To Vote, or Not to Vote: Finding an Author
BIC's Christie Hinrichs
Recently, a well-known university (who will remain anonymous to protect the poor souls who now know better) decided to allow their student body to choose the All Campus Read title, hoping that such collaboration would foster engagement, excitement and a bigger investment in the program. Their intentions were great! It's a no-brainer that partnering with your audience will ensure a greater level of involvement and participation. However, the execution of their plan was deeply flawed. Their nomination process was open-ended. They didn't consider things, like speaker availability or cost, into the voting system.Their primary goals (a book that underscored diversity and the power of common experience, written by a living author who could visit their campus for fall convocation) were not accounted for. Unfortunately (albeit predictably), their initial nomination list read like a who's who of the popular fiction and literary elite: J.K. Rowling, E.L. James, Hillary Clinton, Stephen King, John Green. All great authors and personalities, but most unavailable, not in line with program goals, or way out of budget range.
A Look At: Lake Oswego Reads
Books In Common asked Cyndie Glazer of Lake Oswego Reads to explain how their program has evolved over the years and what makes it impactful for the community.
Would you tell us a bit about your program? For instance how long has the Lake Oswego Library been hosting a Community Reads event, how did it get started, and how has it changed over the years?
Lake Oswego Reads began eight years ago, back in 2007, with the goal of bringing together an entire community around one book. We wanted to promote the Lake Oswego Library as a cultural hub of education while bringing attention to great literature by giving citizens free copies of a book and hosting events that enhanced the reading experience. Over the years we have tried to feature a wide variety of books focusing on different customs and life experiences. Following the first book, The Shadow of the Wind, we've made an effort to choose books that allow us to bring the author here to speak. This has led to many great presentations and an outpouring of acclaim for our program by the authors themselves. We were also honored with a National City Livability Award in 2012 for the quality of our program.
A Look At: Benjamin School
Cristina James, of The Benjamin School, explained how they started inviting authors for literary events and how they get the most impact from this program.
Would you tell us a bit about your program? For instance how long has The Benjamin School been hosting author events, how did it get started, and how have you seen it change since your involvement with it?
I have been the Curriculum Coordinator at The Benjamin School since 2010, and I have been an English Literature teacher here since 2004. We didn't actually seek to have a program of visiting authors, but I suppose at this point we have unintentionally fostered one. My colleague and the English Department Chair, Kathleen Devine, first brought Mary Murphy to the school. She wrote a seminal biography about Harper Lee entitled Hey Boo, and as we always read To Kill A Mockingbird and wanted the book to really come alive for the students, this visit was groundbreaking. It inspired us to bring the entire 8th grade who are now rising seniors to Monroeville, Alabama to see where Harper Lee was born and to see the annual play of To Kill A Mockingbird that locals perform at the actual courthouse in the novel. We also sent Ms. Lee a packet of letters written by our 8th grade students. Each student assumed the role and voice of a character from the novel and wrote to Ms.Lee about what they thought of her. The curator of the Harper Lee/Mockingbird museum which is ensconced in the courthouse where Atticus would have defended Tom Robinson in Monroeville said they never deliver such things to the renowned author, but they made an exception because the quality of our work was so heartfelt. Bringing books to life for our students became a passion after that.
I guess we were also inspired by the novel Old School by Tobias Wolff which chronicles the experiences of a young man who attends a private boarding school. The school in the novel hosts famous authors like Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway, and the students vie to write the best piece of short fiction in order to win an audience with these famous authors. While I am not going to be able to exhume Rand or Hemingway to come to our school, my partnership over the past few years with Books in Common and Christie Hinrichs, in particular has made it possible for us to have our Middle School students meet authors whose books they read.
Author Interview: Garth Stein
Garth Stein joined us for an interview about his Community Reads experiences and why both his bestselling book The Art of Racing in the Rain and his upcoming novel, A Sudden Light, work well for them. A Sudden Light will be released September 30th by Simon and Schuster.
Any idea about how many Community/All Campus Reads types events you've done over the years?
