David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, with your host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I am Julie Dina.
David Payne: And today we're looking at local voting. In case you haven't heard, it's election season again. And on the ballots, there are a number of issues which have a bearing on local, state, national interest, things of interest. And we're delighted to have a very special guest with us today for the podcast, Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, or otherwise known as Dr. Z, outreach coordinator at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. So, welcome, Dr. Z.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
David Payne: For our very first question then let's ask you about the Board of Elections. So a lot of people don't know, what is the actual role of the Board of Elections, what do you actually do. And what actually interests me is, obviously, elections happen twice a year, but I presume your work is year-round. What do you do or what does your year look like for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, so we administer the, not only the local elections, but the state elections as it pertains to a particular contest. So we have them every even year, so a Montgomery County resident will vote, exercise their constitutional right every two years. So, obviously, 2016 was the presidential elections. It's 2018; it's the gubernatorial midterm elections. And then after this election we're looking again towards the presidential in 2020. In between elections, on the odd years, we do a lot of outreach. We look at best practices; we looked towards our neighbors and our counterparts across the U.S. to see what programs, what systems we could implement to improve the process, not only for the voters, but internally.
We do a lot of voter maintenance, equipment maintenance, extensive outreach. We have an aggressive outreach campaign, an incredible team that goes out into the community. So a lot of individuals will say, what do you do every other - like in the odd years. I would love to say sleep. But the fact is that we are always working. And then what's interesting, the election profession is something that you don't really grow up wanting to be. You know, when I grew up I want to be a police officer or a librarian or a physician, you never say an election administrator. But it's a very rewarding profession.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I was one of those 18-year-olds like, "Why do people vote?" But now as an adult and in my past experiences it's very critical that every individual exercise their constitutional right to a secret ballot. Maryland is extremely progressive as it pertains to the franchise. We have a lot of incredible mechanisms in which we will allow voters to vote. And so we are tasked, and that was the first part of your question. We are tasked to be ready for every single registered voter who desires to exercise that right. We always look for 100% turnout. Some elections are dismal. But we always prepare for a full turnout.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we want to ensure that if an individual has a desire to exercise their constitutional right that we are prepared, and we are transparent, and we are ready.
David Payne: How many regular staff do you have year-round?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we're about 24 full-time county employees. And then we will bulk up to over a hundred temporary seasonal staff and do an incredible extension of our team. It's similar to other departments like recreation; they hire a lot of lifeguards. So when it's election season we have a lot of individuals we hire, from election judge recruitment, polling place support, operations, nursing home program, outreach. You know, we really - there's a huge need to be there and ready to serve the public. And we do a lot of outreach as it pertains to newly naturalized citizens to introduce them to their franchise.
For us, we have our bias because we know how the system works. You know you have to register to vote. But Montgomery County is extremely diverse. I believe five of the 10 top the most diverse cities in the nation are in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we recognize the abundance, the beauty of the various languages and cultures. And so we want to meet them halfway so they understand their constitutional rights. We want to make sure they're ready and they're prepared, and we want to meet them halfway to ensure a seamless, painless experience.
David Payne: Great. Sounds like you're doing a good job.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I hope so.
Julie Dina: Well, since I'm also in outreach for the libraries, I know you mentioned earlier the nursing home program. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So we identify and we work with nursing home facilities, assisted living facilities in Montgomery County, and we do extensive outreach. We will reach out to their social coordinator or therapist or a social worker and we set a date and time, and we train our staff to be competent in how to help these individuals exercise their rights to vote. Whether health reasons or they can't access their polling place on Election Day or during early voting, we ensure that they could vote and leverage an absentee request to vote by mail. And then also we would assist them and they could vote with our team members. We send a team of opposite parties, democrat or republican, or a democrat and unaffiliated, and then we're there to serve. And we will meet them at their facility. So we coordinate that ahead of time.
In between the election seasons if there's new facilities that arise or maybe some will close or they expand, so we do a lot of maintenance to maintain those relationships with the different facilities in Montgomery County.
Julie Dina: Wonderful. So it sounds like you ensure no one is left out.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's our goal. You know, that's our goal. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to their franchise. We're always trying to find that equation, that precise science how to encourage people to vote, but that's at the personal level. But we want to make sure that you have a multitude of options. And Maryland, and specifically Montgomery County, I call it The Cheesecake Factory of elections, because if you ever go to a Cheesecake Factory there's a million things in that menu and you always pick the same one, as I am always guilty of getting the orange chicken. But at the same time you have vote-by-mail numerous weeks before actual Election Day, you have eight days of early voting. And then you have Election Day.
And on top of that, we have same-day registration, and we have an aggressive outreach component, nursing home program. It's a large, large - we have a lot of tentacles in the community, but that little piece of crust, the turnout, we're always trying to fine-tune that to encourage individuals to exercise that right to vote every single election.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: Well, talking about relationships and building relationship, can you tell us the difference between the county's Board of Election and the County Government, what are the major differences, if there is any?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we follow policy procedures established by the Maryland State Board of Elections. So we're kind of a quasi agency. We're county employees, but we follow those rules established by the State of Maryland. We do collaborate closely with the county executive, the assistant CAOs, obviously the County Council because they have to appropriate our budget. And so there is a close relationship between county government, the council, the second floor, the county executive, the assistant CAOs, but also with the delegation in Annapolis and with the State of Maryland Board of Election. So it's a large family, so there's a very close relationship with all the parties. And then the most important individual is the actual voter. So it's both from the bottom-up and from the top-down. So yes, there's that close relationship between all parties.
David Payne: Do you work closely with other Maryland County Board of Elections [CROSSTALK] [00:08:51]?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes, we have our neighbors. I mean, there's over 24 counties in Baltimore City, so we work closely, and we also meet for best practices.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Sometimes you have smaller counties, like Wicomico, they do some really great things. And also, they want to implement what we do in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And later on we'll talk about some of the successes that we implement here in actually one of the programs, it's the only program, it's called the Future Vote Initiative. It's the only program in the entire United States that brings in students as young as middle school to work as Election Day aids, and the goal of the program is for them to serve as a full-fledged election judge before they graduate from high school. And just in 2016, we had over 1,100 17-year-olds serve as an election judge.
Julie Dina: And do they all have to go to Montgomery County public schools?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No. As long as you are a Maryland resident and registered to vote you could serve as an election judge. Obviously, if I you live in Howard County or Prince George's we don't want to take their voters from them. But at the same time, a lot of them will work for Montgomery County, they live close, maybe near Sliver Spring, and so it's just a matter of the voters' interest. And we let them know you could vote for the - you could participate in Prince George's County and, but a lot of times they’ll serve for us. At the end of the day, whatever works for the voter works for us. But for those individuals that do live outside of Montgomery County but within Maryland we do coordinate with them, so they could vote either by mail or during early voting, but we still want them to cast their vote even if they're working for us on Election Day.
David Payne: So, Dr. Z, let me put you in the spotlight. How long have you worked with the County Board of Elections? What do you most like about it? And what you find most challenging?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, I joined the Montgomery County Board of Elections on September of 2003. And actually a little tidbit, I was the outreach coordinator for the public library system from 2000 to 2003, when I joined - prior to joining the Board of Elections. What I enjoy is meeting individuals, informing them, giving them the tools to be successful to have an outstanding experience while voting. There's a lot of sacrifice that come before me to have the opportunity to engage and empower the community to vote. I personally, my family is from El Salvador. So even during the Civil War I had an uncle who actually disappeared trying to bring democracy to El Salvador.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So I have a personal vested interest in the right to exercise your voting privilege. What's challenging with my position is the hours. And I've been blessed with a great family; I have two sons. Sebastian is 12 and Julian, he's nine, and a beautiful wife, Karen. And polling 15 hours a day, but it's a short period. You know, it's a short-term commitment with long-term impact because 90 days leading to an election it's busy. There's a lot of moving parts. You want to make sure that the machinery is well-oiled, and so you pool a lot of hours.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Election night is a long day. The last day of early voting it's a long day. But it's very rewarding. And there's always - of course, we all take our vacations and our breaks, but my family, they, when I became a father my children were young. And so they know that it's an even year, "Good night, Dad. See you tomorrow." And so that's the most challenging, is the time commitment needed. But the reward is way - they're much, much, much, that the rewards are like ten-folds. And so it's a commitment, it's a sacrifice. And it's my little part I could help to defend the constitution.
David Payne: And, I presume, the ultimate reward is seeing high voter turnouts.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. In the beginning when I worked, that was my goal. And then I would get frustrated because then the turnout wasn't as high as I expected. But my reward is daily. Today, this is a reward for me, the fact that I could inform, and educate, and empower a voter; someone may learn something today. That will satisfy my cup for the day. But yes, we always, not just me, but the entire agency, from the director down to myself, we always desire a 100% turnout. And we if we in the low 16%, like we did in 2014 or a little under 25% this past primary, we will always tweak the machine and hopefully aim for a higher turnout. But at the end of the day, we're all adults.
And for your reason why you desired not to vote, it can't be for the options, because once again, we have The Cheesecake Factory options of voting; there's a lot of options for you, so your time, your vote, your voice. So it's imperative that you decide how you're going to exercise that constitutional right through a secret ballot.
David Payne: Absolutely.
Julie Dina: And while we're still on that note, for our listeners, can you tell our listeners why it is very important to vote for the local elections.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Well, all politics are local. And it's important that there is an empty seat at the table. And I think by exercising your right to vote you are being known. You show up, you're prepared, you get your sample ballot, you do your due diligence and your research, and you mark your ballot, you scan it, and you go home, and you get that famous I Voted sticker. And so I assure you, you will feel so much better when you get the sticker on your lapel or on your chest; it's a badge of pride. And like I said earlier before, a lot has transpired to keep that right to vote. There's so many countries around the world that desire to have what we have. And when you have an average or a low voter turnout it does hurt. But at the end of the day, I'm here to serve. I'm a public servant, and I will do anything to help you reach that goal of helping you vote.
I can't tell you how to vote, do not carry your left or right, center, up and down, north, east, west, south; it doesn't matter. But my desire at the end of the day is that you cast your vote.
Julie Dina: And have you mastered ways that might be helpful to get great turnout?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know we've done a lot of outreach. On average, we average about a thousand outreach events in election season.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Where it's - we, for the presidential, between the 2014 gubernatorial general and the 2016 presidential primary - general primary, I apologize. General presidential elections, we did over 1,100 events. And I personally do not care if it's a room with five people, like today, we're four. And - or a big event, like Oktoberfest in Kentlands with 5,000; it doesn't matter. That opportunity to connect with an individual, and so we have done farmers' market, PTAs, food drives; we've done it all. We've gone to clinics and shelters. So at the end of the day, we want to meet individuals halfway. So we've done it all, both electronically. We're kind of meeting millennials with this whole QR codes and geo-fencing, and a lot of neat things are going on right now. But at the end of the day, whether you got a sample ballot or you get a geo-fence tag, whether you got a QR code in the mail, whether you saw us at an event or a farmers' market or at the library, that individual must take ownership and a desire to vote.
David Payne: So we talk about voting. Dr. Z, can you remind us when Election Day is this fall?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Our polls are open from 7:00 AM till 8:00 PM. We have approximately 235 precincts. Voters should definitely look out for their sample ballot, which is mailed several weeks before Election Day. And then, also, we have early voting. So if Tuesday, November 6, and you're busy, then you could vote during early voting, which is October 25th, that's a Thursday through Thursday November 1st, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, that includes the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. And we have 11 early voting centers across Montgomery County. What's interesting, you're not tied to a specific early voting center. So let's say, I'm going to use myself as an example. I live in Clarksburg; I am doing events Downtown Silver Spring, at the Silver Spring Library. I could flex my right to vote at the Silver Spring Civic Center.
But for Election Day you are tied to your Election Day precinct. However, we are blessed with traffic in this area. If for some reason you can’t make it to your precinct you could go to a neighboring precinct, you would vote a provisional ballot, and then we would do some research to ensure that whether that ballot is accepted in full or not. But we do encourage you to do due diligence, to go to your neighborhood precinct on Election Day, but the early voting centers are there to facilitate access to the franchise. So you have early voting, you have Election Day, and then you have vote-by-mail. Right now we have the absentee vote-by-mail application online. You can make a request via email or the old style, download an application and mail it to us. And then we will do our due diligence to send the appropriate ballot style to that address that is presented on the application.
Julie Dina: So, for those who haven't already registered, how can they do so, and how can people find out if they have registered in the past or not? And also, how would they find out where their local polling station is?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, great questions. So the first thing, I encourage individuals to go to our website, which is 777vote.org. You go to our website, and if you scroll to the bottom there's a tab that says Voter Lookup. And you would click on that or tab if you look on your cell phone and you - it depends. You have to be correct, unless you have a touchscreen monitor at home. And what you would do is you would put your last name, first name, date of birth, and zip code, and we will cross-reference that information, it'll tell you've registered or not. If you don't get anything back from the database then we would encourage you, on the same website, especially if you have a Maryland driver's license, a Maryland permit, or a Maryland ID, you could register to vote online on our website, and it's easy. You could see, it says Voter Registration, and there's a tab that says Register Online. But you must have one of the Maryland-issued IDs in order to do so.
If you do not have an ID, driver's license, or permit, there's also a tab, Register to Vote, and you could download the paper format, fill that out, and mail it to us to the address that appears on the application. Even if you live in Prince George's or, let's say, Washington County, it's the state form. And on the back of that form is the corresponding address for that corresponding local board of election of Baltimore City, so you can mail it to them. If you are already registered but you want to do maybe a name change, address change, party affiliation change, you could actually fax your application to the local board of election if you don't have a Maryland ID or driver's license or permit. But if you do have those forms of ID you could update your registration online.
You could go to the libraries. The libraries will have copies of the voter registration application. You could go to the local DMV or the Motor Vehicle Administration to register as well. There's a lot of options, there's a lot of - you know, this is Maryland, and you live in Montgomery County there's no excuses. And I, trust me, I've spoken to thousands of voters over my career, and I've heard all the excuses, and I come back with …
David Payne: There isn't one.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: There isn't one. This one's on you, my friend.
Julie Dina: It's all on you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So there's a lot of options. And they could also call our office, 240-777-8532. And I will - definitely glad to help, and we're there to serve.
David Payne: Great/
Julie Dina: Sounds good.
David Payne: So, a couple of other voting questions. When is the last day to register to vote? And also, if anyone perhaps new to Montgomery County, are there any particular residency requirements to vote?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, as it pertains to the deadline, it's Tuesday, October 16th. As it pertains to residency requirements, if you've registered to vote, we have something called same-day registration. So, let's say you missed the voter registration deadline and you're new to the county, you could register to vote during early voting. You would present ID, Maryland-issued ID or driver's license or permit. And if you don't have that because you just moved in, then proof of residency, bank statement, the lease of your home, utility bill with your name and the address, and then we could register. And then we will grant you the opportunity to vote during early voting. Now, if you missed the voter registration deadline, which is once again, Tuesday, October 16th, and you don't leverage same-day registration during the eight days of early voting, from the 25th of October through the 1st of November, then we would provide you a provisional ballot on Election Day.
We would do our due diligence to research, because it could be that you lived in Prince George's County, could be that you registered and maybe you got married or divorced and there's an error on your record. We always provide - we always give the voter the benefit of the doubt. We will do extensive research. And if it happens to be that you are registered to vote and you casted a provisional ballot, then we will make recommendations to our board of directors to either accept or accept in part your provisional ballot. If you're truly not registered and you showed up on Election Day, November 6th, and you are given a provisional ballot, you will be ready for 2020. The provisional ballot application doubles as a voter registration application. Another quick tip is look out for your sample ballot.
If you don't get your sample ballot within, like, two to three weeks, either contact the Board of Elections or go to our website just to make sure that you're registered to vote. So, if you're listening to this podcast I would highly recommend not to wait until November 7th, which is a day too late, because Election Day is the day before.
David Payne: Right. So as you say, no excuses.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, no excuses. Yeah, there's no excuses.
David Payne: Yeah.
Julie Dina: How exactly do they determine the polling stations? And how many polling places are there in the county?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So there are, give or take, about 235. They change, sometimes we consolidated precincts, sometimes we add precincts. We keep tabs on the population growth of the county. We look at our, we call it MD Voters, which is our voter registration database. Everything is based off of that, the allocation of election judges, the allocations or creation or consolidation of precincts. Obviously, if you look at Silver Spring, 50% of our voters live in the Silver Spring area. So if you would look at a precinct map you'll see over close to 75 to 80 precincts in the Sliver Spring area. If you go to Poolesville, there's two precincts. So it's based on population, and based on our voter registration database. So we have about 660,000 registered voters, it's always growing daily. And so after an election we will tweak, if needed.
If a precinct grows too big, for example, let's say they have 3,500 voters, then we may consider identifying another facility within the neighborhood, and even splitting that. But there's like an extensive research, vetting, we have opportunities for the community to give us recommendations and to share their concerns. We don't anything on the fly.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's not how we roll.
Julie Dina: So you just don't say [CROSSTALK] [00:26:57].
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, you vote here now [CROSSTALK] [00:27:01] we don't operate like that.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: We don't want to disenfranchise voters. We want to facilitate their right to vote. And sometimes schools close, they open, they do a refresh, like some libraries do refreshes.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Or they'll build a new facility. And so we always add. And we may temporary relocate voters to a different location. And we understand that sometimes the voters do get upset with us, but ultimately our goal is not to upset you. Our goal is to protect you, and your right to vote. So I tell voters to be patient with us, you know thank - and there's one thing I always want to tell individuals, you need to thank our volunteers, our election judges. After an election all the campaigns are like, "Woo". Either they're sobbing in a corner or elated and popping champagne. But don't forget our volunteers; don't forget our team members, the staff. Because - and I'm going to take the liberty of saying that without our volunteers and without the staff this party wouldn't take place.
David Payne: Right.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So when you go and vote, say thank you to our election judge. If you see a young lad or a young lady volunteering at the pools handing out I Voted stickers, say thank you, tell them how proud you are. That little extra smile, you know. We don't want to see frowns; we want to see your teeth, okay. And thank us, because at the end of the day we're there to serve.
David Payne: What's the typical voter turnout that you may expect for a midterm election? And presumably you're anticipating a large turnout or hoping for a large turnout. Is there sort of a benchmark figure that would be acceptable for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: 100% is acceptable, nothing less; nothing less. We always aim for 100, it could be 60%. It all depends on the climate, it depends what's going on in the nation, depends what's going on local politics.
David Payne: The weather even, I suppose.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Even the weather. Yes, even the weather. And it's interesting because even when I compare what we have, and we're blessed what we have now. And I compare it, for example, to El Salvador, they don't have provisional balloting, but their voter turnout is higher.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's interesting. And so we always aim for 100, let's say we get 60%-70%. Obviously, if we get 70% we're still missing 30% of the electorate. But we try to target those 30%. We have those famous super voters, and they will come regardless if there's a hurricane coming, they will show up. And that's great.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, for those individuals that historically vote every year, we love you. Can you help us identify someone who doesn't vote every other year and bring them with you, because then you're an extension of us, and that would be help us tremendously, because at the end of the day we have a finite budget, we all pay taxes, and we want to leverage that accordingly. So please help us.
David Payne: Can you give us suggestions as to where someone can find out about candidates for smaller offices, let's say, a school board or city council?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we collaborate with a lot of organizations. The League of Women Voters, whether it's Maryland or Montgomery County or your particular county, does incredible work. Also, they have the voter's guide that goes out. That's a good publication that you could get at your neighborhood libraries. I believe they deliver them to all their branches.
David Payne: They do, uh-huh. Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know, in the advent of internet, Google it. [CROSSTALK] [00:30:45] tell people, "Google it." And if you don't know how to Google it, find someone who does. Everything is online nowadays. I know sometimes the candidates, I know they will mail out the mailings, the research seen, so read that information they send. We will not - all we will provide in our sample ballot is the candidate's name and the contest for which he or she is running for. Other than that, the League, a lot of nonprofit organizations, there's a multitude of forums - forums that will take place for the different contests, keep your eye out on those. I say go to those forums and ask your questions, and the local newspapers and print. Print or online, or TV, but do your due diligence, get your sample ballot, do your research, markup your sample ballot; vote.
David Payne: Be informed.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Please, yes. Yes, please. Because it makes early voting and Election Day go much smoother when you know how you're going to vote your ballot, as opposed to taking 69,000 leaflets, and the voter's guide, and the posts. And then the voter is like, "Why do I have all that paper laid out on them and on that ballot booth?" Do your homework beforehand; I'm telling you ahead of time. So you got about two months, so get cracking.
Julie Dina: It's funny we talked about googling it earlier, but I was going to ask you, how has technology helped to improve voting procedures and efficiency, and just voting in general?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, right now, we're working with the Department of Technology Services to create geo-fencing or geo-tagging. And hopefully, I'm crossing my fingers, but what would happen is as you go near an early voting center you get a little tag, a notification that you're close to the Potomac Community Rec Center. It'll have information, it'll have directions; it's pretty neat. And the reason I wanted that geo-tag capability is also when we do outreach into the community. We're going to visit all the high schools or when we come to the libraries, we could geo-fence the Rockville Library, and everyone who's walking around the Rockville Library could say, "Oh, people are - I could register at the Rockville - there's someone from the Board of Elections."
Those are kind of the things. And it's something that I was dying, I wanted to do since, actually 2014, but the technology wasn't there yet. And it was expensive back then. Now it's cheaper. That's one of the kind of things we want to implement with the advent of technology. We're starting to QR code everything because that's the language of millennials. A bookmark, you know, and it works for the libraries. But for us when you go to a student and you give him a bookmark with information they look at it like, "Okay, thank you. Oh, that's to my grandmother." And it's funny because, "Okay, I guess this is not going to work." But they love QR codes because they'll just scan the QR code and they could register the vote, they could sign up to be an election judge, they could get information; so QR coding is great. It's simple, it's inexpensive.
And texting, you know, texting. And we're starting to use more social media. That's another - you know, it's been around for a while, but I think more agencies are using social media. But it looks easy, but it does take time. And so - but I think those are the three tips, I would say. Geo-fencing and QR coding are two good quick ways to leverage technology in favor of promoting or selling your services.
David Payne: Sticking with technology, the hacking of elections is a very topical subject. Can you tell us what hacking elections actually means, and also what procedures the Board of Elections has to ensure the protection of our voting process?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, there's a lot of internal mechanisms in which we implement as guided by the State Board of Elections, especially when you do the VPN network for early voting we don't share Wi-Fi, we don't upload results on election night over the internet. I mean, we literally drive everything. I think individuals, because of the age of the internet, everyone's an expert. And so I tell individuals, at least in Maryland and Montgomery County, it's secure, okay. I think what we need to focus is encouraging your neighbors to vote, marking up your sample ballot, ensuring that your voter registration is current. Even if you are moving within the same building, so let's say you live in apartment 101, you marry; you have two kids, now you move into apartment 201 in the same facility, that's a new address for us.
So make sure everything is current. And make sure you make a cognizant decision, am I voting by mail during eight days of early voting or on Election Day. The hacking, security; we got that covered. Trust me, we got that covered.
Julie Dina: Cool.
David Payne: Sounds good.
Julie Dina: So do you have any tips for those who bring their kids to the polls, and also for, and I can tell there's got to be crazy things or crazy situations or stories that you can actually share with us.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yeah. So with children, if your child is 12 and older and you bring him to the polls, we will request that they fill out a voter assistance form, because the thought process is that individual could entire the voter to change their decision who to vote for, okay, because they're 12, and kids are very intelligent, very sophisticated thinkers. Having said that, for those families with children grade six to 12 in Montgomery County, we welcome them to work as future vote ambassadors on Election Day. All the information is on our website, 777vote.org, and the upper-right-hand corner, it says future vote, or midway on a page on the left-hand side it says Future Vote, has all the FAQs on how to register your child, there's a training that's mandatory, so one-hour training session in middle October. They'll work in their precinct; they earn SSL credits that they need.
And then once they hit 16, we would love for them to serve as election judge. And they could earn up to $210. But this is also for our voters. So if you're an adult and you have some extra time and you want to serve as an election judge, go to our website, signup, serve, and we will call you every other year to see if you're available. Now, interesting story, I have a lot of stories. Let me see, we'll try to find a PG story - rated G story. So this was the funniest. And so we had one of our future vote ambassadors, sixth grader, big-eyed 11-year-old, and we happened to forget to pack the power chord for one of our voting system, this was several years ago. So the chief judge was ecstatic, "Oh my god, what are we going to do? We need a power chord, we're missing one. We have to call the office." So they called the hotline, you know, our helpdesk. We said we'll deliver the power chord tomorrow morning, it's okay, there's a battery pack, you're fine.
So there was this 11-year-old and he said, "Oh, let me look at the equipment." And they're not supposed to touch the equipment. He's like, "No, I'm not touching; I just want to look at it." And he told the chief judge, "Can I call my dad." He's like, "Okay." He's like, "Dad, go to my PlayStation and go to my DVD, and take the power chord off and bring it to me now." So then the dad's like running up the street, goes to the precinct, and it fit. It worked. And so now the chief judge could sleep at night, because the meeting was on Monday night. And then he woke up early, showed up at the polls at 6:00 AM to open the doors at 7:00. And the power cord, it worked. And then the funny thing is after the student did their four-hour shift in the morning he came back in the evening, knocked at the window of the school. And the judge is like, "Are you okay, what's wrong? Did you forget something?" "Yes, I forgot my power chord." And he took his power chord back from his PlayStation. So that's a funny story.
Julie Dina: Wow, that's really cute.
David Payne: We're ending on a happy note. Dr. Z, we always close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are reading or recently enjoyed. So, something other than League of Women Voters election guide, perhaps.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Uh, COMAR and the Maryland election law book, unfortunately that's what I read, unfortunately for now. You know, finding time to read, and with my sons, that's - every year I say I'm going to read this book. I have a book called, Path to Power.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's the autobiography of Lyndon B. Johnson. I owe the library a lot of money.
Julie Dina: Take note.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I've had that book since 2004. And I always have to restart it because I forget what I read three years before. But yes, but that's one of my list of things to do. So I won't lie. I don't read much lately. But right now what's on my desk are the COMAR and Maryland election law.
David Payne: Well, thank you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You're welcome.
Julie Dina: I've got to say, Dr. Z, it's been very enlightening. Thank you so much for joining us on this particular program.
Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcasts App, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts. We'll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening for our conversation today, and see you next time.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with our host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I'm Julie Dina.
David Payne: And for today's episode, we're going to be delving into the fascinating world of banned books. Why banned books? Well, because in the public library world, one of the highlights of September is Banned Book Week. And here to tell us and share their passion and interest for banned books are two of our librarians from the MCPL system, Danielle Deaver, who is the young adult librarian at Germantown. Welcome Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
David Payne: And from Olney Library, we welcome Alessandro Russo, who is the Senior Librarian there. Welcome Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
David Payne: And um, Danielle, you've had some experience with banned books displays at Germantown?
Danielle Deaver: Yes, I have. We do banned book displays in our adult and children's sections. And this year I got to do the one in the adult section.
David Payne: That's great. And Alessandro you were telling me earlier your rebellious nature attracted you to the field of banned books?
Alessandro Russo: Yes, I believe it was when I started as a volunteer and they told me I wasn't allowed to read certain books that I was like, "Hey, I'm going to do completely opposite and I'm going to read these books."
David Payne: That's great. That's great. Well, let's start by looking at band book next week and asking you both, what's the purpose of banned books week, if I start with Danielle?
Danielle Deaver: Sure. Well, I think the purpose is basically to draw attention to the fact that all over the country every day, books are being challenged by people and even banned by library system, school systems and other -- and government agencies. And I kind of, though it had existed forever, but I found out today that it started in the early 1980s when book challenges started becoming more common.
David Payne: And you mentioned it started -- We will go back to 19, the 1980s. Do you think that over time since then it's attracted more and more interest?
Danielle Deaver: Oh, I think it definitely has. It's become, sort of, something that you see merchandised now where you can actually buy bags that have banned book titles on them. And I think it's become, you know, something that is kind of starting to attract a lot of attention and popular culture.
Alessandro Russo: And as you know, social media and it becomes more available and to see, you know, and to track news and information. I think people are getting a better understanding of what banned books are and why kind of this movement is growing in a sense.
Julie Dina: Well, since we're talking about banned books, when exactly is Banned Book Week and more importantly, how does MCPL participate in banned books week, Alessandro?
Alessandro Russo: Banned books week is from September 23rd to September 29th. And just in general, I believe our system, we do a great job in displaying banned books and kind of adding a little literature to explaining what banned books are. And we actually, I know they're doing a story time at Gaithersburg Library with a banned book.
Julie Dina: Danielle, did you have anything to add?
Danielle Deaver: No, I mean we do the displays and it actually generates a lot of conversation. We had a little girl today who came in and said, you know, "What's a banned book?" And her mother actually said, "Well, let's go over and look at them and I will tell you about that." So that was, that was really nice.
David Payne: So, I think we should, we should clarify for our listeners, Banned Books Week is actually a national event I think. Is it from the American Library Association?
Alessandro Russo: Yes, yeah.
David Payne: Can you tell us, really talk about banned books and challenged books and there's a difference between the two. Can you explain what, what the difference is Alessandro?
Alessandro Russo: So challenged book is basically presenting the question of why are we going to remove this book from a collection or why are we going to censor this book? And then, a banned book is actually if the verdict get passed by whoever saying we are officially pulling this book from the stack or the collection. So the easiest way to look at it is a challenged book is phase one and then if it goes further, phase two, is the banned book, so.
