Hi, this is Circulating Ideas, the librarian interview podcast, hosted by me, Steve Thomas. My guests today are Liz Burns and Kelly Jensen. They’re librarians, book reviewers, and bloggers. Liz blogs with School Library Journal and you can find her on Twitter @LizB and Kelly blogs at Stacked and you can find her on Twitter @catagator.
Tell me how you guys met each other.
[Kelly] Liz, I’ll let you take this one.
[Liz] Well, back in the day when we were both on the Toddlers and Tiaras circuit, and I had just gotten my spray tan and Kelly was being fitted for her flipper, we met during a disco western dance off. That’s how I remember it.
I should warn everybody that I put in our topics that, if Kelly and Liz could come up with good lies that I would encourage that.
This isn’t a lie. I don’t know where you got the idea that we were telling a lie here. Liz and I really believe in being honest and truthful, and that’s how it happened. We have no shame, we have no embarrassment about our past.
You’re talking memoir right now, so if it’s my memory of it, then it’s true no matter what anybody else says. Now, other people might say that the first time we met in person was Kidlit Con in Minneapolis, but that’s their version of reality. It’s not necessarily a better version than ours.
And you guys have been blogging for a long, long, long, long time.
Liz has been blogging a lot longer than me, but that’s because she’s a lot older than me.
I, I, every year and wrinkle and gray hair that I own and am proud of it. I’ve been blogging since 2005, and. No, no you go ahead.
I’ve been blogging since 2009 officially. I’ve, honestly, I’ve been blogging since high school, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I made it something more than just like a personal journal and a recollection of all those times at the show. All those terrible dance numbers I had to endure. I don’t know if there’s more to our blogging story other than I think I started reading Liz well before I started blogging. But again, that’s because she’s much older and more experienced than I am in that realm.
Okay. Is there a podcast drinking game about how many times Kelly can say how old Liz is? Yeah, I began in 2005. Kind of like a lot of other people begin, reason people begin blogging about books, just looking to talk to people and share something that I enjoyed. I was working in a library, but as most librarians would say, sometimes, often you’re the only YA librarian there, so you don’t really have anyone else to talk to the books about, or you’re the only children’s librarian, or sometimes okay you might be doing the adult librarian work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re working with other readers. So online is a terrific place to go and get involved in book culture and reading. And then two years ago, I think it’s two years ago next week, is when I switched over from independent blogging to having my blog be at School Library Journal.
And, Kelly, have you always been on, when did you start Stacked? Or when did you and everybody else start Stacked? I know you didn’t start it by yourself.
Right, well mine started, I graduated library school in December 2008 and didn’t have a job. We moved around a little bit when we were in Austin, which is where I went to library school, and in the course of the moving and the course of looking for jobs I did a ton of reading YA books because that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a YA librarian and when you’re, when you’re reading all that and you’re not in a classroom situation, you don’t have anybody to discuss it with. So I did what I had to do and I asked a friend of mine, Kimberly, if she would be interested in blogging with me and she and another classmate Jen, not the Jen blogging with us now, but a different Jen, we just decided to start a blog up and it went from there. The first year, so, it was almost all reviews and then after that we figured there’s a lot more to talk about that’s just as interesting, if not more interesting, than straight review blogging. And I feel like we kind of hit our stride at the end of 2010 and I feel like we had finally figured out what we were doing and figured out what kind of blogs we enjoyed reading and that we would like to contribute conversation with. So, that’s our story, I guess I can speak on behalf of all of us.
And, Kelly, you also have a library specific blog too. Do you think you’re going to keep doing both of the blogs?
Well, I do plan on keeping both of them up. I had used Field Acquisition for a while. I started it when I started my first library job and talked a little bit about the things I was learning in my first year as a librarian because I feel like there’s a huge gap between what you learn in school and what you learn on the job and so I wanted to keep a record of that and talk about that. And then when I started my position as a youth services manager, I talked a lot more about programming and things that were working, things that weren’t working and I found that that ended up being really a really big resource for other people. There would be a lot of times people would ask on some of the major listservs, things about starting Lego clubs, or starting teen book clubs, those sorts of things and I felt well why can’t I share my house views? I mean my way’s not obviously the best answer, but it is an answer so now that I have the opportunity to work in a library again, I definitely plan on keeping it up. I’ve got a list of topics I plan on covering at some point, it’s just finding the time and the energy to sit down and write it.
And in terms of me being the worst self-promoter ever, in addition to the book blogging at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, I also, from about 2005 to 2010 contributed to Sophie Brookover’s blog, Pop Goes The Library, which is no longer current right now, but we did have a book come out of it that was published in 2008 by Information Today, which is now available on e-book, called, just like the blog, Pop Goes The Library, so. Wow, I remembered to self-promote. Yay, me!
Yeah, I just read about that when you posted about it recently and it’s funny that you have, that on the publisher website it’s talking about, “Oh if you ever wondered Corbin Who?” And I was, “I don’t even know who that is now and it’s just four years later.”
It’s really funny, Sophie and I were talking about that the other day, how despite the fact that something in it are so four years ago and I, Twitter was around but not trying to become what it is now in terms of the use and everything, but you strip away those topical things and the chapters on advocacy and marketing and also finding out what pop culture is to your community, like to me pop culture might be reality TV shows, but if in the community I’m serving they could care less that doesn’t matter if what they’re interested in is gardening, that’s what you would learn about and build around, so.
So who was Corbin, do you remember?
Isn’t he one of the “High School Musical” cast? One of the ones who hasn’t gone on, I guess, to much stuff as he had at one point.
Yeah, he had such potential, I guess, at the time, so.
And an excellent name, you know. Corbin Bleu, easy to remember, not going to get confused with others.
As opposed to Corbin Red and Corbin Green.
Exactly, or Corbin Grey, then they could have tied that in to that whole Fifty Shades Of Grey stuff going on, but that could have been a whole different career possibility.
That’s a, that is a completely different way for his career to have gone from “High School Musical”.
This is true and you know that someone then who is following you then do it, it’s just going to be a matter of time, desperation and poor spending and saving habits.
Yeah, somewhere in my head now I’ve got Fifty Shades Of Grey: The Musical in my head and that’s a horrible image to have.
Yeah, I just saw something about that pop up. I don’t remember where but I just saw somebody talking about Fifty Shades Of Grey: The Musical and I thought, “I don’t know if I’m okay with that.” Or, I’m really okay with that. I’m looking it up right now.
It’s either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever.
Exactly, exactly. No in-between middle ground on that.
Kelly, I wanted to go back to something that you mentioned in your, when you were talking before about when you went to library school. You were talking about things you learn on the job, things you learned at library school. Somebody on Twitter recently, I want to say it’s @himissjulie but I don’t remember for sure, mentioned that she had all these skills of writing reviews in library school. Did you guys learn how to write book reviews in library school?
Well let me step back and say @himissjulie is my library hero. And I’m just going to put that out there. But I, I did not have experience writing reviews in grad school. We had to do a, we had to do book talks in my YA Lit class, but that’s it.
I honestly don’t remember. I remember either the Materials class I took or the YA Materials class I took. There’s a bunch of different things in terms of book talks and stuff like that, so chances it was talked about. It’s not something that though I really, that’s stuck in my memory and also at the time I thought I was going to end up being a law librarian, I was taking the other classes for fun. So it might be that it didn’t stick in my memory for that.
Do you think that’s something that should be taught in library school?
I think that there is some value in it being taught in library school. I guess, I went to a library school that the primary focus wasn’t public librarianship, it was much more on the tech side and so the public library classes I took didn’t necessarily feel like they covered everything that they could have covered, and I do think that learning how to write reviews – reviews for publication and reviews for other libraries, librarians – I think that that is valuable. It’s practical and I feel like there’s a lot of practical skills that aren’t taught in library school, that you do learn on the job and as you go.
I would second that it, and especially looking at it broader, not just in terms of book reviews, but in terms of the library’s role in literacy culture and book culture, both from what is, I can remember sitting in the class in library school and while I don’t remember talking about how to write a review, reading reviews and there being people in the class saying, “Oh, but the reviews from School Library Journal, or whatever, they have spoilers in it.” And the teacher being, “Duh!” Because, I think it was nicer than saying duh, but it’s okay because the review isn’t for you to read the book, like you see a review someplace else, a review is for you to know whether you’re going to be buying that for your library, your classroom, you know that there’s a different focus. And I think whether or not it’s about learning how to write a review, understanding what needs to be in a review so that people can use it for collection development is important. I know that both of those classes did go into collection development and I think that’s an important thing that people need to realize what it is and what it isn’t.
As well as also just in terms of how publishing works and our role in connecting readers to the books that they want to read. Even if it’s just simply in terms of how the backlists works or doesn’t work, or why there are certain books that are more available than other books are available. And I think sometimes people do come out of library school with not much of an understanding of that, or maybe even a bit of a shallower understanding and that it then becomes on the job learning and I think sometimes that’s also why I see posts to places like some of the public library listservs that makes me roll my eyes. Such as, “Oh, it’s okay for me to add arts to the collection and to catalog it.” Yes, you’re not the, people aren’t asking that question on a public library listserv unless it wasn’t really discussed or talked about in their library school.
Kind of running with that topic, I think that another skill that’s really essential to learn, particularly when it comes to reviews, is learning how to write for different audiences because they think that there is this idea that there’s a one-size-fits-all for how to write a review and that’s not the case. You have to know how to write a review that’s going to appeal to teenagers if you’re working with teenagers versus reviews that are going to appeal to professionals when they’re doing their collection development and I feel like that’s a big, big skill set you have to learn and a lot of that happens on the job, but it would one of those skills that if you can learn in the classroom, would put people way ahead of the game.
So what do you guys think the audiences are for your respective blogs?
For Tea Cozy, I think that the primary audience is adult gatekeepers. I’m not going to say that there aren’t perhaps teens who also read the blog. I know that there’s blogs out there like Reading Rants which, by Jen Hubert, which is definitely targeted at the teen reading audience. I tend to think though of my readers as being more like myself and so that it’s either teachers or librarians or booksellers or other people who are looking for books for their collections, or to recommend to the teens they know or to use with the teens they know.
And I think, I think my audience is pretty similar to Liz’s, in terms of being primarily gatekeepers and people who just have a general interest in YA Lit. Even if they aren’t necessarily in a library or teaching role.
And as part of your blog you’ve got a continuing series of “So You Want To Read YA” and it’s where guest writers come on and talk and that sort of leads me into something that I wanted to ask you guys about, or let you guys rant about probably, is that there’s sort of that ideal out there now, what’s his name? That writer Joel Stein wrote a big article for the New York Times awhile back about why, should adults be reading YA? What do you guys think about that?
I think it’s crazy to think you can or cannot read something. It doesn’t matter. If you’re reading, then that’s great, you can enjoy and read whatever it is you want to read. So I think that it’s limiting to believe that you can or cannot read something like YA and that’s part of the reason I started the series in the first place. I had received a request from a librarian who said, “Where would you start having people read YA if they’d never read YA before? Because I have teachers at high school who haven’t read YA and I have no idea where to tell them to start.” And that’s where I was inspired to do this series, is because I thought there are a lot of people who are probably interested in reading YA, but have no idea where to start. And because it’s such a giant field, it’s nice to have some starting places.
