Last Friday the Boston area entrepreneur, designer, and creator of the t-shirt empire Johnny Cupcakes came to the library. Johnny “Cupcakes” Earle delivered a talk focusing on hard work and the ways he has succeeded to truly create an experience around his brand. His talk detailed early business ventures (really early…meaning gradeschool) selling candy and learning about the benefits of buying wholesale – to later striking like lightning with the cupcake and crossbones logo that has become his trademark. I mean that literally… the logo and the phrase “do more of what makes you happy” are under copyright…
Johnny’s message of giving 110% to your projects, learning to delegate, and doing the little things right was inspiring and brutally honest. It was fantastic to see a packed auditorium with such an age range. Many were fans of the brand before but also great to see some younger attendees who are now emboldened to create their own ventures.
This was the fifth in a general series of design talks the Friends of the Somerville Public have organized, and a huge thanks goes to Johnny for adding us to his schedule. We have planned this for almost a year and was a real treat. Must also thank Eli Epstein of Union Press in Somerville for creating the handsome tickets/souvenirs that we used. - James Fox
To learn more about the Friends please find us online at
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Free Teen Creative Writing Program at Somerville Public Library
Are you a teen who likes to write stories about aliens, blogs, flash fiction, or poems? Are you interested in becoming a novelist, short story writer or poet?
Somerville Public Library’s Teen Creative Writing Program will offer teens writing exercises to flex their writing muscles in a fun, low-pressure, supportive environment.
The Somerville Public Library is pleased to announce the start of a free Teen Creative Writing Program, designed for any teen aged 13-17. The program will be offered once per month on Sundays, beginning Sunday, March 24, from 1pm to 4pm. Seven three-hour, stand-alone sessions will be offered.
The sessions will be run by Somerville writers Ethan Gilsdorf and Becky Tuch, who will lead writing exercises in a variety of genres, from fantasy fiction to lyric poetry.
No previous writing experience is needed. Students are encouraged to come as they are and need not attend all seven sessions. Materials and lunch will be provided.
Advance sign-up is requested. To register, please contact Marita Coombs, Somerville Public Library, 617-623-5000 x 2942, firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional program dates are Sunday, April 14, Sunday May 19, and Sunday, June 9. The final three session dates will be announced at a future time.
“We’ll provide unexpected writing prompts to get teens to generate as much new work in as short a time as possible,” said Gilsdorf, an essayist, journalist and author of the book “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks.” “Teens have something important to say.”
Both Gilsdorf and Tuch are published writers, and teach at Grub Street Writers, Boston’s independent creative writing center. Both have extensive experience teaching teens creative writing.
“Nothing inspires me more than my students, at all ages and all stages of their writing careers,” said Becky Tuch, a fiction writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary magazines and has taught fiction to kids, teens, and adults throughout Boston. “As a Somerville resident myself, I can’t wait to teach and learn from the young writers in the area.”
The Teen Creative Writing Program is funded by the Somerville Arts Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, as well as the Friends of the Library.
More information about the instructors:
Becky Tuch has received literature fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and The Somerville Arts Council, awards from Briar Cliff Review, Byline Magazine, and The Tennessee Writers Alliance, and her fiction has been short-listed for a Pushcart Prize and Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award. Other stories and essays have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Hobart, Quarter After Eight, and elsewhere. She is the founding editor of The Review Review, a website which has twice been listed by Writer’s Digest as “Best of the Best” among 101 Best Websites for Writers. She is also one of the founders of the writing and publishing blog, Beyond the Margins.
Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, memoirist, critic, poet, teacher and geek. He wrote the award-winning travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, he publishes travel, arts, and pop culture stories, essays and reviews regularly in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Salon.com, wired.com, PsychologyToday.com, and WBUR’s Cognescenti blog. He is a book and film critic for the Boston Globe and is the film columnist for Art New England. An award-winning poet, he has published poems in Poetry, The Southern Review, and The North American Review, and several anthologies. He is co-founder of Grub Street’s Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP) and teaches creative writing workshops at Grub Street, where he also serves on the Board of Directors.
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Here is a review of Saturday’s program by Kim Philips Millican, who is a member of the Friends of the Library. Thank you Kim!
On Saturday, the Friends of the Somerville Public Library held a showing of “In the Blood”, a documentary by Sumner McKane that illustrated the history of the Maine lumbermen and river drivers. According to the documentary’s website (http://inthebloodmovie.com), Mr. McKane presents “a historical subject with a contemporary and entertaining presentation” which turns a history lesson into a “vivid and virtual journey into a bygone world”. This was certainly the case with “In the Blood”.
