For months, my colleagues at the Ada Public Library have warned me about Summer Reading. We're one week into the six week program, and I'm happy to report that I still have my wits about me, although you may think twice after checking out this Opening Day staff photo..
Summer Reading is our busiest time. Patrons pour into the library, lured by our free children's programs and by the chance to earn prizes like a Kindle e-reader or a collection of Amish romance novels. The annual onslaught tests our resources and our nerves. Be ready, my cohorts said, for adults who will try to compete for a kid's prize, or the kids who will complain about the prizes not being good enough.
"Guess the prizes were at my public library when I was a kid?" my boss said. "A pencil."
On Opening Day, we signed up about 140 participants. The goal is to get 500, which would be a record high for us. The mood was very unlibrary-like, with lots of talking and laughing. A tiny little toddler girl in a dirty pink checked dress, tiny, scuffed, tan cowboy boots and white blonde curly hair kept hitting the blue disk that powers the automatic door opener. Outside, in the grassy lawn next door, the Friends of the Library were holding a used book sale and an art student was painting super hero insignias on children's cheeks for free. Kids could also "touch a truck" -- a fire truck, an ambulance, a police car and a big green John Deere tractor were parked in the lot.
I don't know about the kids, but I was excited as all get out about the tractor. It was HUGE. Seven-foot-tall wheels. A seat that seemed to come with its own shock absorbers and suspension system.
Come on, of course I sat in it and bounced up and down. I climbed up into that beast and pretended I was planting DuPont P9834AMX hybrid corn.
I wish the tractor was a raffle prize. That'd really motivate me to plow through the six books that adults are asked to read as their Summer Reading challenge. You get a ticket toward a chance at a prize at the second, fourth and sixth book. You can earn an extra ticket by reading eight books.
I've challenged myself to read six books of fiction, since my former line of work kept me steeped in nonfiction. I'm in the middle of A Fault in Our Stars, the young adult fiction bestseller by John Green. I'm also listening (it counts!) to the audiobook version of The Goldfinch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt.
I glanced at the reviews on Amazon while creating the link to The Goldfinch, and now I wish I didn't. Several mentioned how great the storytelling is, but how it sagged at mid-point, as Theo the Hero descends into criminality and alcoholism. That's a big yellow warning flag for me, a chronic book abandoner. I tend to move on to the next book in my aspirational mile-high stack the moment I get stuck in story neutral.
Does anyone else see a big fat Life Metaphor here? I do. It's Month Four of my journey to Easter House, and the plot line to my story is sagging. I haven't found a job, I haven't started a bed and breakfast, I haven't begun a writing workshop. I haven't started writing. I was late to the garden party and my vegetables will likely be ready some time after the first frost of autumn blackens them. If I were reading this story, this would probably be the point at which I get bored. Would there be a Floorjack on iTunes reviewing my story the way s/he did The Goldfinch? "It could have been a great book because of its story of loss and love. Instead the pages are filled to the brim with the ramblings of a pathetic, [...] self destructive protagonist?"
Me? Pathetic? Does wearing the same outfit for three days in a row count? As for self-destructive, a bank loan officer recently commented on how remarkable it was that we willingly walked away from a six-figure income in the Capital of the World.
On the other hand, this could be the part that just "grabs the reader and demands attention," the "sometimes operatic, often unnerving but always moving chronicle of a certain kind of life!" Maybe I should start wearing one of those Wagnerian Helga the Viking helmets with the stag horns as I mow the lawn.
Operatic. Check. Unnerving. Check!
I'm going to let Summer Reading make a finisher out of me.