From the Stacks to the Shelf: How This Reader Became a Librarian and an Author, a guest post and giveaway by TRACKED author Jenny Martin
Like Star Wars? Speed Racer? The Fast and the Furious? What if I told you there was an awesome new science fiction title coming set in the future and featuring a female racer . . . Pretty awesome, right? Jenny Martin is a school librarian who is about to have her first book, TRACKED, published. Today she talks with us about becoming a librarian and an author. She’s also giving away a TRACKED swag pack that includes a bag, key chain and t-shirt. Meet Jenny Martin.
I grew up in an isolated, scrappy little Oklahoma town. When I say ‘isolated,’ I mean that for many years, we were three hours away from the nearest Wal-Mart. (Okay, maybe only two and a half, as the crow—or the speeding pickup–flies.) And when I say ‘scrappy,’ I mean that our parents and grandparents had managed to build something lasting in the middle of nowhere—a place rooted in red dirt, thriving despite April Storms and August heat, stalwart against the relentless cycle of oil boom and bust.
Back then, in that tiny town, we didn’t have a lot of things. No Starbucks. No malls. No monster cine-plexes. But we had at least one thing going for us—we had libraries.
And those libraries shaped my life. They directly impacted both sides of my career—as an author and as a school librarian.
In truth, the call of the stacks began in early childhood. I think of our first Carnegie Library, one of the grandest buildings in the county, an oasis just off Main Street. As a kid, I was a lot more interested in the unassuming basement shelves of its children’s section than the brightly painted twisty-slide and monkey bars outside. Sure, the local Lions’ Club did a terrific job on the playground equipment. I just preferred spending my time nose-deep in fictional worlds.
There, in our public library, I met an extraordinary book pusher and kid-confidante, Ms. Kay Bell. Ms. Bell introduced me to my first home-run reads; armed with ghost stories and science fiction and fantasy novels, she whet an appetite I’ve never been able to sate. What’s more, she never batted an eye at my reading choices, even when I checked out too-tough adult books or the audiobook of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Headless Cupid yet again, for the seventeenth time. (Cassette tapes! Back then, so cutting edge!)
Yes, Ms. Bell was the first to meet me at the door to literacy. But other librarians, each in their turn, helped me fling those gates wide-open. I remember our 5th and 6th grade librarian, Ms. Jackson, who encouraged our young writers’ club, and who introduced me to Ms. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. In Junior High, there was Ms. Christner, whose fiery passion for Walter Dean Myers kindled something in me, and pushed me to try new genres. And let’s not forget the high school librarians, Ms. Castor and Ms. Millard, who helped us all get through four years of English papers and Oklahoma History research and Humanities projects.
These libraries, they welcomed me, a too tall, too silly, too brassy girl who didn’t always fit in or say the right thing. The resources I found inside these safe havens…be they on the shelf or even in micro-fiche…each novel and poem and biography stretched me, and taught me to look beyond myself and at the same time, to slip deeper into my own imagination. I can’t help but credit my hometown for this. Somehow, among the cattle ranchers and oilrig roustabouts, there was a collective desire to make learning a priority and invest in newfangled resources, even during the leaner years. These everyday, plainspoken folks saw the value in building windows to the larger world, and for that, I’m forever grateful.
I’m grateful because they shaped me into who I am today, an author-slash-librarian. Because when it was time for me to go back to school and choose a new career, I knew what to do. I knew who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Ms. Bell and Ms. Christner, or at least one of their 2.0 counterparts. I wanted to tend that same gateway and escape, to keep the doors open wide, for students of my own.
And that is what I did. I dove into school librarianship and worked hard to finish that MLS. All those hours reading scholarly articles and polishing term papers on topics like ‘intellectual property’ and ‘authority control.’ It nurtured the practitioner and the academic in me, and I have no regrets. But I never forgot the little girl who loved The Headless Cupid, and the teen who loved drafting short stories. Today, I still honor her, too.
Now, by day, I serve as a library media specialist–in a big city district, and in a school I love dearly. Working full-time on a flexible schedule, I collaborate with teachers to push great reads and model good practices and design new learning experiences. By night, I clack on the keyboard, writing and rewriting, until the right stories finally surface.
One of those stories—my YA debut—is just almost here, and I couldn’t be more excited. And curiously enough, wouldn’t you know it…to write it, I had to slip back to childhood, to memories of long hours in the local library. There, rooted in my small town’s heritage…in the worn, clothbound stories of breakneck land rushes and claim-staking runs for homesteads on the frontier, a seed began to grow. Of course, I drew on my love of science fiction–those movies and novels played their part, too. And how could they not? A certain small town librarian had recommended so many of them.
From that mix—in part, from my time in the stacks—my debut was born. Tracked is the story of a young driver, who amidst intense galactic conflict, rockets from street racing obscurity to pro-circuit stardom, sideswiping corporate empires and leaving them crippled in her wake. But it is also the story of too small, too reckless, too brassy girl who lives on an isolated, windswept, fuel-driven planet. A girl who doesn’t always fit in or say the right thing. A girl named Phee–fierce and fearless and flawed–who’s primed for adventure, and who can never stop dreaming of other worlds.
And while Phee may get to blast her way into some of these faraway places, I get to visit them all. By day, they sit beside me on the library shelves. By night, they hide inside my laptop. And always, they live in my heart.
Swag Pack Giveaway:
Do the Rafflecopter thingy below to be entered to win an awesome TRACKED themed swag pack courtesy of Jenny Martin. It includes a bag, key chain and t-shirt. Open to U.S. residents only please.
Publisher’s Book Description:
The Fast and the Furious gets a futuristic twist in this action-packed debut!
On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high-stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father disappeared mysteriously, but that hasn’t stopped her from speeding headlong into trouble. When she and her best friend, Bear, attract the attention of Charles Benroyal, they are blackmailed into racing for Benroyal Corp, a company that represents everything Phee detests. Worse, Phee risks losing Bear as she falls for Cash, her charming new teammate. But when she discovers that Benroyal is controlling more than a corporation, Phee realizes she has a much bigger role in Castra’s future than she could ever have imagined. It’s up to Phee to take Benroyal down. But even with the help of her team, can a street-rat destroy an empire?
May 5, 2015 from Dial Books. ISBN: 9780803740129
Meet The Author:
Jenny is a librarian, a book monster, and a certified Beatle-maniac. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son, where she hoards books and regularly blisses out over all kinds of live and recorded rock. Her debut YA novel, TRACKED, will be released in 2015 by Dial, an imprint of Penguin.
Filed under: Science Fiction
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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