This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Kelly Jensen. She has a new book about YA Lit called It Happens. She blogs at Stackedbooks.org and Bookriot.com. And you can find her on Twitter @catagator.
Kelly Jensen, welcome back to the show.
Hi, I’m excited to be here again.
[laughs] Well you.
This time by myself.
Yes, by yourself this time. You’ve, you’re on the show today by yourself because you wrote a book by yourself. Can you give me the general pitch for the book? The sort of elevator speech, the short little description of what the book is?
Sure, it’s a, it’s a guide for teachers, educators and YA Lit readers and enthusiasts who want to dig a little bit deeper and discover more about the, the contemporary realistic genre within YA fiction. It includes a section on how to use it in classrooms and libraries as just a general reader, it talks about readers advisory and how to do a readers advisory with realistic fiction. And then the final section in the book talks about some of the big topics within contemporary realistic fiction and how to hold book discussions or conversations about these big topics.
Before we kind of get into the book, a little more detail about what it’s about and what you get into it, as you read YA Lit as an adult, how, what about that speaks to you as an adult reader? Like not so much that you’re reading it so you can learn something to recommend to a teenager or something like that. What speaks to you still as an adult reader?
Let me start by saying that I, I do read adult fiction and I read adult non-fiction too, quite a bit, so YA Lit isn’t the only thing I read, but what I really appreciate about YA Lit are the variety of voices. It’s really a voice-driven category of books in a way that not all adult fiction is and certainly not all non-fiction is and so that voice really drives the story, whether it’s a character-driven story or a plot-driven story, or a story, there’s still a voice behind YA Lit that really captures my interests and makes reading enjoyable for me.
It’s great that it’s such a large, that it’s become such a large field now because like you mention in the book, I believe most people in the field acknowledge like you do that The Outsiders is basically the first real YA book. I mean I’m sure there were other ones before that, but that’s the real, it’s sort of like there were other tablet computers before the iPad, but that’s really the first one. Cause it’s the first, it’s the first one that really took off.
Right and it’s the first one that people acknowledge, sort of the start of YA fiction as a separate category. Different from juvenile fiction and different from adult fiction.
And that kind of leads into my next question that at the, it’s, I don’t remember what year that came out now, but it’s at least 50 years old by now right? 60 years old. It was out in the 60s?
I think it was 68 was when it came out.
Well, so at the time, it was contemporary YA but now it would be historical, but at the time it was contemporary and your book is focusing on contemporary YA. Can you talk about what makes a book contemporary and how that makes it different from the rest of the field?
Sure. One of the things I talk about in the book is the definition of contemporary because there’s not a really great definition of what contemporary means. So, I kind of look at contemporary as the time period and I could argue with people who are interested in any genre that contemporary can be applied to any genre, so there can be contemporary fantasy, contemporary science fiction, there could be contemporary mysteries, I’m focused on contemporary realistic fiction and to me contemporary realistic fiction is fiction that is set in a time frame that’s easy to identify as right now. So, and I believe this is the example I used in the book, if you read a book that was written in the last few years you’ll see a lot of references to technology that you would see in the real world. And they don’t have to be names, the things that are in the real world. So Facebook can be called something else but as a reader you recognize it as a big social media platform. If you read a book like Patricia McCormick’s Cut, or you read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, you’ll notice that the technology in there is dated. Even if it’s not at the forefront, you still see the dating. In Cut she makes a phone call from a pay phone and to me that isn’t contemporary, but it doesn’t take away from it being realistic. The challenge is there’s not a good time frame for what contemporary means. Just because, how can you put an arbitrary limit on what is current and timely and relevant and speaks to readers today and I, I don’t know if I have an answer that’s correct, but I have an answer and I kind of think that it’s 5-7 years because if you think about teenagers and you think about when they’re 13 and where they are when they turn 19, their worlds change and not just their personal worlds, but the worlds around them. The technology changes, the things they’re into change and so for me I kind of look at that 7 year-ish window as, books that came out in the last 7 or so years are probably more contemporary than those that came out 10 years ago. I can’t even remember what book it was I was reading recently that had made a reference to My Space and that was just funny to read because, well My Space is not really the thing any more. And so there’s a lot of argument too that these books that do use technology, it’s almost better if they don’t date it by using actual names of the technology because if it hadn’t mentioned MySpace, perhaps it would still read as super contemporary but that’ s neither here nor there, right?