The men often worked 12-14 hours a day and were paid up to $2 a day. They lived in the camps from October to March. The documentary showed several black-and-white photos and film footage of the harsh Maine winters. Amazingly, none of the lumberman became sick or caught pneumonia while working in the camps.
There was a known hierarchy within the communities. At the top of the hierarchy was the Camp Boss and his role was providing leadership and creating an efficient team. Other roles within the hierarchy include the under-cutter, sawyer, knotter, swamper, and cook.
The documentary included oral histories from the men who worked in the logging camps. Some of the interviews had subtitles, as the authentic accents were difficult to follow and understand. The interviews were honest, full of emotion, and gave the viewer a sense of what life was like in the logging camps. One such interview was with a gentleman whose brother-in-law died in a logging accident. He went into great detail about the accident. In the end, it took the crew 20 days to find his brother-in-law buried in the river.
One interview really grasped the attention of the audience – the raw account of the smell of the logging camp. The interviewee gave a vivid description of the stink and sweat that permeated the camp. He explained that some of the men did not bath all winter. The men slept in a row, underneath one quilt, and many of the men slept in their wet and sweaty work clothes. Another account was provided about the camp’s “stink pole” – a long pole used to hang wet clothes on.
“In the Blood” definitely had a sense of humor. For example, the interview regarding the lumbermen’s diet was quite funny. The interviewee emphasized that the men ate beans, beans, and more beans and they ate their beans with knives, as there were not any forks available. The men also ate molasses, homemade biscuits, and donuts. Hot drinks were served every day at noon.
The standing room only crowd enjoyed delicious food including Verna’s donuts, cider, and cheddar cheese. It was a relaxing way to spend a cold and gloomy Saturday afternoon. A raffle drawing was held after the movie.
Kim Phillips Millican
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Last Saturday the Friends of the Library sponsored another great program. We were fortunate to have a new volunteer, Kim Millican Phillips, tell us about the event. Many thanks to Kim, who in addition to blogging has also joined the Friends of the Library.
As a part of the Design Talk series, Stephen Tourlentes and Amber Davis Tourlentes, instructors from Mass Art, reflected upon Kodachrome and took the audience on a journey about the evolution of Kodachrome slides.
Kodachrome was a type of color reversal film. It was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1935 and utilized until 2010. Kodachrome was known for producing photographs with rich colors and ultra-fine details. Both professionals and amateurs used it around the world. Of interest, there were enough professional photographers in Boston using Kodachrome to justify daily flights to deliver the film for development.
Kodachrome film was developed using a 14-step process. The detailed process, which required a chemist on the processing line, produced photographs with vivid colors and incredible archival properties.
As camera phones and computer applications, such as Instagram, gain in popularity, society is developing a greater appreciation for photography. As a result, many of the Kodachrome slides and pictures are resurfacing.
Throughout the presentation, Mr. Tourlentes showed classic Kodachrome slides. The audience was impressed at how the photographs popped with saturated colors and crispness. An example of the slides shown includes photos taken by Bill Manbo inside a Japanese-American Internment camp. In an era that was previously captured in black and white, history can now be revisited through the color archives created by Kodachrome photographs.
The standing room only crowd shared their personal photography experiences. Of interest, Mr. Tourlentes mentioned his favorite camera is a large-format 8” x 10” Deardorff camera. The group also discussed digital photography and whether the formats in which they are saved will be accessible in years to come.
Kim Phillips Millican
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Last Saturday there was a community discussion with the founders of Cuppow. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Sara Fix is a patron and volunteered this write up of the event…many thanks Sara!
If you care about the environment, if you support local businesses, or if you’ve ever spilled coffee on your shirt, you could learn a lot from Joshua Resnikoff and Aaron Panone, creators of Cuppow. These two friends created a plastic device that can turn a canning jar in to a travel mug. The Cuppow was their solution to too many stained shirts, expensive metal water bottles, and easily misplaced containers. The canning jar is their container of choice, as it is a ubiquitous object, it does well with boiling temperatures, and it is cheap to replace if broken or misplaced.
What is more impressive than Cuppow itself is the story behind it. These two humble guys never expected such great success. They were surprised when they sold their first 500 pieces in less than 24 hours. They didn’t own business books, they didn’t know how to ship all these products, or how they would make more. They were just doing something that was fun, something they were good at, with all their friends, and a good amount of gumption. They were not afraid to ask for advice, or to delegate and include others in their business. They are grateful for FRINGE, a Union Square collaborative effort, including Mike Dacey from Repeat Press. FRINGE provided them with expertise and support, with branding, packaging, production, website, and photography.