I think three or four dozen. I have all the original confirmation memos in my files in the attic, but whenever I open the attic door, my youngest son wants to climb up there and poke around and then he finds an old slot car set or something else his older brothers have played out, and I have to bring it down and set it up and play slot cars for three days without a break, so if you want a hard number, I need more notice....
What do you like about the Campus/Freshman Class Reads structure as a literary event format? Any thoughts on how they could be more effective?
Campus Reads are fun because there's a certain studiousness to them. I mean, the students are really working hard to decode things, and often they bring ideas and layers and interpretations to the discussion I may not have thought of. At the same time, they're still kind of kids, so they can be really loose and laugh a lot and have fun. And when I make a Bob Newhart reference, they totally don't get it at all.
Author Interview: Maria E. Andreu
Maria E. Andreu took time to answer questions for Books In Common about her experiences as well as her book, The Secret Side of Empty, and the impact it has on readers. She is a great option for a speaker during Hispanic Heritage month, September 15th - October 15th.
What are some of the "teachable" moments in your book that make it work well for a speaking engagement?
My protagonist is an undocumented immigrant, so of course there are many opportunities to explore the broad national conversation through one teenager's story.
But even if the topic is not immigration, The Secret Side of Empty deals with alienation, secrets and the fears and challenges teens face when trying to imagine their adult life.
Would you share some notable experiences you've had at speaking events that you've participated in?
It has been an amazing experience to travel around the country to meet teens and adults who have read the book. Probably my favorite thing to hear from people who come out to hear me speak is, "I had no idea." This makes me know that the book opens minds.
But recently I also spoke at a non-profit that helps undocumented teenagers. One of them said to me, "You helped me finally understand myself." That was amazing to hear as well.
Books In Common Supported Events
Christina Baker Kline at the Colgate University Writers Conference in Hamilton, NY.
"Christina was superb. She spoke to about 75 people in our Conference and community. Her entire talk was interesting." said Matt Leone, program coordinator.
Women's Club of Renaissance and Raritan Valley in Somerset, NJ.
"The event was wonderful. Everything went exactly as we hoped it would. Ms. Baker-Kline was fabulous. Charming, warm and friendly and well versed on the topic of the book," said Lois Altschul, club organizer.
Mardi Jo Link at the Ann Arbor Book Festival in Ann Arbor MI.
"I had a terrific time in Ann Arbor. Fun reading with some other animated writers at Crazy Wisdom, lovely hotel, easy access to the events (w/i walking distance), my keynote must have gone well because the bookseller sold a bunch of books after. The most for any speaker she said," explained Mardi Jo Link after the festival.
Garth Stein at the Lewisburg Literary Festival in Lewisburg, WV.
"My husband and I drove to Lewisburg to the Literary Festival to meet Garth, and we were totally impressed - both by how he kept the crowd on the edges of their seats and how kind and genuine he was to each and every person in the very LONG line of folks waiting for autographs (myself included)," said Cindy Martin, festival attendee.
Charlotte Rogan at the Hamilton Township Library in Hamilton, NJ.
"Charlotte was wonderful, had about 28 in attendance. Everyone enjoyed her time, 7 books were sold. She signed ten more for us to sell at book sales or to giveaway," explained Dan Benson, VP of Programming.
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
Looking for a book to bring readers of all ages together? Look no further than A Sudden Light, the long-awaited fourth novel from international bestseller, Garth Stein. His last novel,The Art of Racing in the Rain, remained on the New York Times bestseller list for several years, becoming a modern classic and one of the most popular Community Reads selections we've ever worked with. In A Sudden Light, 14-year old Trevor Riddell accompanies his father on a mysterious trip to the family's century-old crumbling and haunted mansion, where the Riddells' long-buried secrets and tragedies come to light one by one.
Set in Seattle, A Sudden Light touches on the Northwest logging industry history, the gilded age of timber barons, the effect of naturalists such as John Muir on Americans' love of nature, and the many ties that draw families together, even as their secrets and broken promises pull them apart.
Readers of all ages can come together over A Sudden Light. This novel includes dozens of opportunities for community activities and tie-in programs, with themes of nature, national parks, woodworking, family relations, genealogy research, LGBT, ghost hauntings, and - dare I say it? - the proper use of library microfiche collections to be explored.