Well, and I think you mentioned in the book, you talk about, you used, ah what’s it, Asher’s book, 13 Reasons Why. That it’s all about these cassettes that the girl records all these things on, so. I read that book and I seem to recall them mentioning that even then they were saying oh this is old technology, but even now, I mean nobody could find a cassette recorder now. I read that he had to like dig around in the garage to find it in his dad’s old things, but those things are all, I mean you can’t even find that now [laughs]. I mean now if that girl was doing that she would get it on her iPhone and use the voice recorder function on her phone or whatever and do all that, so.
Exactly, yeah. And it doesn’t make the book any less relevant or realistic or important to people who find it, it just kind of changes the perspective of what’s contemporary versus what’s realistic, but not necessarily contemporary.
Well and then, so in your book you also, you’re also focusing on realistic fiction and you take some time to differentiate that between other kinds of like the problem novel and things like that. Can you talk about the difference between what you’re talking about with realistic and the problem novel and the other kinds of things?
Sure. I talked a little bit, a lot of people like to classify realistic fiction as fiction that is a problem novel or they just call it a novel that has a problem in it and I have a couple of issues with this. And that’s, first, if a book doesn’t have a problem in it then it’s not a book. I mean you can’t tell a story without there being some kind of problem to tip the story off. Whether it’s a large one or a small one, at their heart every book has some kind of problem in it, or at least it should, generally speaking there should be a problem in it. The term problem novel itself is actually a specific description of a type of book that used to be published and I believe it was in the 40s and 50s. That was when problem novels were big, big trends and problem novels themselves had one specific problem and the point of the book was that problem. There wasn’t character development, there wasn’t a worry of building a world. It was here’s the problem, here’s the message we want you to take away from this novel that solves the problem. So you would have a novel about a teenager who had a drug problem and the story would be about the drug problem and rather than the teenager, which is where I, I make a distinction because in realistic fiction now, realistic isn’t contemporary fiction, I’m using the terms interchangeably here. The story is about a teenager who happens to have a problem, rather than the problem who has, which happens to manifest in the teenager.
Right, right. Why did you want to focus on that for your book? Why did you want to focus on contemporary realistic fiction?
Contemporary realistic fiction is where, I’ve been reading, and I’ve been reading within this new genre forever. I was a teenager when Speak came out so I read Speak when I was a teenager and I really appreciated it and I’ve always been drawn to more realistic stories than other types of genres, which doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate other genres, it’s just it doesn’t speak to me on that level. As far as why I wanted to write a book about it, is I think that there is a real lack of talking about realistic fiction that’s not best-selling realistic fiction. We, we have a huge variety of stories and voices in realistic fiction and yet only a few ever really make, make it into the spotlight.
And so I saw this opportunity to talk about a lot more titles beyond the John Greens that are out there. And one of the things that I talk about in the book is that I don’t talk about John Green in the book because I envision people who are reading and they’re thinking well I already know that, they can Google search John Green book talks and they’ll have no problem finding any. I wanted to go a little bit deeper than that.
Why do you think that librarians, book reviewers, book sellers, book bloggers, all that kind of stuff, why do you think they should be advocating for this sort of. Why should they learn more about it and why should they be advocating for this type of YA fiction?
