Christopher Myers on storytelling

IMG_5462

The Oxford Public Library was honored to host award-winning children’s author and illustrator Christopher Myers for this week’s edition of Books and Lunch. “Chris,” as he introduced himself, has been writing and illustrating children’s books since his first publication in 1995. His most recent books include Joan (EgmontUSA, 2016) and My Pen (Disney-Hyperion, 2015). Although he writes for a younger age group, Chris’s inspiring ideas on storytelling and social change captured the interest of our Oxford High students who shared their own stories with him following the event. He shared his experiences teaching creative writing in Munich to young war refugees, many of whom created stories about the change they witnessed in their own countries. All stories, Chris explained, are about change and we should be mindful of the stories we tell and are told and what they say about the changing world around us. He also gave practical advice to the young writers and artists in our audience. A huge thanks to Chris Myers for showing up and bringing an excellent program to our library. Our young people loved him.

— CF

Journalism in Crisis

Today author, professor, and accomplished reporter Kathleen Wickham visited the public library for Books and Lunch. She spoke about her new book, We Believed We Were Immortal: Twelve Reporters Who Covered the 1962 Integration Crisis at Ole 

Retrieved from https://meek.olemiss.edu/faculty-and-staff/

Miss. Her extensive research and thoughtful talk on these twelve reporters gave dimension to the attitudes of the local community (the black community especially), the problem of local government, and the extreme and dangerous obstacles reporters faced in delivering an unfiltered account of the riot. We Believed We Were Immortal sheds light on the work of these reporters and honors their courage and commitment to report truth.

Wickham opened her talk with a presentation on William Faulkner and integration. While many of his family and other local contemporaries stubbornly opposed integration, Faulkner was more forward thinking. Accompanied by archival materials such as photographs and a deeply researched knowledge, Wickham’s presentation was as engrossing as it was inspiring. Kathleen Wickham is an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi.

A week in the life of a public library

We’ve had so much going on here at the public library this week! Not only are we gearing up for our Summer Reading Program, but we’ve also hosted three children’s programs, two books and lunches, and two book clubs. Not to mention the tea party this Sunday with Pete the Cat! Kudos to Head Librarian Laura Beth Walker, Children’s Librarian Nancy Opalko, and Youth Specialist Meridith Wulff for making this week happen. And of course we wouldn’t be here if it were’t for the constant guidance of library cats Scout and Atticus.

I was personally involved in hosting our teen comic book club yesterday evening and

IMG_3277

 

Alison Pelegrin demonstrates origami poetry

 

facilitating today’s books and lunch in conjunction with the Oxford Conference for the Book. Teen comic book club was a smash as we had a record attendance of fourteen people! Teens discussed the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and enjoyed pizza and snacks. (We’ve also had some interest from our younger crowd, so stay tuned for our upcoming kid comic book club.) This morning’s books and lunch poetry reading was equally exciting, although much more low key! Poet Alison Pelegrin read from her 2016 collection, Waterlines. Her gentle presence and strong voice carried her words like the origami poems she sets to sail in the shapes of owls, foxes, and other Louisiana creatures on the Bogue Falaya River.

We hope to continue to engage our community with programs like these for countless years to come. Sadly, public libraries and many other cultural and educational institutions are at risk now more than ever of losing government funding. To find out how you can help (it’s so easy, I promise!), please visit the American Library Association’s Legislative Action Center at http://cqrcengage.com/ala/. Thank you for your patronage, our community means everything to us.

— CF

Freedom in Words

Louis Bourgeois joined us this afternoon for Books and Lunch to discuss the Prison Writers Initiative which he began as a way to help Mississippi inmates connect with the outside world, cope with their lives in prison, and have their work published. Bourgeois read from inmate’s memoirs and poetry, pointing out that many of these men never received high school educations or had ever put pen to paper before. The result is impressive. Their stories are honest and vulnerable, and many of them, as Bourgeois pointed out, had their own distinct literary voice. Inmates write about daily life in prison, interacting with the men on death row, and finding personal identity in a harsh world and with the weight of a disreputable past.

Bourgeois began teaching creative writing to male inmates at Parchman and has expanded the program to include death row inmates, female inmates at Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, and is currently planning outreach to young people in juvenile detention centers as well as for children whose families are incarcerated. You can learn more about the Prison Writers Initiative (PWI) and purchase In Our Own Words: Writing from Parchman Prison and Unit 30 at the PWI website.

— CF