November 2014 Newsletter
Issue: 9
Books In Common
We've Got Plenty of Time, Right?

BIC's Christie Hinrichs

You've just wrapped up another successful annual event; your audience was inspired, your community was engaged, and your boss is singing your praises. All of the hard work you put into programming goals, endless committee meetings and event marketing have paid off, and you can finally relax for a few months, right? Err, not exactly.


More and more, we've found inadequate lead time to be the #1 challenge to the thousands of Common Reads, First Year Experience, and Library event planners we work with. Does this sound familiar? The current year's event has taken place. You give yourself a month or two to rest on your laurels. "We've got plenty of time!" Before you know it, only six months remain and you are scrambling to wrangle committee members, budget considerations, and programming ideas in anticipation of quickly-approaching deadlines. Is the author even available? Is the venue already booked? Questions like this can turn what should be a fun and rewarding process into a stress-fest for all involved.


At Books In Common, we work to collaborate with event planners to alleviate, and in many cases, completely eliminate this kind of stress. Not only can we do much of the difficult legwork for you (confirming fees, checking author availability, exploring discount opportunities for ANY author on the short list), we can also work with you throughout the year to ensure the best possible outcome.

A Look At: Whatcom READS!


Books In Common recently asked Katie Bray about Whatcom READS! and how their community comes together with a common book.


Would you tell us a bit about your program?  For instance how long have you been hosting Whatcom Reads!, how did it get started, and how has it changed over the years?


Whatcom READS! is a community-wide book discussion program that encourages everyone in our county to read the same book and engage in thoughtful, lively discussions. We usually pick a book that has some local connection, e.g. a local author, topic, point of interest, etc. Then we plan events like presentations, panel discussion, or book groups that explore different topics and themes that are brought up in our selected book. And then, of course, we bring in the author to talk about the book and their writing process. It is a lot of work, but it is so much fun!


Whatcom READS! started in 2008, when Whatcom County Library System and Whatcom Community College were each awarded federal grants administered by the Washington State Library to help establish the program. These libraries quickly brought in other libraries as partners as well as local businesses and other community organizations like the Bellingham Public Library and Village Books. Our first featured book was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.


Over the years, Whatcom READS! has grown in popularity and scope. We now have partners and three new related programs: Whatcom WRITES!, Whatcom Kids and Teens, and an annual art show. These programs allow people to participate with their own creativity and it gives the overall program more buy-in since people are personally invested. We also have great sponsors that make themed ice cream and fudge which is a sweet way to promote the program.


What did you learn from last year's program that is helping you this year?  What are you changing, what worked well?


Each year is a learning experience and we discover new and better ways of planning our community read each year. For example, Cheryl Strayed was our author for 2014. She is, other than Sherman Alexie, one of our most popular local authors and has national (and international!) recognition. This meant that we had to really manage her time well in relation to her scheduled events.  So, for the first time, we created an author itinerary that listed, hour by hour, when/where/what needed to happen.  It also included pertinent information like contact numbers. This document turned out to be a life-saver since it helped keep the author and the committee on the same page. And, because it was so useful, it will be used to help plan for future author visits.


A Look At: The College of New Jersey


Books In Common recently asked Dr. Tom Hagedorn, outgoing First Seminar Program Coordinator, and Dr. Lisa Grimm, incoming First Seminar Program Coordinator a few questions about The College of New Jersey's First Seminar Program. 

Any idea about how many campus literary events you've been involved with over the years?


Tom has been involved in running the last four Summer Reading Programs and has been a participant for about half of the programs (this is our 15th year). Lisa has been involved in selecting the summer reading book for the past three years.


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?


We find the model adopted by The College of New Jersey to be very effective. We select an intellectual theme for the year and then choose a summer reading text that highlights the theme.  This year, our theme is "justice." Our first year students will read The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates as part of the summer read. They then meet with a faculty or staff member the day prior to the start of fall classes to discuss the book. We fund events coordinated by faculty, staff, and students related to the intellectual theme throughout the academic year. Our first event is typically Community Learning Day, when we invite the author of the summer reading book to campus to speak.