Danielle Deaver: And we actually only see a small snapshot of what it's challenged around the country. The American Library Association tracked 416 books that were challenged or banned in 2017, but 82% to 97% of book challenges are never reported to organizations that track such things. So there are probably a lot of challenges and even bans yes, going on.
Julie Dina: So what would you say is MCPL's policy regarding book challenges and has MCPL ever banned a book?
Danielle Deaver: Well, I asked around about this and people who have been here much longer than I have say that in their institutional memory, about 30 years, they have not seen or heard of any books being banned from MCPL.
Alessandro Russo: So it's actually in MCPL collection policy on page 10 section 4, Intellectual Freedom. It's, and there is -- I'll just quickly go for what we're looking for. The statement pertains to all formation formats, including print, video, audio, digital, and electronic formats. "Libraries assure that the collection is open and accessible to all residents. It is committed to well-balanced print electronic and electronic collection, which presents various points of views on all subjects, controversial or not. Libraries do not remove, restrict, or withdraw materials because they are regarded as discriminatory or inflammatory by an individual or group."
David Payne: And there you have it.
Alessandro Russo: Yes.
David Payne: So, looking at the lists over the years of banned books and challenged books, obviously a great diversity in amongst the titles that fall into that category. But what are the think of any, of the strangest reasons that you've come across for banning a book? Let's start with you Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: My favorite is a cultism or Satanic worship, which in particular, the example was any -- the Harry Potter series when they came out and it's that kind of just an interesting way to read that book as many people read it in a completely different way. But yeah.
Danielle Deaver: The strangest reasons I found were in 1983, the Alabama State Textbook Committee wanted to ban Anne Frank's diary of a young girl because it was "A real downer."
Julie Dina: Wow.
Danielle Deaver: Yes. And in 1987, school officials in Alaska tried to, or actually did ban the American heritage dictionary because it used slang terms such as "bed," "knocker," and "balls." So they just banned the dictionary.
Julie Dina: Okay.
David Payne: Okay. On that note.
Julie Dina: On that note, now can you tell us about what are the most common reasons for challenging or banning books?
Danielle Deaver: Sure. Officially, the top three are that the material is considered to be sexually explicit, to contain offensive language or be unsuited to age group and most people who bring book challenges are parents. But a lot of people have started noticing and writing about lately the fact that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that feature diverse characters, diverse, you know -- or are written by diverse authors. And in 2015, nine of the top 10 challenged books included diverse content. They were about, you know, transgender teens, they were about LGBTQ characters. And so, that's a disturbing trend that's kind of not officially on the radar.
Julie Dina: Why do you think those are the most common ones or are the top three that keep popping up?
Danielle Deaver: Well, Professor Emily Knox in Illinois researched this topic. She looked at the ALA's annual top 10 challenged book lists from 2001 to 2015, and 29 diverse books appeared a total of 63 times on the list. And they were all -- a lot of them actually said that they were in question because they depicted racism such as, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. And, you know, she kind of brings up the fact that, you know, this is -- these books are being challenged for being about diversity implies that the topic of diversity itself is inherently wrong or controversial, which is of course, you know, extremely disturbing.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah. It's kind of like that overall discussion. Actually, I had a discussion with a colleague of mine the other day about should classics be banned because they are written in a different time period. And so, someone reading that nowadays without any kind of prior knowledge can read it as being offensive or you know, racial. But both of our curt collusions came, it's kind of like learning about history, if you kind of censor that part of history, that way of writing, how will you learn about the present and the future?
David Payne: Right. So can I ask you both to give us some examples of some recently banned, banned books? Let's start with Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Okay, 13 Reasons Why is a teen book by Jay Asher that was made into a Netflix movie earlier this year. And that has been -- that was the number one banned book in or challenged book in 2017 because of the discussion and the themes about suicide. The book Drama, which is a children's book, a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, that is immensely popular in our library and I think all over the system, was challenged -- and it's also won a lot of awards. And it was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered confusing.
And the other one that was kind of upsetting because I loved this book, was The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. And that's one of those books that has really drawn in even teenagers who don't particularly like to read. It shows a side of the controversies over police shootings of black unarmed teenagers that we don't often see and that's the impact on the community. And that book will also be a movie in a couple of weeks. And that was challenged because it's drug use, profanity, and offensive language. So that's just kind of a snapshot.
Alessandro Russo: And then one that has made the list of, since 2007 is one of, one of my favorite young adult books is the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian, written by Sherman Alexie. And the, the, the reason why it keeps, it's getting challenged are you know, poverty, alcoholism, sexuality. Even though the book won a national book award, was a national book award winner, and I thought it was a -- even though it's fiction, it was a great look into living on a reservation life and kind of like the reality's a person would face day-to-day as a, especially as a teenager's point of, perspective. One of my other favorite classics that have historically been banned is Catcher in the Rye. And if anyone who read it knows the profanity and how many times the "F" word comes up in that book.
Danielle Deaver: I think it's a good book.
Alessandro Russo: But it's so -- I love it because it's so crude and it's so real, like it's just a teenager skipping school one day and doing what he has to do, you know.
Julie Dina: Yeah, but that's not you.
Alessandro Russo: No, I was the good teen.
Julie Dina: We could tell.
David Payne: So really when it comes to, to, to banned books across the whole spectrum, really we're looking at children's books as much as adult books as much as young adult books.
Alessandro Russo: Oh yeah.
David Payne: Is that correct?
Danielle Deaver: Yes. Yeah. Where the Wild Things Are, was challenged and banned when it first came out because the characters were imaginary, which some people thought I believe would be somewhat occult like. And the -- also it was just, it was very real at a time when most picture books and children's books depicted children as being, you know, good little boys and girls. These kid's, you know, hammering nails into walls and chasing the dog and running off to bed and being punished and they just didn't want to deal with it.
Julie Dina: Well, now that you've listed examples of recently banned books, can you tell us which book actually tops many of the banned book list? Let's start with you, Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Honestly, I could not find one clear winner, not over all the years. The classics come up time and time again. Let's see, Harry Potter was challenged more than 3000 times, although it fell off the list in like the early 2000s. And Judy Bloom, who writes books for, I guess, tween and teen girls, wonderful books, she was banned quite frequently. And Maya Angelou has also been banned quite frequently. The Bible actually gets challenged and banned a lot. It was number six on this year's list.
Julie Dina: What?
Danielle Deaver: For religious content. Yes, I thought that was-
Julie Dina: That's, that's what it's for.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Danielle Deaver: And also, I think more recent challenges have objected to, things like the stoning of the homosexual man in a book that I would know if I was better at the Bible.
David Payne: So when it comes to banning books, what are the, or what do you see as the determinating factors that go into banning a book?
Alessandro Russo: So there's a cool feature online that there's, it's not complete, but there's a map of showing the location of where these books have been challenged and banned. And a lot of them are in Bible Belt America, Midwest America. And so I would say just off of that information, location is a major influence, obviously content of the book and being part of the location aspect, the personal beliefs, you know.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah. Just anecdotally, I would say that if you get a big enough group of people who is challenging the book, it's going to be more likely that the ban will go through. But I think Alessandro is right, it's a lot to do with location and just what type of censorship the population supports.
David Payne: And interesting, interesting enough, I think banned books are a pretty much a worldwide phenomenon. It's not just this country, right?
Danielle Deaver: Yes.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: Back to the ancient Greeks.
David Payne: Right?
Danielle Deaver: Yes. And even when they're not officially banned, my manager and I today we're, or we're talking about how customers do sometimes find ways to kind of ban them themselves. One of the branches I worked in had the racier issues of cosmopolitan turned backward so people couldn't see the cover. And she was telling me that at some libraries, the book, Go the F to Sleep was constantly being turned around and once it was moved from new books to the stacks, it just disappeared. And I did a display for Gay Pride Month in the teen section last year, and when I walked past it on the second day, all of the books had been knocked down so that they were, you know, the covers faced, were just down in the bookshelf and you couldn't see them.
Julie Dina: You're sure it wasn't construction?
Danielle Deaver: I don't think it was because the historical fiction display across the way with oddly enough totally fine.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah, I think the most recent experience would be The Fifty Shades series.
David Payne: Yes.
Alessandro Russo: Where those tend to disappear or accidentally get re-shelved somehow in a completely different place.
David Payne: Different place.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah, yeah.
Julie Dina: Which leads me to my next question. Why do you think books get banned, do you think, for offending the sensibilities of mostly one group of people or do many different groups of people have to get involved?
Danielle Deaver: I think that a lot of the people who, you know, write about this and think about it a lot more than I do, use the word fear a lot. And a lot of it is society is changing and the things that are changing in it are scary and people don't want to deal with it, they don't want to read about it and they especially they don't want their children reading about it. The largest group of people who challenge these books are parents. And I think that that, you know kind of says a lot about how we think of childhood as a protected time, that isn't quite realistic.
Alessandro Russo: And one of my favorite quotes is from a Simpson’s character saying, "Think of the children." And so when I see a banned book or I hear about a banned book, that's the first thing that comes to mind.
Danielle Deaver: "Think about the children."
Julie Dina: Exactly.
David Payne: But that leads me to my next question. I'm going to put you both, both on the spot and ask you, have either of you ever been tempted to, to ban or challenge a book? And if so, what's your response to yourself? I'll start with, with Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: So absolutely not to the first part of that question. Even I remember in library school, we were discussing about challenged books and what happens if you find, if there's a book out there that tells you how to put a bomb together? There are certain limitations to that. And the overall idea is if the book is going to cause harm to someone or is going to hurt someone in a non-psychological manner, then it's okay.
David Payne: Mm-hmm.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah, I've never been tempted to ban a book, although like Alessandro said, I mean, a lot of these, you know, if somebody writes an entire book about, you know, how to build a nuclear bomb, like he said, like, I mean, we're not going to buy it. So a lot of that kind of takes place before the book ever reaches me. But when it comes to like fiction and that kind of stuff where it's more of a judgment call, I think every person reads every book differently almost to the point where they read a different book than I would. And so, I don't feel that I need to tell them what to read, they can choose.
Julie Dina: Well, I'll start with you Alessandro because I know before the program started, you mentioned the answer to this question. Does banning a book actually encourage more people to read it?
Alessandro Russo: I believe so. And then, I don't have a psychological explanation why, but I'm going to go based off of kind of that idea when you tell someone don't do something, they're going to do the complete opposite. That, that movement it's kind of increasing too as you know, more, more diverse books get challenged and banned and kind of go against the grain of society. So.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah, I agree. I think it does, it makes them more attractive to people because they feel like they're doing something daring.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: And also, I mean I think people are starting to realize that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that address important topics. There's a group called Commonsense Media and it's a nonprofit that advocates for kind of using technology and media in a positive way for children. And it gives like ratings for various TV shows and movies and stuff. And they published an article last year encouraging families to read banned books together because it was a good way to get into these sometimes difficult but really important topics.
David Payne: So again, putting you both on the spot, can you tell us what your favorite banned books are and, and why? Let's start with you Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Oh, I have to go with the, the really obvious answer, which is the Harry Potter series.
Alessandro Russo: Oh, Harry Potter, yeah.
Danielle Deaver: I just love them for the same -- you know, I think the -- what people saw as maybe witchcraft to me was just total escapism.
Alessandro Russo: I will go with a graphic novel, i-it's the Bone Series by Jeff Smith. And I believe they got banned originally because of political views and there was some cry because there was racism and violence.
Julie Dina: And down to our final question, it's actually traditional on our show for us to ask this final question, what are you both currently reading? Let's start with-
David Payne: Banned books or otherwise.
Danielle Deaver: Right now I'm reading a book called Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano. And I actually checked it out, it was an eBook from the Overdrive app at the Kendall County Library system.
Alessandro Russo: So I usually juggle a few books at the time, but the one that I've been deep into is Jim, it's a biography, Jim Henson by Brian Jones. And it's a fascinating book and it goes beyond the Muppets Incorporate and gets perspective of everyone he has worked with, his family, a recommended read if you're a biography enthusiast.
Julie Dina: Well, I would like to say a big thank you for coming on the program today. Thank you so much for being our guests. Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts, we'll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Lauren Martino: Hello listeners welcome to Library Matters. My name is Lauren Martino and I'm your host today. And today we're talking about the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. And with me today is Dr. Jackson Bryer who's been involved with the festival from the very beginning in 1996 and who has edited several books about F. Scott Fitzgerald, welcome Dr. Bryer.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Hi.
Lauren Martino: We also have with us Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, Professor Emerita at Concordia, Saint Paul, which is the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald. We have with us as well Eric Carzon, who's the Branch Manager of the Twinbrook library and also very involved in this festival. Welcome Ellie.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Thank you, good to be here.
Lauren Martino: And welcome Eric.
Eric Carzon: Thanks, good to be here.
Lauren Martino: So Dr. Bryer, can you tell us a little bit about what the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival is?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it's as you said it started in 1996, which was the centennial year of F. Scott Fitzgerald's birth. And in that year the City of Rockville decided they wanted to do something to commemorate Fitzgerald who is buried in Rockville. We can talk about that a little later as to why he is here. And they appointed a group of citizens from the community to organize what I think they anticipated would be a one-year celebration of him. And we did that in 1996 and it was so successful that we've been doing it ever since.
It started as a one-day event and has now become a three-day event in the sense that there are programs on Thursday afternoon sponsored by one of our partners the Friends of the Library. And an event on Friday night at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then the main event here in Rockville all day Saturday. So it's a three-day festival. It is in many ways sort of a dual event in that it honors Fitzgerald. But it also honors writers both established writers who we honor every year with the F. Scott Fitzgerald award and also encourages younger writers of all ages to pursue writing of various kinds.
We have writing workshops and there are other programs where we frequently show a film. We also have master classes and we have in recent years affiliated very closely with the Montgomery County Public Schools and we can talk about that as well.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And the number of the writers who have been honored from really panoply of the great writers of our century beginning with William Styron, John Barth, and another Marylander and even a fantastic novelist, E. L. Doctorow. So many of them are gone now, so that it's wonderful that we had them and that fledgling writers got to meet them and talk to them and go to a master class with them.
Lauren Martino: You’ve gotten over twenty years of writers you’ve honored in this festival.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And the last year was Annie Proulx, she was terrific.
Lauren Martino: So when are the dates of the festival?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: It begins on the afternoon of October 18th at Strathmore Mansion with a program in the afternoon. It continues on Friday night October 19th at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then all day Saturday October 20th at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.
Lauren Martino: Eric can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s role in this festival?
Eric Carzon: Sure, yeah MCPL is very pleased to be part of the committee this year. And we've planned several events throughout the library system to compliment the festival. So the first one that's coming up is Tuesday, September 18th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library. And so we'll be doing our Twinbrook Library book discussion group.
And we're going to discuss Richard Russo's book Trajectory and Richard Russo is this year's honoree at the festival. So if you want to be part of the book discussion group, you can give the branch a call at 240-777-0240, or just show up at the program, try to read the book of course before you come, but --.
Lauren Martino: That always helps.
Eric Carzon: We’ll take everybody who comes.
Lauren Martino: But you're going to spoil the end.
Eric Carzon: Yeah. And then on Monday, September 24th at 07:00 PM which is F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, The Rockville Memorial Library is going to have a screening of Bernice Bobs Her Hair, which is a movie that was inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story of the same title. We’ll also have a little bit of birthday cake courtesy of the Friends of the Library Montgomery County. And we’ll be showing it using MCPL’s new streaming movie service called Canopy, which people can access online by the way as well.
On Thursday, September 27th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library Ellie and Jackson who are here today are going to discuss the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, Winter Dreams and Babylon Revisited. And then on Saturday, October 6th at 03:00 PM at the Twinbrook Library, we're going to show the movie Benjamin Button, which is also inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. And then we'll have a discussion afterwards with members of the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival planning committee.
And then finally on Thursday, October 11th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library, the three student finalists from this year's F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival Short Story Writing Contest will be invited to read and discuss their short stories with the audience.
Lauren Martino: Are there other events related to the festival going on elsewhere?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: There's luncheon that is given at the Strathmore Mansion that Jackson mentioned the three-day event, so that's on a Thursday. Reservations do need to be made through the Friends of the Library. And it's a smaller event, but I think that the room perhaps hold 60, so people do need to make a reservation, but it does get you in the spirit of the event and then on Friday at the Writer’s Center, Jenny Boylan who's going to introduce Richard Russo, the next day will be there to be honored herself.
She is very interesting writer I don't know what you know about her, but she has made some important changes in our life and she'll be there with other writers who will read in the honor of Jenny Boylan and Richard Russo. So it's really literary rich time. And then on Saturday the number of people who are doing workshop, six different local writers are with these more fledgling writers in small groups. They're coming and they range from Ethelbert Miller to --.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Susan Coll.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes and her husband.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Patricia Browning Griffith. There are two fiction workshops, two nonfiction workshops. Margaret Talbot who is a staff writer for The New Yorker is going to --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: To be honored.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Do going to do a nonfiction workshop as the Ethelbert Miller is doing a memoir workshop and Susan Coll and her husband, Paul Goldberg are doing fiction workshops as well. So there's a little something for everybody that's for beginning writers and immediate writers, anybody who is interested. We try each year to have a theme. This year in honor of Richard Russo, who has done a lot of work with first generation immigrant writers in his native state of Maine, in his honor we've kind of structured some of the festival around the theme of literature without borders.
And two other writers who are reading on Friday night at the Writer’s Center, not Jenny Boylan, but the other two writers are themselves not native to this country and are in sense immigrant writers. And so we want in some ways to stress that we think that's very important. I'm sure Richard Russo will speak about that and about the program that he is involved in in Maine that encourages young first generation Americans to write about their experiences.
Lauren Martino: So we have a lot of busy people in Montgomery County and there will be people that can only do maybe one or two of these events. What would you – okay, let's do it for writers and for non-writers because it sounds like there's a lot of things out there, if you are a writer what is the one event you wouldn't want to miss.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I think you wouldn't want to miss the writer workshops and the master class, those are on Saturday. And you go to ‘FScottfestival’ all one word ‘.org’ and make your reservation for that. You do need to sign up for a writing workshop, a specific one because they are contained, they are small. The event I don't think we said where it is, it’s in Richard Montgomery High School which is large – as large – some large and some small classrooms just rather perfect for our uses and a large parking lot. And it’s very easy to find, its right out Rockville pike. It's very easy.
So if you want the master class I mean if you want the workshops, you do need to register. But there also people can come in and there is a registration fee it's very modest. But you can come in for anything, you can come in just to hear Russo or you can come in in the morning and see the movie at which she will be present to talk about it. There are two wonderful movies made of his books, The Empire Falls and Everybody’s Fool, wonderful movies and we're going to have one of those.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Nobody’s fool, it's Nobody’s Fool.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Nobody’s fool.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And he'll be talking about the film after the film is presented. Also in order to maintain the connection with the F. Scott Fitzgerald, we're very-very pleased this year that F. Scott Fitzgerald's granddaughters, Eleanor Lanahan and Cecilia Ross have agreed to come to the festival. They came to one of the earlier festivals, but they have been back in probably 15 or 20 years and they're coming this year along with Eleanor's daughter, Blake Hazard who is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's great granddaughter and who also now works with her mother and her aunt in administering the Fitzgerald estate. And so they will be participating in a panel discussion on Saturday afternoon talking about what it is like to be the heirs of a great American writer and also what it is like to administer the estate of a great American writer. So we're particularly pleased this year that they're going to be with us.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Blake is also a singer. And they're going to be speaking exactly across the pike from the grave of their great grandfather. You know that both Fitzgeralds and other members of the family I think about six or seven other graves of Fitzgerald’s are right across the street in the Saint Mary's cemetery. There is a tour, but you don't need to take the tour to go to see the graves, anybody can go at any time and park back by the school and see.
So we beat on boats against the current on the gravestone and whatever little goodies people have left bottles, roses, signs, in honor of the Fitzgeralds. Scott was moved there; he was buried in another non-sacred plot close by until his daughter until his wife’s death. And then his daughter and -- I don't know how she arranged it, it's quite amazing because I don't think they were good church goers all their lives, but they are now in St Mary's churchyard.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And so is their daughter?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So can you tell us a little bit about the Fitzgeralds connection to Rockville in Montgomery County. Why were they buried?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, Fitzgerald’s father's family was from Montgomery County and even though Fitzgerald lived most of his life in Midwest and in the east, he always had a real connection to his father's family. And when he died he died very suddenly and unexpectedly. And everybody involved his daughter and his widow all knew that where he wants to be buried was in Montgomery County with his father's family. And as Ellie said he was originally buried in the Union Cemetery not in the church cemetery and so was Zelda. And then I think in the middle of seventies maybe their daughter arranged to have them move to Saint Mary's which is where many of the other parts of the family are, but it's true his father's family that he has the connection with Montgomery County and he came here often to visit. And he lived in Baltimore for fairly long period of his life, so he has that Maryland connection as well.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And close by Washington to, I believe his parents were married there actually.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, yeah. So that's the connection. And as Ellie said the last -- this is the second time we've been at Richard Montgomery with the festival. And you can literally look out the windows of the Richard Montgomery High School Library and see the graveyard where the Fitzgerald plot is. So you couldn't be in a more appropriate spot for an F. Scott Fitzgerald festival.
Lauren Martino: I wonder what it would be like to go to school in that place and then live in the shadow of this and your English teachers can always keep pointing to it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: It would be wonderful. I hope they all know that where the -- how close they are to a great legend, one of our great, maybe if you name five of the greatest I would put Fitzgerald in there.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Maybe they work that into their paper grading, F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried here, you can do better. D-.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: When you go there that spot is in the middle of a terrible traffic pattern and when you're standing there in that little graveyard, every time I've been there it seems peaceful somehow. It's quite remarkable and there is a kind of sacred quality about it. His mother actually died in Montgomery County.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: We're also very pleased that we have a increasingly close connection with the Montgomery Public Schools. We have for many years had two short story contest as part of the festival; one for -- is open to anyone who lives in the DC Maryland, Virginia area and the other is open to students in Montgomery County. And we gave two awards; well actually we gave an award for a winner in each contest and a couple of runners up in each contest.
Also in the last few years, we have asked each Montgomery County Public High School to name one of their students an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar and those individual students attend the festival as our guest. They have special programs with the honoree and with other special people, master classes. They receive a book signed by the honoree and also they get a certificate indicating that they have been selected as an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar.
So that’s quite a distinction and almost every high school last year name somebody as a Fitzgerald scholar and we're hoping I mean we usually have between 15 and 20 high school students who attend. The winner of the high school short story contest does get to speak at the festival. And as Eric said this year we're very excited because the libraries are going to have a program where all the finalists, the three finalists for the student short story contest will be able to read their stories and speak about them at the public library as Eric mentioned.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And nobody will know who the winner is, of course see that will heighten the interest. We hope that everybody who hears the stories will want them to come to here who was named though the actual winner of that contest. Stories are wonderful. Last year's story was just a marvelous, intercultural story, an intergenerational story, very sensitive story. So I'm looking forward. They're printed in our program too.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Is it too late to enter the contest? When does the—
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think the student short story contest deadline has passed, but I think the adult or open short story contest deadline is August 11th.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So for next year, yeah.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Is past, but people should keep it in mind for next year.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: They should practice.
Lauren Martino: About a year to work on it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Can you imagine for your college entrance, I mean intrinsic reward of the honor is great. But also it does not look bad on your college application.
Lauren Martino: Who knows maybe you'll have an honoree for the F. Scott Fitzgerald award one year that's previously won the short story contest.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: In 2040?
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Winner, let me look that.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, one year when we applied for a grant, one of their letters of support was from a previous winner of the short story contest who has gone on to become a fairly accomplished short story writer and he testified to how important winning the festival's short story contest have been in his career.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: He is not a young person, I mean he is an adult who has submitted a story one and was very encouraged by that, and he’s continued to write. I mean one of the things that could easily happen and he would be a perfect candidate. He could very easily be one of our workshop leaders some day and that would be a wonderful succession of having a previous short story winner be the workshop leader in a fiction workshop.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: That such a good idea we should put that on our agenda. I think that's a wonderful idea. When I go back to the family a moment if I may because I think we left this out, it's pretty important. Francis Scott Key of course is an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Lauren Martino: Really.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Hence his name.
Lauren Martino: Fitzgerald.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes and of course Maryland. So that's very important Maryland connection.
Lauren Martino: Are there other any references to Maryland or to Montgomery County in any of their works.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I think there's a beautiful one. Jack will elaborate on this, he probably knows the passage by heart but Dick Diver in Tender is the Night which is autobiographical of the marriage particularly much more so than the Great Gatsby as you probably know. But he goes home – his father dies and he goes home which is – I don't remember if the place is actually named but I always get the sense of coming back to Montgomery County. It's a southern place in the novel. And he thinks about tradition and his fine father is having a crisis in his own life and he remembers his father's strong ethos. It's a very moving passage and one of the most autobiographical I think in all of Fitzgerald is about the middle of the book.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah I mean the passage is something -- he also wrote a very famous essay about his father when his father died. I mean it's kind of ironic because his father was a terrible failure as a businessman and as a wage earner. But it's interesting because his mother was by far the dominant person in his life and his mother's family supported Fitzgerald. And his father for most of his life because his father -- his grandfather on his mother's side was a very successful I guess you'd say grocer; he ran a grocery store and he died – very relatively young and left quite a bit of money.
Fitzgerald's father on the other hand never could keep a job, but Fitzgerald learned from his father what you might call the graces of the south. I mean he said at one point maybe in this essay I can't remember that he always referred judgments to his father because he always thought his father had that sense of noblesse oblige and southern grace that he admired and you know that cut across whether he was successful or not.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Actually when you think about the Great Gatsby begins with a reference to the next father, I don't know, you know my father taught me to reserve all judgment. I don't know whether that came from Fitzgerald’s own father or not but it is an homage to fathers.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and so his father represented something very important to him beyond whether he was successful. I mean he never got over -- Fitzgerald never got over when his father lost his job. They lived in upstate New York for a while, and he came home one day and said he lost his job. And Fitzgerald was very young at the time probably seven or eight years old and he said that was a devastating moment in his life. But he still remained – had a tremendous respect for his father.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The issue of money of course is so central in all of Fitzgerald's work in most 20th century fiction I guess. But his first biography -- one of his first biographers, Malcolm Cowley, I think it was who said that F. Scott Fitzgerald resembled the little boy at the candy store window with his nose pressed against it looking and not able to afford what was within, just a kind of devastatingly sad picture and not untrue.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah I mean he grew up I mean all you have to know about Fitzgerald is to go to Saint Paul and see where his house was. And his house was across the street from the backyards of all the biggest houses in Saint Paul and he was -- his friends, his playmates were all the children of Saint Paul's richest and most successful citizens. And because of his grandfather's money, he was able to go to a very good private school. But he was always aware that he was not one of them and he was always aspiring in a way to be one of them at the same time is realizing that was never going to be possible. And all his work is filled with that sort of double sense of envy and regret that you find just by seeing the physical situation in Saint Paul.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And his story, the rich boy, of course starts with one of the most famous served catalogs of why the rich are different. It's the one that Hemingway made fun of. but it's much more true than Hemingway's attacked on it. The rich are different.
Lauren Martino: And it's suppose around here there's a lot of that that resonates just with the extreme wealth we have --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: These days.
Lauren Martino: Yeah especially in the DC area.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: We ought to say something about Richard Russo who is this year's honoree. He is a marvelous, marvelous novelist; Empire Falls which won the Pulitzer Prize is probably his most famous book, but he has got several other wonderful books.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I've been reading the older books now, I’ve read Everybody and Nobody's Fool. Now I'm reading Bridge of Sighs. It did get an award, but I don't -- I think it got overshadowed later.
Lauren Martino: There's a warmth to him. He loves his characters. There's humor. He puts them in ridiculous situations. In Bridge of Sighs, a little boy gets stuck in a trunk and people make love over the trunk. And I mean that’s the beginning of the book.
Lauren Martino: He loves such a crazy situation, yeah, really.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You know, the situations people get in and he pulls them out of them with the most loving, that's the word -- maybe that's too sloppy a word Jackson, but I get the sense that he loves his characters and he loves America.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, he's also written one of the funniest novels about academic life called Straight Man which is based on his long experience as a college teacher. It's a very-very funny novel. The other thing about Richard Russo that I'm particularly looking forward to hear -- in my experience he is one of the most articulate writers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. What I mean is there a lot of writers who are brilliant writers, but who don't necessarily talk that well about what they do that doesn't mean they're not good writers they just write, they don't talk about it.
Richard Russo talks beautifully about the art of writing, the art of fiction, about teaching. And I'm really looking forward to his master class where he'll talk about the craft of writing and will answer questions. I don't know anybody I go to a lot of readings where writers come to town with their books. I don't know anybody who is more interesting and more articulate in a Q&A than Richard Russo. So I recommend that as one of the features of this year's festival. I'm really looking forward to. And he is a wonderful person as Ellie says in his books you can feel that.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You wrote a memoir about his -- it's ostensibly about his mother. But of course he is the other major character and he is a professor and writer in the book. So there you get a lot of the pressures on a writer, time pressures and how you advance in academia and how you blend that with the needs of your family. Again, the portrait of his mother is affectionate and a slightly humorous ironic. And it's a wonderful book, it's a wonderful memoir.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think we have to say something about Jenny Boylan. We ask the honoree every year who he would like to have introduced him or her at the event and it's usually another writer and we try to honor that request. And this year Richard Russo ask the Jenny Boylan be asked to introduce him.
