2014 End-of-year wrap-up! A Digital Yule Letter…

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This is where we live. Beautiful!
This is where we live. Beautiful!

Blessed Solstice and Happy Yule!

Family, friends, and devoted readers:

I’m taking the lazy way out this year. Since I didn’t even do the lazy way last year, I’m counting this as a success. My annual letter is being printed by digital code, not in ink and paper. Lazy is also more economical and environmentally friendly.

Our front yard this autumn. The fruits of our hard work.
Our front yard this autumn. The fruits of our hard work.

At any rate, 2014 has been an interesting year. As with any large family the ups and downs and rollercoaster of it all has been non-stop.

Rose holds one of the feathered-babies that live on our homestead.
Rose holds one of the feathered-babies that live on our homestead.

During this year, Greg left his position at Starbucks and is now working at Zillow and the move was a good one. He still keeps in touch with his Starbucks cohorts, but the opportunities at Zillow could not be passed up. He currently is the lead on his digital security team and has opportunities for advancement.

My Halloween Devil.
My Halloween Devil.

They treated us to a wonderful holiday party where we got to dress up as residents of Oz. It was a truly magical night. In his free time he’s become quite the homebrewer, keeping us stocked in beer and hard cider. As always, he humors my own projects and helps pricelessly with construction of coops, gardens, wood sheds, etc. Our Thrasher Studios Homestead would not be where it is today without him. He’s a good farmer’s husband. 😉

Residents of Oz.
Residents of Oz.

My freelance life under the auspices of Creative Word Lab, continues to gain traction and I’ve been able to shift directions from corporate/business communication products and services to more book doctoring and fiction editing, which is my first love and passion. I do this, along with personal writing projects, while running the micro-farm, raising children, and serving my community. I have definitive personal writing goals for 2015, and I hope to share with you some publishing success. I have some short stories that are scheduled to appear in 2015 and watch here for where and when as those times come closer. I’m not where I want to be as far as publishing goes, but considering I do this under the shadow of raising children (one with severe special needs), running a homestead, and serving my community, I think I’m doing purdy darn good. In October, I quietly started some new self-care endeavors and am really enjoying a new yoga practice and the art of self-care.

Tank is in high school now and struggling a bit with adjusting to the new demands on his time. Regardless, he’s in all advanced classes and is doing particularly well in his Spanish class. He loves learning a new language. He had a successful football season with his high school team. He’s looking forward to baseball season, his first athletic love. He’s grown so tall now, and with size 15 shoes, we’re certain he’s not done yet.

Tank, #47, Wildcat Football 2014
Tank, #47, Wildcat Football 2014

Rose started a program this year called “Running Start” which allows her to complete her high school credits while getting college credit simultaneously. She commutes with Greg each morning to Seattle and attends Seattle Central College. Her goal is to graduate high school with an AA in hand and transfer to the University of Washington. Like her brother, Tank, the demands on her time, coupled with two jobs, one here in Twin Peaks and one mid way between school and home, have provided her some challenges, but it’s all life-skill training and she is doing wonderful, I contend. She got a special visit for her 16th birthday this year from my sister, her Aunt ‘Chelle, and she longs for more visits with her special aunt. In her spare time (which isn’t much) she still is active in the drama community and is quite the little activist working towards equal rights and social justice every turn she can. She’s an amazing young woman.

Happy Sweet 16!
Happy Sweet 16!