And I also think that in terms of reading YA that, or reading anything that as much as labels help us to get to what we want, oh I want to read a mystery, where’s the mystery section, they can also sometimes be a burden. Oh that book’s a mystery? Oh I never read mystery so I’m not going to read it, to use something that’s not YA. For, I think, when a person wants to read is a good book and what means is subjective to them about what their interests are at the moment, about what they need to get out of a book and it can be educational, it can be enjoyment, it can be recreational, it can be something to pass the time, it can be something as escapism from what’s going on, it can be something they want to challenge themselves, I mean there’s a bazillion and one reasons of why people want to read something and there’s no reason that what they might want to read is a good book should or shouldn’t be a YA book. You strip the label away from it and people find things that they want to connect with. I like Countdowns that came out a few years back about the Cuban missile crisis. When I passed that around to people who had been children or teens living through the Cuban missile crisis, they loved it. When afterwards they heard that it was originally written for a children’s and teen audience, that didn’t, if anything they just said, “Oh, kids would be interested in reading what it was like when I was a kid,” that was almost a surprise to them, but it, it really, I think the only problem with YA is that people use it to limit themselves from it because of attitudes like that were in that New York Times thing that somehow YA is lesser than real books, which is basically the same argument you hear against mystery or romance or science fiction as compared to literary books. Or the view that YA is somehow supposed to be a stepping stone, that, so it’s something that you move away from as you get older and smarter, which I don’t think is accurate. And I also don’t think that people who view YA as somehow I think being books that are supposed to mold children or teens into the types of adult that they want those teens or adults to become. And not that there aren’t books like that and there’s, I’m not going to be Judgy McJudgy about that, but that’s not, that again isn’t the role of YA books and so it isn’t a reason for a person to not read them.
There’s a, there’s a lot of adult New York Times best selling authors like John Grisham and James Patterson and Jodi Picoult, and stuff like that, that are writing YA books now. Do you think that’s good for the YA, the popularity of YA series? Or do you think that’s bad? Or, what’s your opinion on that?
My thought on it is that it’s kind of a tricky subject. If they can do it well, then I think it’s a good thing, but if they aren’t doing it well, it’s not. I can, for example, say that the Theo Boone series is just, it frustrates me to no end that it is a, it’s on the border of middle grade and YA, but it’s so poorly written and it’s just, it doesn’t have the voice and it doesn’t have the layers of complexity that books in that category do and I feel like that sort of project by these well-known authors is to appeal to the adults rather than the intended readership. Which isn’t to say that adults can’t read YA or middle grade, but it’s to say that it’s not the same. There’s something, something lacking in it.
Do you think it feels like it’s talking down to the..?
Sometimes, not always. I think there are some crossovers who do it very well. That is a particular example that does not.
And I think it definitely depends upon the book, I don’t like the idea of saying, “Oh, an adult author couldn’t write YA,” any more than I, than the idea of, “Oh, a children’s writer couldn’t write adult.” Or something like that. People can write different types of book, it depends what they’re interested in writing, what that’s driving them. I’m a little interested into why they want to get into YA field because even though there are obviously some big earners out there, for the most part what I’ve been told is that you can make more money writing for adults than for teens. So, I kind of wonder exactly how financially rewarding it is for them to be spending the time writing the middle grade or young adult books.
For James Patterson, I assume it’s so he can continue to have a book come out every week.
Well, my thought on it is it also, and this is a good thing and a bad thing, I think it builds loyalty in an author if they reach the younger readers early on then they have a readership that will last a little bit longer. So, Jodi Picoult, starting in YA, a lot of her adult books have great crossover for YA readers so she’s writing a YA book, she’s going to hook some new readers that way and I don’t think that that’s a bad thing.
And also it could, I know that sometimes in the library what you see in terms of the search for those books are more the adult readers following along with their favorite author, than necessarily the middle grade or teen readers so that raises another question. You know the book is selling or circulating but who’s really the end reader? And in a way does it matter if the book is being read and circulating? To decide to be the glass half full girl of the day, that if it’s also something that shows adults, oh yeah there’s good stuff in the YA part of the building, that can be all good too.
I find it funny you’re being the glass half full person today cause usually it’s the other way around.
I know! I know, considering my AC is broken, it’s, I’m such a good person today, what can I tell you?
It’s a perfect time for your AC to break too isn’t it, right during a horrible heatwave.
It actually kept working all through the bad heatwave and now it’s kind of broken and not when the temperatures aren’t as bad, so it really, glass half full, could have been worse.
Good grief, I don’t know you, do I? I don’t know you.
We’re all learning all about each other [laughs]
The talks came today.
It’s all good.
Yes. Kind of related to what you guys were talking about and Liz, you talked about this a little bit, but there’s the whole idea that there are books that kids should read and kids that, books that kids shouldn’t read and usually when you’re forcing kids to read, that’s how you make a lifelong non-reader out of a kid.
I think that the critical one-two punch to ruining a child’s enjoyment of reading, maybe there might be three. Telling them what they should read in a way that’s like “and you should eat your vegetables that you hate.” Telling them also that not only should they read that, but that’s the type of book they should enjoy. So not only do you have to eat your broccoli, but you have to like it more than you like ice cream, to use a food analogy, why do we talk about food and books? I don’t know, but we do it. And then to add to that the books you want to read have no value, only look at these books that you should read. I think that’s the, all those together can create the perfect storm of having someone now be turned off reading because frankly, they don’t like the book that has been shoved on them, they’re not getting anything from it and now their reading choices have been, they’ve been told that their own reading choices are poor and not to be trusted so they just go off reading. Now the kind of should I like for a kid, for a teen or an adult is if somebody comes in and is, “I just read this awesome book, I just read Jellicoe Road, what else do you have?” And you’re, “Oh my gosh, you love Jellicoe Road, here’s the, another book you should read.” Because at that point the should you use is to connect the reader with another book that you think that they will like or enjoy. And connected with this, Kelly and I were saying when we were testing out Skype last night. I have to say I also have no problem with there being than, I’m not against there being core books that everyone should read in school context so that people have a perhaps familiarity with book culture and things going on that you know. Like okay you read your Shakespeare, your Austen, Dickens etc etc, but be honest to the kids that you’re not reading this because we think it’s going to make you a better person, you’re not reading this because these are the types of books you should enjoy, you’re reading this to understand the culture that you live in and that’s why they’re on the reading list, so if you don’t like them, if you would be better rereading them four years from now, then that, that’s fine, but we’re not pushing you into thinking this is the only acceptable type of reading out there.
Right, well you can also use books like that to say this is how you, to teach writing in a way too. This person knows how to write settings, this person knows how to write plots, this person knows how to write characters, and this person knows how to write dialog. So you can use it as examples as well.
Right, right, exactly.
Also I have two thoughts on this and they’re related and not related. And the first is that I think it’s really important to understand that there are people who do not like to read. Reading is a hobby, it’s something that people do because they enjoy doing it and I truly do believe that there are people who don’t like reading. And I think we do a disservice sometimes if we think that everybody has to be a reader. The case is not everybody is, but by recognizing that and appreciating that for what it is, I think that we can build ourselves as librarians for when that non-reader, that person who doesn’t like reading, does need something to read. It helps us build that trust with them, that we understand and appreciate where they’re coming from and they then feel comfortable to come to us when they are ready to try something new, or when they do need something they have to read. That’s thought number one. Thought number two is that, and this is something that Liz and I have talked about at length, at great length and that’s that our culture is really fixated on doing things that have an end result that there’s some kind of reward to be had for, for whatever endeavor you’re taking on and I feel like that does a disservice to readers and reading culture and I think this is a risk to kids when I come to the should read and things that they want to read. And I think that reading is in and of itself the reward and that we spend so much time trying to make things more than unenjoyable, that has to be in and of itself. I think it’s a real disservice and I think that that can harm a lot of people from finding reading to be an enjoyable activity.
But, I just wanted to build a bit about what Kelly was saying in terms of reading. It’s interesting because reading is in, in some ways we might talk about the social aspect of reading when you’re on blogs or Twitter or talking to people or book clubs or other things that do have a social aspect or a connection aspect, but reading is also one person, one book and their, in a way their relationship with that book because every reader’s going to read a book differently. And I think sometimes because when it comes to it reading people see reading as something that’s passive, oh that person is just sitting there reading. So the code there is, “Oh, because they’re just sitting and reading, I can interrupt them because they’re not doing anything important.” Or they should be doing something more important than reading, why aren’t they vacuuming? Why aren’t they running ten miles? Why aren’t they doing something else and, so you know there’s that going on. At the one point there’s all these news reports about oh no people aren’t reading, kids aren’t reading and I just wonder what the, despite saying the oh no, are these the same people that when they see someone reading, it’s ah they’re not doing anything important.
Reading is about mental engagement and, and there’s so much that’s required of you as an individual when you’re reading, to really get the full experience, and I, I do think that there’s a lot of discrediting that and overlooking the value of that solitary time.
And it’s not really a passive engagement because you’re reading the book, so you are engaged, it’s just not in the way that is externally observed and when I listen to some library programs about the future of libraries, I just begin to get concerned if our role in reading culture is not being given as much attention because of the perception that it’s not something active, it’s not something where you’re making something, it’s not something where you’re creating. I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago where in trying to shoehorn readers into the idea of a library being a create space, you’d be giving readers the tools to write and wanting, not that there aren’t readers who want to write, but that’s a totally different need, that’s bypassing the need of the reader and focusing on something different because maybe that need of a reader is just a little bit more complex, it’s not as easily addressed in terms of where the future of libraries will be and maybe it’s something that makes people uncomfortable because it is something that can be very personal.
Sort of going off of that, the other issue that I, I get concerned about is that there are librarians who believe that they are the culture creators, I guess is the way to put it. That they believe that they have the right to decide what is and isn’t appropriate for a reader to read, rather than actually listening to the reader and tailoring their recommendations and their suggestions to that individual reader. That instead they’re acting not as a gatekeeper, but as a sort of, I don’t want to say censor, but it works in that matter and that they’re choosing what is and isn’t the right thing to read and the right thing to engage with and I have a huge problem with that. And just, go ahead.
Let’s name names, it’s going on right now with Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes it’s easy to make some jokes about it, but it has sold a phenomenal number of copies. Fifty Shades of Grey has gotten non-readers reading and talking about reading and those are phenomenal, wonderful things. Is it a book that I’m going to be reading? Maybe, maybe not, that doesn’t matter. But instead of sitting back and saying, “Oh no, we might have 500 requests, but we’re not going to buy that for the library,” boom, you’ve just slammed the door in the face of those readers saying, “Okay, you’re not the type of reader we want in our library.” If you’re sitting around making cracks about mommy porn, ha ha ha, what you’ve also basically said is I don’t care enough to understand what it is this book is giving to so many readers to try to decide how we as libraries can meet that need with either building our collection or advertising what we already have there. I think it’s a bit more complex than that. Now, of course, there’s also things going in with marketing campaigns and word of mouth and stuff like that for Fifty Shades, but I think it deserves more serious attention than just to be laughed at.
