The Books In Common Newsletter
If You Build It...
One of the toughest considerations for any large, community-wide program is how to engage as many participants as possible. Reading, so often a solitary experience, changes as people share their experiences of stories and storytelling together.
Which book will speak to the most readers without excluding too many others? Would a book with mature themes prevent younger readers from taking part? What author can capture a community's interest and attention with a visit? What twist can add something fresh to next year's program?
With summer arriving, now's a good time to keep our eyes out for books and authors to highlight during fall and winter programs. The selection process can seem overwhelming at times, but with shared feedback it becomes so much easier.
For this newsletter, we've included:
A county-wide program which combined both inventive and tried-and-true ideas to get readers participating in novel ways...
One college's One Book event that involved students in the selection process...
An interview with Jamie Ford, as he shares some of the surprising moments that make speaking at libraries, colleges, and sometimes prisons rewarding...
A Colorado library hit the jackpot when knowing their audience helped them find the right author...
And an interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores how focusing on our diversity, different backgrounds, and what sets each of us apart is sometimes the magic element for making everyone feel included.
Better Than Beer Bongs: An Interview with Jamie Ford
Author Jamie Ford has become well-known in literary circles for his New York Times bestselling novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which is a popular choice with many book clubs, common reads, and all campus reads programs around the country. This September, you'll have another reason to pay attention to him. His second novel, Songs of Willow Frost, will be published on September 10, 2013.
Any idea how many Community/All Campus Reads type events you've done over the years?
More than I can count. Let's just say I have enough frequent flyer miles for a round-trip ticket to Mars. Delta flies there, right?
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?
I think any shared experience aimed at college freshmen that doesn't involve hazing or beer bongs is a grand idea. And college events are unique in that the students at that age are still searching for self-definition, so how they internalize fiction and react to certain themes always prompts very interesting discussions. Plus there are no Sparknotes for my books, so the students actually have to read the darn things.
Share Your Story in Monroe County
This year, the Monroe County "One Book, One Community" wowed visiting author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni with their organization, planning, and community support. We asked Cheryl Johnston, one of the event's co-chairs, to share some of the skills and tricks to pulling off a successful common read program. (For more on Chitra, see her interview below).
What did you learn from last year's program that will help with your next event? What are you changing, what worked well?
We know that we absolutely have to host an Author Event. Our publicity and programming really rely on the promotion of a great book choice, but with the added bonus of bringing a contemporary author to our county. Our second year of One Book One Community we were unable to bring in the author and it made programming a bit more difficult. Because we chose March, a Civil War novel, we were able to generate quite a bit of interest in the Monroe community and offered events that had broad appeal to Monroe residents who truly value the history of our city and its connections to the Civil War.
This year, we were able to bring Chitra [Banerjee Divakaruni] here and it was a huge incentive for students and community members to read the book and meet the author. We also learned that we need to start planning early. It is very important to choose a title well in advance and announce the choice early which allowed time to plan events as well as to solicit financial support.
What advice or tips can you share with us about hosting a community reads program?
I think the recipe for success is to find community funding for your program. When individual groups and organization make a financial commitment, they will become more involved and will then attend events and promote the events to others. The other secret is to choose an accessible book that invites conversation. Find a book that will stimulate a wide variety of readers from young adults to senior citizens. Consider choosing a companion read for younger audiences.
Touring Through Colorado
If you visited the Eagle Valley Library branch in Avon, CO on April 29, you might have had trouble finding somewhere to sit. A standing-room-only crowd gathered to see Andrew McCarthy, the New York Times bestselling author of The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down.
Of him, Adult Services Librarian Michelle Marx said: "Andrew was a perfect fit for our travel-loving community. He gave a fabulous presentation and our patrons enjoyed getting to meet and interact with him during his book signing."
For more on Andrew, his memoir, and how traveling saved
his sanity, stay tuned for the interviews in future newsletters.
Everyone's Included: An Interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Within her novels, New York Times bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni brings to life the South Asian experiences, culture, and diversity in both America and India. Her latest novel, Oleander Girl, explores the conflicts between the old world and new, the difficulties of finding love in a broken world, and the courage needed when we travel to strange, unfamiliar lands.
Any idea about how many Community/All Campus Reads types events you've done over the years?
Maybe thirty or thirty five. I've had a great time with all of them!
Would you share some notable experiences you've had at Community/Campus Reads events you've participated in?
