Filling the Gap: Downtown Bend Public Library’s new Teen Writing Group

by  April Witteveen, Deschutes Public Library

penandinkIn late spring 2014, Central Oregon heard the sad news that a beloved literature and writing non-profit, The Nature of Words (NOW), would be closing its doors.   NOW offered a variety of programming for all ages, including a teen writing group called the Storefront Project.  In the wake of NOW’s closure, word started to spread that Deschutes Public Library would be working to address the new gap in creative programming for our area.  The past several months have seen DPL staff brainstorming ways to bring more literary and creative writing options to our customers and greater community.  I started a new year with my teen advisory board in the fall, and much to my happiness one of the main things they wanted to see at the library was a teen writing group—hooray for the fortuitousness!

We worked together to plan our first event; I would be the program facilitator for now, with plans to reach out to the local institutes of higher education, local authors, and previous Storefront Project adult volunteers to bring in new faces.  We talked about what would make our writing group attractive to teens, given a few limitations to our library space and furnishings (I will be putting in a budget proposal for multiple bean bag chairs!)   On December 12 we had our initial meeting, complete with snacks and a nice classical soundtrack for background ambiance.  We primarily worked with writing prompts and kicked off our session with some six word memoirs (   We had modest attendance with 7 teens, but the size felt appropriate to allow everyone time to share.  My hope is to grow the group to at least 12 regular attendees.  A student who attended my group had been a regular with the Storefront Project, and he recommended the size—anything approaching 20 or more teens felt a little too big, he said.

Nature of Words also held writing competitions and produced anthologies; I hope to work these aspects of creative writing programming into our own plan over the next couple of years.  Prior to NOW’s closure, DPL hadn’t done much with this type of programming, but now we are eagerly looking for other ways to fill the gap and keep these experiences accessible to area teens

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

reviewed by Elvira Sanchez Kisser, Woodburn Public Library

doubtfactoryAlix Banks lives a privileged teenager’s life: she goes to a premiere private school, she is a top student, she spends her time going shopping and talking about boys with her friends, watching after her mischievous brother, while her father works too much and mother worries too little. Then a mysterious intense activist, Moses, steps into her life and accuses her father of killing others through his company and her life gets turned upside down. Alix must discover the truth about her father, Moses, and the world she lives in.

A contemporary thriller that is filled with conspiracy facts based on headlines, action sequences, hacking intrigue, security dodging and even a bit of romance. The most notable scene from a librarian’s perspective is when Alix begins to do her own research in order to make up her mind and at first sees nothing unusual when she does a cursory search. Then she begins to dive in deeper in verifying the sources of the information and the web of intrigue grows.

The story is fast paced and focused on exposing the reader to the idea of how misinformation is used in our society.  At times the narrative stalls while information is laid on the reader all at once and could have been handled better by incorporating the information throughout the novel. On the other had I liked the use of real companies and situations that can be easily verified with a bit of research.  As for the characters, they are shallow and stereotypical so as not to lose focus on the plot. Overall an entertaining way of looking at a heavy and controversial subject

The Swap by Meagan Shull

reviewed by Sonja Somerville, Salem Public Library

The SwapThe Facts

400 pages; published  August 2014

The Basics

Ellie is a seventh grader slowly sliding off the bottom rung of the social ladder after her best friend turns mean girl over the summer. Jack is a boys’ boy in a family of boys’ boys obsessed with hockey, workouts and winning. Both battling some private demons and public humiliation, they end up in the nurse’s office on the first day of school, each feeling the other must have it so easy. A wish, a few words from the mysterious nurse, and BAM! They’ve switched lives just in time to go home for the weekend and find out.


I was leery of this book because I’ve seen Freaky Friday a bunch of times and feared the story would be overly familiar. Granted, it is the same general idea, but so well done and entertaining. It was sort of Freaky Friday meets Strangers on a Train. The characters who swap lives and bodies don’t really know each other. They live in radically different households and occupy decidedly different rungs on the social ladder of their middle school. This story isn’t about understanding each other. It’s about Ellie and Jack each using their unique strengths to force change in the other’s life. It’s that great combination of funny and touching that I am a total sucker for. It’s good, clean fun for middle grade readers with enough substance to also appeal to the high school crowd.

Random Thoughts

  • I adored Jack’s three burly, boisterous brothers who – despite the boyish smells and odd fitness rituals – were truly good guys.
  • Sometimes, you get so fixated on trying to make the wrong person like you that you miss the fact that you have true, blue friends that are more worthwhile.

I’ll Recommend This To

  • Boys and girls alike
  • Teens feeling like they want a time out from life
  • Fans of realistic fiction
  • Readers looking for a story for something light and clean

Sonja also blogs about young adult books at

Awesome OYAN Preconference Opportunity!!!

by Sonja Somerville, Salem Public Library

movie-147123_640Filmmaking for Library Types

9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Wednesday, April 15

OLA Preconference,Eugene, Oregon

Fee: $70

A finished product on YouTube looks so easy, but a lot goes into creating a tightly woven, engaging video to highlight a library or library service. Experienced professionals from Salem’s CCTV will go over the general principles (and pitfalls) of filmmaking before letting attendees loose in teams to give it a try – using easily accessible tools (Flip cameras, cell phones, and Windows Movie Maker) to plan, create, and rough edit 60-90 second book trailers. The day will also include a discussion of the pros and cons of various video distribution platforms.

We’d love to see you for this excellent pre-conference and at the OLA Conference Thursday, April 16 and Friday, April 17!