Jenny Boylan is a Professor at Barnard College in New York, but for many years she was James Boylan at Colby College. One of his colleagues and she underwent a sex change about 15 or 20 years very publicly. She has written about it. And so has Richard Russo written about the trauma that he went through had seeing his best friend become a woman in a way and how difficult that was for him initially and now they obviously have maintained the friendship. And I'm really looking forward to meeting Jenny Boylan, as I say she has written a couple of books about her experiences. And I think people will be interested in her story as well as in Richard Russo's.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: By the way you said the word books gives me a chance to say that thanks to Montgomery County Library. We will be selling books by all of the workshop people, Richard Russo of course and Jenny Boylan.
Lauren Martino: The Friends of the Library will be selling this.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes, at the Saturday event.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And also on the Friday event.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And the writers are usually very-very willing to sign copies of their books and to -- writers always like to see their books sold. And if signing them will help sell them, they'll do it.
Lauren Martino: So how do you choose the recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald award every year? Who does the choosing?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well the committee, the committee basically talks it over each year and we come up – I mean I have to admit that sometimes we ask somebody and they can't do it. And so then we have to go to another choice, although in recent years it's very interesting when we first started out we were very lucky we got a couple of very good writers at the very beginning. And then people began to turn us down because we don't offer a lot of money and there isn't much prestige.
But then as we began to honor certain writers, other writers who had previously turned us down suddenly were willing to come. I mean I very fondly remember John Updike refusing us until we gave the award to Norman Mailer. He somehow found it in his schedule to be possible to come to Rockville and get the award. As Ellie said we've had just a star studded array of writers over the years. I think we're now up to 14 Pulitzer Prize. Well, not 14 different writers, but 14 Pulitzer Prizes won by the writers that we have honored.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The real reason we have these people, they're willing to come here that they know Jackson Bryer who has edited their work or introduce them in some other context. And so we sit at the meeting and Jackson says, “Why don't I write so and so,” and we say, “Oh, sounds like a very good idea.”
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, that's partially true, but also the festival now has become well enough known. So that when we invite a writer, they know who the other writers are that we've honored and they are very pleased to be on the list now. So I think that's part of it too.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I noticed that Richard Russo's book – no, no, I noticed that Robert Olen Butler’s book, I just read another one of his mysteries and it features the F. Scott Fitzgerald award on the back of the, you know, on his credits.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Oh, which is it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Biography it is featured along with the Pulitzer.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, last year we honored Annie Proulx and this year the national book festival in September 1st is honoring Annie Proulx. They got the idea from us for sure.
Lauren Martino: Are there any other previous honorees you'd like to mention?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, two years ago we honored Garrison Keillor who is a great Fitzgerald fan. And he very generously agreed to do a program on Friday night at Strathmore. And he donated the entire receipts from that event, which we split with Strathmore. And as you can imagine filling Strathmore brought in a great deal of money and we're not a particularly wealthy organization. And because of his generosity, we are in much better financial shape than we were before he did that. And I know he has had some trouble since then, but we remain extremely grateful to him for that.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And he was wonderful with the high school students. He refused to let anybody other than the high school students for that part of the day the next day. And you could hear this laughter – all these high school students and they never did tell us what they talked about it. But he charmed them and he certainly charmed us and --.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well and when we introduced the Fitzgerald scholars which is the group that he met with, he knew something about every single one of those students and had talked to each of them individually. So given the difficulties he has been having I think it needs to be said that he certainly was a model honoree for us.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He was indeed. He was wonderful. And I should mention that there's one local honoree, wonderful-wonderful writer I'm sure you know Alice McDermott. She has been an honoree and she is also participated in other parts of the festival, otherwise there's no geographical limit to where we find the people. But it’s wonderful to have her be part of it.
Lauren Martino: I have a confession to make I have not read any F. Scott Fitzgerald since high school and I did not enjoy the Great Gatsby in high school. Is there anything you can say to all of those people like out there like me who have just not taken a look at F. Scott Fitzgerald since their, you know, adolescent brains were –
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, I think you need to look, read them as an adult.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You grown into him.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think I'm retired as a college teacher and I now teach adults, Ellie does too. And the difference between reading when you're 15, 16 and 17 years old and when you're an adult is a very different experience. I don't guarantee that you would love Fitzgerald now, but I think you are to give him another chance because I think after you've lived a little while you might see things in him. Also The Great Gatsby is I think a great novel not because of its story or not because of anything other than how beautifully written.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Style.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Just is almost, you can read The Great Gatsby almost the way you read a poem word for word. It's just beautifully-beautifully written and I think you should give it another chance. But you could also start with some of his short stories which are obviously briefer and can be read more quickly. And you know he may not be to your taste, but he seems to be to the taste of a lot of, as I said a lot of modern writers who admire him a great deal.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The style is magnificent and of course he rewrote so many times. Gradual dissertations have been written on comparing version one degree -- Version 7.
Lauren Martino: Version 7.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The green light didn't appear at first as it does in the beginning, it just appeared later. And his wonderful editor, Maxwell Perkins relationship is so famous that there's a whole separate movie about Maxwell Perkins suggested that it become a motif and he put it in. There was a big debate about the title of the book that is very revealing about what he thought of the book because it didn't begin as The Great Gatsby. There are a number of other titles among Ash Heaps and Millionaires for example.
But as Jackson said the story of people with varying degrees of selfishness and jealousy and desires is wonderful on one level. And although my daughter when she read it when she was too young she said, at age 15 she said, “I think they're very immature people”. That was my impression too. But then you read it and you realize well of course that's the point in a way I mean Daisy is not worth it the dream but to have such a dream. And then to couch it in language which is poetic. I've heard it read well, Jackson has seen the play which is the whole book.
And in Saint Paul, Garrison Keillor again arranged a reading of the entire book all one day with famous people reading each chapter. When you hear it and you can't skim, you can't skip over anything. You realize that it's a, there's humor in it that you missed the first time, little ironic twist stuck in and there's just great beauty. And these lists of things are all interesting in themselves, you know the guests who come, their names and so forth. And then there are historical people and then the man who fixed the World Series, for example you learn a little bit of history if you have a good English teacher. I taught high school before I taught college at Stone Ridge.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: For 18 years. So there are hundreds and hundreds of young women out there who have -- I hope have a happy version of the book.
Lauren Martino: Do you think that's a plug for listening to the audiobook verses reading it, would this make a good audiobook just because you can't skip over the language.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I like to do that because you -- I think you need both. But yes you do hear things differently and you don't miss it if you are attentive, you don't miss anything so and you don't mind traffic jams or doing the dishes or whatever it is that's mindless while you listen.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it show that Ellie was referring to is a show called gats in which the elevator repair service, theatre company had an actor who read the entire text of Gatsby while other actors were silently acting out parts of the book. And this year pleasure of hearing this actor read the book. He didn't act the book, he just read it. He didn't attempt to act the roles, he just simply sat there and read the book and it was incredible.
And as Ellie said it brought out how very humors in a clever way Fitzgerald's languages. There were a lot of laughs in that audience and a lot of chuckles and it was an incredible experience just to hear the book read out loud.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: In some way it is more satisfying than the movies.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Oh the movies, yeah. The movies can’t because the book isn't really a great book because of the story. It's a book -- it's a great book because of the way it's written and the movies can't convey that. They've tried with having voice over say some of mixed lines but you just can't convey, it’s a different medium, you can't convey it.
Lauren Martino: Are there any particular movies based on Fitzgerald books that you think are particularly well done or particularly poorly done, which you’d like to talk about?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it's interesting I don't think that the movie versions of the Great Gatsby, the two most recent ones are all that bad.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I love the Robert Redford movie.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, I -- there -- it's interesting because each generation does a version of The Great Gatsby that is that generation’s version of The Great Gatsby. And each version is slightly different because each version is made by a movie maker who sees different things in the book. And I thought Baz Luhrmann’s version the most recent one was really quite good.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I hated it.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, I know a lot of people did.
Lauren Martino: Why did you hate it?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: It was too noisy and too big and there was a psychiatrist who's not in the book and bunch of things like that. But we showed -- Jackson arranged for us to see the Alan Ladd version that’s a 1940 or something.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: It ’45 or ’46, I can’t remember.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Which completely changes the story, it’s black and white in it.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, but it's a gangster movie.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Because that was what was popular, you know, it starts with a silent stretch of film where some people do a gangland killing. And I assume you're supposed to believe that Gatsby's henchmen are doing that. And it's just a completely forties version of Gatsby. And in a way I mean I certainly respect Ellie’s opinion of Baz Luhrmann’s movie but each generation should interpret the novel the way that generation wants to interpret it.
A book isn't static, a book, you know, a book means different things to different people. And it means different things to different movie producers and directors and writers. And the very fact that it's been done so many different times says something about its enduring power.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: There had been a couple of television, many episode ones like six hour depictions which have been good to.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and you know there's a movie of Tender is the Night that's pretty awful. And but – again, it was a testimony to the fact that somebody thought it was worth doing. And there've been dramatic versions of both I mean Gatsby was made into a play in the twenties and it's been adapted into a play by a contemporary playwright. And I've seen it and it's pretty good. He is smart enough to remain pretty faithful to the book.
I think that same playwright is done it adaptation of Tender is the Night. Fitzgerald seems to hold an appeal for people part of the reason obviously he holds an appeal for people is that his and Zelda's life story is kind of interesting. I mean people, you know, there's a certain glamour involved with the Fitzgerald’s --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: They defined the Jazz Age.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and so people are interested for that reason but one --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He also wanted to be a playwright, I mean he did write plays, not successfully [Indiscernible] [00:41:46].
Dr. Jackson Bryer: He wrote one very unsuccessful, but --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He wrote them when he was a kid.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, he did and he also wrote plays at Princeton. He wrote the triangle club plays, but you know part of the reason he survives is Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald are one of the most glamorous literary couples of the 20th century.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And tragic.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And tragic and somewhat hard to understand like all marriages it's a mystery and it's fascinating to people. But one would hope that if they're attracted by the story of their lives that they'll sit down and read the books and see that the real value is in the books.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The President, the new president who is taking over from Jackson of our committee is undertaking a study of Zelda's art, the visual art. And I think she'll have a good book someday about it. And she gave a lecture at Twinbrook which was wonderful I thought. You know everything -- she fascinates people and to the extent that they know more about her I just think people will turn to the books more they will see details in there. In the diver marriage in Tender is the Night, there is a lot of the real Zelda.
Lauren Martino: So we like to ask all of our guests at the end of the episode, what are you reading right now, we'll start with Eric.
Eric Carzon: I am currently reading a short book it's called ‘The Poet Slave of Cuba’ and it’s fascinating. So it's a story of this poet, he is a Cuban poet and he was a slave as well. And it just -- so it's sort of an autobiographical poem about his life.
Lauren Martino: Like a book length poem?
Eric Carzon: Yeah, I mean it’s a fairly short book, but yeah it is fascinating read and it's just a very-very odd situation for this poor person, because he was a slave and then the rich slave owner sort of saw something in him, so he sort of ripped him away from his parents. And you know, gave him a lot of opportunities, but he is still a slave. Like even at some point in the story the slave owner who is a little crazy, frees his mother and father, but keeps him as a slave. So like he is a slave and his parents are free and he can't be free until she dies and it just goes south from there. So very fascinating story so far and I'm about I guess two-thirds of the way through.
Lauren Martino: All right, thanks Eric. How about you Jack.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, I just finished reading Anne Tyler's most recent book ‘Clock Dance’ and I'm a great Anne Tyler fan. We'd love to get her to the festival, but she doesn't go anyplace so. We've tried and now I'm reading a novel by a man name Kent Haruf called Benediction and -- which I'm liking very much. But I certainly recommend Anne Tyler to anybody who has never read her work. She's quite something and she's local. She writes mostly about Baltimore.
Lauren Martino: Ellie what are you reading.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I'm reading Richard Russo. Everything I can get and I’m so enjoying that the characters are so marvelous. But I'm also going back to Robert Olen Butler who was – he has participated in two separate years and he started writing mysteries that are, sort of crime espionage stories that are set in World War I with, you know, Zeppelins and a character whose mother plays Hamlet.
Lauren Martino: Oh wow.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: His mother plays Hamlet. And it's really great fun and so I have read a couple of those for entertainment. He is a person who is written very serious books about Vietnam experience, you know, veterans and so forth and love stories. But he is also written some wild far out things like a collection of short stories based on imagined and real enquirer headlines, you know, tomato speaks for the child and the family or you know, really very strange stories. He has got a great imagination, so that’s fun.
Lauren Martino: So he is just trying to come up with a situation where this would make sense.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: One of the things about this festival is and I think Jackson so much for inviting me to be part of it, he was one of my advisors at Maryland. But one of the great things is you get to know the authors who come and because you know you're going to be meeting them, you want to know their work. And for example I wouldn't -- I don't think I would've read works about a sports writer like Richard Ford, but what a deeply satisfying experience it is to read his novels and that was, you know, the work of another summer for example. And then I really -- James Salter who wrote about Flying Aces in Korea.
Again sort of guy fiction, but it turned out no, no, not so, they're universal and they're wonderful. And having the privilege of taking him to the grave to see the Fitzgerald grave shortly before his own death – shortly after our festival is something that personally I treasure a great deal.
Lauren Martino: Eric, Jackson and Ellie, thank you so much for your time today and sharing your wealth of knowledge. We really enjoyed this conversation and I am so glad we could have you here today.
Eric Carzon: Thank you. Thank you, it’s our pleasure and we also hope to see you at the MCPL events and at the festival.
Lauren Martino: Yes. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review us and rate us on Apple podcasts. We'd love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Lauren Martino: Hello, listeners, this is Lauren Martino, host of this Library Matters episode. Before we get started, I want to let you know that this episode is all about true crime and includes discussion of murder and other related unpleasantries. So be advised if you have any sensitive listeners or children around while playing this episode. Okay, let’s get started.
Welcome to Library Matters. I’m your host Lauren Martino and I’m here today with Carol Reddan who is the Library Associate at Only Library and also a true crime enthusiast. [00:00:30] Welcome Carol.
Carol Reddan: Thank you.
Lauren Martino: So I must admit this is not an area I'm well versed in. I'm a children’s librarian and there is only so much children’s true crime out there, but Carol, well, how do you define the true crime genre?
Carol Reddan: Probably best to keep it super, super simple and literal, a book that talks about, investigates, delves into a true crime. So obviously a lot of the time that’s going to be murder [00:01:00] or something violent like that, but also I am really into white-collar crime too. A fabulous book I read fairly recently was “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis that they made the motion picture out of with Steve Carell. It’s fabulous. It went into the whole before the 2008 real estate crash what was going on in real estate in Florida, just as interesting, just as drawing you in, so…
Lauren Martino: So it’s fascinating because, yeah, you think about [00:01:30] brutal murders and serial killers and…
Carol Reddan: Nope the broad definition delving into a crime that has – I like the fact that what draws me in is this really happened. I have a young niece who – when you give her toys or whatnot or books or whatever and she is like five and she is like, “Did this really happen? Did this really happen?” And that’s the thing about nonfiction. It adds so much to it. It really happened. That’s – it’s nobody made it up. [00:02:00] It really happened. That adds…
Lauren Martino: It’s crazier than anything…
Carol Reddan: It adds that it gives it this extra, hmm, it happened.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. What gets you excited about true crime books. What makes you pick them up over, say, a mystery or horror books or something?
Carol Reddan: I'm just drawn to them and part of it I think is I particularly like unsolved.
Lauren Martino: Unsolved?
Carol Reddan: That, yeah, unsolved like the zodiac. It’s just – [00:02:30] it’s a puzzle. It’s a puzzle to solve, even once that – the outcome is known. It's fascinating to watch the piecing together of it, the investigators, something happened in exact certain way and we either won’t know about it or maybe we’ll be able to go back. Investigators will be able to piece it together. But something happened in exact way. One act followed another and it’s a challenge of puzzle to piece that altogether and [00:03:00] find out how it happened the layout, exactly how it happened. It’s basically the thrill of solving a puzzle.
Lauren Martino: Because nobody else has solved.
Carol Reddan: It’s a big question mark. But a lot of the famous ones are things that have teased and tantalize people for decades and forever. And Lizzie Borden is technically, we would say, unsolved. Someone did this. It happened a certain way. Someone killed her parents [00:03:30] on this hot summer afternoon and she was found not guilty and people have speculated so many different theories. It could happen this way. It could happen that way. But really on that afternoon it happened one way and we just don’t know what it is and that just drives you crazy.
Lauren Martino: I guess it’s like the John F. Kennedy assassination where people have speculated and speculated for the decades.
Carol Reddan: Quadrillions of words written about that and the speculation and the different scenarios and yet on that afternoon there was [00:04:00] one set of events that happened in a certain way and it’s become so convoluted. We probably never know what that precise sequence of events was, but, yeah.
Lauren Martino: Do you find that most authors of these unsolved crime books try to come up with their own theory of what they think happened or do they really leave it up to you?
Carol Reddan: A lot of them tem really do. I think they do and sometimes I think they feel artificially compelled to do so and it ends up not so great. I’ve read some things Lizzie Borden [00:04:30] like they come up with that. Her sister was 20 miles away in another town visiting relatives, but one author took the tact that she came back and she actually did it, not Lizzie Borden. So sometimes I think they are going out of their way to come up with something novel, something new
Some people, some authors I think are just contrarians. A really famous case I’ve always followed is the Jeffrey MacDonald case with the Fort Bragg military [00:05:00] physician who killed his wife and two children. And it is like the most litigated case in history. He keeps appealing and he is going back and forth. But initially he had a military trial, which they let him go. But his wife’s father stayed on it so much that he was brought to a criminal trial and found guilty.
And, yeah, I followed that a lot and a lot of authors like Joe McGinniss wrote one of the first landmark true crime books [00:05:30] Fatal Vision which was also like a miniseries and I remember watching that. It was just fascinating. But a lot of authors I think feel compelled to come back and say, “No, he didn’t.” They will look and they’ll argue for evidence the other way, but I guess it keeps it interesting.
Lauren Martino: What first got you into true crime? Is there a book that really sort of lit the flame for you or–?
Carol Reddan: Well, in third grade, well, this sort of I guess was the start of it for my birthday, my mother gave me my first Nancy Drew book. [00:06:00] Does it sound, well – but she gave me that. It was the Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion and then just from there out, mystery was like – I love the camaraderie of Nancy and Bess and George going to the mansion everyday trying to figure out what was going on. And I thought it was terribly scary and moaning and screeching coming from the mansion, but that set me on the mystery course.
So then – and I do like mystery also, but mysteries, but then I think it was actually [00:06:30] roughly around the same time Helter Skelter and Fatal Vision came out. They are both like true crime giants or whatnot and they were just so engrossing and Vincent Bugliosi is the prosecutor who prosecuted Charles Manson and Helter Skelter, I mean, it was just a phenomenal miniseries and book and it was great.
But Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss I thought was just so wonderful. He stayed [00:07:00] with Jeffrey MacDonald while he was being tried for the murder and he just like got to know him in such a way in Fatal Vision he just offers such psychological background and input into his personality and what was going behind the cold blue eyes.
Lauren Martino: The cold blue eyes.
Carol Reddan: Yeah, yeah. It’s scary. And true crime just gives you a window into like you just see people here and there on the street and you never really know [00:07:30] people, what’s behind people. It’s just fascinating what goes on behind people’s mind sometime.
Lauren Martino: What’s the most interesting or unusual crime you’ve ever read about?
Carol Reddan: One of my favorites and because it stays with you because it’s still one of the unsolved ones and we actually did a book club at Only Library on it a few weeks ago is the murder of William Desmond Taylor. So this takes place in the roaring 20s and Hollywood [00:08:00] and he is a very respected famous film director and he is shot one night in his bungalow and they have…
Over the years they’ve had so many suspects, so many theories but it’s never been solved and that one has just always fascinated me because it’s just a part of Hollywood history and there are so many different theories and other actresses, famous silent screen actresses were suspected of the crime. [00:08:30] One actresses mother was suspected of the crime because they were worried – she worried that her daughter was in love with this famous director that she just wanted to quit her career and marry him and have children and that would have stopped the cash flow. So she has always been a big suspect. It’s just so quintessential classic silent screen Hollywood with all the different suspects and that one has always fascinated me.
Lauren Martino: Do you ever find that some true crime books are just [00:09:00] too scary in light of the fact that the events actually took place that just stopped you from reading it?
Carol Reddan: No.
Lauren Martino: No?
Carol Reddan: No. I can always read them, but afterwards it does give you the chills a little bit, but, no, I’ll just always keep on reading through. The one that scares me the most, so one that I think is particularly scary is, it gets me is the Zodiac.
Lauren Martino: Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Carol Reddan: Okay. So the Zodiac was in the mid to late ’60’s in [00:09:30] Northern California or around the San Francisco area and that just terrified that whole area. He basically stalked couples who were parking kind of in lovers lane situations and he was active from like 1966 through 1969 and he would write letters to the San Francisco examiner like taunting them and you can’t catch me [00:10:00] and all that kind of thing.
He just sounded absolutely very, very scary. That one scares me, but they never caught him, but always every couple of years you will hear something like he used to mail letters to the San Francisco examiner. So now they took the stamps off the back of the letters and they put them through DNA analysis and they got a partial profile. So the San Francisco police say like every now and again they run it [00:10:30] through the databases to see if they get a hit, but nothing so far.
Lauren Martino: So far.
Carol Reddan: And every couple of years for sure someone will write a book saying that my father was the Zodiac or something like that. But that’s a real tantalizing one that never caught. But I like the fact that the one I wanted to mention was a new one ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara who was married to Patton Oswalt [00:11:00] and she monikered the Golden State Killer. There was a lot of rapes and killings going on in California in the ’70’s and it just didn’t for some reason get the attention of the Zodiac.
So her feeling was it’s because there is no great moniker for this. So she gave him a moniker and she wrote this book and it came out earlier this year and she passed away shortly after she wrote the book. So detectives [00:11:30] kept running, well, they had some suspects. And through DNA they have caught. The killer has now been arrested and he is going to stay on trial through DNA. So they had their suspects. So they waited for him to go to a restaurant and then they grabbed his utensils and they put it through DNA testing.
So it gives you hope that a lot of these really like unsolved cases with DNA there is hope that they will be solved and I think they did it through a public [00:12:00] generic database because Ancestry and 23andMe, their information is private. But a lot of people have uploaded their DNA to more public databases and if can just get a match on one of their distant relatives which I think happened in this case, they can trace it back. They traced it back to the Golden State Killer.
So it’s just it gives you a lot of hope that a lot of these cold cases that you think, no, they are just never, never, never going to know but maybe [00:12:30] they’ve even tried DNA analysis on a lot of things having to do with Jack the Ripper. Yeah, but time, the chain of evidence and time makes your evidence that you are getting very suspect. But someone bought a saw from an auction that was purported to be from one of the Ripper victims and it had blood on it and so they put it through DNA testing. So who know – if anything will ever come up from that or not.
Lauren Martino: And it’s just able to do more and more. [00:13:00] It's more and more chances…
Carol Reddan: Yeah, if a serial killer in 1969 is licking stamps and sending taunting letters to the newspaper, it’s never on their radar the mere act of me licking the stamp will be my demise in decades from now. Of course they might be long gone, but the Golden State Killer was really surprised when some cop showed up at his door.
Lauren Martino: I bet. Like the serial killers, please use – just a wet wipe or something.
Carol Reddan: I mean, no, you are going to leave something of yourself, you just are. [00:13:30].
Lauren Martino: Do you find yourself watching true crime documentaries or movies based on true crime or podcasts based on true crime? Do you have anything that you’d like to recommend to us?
Carol Reddan: Oh, yeah. I watch – I’ll definitely watch true crime. I love they used to do the miniseries like Fatal Vision and Helter Skelter were great miniseries that were really well done, well-acted and stay true to the books. Those were great. Now it’s the podcasts and I [00:14:00] was just like three years ago serial was just like I was obsessed. I went up to the library. It was – that was fascinating. I love the serial podcast.
Lauren Martino: You went up to the library?
Carol Reddan: The library that figures into the story, so – Adnan, it’s a group of high school students up in Baltimore County and they go to Woodlawn High School which is – the campus is right across the street from the library. So after school the high school kids, tons would just like [00:14:30] funnel over to the library. So – and that was just their routine, their habit.
So years after the murder when they are relooking into this and Adnan is accused of killing his girlfriend Hae Lee, a young lady who was at the library said, “No, you couldn’t have done it, because I saw you at the library at that time.” So they went back and they were trying to go to the library. Do you have any records of paper being on the computer? Now take, this was in 1999 and they were asking this in 2015.
Lauren Martino: Oh, gosh!
Carol Reddan: [00:15:00] So the answer was, “No, we don’t have any records left of the computer usage for that day.” But I went to the library, it gives you a weird feeling to be in a place where you know certain things happened. It’s a ‘ooh’ feeling, yeah.
Lauren Martino: So probably let our listeners know that in most cases any kind of library record is very confidential and…
Carol Reddan: Yeah, they didn’t have anything anyways.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any special way that you look for these books? Do you take recommendations [00:15:30] from friends or the library’s resources you use to find them?
Carol Reddan: Sure. Yeah, I'm always going through our readers’ café new nonfiction and I’ll be seeing it advertised or on TV or whatnot. I heard Patton Oswalt was really doing a lot of interviews because he is a widower and his wife who had died while writing her big true crime book which we are carrying now.
Lauren Martino: Which book is that?
Carol Reddan: ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara. [00:16:00] It’s really, really popular hot right now. So I heard about Patton Oswalt going on a lot of shows promoting the book. So I knew that was coming. Also I got on the odd list early for that and it’s a fascination. It was really well researched, a great book. It’s just a shame that she had to die before she saw that it’s a lot of her intensive effort which put attention back on the case, which probably prompted investigators to look at this again and then solve it.
Lauren Martino: Have you ever had a [00:16:30] situation where a family member or a friend has seen what you are reading and said, “Oh my goodness, we need to get you some help,” because that’s really disturbing. Why are you reading that?
Carol Reddan: A little bit. What that comes down to is like the frequency like you are a consistent true crime reader and they are like ‘What’s with you? Why? What is with you? Why do you find that?’ So you keep consistently going there. ‘I'm like–’ but a lot of [00:17:00] the case is that I'm drawn to if you go online, you will see that there are so many websites devoted to these cases and many, many people are intrigued and obsessed with these same very cases too or there just wouldn’t be that many websites devoted to them. I mean there are so many websites devoted to finding the Zodiac.
There is Jeffrey MacDonald websites, William Desmond Taylor, when I did the book club for the Tinseltown by William Mann which [00:17:30] takes a fresh look at the William Desmond Taylor murder. And so apparently somehow there are a lot of fanatics about that particular murder and somehow it got to an author who wrote a book about the William Desmond Taylor case in 1979.
And he called me and he wanted to take part in the book club, but the only problem was he was one of the people who he had a – [00:18:00] he has a very steadfast idea of who did it, which greatly disagreed with the new book Tinseltown and their theory and their conclusion. And so – and we sort of wanted people to sort of have their own opinion and idea and he was just very biased in favor of one suspect, one person doing it. So it didn’t work out.
Lauren Martino: So you have a true crime book club at ‘Ole’?
Carol Reddan: [00:18:30] We do. So it’s temporary. It’s a four-session special book club. So it is – if it’s Monday, it must be murder. So our first session was on the William Desmond Taylor murder and we went all into that, which was really good and people we have a display up and people are just always coming by it and reading because we give them a little overview of what we are going to be doing [00:19:00] that time.
People are just really drawn into it. So we did William Desmond Taylor, Tinseltown first and looked at that unsolved murder. Secondly we did a teen book. Actually there is a fairly new teen nonfiction book by Sarah Miller on Lizzie Borden. It’s called the Borden murders by Sarah Miller. So that was our book that sort of took us into the whole Lizzie Borden trial and murder and whatnot. And that’s a famous [00:19:30] one that people are just always drawn into really, really famous.
And I had a lot to add to that one because I’ve been Fall River. This is where my family was drawing the line. We went to Massachusetts. We went to Boston. We went to Cape Cod and I was like we are stopping in Fall River. This is where she lived and we went to her house. Her house is now a bed and breakfast. You can go all through her house and see the exact rooms they’ve tried to replicate them exactly as they were.
Lauren Martino: Oh my goodness!
Carol Reddan: In [00:20:00] 1892 when the Lizzie Borden murders of her parents were committed.
Lauren Martino: Did you stay there?
Carol Reddan: No. I did not stay there. Walked around the town though. It’s a really interesting town. Fall River, Massachusetts is a very old factory textile town. So now I guess we call it working class, but you walk around and it’s like they all know whereabouts this murder. This is a big part of our history or culture and this is why we are famous. And so if you [00:20:30] walk around and you will ask someone close to the Lizzie Borden house, they’ll start talking to you and I loved it. It just really gave me chills.
We were talking to this older gentleman and he said, “You know what, if you just go a couple of blocks down there, they built these apartments over here in the ‘60’s and there are a few old people living in those apartments who were children who remember Lizzie Borden when she was an old lady and they used to go by her house at Halloween.” So it gave me chills to know [00:21:00] I'm standing right here but over in those apartments are people who are now very elderly who actually saw Lizzie Borden.
Lauren Martino: Wow!
Carol Reddan: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: So all I really know about the Lizzie Borden case is the nursery rhyme.
Carol Reddan: Like a lot of people, right.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit more?