Bean, 18, the oldest at home, is my special-needs child. For those who are new to my site here, at age 5 we started to be told that our son was “not ok,” and there was something developmentally going on. After too-long of a struggle and doctor after doctor, medicine after medicine, therapy after therapy, they finally determined that he was on the Autism spectrum. Since the diagnosis (not until age 14 which included co-morbidity disorders), getting him services, and education has been a long road.  This summer we campaigned to get him a place of his own here on our own homestead, and that has been helpful in stabilizing him. Given that he was sadly ambushed attacked and assaulted this summer, that Safe Place for Bean campaign was serendipitous. The “DeLuxe” Trailer apartment is a sanctuary for him, allowing for the conditioned experience that is needed to teach Autistic kids, often (e.g. put them in the math class before they get taught math). His recovery from the attack, physically, was quick, but emotionally, and mentally it’s been a struggle. But, things are looking up. He has now been accepted into an education program that will help him take care of his high school diploma and segue him into college, hopefully. He wants to go into agriculture (having helped me on the micro-farm, he’s learned to love growing food, etc.). Additionally, his application for disability was approved after a four-year long battle. It only took the testimony of six medical professionals, three social agencies, his long-time therapist, and my own avadavat.  Given the grueling process, I have NO idea how anyone could ever “cheat” that system, when it’s so difficult for deserving individuals to receive such benefits. There’s still an uphill battle towards further education and independent living, but he’s working hard alongside us to assist him.

Tank and Corbin, barely a year ago. They have changed so much in 2014.
Tank and Corbin, barely a year ago. They have changed so much in 2014.

My two stepchildren, Roxanna and Ivan, are young adults and seem to be doing so, so well. They both are in loving relationships and live life to the fullest. I’m so proud of both of them, and love them both so dearly. I’m blessed to have them and their partners, Chad and Ariel, respectively, in my life.

Ariel and Rose. Ari's like a big sis to Rose. So blessed.
Ariel and Rose. Ari’s like a big sis to Rose. So blessed.

At any rate, our household continues to work hard towards our goals – we set out last December to raise chickens and not only got the chickens but also a brace of ducks. We are never out of eggs. It’s a wonderful endeavor that we get to share with our friends, as well. If you’re a regular reader of my blog here, you know all about our Grow Food, Not Lawns adventure. In 2015 we’re hoping to add a hive of honeybees and maybe a goat. Additionally, Greg and I are hoping to finish the repairs to our motorcycles and do a U.S. 2 motorcycle camping trip this summer.

The fun around our house.
The fun around our house.

Thanks for reading and our household wishes all of you a happy holiday season and a blessed 2015.

Be well.

Casz & Crew


My top 10 tips for surviving the freelance life

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In a couple of weeks, I will have lived the full-time freelance writing life for three years.

Three years.

I don’t know where the time goes, seriously.

I thought, therefore, I should probably share the things that I learned over the course of these years.