YALSA YA Lit Symposium 2014

by Aimee Meuchel, Tualatin Public Library

  • Austin? Check
  • Great Authors? Check
  • Scholarship from OYAN? Check
Aimee with Author Andrew Smith

Aimee with Author Andrew Smith

Four days and three nights in Austin proved to be a fun literary adventure.  I was expecting temperatures in the low 70s and instead was greeted by the same cold front that Portland was experiencing with highs of 36 degrees and lows of 28.  Brrrrrr.  Luckily all of the events are in one hotel and you don’t have to leave unless you want to!

I arrived Thursday night and explored Austin on foot.  The next morning, I further explored (ate excellent crepes and drank amazing coffee) until my preconference Friday afternoon.  I attended Tough It Out! Rugged Characters in Young Adult Books.  This session was facilitated by Rollie Welch, Summer Hayes, and Ellsworth Rockefeller, authors of the VOYA column Man Up!  Matt de la Peña, Patrick Jones, Lauren Oliver, Andrew Smith, and Blythe Woolston were the featured authors.  It was a lot of fun to hear the authors speak about their tough characters and learn more about toughness.

Saturday began bright and early.  It was a day full of sessions and a night of book signings!  I attended YA Realness: what makes ‘contemporary realism’ feel true to readers? with our own Sara Ryan.  Also featured were Sara Zarr, Matt de la Pena, Joe Knowles, and Coe Booth.  The best part?  Matt de la Pena announcing that John Green writes Chick Lit!

The most profound session I attended was Talking Book covers with Young Adults: Whitewashing, Sexism, and More.  It was presented by Allie Jane Bruce and Malinda Lo and Jacqueline Woodson (days before she won the NBA)

were the featured authors.  It was fascinating to hear the authors talk about book covers and publishing.  I’m looking at book covers and reading blurbs very differently now that I’m more aware.  Examples: Liar by Justine Larbalestier had a cover with a white girl on the ARC but in the book she is of mixed-race.  Woodson has had her main characters presented in silhouette to disguise their race.

Aimee with author Lauren Oliver

Aimee with author Lauren Oliver

After the Teens’ Top Ten Author Luncheon with Julie Kagawa, Lauren Oliver, and Jennifer A. Nielsen (free books), I attended “Where are the heroes of color in fantasy and sci-fi?”  and “Bridge to Tweenabithia: Reader’s advisory for the gap between juvenile and young adult”.  That evening was the Book Blitz!  Every participant received 6 free books from publishers.  I was lucky enough to get books by Lauren Oliver, Andrew Smith, Blythe Woolston, and more.  My teens enjoyed receiving them as presents.

Sunday was a half day.  It began with GenreQueer: Smashing the closet which talked about LGBTQ representation in teen fiction.  My final session was Keeping it Really WEIRD (books for the fringe & reluctant readers) with tons of authors including the inestimable Bruce Coville.  Lunch was the final event with a speech by R.L. Stine.  He is a funny guy.  Seriously.  He was a comedy writer when he fell into the horror thing.

This experience was awesome.  I met librarians, tons of media specialists, and AUTHORS!  I was a total fangirl for 3 days.  Andrew Smith and Lauren Oliver may have thought I was stalking them.  Susan Campbell Bartoletti is one of the most charming people I have ever met.  I hope she took my Doctor Who and Where’d You Go Bernadette? Recommendations to heart and loved them.

The conference is in our own backyard next year.  It is not a cheap event, but it is worth every penny.  While I didn’t bring back any fresh ideas for programs, I brought back my renewed passion for YA lit.  And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about for all of us bookpushers!

A Good Day was Had by All…Who Attended the 2015 Mock Printz Workshop

By Susan Smallsreed, Multnomah County Library (Northwest Library)

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

It was another fun day in libraryland on Saturday, Jan. 24th, when 53 teens and adults gathered to select the 2015 Oregon Mock Printz winner.  Greg Lum, 2014 Printz Award committee member, shared insights about the drama, intrigue and strategy inside Printz committee.  Honor winning author Virginia Euwer Wolff (True Believer, 2002 Printz Honor) chatted by Skype about the joy and amazement of receiving recognition from the Printz committee.

Following the presentations, seven small groups went to work discussing a short list of 10 titles selected by the OYAN Mock Printz committee.  The titles were:

  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  • This One Summer by Tamaki
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
  • Noggin by John Corey Whaley
  • Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

After a short break, the entire group re-convened to discuss one more time before casting final votes. While votes were tallied, the 17 teens selected ARCs to take home as a thank you for participating. Greg Lum and Paige Battle (currently on the Alex Award committee) gave a bag of book goodies to the winner of a Printz trivia question. Just don’t ask me what the question or answer was!

The results
The winner by a landslide: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Honors were presented to:

  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

After the winners were announced the group generated a list of books that coulda, shoulda been considered:

  • 100 Sideways Miles
  • Gabby Girl in Pieces
  • A Time to Dance
  • I’ll Give You the Sun
  • Afterworld
  • Egg & Spoon
  • Harlem Hellfighters
  • How it Went Down
  • The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
  • Brown Girl Dreaming
  • Shadow Hero
  • West of the Moon
  • Mark of the Dragonfly
  • Ms. Marvel
  • Complicit
  • The Last Forever
  • Winter Horses


The actual group was larger than in previous years, and had more teens than ever.  The evaluations indicated that everyone enjoyed themselves and the opportunity to indulge in ‘book love’…and snacks. Now, let’s shout,  “The Printz is dead! Long live the Printz!”  In other words it’s time to set the date for next year’s Mock Printz.