Looking for the Helpers…

I was spared from any great disasters when I was little, but there was plenty of news of them in newspapers and on the radio, and there were graphic images of them in newsreels.

For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.

There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.

(Fred Rogers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.   6 September 2004)

The season that is currently upon us, beloved patrons, is one in which we are encouraged to put the needs of others before ourselves, to share what we have without thought of return–essentially, to be humane, as well as human, during a period of the year that is particularly difficult for us as a species.  We give gifts to those we love to show some tangible manifestation of our bond–a display of warmth during the deepening cold.  We hang lights to drive away the darkness of the encroaching winter.  We sing song to remember that we are not alone.  Regardless of your belief system, this is a time of year during which we are encouraged to look beyond ourselves and consider and perhaps even celebrate the ways in which we are bound up in each other.

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Via Cleanfax

 

This year, a great many of our long-distance neighbors in California are facing the process of remembering, recovering, rebuilding after devastating wildfires destroyed their homes, their possession, and killed those they loved.  Indeed, we are breathing in the effects of those fires even here on the other side of the continent.  In the spirit of the season, and in keeping with our policy of providing you information on how to help others most effectively, we wanted to bring you some information about institutions and organizations that could use your kindness and consideration now more than ever.

As reported by the American Library Association, the Paradise California Library is still intact.  Additionally, the remaining five branches in the Butte county system are still operational and have become information centers, offering computers, Wi-Fi, and printers to help displaced residents contact insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies.  Butte County Library Director Melanie Lightbody recognized just how critical libraries are to communities in crisis, explaining that “We are more than just a library but a symbol of hope to the community and a community center, which we will be once again.”  If you are in a position to give, Sara Jones, director of the Marin County (Calif.) Free Library, and the California Library Association has established a fundraiser for the fire-ravaged library system. has set up a fundraiser on Facebook to ensure the library system “will have sufficient financial resources to create and maintain a dynamic modern library system,” to replace the books that were destroyed in patrons’ homes, and to continue to assist in rebuilding efforts.

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The Paradise California Library, via Butte County CA

While we are too far away for donations of food, clothing, or other items to be helpful at this moment, money is a resource that can literally change lives.  To that end, here are some institutions that are doing good on the ground in California that could use your help:

Helping People:

  • A longstanding local institution, the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund has offered aid to those affected by wildfires for the past 15 years. Grants have gone to rebuilding homes, providing financial and mental health assistance and helping those affected to get medical treatment.

 

  • The North Valley Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Chico that  is raising money to support organizations and institutions providing shelter for evacuees of the Camp Fire. Such locations include churches, fairgrounds and community centers, and all could use support in order to provide the most and best help to those who need it.

 

  • Likewise, the California Fire Foundation is on the ground distributing financial assistance to people who have lost everything in the fires. Through its emergency assistance program, firefighters distribute pre-paid gift cards to help those who need to purchase necessities like food, medicine and clothing.

 

  • The Red Cross is providing both shelter and emotional support for evacuees. You can visit RedCross.org, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make an automatic $10 donation.

 

  • Additionally, The United Way of Northern California has set up a relief fund for victims. Go to the designated website to donate, or text “BUTTEFIRE” to 91999. The fund will provide emergency cash to victims and aid the United Way in its response to the fire. Businesses and organizations that want to contribute to the fund can call Jacob Peterson at (530) 241-7521 or (916) 218-5424; or email jpeterson@norcalunitedway.org.

 

  • Another organization called Baby2Baby is working to get high-need items to children affected by the ongoing Camp, Hill, and Woolsey fires in California. Help them supply diapers, wipes, blankets, and other basic baby essentials to families in need by purchasing from their registry.

 

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Via Curbed SF

Helping Animals:

  • The Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund pays some of the cost of veterinary medical treatments for animals injured in the Camp Fire at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis. Injured and burned cats, horses, pigs, goats and other animals are receiving care. Call (530) 752-7024 or go to their website to contribute.

 

  • Additionally, at the request of Butte County, the Humane Society of the United States has set up a longer-term, temporary shelter in Richvale, California, to house and care for owned animals, whose families have been displaced by the wildfires. To donate to the Emergency Animal Rescue Fund, visit their website or call 866-720-2676.  You can also purchase items like food and toys through their Amazon wish list, which will be delivered right to the shelters in need.

 

  • For more information, visit Red Rover’s website to find out how you can help our four-legged friends during this time.
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https://redrover.org/news/cafires/

As always, if this is not a time that is good for you to give, have no fear.  Although reports are stating that the fires are now completely contained, disasters on the scale with which those in California are being forced to deal will take years to overcome.  Your help and support are always encouraged, in whatever form you can provide it.

Thank you for your thoughts, your goodwill, and your assistance.  You make our community what it is, and there is plenty enough love among us to share with those who need it–this time of the year, and always!

