Author Kirby Larson recently featured an essay I wrote for her on her blog about authors and book clubs connecting. Kirby is one of the first authors I heard of who met with a mother-daughter book club near her home some years back. Read what I have to say on Kirby’s blog about this winning combination.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that being in a mother-daughter book club can change your life. Today, I’m talking about that in a guest post on author Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s blog. Kristin’s debut novel, Thirsty, was released around the same time as my guidebook, Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. We work on the e-zine, Writers on the Rise together, and we’re cheering each other on through this process of first book publication. On Wednesday, I’ll be featuring an essay from Kristin about mother/daughter reading time. Be sure to check back then to see what she’s got to say.
Didn’t Barnes and Noble put together a nice poster for my talk at their Clackamas Town Center store Tuesday night? I have to admit, it took me aback for a second when I walked in and saw my photo and book cover so prominently displayed at the door. What a thrill! It was so kind of the Fantasy Firsts Book Group, which meets at the store regularly, to invite me to speak at one of their monthly meetings. They also opened the door for anyone else who wanted to sit in and hear my talk about mother-daughter book clubs.
And the chairs were so nice and comfy I could have settled in for the night. Especially with so many books just steps from my itching fingertips. It was difficult to practice self control. Here’s a shot of our comfortable gathering:
The Fantasy Firsts group has been together for almost a year, and while not officially a mother-daughter book club, there are several moms in the group along with their high school daughters. Charlene Williams at Barnes and Noble leads the group, and her daughter is a member, too. Charlene promises to email me the club’s reading list for the last year, which has some great titles for lovers of fantasy.
While I was at the store I took the opportunity to pick up a copy of WordPress for Dummies. For the last two months I’ve been working up to an overhaul of this blog and my website, combining the two for more efficient browsing. WordPress for Dummies is not exactly great bed-time reading, but with any luck, I’ll be able to figure a few things out and get the redesign in the works. Wish me luck!
Monday I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the University of Oregon’s Journalism program on the future of publishing in a digital world. The line-up of speakers was great: Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, Vailey Oehlke, head of the Multnomah County Library system (one of the largest in circulation in the country), and Dennis Stovall, who coordinates the publishing program at Portland State University, Oooligan Press.
While passions in the room were definitely pro-printed book, there was general recognition from everyone around that digital readers are here to stay. The question then becomes how will they evolve to find a place in libraries and other places where they may not require much investment to readers. Author Sherman Alexie has called Kindles elitist, as they can only be owned by people who have discretionary money to spend on reading as a pastime. I buy books, but they tend to be books I have already checked out of the library and read, so I know I’m interested in owning a copy for re-reading in the future. Sometimes I buy used books, other times I buy new, hardcover editions as gifts. As it stands, none of that is currently possible with digital readers.
Here are some of the points worth considering brought up by the speakers.
- Books have many advantages over electronic readers, but despite that, they are not worth worshiping
- While new technology tends to take over old technology, it also has a way of evolving and coming back to create similar usage. The example Dunn used was the telephone replacing widespread letter writing. She said email has brought it full circle so people communicate widely through written words again.
- If books evolve to be produced digitally only, will there be a hard copy somewhere just in case digital copies disappear?
- How will digital production affect an author’s copyright and his ability to be paid for his creation?
- Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader…all the available readers now are probably just a “rough draft” of what they will become.
- Let’s not forget that many people don’t even know what a Kindle is. Oehlke cited a recent example where she asked a checkout clerk what she thought of the Kindle, and the clerk had never heard of it. We’re still in the early stages of this technology and change will happen slowly.
- Content can be liberated by being digitized. Audio, video and other applications can be added to the written word.
- Libraries will continue to provide services for people who either don’t have the resources to buy books and digital readers, or who choose to spend their resources differently. Libraries are constantly watching new technology with an eye toward evolving along with it.
- Digital publishing has opened up new opportunities for edgy literature that may find it difficult to attract the attention of traditional publishing houses.
- Future devices will need to be standardized in their reading capabilities if they want to find widespread public acceptance. Digital books will need to be portable across operating systems.
- Youth often change societies, and youth today has grown up reading screens. They are comfortable with it.
The application that seems to have the most pressing need to digital readers currently is textbooks. College textbooks are incredibly expensive and unwieldly, and current editions are changed frequently. Dunn referred to it as a case of long-standing extortion and fraud. I have a daughter who is a freshman in college, and I was shocked at what she paid for books in one term. She wasn’t always able to buy used, and she won’t get much for reselling when the term is over. Plus she has a desk full of bulky, heavy books that are difficult to carry to class.
Don’t even get me started on high school textbooks. Both of my daughters are small people. My high school sophomore carries about 25 lbs. of books in her backpack every day. Medical advice says not to carry so much weight on a small frame, but when rolling backpacks are not an option, there’s not much choice. In my opinion, textbooks should be available digitally now.
To sum up, the panelists all seemed to say, “change is coming, but there’s no need to panic because it’s not coming fast. Technology will evolve, and there are many good reasons for it to do so. In the meantime, it should be an interesting process to be a part of.”
What do you think?
Today I’m participating in the She Writes Day of Action. She Writes is a community that gives female authors a place to showcase their work, voice concerns, further their writing skills and more. This Day of Action was conceived as a response to a list that Publisher’s Weekly posted of what it considers to be the best books of 2009. Not one woman, and only one person of color, is included in the top 10. Although the list expands out to 100, and books by women obviously make that list, it seems incredible that not one book written by a woman was considered good enough for the best of the best.
I’ve had no such difficulty finding excellent books written by women this year that are great for mother-daughter book clubs. In fact, most of the books I have reviewed and recommended this year are written by women. Here’s my Top 10:
Al Capone Shines My Shoes—Gennifer Choldenko
Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different—Kristin Tubb
Dear Big V—Ellen Leroe
Dear Pen Pal—Heather Vogel Frederick
Flash Burnout—L. K. Madigan
The Last Will of Moira Leahy—Therese Walsh
North of Beautiful—Justina Chen Headley
Operation Redwood—S. Terrell French
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning—Danette Haworth
Water Steps—A. LaFaye
This doesn’t mean that men are not writing books that appeal to mothers and daughters, because they do. And in fact, my list of favorite authors for mother-daughter book clubs includes a healthy mix of both genders. I’ve always stressed to my daughters that gender shouldn’t be a consideration for competence, and that they should form opinions of others by their actions.
Even so, some days prompt a sense of solidarity with certain groups and today is the day for women writers. I’m headed to Powell’s this afternoon to drop off a few brochures about mother-daughter book clubs. I’ll just have to pick up a book written by a woman while I’m there. The difficulty will be in limiting myself to just one.
If you’d like to find out about books written by members of She Writes, click on over and peruse the images on the banner. My book, Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs is there, along with many other excellent selections.