green gables love and exploration

Oh, Anne Shirley. Where have you been all my life? YES, friends have swooned over Anne of Green Gables and have told me I MUST READ THIS BOOK, and I have demurred and thought, meh, it just isn't in my wheelhouse, I'm just not interested, she lived in NOVA SCOTIA (wrong... sorta) and I am from the American South and it's going to be twee and saccharine and not at all interesting to me, and...

Well, I was wrong. Even though I haven't yet met Gilbert (RIP, oh no) and have only gotten as far as the first picnic, I know I'm onto something special that is showing up now, to teach me. I just know it. I don't know what I'm going to learn or how it will be incorporated, but in this year of exploration, this is what has come next.

After a spirited conversation while in Mississippi with my cousin Carol, a retired 2nd-grade teacher and librarian, I downloaded the audio book (thank you, Overdrive, and Gwinnett County Libraries!) and listened to it on my way home from Mississippi, where I had spoken at the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival, listened to it as I drove to Montgomery (flat tire at 5:30am and all), and listened to it as I drove from Montgomery, where I spoke at the Alabama Book Festival, all the way home.


Evidently, so is Sarah Mesle. She writes, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, "Ten Things I Learned From Loving 'Anne of Green Gables.'"

This is exactly the kind of kismet that happens when you open yourself up to the universe and say, "teach me." Things come into your path. (Sometimes they are weird things, and things that don't seem to fit together. I just trust them.) People who don't even know you help you on your way. Sara Mesle, thank you. I'm not going to worry about the lack of plot... which was beginning to niggle at me. I'm just going to enjoy myself.

Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert in the 1985 mini-series production of Anne, has just died. This is something I likely wouldn't have heard about (as I don't follow the news anymore), except that I had that spirited conversation with my cousin, I started listening to the book, and Carol sent me the news yesterday.

Life turns on a dime. So does death, as Comfort Snowberger well knows. And so does how we parse the world. Carol sent me this ending to Anne, so I could see it and hear it and feel it and be part of her sadness at dear Gilbert's death, and so I could be pulled a bit more into the Anne community. I'll append it here so I can remember...

You can see photos from the Book Festival and the Alabama Book Festival at Facebook and on IG. It's Sunday evening as I write this. Got to get ready for Wolf Hall on PBS. I text through the whole thing with Carol. I've learned to trust her literary judgement, and now I've got her trusting mine. I loved the novels by Hillary Mantel -- "you must watch this!" I told Carol, my Anglophile. One day she and I will get to Great Britain together. I want to be prepared. Maybe Wolf Hall is part of the year of exploration.

Happy Monday, friends. xoxoxo

back to school

Notes on Being a Late Bloomer is here.

The Year of Exploration is here.

 It occurred to me yesterday: I am intuitively doing what I did when I was so young and a single mom, uneducated, needy, and wanting a life for my kids, for myself, wanting to understand the world and to find my place in it. I went to school. I got my undergraduate degree from the many libraries I haunted during those years.

I was barely 22, I was broke, I was alone with two small children, but I had a library card. I still have a library card. Now I have two (we made peace). Suddenly, in this year of exploration, I am back to school and in much the same way. Let's call it a graduate degree.

I'm following my intuition, pulling on strings when an idea comes to me or someone mentions something that rings a "year of exploration" bell. I am truly following my nose here, as well as my list of things I want to explore. These notes are the ones I took when listening to Malcolm Gladwell's THE TIPPING POINT from my library system's Overdrive account. *love* Overdrive.

I don't know what I'll do with what I learned from THE TIPPING POINT, but that's not the point. I know I will use it. I know it's part of the year of exploration. It will tie in with everything else. I've always been a learner; I rarely have a stretch of time in which to learn in depth, intensely. That"s where I am now.

I finally excavated my office. I've been on the road for the past six months -- I've traveled in six months as much as I usually do in a year. I have bought myself some time off the road. My sabbatical starts June 1. I'll still travel. But that travel landscape is going to look different going forward.

More on that later. For now, I've spent the most lovely, rainy Friday afternoon going through ephemera of the past six months on the road. Letters from students, student writing, receipts, little gifts and remembrances, bills and business stuff... "Oh! There's my parking receipt!"... and photographs to remind me of good work done with new friends.

I got on the road 15 years ago when I became so suddenly single, and I've done a good job of taking care of me and mine, I've done good work on the road -- I've learned so much -- and I've written some good books. Now is the time for stillness and learning to love my new hometown, and writing, and learning, and being. Becoming. Something. I don't know what yet. I am trusting the process.

Have a great weekend, friends. I'm going to be off exploring. I'll capture and post exploration photos at Instagram and Facebook (mostly IG, as that's where I chronicle daily life). xoxoxo

a reply, and my reply to DeKalb County Libraries

{DeKalb Libraries responded to my open letter (which you can read in my last post). Director Weissinger waived my yearly non-resident fee and promised to look into the situation at the Tucker branch. My reply is below. I well know this pushes my buttons for long-ago personal reasons, but I also know it's a vital issue today}

Dear Ms. Weissinger,

Thank you for such a prompt response. Even though you have waived it, I would like to pay my yearly non-resident fee -- I went into the library ready to pay it. My neighbors have had to do this as well, and they are avid library users, most of them with small children. If they live in Tucker and less than a mile from the Tucker library and have to pay the non-resident fee, so do I.