Six Book Saturday!

Since we weren’t around yesterday, beloved patrons, we weren’t able to bring you our traditional Five Book Friday.  But our doors are open today, and we are pleased to welcome you to come and find your new favorite reads (or films, or music…)!  And, to make up for the lack of reading recommendations yesterday, we’re adding an extra one to our list to provide you with a stellar Six Book Saturday!

Bitter OrangeClaire Fuller’s talent for creating psychologically complex, compelling fiction has already made her newest release a highly-talked-about title, but according to readers, this novel easily lives up to the hype.  We begin in the summer of 1969, where Frances Mother discovers a peephole in her dilapidated English country mansion that allows her to spy on the couple spending the summer in the rooms below while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens.  To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.  But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur.   And as lies escalate to crimes, Frances’ small indiscretion threatens to spiral into some truly terrible.  Reviews are comparing this story to the incomparable Shirley Jackson, which, frankly, seems like enough reason to check out this novel soon!  In fact, the comparison was made by Kirkus Reviews, who gave this book a starred review in the process: “In the vein of Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling The Haunting of Hill House, Fuller’s disturbing novel will entrap readers in its twisty narrative, leaving them to reckon with what is real and what is unreal. An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.”

The Feral DetectiveJonathan Lethem is a gifted storyteller with a rare talent for blending genres and tones into a work that is utterly unique.  This mystery, his second after the much acclaimed Motherless Brooklyn, features Charles Heist, a quirky detective to rival all quirky detectives.  Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help. A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. Reluctantly, he agrees to help. The unlikely pair navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble—caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe’s trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but she never thought it would end quite like this.   Critics are avid that Heist needs his own series, which makes it clear how much potential there is in this story. Booklist praised Lethem’s characters, as well as his narrative, calling this books, “A funny but rage-fueled stunner. . . . Both [characters] are compelling, as are the desert setting and the vividly realized descriptions of its dwellers. . . . An unrelentingly paced tale. . . . Utterly unique and absolutely worthwhile.”

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know : The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce: Colm Tóibín begins his incisive and intriguing story of some of Ireland’s most famous writers and their fathers with a walk through the Dublin streets where he went to university—a wide-eyed boy from the country—and where these three Irish literary giants also came of age.  Oscar Wilde, writing about his relationship with his father, William Wilde, stated: “Whenever there is hatred between two people there is bond or brotherhood of some kind…you loathed each other not because you were so different but because you were so alike.” W.B. Yeats wrote of his father, John Butler Yeats, a painter: “It is this infirmity of will which has prevented him from finishing his pictures. The qualities I think necessary to success in art or life seemed to him egotism.” John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, was widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and drinker with a volatile temper, who drove his son from Ireland.  In this insightful study, Tóibín illuminates not only the complex relationships between these men of letters and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways these men surface in their work.  The Washington Post was just one outlet that wrote a glowing review for this slim but scintillating volume, saying “This gentle, immersive book holds literary scholarship to be a heartfelt, heavenly pursuit.”

In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron’s Wife and Daughter, Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace: And speaking of controversial fathers….In 1815, the clever, courted, and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet.  Ada didn’t. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron’s little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild spirits. Educated by some of the most learned minds in England, she combined that scholarly discipline with a rebellious heart and a visionary imagination.  When Ada died―like her father, she was only 36―great things seemed still to lie ahead for her as a passionate astronomer. Even while mired in debt from gambling and crippled by cancer, she was frenetically employing Faraday’s experiments with light refraction to explore the analysis of distant stars.  Utilizing new and under-utilized sources, Miranda Seymour has crafted a fascinating and revelatory new history that liberate Annabella and Ada from Byron’s shadow, while still recognizing the power his legacy had over both women.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a sparkling review of this book, calling it “Meticulously researched. A skilled and experienced biographer, Seymour weaves her way through cowboy curtains of rumor and gossip, showing how tabloid intrusions are nothing new, privacy has always been won at a price, and reputation―the judgment of the public―remains a slippery, fragile thing. The combination of pure mathematics and agonized personal passions gives Seymour’s book an arresting power.”

Born to be Posthumous : The Eccentric life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey: What can we say–it’s a good week for biographies! Edward Gorey’s wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth.  But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O’Hara at Harvard, and was known–in the late 1940s, no less–to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes–but who was the real Edward Gorey?  Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, Mark Dery has created reveals Gorey in all his quirky glory, a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious.  Anyone who has savored Gorey’s remarkable illustrations and poems will love this work–NPR agrees, saying in its review: “The best biographies are the result of a perfect match between author and subject, and it’s relatively rare when the two align perfectly. But that’s the case with Born to Be Posthumous–Dery shares Gorey’s arch sense of humor, and shows real sympathy for his sui generis outlook and aesthetics. Dery’s book is smart, exhaustive, and an absolute joy to read… the biography [Gorey] has long deserved.”