  1. Feast or Famine. Seriously, be prepared for times when you might be standing in line at the food bank. And other times where it feels like you have more work than you can handle. When you have the feast time, put money away. Then the famine times might only be a time where you have to be tighter with the budget as opposed to having to take hand outs ask for help.
  2. It’s not always your favorite. This is something I tell my kids about our household’s dinner offerings. The same applies to your freelance life. In the beginning especially, you’re going to have to take work that’s not your favorite. My first love is obviously selling my own fiction work. Next favorite is editing other people’s fiction work. But I also write blog posts for other people, edit white papers, author and set up technical manuals, and write or edit journal articles for third parties, social media management for small businesses, and put together silly “top ten” lists for content farms. It all pays the bills and eventually shakes out to provide a steady stream of work.
  3. More Hours, but More Love. I tend to work as many hours a week as I was at my corporate communication spin doctor job. 50-60 hours a week. But I get to juggle. I get to take a lunch by walking the dog or catching up with a friend at the coffee shop (normally segued from a client meeting). However, I don’t always notice I’m working that many hours because I am doing what I want. For most self-employed people, you will find that they work long hours but feel it less – physically and emotionally – because it’s what they want to do in life. For most, that’s why we became freelancers.
  4. Self-employed vs. Freelance. Because people in the writing community identify with freelance, I use that word with that population. But anyone else? I’m self-employed. Freelance suggests that what I do is “free.” However, that’s not the etymology of the word. The term was first used in 1820 by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe to describe a “medieval mercenary warrior” or “free-lance” (indicating that the lance is not sworn to any lord’s services, not that the lance is available free of charge). Over the years it changed to a figurative noun, and was recognized in 1903 in the Oxford English Dictionary. Over the years it morphed into an adjective and verb, as well as the noun, “freelancer.”
  5. Make a way out. Sometimes you and a client don’t jive. Or maybe your client decides the work they really want you to do looks different. I always provide a clause in my contract that allows either one of us a way out. For my smaller clients it’s just 7 days; larger clients/projects it’s 14 days – just like the notice you’d give a brick-n-mortar employer. I also discuss with the client why they decide to cancel a contract and look at possibly redoing it to their satisfaction. In three years, I’ve only had one cancellation that didn’t change into a new and different contract. I’ve also gotten very good at asking lots and lots of questions of my clients to ensure we don’t get into that situation.
  6. It isn’t personal. It’s hard often when you’re dealing with a client one on one – especially other writers to not develop a bond. But you have to compartmentalize and keep the business part business. You’re a professional and you need to behave that way.
  7. Time is money. Sure you can file this tip under, “Duh.”  Humor me some detailing. Be sure that in your formulas for being paid that you are covering your admin time. I have moved to a flat fee for my clients to cover things like contract set up, consultation meetings, phone calls, invoicing, etc. That flat fee allows me to not feel like the client is using my time and not paying for it. Your mileage may vary and you may build that into an hourly rate. I tend to work on a project base, so the flat fee covers that extra time. Also, if you go hourly on something, include the cost of covering your “benefits.” This includes things like transportation costs, medical, retirement. Most folks balk at my hourly rate, which is $50 an hour. When I left the corporate world that was my FTE rate for my employer – including all those employee benefit packages pro-rated into an hourly rate. The professional world doesn’t blink at $50 an hour for an attorney (if you could find an attorney for that rate, even!), engineer, doctor, etc. For some reason those of us in the fine arts – writers, editors, graphic artists, letterers, etc. are viewed as having too much fun at our jobs and therefore we shouldn’t get paid. But, I digress. It’s the smart client who hires you, knowing that your word smith skills are worth the bread, whether it’s project-based, per word, or hourly.
  8. Go out of your comfort zone. I’ve done projects recently providing products and services to clients I never thought I could or would do. My philosophy is that if it deals with words, I’ll do it. It’s landed me new and more lucrative jobs (read:  less time, more money). Clients that I’m doing a steady stream of work for have also turned to me for projects they didn’t initially know they needed me for; but, I proved an asset in another and they asked me for word-smithy goodness on other things. More business is always good. That in turn, gives me time to work on my own fiction work and get it out into the ether for publication. Win-win.
  9. Hire other professionals. Sometimes there are projects for which I do that I need to sub-contract part of the job. Guess what? That leads to other jobs. The graphic artist I hired then comes to me when her client who wants a book cover needs an editor. Your network should include other expertise, not just other freelance writers.
  10. Leave your home office. I love my home office space. But, I find doing my work in one of the many cafes around my valley gets my name out there. Not only is my business card on their “leave a card” bulletin board, but they see me in there working. The cafe owners and customers see me and curiosity gets the better of them. I’ve landed a few clients that way. It’s also good for your working soul to get a new view a time or two a week.

I’ve probably learned more, but we’re creatures of habit, too. Top 10 lists are a great place to start. See you here this time next year and we’ll see what else I’ve learned. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it’ll be about landing an agent and having a book coming out….



PTSD and dealing with every-day crisis

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1480780_10203757267274487_6739011308899807616_nI have a little meme taped up over my desk that says, “Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s the day-to-day living that wears you out.” ~Anton Chekhov.

Comrade Checkhov is right. But throw PTSD on that day-to-day living and little things become crisis and big-things become a battle.

Last Friday morning, at 0342 (as far as my clock was concerned), my entire house shook and then a noise so loud it could only be a bomb in my mind. Startled from a dream where I was already running, had there been a hidden camera in my bedroom, you would have seen me sprint out of bed, crying as if in pain. My startle response freaked out the rest of my family, who were clearly having their own freak out moment. You would, too, given the circumstances.

Was that an earthquake? I posted on Twitter and Facebook. Then we saw the eerie glow of an intense fire and a smoke plume that rose up higher than the highest trees around us and slowly filled up the valley with a cloud of ash.