Because it’s boring if you only know a couple of things. I think it’s important if you’re a librarian or a book seller or you’re a teacher and you want to connect to students or a teenager with a book and you can only talk about the same four books. I don’t think it’s necessary to know everything and I think that’s unrealistic, but I think that you need to at least be aware of what else is out there via resources like my book, like other people have written genre guides, so that when a teenager comes to the desk and says I need a book about fill in the blank, you don’t just go to the easiest reach on the shelf, which would be the best-sellers, which would be the titles that you know off the top of your head. You’re not doing your teenagers or any reader a service if you can only direct them to the same books that they can find themselves on the New York Times best-sellers list or sitting on the end cap of a book store. You know, those are the books that are already in their, in their minds and they’re going to come to you and ask for those specifically if that’s what they want. What I’m hoping for is that people dig a little bit deeper than that and discover what else is out there and really connect the right book to the right reader and the right reader to the right book.
Well it’s like you said with John Green, I mean A Fault In Our Stars, Looking For Alaska, those are all very good books, but people already know those so maybe you need to get a little more depth and be able to recommend other things. Or if a kid comes up and says I read Looking For Alaska, what else can I read? They are not, oh, here’s another John Green book. I mean there’s other things like that book that are not just John Green books.
Yeah, exactly. And that’s not, you know, that’s not a dig on John Green, it’s a dig on people who don’t want to extend themselves in their job and really try and reach that reader with what they want, rather than what is being given to them already.
Right. Well I was going to ask you a little bit about that. Right now, I mean as you’re saying, the media has a big push, especially for Mr Green that we’re not necessarily trying to pick on in this interview, but that seems to be what, you know, the media right now has this thing for him. A lot of it because the Fault In Our Stars movie is coming out and it’s focusing kind of on, not just him, but then there’s another, it’s just like the best-sellers and everything. Do you think that spotlight on that, on his work and then other small group of authors, do you think that’s been good for, I mean as a sort of a the water raises all the boats kind of thing? That it’s good for contemporary YA in general to have people talking about Green’s book and other people’s books so that the whole field is getting better, more eyeballs?
Yes and no. Yes because I think any talk about any category or genre is good. I think especially if we’re contemporary realistic which for so long people just saw as problem novels and they think that what Green’s book have done is really sort of raised the profile of YA more broadly. I mean I would never call him the hero of YA here, but when you look at big media, he is painted in a different picture than say Stephanie Meyer is. Just because he’s, he’s apparently writing more important works than she did, which is an arguable point, but what that discussion is doing is raising the profile of realistic fiction for sure. On the other hand, his name has now become this kind of marketing tool for all realistic fiction and I think that that’s a huge disservice because when a teen comes to the desk and the only thing that you know are the six other books that are being compared to his book and the teen does not want a book like his, you’ve just done a, you being a collect term, not you as the person who’s trying to help a teenager, but [laughs] you know, you only know these six books because they’ve been compared to the Fault In Our Stars, whether or not they’re anything like it. Relying on that as a selling point takes away from the nuance within the genre and takes away from the different types of stories that are being told. And then, you know, your teenager just assumes that every book, every last fiction is going to be just like the Fault In Our Stars and it’s not. There are few, very few books that could be compared to John Green and I’m not sure I, I get nervous trying to make any sort of read alike comparisons to him because I, I’m not sure what it is that people like about John Green’s books if that makes sense. Because so many people like them, they like them for so many different reasons, it’s hard to pinpoint the perfect next read alike for somebody who is, who is a really big fan of his work.
Well I think it’s like you were saying earlier, that there’s so many different, distinct, unique voices in YA and his is one of them, but there’s so many others that are completely different from him, but talk, tackle even the same topics of, of cancer with kids or whatever, other topics he’s writing about, I mean but the voice is completely different, so.
Yeah, exactly. So, it’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing. It’s a good thing because it makes all the books look good, it’s a bad thing because it makes all the books look like the same thing.
Right, I mean I guess in one way it has broken them out of the what they had before of all YA is Twilight, so I mean at least they’re outside of that I guess now.
The media seem to, I know that’s sort of a broad, the media as a term, a broad thing, but it seems like they kind of focus on one element of something at a time and they can’t get it out of their head that may there’s good fantasy and there’s good realistic and there’s good sci-fi and there’s good historical, they can all coexist [laughs].