The Kinship of SecretsEugenia Kim is an author long-endeared to readers, and this newest novel is a beautiful mix of historical insight and deep character work that fans and newcomers alike will find compelling.  In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their infant daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.  But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended?  This book, told in alternating perspectives by the two sisters, is a story inspired by Kim’s own life, and is full of moving truths that make it unforgettable.  The Washington Post noted how it “Beautifully illuminate[s] Korea’s past in ways that inform our present….Kim infuses a coming-of-age story about being an outsider with the realities of the war, which forced many family separations, some of which still persist today.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

The 2018 National Book Award Winners!

On Thursday, November 15, the National Book Award winners were announced in New York, in a ceremony hosted by Nick Offerman.  In addition, writer Luís Alberto Urrea presented the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Isabel Allende, saying in his presentation that  “Isabel is calling us to believe in words of love, words of witness.  You can’t build a wall to keep them out. You can’t lock them up. She has taught us that words have wings. They fly over barriers, and they sing all over the globe.”  Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly presented Doron Weber with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.  Weber is the vice president and program director for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,which runs a program for Public Understanding of Science, Technology & Economics, which supports projects that bridge science and the arts (check out the link–it’s a pretty amazing place!).

Then came the announcement of the Winners of National Book Awards in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.  We are pleased to list the winners below, with links to their NOBLE catalog entries.  Come into the Library and check out these award-winning books for yourself!

Young People’s Literature

Congratulations to all the National Book Award Winners–we can’t wait to start reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a messy, snowy rainy, bleak day it is out there, beloved patrons!  But never fear, we are here, the heat is on, and we have books, cds, and films galore to help you deal with the weather, holiday stress, and visiting relatives.

Just as a reminder, the Library has scheduled a staff meeting on Monday, November 19.  The Main Library will be closed from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.  The South Branch and West Branch Libraries will be closed from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.

Additionally, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, we will be closing at 5pm on Wednesday, November 21.  We will reopen on Saturday, November 24 at 9am.  We wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving and look forward to seeing you soon!

And now, on to the books!

FoeFans of Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things will be pleased to know his second book is out, and just as mind-bending and fascinating as his debut.  Set in the near future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company in the form of a synthetic replica of Junior.  But if you think the weirdness ends there, you haven’t read enough of Reid’s puzzling, eerie prose, and should pick this book up post haste!  Booklist gave this novel a starred review, cheering that “Reid is at it again, exploiting readers with plot twists, narrative unease, and explosive conclusions in his second novel… [he] has the rare ability to make readers both uncomfortable and engaged, and this drama will surely send them back to the beginning pages to track the clues he left to the surprise ending.”

In the House in the Dark: Local readers already have plenty of background for the setting and premise of this story, but the twists and turns it takes on its way to its conclusion are sure to keep even the most devoted scholar of witchcraft and Puritanism captivated.  The story opens in colonial New England, where an upstanding Puritan woman has gone missing.  Or perhaps she has fled or abandoned her family. Or perhaps she’s been kidnapped, and set loose to wander in the dense woods of the north. Alone and possibly lost, she meets another woman in the forest. Then everything changes.  On a journey that will take her through dark woods full of almost-human wolves, through a deep well wet with the screams of men, and on a living ship made of human bones, our heroine may find that the evil she flees may be much closer than she ever suspected.  This is a story that beautifully blends Native American folklore with colonial myths into a wholly unique original tale that is as haunting as it is unsettling.  The New York Times Review of Books loved this story, saying “[Hunt] has fashioned an edge of-the-seat experience more akin to watching a horror movie…Darkness is everywhere. . . . So prepare yourself. This is a perfect book to read when you’re safely tucked in your home, your back to the wall, while outside your door the wind rips the leaves from the trees and the woods grow dark.”

InsurrectoArmchair explorers, historians, and fiction lovers alike will love this tale, which uses a modern premise to tell the tale of the Balangiga massacre in the Philippines in 1901.  Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing in the writing of a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about the events that transpired in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, when Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation American soldiers created “a howling wilderness” of the surrounding countryside. Magsalin reads Chiara’s film script and writes her own version. Insurrecto contains within its dramatic action two rival scripts from the filmmaker and the translator—one about a white photographer, the other about a Filipino schoolteacher, creating a wholly unique narrative that sheds light not only on the stories we fear to tell, but on the way we construct history and memory.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this wonderfully inventive novel a starred review, describing how  “Apostol fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism in the Philippines in her ingenious novel of competing filmmakers . . . Layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey into the past and present of the Philippines.”