Hubby grabbed a flashlight and went outside, in robe and barefooted, while I calmed children as best I could and surveyed the damage in the house. My garden starts that had been on our kitchen widow sills had fallen. Knicknacks on shelves had fallen and broken, and the art throughout the house all hung crookedly. Surely it had to be an earthquake. Hubby found nothing going on that he could see.

Then my 18-year-old son, currently staying with friends, texted me and said that the barber shop next to the gas station in town was on fire…

Facebook and Twitter started to come through with the gas station had exploded; that the electric sub-station by my house had blown. No and no.

True enough, however, the entire valley was awake.

Within moments we had our police scanner app on and found that the building next to the barbershop – two down from the gas station was leveled. It was likely a natural gas explosion.  People 5 miles away in either direction heard the blast. My home sits about 100 yards as the crow flies – just a 3 minute walk out my back door – from the impact zone.

Once first responders were on the scene, hubby thought it best to get everyone to bed. Daughter and spouse had no problems going back to sleep. Youngest son went to room, but just lay there; I could hear him listening to his music. Me, I lay there and just stared at the ceiling in the dark. I would have fits of involuntary physical shaking. I tried to calm myself, saying it was just from the adrenaline rush and its subsequent come-down. But, I also knew I was fooling myself. I was amped up. I could think of nothing but getting dressed and arming up. All manner of continued crisis and disaster was going to befall my home and my loved ones. My brain raced. My combat vet, the domestic abuse survivor, and plain, ol’ mama bear, were very worked up and merging into one giant PTSD attack. My heart palpitated. Then the writer’s imagination kicked in. I wanted my ol’ trusty M16 or M4. Hell, at that moment, a 9mm would work. Anything beyond the hunting rifles we had, which are packed away for “safety.” There had to be something more nefarious at work, my brain was telling me. A building doesn’t just explode.

I tried to snuggle next to my husband and seek comfort. But it was no use, I was triggered. Hubby snored; I lay there doing nothing more but trying to control this obnoxious voice in my head to “take cover,” or “patrol the perimeter.”

So I got up; but, that little piece of reality I clung to, the tiny corner of my brain I use to talk myself out of these flashback-type moments convinced the adrenaline-fueled side of my brain that staying in my pajamas was just fine. If you were going to make me get up and out of bed, I certainly wasn’t going to get dressed.

That’s how my mind has been operating, as I try to cope with my PTSD:  I make deals with myself. I deal with the anxiety, the hyper-alertness, the inconsolable need to be in control. I clearly know that no one is in control; life is impermanent. But, when I’m startled awake by the sound of an explosion – there’s no persuading that part of my mind, my world view, from going full-throttle. It was then that the news helicopter descended on the scene and it made my son nervous, too. He is very sensitive to my own anxiety, so I try hard to quell any outward cues that I’m in the midst of a PTSD episode.

Hubby goes to work; children go to school. I took some time then to just concentrate on small things. Quiet things. I waited to go out beyond letting the chickens out of their coop, until I knew the gas was off and the fire was out. There was some debris – insulation, a sliver of wood, ash…but little other than that. All was good on my homestead – oh, I would discover the next day that all my “company glasses,” the ones I use for when we have big family gatherings, shattered inside the cupboard. In fact all my cupboards were opened, but hubby had closed them quick in the initial inspection of the house. There are some new cracks in walls and ceilings – I would say the house sustained a good 6.0 jolt – as if it was an earthquake. But, I had all my windows intact. Some of my neighbors were not so lucky. Certainly those next door to the blast sustained even worse damage to their homes. I used this fact to try to calm myself down. I could look as if I was okay, but I really wasn’t. I was in spaz-out mode.

Then I made myself go to the site and reassure, that everyone was safe. And, miraculously, they were. No one got hurt beyond some cuts and scrapes and bruises. A whole block of our town is gone. Erupted. Peripheral damage was obscene. The tire store next door’s bay doors were imploded, as if they were paper. Glass was everywhere. Insulation looked like popcorn. The Pizza Place, where my kid had had several post-baseball game team parties was annihilated. There were comfort stations for the first responders, investigators, fire-fighters, power-company reps, and anyone else that had to be on scene. I could still smell the fire. It took me back to 9-11 for sure. I stood there for a moment. Helpless. Wanting to help, but I’m not in that position any more. I’m just a bystander, a neighbor standing next to a sheriff and a power-company rep, trying not to completely freak out. My heartbeat raced. My breath became shallow and fast. I battled back. I did my little PTSD mantra inside my head:  “you’re safe; you’re calm; everything is okay.”