"Perhaps that's what life is about--the search for such a connection. The search for magic. The search for the inexplicable. Not in order to explain it, or contain it. Simply in order to feel it." ~ Garth Stein, A Sudden Light
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Looking for a thought-provoking read to get your community talking? We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves takes readers through the family rifts, broken relationships, and confusion left in the wake of raising a chimpanzee and human children as siblings. As Rosemary Cooke tries to make sense of the past and her adopted sister's abrupt disappearance, she encounters age-old questions about family, coming of age, and fitting in to a community.
Full of discussion starters and topics open for exploration, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves will have your community talking for months. The story delves into the meaning of diversity and community, the desperate need to belong, the trauma of being torn away from family, and the difficulty of fitting into new communities. Fowler draws parallels with questions of violence, animal welfare, the human mind, psychology, self-awareness, and what it means to be a humane society. Both a thoughtful coming-of-age story and a mature exploration of life's many tangles, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves will grip your community's readers and bring them together over a story that never lets go its hold on readers' hearts.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Book Award for fiction and the 2014 California Book Award, two of the most prestigious literary awards in the US and the West, and was nominated for a Nebula Award.
Garth Stein is the author of the international bestseller
The Art of Racing in the Rain. His upcoming novel, A Sudden Light, will be released
September 30, 2014
Hispanic Heritage Month
Sept. 15 - Oct. 15
Authors to consider for Hispanic Heritage Month:
Maria E. Andreu
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Matt de la Peņa
Check out these Upcoming Events Arranged by
Books in Common
September 14th 2014:
Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, will visit Fall for the Book Festival in Fairfax, VA.
September 17th 2014:
Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us, will visit Park City High School in Park City, UT.
Stephen Puleo, author of Dark Tide, will visit Somerville Reads in Somerville, MA.
Morris Dees, author of A Lawyer's Journey, will visit Appalachian State University Forum Series in Boone, NC.
September 18th 2014:
Laura Florand, author of The Chocolate Temptations, will be at Fall for the Book Festival in Fairfax, VA.
September 19th 2014:
Christina Baker Kline will visit Thayer Public Library in Braintree, MA.
Mardi Jo Link, author of
Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm, will visit Jackson District Library in Jackson, MI.
September 22nd 2014:
Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, will be at Richardson Reads in Richardson, TX.
September 25th 2014:
Jamie Ford, author of Songs of Willow Frost, will visit Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport, LA.
Christina Baker Kline will visit Stockton College in Galloway, NJ.
October 2nd 2014:
Dylan Tomine, author of Closer to the Ground, will be at Timberland Reads Together in Tumwater, WA.
October 2nd 2014:
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of Oleander Girl, will visit Molloy College First Year Experience program in Rockville Centre, NY.
October 3rd 2014:
Michael Hingson, author of Thunder Dog, will visit Bracken Memorial/ Woodstock Academy in Woodstock, CT.
October 4th 2014:
Reyna Grande will visit University of Iowa - One Book One Community in Iowa City, IA.
October 5th 2014:
Michael Hingson will visit Home for Life Animal Sanctuary in Minneapolis, MN.
October 8th 2014:
Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, will visit College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ.
October 9th, 2014
Garth Stein, author of A Sudden Light, will visit Arapahoe Library in Greenwood Village, CO.
October 10th, 2014
Jasmina Cezic, author of The River Runs Salt, Runs Sweet, will visit Laredo One City, One Book community reads program in Laredo, TX.
October 17th, 2014
Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master: Stories, will be at the Vegas Valley Book Festival in Las Vegas, NV.
October 20th, 2014
Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See, will visit the Appalachian State University Forum Series in Boone, NC.
October 25th, 2014
Reyna Grande will visit Salt Lake City Public Library in Salt Lake City, UT.
October 29th, 2014
Reyna Grande will visit Farmington One Book, One Community in Farmington, NM.
October 31st, 2014
Paul Taylor, author of The Next America, will be at the Federation of State Humanities Councils in Philadelphia, PA.
For even more events arranged by BIC click here.