Goodbye Blogging

Screen Shot 2018-09-26 at 9.22.01 AM

Hi everyone still reading. Is anyone still reading?

For about a year, I’ve been apologizing for not blogging more. For years, I posted regularly three to four times a week. But as I’ve started teaching more and writing more and blogging for Book Riot , this little project has been taking a back burner. I haven’t found the time to post three times a month, let alone three times a week. And blogging has changed too.

But I’m done saying sorry. And I don’t want to fade out of Hardcovers & Heroines without saying a proper goodbye. Instead of sorry, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading. Whether you’ve been reading since the beginning (hi Mom!) or you are just reading this post. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for recommending books and encouraging me with my own writing. Thank you for your congratulations when things are going well. Thank you for your kind words when things aren’t.

I started Hardcovers & Heroines with a college friend in 2012. Blogging was the big thing at the time, and we were on opposite coasts. It seemed like it was a good way to stay in touch. And we were both just getting interested in young adult books. Though that friendship ended and my cofounder took her posts down, the blog continued. And since I’ve started blogging I’ve:

I learned about YA books on this blog and from other bloggers who’ve been doing this longer than me. I made wonderful friends through this blog, with a special shout out to Jackie Lea Sommers and Betsy Cornwell, who are both incredibly supportive and inspiring writers in my life.

And I’m not disappearing forever. I’m still figuring out what to do with this space. And hope to check back in semi-regularly (one a month? one a season?) with a few book recommendations and some of my Book Riot articles.

Thank you. I really mean it.

Thank you.

My Papa, Jerry Barton

IMG_2379

When I was a little girl, nothing was as exciting as spending the night at Nana and Papa’s house. With a swimming pool shaped like a whale and the promise of Papa making his signature silver dollar pancakes in the morning, nothing could be. At night, I’d get into Nana and Papa’s bed and sleep between them. Every time, without fail, Papa snored. He didn’t just snore, he snored loud. Very loud. In the morning, Nana would complain. But I decided that I would teach myself to love snoring – to be soothed by it.

And I succeeded. Not only do I not mind the sound of snoring now, but whoever is next to me in bed has never snored as loud as Papa. This is just one of the many ways he’s influenced my life.

IMG_2297

Me with Papa

Looking back, this seems like such a perfect metaphor for love: to find comfort in someone else’s flaws. It’s something I couldn’t stop thinking about last week, as I sat by the bed he knew he would never get out of again. And it’s something I wish he could have done for himself.

Because there was Jerry Barton the man and Jerry Barton the legend. He was the boy who graduated high school barely knowing how to read, who went on to study at Oxford and make the Dean’s List at The University of Oklahoma. He was the man who the government stole hundreds of millions of dollars from, vindicated through a judicial victory but somehow not bitter about losing his fortune. He built his company back up in the 2000s, only to lose it again in the Recession. But I never, not even in the days before his death, heard him say he had a bad day. Ever.

IMG_3420

Papa eating a corn flavored popsicle I brought him

Many people primarily saw my grandfather as a worker. He was a man who merged his family with his business, until the two often seemed interchangeable. When I was a child, he told me that Christmas was his least favorite day of the year because no one else went into the office. I was incredulous. He started selling popcorn in his parents’ movie theaters at the age of five and never stopped working. He made and lost millions. But he never ran out of ideas for new ventures. He pretty much always wore oak tree emblazoned clothing (as you can see from these photographs). When he called my mom on the phone, business wasn’t the only thing they would talk about, but it was almost always the first thing he wanted to discuss.

IMG_2403

Papa’s Birthday with Robbie, Caroline, me, and Barton

One of his favorite quotes was “work is love made visible.” And this wasn’t just apparent in the way he worked. It was equally apparent in the way he loved. He showed his love through work. Through decades of bringing croissants and the New York Times to our house every Sunday. Through always offering his “weak mind and strong back” when we were packing up the car for college or moving apartments. Through remembering my favorite desert even though he “didn’t like sweet food, just sweet people.”