I agree with that and I believe that there are people in our profession who, who are judging that and judging the readers based on their interest in that and by doing that they’re really turning off a new set of patrons to our libraries, they’re really losing the trust of people who are looking for other books similar to that but didn’t realize that that’s what they wanted to read and that’s what they enjoy reading. But it’s sort of shaming coming from a profession that should not be about that.
And also, I forget where I saw something if they’re reading Fifty Shades, they should be reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover or something like that and I’m, “Oh seriously? That’s what you’re getting out of finding out what is, someone who hasn’t read anything, you’re going to give them something that was written 70 years ago? And say that’s meeting the same need as this book?” Have a deeper discussion about what it is that is the appeal factor going on. Well now we’re ranting! Yay.
And I think that there’s this, this other problem in librarianship and I do think it stems partially from library school and that librarians are not reading enough. That they’re not fully engaged in reading culture. That’s not to say all of them are that way, but I do think that a number of outspoken library personalities are not readers. And by not being readers, they’re not serving so many people of their population and they’re doing things just as you suggested, that they’re making these recommendations that are off the wall, that don’t help anybody, that are instead trying to steer people into something that’s more appropriate or more right for them to read, rather than what it is they really want to read, what it is that brings them that sort of mental engagement and that satisfaction in reading as an activity.
And I kind of think. Go ahead.
I was just going to say just because someone isn’t a reader, doesn’t mean that they can’t use their library skills or research and for learning to be able to do good readers advisory, despite the fact of them not being readers. That’s why there are professional reviews, that’s why there’s resources like Novel List, that’s also why there’s blogs. There’s a ton of things out there that a non-reader who’s getting readers advisory questions can use to answer other than what their own favorite book was, or what they remember reading when they were in high school to be able to address that needs as professionally as they would address the question of how do I find out about putting together a resume.
So much of what a librarian’s job is is knowing what resources are out there. And I, I think that’s where there have been a bit of a divide, in not understanding how valuable things like book blogs are. Because they do, they serve as great tools for both librarians and for everyday readers who are looking for something new and who maybe aren’t as up or as interested in staying on top of every trend. I mean I know Liz and I come from a place where we read, probably much more than the average person does and much more than the average librarian does, but we recognize that and we just hope that other people understand that there are so many tools out there for them to use to be better at their job, whether or not they particularly enjoy being readers or not.
There is a topic that we have talked about before I had enough time, that we’re not going to talk about in detail, but you bought it up, of book bloggers. Can you talk about what you find, you guys are book bloggers, I want to point that out in the first place. What you find useful about book blogs to librarians, to the general public and how do they contribute to, and how do you contribute to the publishing industry and the reading industry in general?
Well I will let Liz start. We had a great conversation about this last night, talking where we came from as readers when we were younger and where it is now, so I’ll let Liz start.
In terms of where book blogs fall. Instead of really talking about being part of they’re the publishing industry, I think all of us, including publishers, are rather part of reading culture, book culture, the blogger. Amy at My Friend Amy, recently said we’re all part of literacy culture, that works too and what I find, I mean there’s just so much amazing good about book blogging and that making this such an exciting time for people who are interested in reading and books, because as Kelly has pointed out numerous times, I am old, okay my 46th birthday is coming up at the end of the month, I was born in ‘66 so when I was in middle school and high school in the 80s, the resources to find out about books, new books, were very limited. What was being mentioned in Seventeen, the magazine, what every two months the New York Times talked about and if it was one YA book it seemed like that was a lot every two months and that was assuming you had access to that. The local book stores, maybe a couple of independent bookstores or the mall book stores might have YA sections and that was all paperback YA. The idea of there being original hardcover YA, that was not something that you bought, that might then be something that you found in the library and depending upon the library, it was very iffy about what they had and where it was shelved. So, now that teens today can have so many resources and including blogs to be able to find out more about their favorite authors or their favorite series or what books are coming up, to be able to have access to more books through things such as giveaway or even when people, there’s the different things running around that I don’t participate in just because too much time ,when they talk about the books they’re looking forward to, the books that came in their mail box or stuff like that, that is a great way I think for readers to discover new books and it definitely meets the need. Then there’s all the places where people are talking about books. Now in school I could talk about books with friends and stuff like that, but I think this just leads to such, some, I want to say deeper conversation, but it also can just be such a fun conversation because you’re able to connect with the other people who are readers. And I can just imagine that’s also got to be exciting for authors and publishers because before they didn’t have it. Now sometimes the feedback can be scary because not everybody’s going to like every book, just like not every reader, not every person likes chocolate, not every person likes going to the beach, not everyone is going to like the book. So in that way it’s going to be scary, but I think it’s also very powerful and I also think what’s very exciting with all the book blogs is that it’s just saying very strongly there are people who read. There are people who read a lot and they care about reading and they care about books and I don’t, I think that is an amazing wonderful thing.
So my experience is quite different from Liz’s in that.
Cause as I mentioned before if I’d been having sex in middle school Kelly would be my child.
Which is really scary to think about. My mom is only six years older than you Liz, so. Anyway, pointing out that Liz is old again. I.
Take a shot.
Please, if people aren’t drunk by the end by how many times we’ve mentioned my age, we have failed in this program.
Right, because this is all about you! Anyway, [laughs].
It is all about me.
[laughs] Sorry, anyone listening, that’s just Liz and I saying, that’s how we operate. But more importantly, when I was in high school I was blogging, personally, but I was really involved in an AOL forum and I worked on a forum that was about teenage writers.
If you’re talking about AOL, you’re, you’re kind of old too then.
I was born in 84, I’m 27, there we go. I’m not that old. High school was ten years ago.
Both of you have now shared your age in public.
I’m okay with it.
It works for all confident women.
Exactly, exactly, but anyway, so I worked in this forum and it was about reading and about writing and I learned a lot about the process in full. But, there weren’t book blogs then, this was early 2000, I mean late 90s, early 2000 and I learned a lot about reading culture and writing culture through doing this, but it was an untapped area, this blogging idea and I was getting a lot of my information from the people I was working with, from online magazines like Seventeen which had just gotten a website, from reading the magazines I subscribed to, from my peers in school and I can only imagine if book blogs had been around when I was in high school, I would have been fanatical about them. Particularly ones that cataloged information from the publishers, had giveaways, had these really exciting promotional things to do that. But now I, as an adult, those are a little less exciting to me than the more critical review blogs, critical and thoughtful presentation and culture therein. But, I guess what I’m getting at here is that I think book blogs are a phenomenal thing and I’m really glad that so many different types exist because I do think that they reach many, many, many different audiences and readerships.
I heard you hated them, so.
I know you don’t though.
Hating haters who hate.
Yeah. [laughs] So, go ahead.
You know me, I’m a trouble person. As I mentioned, I am the cruelest person that you will ever know.
Your bio also says you never read Jane Austen, so.
This is. Let me be clear, I have read a Jane Austen short story. But not any of her books.
Well, she was well known for her short stories, oh wait, no she wasn’t.
[laughs] You know that brought me a lot of heat from one of the Jane Austen fan societies, right? When they find out that a librarian had not read Jane Austen, it was like I had set fire to everything that anyone had ever known. It was awesome!
That’s Kelly, kicking the unicorns and putting out the rainbows.
We’re going to promote this, you know.
Whenever it comes out.
Whenever. You do know our fans are waiting, so.
Yeah, I know, I will try, but.
Yes, all five of our fans.
I do think it’s about five. I mean, we know we’re no Jane Austen here.
Well Kelly wouldn’t know if you guys are Jane Austen or not.
This is true. We might be more Jane Austen than you would ever know.
Well that’s something I’m okay with.
Well maybe I’ll.
I can, I can own that problem in my life.
I’ll just come home from work tonight and put my kids to bed at six o’clock and start working on this podcast, ‘cause this is more important than my children, so.
I was just going to say that’s an early bedtime.
They don’t usually go to bed that early, just when Daddy has to edit a podcast.
What’s your next question?
I have no idea what we were talking about before.
We were talking about blogs and reading culture and whether book blogging is good and I said that book blogging is, that I don’t hate book bloggers. I know.
Oh I thought we agreed that you did hate book bloggers. I’m sorry.
Yes? Yes Kelly?
Do you think we could share a few of our favorite book blogs?
Favorite book blogs?
That sounds like a good idea.
I love Bookshelves of Doom, Leila Roy who also now does things at Kirkus blogs at. She’s a must read, always on interesting things and I love her tone. Who else do I read? Colleen Mondor at Facing Ray is another of my top blogs that I like reading. Who else is on my must list? Kelly, of course, as Stacked is one of my favorites. I also enjoy.
What’s the URL for that one, I’ve never heard of that one before.
The Kelly, whatever her name was, Stacked, what?
Stacked. I’ve never heard of it so I don’t know.
Sorry, go ahead.
Also, I enjoy the Book Smugglers blog, especially because sometimes I don’t always agree with their reviews, but they’re usually very well thought out so it makes me think about what I’ve read. It’s also actually, for some reviews, I’ve, I don’t like reading reviews of books that I know I’m going to read, so that has cut back on some of the book blog reading that I have been doing because I like coming to a book fresh. So what I’ll actually do more is go and after I’ve written my own review, go to the book blogs that I read and see what they had to say about it. So, just in a nutshell those are some of the ones that I’m definitely always reading. Also the School Library Journal, I like their Printz blog, Someday My Printz Will Come because I do like, while I read, try to read a variety of things. I’m not always reading thinking, oh what’s going to be on the Printz list this year? So I like to read theirs to see, they can help me narrow down what’s to be put on my to be read pile.
All the ones Liz suggested are ones that I read very heavily. I also, I have a few that I really love, that I’m not sure are getting as much attention as I wish they would. There’s one called Clear Eyes Full Shelves and her reviews are phenomenal. They’re so thoughtful and so, so well constructed and for anyone who’s a fan of “Friday Night Lights”, there’s some kind of connection there. I have not seen the show, but I know that people who have seen the show will totally get what she does with her reading based on that. But, if you don’t watch the show or don’t get it, you will still get a full idea of, of what she’s going for. There’s another one, The Read Adventure and they are three ladies who are not librarians just sharing their thoughts on books ranging from middle grade to adult novel and their reviews are sometimes the funniest things you will read. Just so spot on and they’re not, they’re not sarcastic in that very self, self-fulfilling way, so they’re not sarcastic for the effect of being sarcastic, they’re just funny sometimes. Trying to think of others ones. There’s Why I Love Blog and she’s a teacher and so her views and her thoughts on reading and reading culture are really interesting because they kind of come from the, the companion side to librarianship and thinking about reading that way. So those are my three, three shout outs in addition to Liz’s list.
And I’m going to, I’m gonna sneak two more in. And one is to mention again Reading Rants by Jen Hubert which I had mentioned earlier in the program geared more towards the teen reader cause Jen is really good at figuring out the stuff that is both good popular and good quality and I also wanted to mention Debbie Reese’s blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, because she does a excellent job of, as the blog title suggests, American Indians in Children’s Literature, analyzing the books both current and past books from the view of how they treat American Indians in the book. What type of research was done, are those characters being presented as overly exotic, or other, or things like that and while a reader might not always agree with everything Debbie has there, it definitely is something to aid in thinking critically of when you’re reading a book that includes diversity or includes things that might require someone writing outside of their own culture to think have they, what have they done to make this as authentic and true as possible.
