| Finding Common Ground: Using Themes
Gearing up for your next Common Reads selection? For most event coordinators, this means winnowing down a long list of titles to a short list of authors, who often write on wildly different topics. How do you choose? Incorporating a theme can play an integral role in meeting your program's goals. Different themes appeal to different audiences, creating new opportunities to reach out to program participants and hard-to-reach readers. Themes also offer a fresh perspective on your program, additional marketing opportunities, and chances for collaboration with new partners.
A Look At: Fredrick Reads
Books In Common recently interviewed Elizabeth Cromwell from Frederick Reads about the evolution of their Community Reads program.
Would you tell us a bit about your program? For instance how long has Frederick been hosting a Community Reads event, how did it get started, and how have you seen it change since your involvement with it?
Frederick Reads started about nine years ago, in a bagel shop. Several friends were discussing a recent report that was in the news, stating that the average American adult reads less than one book per year. (The report was "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America", published by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004).
One of those women was Marcia Hall, who at the time was both an elected official for the City of Frederick and an academic librarian. She first came up with the idea of Frederick Reads. We had all heard about "One City, One Book" types of programs, and thought that our community might benefit from this type of celebration.
From the beginning, we wanted to make the celebration accessible and popular, and the last thing we wanted to do was to make people feel guilty about their reading habits (or lack thereof). We wanted to excite people but not intimidate them by our choice of reading material. We thought if we developed a day of events with a celebrated author, people might become curious to read one or more of the author's books before the events. So I guess we kind of worked backwards rather than pushing reading, we pushed the celebration, and the reading came as a result.
A Look At: Kitsap Regional Library
Chapple Langemack answered questions for Books In Common about Kitsap Regional Library in Washington. She discusses their Community Reads event and how they work with the local community.
Would you tell us a bit about your program? For instance how long has the Kitsap Regional Library System hosted a Community Reads event, how did it get started, and how has it changed over the years?
One Book, One Community started in 2008 with, To Kill a Mockingbird. The idea was to gather the community to celebrate National Book Month. We have refined our criteria over the year and now alternate between fiction and nonfiction titles. We like a Pacific Northwest connection though that's not written in stone. We have a much better response from patrons when we choose a live author who visits the community. We have also started fine tuning our programming, focusing more on the opportunity to actually discuss the book and hear the author and not so much on tangential thematic programming.
What did you learn from last year's program that is helping you this year? What are you changing, what worked well?
We began a new marketing campaign last year (for which we just won a John Cotton Dana award). We filmed a commercial emphasizing the power of story and community and 'released' hundreds of free copies of the book for residents to find in unexpected places.
Author Interview: Lisa Bloom
Lisa Bloom, author of Suspicion Nation, took time out of her busy schedule to give insight on her book and speaking engagements for Books In Common.
What are some of the "teachable" moments in your
book that make it work well for a speaking engagement?
Racial bias: No one thinks she is racist in twenty-first century America, and yet racially disparate outcomes are all around us. Blacks are four times as likely as whites to be arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession, for example, though the two groups use at the same rates. White men with felony convictions are more like to get the job than black men with clean records, when both have identical resumes. And on and on. How is this possible? The answer: implicit racial bias, the field of study that administers cheat-proof tests for hidden racial bias. It turns out that 80% of whites and 50% of blacks test for moderate or severe racial bias against African Americans. The good news: once we're aware of our subconscious biases, we can eradicate them.
I cover this topic extensively in my book, Suspicion Nation, because racial profiling was at the heart of the Trayvon Martin case, as it is in so many cases.
Pretending we live in colorblind America, ignoring evidence of racial bias, is not helping us advance. It is holding us back. The "teachable moment" is the mountain of evidence that racial bias still plagues us, but also the fixes that can help us overcome it. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper."
Author Interview: Adam Shepard
|Photo by: Steve Brantley|
Adam Shepard author of Scratch Beginnings, answered questions for Books In Common on his experiences and the impact of Community Reads programs.
What are some of the "teachable" moments in your book that make it work well for a Community/Campus Reads program?
Well, the value of Scratch Beginnings, as I've seen as I've worked my way across the country, is that everyone takes away something different from this book. I've learned just about as much in conversations about the book as I did while living the experience itself.
We all face adversity, and it is important that we both recognize the importance of working through tough times as well as establishing a level of empathy in our own lives for those who might need a helping hand themselves. Failure happens--and it will happen in your life, guaranteed, whether in your personal or professional life, on campus or off--and it's more about how we react to those circumstances than the circumstances themselves. Attitude matters more than anything else, and if we are grounded in that reality, we will ultimately emerge triumphant.
Likewise, it's clear that some have it tougher than others, and if we are able to develop a sense of compassion, we can all grow together rather than in our separate corners. We help each other rather than me just helping myself.
Books In Common Supported Events!
Christina Baker Kline visits Boca Raton, FL for Creative Kids, Inc. Fundraiser
#1 NYT bestselling author Christina Baker Kline presented on her book, Orphan Train, for the April 2014 Creative Kids Care, Inc. fundraiser, coordinated by talented teenager (and president) Rachel Rustein. Creative Kids Care is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children through creative acts of children. This is one creative kid, indeed!