Exactly, yeah. I agree, yep. And I think, I think slowly but surely we’ll get to that point where the media figures some of this out, but we’re certainly not there now and it trickles down. You know, you go to a publisher catalog and you count the number of references to John Green or Ramble Roll and it, it’s a disservice to, like I said, the different, the different voices, the different stories that are out there when they’re all compared to the same two or three realistic authors who are, who have their names out there, that people are familiar with.
And do, do you think that’s, I wonder if that’s unique to YA or if it’s just anybody who writes a law book is “Oh that’s a John Grisham,” you know they’re all compared to one person who’s popular, or I don’t know.
That’s a good question and I’m not sure since I’m not as familiar with, especially adult fiction, I’m not as familiar with, but that’s a good question. I mean certain names are going to always carry a certain currency to them and I think in YA John Green’s name is money, whether it’s that or not, but it’s just how his name is being used. And it’s not just in catalog descriptions. It’s also in, if he blurbs a book, that becomes a selling point. If he reviews a book, that becomes a selling point. I actually read in a catalog the other day that he tweeted about somebody’s book and that was being used as a selling point for that book and I thought are we really this desperate to sell books as something like his even if it’s not? I don’t understand why there’s that much weight in his name. And again, I can’t imagine how it must feel to him to be used as that.
Yeah, I mean, just from seeing some of his videos and reading some of his things, I mean it sounds like he’s probably not comfortable with being used in that way either, but, I mean he’s never directly said that, but just from his personality you wouldn’t think that that would be something that he would like to be used as. But, the, I think the publishers push that a lot because they want to make money and he’s money, like you said, so that it’s being pushed by money basically, not by even, I mean I’m sure the publisher, his publisher especially appreciates the quality of his work, but they appreciate the quality of the money coming into their bank accounts even more [laughs].
Exactly, exactly, yeah, no, I mean, you know, we’re not, we’re not dumb here, we all know this right?
But I think it’s important to question it, I think it’s important to raise those points because you have to at some point say this has got to give. What happens if John Green writes a bad book? You don’t, it won’t happen, but if it happens would that ever be something that people would talk about? Would he ever have a shot at having a fair review again? Is there a bias where anything he writes is going to be seen as great just because he’s had such a great run? I don’t know. But that’s something I think about quite a bit. Not that I think that it would happen, but just when we raise somebody’s profile so much and we call them as much as a savior of a genre, well what happens then? Can they ever be criticized fairly? I don’t know.
And every time I’ve talked about John Green or what I’ve been seeing, I get so much pushback from people who think I’m just being a bully and I’m not being a bully. I really respect what he’s done and I respect how he handles the, the sort of spotlight that’s on him, but I also think it’s our job to ask questions about why, why things are the way they are.
Right and when you’ve written about him or tweeted about him, or whatever, I mean, I’ve seen before, I mean he’s, he’s engaged with you about it, so I mean he’s open to the conversation and it’s not like, you’re not bullying him around, I mean he’s a big boy, so.
Right, right, yeah, no and again, yeah he is, he has responded, I’m not sure I’ve always agreed with what he’s responded, but I think the fact that he’s at least willing to try and engage in the conversation is important and I’ll share that. I’m not, there’s nothing being hidden anywhere here, so.
Right. Well let’s get back to your book, so [laughs] but, you talk a lot about, obviously, the contemporary realistic fiction. What kind of issues do you think can be dealt with that are in a contemporary realistic YA novel than, that can’t be dealt with quite as well in a fantasy or a historical, sci-fi.
I don’t know know if it necessarily does anything better than any other genre, I’m not, I’ve read other genres, but I’m not as familiar with them as I am with contemporary so I can’t say it does things better. It does things differently though and it does things in a way that I think teenagers see more than they would if it’s a story set in space, but I, I can’t say that’s completely true either because maybe there are teens out there who better relate to a space author and issues that are in it rather than they would if those issues are presented in a completely realistic world.
So what do you think YA, contemporary realistic YA does really well?