Yeah, I get that just reading Sherman Alexie, I get the feeling, I’m, “Oh, everybody else portrays this culture completely wrong”, I can just feel that. And Liz, I don’t know if you noticed but Kelly did not mention your blog in her favorite blog list.
I noticed she didn’t. I think now might be the time in the podcast where I have to pull out the red wine and/or just try to, try to be.
Try and pull it together.
Liz, Liz, it doesn’t mean I love you any less, it just means that I don’t read your book blog.
[laughs] On a related note, are there library related blogs that you guys read regularly?
One I read regularly is Youth Services Corner. She does, she does a little bit of overviewing, but she keeps track of the star reviews that are coming out for different books. She does a really good job of keeping on top of YA books that are going to become movies, or have had the rights to their movie deals sold. She’s a big one that I follow. Other library related blogs I can’t rattle off off the top of my head.
I have to say I read less libraryland blogs now than I used to, that I, it’s more, definitely more book blogs than, or blogs that center around books. The ones that I do keep an eye on and read are basically some of the ALA blogs, the OUST blog, the YALSA blog, YALSA’s The Hub. I also read Tame The Web and the M Word -Marketing Libraries and pretty much more for, oh I guess is HiMissJulie technically a library blog too?
She is and that was one I was going to mention is HiMissJulie. I talked about she’s kind of my library hero. Her blog is just so great.
Her more what I find in terms of her library land is not as much as I am going back and reading specific blogs over and over as on Twitter when people mention an interesting post on a blog, that then I’ll go read it and so I think that’s more how I’m approaching library land blog resources. What’s been mentioned per topic as opposed to one particular blogger that I go back to all the time.
And that’s what I was going to say, I think Twitter has taken up a lot of that slack of providing new links to go to and you can just decide based on the tweet whether that sounds like something you’d want to read, so.
Absolutely, because you create your own professional network on Twitter. You kind of know who’s going to tweet something of interest to you and you go from there.
Like with you guys, Kelly you know that if Liz puts up a link you’re not going to follow it, so.
Exactly. It’s like Liz likes that? No!
Liz is on my filter list of people I never pay attention to, so.
I think that’s pretty obvious from how many times you ignore me on Twitter.
And I’m personally still a little, still a little distraught at how little Piranhaconda is now tweeting.
You know I’m.
You need to see, they’re like those authors who only crop up on Twitter the month before and after their book comes out.
Yep and they’ll only tweet about their book.
Exactly, I have to say my favorite authors on Twitter, now this might be a horrible thing to say, are the ones that I forget are authors and it’s like after I’ve had this great conversation with them about a TV show, or a book, or something like that, I’m, “Oh yeah, they’re the ones who wrote so and so.”
Right. No, and that’s the thing, I’m, I’m really kind of picky about the authors I follow because I want to follow people who are interested in engaging in conversation on whatever topic it is, and less about promoting themselves. And I feel like that’s the best way for them to promote themselves is to be authentic.
Right. Yeah because then when someone is, “Oh so and so has a book out.” I’m, “Wait a minute, the person I’ve been talking to about ice cream in Toddlers and Tiara?” You know what, that, based on the fact I kind of had that online back and forth is going to make me more inclined to read the book than a bunch of pushy tweets about, that are just about the book and are about nothing else. Now, it’s not going to affect whether or not I like the book, but it will affect where it shows up in the pile.
And I think that.
There’s some people who use it strictly as a publicity tool and that’s just the people you don’t want to follow.
And I think you hit on something important there Liz, about those relationships. At least for you and I, and I’m certain most other bloggers, that’s not going to impact how you feel about the book and I feel like many of us are smart enough to separate art from person. And I feel like that when Twitter is used only as a marketing tool that there’s really this lack of understanding that just because your name is out there so much, doesn’t mean that you’re going to have this sort of positive reception everywhere, that there’s still a level of, I’m going to be a critical reader whether or not I like your personality on social media or not.
And I think one of the good things about Twitter is that it does… or blogs, it does allow people to know each other. Now, again, admittedly it’s a shallow knowing, it’s not like going out and having dinner together, it’s not a person who you’re going to call to help you when you’re moving or something like that, but it’s also good because it allows a lot of that. If you only maybe knew one author in real life ever, that you didn’t have any of this other stuff through Twitter or blogs, or whatever, that might impact how you feel, what you can say about their book or not. But when that author that you’re friendly with on Twitter is one of twenty, it’s a little bit different because there’s not, “Oh, that’s one of twenty.” I think that’s a different type of relationship and expectation then all around. And expectation is much too strong a word, forget that word.
Well and obviously face-to-face communication has a very important place too cause things like ALA you guys can meet up and actually talk and some things that you can do together than you can’t necessarily do online.
That sounds kind of dirty, but I didn’t mean it that way.
[laughs] Well you have to know that being at ALA is really, really busy and Liz and I only got to see each other twice the whole time. And, and whoever did the ALA schedule was brilliant enough to put our panels on at the same time. Now ALA runs four days and over the four days and all the time slots, the one time slot that both of us could present was the same one. Wah, wah, wah.
So we couldn’t even give each other moral support, we had to be, it was like the ALA programming Hunger Games.
We couldn’t even cheer each other on.
So, who, who won the ALA Hunger Games then?
We both lived to tell the tale.
What was that?
We both lived. We both survived.
We did, we did. It was a close call but we did.
It sounds like both of your panels were really good and that was actually a really good transition into what I was going to ask you about. What did you guys. Let’s say outside of your presentations first, we’ll talk about your presentations in a minute, what did you guys bring back home from ALA that you feel is a good lesson for you personally?
I feel like this was the first ALA that I had to do way more work than I’ve done before and that’s because it was the first ALA I had to do a full presentation. I’ve done a couple of others, but they’ve been as part of panel discussion so it didn’t require quite as much work. But, the amount of work that goes into putting together a 90 minute presentation is phenomenal, especially if you’re working with somebody else. My partner lives on the other side of the country so we couldn’t work together in person and that really took up a lot time at ALA, communicating with one another, putting together this presentation, making sure we hit all the bases we wanted to hit and remembering that we are actually the authority on something. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, even if it feels like we have no idea what we’re talking about, for those 90 minutes we are the authority on our given topic, so we have to pretend like we are.
And for my ALA it was really hectic also with, for this time I was on a panel about fanfiction and fandom, something that actually is going to be also done at the YA Lit Symposium this fall, more blatant self promotion, I will be on a panel at YA, YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium, Kelly also is going to be doing the program there, so promotion for her also. So, there is definitely prep that has to be done for it, but I, having done programs for ALA in the past, it wasn’t as intense, but I also had committee meetings that I had to do. I’m a Chair of a committee for AFLA and so there was the prep for that, there was the taking care of that and on one hand you might think, “Oh, that’s only an hour and a half.” But there’s, even before getting to ALA, there’s the prep work of the past minutes, what you’re going to accomplish, what you have to do, running the meeting, taking care of things afterwards. Then I am also on a YALSA committee that films so there was the meeting for that too and those things take up, they take up a bunch of time. And then trying to get to, to try to get to a handful of programs for stuff like that. So, what to me remains most valuable for ALA is the connection with people and being able to hear from other librarians within the field who are working in different types of places, both to get new ideas, but also as a good reminder that my library, or my experience is not super odd because, and so to realize that sometimes when I just think, it helps to know there’s different libraries, there’s different experiences, so we have to be careful not to hold ourselves to a one size fits all type of thing and that’s always one thing I get out of ALA, the diversity within our profession.
So, and other than each other’s session, is there anything that you were hoping to go see that you weren’t able to see? That you can remember?
Well I, like Liz, I had a committee obligation, I’m the administrative assistant on one of the awards committees for YALSA so a lot of my time was taken up by that and I really enjoyed it, but it was difficult to sit through I think it was four hours of committee meetings and not being able to discuss a single word about the book that you have read, much more difficult than I thought it would be. But it was fascinating to listen to the process and how it works and I, I think that what I got out of ALA and I know this doesn’t answer your question, but I’m going back to your original question, just how much work goes into making these lists and vetting titles that are appropriate for the various lists. I mean so much is reading, but so much is the discussion that committee members have. And it’s not light discussion at all. And so, I got a lot out of that and I really appreciated being a part of it even if I couldn’t actually be a part of it. As far as things that I missed. I missed most sessions, I didn’t get to do anything really for myself in that way. But I’m so glad I spent the $30 to go to the Printz reception. I debated back and forth whether I wanted to go, but that ended up being probably the highlight of ALA for me and not just because I got to hear these great speeches by authors who had earned a Printz or a Printz honor, but it was really an opportunity to, to see and socialize with the people that I talk to online every day, who are part of my professional network that I never see. And so that, for me, was really the big, big takeaway, is just how important those downtime moments are. Somebody likened it to a family reunion, like the Printz as actually being a family reunion and I loved that, because it was. It was getting to meet all these, all these people that you didn’t know you knew, or that you knew you knew, but you hadn’t actually meet before. And then there’s people like Liz, where yeah I know her and I’ve met her, but it was nice to have a couple of hours when we got to pick on each other in person.
Which is also fun right?
How many times have you guys actually been able to meet in person?
Well we spent all of Midwinter in the same hotel room.
That’s right, that’s two.
Both Kidlit Con that I’ve been to.
Right, so that brings it to four.
San Diego Midwinter.
Because we had that video.
Five, so is that, I think that’s it? No BEA, not that I’ve been able to go to BEA, but I was able to go to SLJ Day Dialog two years ago and so I was at. Yep. So actually a pretty decent amount of times considering we’re in different time zones.
So this is getting back to an earlier question, but how did, did you guys mostly become friends through online interactions then? Or did you just hit it off right away?
I think primarily, I think it began online.
Or are you friends at all?
Well, actually we can’t stand each other, this is all an act.
We order out for a reason.
It’s just like how nobody believes that you know some of those celebrities in US Weekly, or who’s really friends with Gwyneth Paltrow? Nobody, but they always show her in pictures with that. That’s like Kelly and I. We can argue about who’s the Gwyneth Paltrow. But, I think it’s, I think it’s the mix. Definitely online, like Twitter and blog communication, or emails back and forth, but there’s, I personally think, yeah I’m old, that there’s not, it helps then to have that face-to-face, to have just hanging out and talking in real life and then when you go back to online, that kind of just fills it up, that it’s good, that you need both to really have it go from just a ice cream conversation online to what’s a real friendship.
Yeah, I, I agree with that. I feel like we started hitting it off when we’d talk online and we’d comment on each others blogs, or we’d chat on Twitter, or in our epic daily G-chats, but I really feel like having met and spent time in person and having had the opportunity to have many of these conversations in person, really made us hit it off a little bit more and made it clear that we were on the same page about some things and that we weren’t on the same page about some things, but that wasn’t necessarily a killer. We understood that and then.
It’s boring to have people just agree about everything all the time, looking at each other, basically saying, “You’re so smart and you’re so pretty.” “No, you’re so smart and you’re so pretty.” I mean that just gets old, there’s going to be times when people disagree. There’s a book I love this year that Kelly doesn’t like and that’s fine. Or there’s going to be, there’s other things, for any type of disagreement it’s about doing it with respect and it not being personal. Kelly doesn’t like the certain book, that doesn’t mean I’m going to call her Princess Stupidhead, so.