Carol Reddan: That’s another one that there was a really famous TV movie with Elizabeth Montgomery played Lizzie Borden and just a couple of years ago I think I want to say Christina Ricci did a new [00:21:30] Lizzie Borden movie.
Lauren Martino: But what exactly happened? What’s the story?
Carol Reddan: So this was in August 1892 and it’s in Fall River, Massachusetts. And Lizzie is a – she is 32-years-old, which for the time she was considered just a spinster. And she lives with her father and her stepmother and her sister in a small house in Fall River. And the conflict and what is going on is [00:22:00] that Lizzie is upset because she feels her father is going to leave all his fortune to her stepmother and her and her sister will be cut out of the will.
Her father is a very wealthy man, but there is a lot of tension because Lizzie likes and wants the finer things in life. She wants to travel in nice clothes and her father is tight as a drum. He will not – they don’t have running [00:22:30] water. He will not go for any luxury. So that’s generally what most people will say is at the root of a tension and she did not get along with her stepmother.
And so one morning, one hot morning, in every book you read, the morning gets hotter and hotter, but it was hot. If you went back and look back at the actual weather records, it was like 88 degrees. But nevertheless there were rumors that the [00:23:00] Borden family had suffered from food poisoning the night before. The druggist said Lizzie had been to the pharmacy asking for strychnine, all kinds of little leading up things like that.
But nevertheless on the morning I think it was August 4, 1892, Lizzie calls to her maid and says to come here quick, someone’s murdered father. And the father was in the pallet room couch and he had been [00:23:30] – his head had been axed like 40 times. They called the police. They called neighbors. Everyone starts flooding to the house and someone says to her, “Where is your stepmother?” And she had a fishy suspicious story, “Oh, she got a note that a friend was sick and she needed to go visit them.” So they go upstairs and the stepmother’s body is in the guest bedroom.
So both of them have been axed [00:24:00] and the town just went crazy. It was like the trial of the century and the police I think just a couple of days later charged her with the murder, which was huge, because nobody thought a woman at the time could commit a murder. And the prosecutor and everybody went after her but the – and her stories were inconsistent and nowadays – it would just be so – we would just think, of course, she did it.
And most people still to this day say, “Of course, she did it.” But they found her not guilty and most people say because they just [00:24:30] people did not think a woman could, would do that. A violent – it was a very, very violent crime. So she became like a pariah in Fall River and her sister stood by her. So she was found not guilty. So her and her sister did inherit all the money and she finally got her wish and they moved a couple of blocks over to the nicer side of Fall River and a big house and she had servants and maids and nice cars and [00:25:00] nice clothing.
So she did get all those material things that everybody thought she was after. But she was like a pariah and kids used to come by the house and taunt her. Probably one of those kids who was an elderly person in that apartment complex that the gentleman was talking about. And most of Fall River society really wouldn’t talk to them or have anything to do with them. But she lived – she was like in her late ’60’s into the 1920’s, which was a decent life span for that time.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any [00:25:30] Pet Peeve Tropes when it comes to true crime, anything that everybody does that just drives you crazy or–?
Carol Reddan: I guess when I think certain people are being naïve or I think that a writer is writing a book just to take a contrarian stand or a ridiculous take on the crime that everybody knows this is probably not true sort of feel like they are doing it just to get attention or whatnot, come up with a wild theory that you know probably isn’t true just to get attention.
Lauren Martino: Are there any favorite [00:26:00] true crime tropes of yours?
Carol Reddan: Well, my favorite is I really – ones that have not been solved, unsolved, that it’s still a question mark. Jack the Ripper, I guess, Lizzie Borden technically falls in that because she was found not guilty and they don’t know who killed her parents technically. And the John F. Kennedy assassination too that I read a lot of stuff on that. It happened a certain way and there is so many different theories. I'm not a big [00:26:30] conspiracy person on that. But we don’t know the whole story at least and it’s still – it’s a puzzle to be solved and put together.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any new favorites you haven’t mentioned, just anything that’s come out recently?
Carol Reddan: Well, I do like the podcasts. I really enjoy listening to them, ‘Making a Murderer,’ Keepers I’ve listened to – all those are fabulous.
Lauren Martino: What are those about? I'm not familiar with those.
Carol Reddan: Keepers is local again. [00:27:00] It takes place up in Baltimore. It goes into a private school and the murder of a nun. And, yeah, it was really interesting and that is on Netflix. Keepers is on Netflix, but – and it goes into the hierarchy of the church and whatnot and it was fascinating.
Lauren Martino: So besides the unsolved mystery and the white-collar mystery, are there [00:27:30] any other sub genres that you feel kind of stand out?
Carol Reddan: I do like true crime that involves things that have happened locally in this area in the Washington D.C., metro area. In fact some of the most fascinating ones I think are, what we mention, Baltimore seems to have more than their fair share of these stories, but once they really stick out in my mind that I remember because I lived in Montgomery County very long time. [00:28:00] An unsolved one that’s really tantalizing is the Bradford Bishop case from 1976.
Lauren Martino: Okay. What was that about?
Carol Reddan: Fabulous family it is mom, dad, and their three great boys and they lived with his, the husband’s mother. And they lived in Carderock Springs in Bethesda and he works for the state department. He is a Foreign Service officer. He is very successful, really [00:28:30] good-looking family. And everybody on their block loved them. Their boys were very athletic. They swam. Everybody thought they are the greatest family.
The bishops are just like the greatest family in the world and they have been living in Bethesda just a couple of years and it’s March 1976 and the story goes –. And I remember I lived here at the time and just hearing this story, it was just like enveloped the news. He – on the day [00:29:00] of the murders, he had been denied a promotion. So the story goes that he went home. He stopped at the Sears at Montgomery Mall and bought a hammer and he stopped at a hardware store in the little shopping center that’s still River Road and Falls Road and bought some more supplies.
And he went home and he basically killed his whole family except his dog. And the way it came to light was [00:29:30] he didn’t show up for work the next couple of days and it had been a week and the neighbors realize we haven’t seen the Bishops. Where are the Bishops and at first they thought they were the type of family who would just pick up and go skiing. So they didn’t think anything about it.
But once seven, eight days had passed, one of the neighbors called the police. The Montgomery police went and they went inside the house and it was a bloodbath. They found three boys, his mother, and his wife [00:30:00] slaughtered. It was with the hammer and there is no dad, no husband. So at the same time some cops in North Carolina are called to a remote park in North Carolina because there is a forest fire and they went and look in the forest fire, they find the Bishop family.
So the speculation is he had murdered his family, loaded them up in this car, driven to North Carolina and he was going to try to bury them and burn them [00:30:30] but no sighting of him. And so then the FBI, everybody is on it. They have dogs and they finally found his car abandoned just over the North Carolina, Tennessee state line and he has never been seen again.
Now some people – he spoke like five languages fluently. He worked for the state department. He could have access to getting passport. So the theories about him are endless. Many people think he escaped to Europe and he is living there and [00:31:00] he is just blended in to European society fine. Some people feel he would have committed suicide but nobody really knows. Some people claim to have sightings of him in Europe, but it’s tantalizing because he just disappeared into thin air and he got away with it. He would be 81 today.
And a couple of years ago the FBI added him back to the 10 most wanted list. Nothing is ever panned out. So that was just in Bethesda and he is [00:31:30] mentioned – there is a really excellent chapter the famous FBI agent John Douglas, he writes a lot of books on crime. He did anatomy of a motive and it has a nice chapter on Brad Bishop and family annihilators like people who killed their family.
Lauren Martino: Wow! Do you have any theories…?
Carol Reddan: Well, the profile usually of someone according to John Douglas is a very insecure person or whatnot, but the reason he profiled Brad Bishop was because he fit none of the stereotypes. He seemingly had a very successful career on the state department. So he breaks all the – it’s just a huge mystery like why he did this. But he took the dog with him. Somebody – actually somebody did see him. Other dogs picked up on the scent of the dog and him in these remote North Carolina areas, but then they lost the scent.
Lauren Martino: Wow! I don’t suppose there are any bed and breakfast for the [00:32:30] true crime locally?
Carol Reddan: Not that I know of. They have kept track of the Bradford Bishop house and it’s changed hands many times and a lot of times when it changes owners, they’ll go and talk to the owners, ‘Do you know the history of this house? Is this okay with you?’ And most people are like that was then. It’s a lovely house. We love our home and it doesn’t bother us. It’d bother me.
Lauren Martino: I think it would bother me too. And you got to wonder if the FBI just come pocking around that house just to see if there is anything they missed?
Carol Reddan: I doubt it now. Another really famous – another local murder that is unsolved, technically unsolved and that’s really famous is and it ties into the Kennedys. John Kennedy was having an affair as he was well known to do. But this one was a little different. This was with a woman who – she was a socialite and a painter in [00:33:30] Georgetown in the early ‘60’s and her name was Mary Pinchot Meyers and it’s significant because a lot of people said that this was like a really important relationship to John Kennedy like most of his other affairs were very superficial or whatnot.
This was an important person in his life. And she was married to a very high up CIA official and they were divorced and she was seeing John F. Kennedy which he was killed in November 1963, [00:34:00] so just 10 months later in October 1964 it was just like a – it was a Monday morning in October. She is painting in her studio in Georgetown and she set her painting up to dry and then after she would do it, it was her routine she would take a walk along the C&O Canal.
This one morning around 12:30 a car mechanic was working on a car close by and he heard a woman yelling [00:34:30] for help and when he looked over the bridge and he saw a man standing over a woman and then run away. So he called the police. The police enveloped the canal. They tried to shut everything off. They find her body.
Mary Pinchot Meyer had been shot two times in the head and they are searching around the Potomac River around the – everywhere in the woods and the trees and they find a gentleman, a young laborer Ray Crump who is then arrested [00:35:00] for the murder. So he goes to trial and he is found not guilty. He had a really fabulous lawyer, Dovey Roundtree who – there’s been a lot of biographies written about her too.
She was a really famous black woman attorney and he is found not guilty. So it’s technically unsolved. So there is a lot of rumors that they framed him that the CIA really who has had something to do with this murder, but it just remains unsolved. And there was a very good [00:35:30] biography of her, A Very Private Woman by Nina Burleigh which is a biography of her but it also goes into the murder a lot.
Lauren Martino: Carol, we like to ask everybody right before we sign off, what are you reading right now? Is it true crime or is it something else?
Carol Reddan: I'm reading a book on organizing and decluttering. It’s important. That’s what I'm looking at right now.
Lauren Martino: Which one?
Carol Reddan: Still nonfiction. It’s the…
Lauren Martino: Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Carol Reddan: Yeah and [00:36:00] that is…
Lauren Martino: By Marie Kondo.
Carol Reddan: Marie Kondo, yes.
Lauren Martino: Did you know they have a graphic novel based on that?
Carol Reddan: It's funny.
Lauren Martino: Called the Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up.
Carol Reddan: That would be great.
Lauren Martino: [Indiscernible] [00:36:11] I was like this is so amazing that’s a success.
Carol Reddan: That’s great. I like that. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: But maybe after you are finished with that one, you can move into this.
Carol Reddan: Yeah, the graphic novel.
Lauren Martino: Thank you so much for your time, Carol and being on our show. [00:36:30] Listeners, feel free to check our show notes we are going to have titles, authors, any kind of information that you forgot to write down during our show. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcasts on the Apple podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also review and rate us on Apple podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and see your next time. [00:37:00]
Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters. I am your host Julie Dina. Our topic on today’s episode is English Conversation Clubs. Have you ever wondered about our widely acclaimed English Conversation Clubs, well today we have two special guests who will tell us all about it. First, I would like to welcome Nancy Sillcox who is the librarian too from Quince Orchard.
Nancy Sillcox: Hi.
Julie Dina: Welcome Nancy. I would also like to welcome Annie Etches who is our English Conversation Club facilitator for Quince Orchard’s Library.
Annie Etches: Hi Julie, nice to be here this morning.
Julie: Welcome. So let’s just go ahead and dive in. Can you guys tell me a little bit about yourself so our listeners can know all about you?
Nancy: Hi I am Nancy Sillcox, I am the Adult Services librarian at Quince Orchard Library since 2008. And I have also worked as a information specialist at the International Tsunami Information Center in Honolulu Hawaii and also at Childrens Library in San Francisco before I moved to Maryland. And of course I enjoy hiking, drawing, and of course reading the latest best seller.
Julie: Sounds interesting, Annie?
Annie: Hi I am Annie Etches I am from London in England. I have been here now from 40 years. My husband and I came with say four children, but three really; one had to go back to England. We have lived in this Montgomery County area for almost 40 years and he was always interested in library work of all sorts. We both did volunteer work all our adult lives anyway and there seems to be so much interest in the libraries in this county that we both got, you know, involved. And so he died a couple of years ago, he used to do the Tuesday morning class and then I was asked if I would like to step in and do it. And I was very nervous at first because we both, all our lives had our own interests and I somehow felt I didn’t want to sort of step on to his shoes, but I did and I just love it. It’s, my Tuesdays morning are absolutely fantastic, so I am so happy about that.
Julie: We thank you for all that wonderful work and thanks to your husband too who led the way.
Annie: Yeah he was great.
Julie: So why don’t we just go in and tell out listeners exactly what English Conversation Clubs are and are they in fact classes?
Nancy: Well for many English speakers or English learners I think the hardest part is speaking, I think that’s the most difficult part of learning a new language. And so at our Conversation Clubs you know, our facilitators make them very comfortable, make them relaxed and they ask the right questions, so get them you know, talking and speaking, also it helps them with listening to the language as well. And we depend on our facilitators to help our English learner to develop the speaking skills and I think they do a great job.
Annie: Yes I think you’re absolutely right; they have told me quite often actually that they like listening to us talking to them as much as they like talking to us which is very good and it’s very interesting, because for me they are hearing English, English. And they often bring that up and laugh about it that you know, because they are the facilitator that sits on my table and of course she is an American English and therefore it can sometimes be different. But we get past that usually with laughing and joking about something and they tease me quite a lot about my English, and but that that’s fine. Certainly, I think for them learning to speak is more important than learning to read and write and learning the grammar. Not that grammar doesn’t come into it of course as you, you know, because we do a lot of reading, reading and it does, but it is not the focus. And sometimes we get people who that’s what they want the focus to be is on the grammar and sometimes that’s because of the job they are doing here and they need that more in their job. So then we can always direct them to Montgomery College and they often go there for English grammar classes as well, so that’s quite good. But yeah I think they love it, I know they love our class and I do appreciate that every class during the week has a different approach to how they run the things and so maybe mine is a little you know, I don’t know --.
Nancy: Yes, yeah being the coordinator I do see the difference, your Tuesday morning you guys have a lesson plan?
Nancy: They have three tables and each table has a volunteer that helps about five to eight people and they have a lesson plan where everyone talks about the same topic. And then Thursday Conversation Club each of the volunteer have their own topic that they want to talk about. So they decide what topic that they want to talk about. In the Saturday Conversation Club, it’s just whatever the participants want to talk about, if they want to talk about politics, you know, something is happening, they would talk about that or food or anything that was happening in current events. It’s like, it’s the mix and there is no organization to their talk. And I think they like it that way participants in a Saturday one, they just like this very loose format and then the Tuesday evening I think there is only one volunteer, oh actually I am sorry there is two volunteers and I think they just bring up a topic and then they discuss it.
Julie: Now would you say the same participants go to the Tuesday, the Thursday, and the Saturday classes?
Annie: Occasionally, but also I know one or two of my – say students, they also go to Germantown Library, they sometimes go to Gaithersburg Library. I think that because some of them walk a long way, some of them come on two buses Tuesday morning, they don’t want to drive a car and come like that. And sometimes they go to another library because I don’t know maybe something was advertised or may be their kids have gone there for some reason or something. So but I do know I think next week when they are closed Tuesday morning a couple of them did say to me, “Can I go to one of the other classes,” and I said, “Of course you can anytime you want,” so yeah.
Julie: So I guess depending on what they are looking for and what is convenient at that time?
Annie: Yes at that time, yes, yes, yes. And in fact let’s just say, we start, of the three tables okay in our group. My table and I have tried to encourage the other two they don’t do it quite so much, but we begin with making sure everybody knows who everybody is at the table because we have had some new people in the last couple of weeks and that has been quite fun. So everybody says who they are. And then I ask them, “Well how was your week, what did you do, anything special?” So we start with just talking about anything and everything. And sometimes we don’t even get to the paper work because that goes off at so many tangents as to, you know, sometimes they have a problem they want to talk about. And because I am also an immigrant, I can align with a lot of what they are going through in their first years here and some are only here for a few years anyway.
And so we start with the talking and then we go to the paperwork and as we get, nobody has to read if they don’t want to; I always say that if you don’t feel confident with your reading that’s fine just listen you know, but everybody likes to read. And I try to correct their pronunciation as much as my English allows, but I try not to over do that because I don’t want them to be thinking every second word they say I am going tell them how to say it better. So we ease up on that as we go along. Everybody else underlines words or phrases that they don’t understand so at the end of every paragraph we will say, “We go back,” and then people will say, “I didn’t understand that, what did that mean.” So then we go over that. Sometimes that takes us off onto a completely different tangent of what we are discussing, but that is okay too. And usually we sort of finish up with everybody saying, “Oh, oh is it over, we got to go now.” And I say, “Yes sorry I do have to.” So it is a big mix of the paperwork and just general talking and things like that. I mean somebody got caught going through a red light and --.
Julie: That’s something to talk about.
Annie: Yeah, the police car was sitting right there, picked him up and he had a really hard time, you know, and that often happens I know that. So things like that so I was able to tell him what he needed to do and yes he did need to go the court and all the rest of it. So there are things like that we can help with.
Julie: Now how do people get started with a Conversation Club also do they have to register for these classes and where can they find a Conversation Club and how often do they meet?
Nancy: Well the Conversation Clubs are open to all adult, it’s a drop-in meet up, you don’t have to register and you can attend as many classes as you want here at Quince Orchard, we have four and they are welcome to attend all four if they have time.
Julie: And there are also others at other branches?
Nancy: Yes and all the other branches also have Conversation Clubs as well that they can attend.
Julie: Now this question is for you Annie, why did you decide to become a volunteer coordinator for Quince Orchard?
Annie: It was my nearest library.
Julie: That’s convenient.
Annie: But no, I mean that’s, we live close by and that’s where my husband got involved with things, I, well both of us got involved with the Saturday monthly book sale, so we were busy with that. I was on the library board for a short while, I don’t know there just seemed to be lots of things there and we would always encourage our kids and grand kids in that to be involved in the library if possible. I think it’s a great place especially for the teenagers to be able to go to from the high school over there in the afternoons and you know, be over there, I think it’s a good place.
I love the idea that every Tuesday morning I have people from all around the world who are sitting there enjoying each others’ company even if they don’t always understand quite what’s being said you know. And one day we had a I think there were about 12 people at my table, this is going back to when we were at the church hall during the time we were closed. And a guy from Iran, we had all been laughing and joking about I don’t know what now may be food or something and just before we finished he just said, “Everybody I think it’s so wonderful that we can sit here; we are all different, different countries, different religions, different ideas and yet we all get along and we love meeting together.” And that to me summed up what I want life to be about and it was just great.
Julie: Wow so you know, you get the privilege to travel around the world in one room.
Annie: Yes, yes, absolutely, yes absolutely
Julie: Now I know earlier Nancy mentioned that the classes are for adults and you also mentioned it is a good form for teens to come to, what about kids, can kids attend these classes as well?
Annie: Yes in the last few years we have had two babies born, not there, I mean you know. And the mothers don’t come every week it depends on what’s going on, you know. And we have a young woman from Russia it’s her first baby and she is very conscious that the baby might make a noise or anything so she comes occasionally when she is pretty sure that he is going to sleep the next hour anyway, you know, but no we just love that. In the last few months, I have had two teenagers who have been visiting this country to be with their father or their mother or whatever. And so they have come with them and their English has been you know, good anyway, but no I think that that is fine and the two little babies we have had have been absolutely fine, no problem at all.
Julie: No conversation from them?
Annie: No conversation, no, no.
Nancy: Yeah as long as children are with their parents, I think we are fine with it but we don’t encourage children coming in by themselves because the conversation would be you know, adult you know, subject matter so yeah --.
Julie: Now who would you recommend to participate in these Conversation Clubs?
Annie: Well I would say anybody who is going to live here for more than five or six weeks may be. There have been occasions and the last time this couple came from Italy they came, because they came to see Richard but it was too late of course and they haven’t been back since. But I know they used to come once a year they came to visit their daughter who lived locally and they spent two months with her and they came as did a another older couple some while ago because they want to improve their English so that they communicate with their grandchildren because they were finding that you know, their grandchildren just spoke English and they just would not, with it the whole time, they just couldn’t and they wanted the communication to be better so as they came every and so they came.
Julie: Was that helpful?
Annie: They said it was very helpful; they loved it so you know.
Nancy: Yeah there was one woman who was going to have a job interview and she told me that she attended the Conversation Club so she could improve her English for the job interview. And she said the Conversation Club helped her to be more relaxed and feel more confident in her speaking skills and it helped her with her job interview. So she mentioned that and I thought that’s good yeah.
Julie: Those are great feedback.
Julie: Is there a lot of turnover among participants or do the same people come over a long period of time?
Annie: Both I have got at the moment on a Tuesday; I would say there are at least half the people have been coming for a long time. In fact I have two at my table who have been coming for years whereas I have another two people at the table it was his second week this week, he is going to be one more year in this country, so he is going to keep coming he says all that year. The other person I think she will be only here may be for another few months. So it is you know, and some people you see like particularly the Chinese people because of their culture, they go back to their own country usually to take care of parents for three, four, five, six months of the year and then they come back again. So I have several of those that are there for a few months and then gone and then they come back again. It’s a mix; it’s a good mix I think.
Julie: So for those who have been coming for a long time and not the ones who go for three months and come back, is it that they are enjoying the conversations or is there a particular upper level and at some point do you say well this has really helped me?
Nancy: I think for some of them it’s a great social outlet for them you know, I think a lot of them feel a little isolated because of the language barrier. And so when they go to the Conversation Club they get this support. And our facilitators you know, they would help them kind of maneuver around the neighborhood and tell them where all the resources are. I think it is a good place for them to connect with the community.
Annie: And with people from their country too. There is always a brightness about them when they know someone else at the table is from their country. And sometimes I have to, when they talk to each other and I have to say English, English only and we all laugh about that later.
Julie: Oh okay, that is very funny.
Annie: Yes, no it definitely is a social place for them and you will hear them say something that they saw each other in Giant or the nursery or something you know. And they were able to meet somebody that they could talk to in their own language probably, but nevertheless it was somebody that they recognized it was a neighbor and I think that is good for them too so.
Nancy: I think that’s great.
Julie: So while we are on the topic of them like participants knowing each other, do either of you know your participants well?
Annie: Several I do know, yes definitely, because when we are having, its amazing how much some of them will open up about what has just happened at home a sadness or may be a very happy thing and want to share it. I now have a lady who is just a little bit older than me and she is into gardening and she has a big green house so do I so you know. So we have a lot in common and she brought in the most amazing tomatoes and cucumbers last week and everybody thought this was amazing. And now she has done this many years running, so I wasn’t surprised, but of course other people were just like, “Wow.” So on Tuesday this other lady she brings in this big bag of chocolate and spreads it over the table for everybody to have you know, and everybody is just like, “Oh it is so nice.”
Julie: That’s great like a community, yeah.
Annie: Yes, I feel I do.
Nancy: I am green with envy.
Annie: You have to come visit us.
Nancy: Now I do.
Julie: So what would you say are the benefits of the Conversation Clubs?
Annie: I know how I came when I first came to this country and it took me three years before I really felt that this was home. It takes a long while, it doesn’t happen quickly or easily and I think for these people it gives them some sort of backup or some feeling that there are other people out there that I could talk to. You know, Americans are incredibly friendly, generous people, I mean they just are which is wonderful. And these people they recognize that very, very quickly. As we often talk about this and how it’s different in their culture in this way and that way. So they are very aware of that and they just think that is wonderful that they are accepted.
And I think one of the things is for them is to be accepted although they don’t speak good English and they may be misunderstood. And it’s just the simple daily things of life when you go to a store. A lot of them are very, very nervous about traveling on a bus, going into a restaurant and that’s something Richard used to do. He always had money to show everybody what you know, the money or the coins were and the things and that and he would take in menus and things so that people could see what food was in a certain menu and things. And sometimes we used to take people out to eat or something so that they could order something and feel confident that they could do that, because they feel very nervous in those situations. So I think it’s just the daily life things that we can encourage them and I think they feel more comfortable with living.
Nancy: And the libraries you know, it’s a perfect place to have these conversations clubs, because we have you know, we know have the, we know where the resources are. We can direct them to where they are and they feel relaxed coming up to us and asking us you know, information about personal things like you know, job hunting or like you know, the bus route you know, which bus to catch. And we are patient enough to you know, walk them through you know, where to catch the bus, child care services you know, some of them may not know about that, the best place you know, like banking.
Annie: Banking is a big thing, insurance is another big that they don’t understand and they want to know about and where they can go and find out things yes.
Nancy: And services like you know, who is a good roofer or lawn service, you know, so being in the library, we have all those information for them, yeah.
Annie: And also they, I don’t know whether they would actually say this but this is the feeling I get from them, they feel they are in a safe place.
Julie: At the library?
Annie: At the library.
Julie: And no one is going to swindle them.
Annie: No, no, absolutely. And they, you know, it is a government building okay, I am considering where some of these people come from that would be a scary thing in their countries to be trustworthy in a government building and yet you just sense it when they come in, that there is a relaxation, they feel safe and that’s very good.
Julie: Now as a coordinator Nancy, can you tell us what participants have told you about Conversation Clubs that have actually enhanced their lives?
Nancy: Well earlier yeah I only have one story; it is about the lady who was going to go for her job interview. And she was very appreciative that the Conversation Club helped her to relax and develop some speaking skills and feel confident in speaking English you know, during the job interview.
Annie: At the moment I have one person who is going for their citizenship and so I have been there and done that, so I can be you know, I can listen, I know what their worries are and what their concerns are, help them with questions and things. Green cards, yes same thing, a couple of people going for their green cards and so they you know, so I can help in that way, because they don’t know who else to turn to for those things.
Nancy: Exactly, right.
Annie: And one of the things I have found which amazed me at first time, I am used it now, but most of these people have got children in school. All the children speak perfect English or as perfect just as it is these days and yet will they speak English at home with their mother or their father, no. And everybody tells me the same thing that oh they can’t be bothered, we are too slow, they don’t want to do it. And I say look you know, for one hour every evening at the dinner table wherever say I need your help to your kids. I have been telling you what to do all these years now I need you to help me, tell me how to say these words, just for an hour at dinner or something, you know, speak English it will help you so much, but they always come back and say no they say I am not you know. There was one lady I remember she was with Richard before me but thirteen years, she had been in this country, her kids had gone through school okay her English was almost non-existent because she said no English is ever spoken with her apart from when she came to the class.
Julie: Wow that’s amazing.
Annie: And I was astounded at that.
Julie: So did she come to that class for thirteen years?
Annie: I don’t know that, no I don’t know that, but she had come for many years certainly. But and it was almost as if she wasn’t improving in her English and I think that was partly because I mean I don’t know her home situation but may be speaking English was not allowed perhaps who knows I don’t know, but I was surprised that the children will not be more involved with helping their parents speak English.
Julie: So having these Conversation Clubs actually are vital?
Annie: I think so, I think so, yes.
Julie: Nancy this question is for you, what would you say are Montgomery County Public Library systems top English has a second language resources and services that we provide to our customers?
Nancy: Oh Montgomery County has a lot of resources, we have this whole collection of literacy resources that anyone that wants to learn English can borrow and some of these include audio books and DVDs. And a lot of the audio books have instructions in their mother tongue like English for Spanish speakers, English for Farsi speakers or Chinese speakers, so they can understand the English by listening to the instruction in their own language. And we also have lots of books that talk about you know, English grammar, word usage; we have lots of dictionaries, books on American idioms. And of course we also have lots of resources in the community like Montgomery College has a lot of English courses that they can take and most of them are free if it is for beginners, they also offer classes for advance learners, but there is a little fee for advance courses. And of course the Literacy Council has a lot of classes as well as tutors that can meet with English learners one-on-one and MCAEL which stands for the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy also puts out a directory of providers that provide English instruction throughout the community throughout Montgomery County. And you can get this brochure at the library or you can just go to their website. And Charles Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center also have lots of classes, they are located at Gaithersburg Library, in Germantown, also in Silver Spring and they have the courses listed on their website. And if they come to library we can print out the flyers for them. And Montgomery County College also has the Workforce Development & Continuing Education and they also can take English classes as well as there.
Julie: So they have a wider ray of resources.
Nancy: Yes there is a lot.
Julie: Now do we have Conversation Clubs for other languages and if we do what are there?
Nancy: Yes we also have Spanish Conversation Club at Quince Orchard, they meet Monday nights every Monday at 6 o’clock. And the same facilitator also runs a Thursday night at Rockville. And there is also a French Conversation Club in Germantown that meets at 6:30 every Tuesday night. And Gaithersburg Library has an advanced level English class on idioms it’s called Easy Does It American Idioms.
Julie: Now what have you learned from your experiences with the Conversation Clubs and this is to both of you?
Annie: I think so many things but I think just overall what that man said that day about us all sitting around that table and you know, just being one laughing together. I think about that when today that seems to be so much downside to our life, sadness to our world and I think about that that comes back to me all the time and it gives me more hope that we are going to get through bad times and we can really do this, we can really do this together, because we are all human beings and we all need each other and we can all give something to each other, it doesn’t matter what it is, but we can all share something and make this world a better place and I just feel that that we do that on Tuesdays.