But I didn’t feel okay. Even though no one was hurt, people’s lives are changed forever. Businesses lost. Memories blown away. The scene also brings up memories and thoughts that fly in like Odin’s ravens and nest crazy in your head. I left the scene as quickly as I could. I was shaking all the way home.

By about 2200 hrs. I was exhausted and ready to go to sleep. I’d been awake, remember, since 0342 hours. I dreamt of fighting with my ex-husband, scenes from the Pentagon, from Iraq, and I was trying to figure out why my special-needs son was driving an armored personnel carrier (silly subconscious). I awoke restless; but, life goes on. There’s no time to deal with dream hangovers or PTSD episodes. It’s time to clean up and move on.

The next day the town began to get back to normal. The blast site was fenced off, the roads all opened back up. North Bend had its Blues Walk as planned. The historic train carried young kids and their families back and forth between North Bend and Snoqualmie. Other businesses opened, some even welcoming the lost business owners to their fold. Clean up and investigation continued. Healing for most folks began. Hubby, in the brilliance of his support of me as my partner, helped throw a little humor on it and we wrote this little ditty about the whole thing. It’s silly, but was a nice respite from thinking the more grisly things that PTSD wanted me to think, with apologies to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

It was 3:40am, I’d been up until 1. Running your own webserver isn’t always much fun. 
When out in the park, there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed, no idea what was the matter.
I shuffled out side, in my bare feet and robe, and I saw in the west a lurid red glow.
The house, it had shaken. The plants they had spilled. By the merest of chances, no one was killed.
Things aren’t always quiet, in my one-horse town. But there’s nowhere I’d rather be, when the shit goes down.

It’s been five days now. I’m still processing, which I know seems silly given I’m in one piece, my home is unscathed, and my family members are okay, too – even my couch-surfing young adult son survived (although he was right across the street when it happened).  That’s the tough-guy soldier attitude in me. “Quit your belly-aching, Brewster. Suck it up, Buttercup; drink a can of man.” It’s why, often, military members push down PTSD symptoms. We’re too tough for that kind of weakness. The true weakness is not getting help, not admitting that you’re not okay. In fact, this blog post is an exercise in bravery and coping skills.

Dealing with PTSD, or any type of fear, counselors (certainly mine have) will tell you to face it head on. You’re afraid of wind? Go sit in a chair outside during a wind storm. That kind of thing… I’m facing this latest trigger all the time now. I have to go by the scene all the time to do my business in life – meet clients, take the kids to activities, even go grocery shopping. I’m angry when people slow down to look and block traffic, or worse nearly cause another accident. I don’t want to look. I don’t want my life interrupted any more by this. That’s the PTSD, again. My world view is forever changed. I can’t rubber neck and gawk at tragedy, because it turns me into a person I don’t want to be.

Yet, this is the person I am now.  There’s not a be-all, end-all cure for PTSD. It’s almost like being an addict. You’re always in recovery. For instance, in these last five days my desire to get my own weapon in the house is stronger, I haven’t followed through. Part of me feels like it might calm that PTSD voice in my head. Another part knows that’s just a bad move. I’ll likely wrestle with that as long as it takes them to clean up and rebuild that entire city block. Hell, they still don’t know how the explosion happened. But the evidence is there. It’s just like we don’t know who will end up suffering from PTSD. Hell, mine was latent for a long time. But the evidence of it comes to the surface in all manner of triggers. This week, for me, the trigger was a gas explosion. Next week it could be a truck back firing, or a hiker lost, which means the search-and-rescue choppers will be landing in my back yard. Somehow, just typing that out makes me a bit calmer. It’s going to happen. I’ll trigger again, and I know, I’ll cope. It’s all you can do.