I think it presents reality in a way to teenagers that’s not watered down, that’s not trying to present to them some kind of false world. I mean even stories which are generally aren’t, I don’t know if I want to use the word happy, but are lighter-hearted easier reads, I mean I still don’t think that they offer a world that’s false to teenagers and I think that that presenting of reality is important. I think, when I think about what they see in their everyday life, the issues that they’re dealing with, even if they’re not dealing with them personally, if they’re just thinking about them, if they’re seeing things on TV, if they’re seeing things with their classmates, realistic fiction does a good job of kind of offering stories that reflect their reality, but also stories that introduce them to new realities, or realities which they’re not familiar in the least and so I think that’s important. It’s a safe place for them to sort of play with ideas and learn things and discover new perspectives.
So you also go into the difference between, there’s a difference between reading recommendations and readers advisory. I think most people who listen to this are library-centric so they understand what readers advisory is, but can you kind of explain what you see as a difference between just a reading recommendation and a readers advisory?
I devoted a few pages to this in the book and I, it’s something I still think about quite a bit. There was a post I wrote about it for staff a couple of years ago where a friend had gone to a bookstore and she showed the receipt and the name of her book was on that receipt and it said if you’re interested in this book you might be interested in these other books and it name four or five other books, completely different genres, they had nothing to do with each other. So I’m looking at this receipt thinking why would those all come up as recommended reads if you’ve got X book. And I came to realize it was all books that released on the same day. So they’re all books that came out, whatever it was, April 15th, 2012 and I thought to myself that’s not readers advisory at all, even if it’s framed that way, that’s a reading recommendation. That’s saying here’s some other books you might want to read rather than here’s some books that you specifically might want to read and I think that that “you” is the important part. Readers advisory is much more tailored to readers and it’s much more you thinking about what the reader in front of you is interested in and giving them advice on what to read based on what their interests are. And you couldn’t do a readers advisory in more generic ways, but you’re still tailoring what your giving to readers in a very specific way that’s not about sales dates. So, creating a resource guide to science fiction would be readers advisory versus hey here’s some books, they don’t really have anything to do with each other, but you might like them all because they’re all YA, that’s recommending books.
Right, it’s in the same section, so [laughs].
Yeah, exactly. Okay, I got, you can walk down this section and these are all recommended to me. You know, another way to think about it is if you go to the library and you see a book display and it’s all on one topic, so we have a display right now on tough stuff in realistic fiction in our teen area that is readers advisory, here are books that tackle tough issues. So, suicide, drugs, sexual assault, those are all put in one display as readers advisory for tough topics. When you go into a bookstore and you walk down the first aisle of YA books and it’s just all the new releases and they’re all facing out and it looks really shiny and nice, those are recommendations rather than readers advisory.
Right at that point it’s we recommend you purchase these [laughs].
Exactly, yeah and the publisher paid money so that these books would be face out [laughs] so.
That what, I don’t think a lot of people who haven’t worked in bookstores don’t realize that all of those displays are paid for by publishers [laughs].
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Just about every display you see in a bookstore has been paid for by a publisher.