Students have come up to me several times to say that they don't like to read but my books pulled them in. Several college students told me that mine was the first novel they'd read to the end. Several have shared their one amazing story with me. Administrators have told me that reading the book has brought parts of the campus community--departments or offices--closer to each other and allowed them to articulate issues of race and prejudice that they would have felt uncomfortable bringing up. In many cases, it has brought the city and the campus closer together as firefighters or other emergency personnel have come on campus to give presentations.
Perhaps my most memorable experience was when a college freshman came up to me and told me he had been thinking of dropping out of college, it was too big and overwhelming, and too different from the way he, as the first in his family to go to school, had been brought up. But when in his English class they wrote and shared their One Amazing Thing stories with each other in small groups, he began to connect and not feel so out of place. He made a couple of good friends within his group, and they gave him the moral support to hang in there.
Last Book Standing: One Book One College in St. Petersburg
Winter doldrums are no problem at St. Petersburg College, Florida, which hosted Garth Stein for a visit this March and is still feeling the excitement. Garth's third novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain, was this year's selection for the college's One Book, One College common read. Here, organizer Bobbi Cullinan explains how her program draws participation from staff, students, and the surrounding community.
Would you tell us a bit about your program? For instance how long has St. Petersburg College been hosting the One Book, One College program, how did it get started, and how have you seen it change since your involvement with it?
The program, which started as SPC Reads in 2006 with the book War of the Worlds, later became known as One Book, One College. The program goal was to enable faculty, students and administrators to come together and discuss a common book and its themes.
The change to the program really started when I came into this position as administrative assistant connected to the library and went about seeing if we could secure the author to the book that had been selected that particular year (2010). Having the actual author on campus for a 'read' and book signing has proven to generate an interest in the book as well as to the various programs that the college hosts centered on the book/theme. The program gets bigger and bigger each year. Students and Staff get "really excited" on being able to interact with an author.
This is the second year we selected the common read with a "LAST BOOK STANDING" contest. Adding a new twist, the team decided to make the selection an event itself with its Last Book Standing theme. Based loosely on the NBC show Last Comic Standing, the selection called on students, faculty, and staff to convince voters through print, audio, video, or multimedia formats as to why "their" book should be the literary centerpiece for next school year's program.
What did you learn from last year's program that will help you with future programs? For instance, what are you changing, and what worked well?
Last year we were not able to secure a visit from the author of the book that was chosen, due to limited funds and the fee connected with the author's appearance. While programs were used that were centered on the theme of the book, a 'field trip' that was hosted on the period/theme of the book was arranged and due to the content of the book mentioning "disabilities," we hosted an American Artist who speaks about her dyslexic challenges growing up and how she struggles with it even today. However, the book just didn't "take-off" in our curriculum format.
LEARNED: We opened the event to the public with coverage in the newspaper. After all, the college is part of the community and we want to showcase what we do in "learning outside the classroom." This makes a huge impact.
Planning For The Best: Tips and Tools
Hosting an author for a literary event is an engaging way to generate new readers, and inspire those who already like to read. But finding the money to bring in a well-known author can be daunting. However, budget limitations should not make hosting authors a non-starter. Consider holding a ticketed, VIP reception with the author as an additional activity to the main, public presentation.
If you have rules against charging for an event, ask your Friends of the Library to host it, or some other organization that can sponsor a fundraiser. You might have a $100 per ticket, wine and cheese exclusive reception with personal invitations going to foundation members or select patrons. Or perhaps a coffee and cake with the author at $25 a ticket, open to whomever wants to pay to hang out with the author in a smaller, more personal setting.
Books In Common has considerable success getting authors to participate in a fundraising activity, typically held just prior to the public event. We keep them short, about 30-45 minutes. Adding a fundraising component to your programming helps generate both funds and more local interest in the event. Sometimes, we've seen these VIP fundraisers raise all, or a large part, of the budget necessary for hosting an author. If this suits your community, go for it, and let us know if we can help!
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| Meet Lisa Genova|
After earning degrees in biopsychology and Neuroscience, Lisa Genova turned to fiction writing and is now the
New York Times
bestselling author of
Left Neglected, and
Love Anthony. All three books have been Indie Next Picks, and Lisa won the 2008 Bronte Prize and the 2011 Bexley for
Lisa's background in neuroscience helps her bring a fresh dimension to her novels, which explore the impact of early onset Alzheimer's, brain injuries, and autism on individuals and their families. Her novels bring these conditions out of the textbooks and make them personal and understandable to ordinary readers, making all her books great selections for a school or Community Reads program. To date, Lisa's speaking engagements have taken her around the world and to the Dr. Oz Show, Chronicle, The Diane Rehm Show, and more.
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