Oh, except maybe get your own M16. (Just kidding…)


Write Life: What it means to be an ABNA Quarter-Finalist

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51BpdhlGzQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX318_SY318_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA318_AA300_SH20_OU01_As my alter-ego Inkster reported to you all, I made the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the Young Adult category, for my novel, WILDERNESS RIM. I was excited, of course.


Then I was sitting around with my writing pals the other day and they were all congratulating me and one of them, my dear friend, Vicky Bastedo, said, “Did you get your reviews yet?”


“Reviews?” and I tilted my head like a confused puppy.


Vicky and the rest of the table began to school me on exactly what this quarter-finalist title brought with it.






From Publisher Weekly folks.




Alex, another of the writers, laughed out loud and said, “I wished I’d had a camera to capture your face just then.”


Apparently I looked as horrified as I felt. Let this be a lesson to me to actually read stuff and not just go into happy-dance mode.


Then there was about 24 hours of gnashing of teeth, and had a flogging switch, I likely would have subjected myself to some self-pain, just so that I had physical wounds to go with the lamenting in my heart, while we all waited for the PW reviews to be posted.


The full reviews were not bad. In fact, they were pretty good. The points they made on where I need improvement, I can totally see and will definitely do. I would link them to you, but it’s not shareable, because it’s connected to my private createspace account. Bottom line, they enjoyed the book and seemed to give me some credibility to calling myself a writer.


Then today I learned that my entire an excerpt of the manuscript*  (typos and grammatical errors included) is available for a free download and up for review by Joe Q. Public.


Cue perusing Amazon for that self-flogging switch…


Yet, I thought on it further. I know to be a writer is to be bold and to be vulnerable. Normally it’s between me and an agent, or editor, or another writer. Rarely, save the stuff I post on my blog here, has someone opened up my work for public comment. I give props all the time to folks who put their work out there. It’s hard to do. Entering ABNA meant I would be putting my work, myself, out there. I made some progress (we all have to wait until June 13 to see if I make the next round). That’s something. I’ll take it.


After some thought, I calmed myself down (no self-flagellation necessary), and decided that it might be a good growth experience for me as a writer.


So, here’s an excerpt of the manuscript. Amazon is offering it free as an ebook edocument on Kindle. I downloaded it to the Kindle app on my phone with ease. As embarrassingly admitted, it has some typos and misspellings. I haven’t had it professionally edited yet. But if the reviews seem like people really dig the story, I might just do that and try to shop it around, or author publish it.


You will see excerpts of the PW reviews I got in the listing.  I’d love to see what others say about it. Be honest, but be nice, please.


What are you waiting for? Download an excerpt from WILDERNESS RIM today off of Amazon. Read; leave your review. I promise to use it as a learning opportunity. Joe Q. Public, you are now my writing mentor.


*Edit:  So, I learned later that it’s not the entire manuscript, but rather an excerpt. Somehow, my Kindle app pulled up my entire manuscript for me (maybe from a former Google Docs download? I don’t know), but just an excerpt for several others that contacted me and said they had done it. Sorry about the confusion. 

This Is What A Librarian Looks Like: Ur Doin’ It Wrong Culture Must Die

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I want to stab this attitude and phrase into oblivion.
I want to stab this attitude and phrase into oblivion.

I’m being ridiculous in my headline, because I’m pretty pissed off. Still. Only in 2014 can you try to do something good and be slammed for it. Give me a few minutes to share my tale of woe and shame and how they are besmirching good people, especially librarians.

One of my favorite photographers (War Paint: Tattoo Culture and the Armed Forces holds prominence on my book shelf and in my heart) and internet personalities (if you don’t know about his sports-related injury, you’re missing out), Kyle Cassidy, had a great photo spread in Slate’s This is What A Librarian Looks Like.

Another of Kyle Cassidy's great works that get people talking. Yes, that's a Tribal Talking Stick sitting next to it on my bookshelf.
Another of Kyle Cassidy’s great works that get people talking. Yes, that’s a Tribal Talking Stick sitting next to it on my bookshelf.


Cassidy’s story about the importance of libraries and the people who work in them – primarily librarians – mirrors my own story.