Oh yeah, so when you walk into a bookstore and you see that beautiful ladder of John Green books, that’s been paid for. And that’s how the machine keeps going, right? And I think it’s interesting too, when you look at those displays, just look at the men versus the women, look at the number of people of color who are on the covers and who are the authors of those books and you see some really interesting things. So, in terms of where we are in YA fiction, I think that there is diversity out there. I think that there are titles that tackle diverse story lines, they feature diverse characters, the problem is that they don’t get the same kind of push or publicity or recognition that white books do and I hate calling them that, but that’s the easiest way for me to talk about it. I think a lot of the books that out there now are real story lines, real bold story lines, they aren’t about the character wrestling with their race or their identity, but I think a lot of times that when we talk about those books, that’s how we talk about them. We kind of, other than whether or not we intend to. So this is a story about a black girl, this is a story about an Asian boy. I think that putting those labels on there is important because we want readers who want those stories to know that, but when we do that we’re also mothering them from this idea that stories are by default white stories. You know, one of the things I really struggled with in this book and I went back and forth on it a lot, is I have a whole section on stories that feature characters of color, that’s one of the reading sections in the second part of the book and I spent a long time debating whether I needed that or not because I thought I did a decent job of incorporating stories that feature characters of color or that were written by authors color into the other book list. So, in the arts section there are books that are written by or feature white characters, just as much as there are books that feature non-white characters and authors. So I went back and forth on it for a long time because I thought I’d incorporated them in all these other sections, do I also want to create this other section devoted to just these books. Am I contributing to this idea that they’re another category separate from any of these other topics? Do characters of color not deal with grief? Do they not have sports stories? Do they not go through journeys, which are some of the other categories I have and I thought to myself, is it going to hurt to have this section also? In addition to where I’d put these books in the other section and I ultimately decided that yeah, I do need this additional section, I need to look at it as an additional section rather than an other section. It’s hard because I’m white so my experience is only every white. The kids I work with in my library are not white and that’s really where I started paying a lot more attention to these conversations is maybe this isn’t an experience I’m familiar with, but I look at my kids at a program and most of my kids are Hispanic or African-American, I need to be listening and I need to be a better advocate for those kids and for those stories. Like, there’s no excuse any more, this isn’t, this isn’t hidden, if you’re not listening and you’re not paying attention, it’s because you’re choosing to be ignorant rather than trying to be part of any solution and I don’t think. To put it as crassly I guess as possible, there’s not going to be a white savior to this issue and there shouldn’t be a white savior to this issue. But, I think it’s incredibly important for people like myself and other people who have these sorts of privileges to listen and to step back and let these people who have serious concerns and issues have their voices out there. It’s funny, it’s, every time I write something I get really uncomfortable when I try to talk about anything to do with diversity or race. And I think to myself do I have a right to talk about this? What am I saying, am I adding anything to it and I think that that discomfort is important and I think that that discomfort comes because you’re putting yourself out there and you’re saying okay, I could be very wrong and I can hear about how wrong I am, but that’s important to know how wrong I am.
That’s how I grow and that’s how I learn and I’d rather be uncomfortable and make a statement than not say anything and have people going well why, why is Kelly not talking about this at all. And I think these are questions that need to be asked, so.
And I think one of the other things that sort of makes me uncomfortable with the categorizing, making it seem categorized as the others because I don’t want there to be a book. I just read recently there’s a new book about an African-American girl that’s like a ballet dancer. So, but I don’t want people, I don’t want that to be marketed as this is the book for young African-American girls to read. It’s like no, I, you know what I mean? I don’t want it stuck that way, of that this is the audience for that book, like no that’s not the audience for the book, that’s the content of the book.
Exactly, yeah. And I know which book you’re talking about, it’s Pointe by Brandy Colbert and I, I struggle with that one too because I wanted to point out that this is a black ballet dancer and I think that that’s a crucial part of the story because she is black in a sport that is very white, not because she’s a black character being a dancer, if that makes sense.
Yep, yes, yep.
And Brandy did an interview with me about this book and what she had talked about is when she was growing up, her living situation was similar to the one Thea her main character has and that, she grew up in an area that was mostly white and she didn’t want to be remembered as the black girl who did X. She wanted to be known as the person who did X and, so that’s just, that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot too, is how do you, how do you make it clear that this story is a universal story, while at the same time making clear that it’s also a story that teaches diversity cause you don’t want that to get lost in the mix. Especially when there’s such a call for these sorts of books and for people to be aware of them.
The last thing I wanted to ask you about was that, the first half of your book is a good, educational read about all the stuff we’ve talked about and other things, I didn’t want to spoil the whole book in the interview [laughs] so please still go out and get the book and read part.
I don’t think the book can be spoiled, I mean, you know, [laughs] I was thinking as I was writing this, the book, especially the middle section which is where the book, the book descriptions and the reading lists are and I thought to myself, man anybody reads this they’re going to know the spoilers to just about every book ‘cause I didn’t hold back on them. Like there was no need for me to, when a character had an abortion I put that in there, so, spoiler alert, you’re going to be spoiled the whole way through.
