May 31st, 2009


Tea Video for an Educational Scholarship

My friend's daughter created this video as an entry for the Calm-A-Sutra of Tea 2009 National Scholarship Competition offered by the Tea Council of the USA, Inc. One grand prize winner will be given $15,000 towards his or her education. Please take a few minutes out of your day to watch the video, rate it, and pass it on! Thank you!


Family: Micol and David Ostow

Helping me close out this month's family series are siblings Micol and David Ostow.

Rumor has it I was less-than-thrilled about the birth of my baby brother. The details are hazy to me, seeing as I was three at the time, but the story goes that I'd been staying with my grandparents while my mother was in the hospital. We got the call that she'd given birth, and my father announced to me that I had a new little brother. To which I replied, "I want to live with Grandma and Grandpa now." 1

That pretty much set the tone in our relationship from childhood through the college years.2 I'm not sure what changed exactly, or when, but these days my brother is not only my writing partner3 but also one of my very best friends. And I have learned that a bonus in working with a partner who also happens to be your brother is that you are granted carte blanche to occasionally revert to your five-year-old self amidst times of stress.

Family has to love you, even when you're not being a mature and professional adult-type person.4

1. (It didn't fly.)
2. (His, not mine.)
3. (SO PUNK ROCK, an illustrated novel, due out this July!)
4. (Thank GAWD!)

- Micol Ostow

I disagree with Micol. Family does not have to love you. My very unscientific observations suggest that the odds of being born into a community of people who are prepared to love you for who you are and who – in their tolerance – deserve the same, are fairly slim.

For better and for worse, we Ostows have beaten those odds.

For better because the freedom to pursue our chosen paths has given Micol and me not only a clear perspective on our own selves, but on one another as well. And it turns out we're not so different. Our shared sense of entitlement, cynicism to the world at large, and tendency to laugh at the expense of others are the keys to any success with which So Punk Rock is met. Without the opportunity to harness all this negative energy and to deflect it outwards, Micol would still be throwing blunt objects at me – as she did when we were children - and I would still be sleeping with one eye open.

For worse because, having given us carte blanche to explore our creative sides, our parents paved the way for a long history to come of sibling competition. This was first evident when my sister, age 10, declared that she "could write circles around anything I drew." At the time, my 7-year-old self couldn’t make sense of the figurative nature of this comment and could scarcely understand why Micol wouldn't prefer the more standard medium of ruled paper to my pretty good drawing of Garfield which didn't call for any embellishment as far as I could tell. At 30 years old, I think I finally understand what she was getting at, and let’s just say the race is on to see who can exploit their talent faster and more effectively. (She's winning so far.)

Luckily - and perhaps in anticipation of this - our parents bequeathed to us another long-standing Ostow family institution: Therapy.

- David Ostow

Visit the websites for Micol, David, and So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother)

Follow the series of family posts.
readergirlz, postergirlz

Readergirlz Roundtable: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

I cherish the book Sweethearts, I really do. Sara Zarr's sophomore novel gently captures both the innocence of youth and the point at which it is shattered. The friendship between a fragile girl and a tormented boy changes dramatically when they are children, and evolves further when they are teenagers and the long-lost boy returns unexpectedly.

Last August, the postergirlz selected this book as one of our of the recommended reads within that month's issue of readergirlz. Now, Sweethearts is our main pick for June, the book of the month for our book group. Five of us - Little Willow, Miss Erin, Lorie Ann Grover, Melissa Walker, and Holly Cupala - set up an online meeting to discuss the book at length. Here's what we had to say.

Little Willow: What words come to mind when you think of Jenna, the main character in Sweethearts?

Miss Erin: Lost, buried, caught, hidden, confused, bruised, neglected.

Melissa Walker: Hiding, scared.

Little Willow: I second "hiding" and "confused." Also: Fragile, lonely, searching, nostalgic, torn.

Holly Cupala: Questioning identity, hidden truths, self-punishment, longing for acceptance.

Lorie Ann Grover: Self-doubt, lost, confused, pained, hungry for peace and acceptance from others and herself.

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Little Willow: It's clear that I think Sweethearts is a great pick for readergirlz. Why do you feel people should read this book?

Lorie Ann: It's such a great example of defining yourself. This is something that every person does. So how do you do that in the face of people who have acted against you in the past, who you are now, and who you want to become. Most dear to me was the healing between Jenna and her mother. What a great warning that one neglect to communicate can alter relationships forever. Thank you, Sara!

Holly: I think Jenna's story will resonate with readergirlz of all ages. So much of growing up is about finding who you are, where you are going, and who you want to take with you. After struggles, heartbreak, and a second chance, Jenna comes away knowing all of these things. A beautiful book.

Melissa: I love that Jenna comes to be at peace with many different parts of herself, as we all must do. She isn't just one thing -- just Jennifer or Jenna -- she's a combination of all that she's experienced and seen and learned. And that's a beautiful thing.

Lorie Ann: I am so happy to be hosting Sara this month at rgz. It's our honor to have her participation. Let the month begin!

Hey there, roundtable readers! What did you think of Sweethearts? Please join our discussions of the book at the readergirlz blog and check out the June issue of readergirlz!

Related Posts at Bildungsroman:
Book Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Book Review: Story of a Girl
Interview: Sara Zarr
SparkLife: Weighty Matters

Browse through all of the roundtables I've hosted.
Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Family Ties

Last month, I published a series of posts about hope - what it meant to different people, and what made them hopeful.

Now, throughout May, we'll be discussing Family, this month's theme at readergirlz. I'll ask various authors and friends:

What does "family" mean to you?
Who do you consider to be the members of your family?

I posted their answers at both my blog, Bildungsroman, and the readergirlz blog.

May 6th: Jackie Parker
May 11th: Melissa Walker
May 13th: Daphne Grab
May 18th: Courtney Sheinmel
May 20th: Lorie Ann Grover
May 22nd: Holly Cupala
May 25th: Beth Kephart
May 27th: Lesley M.M. Blume
May 31st: Micol and David Ostow

Other themed mini-interview series at Bildungsroman:
Definitions of Hope
What Makes You Smile?