Julie: Yeah it seems as though we are more similar than we are different.
Annie: Absolutely, absolutely without question.
Nancy: We share a lot of common values.
Annie: Yes, absolutely.
Nancy: Friendship, caring for family, education I think and no mater where you are from, we share these values.
Annie: Yes we do.
Julie: Well we are talking about wonderful stuff. Do you have any fun or interesting stories to share from a Conversation Club meeting?
Annie: Well we do laugh a lot that is for sure about all sorts of things. This last Tuesday a guy, he doesn’t sit at my table he said, “Bobby,” he called me over to that table. And he said, “Come, come see this” and he had his phone out and he is just well – we were teasing him because he has only just told us, but he has a first grand child and he was so excited about it. But the baby is already five months old and he hasn’t told us before. So we were really going, “What you think you are doing you know, we need to know this,” you know. And so again everybody is laughing and the photograph get handed around and everybody was so thrilled for him and things so, you know, it’s just nice, it is good sharing, it is so good.
Julie: Right more than just conversation.
Annie: Yes, oh definitely, definitely, but at the same time, I guess what I have done in the past in the court and that, I am very aware that there is a line that I do not cross in giving advice or you know, some things I wouldn’t say to somebody even if I thought I knew the answer or knew where I should guide them. But there is a line that I shouldn’t get totally involved with issues.
Julie: Right, but you could stir them in the right direction.
Annie: Absolutely yes.
Julie: Now to the really fun stuff, it is customary on this program that we ask our guests what they are currently reading, who would like to go first?
Annie: My brother is an author and I just received last week, the last thing he had written which won him a prize in England. And it’s a short story it is the most amazing piece of writing that I think I have ever read in my life. I just couldn’t believe and it was just so absolutely beautiful and my brother had written it with just outstanding so, yes so.
Nancy: That’s great.
Annie: The name of the story is Unforgettable and his name is David Wiseman but I don’t know the prize.
Julie: We will be sure to mention the name of the prize in the show notes. Over to you Nancy.
Nancy: Okay, personally I am reading a mystery by Martha Grimes title Vertigo 42. So it is a story about a friend of a friend who is convinced his wife was murdered 17 years ago and not by an accidental fall off the tower called Vertigo 42. So it was gripping, I have enjoyed it a lot.
Julie: Thank you so much for letting us in into the world of English Conversation Clubs, I want to thank Nancy and Annie for being with us today. Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your Podcast. Also please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we will love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversations today, see you next time.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I'm Julie Dina.
David: And today we're going to be talking about historical fiction. We're going back in time and visiting distant lands and times, and joining us today, I'm very pleased to welcome two very special guests, Anita Vassallo, our Acting Director of MCPL. Welcome Anita.
Anita Vassallo: Thank you David, I'm very pleased to be here.
David: Or shall I say welcome back. Our listeners may remember Anita from a very lively recording we made on the Game of Thrones.
Anita: Oh yes, Game of Thrones.
David: And joining us as well, we welcome Sarah Mecklenburg, a Library Associate from our Outreach Department. So welcome Sarah.
Sarah Mecklenburg: Thank you.
David: And both Anita and Sarah are very avid historical fiction readers.
Anita: Yes indeed.
David: And we're looking forward to hearing all about your favorite books and authors.
Anita: All right.
David: So let's start with a bit about yourselves. If you would just tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do, where do you work and what brought you here. So let's start with Sarah.
Sarah: Okay. So, I’m Sarah Mecklenburg. I've been in MCPL for three and a half years. I started in December of 2014, and before that, I actually worked in museums and actually even interned at the American History Museum. I was a history major, so I am very passionate about history. So that has kind of led to a lot of people coming at me going, “Sarah, you should come to the podcast. You read a lot about it and you should come in and talk about the fun you have reading historical fiction.”
David: Glad you joined us.
Anita: So I'm, as David said, the Acting Director of Montgomery County Public Libraries, to – a great honor for me. And I’ve worked for the library system for more years than I would like to admit. So I was always an avid reader as a child, I spent a lot of time in the library, loved just about anything. And Historical Fiction is one of the genres that I do search out and enjoy in a lot of ways and I think that maybe if I had turned into a librarian, I would have liked to been a historian. So, it sounds really fun that Sarah worked at the Museum of American history which I didn't know.
David: So Anita, I have to ask you, you've been Acting Director since what, September or so?
Anita: It's almost been a year now.
David: Oh, almost a year. That’s right.
Anita: Yeah. It will be a year at the beginning of August.
David: Have you found – you've been able to find sometime in your busy schedule to read or has that affected you?
Anita: Fortunately, I have a long commute. So, as you know, I commute here usually about an hour and a half, sometimes longer. So I definitely rely on audio books to keep me going with my reading.
David: Right. There are some benefits to being stuck on 270.
Julie: So, what exactly is historical fiction and can either of you tell us examples of well-known historical fiction?
Anita: Well, I looked up what is historical fiction. Googled it, of course. And there is a British prize the Walter Scott prize for the best historical fiction, and their definition is, a novel that is set at least 60 years prior to its publication, which really seems like a random number. Sarah, how would you define historical fiction?
Sarah: I would say fiction that’s set within a historical time period or sometimes I would – I personally have a passion for alternate history or historical fiction that is blended with science fiction. So, time travel, things like that.
Anita: Connie Willis.
Sarah: Yeah. So, kind of – or historical mysteries as well. So stories that are set within a past time period. Often they cover major historical events. Although there are some that are nice and cover a quiet historical event, or not even an event at all, but just a period or follow a family through various groups of time periods.
Anita: Yeah, I agree with that. I think some of the most interesting ones are the ones that are not centered around a major historical event but something a time period that maybe followed a historical event, because there are couple I want to mention like that, that I really liked. I think there's some really well known historical fiction books from the past that I would mention are Michael Shaara’s book Killer Angels, which is kind of the quintessential book about the civil war.
Another much older book that was very popular and, of course, was made into a really popular PBS series was I, Claudius by Robert Graves which delves way down into those Romans and all their goings on. So, those are two ones that I would consider well known.
Sarah: I'm having trouble coming up with some of the more well-known ones off of the top of my head. But a librarian actually, Quince Orchard Library, growing up, gave me a local author’s Civil War books and they were historical fiction with time travel element. That started me off in this path. But actually, I did think of one series that – well, a series of series, that is often associated with historical fiction for younger readers and that's the American Girl series. Also the Dear America series is another series that's really known. That's what got me into a lot of these as well.
I read through all of those and then basically went to the librarian and said, “I need more historical fiction.” And she was like, “Sure.”
Anita: She got hooked in the series. And those – the ‘Dear America’ books are usually centered around a historical event, but it's portrayed in the books which aren’t really very long through the eyes of a young person. Usually, it’s like a tween, I think who would have been involved in sort of the periphery of the event. So those are really interesting and I agree with you a great way to get kids hooked on historical fiction.
David: But what actually makes a book historical fiction versus history? Is it a very clear distinction?
Anita: I think it’s in a way – it's a little bit blurred because certainly, I have read books that are catalogued as nonfiction or biography that are written in a style that's very accessible and almost fictionalized. But I think historical fiction can take liberties with the thoughts and motivations of the characters, which in a straight work of historical biography or nonfiction, the author does not inhabit the central character or other characters in the same way. They are drawing from perhaps diaries, or letters, or research and they're laying that information out there. They're not generally putting words in the mouths of the character unless they're part of documented fact.
Historical fiction often will have as its main character, someone who's kind of on the periphery of the action. And so while you have the dates and the historical figures, you are really looking at it through the eyes of someone who was not directly involved in what was going on. I think some authors who do a great job with that and one of my favorites would be Philippa Gregory, who's written that wide ranging series focusing on the tutor and the women around Henry VIII and Elizabeth and earlier on.
But there're characters that we don't really know that much about him, Henry Tudor’s mother. Not a main character, but she has plenty to say in these books on the stage. I mean, I could read historical fiction about the Tudor’s.
David Payne: Write about that yeah.
Anita: It never stops and there's always more and different ways of approaching.
David: You’ve got a whole Soap Opera there.
Anita: You’re not kidding. And Philippa Gregory does not like Henry VIII and she makes no bones about it.
David: No, she doesn’t hide that fact.
Julie: So, those are really, really interesting also sort of the minor character approaches, Ken Follett with his trilogy that began with the ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and he's focusing on stone masons and nuns and nurses and various people. But it creates this whole picture of the society during that time period and the major events that impacted these kind of minor players on the stage.
David: So, when you finish the book, do you find yourselves delving into researching what actually happens that peak your curiosity.
Sarah: That's why I majored in history.
Julie: So, historical fiction got you to major in history?
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Julie: Oh that's so cool.
Sarah: Yeah. I sat in my classes and I started – actually I was taking a number of classes on colonial America and that's my favorite time period that has been since I was a little kid when I was reading picture books that were done by the Plimoth Plantation and it actually were photographs, but it was following a actually historical child. It's kind of where the history and historical fiction line blurs. Because it's a fictional story about a real person and that’s how Plimoth Plantation presents everything in the museum – is everyone is the historical character, but it's a little bit blurry about is that the real presentation.
So I got really into that as a kid and I ended up taking a bunch of classes in that time period and other topics in history, I was an Art History major too. Surprise. And I just really had always loved reading about these different time periods especially historical fiction and I was like, I want to know more, I want to know everything. I have always been someone who just wants to know more about everything.
Julie: Yeah. I think something I usually wind up doing during reading the book or immediately after is getting the family tree and figuring out who –
David: Who was who.
Julie: –Belongs to who and how they’re related, that's always interesting. Also, just going back and fact checking everything. I love the series by Patrick O'Brian, the Aubrey/Maturin books and I've read all of them more than once. And that's really informed all the knowledge that I have about the Napoleonic wars at sea, and then if you read Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe series, that's the Napoleonic wars on land.
So together, they really form a great picture of what went on during that time period. I'm trying to branch out more and kind of get away from the Brits, no offense, but there has got to be a whole body of work say about French, the French history. I've read much more nonfiction about French history than I have fiction. So kind of I'm looking for some good writers who would probably translate it in the English from the French. That would have that for us.
One of the other questions that we had here was do you have favorite time periods or countries for your historical fiction? And I like I really love stuff about The Tudors but I love ancient Rome, Steven Saylor. And that's when Sarah when you get into those historical mysteries, you probably have read those ones by Ruth Downie, the Medicus books.
Sarah: I don’t think so. No.
Anita: Those are great There's about four or five and they’re centered on a character who is- well a doctor, a Medicus. But he's found himself kind of shipped off to ancient Britain where there we are again back to the Brits. And he’s slogging through this kind of total backwater and he gets involved with some of the local tribal people who were living there. But they're funny and they do have a good mystery aspect to them and they also have that whole history. So, she's got a new one in – that's about ready to come out. I can't wait for that.
Medieval Europe also even going back to the Brother Cadfael mysteries and on all of those. So wonderful and there’re quite a few that have nuns, I guess, or other religious central characters. I think because they were able to move around more, they worked with people from both the upper echelons of society and then down to the lower, so you get that whole flow of people. It's the people that really make the historical mysteries interesting, but I love those.
And then, you've probably read these books by Margaret Lawrence. These are mysteries also. I believe the first one, I’m not 100% sure, was called Blood in Ashes or Blood in the Snow, anyway, they're set immediately after the end of the Revolutionary War.
Sarah: Oh, and now I have to find them.
Julie: And they're really good because it was a horrible time.
Sarah: Yeah, it really was.
Julie: When people were trying to recover from what had happened and you still had people who had supported Britain and were Tories and they’re trying to make a life with these people who had won the Revolutionary War. And so, that whole thing is just fascinating. Not so much the war itself but what happened afterwards and I hope that – the author is definitely Martin Lawrence, L-A-W-R-E-N-C-E, but I can't quite remember the titles. What are some of your favorite time periods?
Sarah: I’ve done – obviously done a lot of Colonial American Revolution, but I recently have gotten into World War I, World War II, but also the 1920. I started watching the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries yes, but those are actually based on a fiction series. And I've read all of the books and they're really great series of books, very different from the television series which in itself is a historical mystery, but they're set in the 1920s.
The author doesn't actually want to go beyond 1929 with the stories, so she doesn't really want to go into the Great Depression. And so, she basically follows this young socialite, the character is younger in the books as she solves some really interesting mysteries.
Anita: Who’s the author on this?
Sarah: Kerry Greenwood.
Anita: Kerry Greenwood. Okay.
Sarah: And she also does write contemporary stories as well. And so she's writing in Australia. I've also really enjoyed Laurie R. King also set in the same time period. Her Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes of books are really interesting. It's a different portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. I haven't read the whole series yet, but I'm working my way through them. The audio books are amazing. That was actually – I started them years ago because of the audio book, it was a summer reading for school and we turned on the audio book all the way to Minnesota. And then I also have been enjoying Jacqueline Winspear’s books on the series-
Anita: It’s Maisie Dobbs.
Sarah: Maisie Dobbs, yes. And it’s a Maisie Dobbs series and so she is a really interesting character, she's a detective. It starts off in the aftermath of World War I and now the series is actually progressed to the middle of World War II. And so it's kind of following how war has impacted people, how war continues to impact people. It goes into a in-depth discussion of PTSD and how that effects people, not just the soldiers, but those who are caring for the soldiers, the nurses on the battlefield, that's also something that Kerry Greenwood goes into.
I also personally really enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is historical fiction set on Guernsey Island, which is a really unique part of the British Isles because it – it’s own government and was actually- I did not realize was actually invaded during-
David: It was occupied during-
Sarah: Yeah. It was occupied during World War II and the book is about that basically about the aftermath of that. And Netflix is coming out with it, a movie of it – it was released in England recently and then they're going to be releasing it here. So I'm excited about that.
Anita: That sounds cool. So you were – when you were speaking there you mentioned the Laurie R. King books which are about Mary King and Sherlock Holmes or Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, so that's kind of what you would call I guess historical fantasy because, I mean, Sherlock Holmes, not real. So, but I think they do mesh the historical events that would be happening during his life time well in those mysteries.
I think another kind of historical genre, there are historical romances, there's that whole Diana Gabaldon series, Outlander which was historical fantasy, romance [crosstalk] [00:17:46]. But boy, those are- they’re definitely page turners if you like those sagas. I don't think that the giant sagas are quite as popular as they were when books like the R L Delderfield series about the – I can’t remember the name of the family, but those were so incredibly popular at one time period.
David: They were classics, they were classics.
Anita: There was another really long series about a family, it was set in Canada prior to World War I and they were by the author Mazo de la Roche, it's called the Jalna Series. And those probably spanned 30 or 40 years in the life of this one family. I don’t even think they’re in print anymore. You can really just pick up a whole lot. It’s like painless learning when you're reading or listening to even better historical fiction.
Another genre that I think is popular right now and I don't know where you would put it because it's not really- it's more like fantasy, but the novels that are based on mythology, Greek mythology or on the writings of Homer. I just, just finished yesterday listening to a book called Circe by a really good author Madeline Miller and a wonderful reader her name was Perdita Weeks. This book just drew in the stories of the gods, the story of Odysseus and Daedalus. It was a great, I guess, historical fantasy, whatever you want to call it.
David Payne: So it was like an adult version of Rick Riordan.
Anita: Yeah, it kind of was like that and that's a real trend. People are loving these. This woman also wrote another novel called The Song of Achilles, which is about Patroclus and Achilles in the Trojan War. So not really real but history, kind of.
Sarah: Elizabeth Peters, she’s a really interesting author, not only because she wrote the Amelia Peabody series which is set in an archaeological dig, but she sets it at this particular time in that history I – that was another period of time I studied in college, where archeology was just becoming what it was. And so it's also kind of this – it's another one that's not based around historical event, but it's kind of set in that world of historical movement which is also kind of a slightly different thing.
Anita: Yeah, as that series progresses, you definitely bring in more of the political impact of the British imperialism in Egypt and the movement of the Egyptian and Arabic peoples to recover their own independence. And the characters in the book interact with both sides of the conflict in that and particularly as the character’s – you know, her son Ramsey's ages and he’s more involved in that. So that is a whole another wonderful series of books.
Julie: So now that we've heard a lot about your favorite time period, your favorite books, can you tell us about your favorite authors and why you like them.
Anita: Well, I had mentioned a few of them earlier. I think Philippa Gregory, I also very much like Geraldine Brooks who doesn't write about one time period in particular, but chooses different topics. She wrote a book about the plague called ‘Year of Wonders’ that had some wonderful characters in it. It was about a town that basically sealed itself off from a village, from the rest of the country in order to try and contain the plague. She's written one called ‘The Song–’ something, it has chord in the title. Anyway, it's about David from the Bible.
She just does a really good job with her characterization. So I think you can pretty much pick up any book by her. She wrote one if we're going to talk about that kind of historical fantasy again, March, which is centered about Mr. March, the father of the family and little women and what happened to him when he went off to war and left his wife and his girls at home. So that was really interesting so I do like Geraldine Brooks.
Julie: How about you Sarah?
Sarah: Right now, the author that's really speaking to me when I'm reading historical fiction is definitely Jacqueline Winspear. There's something about her books that just draws me in and doesn't let me go. And so she’s just one of the authors that’s really stuck with me, Kerry Greenwood. Kevin Crossley-Holland wrote a really wonderful historical fantasy that I read a long time ago, but it has stuck with me and I'm actually- I just put a hold on it so I could reread it. And it's about a young boy who is living in the footsteps of King Arthur in a way and is mentored by a man named Marlin and basically watches the story of Arthur through a magical stone.
The first book is called The Seeing Stone and Kevin Crossley-Holland is the author. MCPL has the series as well as a follow-up that he did about one of the female characters. I personally also have been really, really into S.E. Groves. It's a middle grade book series that transcends being middle grade and it's a- I'm not sure if I would call it historical fantasy, but it's historical fiction with a time element where she really kind of challenges what we think of time by basically having the world rewritten as of 1791.
I've written actually a review for the MCPL Librarians Choice about the series and this first book is called ‘The Glass Sentence’ called the Mapmakers Trilogy but basically in 1791 the whole world is interrupted and the United States is no longer the United States. You have to pay in order to have your voice heard in Congress and you’re paying for the amount of time, it actually becomes a parliament and then other regions of the world and even what the United States was has been broken up.
She covers all sorts of really pertinent topics. The whole book starts off with the Prime Minister closing the borders and ordering all of the immigrants to leave the country. And so it is a very prescient series and doesn't have fantastic elements to it, but the author is a historian who specializes in Central American and Spanish history, focusing on middle ages and colonial periods as well.
And so it's a whole book on kind of talking about xenophobia and colonization and the impact of colonization. It's a really amazing series I just I can't get enough of talking about it and I recommend it to everyone. I read it as an audio book series. Each book is about 11-13 hours. So it's an [crosstalk] [00:25:40].
Julie: What was the author again? Who?
Sarah: S.E. Grove.
Julie: S.E. Grove. G-R-O-V-E, Grove?
Sarah: Yeah, Grove. And it is in MCPL. We have digital copies and paper copies of the whole series.
David: So let's go from books you've read to historical fiction you’d perhaps like to read about. Is there any time period, place or event that you really want to read historical fiction about, but haven't found any?
Anita: I haven't really found in any good historical fiction about pre-Columbian, Central America or the United States. So that's my family background, from Mexico, so I would like to be able to read more about the prehistory prior to the Europeans coming over and doing what they did. But I don't really know of an author who focuses on that time.
Julie: How about you?
Sarah: I just visited the Canadian Maritimes recently for my honeymoon, so I would love to read more about that region. I would really like to read more Southern Asia I think would be a good thing to do because I haven't read enough Southern Asia. I just – to spread my experiences. I did read some- when I was younger but I'd like to have some more experiences of that and also just basically places that I haven't been which is most of the world. My Canada trip was my first time out of the US, so I want to be able to expand my experiences a lot more. And historical fiction sometimes does that because once you've got that- you start that learning about that place, you want to read more about it and then you’re like, “Maybe I want to go there.”
And that kind of expands kind of your interests in that. So I would just read, yeah. I’d also really like to read more fiction set in this area historically because-
Julie: Like the Washington DC area?
Sarah: Washington DC area. I would love to find more history and not particularly focusing on Washington DC, but the areas surrounding it or – and I know we did a few set in the civil war, but I would love to read a book written about the Smithsonian, the historical fiction. Early Smithsonian has amazing stories and there's a club that they would go out and serenade the director's daughters because they lived in the Smithsonian Castle and I’d love to read stories about those sorts of things. Maybe that's just the truth is stranger than fiction.
Julie: Maybe you just need to be writing that story. There you go. Now, how accurate do you want your historical fiction to be?
Anita: Well, I like it to be pretty accurate, but I wouldn't really notice unless something was so far off the rails that- something that didn't belong in the time period popped up and sometimes I do think – did they really have that then. And I might go back and check that if like a character picks up a telephone to make a call and it's 1842, that kind of thing you would probably notice. But again because I like the ones that focus on the minor characters, I don't think it pops up that much.
What does kind of jar sometimes is when a character in a historical fiction novel will speak in a way that is contemporary. And that it is kind of jarring and you do think to yourself a woman, or a child, or a servant or whomever, would probably not have spoken in that way during that time period and Sarah is nodding her head like crazy. So that must bother her.
Sarah: I have a story about that. I once read a book that was set in American revolution in the South and I'd read a few others that were set in that time period, had read about it and what we qualify as the South nowadays is actually you really would go a bit farther north than even this book qualified it as. The book itself, the characters started speaking in like thick Southern American drawls and then they were using language that felt so civil war that I felt very confused. They referenced some things like clothing, the way it really wasn't accurate and I finally looked at the back of the book and I realized the author had no background in the American Revolution and spent most of his time writing about the Civil War.
And then I realized that that was probably why. I really like my books to be accurate. I once was very upset. I was skimming a book, trying to make sure I knew if I could reference it for someone, help someone find a book that they're interested on. And I was really upset because the author started talking about historical family, the Greene family, Nathanael’s Greene family in a way that was disconcerting and I was like I think something seems off. What I've read and what I know of his family, this doesn't seem right.
And then I found in her author's note and I really appreciate author’s notes, is that she actually used a rumor and played it up in order to create more drama that wasn't necessary. So I was quite upset about that.
Julie: You won’t be recommending that one.
Sarah: No, I won’t.
David: Well, the whole genre of historical fiction goes back quite some way. Can you give us some sense of how it's changed over time and has it changed let's say within the past 20 or 30 years, any recognizable changes that you've seen?
Sarah: One of the things that I've noticed is there has been a larger push for greater diversity in authors and their books. We're having a more diverse authors writing more historical fiction as well, which I think is really, really important and I think will be really good for us in the future too. And they're writing on stories that we are not – I know we've been talking so much about books that have really been Anglo centric, they have been mostly focusing on England and the US and I was looking at the books that I read, Oh Laurie R. King, set in England, Jacqueline Winspear, set in England, Kerry Greenwood, set in Australia, oh yeah, that was an English colony and is now- you know, American Revolution. US separating from England.
So, trying to kind of get away from that centralization I think is really good and will actually be really good for us for history in the future. And I think has a lot to say hopefully for direction we could be going.
Anita: Yeah, and I think you're right. Diversity in both the characters and in the authors as well as the time periods is really important for us right now. And I'm pretty sure that there are authors that may be available to us in translation that what we have not picked up with Montgomery County being as diverse as it is and people would enjoy reading about their cultures and where their history and ancestors came from. That's on us to find those things that are well written and good and bring them into our collection.
Julie: So, is there historical fiction for kids and teens are can you recommend any?
Anita: Of course, there are So many tons of historical fiction books for kids and teens. I do think that in some cases now, we want to think about the way that things are portrayed in some of the historical fiction that was very popular. Of course, when I was a child, I know there's a discussion right now about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books and the portrayal of native Americans or first peoples in those. So I think that as we move forward and we see as Sarah said, more diversity and more thought given to the role that everybody played in history moving all of humanity forward to this point, we’ll see some different things.
But certainly, I think historical fiction has always grabbed children as they try to imagine themselves in another time or place and what it might have been like for them to be there. There are some great books out there that kids love.
Sarah: That's something I'm passionate about historical fiction for kids because that was what got me into my love of history. My mom grew up in near Plymouth, Massachusetts and so I grew up reading “The first Thanksgiving.” And then, studying it in college, wrote a independent study on it and the Samuel Eaton's day and Sarah Morton's day are two that Plymouth actually did, and then I’ve continued on with that series and I have actually improved upon them, made the stories even more accurate.
There's a story that's even told from the perspective of a young Native American Wampanoag boy. Done in the same process and thanks to that staff member a QO years and years ago, and she really nurtured that interest in me. So I was able to find some really wonderful books. And the S.E. Grove books are a different perspective on historical fiction, there's the Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood. He's also written Alternate History as well which he did the year of the Hang Man, and so I think that giving kids and teens a new perspective on history is good.
I love to mention the plethora of graphic novels and webcomics that we have that are out there that you might not see as common. There are a number of them that are webcomics only on the Internet like The Dreamer by Laura Innes in which the main character ends up kind of traveling back in time and experiencing the American Revolution. Lackadaisy Cats was set in probation era St Louis Missouri. So we have graphic novels too that are out there that are a different way to engage with history and can really encourage young people and older people to really engage with it in a different way.
Julie: That one the The March the John Lewis book.
Sarah: Yes. I want to read that so badly.
Julie: So, I'm really glad you brought up the graphic novels. I hadn't thought about those.
David: Well Sarah and Anita, we usually close each recording by putting you on the spot and asking what are you reading right now? So I'll start with Anita.
Anita: Well, as I said, [crosstalk] [00:36:51]. I am making my way painfully slowly through Column of Fire, even though it's a good book and I don't want to say that it's slow going. It's totally me. And then the Circe that I just finished by Madeline Miller was really good. I would recommend that to anyone with an interest in that. And I think I just finished the- is Jessica Mitford? No, it’s Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate. I love all those books by the Mitford sisters so go back to those from time to time.
Sarah: I've been bouncing around a little bit. I've been reading the third book of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and I can't actually place what the title is at the moment, but based on the main character fighting ghosts. So kind of I enjoy fantasy and science fiction a lot, so that's what I've been doing. I also just checked out A Wrinkle in Time for another reread. I've already read it twice and I just, I think that having books to reread is really important. There are a number of books that I reread regularly.
Julie: I want to mention one more author because we kind of passed her at the beginning is Connie Willis who writes a wonderful series of books that are sort of set in the future and in the past at the same time about a group of researchers at Oxford. It is Oxford not Cambridge I think, who are able to travel back in time to do their own in person, first person research in the Doomsday Book where the woman is sent back to the plague year and they get it a little bit wrong is just wonderful. And then the ones To Say Nothing of the Dog and Blackout. So Connie Willis is a great author to pick up if you like historical fantasy.
Julie: Well, we will like to say thank you so much to Anita and Sarah for taking us down historical lane today. Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on our Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Julie Dina: Hi, I’m Julie Dina. In this episode of Library Matters, we are doing something a little different. For the past few months MCPL has invited children ages 10 through 14 to explore literature by recording a video about a book they’ve enjoyed. We’ve collected some of these book talks to share with our Library Matters’ listeners.
We hope you enjoy the enthusiasm these young readers have expressed for their books and for reading as much as we have. You can see these and more of MCPL’s literary explorer videos on our YouTube channel mcplmd. MCPL’s literary explorer program was made possible by grants from the NBC Universal Foundation and Washington’s NBC4.
Book Reviewer 1: Who knew forgotten letters stuck inside a book could change someone’s life. Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, it’s heartwarming story about a girl named Truly Lovejoy who gets tangled in a mystery of a letter inside a copy of Charlotte’s Web. After Truly’s father gets injured by an IED overseas the Lovejoy’s move from Texas to a tiny town in New Hampshire called Pumpkin Falls.
When Truly finds a letter in an autographed edition of Charlotte’s Web, she follows the clues and is soon roped in a treasure hunt taking her all around Pumpkin Falls. I liked this book because it’s fun and its sweet mystery about friendship and family. I really enjoyed this book and I hope you do too.
Book Reviewer 2: With the Wrinkle in Time movie coming out hundreds of people were introduced to the characters of Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace but did you know that Madeleine L’Engle already wrote a sequel to it? Wind in the door also takes a sci-fi oriented trip but instead of going to the far reaches of space they go deep into Charles Wallace’s mitochondria, which is the body’s main energy producer.
With her companions, old and new, Meg was either prevail over darkness or loss her brother. Wind in the door gives you seven questions through the plot, such as – wait I shall not tell. It is a fast-paced book with several scientific facts that are mind bending. For instance, the microscopic scale from the mitochondria to you is about the same as the scale from you to out the galaxy, neat?
She also had a coming of age story about the creatures that were living in the mitochondria. With vivid characters, strange new creatures and an imagination that trumps all, Madeleine L’Engle has created a wonderful sequel that will thrill readers, young and old, with Wind in the door.
Book Reviewer 3: Some look like giant walking turtles, others are black with wings and look almost like armored ravens, “Shadow Titans!” Emily shouted. I’m Manisha and the book I will be reviewing is Pegasus The End of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn. The book I chose to discuss is about a girl named Emily and her best friend, the winged stallion Pegasus. Emily now has less powers and a different body so she feels as if she’s being judged. But she still has one more promise to fulfill, to rescue Agent B from the evil central research unit.