Joshua and Aaron have one important rule: Everyone gets the same price on the product, no matter what you can do, how many you want, or who you are. It is also important to them that their product is manufactured locally. In the last 10 months of sales Cuppow has brought back $426,832 into the economy, 81% in Massachusetts. These guys are extremely ethical, sticking to their guns, and never wanting to seem desperate. Other entrepreneurs, hipsters, mothers, and anyone listening, certainly felt inspired by their story of success and encouraging advice.
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Last week marked the conclusion of our teen creative writing program. The feedback and enthusiasm from everyone has been impressive.
Ethan Gilsdorf led a month-long series of workshops. Participants were given various prompts and exercises. Some of the prompts were silly and random. The classes went so well that Ethan extended it for two more sessions. It was great to see all the writing; people were really engrossed in what they were doing.
This was a teen driven program. They initiated this. Each week brought a different group of people to the table. In all, a total of fourteen people attended.
Part of the success was due to the fact that we were able to collaborate with two local high schools; Somerville High School and Prospect Hill Academy. Both schools were happy to be a part of this and encouraged students to attend. Ethan created something magical the students responded to. That, combined with outreach, was one of biggest reasons this was so successful! We will definitely do this again!
Many thanks go to the Friends of the Library for sponsoring this program.
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On Tuesday June 26th Steven Raichlen read from his new book Island Apart. Our guest blogger Sarah Wolf was at the event and had this to share.
“We’re all wounded in some way,” he said. “It’s not what you have that makes you beautiful. It’s what you’ve lost and still managed to go on living without.”
Steven Raichlen has been many things in his career: a food critique, a wine and spirits editor, a grill master, and a cookbook author. His childhood dream, though, was realized when he published his first novel Island Apart, an unlikely love story set on the Martha’s Vineyard offshoot Chappaquiddick. Originally titled The Hermit of Chappaquiddick, the story revolves around two central characters – The Hermit, a man who lives up to the definition of his nickname, and Claire, a woman surviving both breast cancer and divorce. The two meet by chance when The Hermit discovers Claire in the aftermath of a minor biking accident and continue to escalate their friendship through the exchange of gifts of food. “Food is essential and primal,” Raichlen explained. And it’s expressive and important to both The Hermit and Claire, master chefs in their own rights, so this simple form of communication draws them closer without spending actual time together. Eventually, they do break that barrier and discover kindred spirits in each other. Even when faced with a dark past and an uncertain future, The Hermit and Claire fight for their desired happy ending.
Raichlen spent some time reading from the novel as well as explaining his writing process. He had a clear vision of The Hermit shortly after he and his wife began building their home on Chappaquiddick and that vision spiraled into including Claire and the other cast of characters – who they were, how they lived, what they did. “I learned to write with an eraser,” Raichlen said as he took some time to discuss his editorial process with his editors and his agent. Near the end of his presentation, he asked for questions from the audience, which prompted one woman to tell the story of a hermit she knew, thus sealing the universality of this sort of story. We all have a “hermit” in our lives – someone who may have a rough or quiet exterior that shields a genuine and kind individual who may need to be coaxed out of his shell. Island Apart is a reminder that the journey to discovering someone’s innate humanity is more than worth it.
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An Evening of Words and Music with Yani Batteau & Judah Leblang (June 13, 2012)
Our guest blogger Sarah Wolf has written about Wednesday’s lovely event. Yani and Judah were great!
I turn you over to Sarah,
On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, local artists Yani Batteau and Judah Leblang joined musical and storytelling forces for an evening of poignant laughter and sing-a-longs. Dividing their program into two sets – the first devoted to being in (and out) of love, the second about life outside of romance – they shared the stage in an often lighthearted back-and-forth between Yani and her banjo and Judah and his personal essays.
On the topic of love, Yani strummed out solo banjo versions of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (a song about falling in love), Kitty Well’s “Honky Tonk Angels” (a song about cheating men), and the traditional American song “Frankie and Johnny” (a song about jealousy and murder). In between each song, Judah shared a personal anecdote from his life, starting with “Voices in My Head,” a self-examination that pits his inner-Clevelander with his current day Bostonian self, comparing the two cities sports teams as a metaphor for clinging to mediocrity (the Indians) instead of aligning himself with world champions (the Red Sox). His next piece, called “A Fine Line” discussed what Judah called “the heartbreak of hair loss,” an examination of the emphasis on personal appearance in dating. The first set ended with Judah’s piece “Dating and Middle Age,” a very humorous account of finding his place in the gay community and the difficulties of meeting a potential mate – the biggest laugh coming when he confessed his own profile appeared on random searches on Match.com … and revealed he was only an 83% match for himself!