What would make you call her Princess Stupidhead?
Now that’s a tough question.
I ask the in-depth questions.
You know that’s one, I might have to get back to you on that one.
Okay, you think on that and we’ll come back to it at the end of the.
I might have to do some deep thoughts. [laughs]
That actually reminds me of something I was sort of thinking I wanted to ask you guys about and we’ll get back to ALA and your presentations here in a second, sort of the whole, I don’t know how to put it, the whole. One thing is the topic that we’re not discussing, but the whole attitude of, I think, despite how things are misrepresented, you guys, even despite snarkiness here and there, present things very professionally, very respectfully and very positively and there’s a lot of negativity out there in the library blogging space. And, I don’t know, I just, that’s part of the reason I wanted to have you guys on, because number one your interactions with, on Twitter are so very amusing, I knew you’d be amusing in person. But you do have that professionalism, that respect for the people who disagree with you.
One thing that Liz and I do, and not all the time, but often, is we do, because we spend so much time talking to one another and bouncing ideas off one another, we get a sense of where we’re saying something in a professional manner and when we’re saying something with our own personal feelings behind it.
So a lot of times if either of us is writing on something that could potentially set people off, we run it by one another, just to check our tone, to check whether or not we’re saying anything at all, or if we’re just saying something to say something. And that is really important to me and it’s something I think about a lot with blogging and that I have certainly thought a lot about in the last couple of weeks on the topic that we are not talking about. And that’s just making sure that what’s being said and what’s being put out there is being said in the most fair, direct and valuable way that it can be said. Because I don’t want to put something out there just to put it out there, I want it to be put out there in the best possible light, to cover everything that I want to cover in the way I want to cover it. And whether or not people agree with me, I don’t care. I just want the discussion to be professional and I don’t want to feel like I’ve just said something to say something. That doesn’t matter to me. I’d rather say something and have impact and have it matter than to say something to just get hits, to become a link worth reading.
And I think, just in addition to some of the things Kelly said, I think it’s also good to have, to know that sometimes you might vent to somebody through G-chat or a phone call or a private text and that’s not always necessary to say what you’re thinking or react right away on Twitter or a blog. I also think, I’m thinking back, getting away from the subject that shall not be named, to different blog posts that I’ve done in the past that haven’t been interpreted in the way that I meant them to be, and it can be very frustrating because I want to say, “This is not what I said,” but it’s also necessary for me to realize that it’s easier for me to say this than is what is actually happening, that if I say something that’s being interpreted differently by someone else, that that’s okay. Just like when an author writes a book, the reader’s going to read what they want from it and it has to be okay with the reader. That also has to be okay with me in terms of what’s, what’s being said or discussed online and whether it’s that I was misinterpreted because I wasn’t clear enough, or it’s because someone else has something that they wanted to say and I just happened to, by coincidence, be the springboard to lead them to saying that, that that’s how the conversation works, even if sometimes it can be frustrating or if, or if things like that I think it can be very tough online sometimes for some of this to happen because while being online is fun, it is also personal and it can be very hard not to, to try to, sometimes you just want to react personally to things and that’s a tough balance to have online.
You have to make the decision when you write something that’s going to cause a reaction how you are going to respond to that reaction. And it’s not easy at all to figure out how you’re going to respond and sometimes it does change, so on the topic we’re not talking about. I made the decision I was going to respond to comments left on my post, but then it became overwhelming immediately and it became clear to me that my posts were being interpreted a little bit differently than I had intended and the more I read it, and I read my post backwards and forwards, I probably have it memorized. I made the decision that I wasn’t going to comment on anything, that I wasn’t going to say anything more because everything I needed to say was said right there and I made appropriate follow-ups as necessary and left it at that.
And I think sometimes that’s, that’s what you have to do because people will interpret things based on, and I’m not saying that’s good or I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m just saying people read and react and at some point you just have to kind of let it go and let the conversation, let the conversation go on, but, I’m not being very articulate here. I’m sorry, but I think I’d rather not keep on talking about it, but I think it just is not something easy.
Well I just want to say I think it’s sort of, the internet makes it very easy for you to have these, people to have these emotional reactions and bam it’s published.
Or as, you know in old media, if you had I’m going to write an angry letter, by the time it takes you to write an angry letter you’ve worked through it and might through that letter away, so.
And I think it’s easy to forget too, and, that there are people behind the things that are said. Just for that very reason is it’s so easy to jump into a conversation and state your piece without thinking about what the consequences could be. And maybe that’s just cause I think a lot about that and I think a lot about how I want to be perceived and how I want people to think about what I’m saying and what that says about me. But I’m really careful about that and that’s part of why I, I was open on the topic of how people reactions are making me feel. I guess that’s really all I have to say on the topic.
And I just want to be clear that I’m not being critical of how people react to something, I’m just saying that people read something, they interpret it their own way and that’s definitely legitimate. And I also think it’s legitimate that if I talk about something, I use, if somebody’s writing a post about ice cream and now I’m, read that post and say I’m going to be writing about whipped cream or do you call something sprinkles or Jimmies, I’m using that to then talk about a different issue that’s also perfectly legitimate in something that goes on.
I hate sprinkles.
They’re called Jimmies. Duh!
Hey can I take another two second break?
Okay, here’s something that I have to share and please don’t put this in the podcast. I have a bladder the size of a peanut, so I need.
He could have figured that out.
That I’ve made it this long is incredible.
It was like we haven’t been talking that long, you’ve taken two breaks.
Shut up, give me a second.
Well Kelly always take the aisle seat on airplanes.
Actually I only take the window seat.
That you’re still talking isn’t a good thing.
She’s talking to us while.
Don’t, don’t, don’t.
I don’t know. I’m not even going to say it. Oh geez. So we’ll get back to your ALA presentations. Actually, I’ll go ahead and get back to that now and you can talk about yours and she can talk about hers when she gets back.
Okay. You want me to talk about mine now?
Yeah. So, we’ll get back to ah, unless you needed to take a break too?
So, getting back to the, to ALA, Liz, you did, you both did presentations and Liz, you did, can you talk a little bit about your presentation? It was basically about fan created work and its relationship with YA Lit.
Yes. It was a panel that was organized by Robin Brenner of the website No Flying No Tights, which is all about comics and part of the point of her website being it’s more than superheros, though superheros are good too. Anyway Robin had put it together and organized it about fan fiction and fan art and she put together a really interesting panel and I’m not just saying that because I was on it. But she also had authors, she had people involved in the fan community. She had lawyers, even though he wasn’t given any advice on it, he was giving a whole different perspective, a nice mix of people and we just talked about what fanfiction and fan art and fandom is in this and how people inside or outside of the community consider it.
You know, the people who are, “Well don’t you write something original? Why don’t you draw something original?” Discussing that aspect. Touched a little bit on some issues of copyright or trademark, a little bit about that, and it was just a very interesting discussion. It was 90 minutes, there were 7 or 8 of us. It was a good sized panel and the time seemed to go, seemed to fly by in five minutes through the conversations people were having. It was interesting to meet authors on the panel, a lot of them spoke not just from being a creator of an original work which might then inspire fan art or fanfiction or other fan created works, but also of their own experiences of being involved in either fan fiction or fan art or some type of fandom. So, it was interesting, it was fun, as I said useful. Robin’s going to be doing a similar panel for the YALSA Lit Symposium, I think it’s going to be made up of different people for that, but it was interesting. And for, I wrote an article for Carly Webber about fandom for School Library Journal a few years ago, they called it “When Harry Met Bella”, and there’s been a few other things, so, it was.
Going back to what we were talking about before, I mean that’s how Fifty Shades of Grey started, was a Twilight fan fiction or something like that.
It was funny, someone at work was reading Fifty Shades and said, “You know what’s kind of funny is I’m really getting this strong vibe that it’s reminding me of Edward and Bella,” and they didn’t realize that it had fan origins. That was just something they picked up in their own reading experience, that there was, that it felt familiar to them, but they didn’t know that there’s a good reason why it’s so familiar. But it’s funny, one of the positive things I think about, for what’s going on with Fifty Shades for a panel like that, is you sit down, or even if you’re talking with people now, there’s definitely a higher level of recognition, for good or bad, of what fan fiction is. There’s not as much of trying to explain it to question because they’re seeing some of these articles in the paper and magazines.
I’m back. Thank you.
We decided to continue on without you.
Hey, it’s all right, I understand.
And Kelly you did a presentation which you talked a little bit about before. Can you talk a little bit about what the presentation was about, basically teen programming in a passive way, but not passive in a. I’ll let you describe it.
Sure. Well I did it with Jackie Parker and we had been talking for a while just about different ways libraries could do programming for teens in a manner that would require little on the part of the library because not every library has a teen librarian.
A lot of libraries have one person who is running the entire show from the time a baby comes into the library to the time they’re 18 and they’re done in high school. And then there are libraries like hers where she’s the teen librarian and that’s what she does. But, it, what we were interested in was programming that could reach all of those, those types of scenarios and entice teens who maybe aren’t as interested in attending traditional programming to still be involved in their library and still feel like they were getting more out of their library than what they were getting already. So we, we talked about the value of passive programming and passive programming is the notion that this program is there and it’s always there in some capacity. So you, you as a teen, if you come into the library, this program is there. You can be involved in it whenever you are, are interested in being involved in it. So, we talked about the value of it, we talked a lot about the reach of passive programming and one of the things goes to the notion that as librarians you get to know a lot of your patrons, but you’re really getting to know a lot of them who are more willing to come up to you and talk with you. And that’s a certain type of a person who uses a library. But it’s not the average teen in your library, that there’s so many more that do come in, who get their materials and leave. And passive programming, the goal is to reach those kids so they still feel like they’re part of the library, but they don’t necessarily have to put themselves out there in the same way that the more outgoing, more vocal teens. And then we talked about how to implement this programming, sort of the cogs associated with it, the challenges that could come up and of course we offered solutions and our solution, our big solution, and something that I’m an advocate of, is that you have to try things before you find out if they’re going to work or not and you have to be willing to be a failure. Because so many things that you do in the library are going to fail and you have to accept that and I think that that’s sometimes the scariest part of any kind of programming or any kind of new idea in the library. It goes for blogging too really, you have to be willing to fail at something. But that’s what people got the most of out of our program, was our list of 100 different ideas for passive programming. That ranged from really simple things that a lot of people are already doing to more complex things and our goal was really to hope that something stuck. That people who came to our presentation walked away with some kind of knowledge or thought about passive programming. Or even about the valuable things to add to their own library and the value that reaching those teens has in making you a better librarian. And that’s kind of where the subversive part comes in, is because passive programming can be subversive in that teens don’t know that it’s a program. Teens don’t know that they’re also helping the librarian if they’re making booklets or they’re talking about their favorite books, or they’re comparing them to their favorite TV shows, that is incredible to a librarian who can then better tailor their services to exactly what it is that their teens want and their teens are into. So that was pretty much our presentation and after we finished we were approached by ALA to do an article for them for the programming issue so there should be something in the next couple of months, probably on that and we have agreed to do a webinar on the same topic. We didn’t realize how big a topic it was until we started going at it. And we didn’t realize how, how much there was to say on it until we really were invested in it. So. I just talk a lot about passive programming and I think.