[laughs] But, I was going to say, that section of the book is what’s gonna, I think, make it an on-going appealing title for people because it will be there on their reference shelf because that’s the section that you’re going to go to if you don’t know that section very well. Cause nobody can know every section of the library well.
That you can pull off the shelf and say oh, well this is a book that deals with a parent dying or something like that, that you can look at the book. So I wonder, can you, I did ask you this ahead of time so you could prepare some, could you pick a couple of your favorites from various categories and give the listeners an example of how you would book talk them? Because I feel like sometimes people don’t even understand how to do a book talk because we don’t really, librarians learn readers advisory, but they don’t really learn book talk I don’t think. Like how to talk up a book. So could you give a couple of examples.
Maybe. I, I, so in the first couple of drafts of the book I had put with the descriptions of the book and, so the middle section has ten book lists that each have 15 annotations within them and those annotations include a summary of the book as well as, if there’s a good book trailer and I emphasize good, that’s when I included the book trailer length. It includes read alikes for each of those 15 titles and why those books make good read alikes and then there’s a list of appeal factors for those books. So, that’s where you get into, I included whether the main character was a male or female, if it dealt with drug abuse, if it dealt with grief, if it deal with siblings, that sort of stuff, so that’s what’s included in each of the annotations. And originally I also included book talks for about half of the titles on each of those lists and it turned out that that was really challenging because of a couple of reasons. The first is that it added too much length to the book. The book itself is 250 pages as it is now. And having those book talks added probably another 30 to 50 pages and to me that was getting kind of bogged down with a little overkill. The other thing I was thinking about is that a number of the book talks read so much like the descriptions because doing book talks is challenging, you kind of have to tailor it to your audience, you have to think about what you want to sell the book on. In realistic fiction there are so many different angles you can go at with any of these titles and when you’re thinking about who you’re going to be talking them to, you want to tailor your talks to hit those audiences in the best way possible. So I just talked around why I’m not going to give you any book talks.
Isn’t that beautiful?
[laughs] And the final question is, I will not answer that question [laughs].
No, that’s an excellent, that’s an excellent example, I mean that’s, cause you’re right, it’s a combination of knowing the books, so having the description of the book and then knowing the readers advisory part of it, of knowing who you’re talking to and matching those two things up is how you do a book talk basically.
Right, and sometimes, I mean it is as simple as the description of the book that can be the selling point for a lot of readers. Sometimes you have to think about characters and sell it on the characters. My favorite book talk, okay, I have one book talk that this is the simplest book talk that I can come up with. So it’s for Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers and what I say is if you liked the movie Mean Girls but you want to read a book about actual mean girls that’s the book you want to pick up. And that’s all I have to say. You don’t need to go any further than that. That’s a sentence and boom, that’s what sells the book. A lot of times you have to think about your pop cultural references as well, so it’s hard to, hard to give good examples of book talks. You just have to give good examples of what tools are out there to use to craft your book talks.
Can you tell us about where we can find out more about you online?
Sure. You can find out about me at my blog which is Stackedbooks.org, or you can find out more at Book Riot which is just bookriot.com and you can find, I have an entire author page there that lists everything that I’ve written, or Book Riot. I do have my own website, it’s severely out-of-date right now and it’s kellybjensen.com. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else.
Are you on Twitter?
[laughs] I was just going to say, am I on Twitter? I am not right now, it’s @catagator, because is there anything more terrifying than a cat. You know, it looks cute, but then really it’s an alligator underneath, like no, there is not.
All right, well, Kelly, thank you so much for coming on the show and good luck with the book.
Thank you for having me.
All right, bye bye.
This is going to be your third time on the show which puts you in rare company, so.
Yeah, I was thinking about that, I feel honored and this time it’s by myself too which is even stranger.
Yeah, “In your face, Liz Burns!” [laughs].