But while at the facility she finds a monster older than Olympus itself. I would recommend this book to someone else because it is action packed, filled with adventure and busting with excitement. Will Emily defeat the monsters? Will Olympus make peace with the Titans? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Book Reviewer 4: Right, let’s have fun. “Hallo Silver I didn’t see you there.” “I, a lowly Red am about to vanquish you, and if you survive, you should read this.” This is Red Queen. Red Queen is about the teenage girl named Mare Barrow in a world where the people are divided by their blood; Red or Silver. Mare is Red, [Indiscernible] [00:04:10] while Silvers are the nobles. Their Silver blood gives them superpowers.
One day Mare is called by the king to serve him but when she crushes the party, she realizes she has powers but she is a red. Mare latter joins the rebellion in order to give the reds their rights but the stakes are high, and when blood goes against blood, who will survive in the deadly of power. Red Queen is an amazing book about betrayal, loyalty, love. If you like bloodshed and epic battle scenes then you read the Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.
Book Reviewer 5: One second everything is normal, the next is not. In a blink of an eye everyone 15 years and older vanishes into thin air along with phone signals, internet, any way to get help. Gone by Michael Grant is a young adult dystopian series of seven books. In dystopia books somebody threatens the survival of the human race, creating a living nightmare. After an asteroid hits a nuclear power plant in California a radioactive monster is born.
It created an energy barrier that made everyone 15 and older vanish, living the kids to fend for themselves. Some of the kids even develop supernatural abilities, throughout the series the kids fight hunger, lies, plague, fear, and even each other. This series is full of unexpected twists and turns with mutations and monsters that will live your jaw hanging open.
I guarantee that you will be hooked into their world. Full of action, suspense, humor, mystery and fear, this is a series that teens will never forget.
Book Reviewer 6: Hi there, I was just reading this really cool book called Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone by J. K. Rowling. In the beginning of the book, we find out how Harry lives a miserable life with his aunt and uncle, and spoil cousin. But all this is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail addressed to Harry.
He gets accepted into Hogwart’s school of witchcraft and wizardry. Along the way Harry finds out 11 years ago his parents were killed by the dark lord Voldemort and now he’s planning on coming to kill Harry. Will Harry survive his deadly encounter with Lord Voldemort? Will Harry and his friends be able to protect themselves? Find out in Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone.
I recommend this book for all ages that’s it’s a wonderful introduction to Harry Potter’s life and the wizarding world.
Book Reviewer 7: How ever imagined walking eight hours twice, everyday just to get to the closest water source that’s not even 100% clean? Linda Sue Park describes Nya’s struggles to find water in a Long Walk to Water. Nya has to retrieve water for her family, walking for 16 hours total every day.
One day, Nya’s sister was extremely sick. Her parents went to their tribe’s chief and asked for help. He tells them that the nearest medical clinic is 90 miles away. In Sudan the cars are a rare sight. Nya’s sister walked with her dad for three whole days until they found a small medical clinic. A nurse cared for Nya’s sister and said that the cause of her sickness is because of dirty water. Will the family get clean water? Will Nya’s sister survive? Read a Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park to find out.
Book Reviewer 8: “Olivia?” A voice called out, “Olivia Grace Harrison?” It was the most amazing sight Olivia had ever seen in her life. It was her Royal Highness Princess Amelia Mignonette of Genovia. Until that moment, Olivia was a typical sixth grader who lived with her aunt and step uncle after her mom passed away.
But when the royal sister she never knew suddenly emerges onto the scene to pick her up from school, Olivia’s life changes dramatically. In an instance, she is transformed from an ordinary school girl to a real-life princess. Olivia is whisked away in a royal Genovian limousine and finally meets her dad and family. A dream that until now was unfulfilled.
When her step uncle finds out that she was with her true family, he becomes furious and takes her back to the place where she grew up. Olivia ponders her future. Will she remain with the only family she knew, and live the ordinary life she was used to? Or will she be drawn to her royal roots in Genovia to be with her dad’s family? Will Olivia be able to live in Genovia happily ever after?
There’s only one way to find out. Pick up and read Meg Cabot’s imaginative novel, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.
Book Reviewer 9: Do you like mystery? Then you should read one of the Hardy Boys books. This book by Franklin W. Dixon is called the Secret of the Caves. The Hardy boys are trying to find a missing person called Morgan Todd, but along the way people try to hurt the Hardy boys. One time in Honeycomb caves, very strange things happened. People who seem to be good are just criminals.
I like this book because at first the mystery can get really confusing, but finally the mystery is really interesting.
Book Reviewer 10: For English class, I’m writing a poem and I decided it’s going to be about sounds. Sounds of the wrinkled, squirm creatures that live in tide pools. The problem is my teacher thought it was terrible, she gave me an F. Then I showed it to my dad, a professor of literature, he changed my F into a Fabulous. My dad said not everyone can understand poetry. This is a passage from the book Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry.
This is about a ten-year-old girl who is confident, insightful, funny and stays on top of her world. She is a fourth grader dealing with all fourth-grade drama. Being ten years old is in deed confusing. Anastasia doesn’t know if she wants to be a ballerina or an ice skater. She hasn’t decided yet. She has an old grandmother who sometimes doesn’t remember her and makes her sad.
Anastasia has a lot to do with boys, baby brother on the way, friends, her gold fish, and school. Anastasia loves to make a list of what she likes, and what she hates. She is just writing to solve many problems but she will always hate eating liver.
I love this book because it motivated me to start a journal in which I can write in every day. Writing helps me work out difficult situations. I also try to solve my problems by looking at the pros and cons. This way I too, come up happier and wiser. This book will help you stay positive and help you deal with life’s drama, like it helps me.
Julie Dina: We hope you enjoyed these engaging book talks. We are so glad these young shared their enthusiasm for their books with us. You can find all these books in MCPL’s catalogue. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, on the Apple podcast app, Sticher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple podcast, we’d love to know what you think.
Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m your host Julie Dina. Today’s topic is Reading Challenge 2018. And on this particular topic, I have two experts in that subject. First, I would like to introduce Lennea Bower, Digital Strategies Manager of Montgomery County Public Library.
Lennea Bower: Hi Julie. Thanks for having me.
Julie Dina: Thanks for coming. And also I have Candice Hixon who is also the Library Assistant Supervisor for Kensington Park Library.
Candice Hixon: Hi, Julie. It is great being here today.
Julie Dina: Welcome Candice. So let’s dive straight into the subject, but before we do that, I will like to mention the reason why you guys are the ones chosen to be on this episode. First, Lennea is, and including her team, they’re actually the ones who run the Reading Challenge for MCPL's 2018 Reading Challenge.
Lennea Bower: That is right.
Julie Dina: So, would you tell us a little bit of yourself and also how this got prompted and who actually started all of this.
Lennea Bower: So I’m the digital strategies manager for Montgomery County Public Libraries. I’ve been in this role since December of 2016. Before that, I was a member of our team, which was at that time called virtual services. And we started the Reading Challenge actually at the very end of 2015. Our first Reading Challenge was 2016 and it is an annual event.
And we started doing – the idea of Reading Challenges were getting really popular and we were hearing about them from the branches and some of us were participating in them, so the people who are on our social media team at that time, which was the members of the virtual services unit at that time, Mary Ellen Icaza, now our Assistant Director for Programming and Outreach, Susan Moritz, who is now our head of Children Services at Kensington Park, Mark Santoro from our podcast producers team, and Adrienne Miles Holderbaum also from our podcast producing team, and myself and we got together and started t the challenge then coming up with the first one for 2016.
Julie Dina: What a challenge that-
Lennea Bower: Yeah.
Julie Dina: And Candice, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the Reading Challenge as well?
Candice Hixon: Well, I have worked for Montgomery County Public Libraries for about 10 years now. I’ve enjoyed reading since I was very young, probably about kindergarten age. And my mom would bring home books for me when I was five, six years old. She also works for the library. She’d bring me home like 50 or 100 picture books and I would just devour them.
So this is actually the first Reading Challenge I participated in, where I was able to choose a book from different specific categories. I used to participate in the summer reading program when I was a kid though, and I just loved doing that. So I decided I would give this challenge a shot.
Julie Dina: And how has that been?
Candice Hixon: It has been going really well. I’m about half way through the challenge, and I’m hoping to finish it by November so I can read the bonus book as well. And I plan on doing it next year as well, so I really enjoy it.
Julie Dina: So for those of us who don’t know, can you tell us what exactly MCPL's Reading Challenges and what a reading challenge is in general.
Candice Hixon: So a reading challenge is meant to have yourself read books from other genres, different authors, books that you normally wouldn’t read, and to get yourself to read a book every month. I know sometimes we don’t have the time to do that with our busy lives, but this kind of gets you to go outside the box.
The goal is to read a book from each of 12 different categories throughout the year. If you finish a book from each category, there is a bonus challenge at the end. You can join the challenge for free online, through our website, or stop by, or call one of the braches for more information. You can either print out a copy of the challenge or create an account through Beanstalk to keep track of your progress.
Lennea Bower: So one of the things that I want to say about our challenge is that we decided to go with this format because we thought 12 books was going to be a challenge for a lot of people, but still very reasonable number. And we put in the bonus challenge both for us can decide if you want to do an extra one. But also if for some reason just one of the categories does not appeal to you or you don’t feel comfortable with it or, you know, this year most of them are kind of vague and you can go a lot of places with them, but sometimes you’ve had like doing audio book or do a graphic novel and there might be some people for whom that system of reading just doesn’t work, so we wanted to have the bonuses, the built-in option for them, so especially for those who are completing it online.
And we do have prizes every year and you do have to complete the online challenge to be eligible for the prizes. For people who do want to complete it for their prizes, they can complete any 12. You know, they could skip challenge one and complete, you know, two, three through 12 plus the bonus challenge and that would still count as completion for us when we’re looking at who has completed the challenge that are numbers for that. So that is something that we have done.
I’ve also seen other formats for reading challenges or seen some that are like 24 categories so, you know, that is a lot of books for some people.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Candice Hixon: That is a lot. It is ambitious.
Julie Dina: Right.
Lennea Bower: I’ve also seen some that are like bingo card format or like different fun things, so it is like, you know, complete a row of books, complete a column of books you know. So there are different formats to do it. Ours is, as Candice said, you know, kind of 12 plus the bonus challenge are one of the things we’ve used to talk about as 12 months, 12 books. Again, that idea that you’re reading at least one book every month, but I’ve seen the other formats as well that people I know do their own as well through – especially people who use like Goodreads and stuff like that. A lot of them will set their own annual challenge goal, which might just be a number and not speak to the types of books.
So I think a Reading Challenge is set up by someone else, that's what Candice was saying and it really challenges you to maybe step outside your genre or author preferences, not just read, you know, 15 Robert’s Books although you could do that for several years in a row. But, you know, it really kind of vary what you’re reading and gets some other things in there. And that is what I like, and that's where I started with.
Julie Dina: And she liked that, we expect you might be incorporating some of these other formats that you’ve noticed?
Lennea Bower: You know, I don’t know if we will. I think we’re still – so this is our third year, 2016, ‘17, ‘18, and I think the other formats are fun. I mean, I do think a lot of those are incorporated in like our Summer Read and Learn, which this year is Libraries Rock. And those kind of more creative formats is going to be incorporated in that because those are like do a certain number of activities or pick from different activities and win prizes at different levels, so we don’t have a version of that.
At this point, that is for adults. That program is for kids and teens. And the Reading Challenge is for all ages. So I don’t really know if we’ll look at those other formats, but I do think they’re fun and I think they’re kind of creative and at some point we could look at that, but that is not something we have on the horizon right now or kind of we like this format and we feel like it is working for us and it is growing as a format.
Julie Dina: And for those who are driven by rewards and prizes, can you give us a sneak peek as to some of the prizes that are out there.
Lennea Bower: Well, we don’t have the list of what they’ll be for this year yet. But a lot of times we do incorporate maybe some signed copies of authorized books from different programs, from different authors usually that have visited MCPL. We might also incorporate other prizes that have been available, you know, water bottles and bags or things that we often have – that have often have been included in the prizes. I don’t have any exact list of what it will be for 2018 yet, but those are some things that we’ve used in the past.
Julie Dina: Designer bags?
Lennea Bower: No. Sorry Julie.
Julie Dina: So Candice, can you tell us specifically about your own individual experience with MCPL's Reading Challenge?
Candice Hixon: So far I’ve had a great experience. I have found so many new authors and genres that I enjoy now that I’ve never even thought to read. So I’ve really brought in my horizons. I usually try to pick up crime or mystery novels, but now I’m kind of thinking I’m going to go outside the box even, you know, once this challenge is over, I’m still going to go forward with that and try other challenges. I’m a competitive person, so I knew if I signed up for this, I would finish it and hopefully learn something new about people in the world in general from it. And so far I’ve been doing that, so it has been a lot of fun.
Julie Dina: That is great. And Lennea?
Lennea Bower: Well, I think Reading Challenges background 2015 or so, I set some goals for myself to step outside of some of the genres that I have been reading a lot. I also like crime and mystery novels.
Candice Hixon: Oh, yeah.
Lennea Bower: I also – I read a lot of romance novels. I read a lot of fantasy. And I was really trying to kind of branch out a little bit and not just in other genres, but also maybe authors that I might not have been as familiar with, and reading more authors of color and different – think different other aspects of, you know, perspectives and cultures and stuff that I might not have been aware of. And so I kind of first came across the idea of Reading Challenges through that concept.
And then around the same time, I sort of came across that Adrienne Miles Holderbaum who is at Gaithersburg at that time mentioned that she have been helping a mother and daughter with the Reading Challenge from another, you know, just from an online one that they had found and they had come in, they were reading it together. I don’t know if the daughter was a teen or a tween. I’m not really sure, but they were reading it together and they were looking for books that they could enjoy together kind of as a family activity, and we just thought that that was so cool. So that was sort of where we came. And I found that that experience sort of carries forward.
I think if you’re reading a lot of different things already, sometimes you feel like, “Oh, it is kind of easy to slot things into these categories.” But even so there is always still some categories that are kind of a stretch.
Julie Dina: Yeah. So it sort of pushes you outside of your comfort zone.
Lennea Bower: Yes, definitely has for me.
Julie Dina: So Lennea, being that this is our third year, would you say that more people participate has each year progresses? And also would you say that more people prefer each year than the other?
Lennea Bower: I would definitely say more people have participated. I actually just run a number this morning, kind of looking at it. So the first year, we didn’t have the Beanstalk online component. So what we did was around October we open up like an online form for people to submit.
And we’ve been talking about the challenge all year and so we know there are people who participated all year. But we had a relatively low number that actually completed the form to say that they had completed it. So we don’t really have anyway to track who kind of sign up and maybe started but didn’t go anywhere with it.
So in 2017, we started to move it to Beanstalk, which is where we do to our Summer Read and Learn program and also where we do our 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program. I should say in 2016 we had a little piece of Beanstalk, but we only run it during the summer months, and so it was more limited and it was only adults. It wasn’t really set up to be a family program.
So last year we had almost 150 people who completed the program. And this year, I might sort of say that there were over 125 people who have already completed the program and we’re recording this in June.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Lennea Bower: Yeah. So – and that is the online program. And, of course, you know, some people aren’t doing it for the prize. They don’t really care. They’re just doing the printed version at home and that is perfectly fine too. And we also find – we get some people, like engaging when we talk about it online and making suggestions for the different categories for other readers like on our social media and so on.
In terms of other people who like the categories more, since we do only do 12 categories plus the bonus, we try to vary them up. And I would say the exception is I think we’ve done a book published this year – every year, because that is kind of different by default.
Julie Dina: Right.
Lennea Bower: But we try to vary the other categories. And so some people love them, some people are like, you know, “Bring back my favorite category from two years ago. You know, I want to do that again.” And I’m like, “Well, the point is kind of stretch yourself.” So, you know, I think we might at some point recycle some of the categories from the older ones, but we just don’t want it to be like every year you pick it up and it is the same because you could get into like a Reading Challenge reroute, which kind of depicts the purpose.
Candice Hixon: Right.
Julie Dina: Candice, could you tell us what resource within our library system would you say our customers use for book recommendations the most?
Candice Hixon: First and foremost from a customer service standpoint, I know there is a lot of customers enjoyed going up to the desk to ask information staff member what books they recommend. I also get a lot of positive feedback about the what do I check out next service. Library staff can give author and title recommendations based off of other books that you have really enjoyed. All you have to do is go on our website and fill out a simple form online and they get back to you with tons of great recommendations. I use it myself. I love it.
Julie Dina: Who best to tell you then are user of the product.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Julie Dina: All right. And Lennea, can you tell us what goes into creating the Reading Challenge and how do you decide what categories?
Lennea Bower: So we’ve used a couple of different models. I think the one we use this year for the 2018 was really successful. And we try to incorporate a lot of staff feedback, so there is only a few of us that are on the social media team or in the digital strategies unit and we don’t always have, you know, all the best ideas.
So this year, we did a model where we asked our digital strategies team, our social media team, and/or what do I check out next team to suggest a reader’s advisers to suggest categories and then we open up. I went through – I kind of eliminated some that were duplicates or were, you know, ones as I said that we try not to duplicate the past couple of years so they duplicated those or things that were really, really similar.
And then we open it up, actually, for all staff to vote on a category. So it was sort of an all staff option for people to vote. And then we went through that picked kind of the top vote getters from what all of our MCPL's staff who participated wanted the challenge topics to be. So that is our model we use this year and I think it worked pretty well.
And then we also kind of kept – I tend to keep the ones that lost in the previous years. It sort of like see topics for the next year so that I’m not offering people blanks, right? I can say, “Well, we’ve these topics suggested, but what else do you think?”
Candice Hixon: Right.
Lennea Bower: And kind of use that to start the discussion for the future years.
Julie Dina: Sounds wonderful. Now, how far along have either of you reach in the Reading Challenge? Have you just started? Are you half way there or are you still thinking about it?
Candice Hixon: I have read six books so far through the Reading Challenge. I have not been reading the books in number order or category order. I’m hoping to finish my list, again, by November so I can read the bonus challenge category and authors debut book.
I’ve heard a lot of positive reviews about Jane Harper’s “The Dry”. It is the first of a mystery series about a federal agent, Aaron Falk, whose best friend Luke passed away due to uncertain circumstances. The interesting part of this story is that Luke served as an alibi to agent Falk when he was accused of murder himself 20 years prior. So from what I hear, there a lot of plot twists, so I’m really looking forward to getting through November so I can read this book.
Julie Dina: I hope he has a good lawyer.
Candice Hixon: Yeah, right.
Female Speaker 1: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Female Speaker 2: Looking for a book to fit a tricky Reading Challenge category or just need something new to read? Talk to one of our enthusiastic well read information professionals at the information desk of any MCPL branch. They’re eager to help you find what you’re looking for. Check this episode show notes for a list of MCPL branch locations and phone numbers. Happy reading.
Female Speaker 1: Now, back to our program.
Julie Dina: Now, and just either of you can answer this. What is the biggest stretch you’ve made to make a book fit into a particular category?
Lennea Bower: I think the biggest stretch that I've made this year is probably for Not Your Princess, which is a collection of short stories and poetry and essays which is edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale and it is about Native American. It is a collection of essays, all these arts and essays and stuff are by Native Americans or First Nations people from Canada, mostly women or people who identify as women writing about their experiences.
And I use that for question six, which is a book fiction or non-fiction about our country or culture you’re not very familiar with. I wouldn’t say it's so much stretch in that – I mean I would love to know a lot more about native and First Nation culture than I do know, so it wasn’t stretch in that way. But it was a little bit of a stretch in that because it was such a kind of short book and such short collection of essays. I felt like, okay, I got like just a littlest window into what does culture are, but you know, it didn’t really open the door to kind of understand them more fully.
Candice Hixon: For me, I haven’t had to stretch too far yet in any particular category, but I guess I would say reading a young adult novel as my book from a different age level would probably be the further stretch because I read young adult novels anyway. So, I mean – but, you know, it still fit the category.
And I ended up reading “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green. It is his latest novel about a teenage girl, Aza, who suffers from an anxiety disorder. And so along with her best friend, she tries to become a detective and search for her like crush’s fugitive father who also happens to be a billionaire.
So if they’re able to locate him, they win like a hefty sum of money. I found that it was really funny and intelligent, and it gives a really to good viewpoint on teens living with mental illnesses. I have read all of John Green’s book so far and none of them disappoint me. So if you haven’t read any of his books, please read them. It doesn’t matter what age you are, they’re really good.
Lennea Bower: I kind of cheated in the same way for the different age level category, actually about a middle grade books, and I don’t read a lot of middle grade, but I read “Tempests and Slaughter” by Tamora Pierce. And I read her books when I was a middle grade reader and a young adult reader. So then “Tempests and Slaughter” is her newest books and it is like a new series about Numair Salmalin who is a character from her “Immortals” series and its his life as a child. So there is a little bit of stretch because I felt like as I was reading them I was like going back into like middle school stuff like I would have read this.
Lennea Bower: If this book had been around, I would have read it when I was, you know 12 or whatever, but it wasn’t around.
Candice Hixon: That is cool.
Julie Dina: Well, while we’re talking about our favorite books, which book would you say has been the most recommended in any categories so far this year?
Candice Hixon: From what I’ve read so far, I believe that “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly has been the most asked for and recommended book that I’ve read. This was actually my pick for the Librarian’s Choice display at the Kensington Park Library. I not only found this book on display, but it was recommended to me by several staff members and by customers. It is a historical fiction book about the lives of three different women from different European countries during World War II. They each play their own role during the war. One young woman is a German doctor who takes on a medical position with the government of Nazi Germany. Another is a young Polish woman who was a courier for the underground resistance movement. Finally there is a single New York socialite who does volunteer work for the French consulate aiding orphans. She ends up aiding women in the rehabilitation whose lives were impacted by Ravensbruck, which was a horrific concentration camp during the war.
Anyways, all of their very different lives end up intersecting and I learned a lot about human resilience during a very dark time in history. I highly recommend it. If you can’t find time to read it, the audio book version is also really, really good. I listen to that because I drive a lot. So I really recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.
Julie Dina: You heard that folks.
Lennea Bower: I don’t know if I – well, I’m not in the branches as much so I don’t have the opportunity to have as much on a daily bases interactions with customers as Candice does about what books are recommended.
One of the books that I read, which was my non-fiction book about history or biography over historical figure was “Prairie Fires” by Caroline Fraser, which is a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. And it is actually kind of a biography of her and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a writer. I would say journalist, but she definitely don’t have any kind of sense of journalistic ethics if we would think about them now. She was kind of like in the yellow journalism era.
And it was about both of them and their relationship in sort of where is the – where is the line between reality and fiction and the Little House books that Laura Ingalls Wilder published. And so that was really fascinating and it did win a Pulitzer Prize. So I don’t know if it is the most recommended, you know, like day to day in the library sense, but it is highly recommended in a critical sense.
Candice Hixon: I have to read that one.
Julie Dina: Yeah. That is good to know.
Candice Hixon: Sounds good.
Julie Dina: So what kinds of response are we receiving from – concerning the Reading Challenge, what kind of response are we getting from our customers, Candice?
Candice Hixon: I find that a lot of costumers don’t know about the Reading Challenge yet. I tell them about my experience with it and how I’ve found new authors and genres that I really enjoy from it. I show them how to register and they say that they’ll give it a go, so I’m hoping it will become even more popular as we continue to have it.
As Lennea said, it is a growing challenge and I think as customers know that it is there, they’re going to continue to try to complete it and have fun doing it.
Lennea Bower: We hope so. Well, I mean, we – most of the customers I interact with about it are on social media or they’re customers that sign for it because it is in Beanstalk and some of our customers sign up for Beanstalk to participate one of other programs, like a 1000 Books, or Summer Read and Learn. Some of them discover it that way.
I do find sometimes the customers aren’t even 100% aware of the differences between the different programs, although I guess they enjoy them, it doesn’t really matter whether or not they know which program is it.
But most of them, you know, the feedback that we get is really exciting and when we talk about it on our social media and stuff, I would say overwhelmingly we get a positive response from people and people are excited about it and they’re, you know offering suggestions for the different categories and they’re also, you know, telling other people about it.
So I think that overall we get a really positive response for it. As Candice said, I mean, it is still relatively new program. Well, it has been around for a few years. It is not something that we put sort of the resources and effort behind or something like a Summer Read and Learn program, it doesn’t have as many components, it is not in your face in the branches and big signs and stuff all the time.
Candice Hixon: Right, right.
Lennea Bower: So it is more of like for people who are looking for that extra challenge and, you know, what do I check out next team knows about it so they might suggest it to someone if they know that that person really seems to be going through a lot of books and looking for things to stretch their comfort level, you know, they might make some suggestions about it.
So I think that is kind of how – at least to day it has been growing. But now we’re talking about in the podcast, so I’m really looking forward seeing those members spike.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Let’s spike it up. Can you tell us, and both of you can answer this. Can you tell us something that is really fun or any particular on use your Reading Challenge category either of you have encountered?
Candice Hixon: The most fun reading challenge I’ve encountered will obviously be the laugh reader funny book category. I am reading “Naked” by David Sedaris. It is a memoir by him publisher [Phonetic] [0:25:14], hilarious and dysfunctional stories about his life, travels and family. I have heard of some of his book before, so I decided to give this one a try.
I’m really enjoying it and I expect to be done with it soon. I have been laughing hysterically through it. I even look my husband up accidentally while reading it because I couldn’t stop laughing. So, oh, I highly recommend it and now I’m going to read all of his other books too. So that is another new author that I came across that I never read any of his work before.
Julie Dina: Thank God for Reading Challenge.
Candice Hixon: Yes.
Lennea Bower: Yes it is. I think it is all fun. I think it is fun to be creative and read different things that you haven’t read before and – I mean as Candice said earlier, I mean I am competitive and so sometimes having a little extra incentive to be competitive and kind of have something that you’re aiming for can help sort of – if you’re struggling a little bit about a certain book.
So – I mean, I think it is all fun and – I mean, I think the categories we do anything that makes this kind of creative is there is a lot that you can do to kind of fit things into this category. You’re not going to be forced to read something you really have no interest in because the categories are so restrictive or something.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: You should be able to find something that you’re interested in that fits the category. So hopefully you’re reading will still be fine. And if you want to use it to make yourself get through that, you know, 700 page biography that has been sitting on your shelf as, you know, challenge 11, you can do that, but we’re not saying you have to do that.
Candice Hixon: I’m not doing that.
Julie Dina: It is just a suggestion.
Lennea Bower: It is an option for you if you want to make it and have fun, you know, or less fun or if you want to make it fun, you know, and pick a shorter book or as soon as there is little more fast-paced, read one of – read “Assassination Vacation” or some other book by Sarah Vowell, “Lafayette in the Almost United States” and she is a history writer, historical writer, who writes really, really funny books and she – she is in “The Incredibles,” that is one of the stretchy people, right?.
Anyways, she is the mom I think in that movie and she has been in some other things and she gets a few of her, you know, her friends who read with her, you know, people you might have heard of like Jon Stewart and a lot of other people. So those are fun historical books. If you want to go more on the fun side with that, that is definitely a route you can go. You don’t have to work your way through “Grant” by Ron Chernow, although I read both of those books this year, but you know, you can pick your direction.
Julie Dina: Now, have reading challenges changed your reading habits?
Lennea Bower: I think a little bit. I think my reading how it has kind of changed and I got involved in reading challenges sort of simultaneously, and I think those sort of things complemented each other. Trying to read a little more widely, especially when it came to MCPL was in a public library environment was being asked a lot more to talk about a wider range of books.
So I think that sort of changed my reading habits and then I found reading challenges as a way to make sure that I didn’t just form new slightly wider habits but kept you know, redirecting and expanding them.
Candice Hixon: I would say it has changed my reading habits. I’ve read so many different books now that I’ve never would even picked up had enough been for the Reading Challenge like George Saunders book, again, David Sedaris. I just find that if you don’t challenge yourself to try something new, you won’t do it, like you’ll just continue reading – I’ll continue reading my crime or mystery novels and, you know, James Patterson over and over again because he has a book every week that comes out, so with this challenge, I think I’m going to actually start participating in other reading challenges that aren’t part of Montgomery County Public Library's just to keep going with it, because some of the books that I've read during this challenge have become some of my favorite books that I’ve ever read, so there is that. Yeah.
Julie Dina: Now, I know Candice said she plans on getting into other Reading Challenges other than MCPL's, what about yourself, Lennea?
Lennea Bower: So I do – I have participated in some other Reading Challenges or sometimes I kind of like printout other Reading Challenges and sort to see what I read that fits into the categories or look for categories even if I don’t want to complete that challenge, just kind of look for categories that I haven’t really read anything that fits and say, “Oh, well, maybe I really need to expand my reading in that direction.” So I have the Book Riot’s 2018 challenge printed out to kind of look at. That is a website about books and reading.
The Ripped Bodice which is a romance store – a romance bookstore in LA is doing a summer romance bingo card. Actually I don’t think you have to read romances, but they are a romance bookstore primarily. And so I have that that I was going to printout and see. And that one is kind of fine because it is romance novel readers like to talk about the different tropes, and people who don’t read romance novels talk about them disparagingly. But people who like to read romance novels talk about Romance Novel Tropes, kind of like what their favorite ones are and what they like, and that is a lot of what the bingo cards are.
Candice Hixon: Oh, okay.
Lennea Bower: It is like, you know, fake relationship, secret baby, you know, stuff like that. So, you know, billionaire, you know.
Candice Hixon: Right.
Lennea Bower: It is just sort of like some fun things.