Chris Powell visits Denver, CO for Arapahoe District Library
"Chris Powell spoke at the Marriott Denver Tech Center Hotel about his newest book, Choose More, Lose More for Life, and shared stories about his life as a fitness trainer. More than 280 guests were entertained and motivated by his presentation." Cindy Mares, Arapahoe District Library.
Koethi Zan at Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, AL
Koethi Zan took part in the 17th annual Alabama Writers Symposium. Approximately 200 audience members attended the symposium. "Koethi was a great speaker for us, and we sold two cartons of her books after her presentation," said Dr. Melinda Byrd-Murphy from Alabama Southern Community College.
Jake Wizner at Millbrook Central School in Millbrook, NY
Jake Wizner spoke to an audience of almost 90 students about his book, Spanking Shakespeare. The highlight was "when Jake shared personal stories that book events were based on," said Cathie Morton, Millbrook School Librarian.
Closer to the Ground, by Dylan Tomine
Celebrate the coast and its abundant natural resources with Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family's Year on the Water, in the Woods and at the Table. Dylan Tomine's memoir is a sometimes serious, sometimes humorous account of one family's love for their surroundings and a life supported by nature's bounty - home gardens, fishing, foraging, more fishing, and the tasty results of the family's labor.
Although set in the state of Washington, Closer to the Ground's themes resonate with readers living in many of America's diverse landscapes. Program opportunities could include programs on cooking, working cooperatively with community, parenting, sustainable living, nature, food, and more. Closer the Ground also provides a great foundation for family programs encouraging participation with parents and children of all ages.
"When we first moved to the Island, one of my earliest and happiest discoveries was a longstanding tradition of generosity from people who live on the water," Dylan writes, and he continues this tradition as he shares the joys, friendships, and connections he's gained from living closer to the ground.
Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra
Literature allows readers to immerse themselves into a story whether fictional or nonfictional. Gaining an understanding of different backgrounds and people throughout the world enrich the reading experience. Regina Calcaterra brings the reader into her childhood with her recently published memoir, Etched in Sand. Although her background is one of a difficult childhood, dealing with an alcoholic and abusive mother while being shuttled around multiple foster homes, Regina shows the underlying fight for survival her siblings and herself have in Long Island, NY.
Regina Calcaterra illustrates the importance of her siblings relationship and her determination to work on improving government systems that, although were set in place to protect, let her down. Her story will stick in your mind as a reminder that determination and hard work can help anyone overcome horrific situations.
Etched in Sand, had many themes to work into a literary event such as, Child hunger and poverty, Child Abuse, Social Services, Positive impact of educators with troubled children etc. Regina Calcaterra's memoir opens up many doors for discussions and community involvement.
Sweet Thunder by Ivan Doig
Mark your calendars for August 1, when Ivan Doig's novel Sweet Thunder comes out in paperback! Sweet Thunder takes us back to 1920s Butte, Montana, where people from around the world come to make a living: Welsh miners, Irish miners, union organizers, copper barons, ranchers, Chicago mobsters, and Prohibition bootleggers. When the local mining monopoly exploits miners and cheats on property taxes, newly minted journalist Morrie Morgan joins forces with the local miners' union to break the mining company's stranglehold on the community.
Sweet Thunder is a stirring story of people coming together for a common purpose and ensuring that everyone, including the Anaconda Mining Company's owners, contributes to the cities and towns they live and do business in. It tells of a war waged primarily with words, newspapers, songs, and recourse to local libraries and book collections.
Doig writes of a time when a Fourth of July parade meant that "half of Butte seemed to be there, milling into place to march down Broadway, the other half of the populace already lining the blocks ahead in joyous anticipation," despite the diversity of languages, ethnicities, and origins displayed by citizens. If you're looking for a common reads selection that celebrates the American spirit, the American Dream, our nation's combined unity and diversity, and the grit, courage, and stubbornness that built the American West, look no further than Sweet Thunder.
Ivan Doig is one of western literature's last great icons, and a charming, popular speaker at standing-room-only events. Now's the time to host him, if you're interested in bringing him to your city, as he may not be on the road for too many more years
Lisa Bloom, author of
Suspicious Nation, Think and Swagger, is also a TV host and legal analyst.
3rd Annual Common Reader Workshop
July 24-25th, 2014
The Common Reader Consortium was created to specifically serve professionals who work with their college or universities Common Reads program. They provide opportunities to learn more about enhancing individual Common Reads programs through workshop and collaboration.
Our own Christie Hinrichs will facilitate a group round-table discussion on the topic of: "From Page to Stage: Partnering with your Common Reads Author"
Check out these Upcoming Events Arranged by Books in Common
July 22nd 2014:
Charlotte Rogan, author of The Lifeboat, will visit
Hamilton Township Library in Trenton, NJ.
August 2nd 2014:
Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, and soon to be released, A Sudden Light, will visit the Lewisburg Literary Festival in Lewisburg, WV.
August 11th 2014:
Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, will visit Park Rapids Library in Park Rapids, MN.
Christina Baker Kline will visit Bemidji Public Library in Bemidji, MN.
August 12th 2014:
Christina Baker Kline will visit Wadena Public Library in Wadena, MN.
Christina Baker Kline will visit Brainerd Public Library in Brainerd, MN.
August 13th 2014:
Christina Baker Kline will visit One Book, One Community in Fargo, ND.
Check out even more events schedule here!