You didn't mention it, but I also want to pay the $10 fine that has sat on my card since 2005. I don't remember this fine and didn't realize I had it, but I am happy to pay it, even though the desk librarian at Tucker sounded punitive when she told me about it. "Okay, I'll pay that, too," I told her. Then I was told I couldn't use a credit card to pay the $55 total, so I said I would go home and get a check.

The entire exchange was unpleasant, unprofessional, and frankly shocking. I have never encountered librarians -- or trained para-professionals, or anyone behind the desks -- with such a blase, bored, who-cares, and "you're bothering me" attitude. The point, for me, is that librarianship is still the most unbiased, staunchest bastion we have with which to fight illiteracy and misinformation. An informed citizenry is vital to our democracy, not to mention individual quality of life and community health.

I am capable of looking up the answers to my questions on my own. Many of your patrons are not. Your services benefit people of all ages and persuasions and demographics and diversities. Many years ago I was a homeless teenaged mother, infant on my hip, standing in front of the information desk asking for help. I had no earthly support. Librarians behind that desk took me in hand and gave me the tools with which I could fashion a life. If they had turned me away, if I had felt unwelcome, I wouldn't have gone back. And I did go back, over and over, library after library, in town after town, ahead of the landlord, ahead of whatever disaster befell me, until I could get on my feet. I well understand the power of libraries and librarians to help shape a life. Lives.

If the fee (and fine) cannot be paid in the traditional way (since it has already been waived), I will make a $55 donation to the library fund of your choice. Please let me know how I can pay this.

Thank you for listening and for reading, and for considering what might be done to ensure all are welcome at the library.


Deborah Wiles

an open letter to DeKalb County Georgia public libraries

{As part of my #yearofexploration I decided to stop protesting the $45 fee I must pay to use the library up the street from me. Having two library systems will be much more convenient for the many expeditions I hope to helm this year. Here is what happened when I tried to renew and asked a question...}

An Open Letter to the DeKalbCounty Public Libraries in DeKalb County, Georgia:

April 3, 2015

Dear Library Board and Director Weissinger:

Yesterday at 3:00pm, I went to the Reid H. Cofer/Tucker branch of the DeKalb County Library with the intention of paying the annual $45 and renewing my non-resident library card. I want to tell you about my reception at the circulation desk.

I live in Tucker, Georgia -- in the same town as this library and less than one mile from this branch -- but in Gwinnett County. I moved here in 2004 from the Washington, D.C. area and immediately got a library card at the old Cofer branch in Tucker.

At the time it stuck in my craw that I had to pay $45 for library privileges because of a county line. The DeKalb County school bus picks up students just four houses up the street from me, on Ginson Drive. In protest, I refused to pay after my first year with DeKalb. I also had a card in the Gwinnett County Library System, and from 2005 on, I used only that system. The closest branch is seven miles from my house.

I love the Gwinnett County Public Library system. But DeKalb is a walk away from my house and much more convenient, and for a working writer, using both branches is ideal. So I broke through my resistance this week, and I walked to the desk at the Tucker library and presented my old card and asked to renew it.

I want you to know that the two librarians behind the circulation desk could have cared less about my request and were entirely unhelpful. There was no line waiting and there were no other patrons nearby. I was told that I needed a check or cash in order to renew -- I had a credit card. That was fine. I would go back home and get a check, I told them.

When I asked who I might write to, to officially protest the fact that I live in Tucker and cannot use the Tucker library, both librarians shrugged. "The tax office?" one of them said. The other nodded, "It's a tax issue."

"Could you help me figure out who it would be?" I asked. They shrugged. "It would be Gwinnett County," they agreed.

"I'm going to go home and get a check -- I live less than a mile away... would you mind helping me look this up or tell me who to ask?" Yes, they would very much mind.

"Isn't this what librarians do?" I asked. They shrugged. "Well, it's what librarians used to do!" I said. And I stalked out the door, frustrated and suddenly angry.

What DO your librarians in DeKalb County do? Is there some reason they no longer help patrons -- former, present and future -- with research questions or requests? Can they not direct them to help? Is morale so low in DeKalb County or training so ineffective, or apathy so rampant that there is no hope?

Throughout my life I have never been far from a library. Libraries have actually saved my life -- another story for another day. They have been an essential part of my life and my work and my play. You have a stunningly beautiful library in Tucker. It's a shame it is filled with librarians who don't understand customer service or the idea of what help really means. It's a shame I cannot use your library without paying a $45 fee every year -- a fee I was willing to pay and walked in ready to pay.

Gwinnett branches are farther away from me, but the librarians at my branch know me and welcome me and research with me and laugh with me and hold books for me and for my four-year-old granddaughter when I bring her (she lives in DeKalb County!), and they help her fill her book basket with stories.

I feel welcomed in Gwinnett and I will continue to be a proud patron. I looked forward to building similar relationships in DeKalb County. I can see, it's not the same kind of inviting, caring, helpful place. Too bad, not only for me and mine, but for the many citizens you serve.

Deborah Wiles
Tucker, GA