[laughs] Well that is very cool. It sounds like a good program. That, this is just one of those times that I wish, cause I wasn’t able to attend ALA in person this year, that’s one of the times that I wish that they really did have everything, they could record everything and have it online or archived so you could watch it later.
Right. Well, I mean we’ve put our presentation and our list of topics up on my blog and it is up too if you go to ALAannual.org and you go into their, I think it’s their scheduler and you just search for passive programming. You’ll pull up our program list and I put in the comments on their the link to the presentation and a link to our list of topics so it’s there, you can find it.
Very cool. Anything in particular you guys want to talk about next?
I’m interested in the e-book discussion, I don’t know about you Liz.
E-books? In terms of?
I think you should go first.
In terms of what for e-books? Cause e-books are broad, it’s quite a broad discussion and I mean is it about how it could be changing the narrative format of how stories are told? Is it about the divide of who can and can’t afford.
This is always how it always is with Liz. I bring up a topic and she has to somehow break it down into twelve million other sorts of topics when she knows precisely what it is that I’m talking about. There’s no question here, but she just has to prove her knowledge and it’s very pretty.
Okay Liz, e-books, talk.
Liz, how about how e-books and library collections work because I think that can be pretty insightful.
I’m still not sure Kelly is, it could start, no, no. If you want to start go ahead.
No I think, I just, I mean.
Kelly is there something about e-books that you’d like to discuss?
Well something that Liz and I talked about last night. And for anyone who is just tuning in, Liz and I ran a practice session of this conversation last night just to make sure that we were on the same topic and because we are perpetually over-prepared for everything. But, we talked a little bit about collection development and e-books in libraries because it’s a really interesting enriched topic and I don’t think it’s talked about enough for a general audience and I guess the first thing to really talk about is that there are a lot of complaints from readers, not necessarily libraries, but there is complaints on that side for a different reason that e-books are not readily available in library systems. And that’s because a number of the big six publishers have made it so libraries cannot purchase e-books.
So I was watching on Twitter the other day, somebody talking about how they were going to borrow the e-book of the new JK Rowling book when it came out and it was everything not to say, “You’re not going to be able to do that unless things change really quickly, you are not going to have that option available to you.” And so, I guess, part of bringing that up is then to transition into the discussion of self-publishing and it’s something we talked on a little bit earlier in this conversation.
If she had said self-publishing and e-books in libraries when she tossed the ball at me, there would have been a smoother transition.
I just figured you would know Liz, we’re connected psychically like that, but no, you failed me and you made me look like an idiot, thank you.
So Liz, do you have any thoughts on self-publishing’s place in collection development as in related to e-books?
Well Steve, now that you phrase it that way. I have thoughts.
[laughs] [laughs] Just a few.
I think that it’s definitely something interesting to consider, but with self-publishing and in terms of collection development and this is self-publishing whether or not it’s e-books, the question is what to buy and why and with it self-published, you don’t typically have the same type of review journals that you can to rely on for purchasing that you do for other books and in a way that kind of ties in with what Kelly and I were talking about earlier about the role of journals such as Library Journal or Book List for purchasing decisions because it’s a lot easier to read that paragraph and decide whether or not something is right for your collection or to be able to read about one book in three places and have them all agree so you know it’s right for the collection, or just having the e-book file in front of you with somebody’s cover letter that perhaps posts to blogs that you are not familiar with. Not saying anything against those blogs, but not people or places that you know enough to be able to put any type of reliance on and then to be saying, “Okay, why is this something to be added to my collection?” Because I think for e-book develop, e-books being self-published e-books to be added, it’s not just simply, it’s not just simple, people want to borrow books so here’s e-books to put there because I think we need to respect the readers of the, more to say, “Well what do the readers want to read? And is this what these self-published e-books are offering to the readers?” And, so because of that I think it gets a bit more complicated for collection development. Are you now going to require that librarians read all the books that are self-published that might be offered up to the collection because there aren’t the reviews going on? So now are librarians being paid to read on the job, something which even now people laugh at when they say, “Oh librarians, you know, they think we read all the time. Ha ha ha.” Well it’s, if there is this move that self-published e-books, that might actually might become a reality because how else are you going to be able to say yes this is something that our patrons would be interested in having.
And that, I mean that works for print and for e-books I think because I mean there’s, obviously it’s a lot easier to self-publish your own books these days too in print form.
Right, it definitely works for, it would be true no matter what the format was.
I, and something I think, I think there are opportunities for self-publishing in libraries and working together in that, in that process, but I think a lot more of it comes through for providing resources for those who are interested in self-publishing. Liz kind of talked a little bit about this, but there is and there has been discussion in the library world about libraries becoming places where people could self-publish their books. Which essentially then turns the library into a publishing house, a self-publishing house I should say. And in doing that I think really devalues the entire publishing process and all the steps that are in between writing the book and having the book in publishable form. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t people going the self-publishing route who are going through the process, but rather I don’t think it’s the library’s role to be the publisher. I think it’s the library’s role to be the, the resource to provide the right tools to get to that point.
And, and, and.
I was just going to say that’s equally true for self-published resources. There are a lot of existing resources for people who want to self-publish out there, but I think the better role for a library is instead of replicating those existing resources, especially resources that have been created by people who know a lot more about what is going on, going on in the self-publishing world, send them to those resources rather than recreate them within the library world. Because if there’s already good resources, isn’t that our role as a librarian, as a library to refer to them to what’s the best resources are?
And that sort of goes back to our discussion of what we were talking about earlier of the library becoming, some people want the library to become this makerspace of people should publish their books within the library and all this kind of stuff, so. I mean do we collect things? Or do we create things?
Well and going on with collecting things, this is something else that Kelly and I were talking about so I don’t know if this was part of the ball she was tossing at me and telling me to ramble about. I’m not saying that I have an exact answer for this, but I’m just wondering if some of these issues with e-books will deemphasize the collection. It’s funny, in some ways, and a few years ago I remember reading a lot of things in library land journals or stuff like that, trying to deemphasize the collection, or that we’re a warehouse of books and talking instead about outreach and our interactions with our patrons and stuff like that and now suddenly we’re talking about e-books and everybody’s so worried about warehousing that collection of e-books in a way that seems they really didn’t care as much five years ago when they said, “Oh no, read the books or do this or do that, we’re not a warehouse.”
Now suddenly that’s what we want to be. It’s, I’m not sure what the exact answer is, but I go back to readers’ advisory and what I think our ideal is for readers’ advisory and that is matching the reader to the book and it shouldn’t matter if there’s a book for the reader, whether it’s available in hardcover or paperback or e, that’s matching them with, that’s matching the book. And some of the answer to that might be, “Oh well, if we’re telling them about a book that we don’t have, then we’re not going to have the stats for it.” I think we might need to get away from that model. I think we might need to emphasize our expertise in the matchmaking and the connecting people with what they want to read instead of deciding that our expertise is in having the shelf books for people to go and look at.
I 100% agree with that and I feel like that so much discussion’s been about container rather than on content and I feel like that, that is where the sticking point is for me, is, it doesn’t matter how the book is presented, but rather that you know what the content is and you know how to get it to the appropriate readers, the people who are looking for it. Something else I thought a lot about in terms of e-books and self-publishing in libraries is I do think that there’s an opportunity, more for those who have a track record in publishing, to have an opportunity in the library market to publish things that maybe they aren’t able to publish through traditional routes because so much of publishing is built into the market and what the market is calling for, that those who have a track record and experience in the whole editorial process could potentially use this opportunity to get more of their work into libraries. So that’s just a thought I’ve had and that I wonder if more of those writers who know how the process works but who aren’t necessarily able to get out everything they want to get out might, they might find some kind of new opportunities that way.
Are you thinking in terms of short stories and stuff like that, or?
Short stories, or books that are just, the market isn’t there, so for example, books that bridge the gap between what we perceive of as YA books and what we perceive of as adult books, there’s a big gap of potential stories there, but the market doesn’t have that call for it and they feel like there are people who are writing those stories and there’s an opportunity then for self publishing and for those sorts of stories to make it into libraries. There is always the challenge of, of what your review source is going to be, how you know you’re going to have a good, good book versus just a book plus I think that there’s there’s nothing more to say better than I think there’s an opportunity there and I think that, that it could expand.
Well, authors could also break out of genre stereotypes that they’re stuck in as well, I mean you almost have to be at the level of Stephen King to say oh I can write whatever I want. Other writers, I mean if you write Sci Fi that’s what you write.
And there’s, and I also know that from some of the authors I’ve read who are considering going the self-publishing route, it also has to do with areas that where it’s perceived that the publishers don’t have an interest or a strong interest because there’s that perception that it won’t sell as many copies and so self-publishing is a better avenue to go that way. One thing that I was just, I don’t know if I’m going to say I’m disagreeing with Kelly, but just would reword when Kelly was talking about the track record of the author, I would, I don’t look at it as much personally as the track record as for me when it comes to a self-published book knowing that it’s been appropriately edited.
The thing that I rely on when I pick up a traditionally published book and people can go off on this or whatever is that I know that a number of people have, a number of hands have touched that to make that a stronger, tighter, better book. If the author was agented, as an agent, chances are the agent gave recommendations to make that a better book than once it got into the traditional publisher, you have the editor who’s working with the person to make it a stronger book. Amanda Hocking, I had a blank on her first name, did something very eloquently a few months ago about her, because moved from self-publishing to now a traditional publisher, and spoke very eloquently of how the editors were, the process where it was just making what it was a better thing for the ultimate reader. And then, and even aside from that type of editing, is your basic copy editing and proofreading that goes on.
That’s what I think a lot of people don’t understand, I mean that’s, I’ve read that before that the actual publishing cost of the physical item that you’re holding in your hand is pretty small, of the $30 of the hardcover that you just purchased, maybe $5 of that is the physical publishing of it. The rest of it is paying the people you were just talking about. The editors, the copy editors, the typesetters, everything. I mean there are people that, that’s important, things that you don’t think about until you see a book that doesn’t have it.
And I think.
Self-published books that I have either reviewed or have bought, the one consistent thing has been in it is that when I had seen either the pitch or gone to read more at the author’s website, it is that they’ve been very clear that they hired not just one editor, but those different levels of editing or also that they are in such a place that they’ve realized that they’re working with the editor to make that a better book as opposed to the self-published author who might hire an editor and then disregard what they would, what they would say and that instead that they, as Hawking said, this is about making the book better and it. I would have to say, not that, if I say this oh no am I going to get all these tickets from self-published writers, I get them in my email anyway. So, if you’re gonna pitch someone a book, explain to me, okay you’re not going to have HarperCollins or Little Brown or whatever the publisher there, who is the editor that you work with? What else has that editor worked on? So that I know that oh yeah, this is going to be, this is the best book it’s going to be. It’s not going to be something where it’s oh yeah, I’m waiting for your feedback and then I’ll fix some of the errors.
Right and this goes back to, to where we started on this topic in that I don’t think libraries should get in the market of self-publishing. Or they should get in the market of taking the place of the traditional editorial process, because that does devalue what an editor brings to a book. And I think that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about just how important that process is.