We are thrilled that about 95% of the students read and participate in the program. We would like to improve on our structure by expanding our summer read to include more members of the campus and local communities.


Read the Whole Article ...

Author Interview: Peter Heller


photo by Tory Read
Peter Heller recently answered questions for Books In Common about his experiences at author events both for his previous novel 
The Dog Stars and his latest novel 
The Painter.

How many Community Reads type events have you done, and how is it different for you than your typical author event? 


I've done half a dozen. These are my favorite events, hands down. The community has been engaging with my novel for months, with workshops on all aspects of the book, literary and practical. In Grand Junction, CO, the director of the county health Department had his entire staff read The Dog Stars so they could get an idea what their city might be like after a devastating flu pandemic. In Bend, OR, dozens of master quilters sewed quilts with scenes or images from the book that meant a lot to them. And then you go and speak to a theater full of readers who loved the novel. It's a rush.


In The Painter, what themes do you think resonate with Community Reads Programs (One Book, One City), especially related to issues of bringing together diverse communities of people?


The Painter is ideal for this sort of program, as the novel explores themes that are most important to all of us: how does one lead a good life? How do we find peace and connection in a world that sometimes wants to pull us apart? How do we stay connected to the natural world, to the world of the imagination, to our children? Where does being creative fit in to a fulfilled life? The novel is full of characters from all walks of life, rich and poor, blue collar and artistic. I have received emails from successful artists who felt the book captured what they do, and from people who told me that they grew up poor and that this was one of the first novels they could relate to.


Read the Whole Article...

Author Interview: David Treuer


David Treuer recently answered questions for Books In Common about his experiences at literary events, his last non-fiction novel, Rez Life, and his upcoming novel, Prudence


What do you find most rewarding about speaking events, and are there any type of event or audience you enjoy talking with the most?


Books without readers are lonely. I might even go so far as to say that readerless books aren't even books at all because they are written in the mind of the reader as much as they are in the mind of the writer. For that reason, I LOVE talking with readers. I love sharing the making of the book, and making it afresh with readers. The most gratifying events, of course, are ones where we are all, quite literally, on the same page: we've all read the work, and so the surface topography is recognized by us all. We don't need to talk about plot or characters, we need no summary, and we can get down into the beating heart of the book much more easily.


Have you participated in any Community Reads events and if so, what do you think of the Community Reads structure as a literary event format?


I have participated in Community Reads programs over the years, more recently in Grand Rapids, MN and at Itasca County Community College. It was a great form! My book, Rez Life, wasn't a book that most of the students would have read otherwise, but the students all were from northern Minnesota and went to school near American Indian communities. They had contact with American Indians all their lives but they had rarely thought of Indians as more than dangerous "others" and Rez Life humanized American Indians in ways they hadn't been for the students. Many of them came up to me afterwards and said the book had completely changed their thinking. I took that as a very, very high compliment!


How have you seen campuses and communities use your most recent nonfiction novel, Rez Life, to teach about diversity?


I have. One of the major points I make in Rez Life is how American Indians and reservations are considered in America but not of America. But really, reservations can teach us more about the whole country-its mistakes, its ideals, its history, its culture-than simply about reservations. I like to think it is eye-opening.



Books In Common Supported Events 

Stephen Puleo
at Somerville Reads in Somerville, MA.


"The night was a success. Stephen was a pleasure to have. He was really engaging with the audience and definitely had everyone's attention throughout the program." - Marita Coombs, Somerville Reads Chair


Regina Calcaterra at Sun Valley Community Church in Tempe, AZ.


"You showed me that I can be successful in life and that even if I don't know the reason for being dealt the cards I was dealt there's still a reason." - Anna, event attendee


Jamie Ford at Suffield Academy in Suffield, CT.


"Jamie began by reading some hysterical posts from students about his book (this book sucks, etc.) It was a great way to begin." - Sara Yeager, Academic Dean



Aimee Bender at the Vegas Valley Book Festival in Las Vegas, NV.