Candice Hixon: Some fun.
Lennea Bower: So that John Green could fit in there –.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: – even though it is a romance novel but –.
Candice Hixon: Yeah, yeah. There is a little bit, you know, not a little bit of romance, but we’ll get too far into that.
Julie Dina: Ooh la la.
Lennea Bower: So those are some difference once that I look at. I don’t know if I actually complete them but just to, again, kind of like take a look out. And a lot of times what they – will come along with these recommendations of, you know, “If you’re looking to fill this category, what about these books?” And then I’ll prove those books and see if there is anything that hasn’t come to my awareness. I might not start to read it, but just kind of keep expanding.
Julie Dina: Thank you so much. Now, for our customers who would like to participate in the 2018 Reading Challenge, could you tell them exactly where they would find this on our website?
Lennea Bower: Yeah. So it is part of our Readers Cafe. And the fastest easiest way to get to our Readers Cafe is to go to the books, movies and music. Drop down on our menu and then look for suggested reading and then you’ll see Readers Cafe, and Reading Challenge is one of the options there. So that – because they’re also – they have children in their life that are participating in either 1000 Books or Summer Read and Learn. When they go to sign them up, they can sign themselves and their kids if they want up for the Reading Challenge at the same time because it is in the same Beanstalk program.
Julie Dina: Thank you so much, Lennea. And also before the show comes to an end, it is a tradition on Library Matters for us to find out what our guests are reading. Candice, can you tell us what is you’re reading right now?
Candice Hixon: I’m currently reading “Go Ask Alice” written by anonymous. I think I read this book when I was like 12 or something or at least I started it and I don’t think I finished it, so I decide to pick it up again. I don’t remember much of it. Anyhow, I know that this book was banned for a while for many libraries. It is very dark book about the nightmares of drug addiction from a teenager’s diary.
Some claim it is a real diary and others claim that it is a work of fiction written in the ‘70s as propaganda to scare kids into not using drugs. Either way, it is very interesting and gives a perspective from someone suffering from drugs addiction. I believe it was banned due to its language and content and not because it was about drug abuse. But it is a short book. It is a classic. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t read it as a young adult.
Lennea Bower: So the books that I’m reading right now – right now I’m reading “The Obelisk Gate” by N. K. Jemisin, which is a second book in her Broken Earth trilogy which one – I think all three of the books won a Hugo Award or definitely the first couple. And she was the first African-American woman to win that award or – I can’t remember. I think Octavia Butler won some kind of award but it was not that one.
And I’m also just finished “Not That Bad,” which is edited by Roxane Gay. And it is a collection of essays about sexual assaults and some various survivor stories. So it is very, very dark and hard to read. It is like one of those books – I did the audio book and all the essays are read by their authors, so they’re extra emotional. They’re not a great readers, but I mean, it is just this very emotional because they're all very personal essays. It is the kind of book that you want to keep reading, but then you’re like, “No, I have to stop,” right, and like I can only read one or two.
Julie Dina: You got to take a break.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: Yeah, yeah. It is a kind of book that will sort of suck you in to read it but you don’t do that. I don’t think that is probably very good for your state of mental health. Some of the stories are very, you know, just traumatic, the things that people went through. But also, you know, I thought it was really informative. And I read Gay’s other memoirs as well.
And then I also just finished “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” by Gilbert King, which is his follow up to “Devil in the Grove.” And so that is about – both of those books are about racism and other types of prejudice in Florida in the ‘50s and ‘60s. So “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” is his new book that just came out a few months ago.
And I’m really excited which isn’t out yet, but will be when this podcast comes out, “A Reaper at the Gates” by Sabaa Tahir and then “Smoke in the Sun” by Renee Ahdieh, just came out but I haven’t got my hands on yet because – but hopefully by the time this podcast comes out, that would be what I’m reading.
Julie Dina: There is a lot coming out.
Candice Hixon: Yeah.
Lennea Bower: Yeah.
Candice Hixon: Oh, yeah.
Julie Dina: Well, I’ve got to say you guys were very informative and this was very fun, no challenge at all. Thank you so much Lennea and thank you Candice for joining us on this episode.
Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast. We would love to know what you think. Thank you again for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
[Audio Ends] [0:35:43]
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters, I am Lauren Martino and I am here with my co-host David Payne.
David Payne: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And today we have a special episode on travel. I am here today with Assistant Director for Facilities and ADA Rita Gale.
Rita Gale: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And director of marketing for Visit Montgomery Cory Van Horn.
Cory Van Horn: Hi there, thank you for having me.
Lauren: So Rita is an avid traveler and has been to many places particularly national parks and soon she will be retiring and have lots and lots of time for new adventures. And Cory Van Horn is an authority on travel and particularly in our area and knows a lot about the tourism spots in Montgomery County that you really should know about, is that about accurate?
Cory: That’s pretty accurate, it is a choose your own adventure experience here at Montgomery County.
Lauren: Alright. So Rita, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and some of your traveling adventures?
Rita: Sure, I am a resident obviously of Maryland, Montgomery County, I live in Rockville. And I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I got interested in actually traveling specifically to the national parks because I went to on a cruise to Alaska and visited Denali National Park which is one of the largest national parks in the country and that got me hooked on traveling in national parks. So I have visited many of the national parks. I will be taking a trip in September to the Utah parks which means that I will be visiting Bryce which is my favorite park in all the world. The Zion which I have only spent a day in and then Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef and will end in Monument Valley where we will see the Mittens and if we are there at the right time, we might see one reflected on the other.
David: Is that an organized tour or do you go individually and roam around?
Rita: No I go with my sister, she and I travel together and usually I plan the trips and we drive. So we don’t generally take tours.
Lauren: Is planning trips generally easier or harder than what you do from day to day, it sounds like you probably have a lot of skills that would transfer?
Rita: Well I would say that that is very true. Yes, actually planning is for me when I was working and am working, it is actually the hardest part is finding the time to do it, but I really enjoy planning and we obviously have great resources which we will be talking about shortly. And obviously the website, the national parks, service, etc., they are just great tools to use to actually plan trips to particularly national parks.
Lauren: What is it about National Parks that attracts you?
Rita: Well for me because I work long hours; going to a national park is partly just the serenity of being out in nature. And one of the great things for me for a national park, I don’t know that this is true for everybody is that once you go into a national park your cell phone doesn’t work, so literally you are sort of out there by yourself, you don’t hear what’s happening in the news, so literally you are disconnected and it is just great because nobody is walking around with their cell phones looking at things they are actually looking at nature, so.
Lauren: That’s amazing I didn’t know.
Rita: I find that very relaxing and I love seeing the variety of scenery that this country has in terms of the different kinds of national parks as well. So it’s a great experience to have with somebody else. I think it is great to travel with somebody when you are traveling to the national parks as well.
David: So it’s almost like a natural digital detox.
Rita: Yes, you are correct yes.
Lauren: Have you been to them all yet or are you trying to see them all?
Rita: No and there are more than gosh a 100 national parks. And I know that there are many people who actually make that their lives work to actually visit them all, I am just trying to get around to enough of them while I am still able to be mobile and everything to enjoy them. So I have visited mostly national parks on the west coast.
David: Well Cory from national parks to Visit Montgomery, you are making history today as our very first non-MCPL guest.
Cory: Wow, I feel so honored.
David: Representing Visit Montgomery, so tell us a bit about Visit Montgomery certainly the website is very well designed and informative. Do you have a tourism office, how are you set up, how do you work and basically what is --?
Cory: What is Visit Montgomery? Visit Montgomery is the official tourism office, tourism, it’ in the industry it’s known as a Destination Marketing Organization. So we are a non profit organization that our primary goal and mission is to bring visitors to Montgomery County and to celebrate all the amazing attractions and happenings that are going on around Montgomery County. We do have a tourism office we are actually co-sharing office suite with Economic Development and also Worksource Montgomery. So it is a lot of fun to have three different organizations, we all have some missions and our passion for Montgomery County, but have different you know audience per se. And it is just a lot of fun you know to kind of be creative with all them.
Lauren: So Cory there is a lot of small business owners in this area who kind of thrive off of individual restaurants and things, what would you be able to say to anybody with a business that would be of interest to tourists, some resources you have to promote what they do?
Cory: So small businesses have various opportunities, they can buy into a partnership program with us. And essentially what it does is it provides them with marketing expertise and promotional opportunities, networking events throughout the year. Hotels buy into the program as well because they want to connect with various groups and marketing efforts and it is a way to get listed in our website, be promoted through our social media channels and things like that. We find that particularly with small businesses, smaller attractions, restaurants of those types, they really find value in what we offer because not only are we providing support and services to a unique set of audience members, visitors, people who are not residents per se, but also because they have small to no marketing teams themselves and so they kind of view us as an extension of their marketing efforts.
David: So Rita as you head west to celebrate your retirement are there any particular resources that you are using to plan to journey and in addition to print travel guides are there any library resources that you might recommend for travel planning?
Rita: Well one of the things that I do for the national parks is I always visit the national park site. We also have travel guides in our collection and I usually check to see if the national park that I am interested has Informers guide, a Fodor’s guide, we also have Moon Handbooks as one of our guides or Lonely Planet. And there are standards for all of the national parks that I will look at for example Fodor’s is the complete guide to the national park of the west and there is also the geographic guide to national parks which has information about all of the parks in it.
In terms of electronics in addition to the website we have obviously electronic sources available through the Gale Virtual Reference Library. I found one this weekend when I was looking, when I was preparing for this that’s called DK Eyewitness Guides and Rough Guides which actually has information about various places to travel. And there are also e-Magazine is available on travel through RBdigital including Conde Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet Travel, and National Geographic Traveler; so we have tons of resources on travel.
David: There you have it, so lots of good resources on travel with MCPL.
Lauren: Do you have a favorite go to, for planning?
Rita: Well because we have a variety of different kinds of travel guides, I would probably mostly use the website, the national park website, but I do try to find at least one travel guide that focuses on a specific national park and Fodors, Informers, and Moon tend to do that more than the others. So I wouldn’t say I have one specific one because not all of those resources do all of the national parks.
David: And a sort of follow-up question for actually, possibly for you both, there are so many different publishers of travel guides and they all have their own style, what are the elements that would make up a perfect travel guide for you both?
Rita: Well for me usually I am going to a location that I haven’t been to before, so for me a travel guide that is all inclusive, that talks about okay what is the nearest airport that I fly into to get there, you know how do you get to the park, so is there rail travel or is it car travel. And then in national park what are the things to be seen there, is there lodging, some of the national parks have lodging within the park, some of them don’t. And quite a few the Frommers, Fodors do that do, but some of the guides that are out there are more about the experience of being in the park that they are about individuals who have been to a park and who talk about their experience. And I like to do that myself to actually have the experience so I am more about literally okay give me the facts so that I can plan the trip.
Lauren: You don’t want Bill Bryson’s take on it, before you go.
Cory: Which is interesting because I actually take an opposite stance on that where I look towards for planning and logistics more of the digital resources, because things change so quickly you know by the time a book gets printed, a restaurant could close or an attraction could be opened and things like that. I really look towards memoir as a way of being inspired by a location and it helps in terms of kind of seeing through their eyes and then being inspired to have similar, if not new experiences myself.
David: Great, thank you.
Lauren: So Cory I don’t know if there are a lot of memoirs about places in Montgomery County, but what are some of the most popular destinations right here that you would like to highlight?
Cory: In terms of attractions here at Montgomery County there are so many, I have mentioned this earlier in chatting that we really are a truly a choose your own adventure experience where you can have an downtown urban experience and then have a completely different up county, very country experience within 10 minutes, it’s really amazing. Our biggest attraction that locals don’t fully you know, know I think, but then also they know about it, but they don’t know is we have 93,000 acre Ag reserve. And not many people in the country can say that that we have that kind of resource and reserve. So people can go and go to Butler’s Orchard and pick your own fruits and they have various festivals throughout the year or go to Rocklands Farm and enjoy a wonderful glass of wine in the country or Waredaca and have a beautiful experience on a horse farm and drink some beer you know freshly brewed beer which is awesome, but then go down to Bethesda or the new Pike & Rose and have a very downtown urban experience all within the same day, so it’s amazing.
And then also it’s a very historic area our proximity to DC there is a lot of history involved with that. The C&O Canal, the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center which is currently under renovation right now, the center itself isn’t, but the canal is. And so I actually visited recently and it was all tore up, so we will have to revisit that one when it is finished, but I am sure it is going to be amazing. And then interesting enough in terms of the canal, you can actually stay, I don’t know if you know this you can actually stay in a lockhouse which is really cool. So there are several lockhouses I believe, there is eight or nine along the canal that are renovated within the period when the lockhouse was built, so to speak. So some of them are fairly primitive where there isn’t running water so some of them there are running water in facilities. And so it’s just a great way to experience history in a different way.
Lauren: Do they still have those boats that are like drawn by the donkeys?
Cory: They do actually and the main one here in the county is actually at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, they are not running it this year because of the refurbishment of the canal, but it is a very popular experience. I spoke with a park ranger and they said that last year we had more visitors for the canal than the Grand Canyon, so it’s super popular.
David: So Cory, this is a two part question from your marketing work, what are the trends that you are seeing in terms of travel, holidaying, leisure time and so on that help direct your marketing efforts. And secondly, can you give us a brief snap shot of the visitors that come to Montgomery County whether they come from what sort of profile would you give to them?
Cory: Absolutely, I have worked in travel marketing my whole career and the first thing that you do is you want to look at what the destination offers. And in this particular case again our proximity to DC and the fact that we have a Metro system that runs right through the county and connects you right into DC that’s a big factor and people are choosing Montgomery County to come visit, but what we are finding is that people tend to plan a trip to Washington DC, look around, they are a little nervous about the high energy that DC has, the big city experience so to speak.
Lauren: That’s one way of putting it.
Cory: And they are looking for a place that’s comfortable. And all the research that we do in terms of understanding our visitors that’s what they look for is, they look for a comfortable experience. So we find that visitors come here, they feel comfortable, you know they see the value and what Montgomery County offers and then they do the day trips into DC, they do all the fun stuffs and then once the Smithsonian close at 5 or 5:30, they come back here and have a good time, so it’s great.
In terms of trends, it’s culinary experiences anything where an experience relates to the localness of the community, food is the ultimate local experience, because it ties to memory you know it’s very relatable, it’s almost the universal language if you will. And that’s the beauty of Montgomery County is we are so diverse, we have over 1000 different restaurants and it is a great way to get that experience along the way. Weekend getaways is very popular, particularly people who are located within a three to four hour driving radius of Montgomery County so that takes you as far out as Pittsburgh up to New York City down to Richmond and then there is the direct flights from the three major airports we are perfectly positioned between PWI, Dallas and Reagan and those direct flights are coming out from Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, so it is a great easy weekend getaway experience.
David: Great, thank you.
Lauren: Rita do you look for these foods, for these memory when you are out, choosing your destination or is there something else that allows you to choose one national park over another, one destination over another?
Rita: Well I will say that in terms of food in the national parks, it is a little limited, because usually the national parks have a lodge and it has a restaurant in it. So I will say that Bryce which we are going to visit in September is one of the lodge there and the restaurant that they have there had some of the best food that I ever ate in a national park.
Lauren: Where is Bryce?
Rita: So Bryce is probably about 3 hours from Las Vegas in Utah. And it’s a park that you go down into that has what they call hoodoos which are spires made out of red sandstones so they are spectacular in the sunlight. And obviously it is a walking park or hiking park, but some of the parks are more either looking up in the case of Bryce you are looking down. But in terms of other food experiences because I do the national parks mostly, I have to say I don’t remember too much about other food experiences with them so.
David: That might say a lot.
Lauren: But is there is a reason you would choose one park over another or what do you look for when you are choosing a destination?
Rita: Well because I am primarily, I have to say that most of my vacations have been to the national parks, because I really love the concept of the national parks and I have already talked about you know the solitude, the fact that you can enjoy nature that you can actually have an experience, you can enjoy with somebody else. In terms of the national parks, we have gone mostly to the ones on the West Coast because of the scenery, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore we have been to. And so I don’t necessarily have a specific criteria for the national parks other than I am usually looking for, I happen to like mountain, valleys, wild flowers, that sort of thing, so nothing against the everglades, but that is not a park that I actually decided to go to, but I have been to certainly to Charleston and Fort Sumter, so for me it’s just the variation also that the national parks bring. So I will probably see many of them, but not necessarily all of them.
Lauren: Cory you also specialize in culinary tourism, is that correct?
Cory: It’s true, believe it or not I actually have a master’s degree in that yeah, so for me eating is a research.
Lauren: Is that really a fun degree to get?
Cory: It was absolutely, most of my friends are in software or in accounting and we are all getting our graduate degrees kind of around the same time and you know I just remember having conversations with them about, “Oh I have to do all these projects and you know what project are you doing?” I am like, “Well I have to eat at four different barbeque restaurants and write a paper on it,” it was a lot of fun so. My master’s degree is from Chatham University based in Pittsburgh and its part of their Falk School of Sustainability. And so it is a Masters in Food Studies and my research focus was culinary Tourism and Sustainable Community Development is what I focused on. So I actually have the credentials to eat. A big part of that was tourism development really looking and understanding what a community has to offer and developed either tours around it or various tourist attractions, so it was a lot of fun along the way.
Lauren: And what, do you have any special culinary experiences in Montgomery County you would like to share or think our audience should know about?
Cory: Well I think the brewery and winery scene here is really starting to flourish and it’s a very unique way to experience, it’s more than just you know drinking a beer, it’s the whole experience like Waredaca Brewing Company being on a horse farm and gathering together. And what is really interesting to me is, it is not just for adults like these are family type areas where you can bring your kids and you can have a picnic and just have a good time and just hang out. Those are very memorable, my favorite restaurant so far is I am fan of you know after work having a beverage and having appetizers, so I tend to go like Clyde’s at Tower Oaks Lodge.
Lauren: I love Clyde’s.
Cory: Yeah it’s a lot of fun. I have a regular go to server that I always happen to sit in their section, I don’t know if his real name is Phil, but I call him Phil, so it’s a lot of fun.
Lauren: Shout out to Phil.
Cory: Philip you are going to make my martinis, oh it’s a lot of fun. And all the various festivals that happen in downtown Silver Spring, the various food festivals, the Taste of Wheaton is a great memorable experience, so it is a lot of fun.
Lauren: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Lisa Navidi: Looking for a way to use that new Kindle or to check out a book without having to leave the house, look no further than MCPL’s e-books. All you need is a library card and you can read on your e-Reader, tablet, smart phone or a computer; the latest bestsellers, old classics, kids books, how-to manuals, travel guides and much more are available at the touch of your finger tips. And after three weeks they return themselves without you having to lift a finger. If you need help getting started ask one of our helpful librarians. We guarantee you will be enormously elated, you can find a link to MCPL’s e-book collections in this episode’s show notes.
Lauren: And now back to our program.
David: So Rita back to MCPL, can you tell us about some of the resources MCPL has for the traveler who might want to learn a language?
Rita: Certainly, so I am going to tell you what I know from our website and what I have learned having worked here. So we have books in nine world languages that include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, Amharic, Russian, French and Bengali. We have three online resources Mango Languages, Muzzy Online and Rosetta Stone. And we have Conversation Clubs that we offer in a variety of different libraries in English, French, and Spanish and we have language learning videos from annenbergfoundationlearner.org. So those are our resources that the library system offers.
Lauren: So you mentioned some of the food festivals around in the area, do you have any other events that take place in Montgomery County that you really feel everyone should know about?
Cory: So in terms of events, both residents and visitors actually end going to our website, visitmontgomery.com, it’s the events pages are by far our most popular pages on our website. So it has really become one of our top resources for those types of events. Some of the popular events that are going one throughout the county, throughout the summer, there is a farm tour and harvest sale that happens throughout the county.
Lauren: Farm tour; what does that entail? What do you get on a farm tour?
Cory: So it is a self-guided tour where there are various farms that participate throughout the Ag reserve and you can actually go to our website and check it out. We have a blog post about it where you can visit various farms and you know learn about the tour, you know learn about the farm itself and purchase our products and all that fun stuff, but really the ultimate goal is to learn a little bit more about the Ag reserve and what the offerings are there. As I mentioned, the Taste of Wheaton is another event that is happening in July and also in June the Tiger Woods Foundation is having the Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament here at the end of June. So that is actually a very popular event that is happening here in the county, it is a great opportunity for people that like golf. I am not a golfer myself, but I would certainly have a blast, just hanging out and watching other people golf.
Lauren: Can you explain to us a little bit, you have mentioned this Ag reserve a few times, I am not quite sure what an Ag reserve is, can you tell us a little more about that?
Cory: Absolutely, people, you can actually visit the Office of Agriculture their website, they do a great description and explanation of what the Ag reserve is. Essentially what it’s, is 93,000 acres that’s reserved solely for agricultural use. So there are parameters around the reserve that limit the amount of development that occurs, one parameter is that you can only have one house or structure per 25 acres. And so the whole goal of it was that back in the day development was happening so quickly that we were very concerned about having all of our land used up for development. And so the county decided to reserve pretty much most of up county for agricultural use, so that way we still have that open space.
Lauren: So that’s why we still have all that farm land there, that makes a lot of sense. So this is a question for both of you, do you have any more favorite vacation destinations, you haven’t already planned Rita, because I know you have got a lot planned, that are still on your Bucket List that you are dying to experience?
Cory: I am actually, I am an avid traveler, I mean I feel that I am the type of person that basically turns my passion for food and travel into a job and so that’s actually been a lot of fun. So I spent a lot of time in the country exploring, I haven’t been to as many national parks as I want to so I am actually going to visit those resources that you just recommended. So I actually am kind of putting my focus more towards the international ground in terms of visiting. So I have been to Africa and explored Africa, but I want to check out South America, Brazil, I want to go to Iceland, Ireland, those are the places that I want to visit, right now they are top of my list. And at some point I will probably end up visiting Australia, but that is a long haul, that’s quite the commitment.
Cory: But on a local level I recently moved to Montgomery County, so I moved from Pittsburgh to Montgomery County back in September. And so it’s actually been fun to visit the county as a tourist, even though I market it, it has been fun.
Lauren: Do you have any staycation ideas besides the ones you have mentioned for those of us who aren’t going anywhere?
Cory: So if you consider yourself a shopaholic you can spend the day up in Clarksburg Premium Outlets.
Lauren: Rita is not in.
Cory: Oh Clarksburg Premium Outlets.
David: Yes yes.
Lauren: I am thinking, I keep driving past it, but I never actually stopped, it’s always where we go like on the way to Sugarloaf or whatever it is out there.
David: You can’t miss it.
Cory: Yeah you can’t miss it. I am a fan of bike riding so riding along the Capital Crescent Trail is actually a lot of fun and it’s just believe it or not I know this is probably going to surprise you, but I actually enjoy riding the Metro.
Lauren: I do too.
Cory: And you can actually do a pretty cool staycation just by riding the Metro and that’s what is so interesting and even here where we are located, you know where we recording this in Rockville, there is a Metro station just a 10 minute walk away, you can hop down and just randomly get off at a stop and --.
David: And it is a great way of seeing the very diverse parts of the area I am thinking.
Cory: Absolutely it really is. And then I also love hoping on the Metro and going in to DC for the day it’s a lot of fun and then I come back out here.
Lauren: We visited when I was five and the Metro was like the standout part of the trip besides the heat and the fact that we didn’t get to see the White House, the train was definitely what sticks with me from when I was five.
Lauren: How about you Rita is there any place that’s not a national park that you were dying to go to?
Rita: Well I have had the good fortune to go to Hawaii and I would like to go back again. We went to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park at that point and of course that is currently closed and Kīlauea is erupting, so we will have to wait to go back for that to settle. I have never done a Fall Color Tour and I have always wanted to do that, I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to time it so that you are actually seeing the colors. And years and years ago I went to Disney World and I would like to go back I mean --.
Lauren: Disney World.
Rita: I am just, I guess a kid at heart so, but Epcot Center that kind of peace of Disney World. One thing that I do want to mention in terms of travel when you mentioned the Metro, I think that one of the things that people here forget in terms of staycations is that the museums down in Washington DC are all free and when you go anyplace else in the country, usually if you go to a museum you have to pay to go to it. And I think that is one of the important things to remember about this area that you actually can stay in this area and you can do it fairly inexpensively because most of the museums around here don’t charge large amounts of money to get into them.
Lauren: Not even the zoo charges, that just -- my mind.
Rita: Yes, yes.
David: And even actually a lot of the museum in Montgomery County they are either free or very, very low cost. You know the only one that I am really familiar with the charges is the National Capital Trolley Museum and it’s what like $4 or something --, and it’s a cute museum.
Lauren: Well worth your $4.
David: It’s well worth your time.
Cory: It has some great value there.
Lauren: Okay so Rita as you head off into the sunset into the great west and national parks, what are you going to miss most about working at MCPL?
Rita: Well I would say there are several things that I have loved working with a variety of people that I have had a chance to work with in terms of our staff and the branches, our managers. I have had the good fortune to have done many different things in my life here in Montgomery County to have a wide variety of experiences. I would say that the last 10 years working facilities has been my greatest joy, I have really loved doing the work for on our full scale renovations which were Gaithersburg and Olney, on the new construction that we did was Silver Spring and now with Wheaton. And you know my personal passion it is the Refresh Projects that we have introduced where we have actually been able to refurbish, refresh branches much faster than had we put them into the normal renovation cycles. So that has given me an opportunity to not only learn about design and construction, but you know to do the fun things like picking out carpet colors and paint colors. And you know the satisfaction of also delivering buildings to the community where the community really appreciates our facilities. Montgomery County has got individuals of our communities really loves libraries and our refresh projects were meant to be six month closers and even for six months our customers are really, from the day we close to the day we open, they are wanting to know when are we going to open again. And I think that is terrific and we certainly appreciate it a lot and it has been a great joy to work with the community that loves libraries that much.
Lauren: So Rita you have been involved in a lot of refreshes, a lot of new libraries, is there something you want to tell Cory about something you have done that makes Montgomery Library a destination that he should be telling his customers about?
Rita: Well I would say that our libraries are destinations simply because each one of them is very individualistic and very different. Probably one of my favorite renovation facilities is the Olney Library which really calls to people from the road. When we built that facility the community said that nobody could find that library because it was set back from the road. And so when we did that renovation the architect actually pulled that building to the road. And so it has a glass front. So the question was okay what is going to activate that, what’s going to make people see that building and I said, “Put the children’s room there because there is always something happening in the children’s room” and I can say that about most of our libraries, you know I have often thought that we should have a standard design for our facilities just like grocery stores do, but that has never happened with any of our buildings each of them are individualistic and in that respect they are unique experiences. And you have a variety of resources that you can see and we have branches that have painting displays, you know other kinds of displays. So there is a great variety of things that you can see in any of our facilities.
Cory: Well it is actually true, I couldn’t agree more in terms of libraries. I mean when I travel 9 times out of 10 I end up going to even just a bookstore, right, just to check it out. And I feel libraries are so much more than just the book right, it’s a community space, it’s a third place, if you will where you have a chance. Especially people travelers who are looking for a local experience or they want to meet with the locals, the place to be is in the library you really get to experience what a local life is like.
David: So we usually close each episode by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are currently reading, perhaps something other than the travel guide, so I will start with you Rita.
Rita: Well as I have said I am retiring so I can’t read because literally I don’t have the time, but what I will tell you is I have a couple of books that I am anxious to read, one is Madeleine L'Engle' Wrinkle in Time because of the movie that just has come out which is a fabulous movie and as a result of that I want to go back to actually re-read that book, which I read when I was in high school. So I want to see whether or not it is still resonates with me. I just saw Camelot at the Shakespeare Theatre over the weekend and so T.H. White’s Once and Future King is a huge book, but I thought and I think I would like to go back and read that as well. And then years ago I saw Wicked at the National Theatre and Gregory Maguire has a series of books on that theme and so that’s one of the other ones that I want to read.
Lauren: Happy reading Rita, you have earned it.
David: How about you Cory?
Cory: For me my go to a book as I said before I tend to lean on the memoir particular food memoir is Blood Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, it is by far my favorite go to book, she is such a beautiful writer based in New York. And so that right now actually what I am reading is David Sedaris’s new book Calypso, it is really good, a little different than what he has written in the past, but that’s the top of my list. And believe it or not you will actually probably see me more in the periodical section than you would in the book section actually. I read a lot of magazines, Afar Magazine is high on my list, I read Bethesda Magazine actually quite a bit, because it’s a great way to just know what is happening in the area. You know the Condé Nast Traveller all those type, you know Saveur, got to get my recipes. So that’s probably where you will see me the most.
David: Well Rita and Cory thank you very much for sharing your travel interest with us, it has been great having you. And we have certainly learnt a lot today and wish you happy travels.
Rita: Thank you very much.
Cory: Thank you so much.
David: Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also please review and rate us on our Apple podcast, we love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Lauren Martino: Hello. Welcome to Library Matters. My name is Lauren Martino and I’m here with a wonderful group of library staff who are crazy about audiobooks. With me today is Vincent Mui – hi, Vincent.
Vincent Mui: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And Barbara Shansby. Welcome to the show, Barbara.
Barbara Shansby: Thank you
Lauren Martino: And Maranda Schoppert.
Maranda Schoppert: Hi, guys.
Lauren Martino: Thank you so much for coming. So I’m going to start with Barbara. Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start listening to audiobooks and like how frequent an audiobook listener are you.