Well and it’s obviously a really complex process because even, I’m sorry I’m going to use the word we weren’t going to use, in an ARC, which is so far into the process, there’s still so many mistakes in that, that you can see how much work it takes to get a book right. I mean, just everything spelled right, just grammar right, and that kind of stuff.
Oh names change, chapters might be added or taken out, even aside from the proof book reading copyright issues that you’re talking about, there could be a substantial shift made to the book between the time it was put in ARC and the time that the final one is out and that’s the reflection definitely on the ongoing editing to try to create something that’s the best version possible.
I agree. I don’t have anything more to say on that.
So what, when you disagreed with Kelly earlier, would you call her a Princess Stupidpants for that or no?
Not yet. I did want to talk a little bit. We talked, Liz and I talked a little bit during one of our breaks that you the listener are not going to hear, about a change in career that Liz had from being a lawyer before. And that ties in with one of the topics I wanted to discuss which is the post that Kelly put up recently about igniting your passion and that being, doing the job that you feel, having, basically having your life be the way it wants to be. Can you guys talk a little bit about that? Of how, doing what brings, doing what you have passion for is really what is important. That wasn’t phrased very well, but.
I, I got what you were saying. I, it’s a really tough topic and it’s something I’ve been struggling with a whole lot. Just thinking about career paths and what’s expected of you in a career path and what’s not and I, I feel sometimes really insecure and I’m not necessarily a legitimate member of this profession because I don’t have the aspirations that many do. And I won’t say all because I know that’s not the case. But, a lot of people in this profession really do have aspirations and they, they want to grow in the profession. They want to move up from being a librarian to being a department manager, to being a manager, or they, they have these goals of upward mobility and that, I think, is admirable. But it’s not something I have personally and it’s something that I’ve struggled with thinking about a lot because my first job was an entry-level job and my second job was a department manager.
I was the, essentially the assistant director at the library and I really did not function well in that position. And it took a lot of time to think about that and think about the fact that it’s okay not to want to do that. That it’s okay to not want a traditional career path, to want to follow what it is that interests you and it’s not easy and there’s not clear-cut answers and there’s nothing that’s right or wrong, but it’s sometimes difficult to, to feel like you’re legitimate or to feel like people will understand where you are coming from if you aren’t interested in that sort of path. And I feel like, and I don’t want to bring this topic up but I have to, I feel like that was called out the last week. Where I finally felt like I had figured out what it is I want to do, but it was called out as somehow being not legitimate or somehow being not professional and I don’t agree with that at all. Something that I plan on talking about more down the road is just how wide and varied being a librarian is and the different things that it does and, and how being a librarian doesn’t restrict you to a library, that your skills and your background and your talents can be lent to so many different places, especially within the book world. And a lot of it came by chance for me but I’m really enjoying having more than one thing going on at a time and not having it all related to librarianship because I feel like my background in librarianship has really informed these other things I’m doing and vice versa. I feel like that was the biggest answer that I could get, but that’s my head space too, is, it’s kind of vague and murky and it’s, it’s scary to not know, but just to jump in and figure it out.
Well, I mean, librarianship and reading and even book blogging, as we talked about before, are all things that require you to have passion to do. I mean book blogging, unless there’s some rare person I don’t know about, you’re not getting paid for it at all.
Librarianship, none of us are getting rich, so. But I think we all have a passion for that, and that’s why we do what we do.
And in terms of having a passion for something, there’s also different levels or different ways to express or work with that. As you mentioned, I had previously went to law school, I actually, many things I did like about law school and also many things I liked about practicing law. I practiced for just under ten years and some very valuable things from there in terms of, in terms of research, in terms of negotiations, in terms of persuasiveness, in terms of logic, there’s just a lot of good things that came out of that. It’s just that it really wasn’t where I wanted to continue with my life or my career. It’s not that there was, something was wrong or that a mistake had been made, it was best, a change of interest and change of what I want to do and I’m not sure that there’s always a good toleration in our culture for people changing professions. Or changing what they do because the most common question I always get is, is why. And sometimes it’s just not an easy answer. There’s more involved in that, but it’s like we’re in a culture where people ask seniors in high school so what are you going to major on? Assuming that at 17 or 18 then they’re going to have a life plan and that is the only acceptable life plan. Things change, interests change, jobs change. You know, Kelly saying what she’s interested in now, it could be different ten years from now. What I’m interested in now could be different ten years from now.
Right now I’m, I am fortunate in terms of for some of the things I am passionate about are things that are career related and I just have to say one thing in terms of getting paid, under full disclosure since I’m blogging for School Library Journal, I do get paid by them so in that way I’m different from other bloggers, from when I started blogging back in 2005. And I guess also technically since Sophie and I wrote a book arising from the blogs that there’s also the pay from the royalties from the book. In terms of, for the most part in terms of blogging, yeah, if you’re not passionate about it, it’s not going to be something that you can continue doing. It takes a lot of time. I sometimes joke when people say, “Well when do you have the time to do it?” Since I was used to working double the amount of hours I am now, I just look for something that would fill my time to do it. So, wow I’m working the same amount of hours just getting paid a hell of a lot less and I think that’s definitely one of the great things about online culture, that we can share what we are passionate about, whether or not it’s something that people are getting paid for, and also whether or not it’s something lasting. It’s equally valid if someone is passionate for a couple of years and then stops book blogging and moves onto something else, moves onto another interest. There’s nothing that says just because you like it now, that you can never change your mind, never have a difference of opinion. That who you are now and what you’re doing is what it is going to be like for the rest of your life. Or even the next few months.
You know, and, something I do and I don’t talk about a lot is when I quit my job it was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I quit with no backup plan, I had a couple of projects in the first, and I had a couple of ways to bring in a little bit of money, but I quit having no idea what was coming next. And that was probably the scariest thing you can do. But, I feel like in doing that I really rediscovered what it is I am passionate about and that’s reading and that’s connecting readers with books and that’s talking about books I like and who else would like it and I mean, yeah I wasn’t getting paid for a lot of what I was doing, but I feel like what I got out of it was so much richer. And more important in it really sort of informed what it is that I do want to do career wise and think about career wise. So, and that’s sort of where the inspiration for the passion post came from and the other half of the inspiration was just saying what I had to say on the issue we are not talking about. And, really, truly it shocked me just how much that post was read and how much people reacted to it and I did not ever think of myself as somebody who could incite that sort of a reaction. And it was, it was just mind-blowing and that’s why I wrote it and that’s why I continue to think about it. So, I don’t know, I guess my biggest takeaway from that is just it’s important to figure out what it is you’re passionate about and to understand that like Liz said, it changes and that’s okay and yeah there are going to be times that it sucks awfully, but knowing that it comes from a place of passion and a place of understanding what it is you need is okay. And of course there are going to be people who, who really disagree with what you’ve done or who are going to suggest that you made a terrible mistake and there are going to be times that you think about it yourself. I mean, I can’t count the number of times that I thought to myself well I’m, I’m never going to get a job in a library again because I decided that this wasn’t working for me, being in this particular position wasn’t working for me and I’m going to spend eight months not working. Well, in those eight months have I lost some sort of skill set that’s gonna put me ahead? Have I, have I just kicked myself for doing this? But, what it is to me is more important than what it is to what is socially acceptable I think.
And I think the more this sort of thing gets talked about, the more we can maybe change perceptions and what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of a career and in terms of what you’re passionate about.
Well I hope you’ll continue to write about it some more on your blog.
And in full disclosure I do not get paid for blogging, so, not that I judge anybody who does, but Liz disclosed, so I’ll disclose too. We purposely do not have advertising at all.
So, some, speaking of igniting your passions, what books have you guys read recently that have ignited your reading passions?
We’re going to talk about 2012 favorites right Liz?
That’s right, we’re concentrating on 2012 because otherwise this would be the show that never ends, it goes on and on my friends.
Yeah no, Kelly just recently put the list of, at the end of June, you put the list of books you’ve read so far this year and it’s very long.
Yeah. Liz, why don’t you go first.
I will go first. One of my favorite books this year is Code Name Verity. It’s set in the World War II, about a British spy who is captured by the Nazis and it begins with her confession of why she basically gave up all the secrets under torture to the Nazis and it’s also then talking about what happened to her that she ended up a spy in, a British spy in France and despite that beginning, it does begin to, I adore her voice and after it went on you realized that more was going on than she was letting on and there’s just some surprises to the story and it’s, it’s extremely well crafted and I will cry if I talk about it any longer, but, Code Name Verity, one of my favorite books I read this year. Your turn, Kelly.
Well, do I start with zombies? Or do I start with somewhere, something else? I mean do we build up to that or do we just go straight there?
You go straight there.
I am going. One of my favorite books this year is This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers. It’s a, it’s a zombie story, but it’s much, much less about the zombie apocalypse than it is about the psychology behind those who are trapped together during such an event. And it follows a main character who’s not interested in surviving, who has no reason to survive and in fact was planning her suicide when the apocalypse happened. And she was saved and being saved was the worst thing that could possibly happen to her. It’s a dark story, but it’s something, Liz and I talked back and forth about this book for a little while and how much we, we appreciate the story for the main character doesn’t want to be a hero, or the main character isn’t coming from a place of wanting to survive or thrive and it was just fascinating to read somebody who is just not interested in, in living any longer, even when they have the opportunity to do so. It’s dark, but the writing is fantastic. The prose is great and I don’t know, it’s really relatable. I mean even if you haven’t survived the zombie apocalypse yourself, that, that doesn’t matter a whole lot.
It’s very good that the zombie books, first hand knowledge of a zombie attack isn’t necessary for the enjoyment of the book and that’s always a valid point to make to readers, Kelly and so I’m glad you brought that up.
[laughs] You know, I don’t, I don’t like to assume that the reader’s experience. It’s very possible that there are readers who have experienced the zombie apocalypse and I don’t want them to feel like that sort of knowledge is necessary.
Well, the next book I’m going to mention is Froi Of The Exiles by Melina Marchetta that is a companion to Finnikin Of The Rock which came out a couple of years ago. It’s a fantasy book so, for your Games of Throne fans. You don’t have to have read Finnikin because it’s set in the same world and has some overlapping characters that are basically, takes a minor character Froi from Finnikin and puts him on center stage and again, basically the backdrop of warring kingdoms and a plan to use Froi to assassinate the king of a neighboring country, it also gets into issues of family and friendship and love and loyalty and I just. It’s enjoyable and you don’t have to live in a fantasy world with kings and magicians and people trying to kill each other in order to enjoy it.
[laughs] Again, important, important caveat to that, that book talk.
My turn? Alright. I’m going to talk about a book that features a 19 year old main character, but is still a YA book and that’s Something Like Normal by Trish Doller and I don’t think she pronounces her last name that way, so I’m apologizing in advance. It’s spelled like dollar but with an ER. Anyway it’s a story of a 19 year old marine who is on leave for a little while and he comes back home and he’s not a hero at all. And I, I feel like that’s sort of the main thing to take away from the story is that Travis, the main character, is not a hero, but he instead has to piece together all of the things that he left behind when he went to war while still grappling with what it was he, he had to deal with as part of the war and that was the death of one of his good friends.