"The keynote had about 200, which is the largest crowd we've gotten for a keynote at that venue." - Joe Langdon, festival committee member

Christina Baker Kline at Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway, NJ


"Ms. Baker Kline's visit here was wonderful for us! She is a most generous spirit and a fantastic speaker. The only objection I have heard from the students is that they wanted to ask more questions (!!!!!)." - GT Lenard, FYE Director 

Christina Baker Kline at Fargo One Book One Community in Fargo, ND

"I have to say we had a FANTASTIC crowd for Christina Baker Kline's visit and presentation! The theatre seats 340 and we had it full to capacity...there were people standing in the doorways in the hallway!" Melisa Duncan, Community Relations Specialist 


Books Reviews


We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride


Laura McBride's debut novel, We Are Called to Rise, showcases how the lives of people who are seemingly unrelated can suddenly become intimately intertwined. Set in Las Vegas, four characters - a middle aged woman, a fourth grade Albanian immigrant, a soldier fresh from the war in Iraq and a social worker - narrate the journey that ultimately brings them together in one tragic event.


"To always know how quickly life could change, how quickly everything important could disappear, to always be trying to feel this unexpectedly beautiful life to its core," is the credo of this novel. McBride masterfully builds upon the joys, sorrows and hopes for the future of each individual character.


We Are Called to Rise includes themes our society so urgently needs to explore: PTSD among returning vets, abuse, marriage, immigration, and social services. We've marked this title as an excellent Common Reads selection - and particularly good for college students. The novel challenges readers to think about our responsibilities to each other, and reminds us that no matter how cruel life can be in a given moment, it is ultimately beautiful to live, and live fully.


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra


On a cold snowy night in Chechnya a young girl hides in the woods while she watches her home burn to the ground. Throughout the course of the following four days, the young girl becomes the connection between the neighbor that takes responsibility for her, the doctor who is running a hospital nearby, and everyone else involved in the tragic events this young girl is exposed to. As the tangled story unwinds, enduring love brings out both the best and worst in people.


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena isMarra's story of the tragedy of war and the human spirit that endures. He brings to light a piece of recent history and politics to the reader, while telling a story that everyone can relate to: one of love and community. "Love, she learned, could reduce its recipient to an essential thing, as important as food or shelter, whose presence is not only longed for but needed."


Common Reads programs that choose A Constellation of Vital Phenomena can develop events around themes of war, family, socialism and the power of community ties. Marra's visits to Chechnya, his in-depth research, and powerful stories on how he developed his novel, entice audiences and enhance his author visits.  




Peter Heller, author of The Painter and The Dog Stars, discusses his experiences at author events.

In This Issue
We've Got Plenty of Time, Right?
A Look at: Whatcom READS!
A Look at: The College of New Jersey
Author Interview: Peter Heller
Author Interview: David Treuer
BIC Supported Events
Books Reviews
NW Book Lovers

Graywolf Press
Check out these Upcoming Events Arranged by 
Books in Common  

  November 13th, 2014:

Christina Baker Kline will visit the New Canaan Literary Luncheon in New Canaan, CT.


November 14th, 2014

Christina Baker Kline will visit Ursuline School in New Rochelle, NY.


November 18th, 2014:

Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, will be presenting at Novi Community Reads in Novi, MI.

 November 18th, 2014:

Tim Eagan, author of The Big Burn, will present at Estes Valley One Book One Valley in Estes Park, CO.


 November 21st, 2014:

Christina Baker Kline will present at the Heartland Big Read in Little Falls, MN.


 November 24-25th, 2014:

Guadalupe Garcia McCall, author of Under the Mesquite, will present to the Fort Smith School District in Fort Smith, AR.

 December 3rd, 2014:

Guadalupe Garcia McCall will present to the Education Service District in Waco, TX.


December 4th, 2014:

Christina Baker Kline will present at Howard County Reads in Kokomo, IN.


December 10th, 2014:

Regina Calcaterra will present to the Women of the Channel Winter Workshop in New York, NY.


December 15th, 2014

Regina Calcaterra will visit Sagamore Middle School in Holtsville, NY.



For even more events arranged by BIC click here.


Books In Common