Death and Other Holidays: Marci Vogel’s debut novel has critics everywhere delighted, and the book has already been nominated for–and won!–several literary prizes.  Life is coming fast at  twenty-something April. All the heavy stuff of adulthood—including the death of a loved one—seems to have happened to her all at once, leaving her reeling, and challenging her wit and grit in ways she never imagined.  Over the course of a single year, we see her confront her fears and vulnerability, as well as find a deep well of strength that propels her forward.  This is a clear-sighted, enormously empathetic story that won a starred review from Kirkus, who called it a “beautiful book…The prose is stunning..a moving and graceful novella of overcoming sorrow.”

The Way of All FleshA fascinating historical mystery that has already earned a devoted following in the UK, this book blends fact and fiction into an intriguing concoction that readers are sure to savor.  We begin in Edinburgh, 1847.  Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson. Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognizes trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education. With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.  Ambrose Parry is the pseudonym of husband/wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and historian Marisa Haetzman, and their talents shine in what we hope will not be their last collaboration!  Publisher’s Weekly noted that “Parry provides a fascinating look at how medicine was practiced at a period when anesthetics were still not widely used or understood, as well as certain things that have changed little over time: mansplaining, the subservience expected of women of any social class, and religious leaders demanding their God-given right to control reproductive health. Readers will eagerly await the sequel.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

A (Belated) Poem for the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice

Everyone Sang, by Siegfried Sassoon

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on—on—and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

(November 11, 1918)

And speaking of upcoming events…

We are truly lucky, beloved patrons, to live in an area that is rich with libraries, and we here at the Free For All love fostering relationships between our libraries and our patrons.  We share books and dvds, cds, and magazines.  We also share recommendations and programs from our NOBLE friends, because you are as welcome in their Libraries and you (and their patrons) are in ours!

So, with that in mind, we wanted to share with you some upcoming programs being held at the Beverly Library, to which you are most cordially invited.  Information for registering for these programs can be found on the posters below–just click on them to enlarge the images.  And if you have any questions, give our Beverly buddies a call at (978) 921-6062.  We hope you are able to attend, and pass on our best wishes if and when you do!

Looking Ahead…

It’s pretty dark and gloomy out there today, dear readers, but we are eager to combat our growing autumnal lethargy with a look at the phenomenal programs that we have coming up in November and December!  We have done our best to assemble a line-up of classes, concerts, film screenings, and activities to drive away the winter doldrums.  You can register for these lovely events by going to our website, giving us a call, or coming in and speaking with your friendly public service staff.

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As ever, if you have ideas or suggests for programs you would like to see here at the Library, please let us know!  We are here for you, after all.  And now, on to the calendar!


At the Main Library: PowerPoint, Photographs, and Digital Slideshows

Tuesday, December 4, 4:00 – 5:30pm

In this one day course, learn how to use Microsoft Powerpoint to share your favorite pictures with family and friends. Topics will include the basics of Powerpoint, digital photo editing and scanning, and creating digital slideshows using your favorite memories. Bring digital photo files that you’d like to use on a flashdrive, any physical photographs that you’d like to scan, and your own laptop, if possible- the library has just (5) available laptops with Powerpoint 2016 for attendees.


At the South Branch:

Tuesday, November 20, 2:30 – 3:30pm: Introduction to Yoga & Meditation

This four week series is designed to help adults discover the fundamentals of yoga.  This is a practice of reconnecting the Mind and Body through Breath & Movement. Guided meditation, yoga philosophy, and posture alignment with modifications will be shared during the class. This class will allow you leave class feeling grounded in your body and balanced in your mind.  The South Branch Library has a small number of mats for use, but we ask to please bring your own, if possible. You may also bring a throw blanket or pillow to sit in meditation with. Wear comfortable clothing you can move freely in. This series will be led by Certified Yoga Instructor, Reiki Master, and Peabody native Marco Aurelio Vinci. Any direct inquiries about the class should be e-mailed to marcovinciyoga@gmail.com


At the West Branch:

Wednesday, November 14, 1:00 – 2:00pm: Heritage Films presents Norman Rockwell, Illustrator

Come join us for a 40 minute film presentation by local historian and film maker Dan Tremblay of Heritage Films! This particular film will focus on Norman Rockwell.


In the Teen Room (Main Library)

Wednesday, December 5, 6:30 – 8:30pm: Open Mic Night

Come share your songs, your stories, your poems, and your jokes at the library’s Open Mic Night!   Whether you’re a musician, storyteller, writer, comedian, or other type of entertainer, the mic is yours. The sign-up sheet goes out at 6 p.m., and performers can sign up on a first-come-first-serve basis.  And if performing’s really not your thing, that’s okay.  Come hang out, drink coffee, and support some inspiring local talent.  All ages welcome!
We hope to see you soon, beloved patrons!