After a brief intermission, this dynamic duo returned for Part 2. Yani started it off with an original tune called “Riding My Bicycle” (about her daily commute) and did a soulful rendition of “Summertime” from the Gershwin classic Porgy and Bess, then rounding out her portion of the act with a rousing sing-a-long version of the classic Malcolm McLaren tune “Buffalo Girls.” Judah read from an essay called “Jingle Bells” about participating in Medford’s World Record contest to have the most people continuously singing Christmas carols and also from one entitled “The Pierogi Eating Contest,” a tale of a visit back home to Cleveland. His last piece was a touching recollection of his grandfather’s pharmacy called “Papa’s Place,” truly a love song to “the old neighborhood.” The evening ended with Judah and Yani singing a duet called “I Don’t Like You Anymore,” something Judah described as a “heartwarming song.” And it was – as were the two of them.
Yani Batteau is the front woman for the band Yani Batteau and the Styles and an award-winning visual artist. Judah Leblang is a Medford-based writer and storyteller, a columnist for Bay Windows newspaper, and a radio commentator. His book Finding My Place: One Man’s Journey from Cleveland to Boston and Beyond is available from Lake Effect Press.
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Friend of the Library and guest blogger, Sarah Wolf, attended last night’s program and had this to share. A big thank you to Sarah for writing this, and to Patricia for speaking at the Somerville Public Library!
Meet, Mingle, Read (May 31, 2012)
“I hope the book serves as a reminder not just to Alex as she grows,
but to all of us, that if you want to do something big, something daring
and grand and huge, then don’t automatically shrug and assume you’re
too young, too old, too weak, too busy, too poor, too frazzled, or too small.
Learn, persevere, sweat. Take the time to figure out how to do it correctly,
then go to it with a giant spirit of adventure and enjoy the climb.”
Patricia Ellis Herr, Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure
On Thursday, May 31, 2012, Somerville writer Patricia Ellis Herr spent the evening sharing anecdotes and life lessons she learned while she and her five-year-old (at the time) daughter Alex took on the challenge of summiting the forty-eight peaks known collectively as the New Hampshire Four-thousand Footers (or 4ks). Starting out, this mother/daughter duo knew very little about what taking on this kind of challenge entailed but together, they quickly learned what the physical, material, and mental requirements were and proved that things like age, size, and gender don’t stand in the way of achieving a goal.
In attendance were Herr’s two young daughters Alex and Sage who have both successfully climbed all forty-eight peaks. The book focuses mostly on Alex’s quest for this goal but at the time of the book’s writing, Sage, who is two years younger, had not yet decided if she was going to follow in her sister’s footsteps. Since the book’s publication, Sage has “joined the club” and the family continues to set new hiking goals for themselves.
Herr is clearly very proud of her children and supports their inclination to think big and play hard. “I don’t understand parents that don’t let their kids get dirty,” she says. “It’s not a real hike unless there’s mud or blood.” Herr wants her daughters to get out there and find their passion. In their case, it’s hiking.
Herr spoke about hurdles along the way, namely unpredictable weather, the occasional wild animal, and nay-sayers who criticized five-year-old Alex’s ability to take on such a challenge both because of her age and her gender. Of all the potential set-backs, the idea that a stranger could dictate what Alex could or could not do based on surface factors got under the skin of both mother and daughter. A strong recurring theme in the memoir, Herr spoke about this with a great deal of incredulity. After all, Alex (and later Sage) proved more than capable of summiting those “grown up” peaks.
Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure is a memoir about rising to the challenge – it’s about setting a goal and achieving it with gusto, something Patricia, Alex, and Sage Herr have all done in spades.
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The Somerville Public Library had its very first Teen Advisory Board Meeting last Wednesday and we are off to a good start.
The group talked about designing a space that was special for teens and welcoming. Our teens suggested furniture that would be cozy and relaxing for when you just want to curl up with a good book and funky study booths for serious studying. They also liked the idea of general lounging.
Gaming areas for electronics and board games were also encouraged.
A lot of great ideas were discussed and many possibilities were presented.
Our next meeting will be in the auditorium of the Central Library on Wednesday, April 11th at 4pm. We encourage anyone with an interest to join us!
Thank you to Djinnie, Lilliana, and Karen for taking time out of their busy schedules to be here and be a part of this exciting new part of the Somerville Public Library.
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