So it tackles personal relationships and the way that those sorts of things can change and evolve based on experience, including post traumatic stress disorder, which is a huge topic and I feel like this is the sort of book that teens today are gonna, going to appreciate because they’re going to come from it having known people who have gone through this and in having maybe experienced it themselves. But it has a great and authentic male voice to it which, that’s one of those things that’s just so rare to find and so rare to know will appeal to both male readers and female readers. Your turn.
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga and it is about Jasper who is 17 and four years before his father, Billy Dent, was arrested for being one of the country’s worst serial killers on record. And so poor Jasper, grown up, is not just the son of a infamous serial killer, but truth be told is that Billy Dent has wanted to raise his son to take over his father’s job and wanted his son to also be a killer like the old man. Okay, it’s four years later and Jasper realizes that his father’s a serial killer, he doesn’t want to follow the old man’s profession, but unfortunately what has happened in his home town is that a dead body has turned up and of course, who’s the person everyone’s going to point their fingers at when dead bodies shows up? Son of the serial killer. And so Jasper has to learn all he knows about serial killers, having been taught by his father, to now track down the killer to clear his own name. Your turn.
How about The List by Siobhan Vivien which is sort of inspired by The Chocolate War, but not The Chocolate War. Every year at the high school where the story takes place, there’s a list that goes up the Monday of homecoming week that features the prettiest and the ugliest girl in each grade level. And what the story does is follow each of these girls and what it means for them to be either listed as the prettiest or the ugliest and the social stigmas and social ramifications that come with being on either side of that list and it really does a great job of breaking down the beauty ideal and each of the girls, each of the eight girls have a very distinct voice and a very distinct story behind them and it makes you as a reader feel both for the girl who’s ugliest and the girl who’s the prettiest. And it gets behind why this list exists and why it has any weight at all. Your turn Liz.
The Book Of Blood And Shadow by Robin Wasserman which is about a group of friends in high school, a couple of college freshmen, who are doing research assistance for a history teacher at the local college and it should be dry and boring, but it turns out to be a bit more complicated than that when one of them gets murdered and it turns out it has to do with one of the books in his collection where people believe that it could, it’s about, the book is 500 or so years old and that it could be the secrets of life and death and some people believe that it truly contains those secrets. So then it turns into the kids escaping to Prague, trying to track down the killers, trying not to be killed themselves. It has a lot of action, adventure, but with an interesting history twist to it of the history of this book and whether or not it does include such secrets of life and death. Your turn.
[laughs] How many more do you want to do?
Why don’t you each do one more.
Okay, so this is my last one then?
Well you can do this one and then you’ll do one more after this one. That way you both will have done five, so.
Oh wow. Okay. Well I’m going to talk about a self-published book by an author with a track record who I think is completely overlooked as an author on the YA shelves, but her self-pubbed book, and the author is C K Kelly Martin. The book is Come See About Me and it is, it straddles that line between YA and adult. What was that?
I didn’t say anything.
Oh, I’m getting feedback, I’m sorry. Anyway, it straddles that line between YA and adult and it’s a story of girl named Leah who is 19, she turns 20 in the story. About what happens when the guy that she was living with that she had sort of made plans with to have a future, had a her with, ends up dying in a freak accident. And it sort of follows what it’s like to go through the grieving process, while at the same time struggling to figure out what it is to be an independent adult and to have to deal with the things that come with being an independent adult. So, whether or not to continue pursuing education, whether that’s the right way to go in life, or whether or not it’s time to call it quits and move back home and it, whether or not pursuing a new relationship is going to be helpful in the term, in dealing with grief or if it’s just going to make the grief a little bit worse. So it sort of, it’s a story of grief, but it’s also a super sensual and romantic story at the same time and it, it appeals to teen readers who are ready for a mature story, but it has a huge appeal I think too for adult readers who don’t want the traditional literary story where you’re collecting adult points. So, there’s not going to be a story about a broken family, there’s not going to be stories of the greater meaning of it all and there’s not a thread about am I having kids, any struggles with any of that stuff which I find drags down a lot of adult literary YA for me. But, that, as I mentioned it’s her self-pubbed book and it’s fantastic and I highly recommend going back through her backlist and reading her YA titles that have been traditionally published as well. Liz.
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers set in 1588, it’s May 17, has been raised by nuns, different nuns have different specialties. There’s orders who teach, there’s orders who help the poor, there’s orders who run hospitals. This particular order’s specialty is they run raise novitiates to become ninja assassins and so this about Ismay and her first few missions that she’s sent out to be an assassin. Your turn.
All right, so something a little bit different because I’ve talked a lot about of contemporary stories, except I guess the zombie story. Another favorite this year has been Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough, I think it’s how you say the last name and it is a traditional horror story and I loved it for that. Two girls go to their aunt’s house, it’s kind of in an isolated village and they aren’t particularly welcomed in this village and it turns out there’s a backstory with the mother of the girls and the family line and whether or not all of the ghosts in their past are really ghosts or not. I’m not quite sure how to sell it beyond it’s a traditional horror story. There’s a haunted house involved in it, it’s historical, I think 1940s or 1950s is the time period, but it’s one of those rare stories in YA that is a traditional horror telling and I’m so glad that this is out there and I hope it starts a new trend in bringing those chilling horror stories. I mean this, it’s a 500 page book told through multiple voices, but it kept me sitting and reading in one shot and I’m not a one shot reader. So, and the last 100 pages are totally creepy and I say that as somebody who does not get creeped out easily at all.
Okay, thank you for those recommendations and I have one final question.
That I think is actually, might actually end up being long and dragging this out even longer. Longest podcast ever. But it’s something I wanted to ask you earlier and I didn’t really get, we sort of talked around it and didn’t get to it. And that’s what do you think makes a good review?
That’s a really, really good question. For me a good review is not a summary and I feel like that’s the biggest distinction between a good review and a not a good review for me. I don’t care about length of a review. It can be short, or it can be long and anybody who has spent half a minute on my blog knows that I am a big fan of very thorough, lengthy reviews. But I really do appreciate shorter reviews that other bloggers have as long as it offers me something into the story, something more than just the summary of what happens. I want to know why something happens, or why a character is compelling. Whether or not that character’s likeable or not, whether or not they’re flawed. I want to know what their flaws are, I want to know what it is about a story that made it good or made it not good. And I’m not going to agree with every, every review I ever read but that’s why I read so many reviews. Is I appreciate the diversity in and insight and I guess another thing that makes a good review for me is just that it, it tells me something about the person who wrote the review too. And it doesn’t have to be very, very honest, it doesn’t have to be something where you’re getting a really deep glimpse into something personal in their lives. But, I like a review that has a really good voice behind it. I don’t care if it’s a voice of authority or if it’s a voice of just somebody who, to bring it back to the passionate post, I just want to read a passionate review where I got from. And that’s, that’s really what I seek out and that’s really where I find a good review.
I agree with Kelly that, for me, for reviews and for reading, either, I guess in a way personal reading, for what I, either what I’m going to read next, or also for books that I’ve read where I know want to read other reviews to get other perspectives on what I read, I like that it’s more than a summary and I also like when it really, it doesn’t have to be super long, but that it gets into why a particular book worked or why a particular character worked or something, something like that.
For reviews for work, the, the for-kid reviews that can give me just what I need to know in terms of what kinds of kids will like that book are what matters and in all honesty, for some books, I can get sold on just a two sentence plot description. Like for Grave Mercy, as soon as I heard nun assassin, I didn’t need much more, but what I had in terms of nun assassins was who it was, it was telling me this is a great book about nun assassins in the 16th century and I think it becomes not just what’s a good review, but who have you been reading that you know you can trust their voice and also know what it is that they usually like so because I read their longer reviews, or talked to them more about books, when they give me that one sentence that’s all I need. But one thing that doesn’t work is just regurgitating the plot and especially if it’s just the plot taken from publisher copy. I can read the back of my printed book myself. I want something more for when I’m looking at reviews.
And do you like when a review is, don’t know what the right word is, subjective? I mean where you’re getting really the feelings of the person that did. I mean do you like knowing, getting to know the reviewer themselves through their reviews? If that makes sense.
I do, but it’s not necessary. I mean, that’s something that makes me a long time reader, that’s something that keeps me engaged with the, a blog long after I read a single review, but I don’t think it’s necessary to, to be that way all the time. I mean I. Go ahead.
I think it depends. Bookshelves Of Doom, Leila has a distinctive voice that is personal, but it’s very clear what types of books she likes and doesn’t like in terms of, and to me that is a great type of personal reader reaction review, but it’s doing it at the same, always brings it back to the actual book as opposed to the person. If it’s a personal review, and I exaggerate here, where it’s more like, the main character’s name was Lisa and I hate that name, or oh my goodness this book contained adultery and I just, you know, that’s a real sore point for me because adultery destroys people’s lives in real life, so this book totally was terrible because it had adultery in it, alright that’s a little too personal for me and so that’s not something where it’s giving me really any value of to, as to the book itself.
Okay, great. And Liz and Kelly I think we’ve reached the epic end.
But we haven’t talked about the most important topic yet.
Well, besides you.
What would make Liz call Kelly Princess Stupidpants?
Stupidhead, I’m sorry.
Like you can have stupid pants. [laughs]
What would make you call me that Liz? I mean I really want to know so I can intentionally do that.
Oh, you have to figure it out for yourself.
Oh, there’s homework.
I don’t do homework.
This is the person who took notes before the podcast.
[laughs] That was preparation, that wasn’t homework. I didn’t have to do it, but when I’m forced to do something I’m not going to do it.
It’s like when kids are forced to read books, look I brought it all back, I brought it all back.
Man, you brought back, you brought it back. Now most importantly what we did not talk about is what we’re watching and what we feel about reality television and I feel like that’s really the crux of this conversation.
That’s why people are listening.
Right, they’re waiting for this moment.
Well we’re going to save it for the bonus feature, so.
They can come back, they can come back later and hear that part.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, bonus feature?
There will be a bonus feature.
It’s, did you get Piranhaconda?
I don’t know. We’ll see if he calls in.
Okay, so we’ve reached the end.
Yes. So thank you, both of you, for being on the show.
Wait, wait, I want to know more about this bonus feature. I don’t know anything about this.
Kelly, if you would be patient and hold on.
Perhaps if Kelly would allow me to do the official wrap up so I can edit the show, we could then discuss the bonus feature.
Steve, I’m not able to kick her strongly under the table right now, so that’s.
But I assure you, I assure you, here, I want to tell a story.
Hold on, Liz is this enough to call her Princess Stupidhead?
Because she really decided she wanted that title before the show ends, didn’t she?
[laughs] No, what I want to say is this. Liz.
We’re out of time, the hook is coming to take you off the stage.
I want you to know that Liz has pushed me out of a chair before.
And she would do it again if she was with, right beside you right now.
She would, but I want you to know that we also shared a chair together and that was really touching moment in our relationship.
Thank you for sharing, absolutely.
Thank you guys for sharing everything for the past six or seven hours since we’ve been talking. No, seriously, I do appreciate you guys talking to me for the show.
Yeah and thanks for having us. I know we were really excited about it and we hope that all two of our adoring fans enjoy the, the gift we have just given them.
Well, we’ll put that special hashtag on it and everybody will read it.
You know, and by special gift I mean torture. [laughs]
All right, thanks a lot guys.
All right, bye bye.