IMG_2327

A family Christmas Portrait

When he first saw my mother after giving birth to my sister, Sarah, he asked if he could get her anything. No doubt, he meant something like a glass of water. But when she replied, “twenty pounds of sand” he didn’t say no or even ask why. He just delivered the sand to our house the following afternoon. (It was for a sandbox my mom decided I absolutely needed before the new baby came home.) This has become both family lore and a benchmark for a very special kind of love.

His made his love for his family and friends visible through the work he did for us.

IMG_2422

Papa at my sister Sarah’s wedding last year

So, it’s easy to think of Papa as a worker, but for me he held another primary identity: storyteller.

His stories were endless and expertly crafted. His mother asking him to clean the chicken coup and his decision to burn it down instead. His parents deciding to go into the movie theater business on their wedding night. His decision to drop out of kindergarten after the teacher asked him to draw a banana. A meeting with Winston Churchill at the age of nineteen. His revenge on the “fraternity crowd” at college, by setting up a panty raid and then not showing up so he wouldn’t get in trouble.

IMG_2296

Papa’s amazing Christmas outfit

A business meeting somehow rendered hilarious.

An accidental bet for five thousand dollars, which he won.

The first time he ate an artichoke and the night he got so cold he zipped himself inside his suitcase for warmth.

Image60

Papa is the one with the brown jacket and crew cut

These were just a fraction of his stories. And they were beautiful. Meaningful. Often hilarious.

But these stories – along with the narrative he created about himself – must have left some things out. He had to be more, and less, than the legend he helped to mold. I know he felt deep pain through rare glimpses he let slip in conversations.

IMG_2420

Nana and Papa with their ten grandchildren

When my grandfather started first grade, he had a speech impediment so severe that no one could understand him. Family lore states, that after being teased the first day of school, Great Grandmother B told him that he attended a special school for the hearing impaired. She told him not to mind when people couldn’t understand him or bullied him, because he was so lucky not to be deaf like the other students.

IMG_2402

Papa, Mom, and me in Carmel Valley

I’ve heard this story throughout my life. But it must be leaving something out. He must have found out at some point. He got D’s throughout his grade school career, just so teachers could pass him on to the next grade. He sat in the back of the classroom and never engaged with anyone. He was the most brilliant person I’ve ever known, and I can’t imagine the pain of everyone around him thinking he was stupid.

But that part never made it into his stories.

IMG_2428

A rare photo of Papa as a child

The principal of his school realized their mistake after he won a grade-wide knowledge bee. The next fall when he started high school, his middle school principal went with him from class to class telling each teacher This is Jerry Barton. He can’t talk plain. He’s not good at reading or writing, but he will be the smartest child in your class so make sure he sits in the front row. Papa often credited this woman with changing his entire life and took her out to lunch when at nineteen he received a scholarship to study for a semester at Oxford University in England.

IMG_2376

Papa’s flyer for Student Senate

 

He made his way through college by his wits, by taking speech lessons and going to a reading clinic for adults, and perhaps mostly by relying on the help of his friends. He met my grandmother, Jo Clough, when they were seated alphabetically in an economics class their second year. She joined his merry band of academics, and his group began studying at her parents’ house. It was over a year until they began “going together.”

IMG_2315

Nana and Papa in the law school years

When he applied to law school, he encouraged Nana to do the same – making her one of the first women to go through the University’s program. They were the first husband-wife moot court team. He was always proud of my nana’s professional and academic accomplishments, including her ranking far above him in their graduating class.

IMG_1633

Nana and Papa with both sets of my great grandparents on their wedding day

After graduating, he moved to Washington DC where he worked in the Pentagon and once argued a case in front of the Supreme Court. He travelled all over the world, for business and with my nana. He had three children, who he made breakfast for in the morning and played with after work in the pool, despite later asserting he didn’t really like swimming.

IMG_2321

Papa holding my Aunt Joann

I could keep going into the many twists and turns of his career and his lifelong support of the Democratic Party. I could go on listing his accomplishments. They are many. His mistakes were probably many too. Some I could list; others he kept private.

Papa was a flawed man, like all men. But like Gatsby or Atticus Finch or so many of my favorite literary characters, he also seemed like more than a man. He lived an amazing life. But part of me also wishes he could have shared the burden of his mistakes and his pain with more people. I can’t imagine any of us would have loved him less for it.