He said, “Libraries and librarians have meant a lot to me throughout my life and there are specific ones that without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

Here. Here.

Growing up in Detroit, the library was my refuge. It’s where I would endure tromping through three-feet of snow to go to, and when the world ticked me off, I could sit among the stacks and read and dream and be safe.

Always welcoming, the librarians would share new finds they thought I would enjoy, they’d help me pour through the card catalogs for that one article or book on whatever research I was doing – spiders, guns, drugs (even then my writing tended toward the dark) – they  were always there for me.

When I finally was able to drive my own car and go somewhere? The first place I went was the library. I know other teens went to the drive-in or the tastee-freeze, me, the budding bibliophile and writer went to where there were books full of stories, knowledge, and welcoming people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATherefore, an article like the one where Cassidy’s photos were featured, which highlighted the importance of libraries in our culture and the people behind them – made even more important in the digital age of the nearly incalculable reach of electronic information systems and social media – was exciting for me to see. It made me smile. It made me nod. It made me know that others know the importance of libraries and the people who study the science behind running them. That we need to question what we think we know and investigate it on our own.

That there was a diverse collection of portraits included in the piece made me cheer outwardly. One of the librarians from my youth wore these really kooky brooches every single day; the other memorable librarian – the teen librarian (a very progressive thing at the time), daily donned very iconic eyeglasses. Even during the more restrictive 70s and early 80s, the strong personalities of my local library’s librarians showed through. Cassidy’s piece, from my perspective, mirrored that image I had in my head:  strong individuals, knowledgeable, and very passionate.

But, then, the unexpected happened, when people got sight/read the article. The ugly internet and its culture of Ur Doin It Rong (cue the twitch in my inner grammar Führer) blasted the electronic pathways with a vitriol many might not have expected. Well, unless you have come to be trained over the last decades that the level of acceptance in the internet culture is nonexistence, that people can’t have a discussion or a conversation in a civil manner. It’s all, my way or the highway.

The tweets, facebook posts, blogs, etc. that vilified the article on basis that X wasn’t represented, or Y wasn’t brought forward in the article, was untenable to me. Oh and the “Why is HE featured?” comment really boiled my blood. I was upset, because these folks who volunteered to have their portraits done were brave and stepped forward and saw an opportunity to show the Slate readership that what you maybe think about libraries and librarians is wrong. (For a good detail on what vileness some of the featured librarians endured, see here.)

Like much of Cassidy’s work, as any artist’s work is often, This Is What A Librarian Looks Like was meant as a conversation starter. His photos and the Slate blogger, Jordan G. Teicher, were bringing forth the good of libraries and its librarians. How they work for every possible type of person, how inclusive they are.

The most distressing part of the response, for me, came from other librarians. This part I could not understand, since I’ve yet to meet a librarian that wasn’t one of the most patient, think-good-about-humanity, and positive individuals in the room.

Then Cassidy’s words in the story came to me. He said, “I realized I had a stereotype in my mind of what a librarian looked like, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do this project. Whenever I think something is true, I’m often wrong.”

I guess I was wrong, too.

Libraries tie a community together. They allow for the sharing of knowledge. They are the one public place where no matter your background, your gender, your economic status, your creed, or religion, you are welcome. The article, bless its beaten-on-the-internet heart, brought that forward, too. Many of the librarians featured via their portraits said that, too, “We are the great equalizer.” Here in Western Washington and many other places across the United States, it was the librarians that resisted the Patriot Act – almost like a last line of defense. To me they are knowledge warriors.library

But, libraries are just buildings, the people who run the joint – the librarians are what make it the tie that binds, the inclusive place to an oft-times exclusive world.

I’m not going to let some internet trolls, even those who claimed to have been librarians steer me away from the belief that libraries are good and necessary. But, they sure gave some ammo for those who would board up the windows and lock the doors of our libraries.

In the meantime, more power to Cassidy to continue his mission in capturing a community that is important to many other communities. Oh, and I’m going back to the “Do Not Read The Comments” rule I have. Because if you’re saying, Ur Doin It Rong, I’m likely going to know you are entirely ignorant.