Barbara Shansby: Well, I figured I’ve probably been listening to audiobooks for close to 30 years. I started when they were books on tape, literal cassette tapes that you put in the machine and push the play button, and rewind, and the whole thing. I got kind of hooked because a friend had suggested to me when I needed dental work to listen to music and I thought, “Well, I’m not so much a music person, but I love reading, so maybe if I listen to a book on tape that would distract me enough from the dental torture that I would be okay, and it was great. And I was completely hooked. And now, I always have a book in my car to listen to. I probably listen to about four or five, six a year or something like that. It takes me a long time because I don’t drive that much, and that’s the primary time I listened to but –
Lauren Martino: Or go to the dentist that much.
Barbara Shansby: Right. I’m thinking this. I’m finished with that for now. But I really do enjoy them. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to read more and to do it in a kind of a different way.
Lauren Martino: Thanks, Barbara. How about you, Vincent, what gets you into audiobooks?
Vincent Mui: So, at one of my previous jobs, I had a long commute, it was maybe an hour and a half in the afternoons, 45 minutes in the morning, and I was going a bit crazy listening to the radio because you can only handle so much of the same personality day in and day out.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: So, I started listening and then I go through phases between podcast, audiobooks, music, but more recently when I started at the library in June this year, I admittedly did not have a library card until I started because I didn’t see a reason to at the time, but now I see all the resources available to me. And my wife being a librarian gave me a really hard time about not having a library card to the –
Lauren Martino: As she should, yes.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: So I regret my decision, but I’ve been listening to many, many books over the past year and I’ve – it’s been incorporated into my routine actually. Besides my driving, I listen to it while I’m cooking or doing yard work or at the gym as well.
Lauren Martino: Just to clarify a little bit, Vincent’s a graphic designer so that’s why he can be excused for not having a library card; although, being married to a librarian, Vincent, really?
Vincent Mui: I found it very ironic.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, yeah, but we’re glad you have one now.
Vincent Mui: Yes.
Lauren Martino: You’ve discovered the lovely audiobooks available to you now. How about you, Maranda?
Maranda Schoppert: Well, I’m a little bit like Barbara. I don’t listen to music. I only listen to my audiobooks in the car, like you said, cooking, Vincent. I probably go for go through about 1 a week, depending on how long they are. I’m in the middle of a 32-hour one right now and that’s not going to be done in a week.
Vincent Mui: Goodness.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: But just like you guys, I sort of started with listening to audiobooks when I started commuting and that was it, I’m involved. Audiobooks and me, we’re involved now.
Lauren Martino: Where you’re a thing.
Maranda Schoppert: Yup.
Lauren Martino: So, Maranda, what are qualities that you look for in an audiobook? What makes it something you’re going to choose even if, oh, it’s 32 hours? Wow. Apparently, length is not a – not a matter to turn –
Maranda Schoppert: Nope. Life doesn’t deter me. I listen to the whole Outlander series on audio. And, goodness, that is a long one. For me, the performer is definitely the most important. They need to be able to bring the book to life without trying too hard.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: You know, there’s been a couple of audiobooks where you just, you know, that voice isn’t working. It isn’t working for you. But one of the important things also for me is sound quality. I have a really hard time when the volume in the audiobooks go up and down. The one I’m current currently listening to right now, I have to – depending on the narrator – I have to turn the volume up or turn the volume down. All of a sudden, someone’s screaming at me so –
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s no good.
Maranda Schoppert: No.
Lauren Martino: So, Vincent, what do you look for when choosing an audiobook?
Vincent Mui: When looking for an audiobook, the story is really important to me. In the beginning of the year – I’m sorry, the beginning of when I first started here, I was more focused on self-improvement, self-help books, but then I decided to change towards more sequential books where – oh, well, I’m sorry, like young adult novels. For example, I guess, the Percy Jackson series, I was listening to that because the storyline is more of very, I guess, kind of viscerally primal, like I have to save the world. It’s a lot of action base so it makes me feel good when the heroes finally saved the day at the end. And then the narrator will be kind of second there.
Lauren Martino: So the plot really drives before you.
Vincent Mui: Yes, the plot is the – that’s that – I guess, that’s how I describe it.
Lauren Martino: Would you say like go on kicks like, you know, okay, it’s time to read all the Percy Jackson books and then.
Vincent Mui: Preferably, I would like to listen to all the books in order. However, if a particular series is a bit heavy, I will have to switch back and forth. I like more lighthearted tone stuff. I was listening to also Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I’m on the fourth book now but I can’t listen to them in order because I’m pretty sure in every book so far, he’s gotten really close to death or beaten up horribly and –
Lauren Martino: And Percy Jackson doesn’t?
Vincent Mui: Well, not the way it’s – since it’s a young adult, it’s not as bad Jim Butcher –
Lauren Martino: Yeah, it’s lighter.
Vincent Mui: Yeah, it’s more adult-oriented, so there’s a lot more. He describes getting beat up very well and there’s a lot of it involved.
Lauren Martino: Realistically?
Vincent Mui: Yes. He’s constantly bruised, bleeding. But Percy Jackson, it’s more he got cut, he’s not doing really well. So there’s less, I guess, detail there but it’s just –
Lauren Martino: He’s making stupid comments about it.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. Yeah, I need to switch between a bit more lighthearted or I guess maybe because young adult stuff is – it doesn’t really go into describing rather just pacing and narrating the action going on and more action – yeah, there’s – they are doing more rather than describing what they are thinking what they are doing.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Barbara? What’s the deciding factor for you in choosing an audiobook?
Barbara Shansby: Well, I do try to – when I was thinking about the question I was like, “Oh, it’s a good writing. That’s what I’m really looking for,” but, you know, that’s – is that true? Probably not. And I didn’t realize until I heard you talking, Vincent, that I do the same thing. I switch around. So I really don’t like to read two mysteries in a row or two biographies in a row. So I guess that drives me a lot. And the other thing, which is I’m not entirely sure why I’m so obsessed about this, but I really only want new books to listen to.
Lauren Martino: New books?
Barbara Shansby: Yeah, new. I don’t know.
Lauren Martino: Like what you haven’t listened to before or like new –
Barbara Shansby: No. I mean, new after 2016 or something.
Lauren Martino: Really?
Barbara Shansby: When I pick it up, it says 2013, no, I can’t read it. I don’t know. I just – I feel like I have to know the hot new things even though, like, it doesn’t really matter but I do –
Lauren Martino: Like librarian pressure?
Barbara Shansby: Library – yes. You know, that’s it.
Lauren Martino: After ending up on the latest stuff?
Barbara Shansby: Exactly, exactly. If I don’t know the new things, I am just – it’s just this serious problem, so.
Lauren Martino: You know, I won’t tell anybody if you happen to find something from 2009 that you – really strikes your fancy.
Barbara Shansby: I worry.
Lauren Martino: Do any of you find yourself choosing audiobooks that you wouldn’t read in print or vice versa?
Barbara Shansby: Yeah, absolutely. I read – I listened to a lot of nonfiction. I hardly ever read it. I also listen to a lot more mysteries than I read. Again, I agree with Vincent that it’s easier to listen to something that’s a little bit lighter. It’s – I love a good thick book where that’s a bit heavy, although, I don’t read them all the time but I’ll sit down and read it. But to sit and listen, I’m not as willing to do that. And I have to say, I admire you, Maranda, because I also am not willing to take on those big fat ones. It just intimidates me. I’m just like, “No, I can’t do it.”
Maranda Schoppert: I generally don’t realize there that long until after I’ve already started and then it’s too late.
Lauren Martino: You’re already into it?
Maranda Schoppert: I’m a little bit different though. I normally – well, I’m a big fiction girl. For me, listening to the audiobooks, it’s mostly a matter of availability. If the book I want to read is not on the shelf but I can get it in audio or vice versa, that’s what I’ll do. If I’ve started a series in audio, I must finish it in audio. But the one genre that I don’t read that I will occasionally listen to is biographies.
Lauren Martino: Well, what is it about listening biography that makes it okay?
Maranda Schoppert: I actually will only listen to the biographies that are narrated by the person.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: So, Anna Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody”. She narrated that one. Felicia Day, she narrated “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)”. Those were really entertaining and I don’t think they would have been done as well by an outside narrator.
Vincent Mui: I’ve only listened to one biography so far narrated by the author which is “Crazy is My Superpower” by A.J. Lee. I’m a wrestling –
Maranda Schoppert: What a great title.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. I’m a wrestling fan and her life is – she used to be a wrestler but she had to retire. However, just hearing it from them is much more personable and you can understand – you can understand the intricacies of it but you pick up on more intricacies on how they’re telling you. And there’s one part where I think she got very emotional and it kind of – you will not get that necessary from a narrator because it did not go through her life. So that’s why if I were to listen to more biographies, it would probably – I would prefer books narrated by the author.
Lauren Martino: So aside from biographies, do you guys prefer books narrated by the author or does it make a difference to you or –
Vincent Mui: I think you have to have a good voice because if it – there is another book I listened to called “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a great book but her voice I’m not fond of and I feel bad now that I’m saying it out loud. But it’s a great book so I was able to listen through it.
Maranda Schoppert: I don’t want an author to narrate my fiction.
Lauren Martino: No?
Maranda Schoppert: I’m not going to lie. I want the professionals to do it. I hate to say that but –
Barbara Shansby: Right. Yeah. I kind of agree. I think they’re usually better if an actor does them but I – just a month or two ago, I listened to Elizabeth Berg, The Story of Arthur Truluv and she narrated it herself, and I don’t know that she has any acting experience, and it was really lovely. She wasn’t the best narrator that I’ve ever listened to but it absolutely worked and it was really wonderful book.
Lauren Martino: I tend to exclude Neil Gaiman from any kind of – like Neil Gaiman can narrate anything, I’m sorry.
Barbara Shansby: Right, right. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: He’s got the duo tap [Phonetic] [0:12:33].
Maranda Schoppert: All right, she’s the exception.
Lauren Martino: He is the exception. He can –
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. What was that The Graveyard Book? Oh, my God, that was wonderful. Oh, that was so wonderful.
Lauren Martino: And Coraline, did you listen to Coraline?
Barbara Shansby: No. Coraline, I read and I really, really did not like it.
Lauren Martino: Really?
Barbara Shansby: So I bet if I had listened to it, it would have been a lot better.
Lauren Martino: The rat’s singing, it’s the scariest thing ever.
Barbara Shansby: I thought it was a pretty disturbing book.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Also Jason Reynolds, I think, did really well. Like he did – one of his – I think he did Ghost, which was – sorry – children’s librarian. But, yeah, that was a good one. Do you tend to prefer famous actors or do you think, you know, your standard, you know, “I’m a voice actor and that’s what I do” is better or adequate?
Maranda Schoppert: You know what? I will say it’s not 100% true because I love Edward Herrmann who – the grandfather on Gilmore Girls for –
Lauren Martino: Right, right, he – yeah. He’s very good.
Maranda Schoppert: He’s an actor and, yet, he did pass away late 2014 but he narrated The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken and he’s done a bunch of other non-fiction that’s really great.
Barbara Shansby: Yes, I’ve heard him too.
Maranda Schoppert: So I think it depends on the actor. There are some voice actors out there. My personal –
Barbara Shansby: Brendan Fraser.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Sorry
Maranda Schoppert: – that can’t do – you can’t, you know, just you need that body, you need that interaction between, you know, someone else. And then there are some actors that can do both.
Barbara Shansby: Well, I have to make a comment, which is that when I thought about this question, I realized how many times I love a narrator and then I look on the back of the CD case to see who it was and I’ve never heard of this person. And I read their credits and I would say about 90% of the time that person was in Law & Order. Why is that?
Maranda Schoppert: Everyone Law in Order.
Barbara Shansby: I just –
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Barbara Shansby: I don’t know why. It’s like is that a requirement for reading a book or I don’t know.
Maranda Schoppert: Writing a passage.
Vincent Mui: I –
Lauren Martino: That’s wild.
Barbara Shansby: Isn’t that funny?
Vincent Mui: Listening to the Dresden Files, I didn’t know James Marsters was on Buffy until I looked him up.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Vincent Mui: He’s played Spike. And then I looked up his age and then it made me realize how old I am because Buffy still feels new to me but it was over 10 years ago at this point.
Lauren Martino: I hate to tell you.
Vincent Mui: But his voice is perfect for the main character and people actually complained when he switched one of the books he did not narrate and people were very – kind of angry about him not being, because you need that consistent voice and did a great job.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: I was also pleasantly surprised when I was reading – listening to Ready Player One and Will Wheaton is the narrator, and that made perfect sense.
Lauren Martino: Oh yeah.
Vincent Mui: On top of that, there’s a joke in there about Will Wheaton and I’m just chuckling to myself. I’m thinking, “What?” I wonder what he’s feeling right now reading that part.
Barbara Shansby: Now, I have to listen to that one. I read it but now I have to listen to it.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. He did Redshirts too. Are you familiar with Redshirts?
Vincent Mui: No, I’m not.
Lauren Martino: It’s basically – it’s this book long, like, making fun of Star Trek.
Maranda Schoppert: Oh, wow.
Vincent Mui: That’s great.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. And it – but it’s like Will Wheaton was the perfect, perfect choice. I mean, he’s got this kind of second career. It’s like he’s not really an actor anymore, he’s kind of a personality and – but I think audiobook narration works well.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. He’s really had a second resurgence in terms of fame with his board gaming stuff and also his podcasting as well.
Lauren Martino: Have you ever had to give up a book entirely after listening to some of it because the narrator was so grating.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: I definitely have.
Barbara Shansby: I am very picky. I mean, I think I’m really picky about reading in general. I pick up a book or read a chapter, I’m like, “No, I don’t – it doesn’t – it’s not doing it for me.” But audiobooks I think it’s even harder because you have to like the voice, you have to like – you have to find it captivating. I will sometimes listen to like three minutes of something and just pop it out and take it back, start over.
Maranda Schoppert: Not me. No.
Lauren Martino: No?
Maranda Schoppert: If I start a book, if I start an audiobook, as torturous as it is, I will finish it.
Barbara Shansby: Really?
Maranda Schoppert: The only book I have ever not finished after I started was Moby Dick.
Barbara Shansby: Wow.
Maranda Schoppert: And, yes, it gets painful.
Lauren Martino: You’re stuck with it that long, huh.
Maranda Schoppert: You are, especially if you’re not into – if it’s a boring audiobook and you have a boring narrator, I mean –
Barbara Shansby: There’s no saving to that.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. I kind of just find myself spacing out in the car a little bit while I’m listening.
Vincent Mui: I had one book. The only time I had to stop was because the narrator was narrating an evil character. His voice got so creepy. I personally got very uncomfortable and I had to stop and I’m not going to name the book just because I was so crept out by his voice.
Maranda Schoppert: Will you tell me later?
Vincent Mui: Yes, I can tell you that later.
Lauren Martino: Can we put it on the show notes?
Vincent Mui: I don’t remember – I don’t know if the library actually has it.
Lauren Martino: Okay, I mean –
Vincent Mui: Yeah, that’s why I didn’t want to bring it up.
Lauren Martino: Oh, okay. But, yeah, that one is too good.
Maranda Schoppert: I love creepy.
Lauren Martino: She had you on for a horror episode. So, Barbara, can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s resources for audiobooks. What do we have available for just ways of delivering audiobooks to people?
Barbara Shansby: You can get CD books. We have a lot available from many years past. We have them in – we have adult books, fiction and nonfiction, as we said. We have children’s books. We have books for young adults. We also have a series that I wanted to mention, The Teaching Company does courses that are on CD that you can check out and those are really interesting to listen to. We also have a lot of ebook – e-audiobooks available through a few of our – excuse me, digital subscriptions. You can get them through OverDrive, The Maryland Library Consortium. You can get them from a new subscription that we have called RBdigital. They can be downloaded or listen to remotely. All right, and also they do have, again, fiction, nonfiction, adult, children, teen books, all kinds of resources.
Maranda Schoppert: Other resources that the library has for audio or different resources like Project Gutenberg. You can listen to free audiobooks on there. They have a collection. There’s also a couple of different ones on there. Tumble Books for kids. You can listen to different languages.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, I forgot about that. That’s a great resource.
Lauren Martino: So you mentioned Tumble Books. Can you tell us a little bit more about that resource?
Maranda Schoppert: Tumble Books is geared toward the kids. Basically, they’re – it’s animated ebooks that you can check out on the computers that kids can, you know, follow along with the story as well as listen to it. Plus, you might see a little bunny jumping on the screen depending on the book. So it’s really a way to get at the kids in all different directions. You can – they’re reading, they’re watching, they’re doing the screen time, they’re also listening. So you’re sort of helping them get with their literacy, you know, get that early literacy in there in a way that this generation of children can really relate to, I think.
Barbara Shansby: It’s kind of like Reading Rainbow for today’s kids.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah, definitely. That’s a good – that’s a good one.
Lauren Martino: And my daughter suddenly got into Reading Rainbow, it makes me so happy. I got the old episodes on Amazon. She’s like, “Can we read it again?” I’m like, “Yes. Yes, we can, darling.”
Narrator: And now a brief message about MCPL Services and Resources.
Female Narrator: Hey, if you’re not doing anything Saturday night, June 9th, come and listen to an award-winning author talk about his inspiring work. Ethiopian American author, Dinaw Mengestu will speak about his novel “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears”, about an Ethiopian immigrant who runs a failing convenience store in Washington D.C. This book is the pick for the 2018 Big Read Montgomery sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts. The event will be held Saturday June 9th at 7:30 at the Silver Spring Library. You must register online. You can find more information about this event in this episode’s show notes.
Narrator: Now back to our program.
Lauren Martino: So we all agree audiobooks are amazing. Are there any downsides to listening to something on audiobook or any reason you’d avoid audiobook versus like the print version of something?
Vincent Mui: So, my main disadvantage with audiobooks is that I would get into them too much. I was listening to – I don’t remember what portion it was but it was something funny and I was at the gym and there was a heavyweight over me and it almost – I could have hurt myself seriously because I started laughing in the gym and I had to really put the weight down. And when you’re lifting higher weights, it’s a little bit dangerous. And I – actually, I had two incidents where the weight fell on me. I rolled it off when I was bench pressing.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, no.
Vincent Mui: I was fine. It just I had to be more aware. Maybe I should not listen to something funny while I’m lifting something heavy over my head.
Lauren Martino: Do you think there’s – I’m sorry. That’s not funny. You’re –
Vincent Mui: No, no it is funny. I love telling the story. Audiobooks can seriously injure you.
Barbara Shansby: Right. Beware.
Lauren Martino: Is there anything you wanted to talk about the evils and dangers of audiobooks, Barbara?
Barbara Shansby: Well, it can’t match –
Lauren Martino: Corrupted youth.
Barbara Shansby: Absolutely, it can’t match Vincent’s story, but I was just going to say that I realized that when you’re listening to a book, you’re listening to every word; whereas, when you read a book, you can just skip over certain things. So, sometimes they’ll have a list of whatever. And in an audiobook, they have to read every single thing on the list.
Lauren Martino: Oh, gosh.
Barbara Shansby: Right? If you were sitting there in your chair at home with the actual book, you would just turn the pages. About two weeks ago, I was listening to a book called Seven Days of Us, which was really fun and it was written as a series of letters and emails and notes and – so, every email that was in the book she read – the narrator read out the entire address. Mary underscore Wilson at, you know, Maryland dot Library dot U.S. dot – like, I’m like what?
Lauren Martino: Just glance at it and not even paying that much attention, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: So that was kind of annoying but it was a good enough book that I kept listening.
Maranda Schoppert: You do sometimes miss out on certain things unless you look at the accompanying material. A lot of audiobooks will have, check out this PDF afterwards. So like Dan Brown’s Origin, same thing, you’re missing all these kind of like symbol images and whatnot, part of the symbolism of the story that you either have to go back and look in the book or see if they have that, you know, PDF copy in – with it.
Lauren Martino: That’s kind of like the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” audios, I’ve never actually listened to one but I’m like, “Why? Why?” Or, yeah, I think I listen to a Stephen Hawking book once like the Brief History of Time and it’s like, “I need a diagram for this. I do not understand what’s going on.”
Barbara Shansby: Well, I don’t know. I listen to Curious Incident of a Dog which apparently had a lot of illustrations and I thought it was fantastic, amazing on audio, and I loved it. And I didn’t miss those illustrations or whatever or diagrams that they included in the book but I didn’t care, you know. I had a different experience.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, sometimes a narrator is good enough to make up for it. All right, so here’s your chance, gush about any favorite audiobooks, any favorite narrators, anything that sticks out in your mind as memorable.
Maranda Schoppert: Well, I’m going to gush about a book for a second. But first, I will say that one of my favorite narrators is Fiona Hardingham. She does a lot of Y.A. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s her until the end and I’m like, “That’s why I love this book. It’s Fiona Hardingham.”
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: She narrates some Maggie Stiefvater, Sabaa Tahir “An Ember in the Ashes”, Sophie Kingsley, Kiersten White. And she just had such a diverse voice. I mean, you go to – you go and look at her bio, she’s got pages and pages of audiobooks that she does. Primarily Y.A., so she does a really good job with that. But I’m going to gush over Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It’s one of my favorite books and I think it’s more for the plot rather than the narrator. The narrator has a very thick accent that was really hard to get over in the beginning, but then I’m like – I probably listened to this audiobook like three times already, so – and I’ve read the book twice. So, there are definitely are some that you can just, “It’s different every time you listen to it.”
Lauren Martino: Sometimes the plot just takes over and you don’t care what the – right – what the narrator sounds like.
Maranda Schoppert: Yup. Absolutely.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Vincent?
Vincent Mui: I just want to give a shout out to the narrator of the Percy Jackson series only because there’s a Pegasus in the book and he tries to talk like a horse.
Lauren Martino: That’s awesome.
Vincent Mui: I think that’s what caused me to almost hurt myself at the gym now that I think about it, because he talked like Mister Ed and I had to give him props, like the effort. He actually went to create a new character voice for him. I was very – that was a great moment for me.
Lauren Martino: So you’re not discriminating against the horse characters?
Vincent Mui: Nope.
Lauren Martino: I love it.
Barbara Shansby: Okay. So I have to say when I started listening to audiobooks, there were probably about 20 actors who read – who consistently read books, and so everybody have their favorites, and now it’s wonderful because I don’t even know who I like. I just listen to the book. There are so many different readers but I do have a weakness for British accents, so any –
Vincent Mui: I think everybody does.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. Any book that’s takes place in England or whatever, that’s a good book. And I guess three that I really, really enjoyed were among my most memorable. I listen to the sequel to Peter Pan called Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean and it was so much fun on audio. I really loved it. And then I went back and listened to the original Peter Pan just to –
Lauren Martino: Jim Dale?
Barbara Shansby: And that’s Jim Dale.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Which, I mean, he was amazing on Harry Potter but I think I got a little tired of him somehow but it was totally different. Peter Pan was terrific. And then the other audiobook that I really want to mention because it was just so much fun was Martin Short did an autobiography called I Must Say and he sang on it and he tells his stories that are so funny. Actually, I started listening to it and then I decided it was too funny I have to save it for a trip so my husband can listen to it too.
Lauren Martino: Oh, for when you’re weightlifting.
Barbara Shansby: And then for my weightlifting, so I get it. I just loved it. And that’s – also Steve Martin did an autobiography.
Lauren Martino: Oh, boy.
Barbara Shansby: Right. Which again so funny, with another one that I listen to with my husband on a long trip.
Lauren Martino: Was he playing the banjo.
Barbara Shansby: I don’t think he did.
Lauren Martino: No?
Barbara Shansby: Maybe at the beginning, maybe the entrance. So, and now I’m listening to a book, although that’s going to be your last question what book are you listening to, right? I’m listening to a book about a lady’s choir, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and they have some choir singing for a few of the hymns that they talk about, so that’s pretty neat.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s cool.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. I remember listening to a book about Marian Anderson and I’m just like, “You got to put –” like, it’s probably in the public domain, Marian Anderson. You could probably have stuck her in there.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: So I know some people feel very, very strongly about a single narrator versus full cast. Where do you guys stand on that?
Maranda Schoppert: I prefer a single narrator. It’s not the end of the world if there are multiple narrators but I just think a good narrator can achieve the same thing by doing it by themselves rather than having a cast of narrators. I don’t know. That’s just me. I’m also not a big fan of having sound effects in my audiobooks.
Vincent Mui: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: For children’s books, yes, because I think that helps.
Barbara Shansby: Sure, why not.
Maranda Schoppert: But I want the narrator to be entirely on the narrator, but that’s just – that’s just me.
Lauren Martino: It can be distracting.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah. It can be a little distracting and I almost find – sometimes find it a little cheesy. Like, you know, the drums are beating and then you hear drums in the background and you’re like, “Really? Like, okay.”
Lauren Martino: I could have inferred that.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: I don’t think I’ve listened to any audiobooks with more than one narrator. However, I do like narrators that have a lot of range, particularly if it’s – if they’re narrating the main character and then women, if there’s – some of them can do a good female voice, some of them can’t.
Barbara Shansby: Not so much.
Vincent Mui: And I do actually appreciate some music in the background but very subtle. I think I was listening to the Thrawn novel and he would have ambient space noise, which really suited the – oh, actually, now that I think about it, there were laser blasts but it’s a Star Wars novel, so I was okay with it. But his range was really good in terms of engrossing me into the book.
Barbara Shansby: Yes. So, I was thinking that that’s another thing that maybe has changed somewhat over time. Seems to me when I started listening to audiobooks, it was more likely to be a full cast kind of thing with different narrators. And I think it just depends on the book for me, sometimes that’s – that enriches the experience. I listened to, what’s it called, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and they had different readers for the different characters and it was really good. And then I was just thinking that I have listened to a book like that in a long time and this one that I’m – this Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a cast and it has different characters narrated by different actors and it’s great. So, but I think the trend is much, much more to a single narrator. And I kind of agree with Maranda on the whole, if you asked me which I prefer, usually that’s kind of makes it more like the reading experience, it’s a little bit more seamless.
Lauren Martino: So we’ve heard what Barbara’s reading. Vincent What are you reading right now or listening to that you’d like to talk to us about.
Vincent Mui: I am actually listening to the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and it’s very different because it’s – the target demographic for the Divergent series is young women. So the writing style is different and there’s a lot more description about physical closeness.
Maranda Schoppert: Huh.
Vincent Mui: And –
Lauren Martino: That’s a teen book for you.
Vincent Mui: Yes. It’s a teen book but gears toward young women. So I’m having a bit of trouble because I feel awkward listening to her describe a kiss or her physical closeness to the male character that she is attracted to and I get a little uncomfortable a bit. I was with my wife in the car on our way back from New York City. I drive back and forth occasionally and I like to listen to audiobooks. I started – she – I don’t think she tolerated me very well because of my reactions to listening to the scenes of, yeah, I don’t – yeah, that’s –
Barbara Shansby: Were you giggling?
Vincent Mui: No, I was – I was more like, “Are you serious?” How many times do I have to listen to her describe, like, feeling electric or shivering or her heart beating, pounding through her ears, and it’s just – I got uncomfortable because the protagonist is 16.
Lauren Martino: Oh, God.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Like, hon, you’re too young.
Vincent Mui: I am twice her age and a guy and married and it’s just – I can’t relate. I just wanted more of the action but –
Lauren Martino: You should probably not listen to Twilight.
Vincent Mui: Oh, no, no, not even going to – hmm.
Maranda Schoppert: Well, Vincent, you might like listening to what the series I’m currently listening to. I’m listening to the fourth and I will say hopefully final book in the Red Rising series, Iron Gold, by Pierce Brown. The first three books are fantastic and the third book actually I was completely like the ending ended perfectly, there should not be a fourth book but there is a fourth book and so far it’s okay. It’s one of those 23 plus hour ones though.
Vincent Mui: Oh, goodness.
Barbara Shansby: Wow.
Maranda Schoppert: But it’s definitely got a lot of action. There are some, you know, basically like lightsabers type of fighting with these – yeah.
Vincent Mui: Oh, okay, I’m down for this.
Maranda Schoppert: And it takes place through space and everything like that, so that one’s got a lot of action and it’s actually an example of one with multiple narrators that, like, I’m kind of like, “Hmm,” because the first three books only had one narrator.
Vincent Mui: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: And now this fourth one has three.
Vincent Mui: Yeah, that’s a bit jarring when the narrator changes in the middle of a series because they say things slightly different.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: So, the Percy Jackson series had one narrator then the Heroes of Olympus, which came afterwards, was a different narrator and he was saying their names differently.
Maranda Schoppert: Oh, gosh, drives me crazy.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: And I was – and I was screaming in my mind saying, “You’re not seeing it right. The other guy didn’t say it this way. Why are you saying it that way?” I got over it eventually.
Maranda Schoppert: Or like sometimes when you read a book and then it’s so good you decide you listen to it but the way you said the characters names in your head is not the way the narrator says it and you’re like, “Oh, man. Either you’re like I’m wrong or you’re mad because it should be a different way.”
Barbara Shansby: Right, right. That happened to me with that Alexander McCall Smith, his #1 Ladies which I read as a book and then I listened to one of them, the mysteries and I wasn’t even close to getting the names of any of these African people. But I really was glad to hear how they’re supposed to sound.
Lauren Martino: Well, thank you so much for joining us, Barbara, Vincent, and Maranda. And thank you for listening to our podcast and taking time out of your busy audiobook’ listening schedule to listen to our podcast. Make sure to put whatever you like on hold because people will be asking for it all summer long as they are getting ready for vacation, so we wish you a very happy listening on any drive or – you may be taking or while mowing the lawn. And please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please rate us on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.