IMG_2300

Papa grilling his family-famous ribs (please take note of the double oak tree monogram)

Papa was the first person in my life who thought I was smart. I didn’t learn to read until I was ten, but Papa always maintained that we were similar and I would show everyone how smart I was one day. Later, he made it his mission to build up my self esteem. In high school, he told me “One hundred percent of people who don’t try don’t succeed” and “let the world prove you wrong” and “never make a decision out of fear.” And I think I’ve made all of my best decisions – the ones I’m most proud of  — with these words in mind.

IMG_2427

Metaphorically resonant photo of Papa as the center bottom of the family pyramid and Nana on top

Papa loved his family. He loved his friends. He loved his work making beautiful golf courses. He loved good wine, meeting new people, reciting quotations, and pretty views.

He loved me. And I loved him.

And that’s the part of the story that matters the most to me. More than the legend. More than the mistakes. More than the truths that I may never know. It changed my life to have Jerry Barton as a grandfather, and I’m sure I will keep telling his stories for the rest of my life.

IMG_2419

Me, Sarah, Papa, and my mom last Christmas

Mexico Trip / Summer / Sorry I’m Not Writing More

IMG_1719

Hi friends. Are you still out there? I know I’ve been MIA recently. This summer has been a perfect storm of hard things – family illness, divorce, more teaching than I’ve ever done, roommate tumult, boy stuff … pretty much ALL THE THINGS. Still finding joy in writing and friendship and NYC bookish life where I can. And most of all … my recent Mexico sister trip! Here are a few photos if you are interested. Will try to figure out a more consistent blogging schedule again soon as things calm down! xoxox  Continue reading

Writing Retreat!

download (2)

Hi friends. I know I have been TERRIBLE about writing recently. My life … as per usual … has been kind of a rollercoaster. The things that are going well are going really well – like my new teaching job at The New School and June not being ridiculously hot yet. And kind of, maybe, sort of finishing a new draft of a new book that I’m somehow still in love with. But other things are kind of a dumpster fire – globally (this needs no explanation) and personally (money stuff, roommate stuff, boy stuff, etc.).

So it’s the nicest to get away for a four-day weekend upstate at my very first writing retreat. My friend Kristina (the best critique partner anyone ever had) organized it. We are ten girls in a gorgeous house in the woods – with a pool! Three attendants are going to have their debut YA novels published next year, six attendants work in publishing, and four went to grad school with me (there is some overlap in these lists lol). We haven’t gotten the most writing done yet today, but are hunkered down now – listening to jazz and sitting with our laptops around a very long dining room table.

I brought along The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo and a lot of different ideas I want to flush out/choose from for my next project. And a swim suit … because, pool. It is beautiful and quiet and exactly what I needed.

I’m Not Reading *That* Much YA Right Now

Hey friends and happy Monday! You all know (unless you are very very new) that YA is my one true bookish love. It’s been the main thing I read for about 7-8 years, it’s what I write, I even moved to New York City and got a masters degree in it. Oh yeah and I’ve been blogging about it here for like 5+ years. But…

For some reason, I’m not really reading a ton of it right now. Which is bananas because there are so many books I’m excited about coming out. There are plenty, in fact, sitting right on my shelf. But when I was looking at my goodreads shelf last night thinking a review post was long overdue … I realized that out of the last ten books I read, only one was YA.

I don’t think I even read nine books for adults combined in 2014 and 2015, and now I’ve read nine since mid-April! To be fair, *a lot* are romance novels. But still this totally spooked me out.

Hit me with your recommendations in the comments, because I definitely want to add some YA to my library holds queue ASAP!

Happy Mother’s Day

IMG_9857

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mama’s out there today! My mom is 100% the reason I’m a reader and has been the most supportive person on this writing journey as mine (as well as being my most consistent blog reader). She’s also great fodder for Book Riot articles. Here are a few I’m thinking of today:

Goodbye April!

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 12.04.02 PM

April could have been a little warmer, but we had some nice days in there and I got to see lots of nice people and read lots of nice books. Am I overusing the word nice? Sorry, I got in late on a flight to California last night and am feeling a little zoney bologna this afternoon. Probably time for a nap! Continue reading