUN.
MINING CHILDHOOD: GROWING UP IN BUTTE, 1900-1960; JUILLIARD TO JAIL; NANNY ON THE RUN.
Janet, Karen and Leah signing books at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.
Janet, Karen and Leah signing books at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

Our audiences were a mix of people we knew and people we didn’t; of folks with longtime Butte ties and relative newcomers. At our evening reading, a three-generation family whom we did not know sat in the front row. We learned that the grandmother had penned a memoir about growing up in China and the Philippines during WW II. The dad, a Golden Gloves boxer, had coached prison inmates in the sport. The mom had worked as a nurse at Saint Patrick Hospital in Missoula, and their daughters—one in college and one in high school—aspired to become an actor and a writer.

Years have passed since Janet, Leah and I were the ages of those girls, and our lives are different than what we had imagined they would be. Janet teaches in social work, women’s studies, and international development studies at the University of Montana. Leah received an MFA in acting from the University of Montana last spring. She recently wrote and performed her one-woman show, PRISON BOXING, at Missoula’s Downtown Dance Collective. I, after a long and fulfilling nursing career, am working as a library media assistant in a Missoula high school. We all have works in progress.

To the girls who were seated in the front row at the Copper Bowl Ballroom, best of luck as you pursue your dreams. To Leah and Janet, our high school English teachers would be proud.

2013 Montana Festival of the Book

One of my annual highlights for the past several years has been attending the Montana Festival of the Book. I love everything about the Festival: readings and panel discussions; chats about the craft of writing and about the publishing industry; films; vendors and the Festival bookstore; and the opportunity to meet and mingle with authors, agents, editors, publishers, and other Festival attendees. As its website states, “The Humanities Montana Festival of the Book is one of the biggest cultural events in the Northwest.”

This year, I am honored to be a guest author at the 2013 Montana Festival of the Book. The kickoff begins Thursday, October 10 with three events, including an evening with Sherman Alexie. I have the privilege of reading from Nanny on the Run October 11 and being on a panel October 12: “Girl Power: Writing the Teenaged Heroine,” with fellow authors Natalie Brown, Janet Fox, Pete Fromm, and Blthye Woolston. I am humbled to be in their company.

World Book Night 2013

For the second year running, there aren’t adequate words to describe the thrill I felt when sharing books with students on World Book Night. This year, I strolled through the hallways and courtyard of Hellgate High School, my library cart laden with new books. Since the other “giver” wasn’t able to join me, I had the pleasure of handing out books to forty students.

Outside the library, the first two students I came across chose copies of  J. R. Moehringer’s memoir, The Tender Bar. Though I haven’t yet read Moehringer’s book, my pitch was successful and it was easy to find ready recipients.

The Tender Bar!
The Tender Bar.

I was able to give a glowing review  for the other title in my cart: Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. The first ones to choose this book were among a handful of students who were enjoying the crisp, spring afternoon in Hellgate’s courtyard. The smiles and thanks I received from beginning to end of my book-giving excursion were heartwarming.

Smiles in the Hellgate courtyard.
Smiles in the Hellgate courtyard.
The Language of Flowers and The Tender Bar.
The Language of Flowers and The Tender Bar.
More great smiles from the few who braved the cool spring afternoon.
More great smiles from a few who braved the cool spring afternoon.

Some students asked if they could have both books. Had there been extras, that would’ve been okay. Anticipating that wouldn’t be the case, though, I told them they had to pick one. Perhaps those students will trade once they’ve read their chosen books, or maybe they’ll come to the library to borrow our copy of The Language of Flowers or The Tender Bar.

Two great reads that made for a tough choice for some students.
Two great reads made for a tough choice for some students.
Smiles in the halls of Hellgate High School!
Smiles in the halls of Hellgate High School.
Look what I got!
Look what I got!

My addition to each copy of The Language of Flowers was a handmade bookmark, each with the name of a different flower specially chosen from the flower dictionary in the back of Diffenbaugh’s book. I invited the students to embellish their bookmarks, either at home or in the library, and offered to then laminate them with extra pieces of book covers. To date, no one has taken me up on my offer. Whether anyone decides to or not, I hope that the students enjoyed sleuthing through the dictionary to find their flower’s meaning.

Armfuls of Myrtle, Oregano, Peppermint, and Pink Carnations to all who made World Book Night possible.

World Book Night

Celebrate World Book Night 2013 on April 23rd

Giver applications are due January 23rd

It was a thrill to be a giver last year on World Book Night 2012. Of the 25,000 givers nationwide, three of us celebrated books and reading with students and staff at Willard Alternative High School.

World Book Night 2012
Karen Buley presents The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Namesake WBN 2012
Karin Knight reads from The Namesake
World Book Night 2012
Kim Anderson shares Housekeeping

I had the privilege of sharing Sherman Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Alexie has been on my radar for years, ever since I heard him speak at the University of Montana. He was inspirational, funny, and his words about the craft of writing prodded me to continue to plug away at my own writing.

World Book Night 2012
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian!
World Book Night 2012
Great smiles for great books
World Book Night 2012
Humor in Sherman Alexie’s words

This year, I’m applying to be a giver of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. Not only has Diffenbaugh written a powerful debut novel about what can happen when you age out of foster care (you might find yourself homeless and sleeping in a park like protagonist Victoria Jones), she also is a co-founder of The Camellia Network, whose mission is to create a nationwide movement to support youth transitioning from foster care.

A bouquet of angelica, bellflower, flax, lisianthus and orange to Vanessa Diffenbaugh. White carnations, cosmos and peppermint to all who make World Book Night 2013 possible.

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